House of Commons
Monday 10 December 2007
The House met at half-past Two o’clock
[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
Culture, Media and Sport
The Secretary of State was asked—
The five sports lottery distributors together drew down about £242 million from the national lottery distribution fund for expenditure in 2004-05, about £264 million in 2005-06 and, subject to audit, about £209 million in 2006-07.
While we are on the subject of sport, I am sure that the whole House will join me in congratulating British boxing on a fantastic weekend, and Amir Khan and Joe Calzaghe in particular on their victories. I pay especial tribute to Ricky Hatton, who throughout his 38 victories has been a great inspiration to my constituents in Hattersley and Hyde and who, in the manner and dignity of his defeat, will continue to be such.
I add my congratulations to our sporting heroes, whom the Minister has highlighted. However, is he aware that only 13.5 per cent. of the UK population are members of sports clubs? That compares unfavourably with other EU countries, such as Germany and France, where 33 per cent. and 26 per cent. of the population respectively are members of sports clubs. Is that because the Government are not giving enough from the lottery funds to our sports clubs, to encourage people to participate in sport more?
In fact, we have increased the amount of money going from the Exchequer to sport by seven times since 1997. We are completely committed to building a world-class community sports infrastructure, which is why we have asked Sport England to conduct a review in order to achieve exactly that.
May I welcome the money that the Government are putting into sport through the lottery? Will my right hon. Friend take a particular interest in the need for his Department to invest in sport in Stoke-on-Trent? We have an admirable gymnastics club, albeit with insufficient coaches, and we have great hopes that through the regeneration agenda and the building schools for the future programme we can invest more in sport. Will he look to ensure that we have the right—
I quite agree with my hon. Friend that we should increase the amount of money going into sport. The amount going in over the next three years will be higher than the amount going in this year, which is a great opportunity for Stoke to make its claim for increased investment in sport. I know that my hon. Friend has been a strong campaigner for that and, given her question, I am sure that she will welcome the emphasis that we are putting on having a world-class network of clubs and coaches.
The Minister knows that the money for sport from the lottery has gone down by about a third in recent years. Now the Government are taking away more than £500 million to fund the Olympic black hole. The Minister will have received an authoritative and detailed report showing how, by changing the taxation regime for the national lottery, additional money can go to both the Treasury and community sports, to deliver the Olympic legacy that we all want. Has he seen the report, does he accept it and what is he doing about it?
I take it that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the report into a gross profit tax for the lottery. I know that he is trying to supplement the Liberal Democrats’ money tree, but he knows well that even if that were possible, it would yield only a fifth of what he identifies as the black hole—in fact, the contribution from the lottery. It will be interesting to see whether the Liberal Democrats support that, and if not, where they would get the funding from. Given that the amount involved is only a fifth, that leaves nearly £500 million that he would have to find from somewhere else.
I hope that this is not the hon. Gentleman’s last Question Time as sports spokesman—there is an upcoming reshuffle, in the light of the leadership contest. I say sincerely to him that he is a credit to Opposition spokesmen. He is always a master of detail, constructive when necessary and tough when he feels he needs to be. I hope that we see him again.
Where will funding for activities such as cycling and walking come from in future? As a result of the redefinition of sport, which I understand excludes cycling and walking, there will be a shortfall in funding. Is that money likely to come from Departments such as the Department of Health, rather than the Department for Culture, Media and Sport?
No, we are committed to the goal that we set out in the Olympic bid of raising participation by 2 million. Sport England’s role in that is to raise participation in sport. One of our promises in the Olympic bid documents was to create a world-class infrastructure for sport in this country. We are well on the way to doing that in school sport; we have gone from 20 per cent. of young people doing two hours to more than 80 per cent., and we are now well on the way to five hours. On elite sport, the Australians are now copying us, rather than the other way around. Our priority is to deliver a world-class community sports infrastructure, to match that of school sport and elite sport.
Although lottery sports funding has been quite consistent over the past three years, we are set to lose £13.1 million from SportScotland to pay for the London games and London’s redevelopment. Now that we are to have the 2014 games in Glasgow, will the Secretary of State acknowledge that there is a case for Scottish lottery funding to remain in Scotland rather than diverting it to London to fund London redevelopment?
The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He cannot describe the Olympics as the London games and then say that the Glasgow games are national games. There is an internal contradiction in his allegation. I met his colleague, the Minister for the arts, recently to discuss the lottery, and I would be happy to meet his colleague who leads on sport to discuss it. Indeed, we are convening a group to consider the issue. The Scottish National party cannot criticise the London games while championing the Glasgow games as a national event.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Anne Reid and her Into Work team in my constituency, who have recently received a cheque for nearly £500,000 from the Big Lottery Fund? Part of their rehabilitation strategy is to encourage clients to participate in sports. Let us not be undermined by the arguments from the Opposition, who continually want to talk down Scotland. Substantial funding is still coming into Scotland from the Big Lottery Fund.
That is a very good point. I believe that the nationalists’ policy is to have a “Scot Lot”. Anyone who knows anything about lotteries will know that that would bring in less money, because it is the size of the jackpot that determines how many people play. That would be another cut as a result of their proposals. My hon. Friend is quite right to say that the Big Lottery Fund is investing in Scotland and in sport. In fact, it invested £238 million in 2005-06, and then £207 million, so the Big Lottery Fund is contributing to sport, as are the sports lottery funds.
Licensing (Town Centres)
We have received a number of views from local authorities, police, local residents and trade about the impact of the new legislation on town centres. They will inform our evaluation of the 2003 Act, which we expect to complete early in the new year. The report of the 10 scrutiny councils in July 2006 found that the Act had improved partnership working between enforcement agencies in tackling irresponsible retailers. We recently asked the councils for an update on their assessment, and that will form part of our evaluation.
Does the Minister not accept that the Licensing Act has led to an increase in problems resulting from alcohol abuse in many town and city centres—sadly, even in Macclesfield? Recent figures show that 98 per cent. of all applications for licences were granted, and that just 0.4 per cent. of licences have been reviewed. Why is there a presumption in favour of 24-hour licensing for supermarkets, which are the source of so many of the problems?
As the hon. Gentleman well knows, there is no such presumption. Indeed, far from thinking that the Licensing Act has led to these problems, I agree with his leader, who said recently:
“I think licensing reform is a good idea. I have always said so.”
It will be interesting to hear whether Opposition Members agree with their leader on that. I also disagree with the hon. Gentleman that the Act has created these problems. I am sure that, if I had visited Macclesfield with him before the Act came into force, we would have seen the same issues. The truth is that the Act has introduced much tougher powers to deal with them. Indeed, crime in the night economy is down by 5 per cent. overall across the country. Serious wounding is down by 5 per cent. Of course, it is too early to say whether that is a result of the Act; we shall need to examine that in our evaluation and again over time. So far, however, the evidence does not show that the Act has led to an increase in crime—indeed, quite the reverse.
I congratulate my local police and my local Pubwatch scheme in Reading on taking a proactive role in mitigating the worst effects of the Licensing Act. Despite their efforts, however, violent assaults have gone up by 13 per cent. in Reading town centre, and the police are having to use scarce resources to support town centre activities. The intention of the legislation was to create a café culture, but has it not simply added to the existing yob culture?
I note that the hon. Gentleman is disagreeing with his leader, which will not help him to progress to the Front Bench. He has cited his local police. I am happy to quote the police in the constituency of the hon. Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Evennett), who asked the first question today. When talking recently about closing down a branch of Tesco for selling alcohol to under-age purchasers—which would not have been possible under previous legislation—the chief superintendent of the police force in Bexley said:
“This is another in a long line of successes for the collaborative working that has been such a key feature of the work here in Bexley, especially”—
the hon. Member for Reading, East (Mr. Wilson) will like this bit—
“since November 2005, when the new licensing regime came into effect”.
There we have the police saying that the Act has given them more powers to deal with the problems. That is why serious wounding is down by 5 per cent. in the night-time economy.
The results are that it has fallen significantly. Failed test purchases have fallen from about 50 per cent. of cases to about 15 per cent. That is clearly still too much and we will be continuing our efforts, but again the Licensing Act has helped to create a much better collaborative approach between different agencies, which has meant that there has been a fall, although we want to continue to make further progress. It is clearly unacceptable for any licensed premises to be selling to under-age people.
There is much concentration on 24-hour drinking in relation to the 2003 Act, but that Act also introduced new powers for clamping down on under-age drinking and for restricting licences in town centres. Has the Department carried out any analysis of why councils or police authorities are not using the new powers that have been given to them?
The evidence that we have is that most are using the powers. Indeed, I was out with Chris Allison—[Interruption.]—who speaks on this matter in Westminster, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field), who is intervening from a sedentary position. Chris Allison was saying what a great job the council and the local police were doing in using the powers given to them and that that has led to a real improvement in partnership working. It is a myth that the Act has led to 24-hour drinking. In fact, new figures show only modest increases in actual opening hours—on average, 20 minutes extra—and the number of 24-hour premises is less than 0.5 per cent. of the overall total.
At the time of the passage of the Licensing Act, the Government dismissed warnings that one of its consequences would be to damage the performance of live music in town centres and elsewhere. The Secretary of State will be aware that Live Music Forum has concluded that the Act is having that effect, so will he now consider making changes to it, as recommended by the forum, to ensure that live music continues to flourish throughout Britain?
The hon. Gentleman was—along with the Leader of the Opposition—a great supporter and advocate of the Licensing Act. We welcome his support, although I notice that we have still not heard from the Opposition whether they are disowning their leader or not. The hon. Gentleman is slightly exaggerating the consequences of the Act that the Live Music Forum found; it said that they had been broadly neutral. Clearly, we would like them to be positive, which is why we are looking positively at the forum’s recommendations with a view to coming forward with proposals shortly. We have also asked Feargal Sharkey to lead on the identification of a network of rehearsal spaces to do exactly that.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that this matter was the topical debate only last Thursday? Anybody reading the Hansard of that debate will realise that one of the biggest problems in our drinking culture today is, as the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) pointed out, alcohol that is sold in our supermarkets at much less than the wholesale cost. As seen on TV adverts, bottles of spirits are going for £10 a time. Will my right hon. Friend look at the problem of young people—to use the new phrase—“pre-loading” at supermarkets before they go out to the pubs?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right; there is a problem in this country of a minority of people drinking too much. The Government are conducting a review of prices and promotions and we will report on it next year. It is clear that there is no single magic bullet that will solve the problem. The Licensing Act can help by providing tougher measures to deal with irresponsible retailers and pubs and clubs, but we need to act together across the board in tackling the health effects, looking at price and promotions and generally changing the culture around drinking in this country.
As the Secretary of State is keen that hon. Members have views consistent with that of their leader, can he explain why on taking office in July the Prime Minister, together with his spin doctors, had a lot of publicity, particularly in the tabloids, about how he was going to change the Act and stop 24-hour drinking? The Secretary of State has been a great advocate of the Act from the Dispatch Box today. I am slightly confused; I would like him to put me right.
We still do not know whether Conservative Members agree with their leader. I can enlighten the right hon. Gentleman, as the Prime Minister said none of those things. What he said was that we had announced a review in 2004 on the effect of the Act, which was confirmed when I was the Minister responsible for licensing in 2005. That is exactly what we are doing. That review has been under way for a number of years. It was announced in 2004 and it has been continuing. That is exactly the right thing to do with legislation: to look at the effect. The effect has been a 5 per cent. fall in serious wounding offences, and the most authoritative study has shown that admittances to accident and emergency departments are down by 2 per cent. What we know from today’s Question Time is that all Conservative Members seem to disagree with their leader.
In the last five years, the Arts Council England has awarded £987,000 to brass bands. Individuals playing in brass bands have also benefited from grants to the arts under the Arts Council “Take It Away” loan scheme. Over the same period, funding for opera totalled £159.681 million. The Royal Opera House also received funding in excess of £116 million to promote ballet and opera.
I estimate that, over the last five years, for every £1 that brass bands have been given, opera has been given some £1,113. It is even worse than that, because funding for opera has risen by 28 per cent. in the last five years while funding for brass bands has decreased by 22 per cent. Will the Minister agree to meet me and representatives from the brass bands, particularly the community and youth band sector, to ensure that we level up and deal with that gross situation?
As my constituency is the home of the Royal Opera House and English National Opera, may I request that a few brass bands—perhaps from Barnsley—visit my constituency? As far as I am aware, we have none that are funded.
Although it is right to subsidise a range of arts, does the Minister accept that a disproportionate amount of subsidy goes to opera, which I enjoy and agree should be subsidised? In particular, does she accept that other forms of art require more subsidy, especially jazz?
We should not get into a bidding process this afternoon. I make a serious point to my hon. Friend, which is that opera is the largest employer in the subsidised arts sector. That is because putting on an opera is complicated. There is a building, scenery and the orchestra to consider. However, we value brass bands and also jazz, which I particularly value.
Independent cinemas are an important part of our thriving cinema industry, offering a wide variety of film experiences to audiences throughout the UK. The UK Film Council has invested more than £6 million in independent cinemas through its funding schemes. That includes £730,000 to support investment in new equipment and facilities, including £4,800 in 2006 for the Ritz in Thirsk, which was just one of the 10 awards in Yorkshire totalling more than £134,000.
Will the right hon. Lady join me in congratulating the Ritz on the sterling work that it does in Thirsk? It is manned by volunteers, who do sterling work through the regular evening performances. Will she reassure all of us who live in or near Thirsk and throughout Vale of York that independent cinemas such as the one in Thirsk will still operate in the digital age?
Indeed; we all value the role that independent cinemas play. I have looked at the statistics and am particularly pleased that, after years of decline in the number of independent cinemas in the UK, there has been the beginnings of an increase in the last year. In part, that is due to the support that the UK Film Council has given, especially in ensuring that the equipment is in place to enable the use of digitised film. That is cheaper and easier, and will offer a better future for independent cinemas.
As my right hon. Friend indicated, going to the movies is an attractive leisure activity, not only for older people, who enjoy daytime viewings, but of course for young people as well. The importance of cinemas to town and city centres is that they provide an alternative to alcohol-fuelled entertainment. My city of Chester has lost all its city-centre cinemas. We are trying to get the Odeon reopened. Will she do more to persuade local authorities to adopt cultural strategies and pursue planning policies that protect cinemas rather than allow them to be in their death-knell, as so many are?
First, I congratulate my hon. Friend on the vigorous campaign that she is pursuing in her constituency for her local cinema. Secondly, like her, I welcome the fact that box office earnings from cinemas have gone up 56 per cent. in the past nine years. Thirdly, the cultural infrastructure in our cities, towns and communities is hugely important because it makes them places where people want to live and work, and therefore makes them successful places.
Given that two out of three of our independent cinemas still do not have a digital projector, and given the right hon. Lady’s warm words about them, does she have a strategy for digital switchover for the rest of our independent cinemas?
I do not have a strategy, but the Film Council does. It is investing £11 million. About one in four of our cinemas have been converted. Of course, it must consider how it can take that further. It has just received a very generous funding settlement over the next spending review period and I have absolutely no doubt that it will bear the hon. Gentleman’s words and my love for cinema in mind as it decides how to distribute those moneys.
Sport England wrote to the England and Wales Cricket Board in August to confirm that clubs affected by the floods were entitled to apply for funding from the National Sports Foundation. To date, two applications have been received. Sport England and the ECB are working together to resolve some outstanding issues surrounding those applications.
I am grateful to the Minister for that response. As he says, to date two applications have been made to Sport England for funding for cricket clubs affected by the recent flooding. Will he inform the House precisely how much money has been paid to those clubs, or can he give an indication of when the money will be paid if it has not been paid so far?
Does the Minister agree that the one club that was worst affected was Worcester cricket club? It lost a number of fixtures, had to relocate many fixtures and is seriously out of budget. Will he look particularly at that application?
We have tough measures in place to protect community playing fields. Planning guidance to local authorities is clear: no playing field needed by the community should be removed. In addition, Sport England objects to all applications that would result in a loss of playing fields, unless there is a clear benefit to sport. Those protections are working well. The latest published data from Sport England show that 96 per cent. of all applications affecting playing fields represented a net gain or no loss to sport.
I thank the Minister for his reply. Harrow—St. George’s field—Waltham college and Barnet are just three examples in London of playing fields that may be at risk because of the five-year consultation period. During that time, Sport England has to be a consultee, but if a developer sits on the land for five years after that, Sport England is not required to be consulted. What discussions has he had with the Department for Communities and Local Government on that matter? When does he expect that loophole to be plugged?
I know that the hon. Gentleman has raised his concerns a number of times with various Departments. The guidance—in planning policy guidance note 17—is clear, and it is important for us to conform with it; but if any loopholes exist, we must be sure to close them. I shall consider the issue, and I should be happy to discuss it with the hon. Gentleman in more detail later.
Not only is it sacrilege to sell off playing fields, but it is sacrilege for those that are held by schools not to be used at weekends or during summer holidays. Can the Minister ensure that schools, universities and other organisations, including local authorities, work harder together to ensure that football clubs and other sporting clubs, particularly those with youth sections, have access to the fields? Clitheroe Wolves, of which I am president, finds it very difficult to obtain access to playing fields on Saturdays, and it does a tremendous amount of work for the local community.
I do not blame the hon. Gentleman personally, but we will take no lessons from the Opposition about the sale of playing fields. It was the selling off of school playing fields when the hon. Gentleman’s party was in power that created the problem in the first place. What we are doing is ensuring that participation increases along with investment in school sport, and that schools work with sports clubs. We are doing everything we can, including investing £4 billion over the last 10 years.
I hear what my hon. Friend says about the excellent policy of no sales, but surely we should also consider ways in which we can make more effective use of our playing fields. Will my hon. Friend have a word with Sport England about that? Where innovative schemes exist between the private sector and schools, for example, those are just the sort of initiatives that should be supported by appropriate funding.
I wholeheartedly agree that it is important for us to get all sectors working together to provide the best-quality playing fields and sporting venues for our sports people, at whatever level. I also agree that the relationship between the public and private sectors is vitally important.
Buildings are listed on the basis of their special architectural and historic interest. Those criteria, together with the general principles of selection, are set out in planning policy guidance note 15.
We have been consulting on the whole process for a couple of years in the heritage protection review, and we intend to produce a draft Bill for consideration by the House next spring. It will propose opening up and expanding consultation, combining the various schemes in a single system so that there are no longer separate schedule and listing schemes, and the passing down of responsibilities to English Heritage.
I should also be interested in opening a debate on the listing of newer 20th-century buildings, especially those built in the last 75 years or so. We could consider criteria relating to, for instance, whether a building is still fit for purpose, the cost of maintaining it, and the context in which we determine whether to list it, namely the existence or otherwise of buildings of the same kind around the country.
May I draw the Minister’s attention to the magnificent Midland hotel in Morecambe, a listed building which has benefited from £4 million of Government funding and has been restored? May I invite her to visit Morecambe and view the project, and also to view another building—the Winter Gardens—which is in need of Government help?
My hon. Friend has spoken to me a great deal about both buildings. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State intends to go and see the renovation of the hotel in the spring. I hope that her local authority, or others with an interest in the theatre about which she is concerned, will consider whether our new fund of £15 million a year for three years to help coastal resorts in particular could be used to support its renovation and rehabilitation.
If the hon. Gentleman feels strongly about that issue, I think we should discuss it in the context of the draft Bill that we are presenting next year. Members throughout the House have raised many listing issues with me on which—as we have the slot for the draft Bill, and legislation to follow it—we ought to have a serious discussion, hopefully non-partisan, with the aim of improving the system.
I am concerned about a building in my constituency, the Mechanics Institute, which contains the first workers’ library, built for the railway workers in Swindon. It is listed under the criteria that the Minister has announced, but is in danger of falling down through neglect. What powers has the Minister to step in when buildings are in such a state?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on her work to ensure that the institute—part of a tentative world heritage site—is properly looked after and preserved. Once a building is listed, it falls to the local authorities in the area to ensure that the heritage is protected. In this case, there have been three planning applications, all of which have been rejected. English Heritage and the local authority are anxious to engage in discussions with a private developer to secure the long-term future of this fine grade II* listed building.
Following the announcement in this House on 6 December that the Government will not continue with the A303 Stonehenge improvement scheme, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, South (Mr. Harris), and I will meet key stakeholders this evening to discuss the way forward for Stonehenge. Our aim is to find a new solution to improve the setting for Stonehenge, including new visitor facilities, with work being completed in time for the Olympics in 2012.
The Minister has my ensured support for her every effort in finding something to save from the wreckage of the Department for Transport’s Stonehenge fiasco. In seeking to build a new visitors’ centre within five years, will she please not go for a cheap and cheerful option? It must be a world-class, high-quality visitors’ centre appropriate to the greatest world heritage site in this country. We must now look forward and not weep over what happened last week.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman and look forward to working with him to find a lasting solution to the problems affecting a wonderful world heritage site that is currently spoiled by the visitors’ facility and the surrounding road infrastructure. I hope that there will be co-operation across Government. He will know from his time with responsibility for the issue how difficult it is to get all the stakeholders together around the table absolutely determined to find a solution. The catalyst of the 2012 Olympics will, I hope, concentrate everybody’s minds.
Stonehenge is a first-rate heritage site with second-rate facilities supported by a third-rate tourism policy. Even the United Nation’s World Heritage Committee is complaining about the standards at Stonehenge. The Government now admit that they have nothing to show for 10 years of work after spending £23 million of taxpayers’ money. Does not this reflect the Government’s attitude towards tourism, with budgets cut and a failure to stand up to other Government Departments? It has been some time since the druids conducted their last human sacrifice at Stonehenge. Such is the anger at the Government that I suggest the Minister treats with caution any invitation to Stonehenge that she may receive for the next summer solstice.
I have already visited Stonehenge; it is an issue of major concern that I want to resolve. I have had good discussions on the subject with the hon. Gentleman’s Back-Bench colleague, the hon. Member for Salisbury (Robert Key). This Government have invested more in the past 10 years in supporting our heritage and tourism than the previous Government managed in 18 years. I have no doubt that with good will on all sides—including the local Conservative county council and the local district council—I am sure we will reach a conclusion.
That is not an answer. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman would have taken a similar decision had he been sitting on this side of the House. We could not afford to undertake the scheme that was on the table and we need to find a lasting, better and—
Among the responsibilities of my Department is ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy world-class cultural and sporting activity. To that end, in my recent speech to the Youth Sport Trust I announced a review by Sport England which aims to ensure that we have a world-class community sports system. We put in place funding to ensure that all children will have the chance to do five hours of sport a week. Now my Department is working closely with the Department for Children, Schools and Families on a new ambition to give all children a five-hour offer of culture in and out of the curriculum. Our ambitions will be set out in the children’s plan, published this week.
In view of the serious problems affecting football in England, including the stewardship of the game’s affairs, questionable financial matters, parasitic agents, increasing foreign ownership of clubs and the huge influx of foreign players to the detriment of the national side, is it not time that the Government arranged for a royal commission to consider the long-term interests of English football?
I know that the hon. Gentleman has asked about that before, but I do not think that the solution to the issues arising in English football is for politicians to step in and run it. However, it is important—I suspect the hon. Gentleman and I agree on this—that we all look at our role in making sure that we get over our recent problem with qualification. That means that we must look at our role in school sport, which we are doing—we are going from very few people doing sport to all children being offered five hours. It also means that the Football Association must look at its role and make sure that it does not compromise in terms of the reforms of the FA, that it implements the Burns report recommendations in full, and also that we have as independent chair of the FA someone who has the credibility to do that job as we would all want it to be done.
We did impress that upon the BBC—indeed, we put it at the heart of its purposes. In response, the BBC has announced that it will increase the share of production in exactly the way outlined by my hon. Friend, and that should help the independent producers in her constituency.
This morning, 10 of the most senior chief executives of the tourism industry wrote to the Prime Minister expressing their
“anger and disappointment with the Government’s tourism policy.”
Despite the fact that 1.4 million people depend on the industry for their livelihood, one of the chief executives said that
“the DCMS is inadequately defending our interests.”
Given that the Secretary of State’s Department has cut the VisitBritain budget and abandoned a public service agreement target to make tourism a £100 billion industry, will he say whether he has a vision for tourism, whether he has given up on the tourism industry, or whether this is what Baldrick would call “a cunning plan” to minimise the international attention on domestic Government crises by minimising the number of international visitors?
I am afraid that that was almost as laboured as the druid joke of the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood). The hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mr. Hunt) fails to recognise that we have a plan; it is published in the 2012 document, of which I am sure he is aware. We have also doubled over the past 10 years the amount of money going from central Government to tourism, and we have announced that we want to make sure that we use more effectively the £348 million that is being spent, which is why we have asked VisitBritain to conduct a review of how it does so.
The Secretary of State may like to use soothing words, and this Government have always been good at words and reports, but here are the facts: since his Government came to power, this country’s market share of international tourist visits has fallen by 10 per cent. and our market share of international tourism spend has decreased by 14 per cent. The report mentioned was about the Olympics, which offers a huge opportunity to put this right, but tourism chiefs also said this morning that the Government were
“squandering a once in a lifetime opportunity”
to use the Olympics. Will the Secretary of State have the courage to revisit his approach, so that our hard-pressed tourism industry can thrive because of Government policies rather than despite them?
That is exactly what we are trying to do. The hon. Gentleman is failing to recognise the fact that since 1997 we have doubled the amount of money spent by central Government through the regional development agencies, which I believe he is committed to abolishing. Until he is prepared to match his criticisms with increased funding, the tourism industry will not pay any attention to him.
We shall be reviewing that as a consequence of the scheme in Copeland. The initial conclusion is that the scheme is broadly correct; it is the most generous in the world and it is one of the things that will help to smooth the process of digital switchover. We all recognise that this is a huge undertaking—it is a significant technological undertaking and a big social change—and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and his local council and voluntary organisations which played such a proactive and confident role in ensuring that this was a success and in putting Copeland and Whitehaven on the map.
Given that it was leaked to The Observer recently, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have read about it. It was rather misrepresented in The Observer as the newspaper talked about our wanting to focus on elite sport. We want to focus on having world-class community sport: we said in our Olympic promises that we would have a world-class sporting nation, and that is exactly what we will do. The goal of raising activity is important and legitimate. As the hon. Gentleman said, we shall be working with the Department of Health, and with other colleagues, on ensuring that a long-term cultural change takes place so that the problem of obesity is addressed. We need to be clear that that will be done partly through sport—that will be Sport England’s role—but not exclusively so.
We are always concerned when issues affect the integrity of a sport. I hope that the horse racing authorities will examine what happened in this individual case and make any necessary changes to their rules.
It is important that all constituencies do their utmost to get as much money from the lottery as possible. Clearly, that depends on the quality of the bids, so is it important that the hon. Gentleman helps his constituents to ensure that the bids that they put forward are quality bids. I am sure that they will then get the money to which they are entitled.
I congratulate my hon. Friend’s constituents on the outstanding bid that they put forward. The point that we are making about bids is not so much about the quality, but about the number of bids received by the lottery funders. It is important that people consider what they are trying to achieve with the different types of bids for the different types of funds that are available.
The Mayor has been quite clear on that matter. I understand that these issues are best addressed in the next set of questions to my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Olympics.
Stonehenge is a national issue because it is one of our world heritage sites, but decisions on transport priorities are best left to the regions. I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman, as a Liberal Democrat, would support the decentralisation of decision making in all areas of government.
I and other seaside MPs warmly welcome the dedicated £45 million investment. Will my right hon. Friend consider the charms of the proposal to relocate the theatre museum to Blackpool and, more prosaically, how quickly the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment will produce the guidelines and open the competition for the funding?
I congratulate my hon. Friend and the group of MPs who have worked with him to persuade us of the importance of investing in our seaside resorts. We are waiting for CABE to come forward with some guidelines and proposal for its management of that budget. The money comes on stream from April and we would like to get it spent as quickly as possible.
Despite the tough stance taken by Guildford borough council on town centre drinking and standing up to big business, residents of Guildford continue to suffer from alcohol-fuelled crimes in some of our streets. What action will the Secretary of State take to give comfort to my residents?
I do not know whether the hon. Lady grew up in Guildford, as I did, but there was no problem then and, as my family continue to live there, I know that it emerged before the Licensing Act 2003, which was introduced to provide people with tough powers. I take it that the hon. Lady also disagrees with her leader when he said—[Interruption.] I am sure that the Opposition do not like—
The Minister for the Olympics was asked—
Weald country park in Essex will host the mountain biking at the Olympic games. There will be enormous opportunities for the people of Essex and the rest of the UK to take full advantage of the commercial opportunities, the chance to volunteer and the cultural events that will form part of 2012. I also draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the statement that I issued this morning confirming that, following a detailed review, the baseline budget for the Olympic Delivery Authority remains at £6.1 billion, with a contingency of just over £2 billion, within the total Government funding package I announced in March of £9.325 billion.
I am grateful for that answer, but I still have no real information about how much of the budget will be spent in Essex. Most of the county is within an hour of the Olympic site and, in order for it to partake in the construction and the service industry that will make the games the great success that they must be, and for Essex people to go and enjoy the games, we need our infrastructure upgraded. Will any of the money be spent on improving our roads and railways so that we can contribute to the games?
There will be substantial opportunities for businesses in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency to compete for the thousands of contracts that will be let over the next few months. He should ensure that all businesses receive electronic alerts to let them know that contracts are becoming available and he should encourage his constituents to volunteer for the games. There will also be opportunities in relation to training camps and so on. The initiative lies with Essex because the Olympic opportunities are available.
What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Transport about the need to sort out the parlous junction of the A13 and M25 just north of the Dartford-Thurrock crossing before the Olympic games? Unless that is addressed, many visitors to the Olympics will be frustrated. I want to see joined-up government, because we need some movement on that issue.
A year ago, in relation to the Olympic budget, the Minister told the Select Committee:
“I want to be absolutely sure that nobody draws any conclusion that ‘programme contingency’ translates inevitably into ‘additional cost’.”
Now that the chairman of the ODA and the permanent secretary have both suggested that it is likely that it will all be extra cost, can the Minister say whether she expects that any of the programme contingency will remain unspent?
Let me answer the hon. Gentleman’s question with two points. First, as he is well aware, the contingency provision that is available to the ODA, at just over £2 billion, is net of £500 million that has already been allocated through the internal government funders committee to the ODA. Secondly, it is important to be clear that the money drawn from contingency is to meet risks that may be encountered as the development proceeds. Over the next six months, some £5 billion of projects related to the Olympic park will be commissioned and will begin. The answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is that contingency meets risk, and, no, it is not certain that the whole contingency will be drawn down, but the chairman of the ODA is absolutely right: we will be clear about that only when the games are over. However, the probability assessment, which confirms the robustness of the budget, gives us grounds for optimism that not all the contingency will be used.
The London Organising Committee estimates that 70,000 volunteers will be needed for the 2012 games. Since we won the bid, some 160,000 people have registered their interest in becoming volunteers for the games. We hope that, beyond the 70,000 who will be recruited to work in the Olympic park, there will be opportunities for people around the country who wish to volunteer, so that the good will and enthusiasm is all used.
I thank the Minister for her reply, but what would she say to my formidable constituency secretary, Marjorie Ramsey, who could probably organise the London Olympics single-handed, who telephoned to offer her services and was told that she was too old? What will the Minister do to ensure that the London Organising Committee operates an equal opportunities policy?
I understand that, when people put their names forward to be volunteers, they are told to go off and do some volunteering activity. Does my right hon. Friend think that we need to have something more coherent and planned in relation to volunteers to ensure that they are properly equipped and trained to do the job when it comes up?
My hon. Friend makes some important points. This is an opportunity to engage not just people in the Olympic park, but some of the most disadvantaged people across the 11 London boroughs, who will have their first opportunity to learn skills through volunteering that could get them the job that they have never had. There are many opportunities, and volunteering as a way of acquiring and developing skills is one of the great legacy opportunities for the Olympics which we intend to realise.
Given that it will encourage even more people to volunteer for this wonderful project if the financial arrangements are sound, can the Minister not only guarantee that the budget will be transparent but answer the question dodged by the Secretary of State and guarantee that the London Olympic precept will not be raised by the current Labour Mayor?
May I thank the right hon. Lady for the briefing that her Department gave me this morning?
As my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) said, volunteers are key to the delivery of the pledges on mass participation that were such an important part of London’s bid in Singapore. Given that the budget announced this morning confirms that only £290 million is available for very specific sports tasks related to the Olympics, and, of course, that the national lottery is being hit further to pay for the Olympics themselves, how on earth will the commitments on mass participation in sport be met?
I am sure that the whole House will want to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the birth of his son, James, who will probably be a bit too young to be a volunteer, even in 2012.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point in that there is certainly provision in the budget—some £290 million—to cover the cost of not only some elite sport, but some community sport development. However, outside and beyond the Olympic budget, which will regenerate the park and build the transport and venues, there are the Olympic opportunities that will be met right across government and will boost participation in both sport and physical activity. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has clearly described, that will be one of the important ambitions that will be realised, and the detail will be set out when we publish the legacy action plan next year.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s long campaign on increasing skills, especially among the most disadvantaged people. She will be pleased to know that the Olympic site will become a national skills academy for construction, providing specialist skills to local workers through at least 1,000 job and training placements, with more than 500 apprenticeship places. Training is also under way in other key sectors: media, sport and hospitality.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. I am thinking about Olympic projects up and down the country as well. What kind of work is the Department doing to identify the skills that will be needed between now and 2012 so that places such as Laing O’Rourke, which is near my constituency—it is between Bolsover and Bassetlaw—and employs 320 skilled workers, can benefit from those projects?
That is precisely what we want to achieve. I know that my hon. Friend will work closely with her regional development agency, which has ambitious plans, and the Learning and Skills Council to ensure that her constituents have the opportunity to become skilled and be eligible for jobs in not only the Olympic park but her constituency.
Point of Order
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Under-Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas), has just issued a written ministerial statement on Farepak. He says that the report will be ready early in the new year, but that it will not be made public or available to Members of Parliament. Given the possible legal process, I understand that that is justified—we do not want to prejudice a trial. However, he goes on to say that regulators will be given a copy of the report. Will you, Mr. Speaker, facilitate a meeting under Chatham House rules so that Members from both sides of the House may have an opportunity to discuss the outcome of the report?
While I have a great deal of sympathy with the men and women who lost their savings through Farepak, that is something that I cannot get involved in. The hon. Gentleman should take the matter up with the Minister because he is responsible for his parliamentary statements.
Mr. Christopher Chope, supported by Mr. Peter Bone, Mr. William Cash, Philip Davies, Mr. Nigel Evans, Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory, Mr. Robert Syms and Sir Nicholas Winterton, presented a Bill to provide for the reclassification of cannabis: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 29 February, and to be printed [Bill 37].
Drugs (Roadside Testing)
Mr. Christopher Chope, supported by Mr. Peter Bone, Mr. William Cash, Philip Davies, Mr. Nigel Evans, Richard Ottaway, Mr. Greg Knight, Mr. Graham Stuart, Peter Viggers, Sir George Young and Sir Nicholas Winterton, presented a Bill to make provision for roadside testing for illegal drugs; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 9 May, and to be printed. [Bill 38].
Broadcasting (Television Licence Fee Abolition)
Mr. Christopher Chope, supported by Mr. Peter Bone, Mr. William Cash, Mr. Nigel Evans, Philip Davies, Mr. Mark Field, Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory, Bob Spink and Mr. Robert Syms, presented a Bill to make provision for the abolition of the television licence fee; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 17 October, and to be printed. [Bill 39].
Sovereignty of Parliament (European Communities)
Mr. Christopher Chope, supported by Mr. Peter Bone, Mr. William Cash, Philip Davies, Mr. Nigel Evans, Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory, Bob Spink, Mr. Robert Syms, Mr. Andrew Turner, Peter Viggers and Sir Nicholas Winterton, presented a Bill to provide that Community treaties, Community instruments and Community obligations shall only be binding in legal proceedings in the United Kingdom insofar as they do not conflict with a subsequent, expressly inconsistent enactment of the Parliament of the United Kingdom: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 13 June, and to be printed [Bill 40].
European Union (Audit of Benefits and Costs of UK Membership)
Mr. Christopher Chope, supported by Mr. Peter Bone, Mr. William Cash, Mr. Nigel Evans, Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory, Bob Spink, Mr. Robert Syms, Mr. Andrew Turner, Peter Viggers and Sir Nicholas Winterton, presented a Bill to establish a Commission to carry out regular audits of the economic costs and benefits of the UK’s membership of the European Union; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 20 June, and to be printed [Bill 41].
Road Traffic (Congestion Reduction)
Mr. Christopher Chope, supported by supported by Mr. Peter Bone, Mr. William Cash, Sir Patrick Cormack, Philip Davies, Mr. Mark Field, Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory, Mr. Greg Knight, Bob Spink, Sir Nicholas Winterton and Sir George Young, presented a Bill to place a duty on highway authorities and police forces to minimise congestion and delays caused by collisions and other incidents on the highway; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 13 June, and to be printed [Bill 42].
Crown Employment (Nationality)
Mr. Andrew Dismore, supported by Dr. Tony Wright, Mr. Andy Slaughter, Annette Brooke, Mr. Andrew Love, Keith Vaz, Ms Karen Buck, Mr. Virendra Sharma, Mike Gapes, Jeremy Corbyn, Shona McIsaac and Stephen Pound, presented a Bill to make provision for and in connection with the removal of general restrictions as to nationality which apply to persons employed or holding office in any civil capacity under the Crown; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 6 June, and to be printed [Bill 43].
Pedlars (Street Trading Regulation)
Dr. Brian Iddon, supported by Mr. David Amess, Jim Dobbin, Mr. Lindsay Hoyle, Mark Hunter, Mr. Eric Illsley, Martin Salter, Alan Simpson, Anne Snelgrove, Mr. Phil Willis and Sir Nicholas Winterton, presented a Bill to confer further powers on local authorities for the regulation of street trading by pedlars; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 1 February, and to be printed [Bill 44].
Orders of the Day
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill will reform the planning system to make it fairer, more efficient and ready to equip Britain for the challenges of the 21st century. It will speed up decisions on major projects that are vital to our economic future. Together with the Climate Change Bill and energy Bill, it will accelerate our transition to a low-carbon economy. At every stage it will reinforce the democratic principle that everyone should have a fair say on the future of their neighbourhood.
Sixty years ago, a Labour Government passed the landmark Town and Country Planning Act 1947. I have read the Hansard of the Second Reading, and I can tell the House that the then Minister for town and country planning took two hours to introduce the Bill. I am happy to reassure Members on both sides of the House that I do not intend to emulate that example today. I am sure that that will come as a great relief. It was a Labour Government who introduced that landmark legislation.
I apologise for intervening so early on, but it is probably an appropriate moment. One of the difficulties that I, and many of the individuals whom I know in local government, have with the Bill is that it is very short on detail. We are used to skeletal Bills, but this one has osteoporosis. Will the right hon. Lady please expand on one or two key points? For example, will she give a definition, at the lower level, of what she would call a nationally significant infrastructure project?
I will gladly do that. The hon. Gentleman will see that in the clauses we set out the range of nationally significant infrastructure projects. They include ports and harbours, and projects to do with aviation, energy, water, waste water, and waste disposal. Many of the limits determining when a project will be a major project are set out in the Bill. An example would be energy projects over 50 MW. There is detail in the clauses about the ambit of the legislation, and where it is designed to bite on specific projects.
No. The hon. Gentleman will know that our proposal for eco-towns, which are currently the subject of a great deal of interest locally, is to try to make sure that our homes are zero-carbon. We want to ensure that not only our homes, but the whole way in which the community is designed, minimise carbon emissions. The hon. Gentleman highlights an interesting case involving conflict; the legislation is designed to integrate our environmental and economic objectives, and not to have them pulling against each other, as may well be the case in the illustration that he gave us.
My hon. Friend is right that aviation is a matter of concern to the public. He will know that our air transport White Paper, to which I will refer later, deals with how aviation might become the subject of a designated national policy statement under the Bill and the process that we will need to go through before we get to that point.
My right hon. Friend did not include motorways in her list. Three years ago, the then Transport Secretary, who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer, dropped a bombshell in the Chamber by setting out his preference for a tolled expressway to run parallel with the existing M6 through to Staffordshire and Cheshire. That plan was dropped after a huge public outcry. How will the Bill, specifically the rather Napoleonic arm’s length infrastructure planning commission, affect the ability of local people not only to have their say but to have real leverage over the outcome with the assistance of their Members of Parliament?
I hope to be able to reassure my hon. Friend and all Members that under the Bill there will be more accountability and a better place for the public to have a good, substantial debate about the national need for infrastructure, not only for roads but for a whole range of issues, including energy, harbours, aviation and transport.
May I, as another Labour Member, say that some people would like to see a little more of the Napoleonic approach to planning? Not everyone is critical of the Government’s aim of speeding up the planning process. In Merseyside, Peel Holdings, which owns the dock and harbour company, wishes to create on the Birkenhead side of the river a development that, when complete, will lead to some 27,000 new jobs and 15,000 new homes. That will transform our whole area, particularly the job opportunities for some of my poorer constituents. I hope that the Minister will not be weighed down by those who fear that she will act too quickly, but will accept that some of us are worried that she will not act quickly enough.
My right hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. I have seen for myself the tremendous proposals for Birkenhead that he mentions. Under these proposals, we should be able to cut in half the average time that it takes for a major proposal to receive consent. At the moment, the average time is two years; if we can get that down to a year we will do a service to all our constituents.
Given that the Secretary of State rightly spoke about the importance of Labour planning policy as a way of delivering social change, does she understand the concern of many of us that the infrastructure planning commission will be removed from democratic control? Do we not need to focus on that during the passage of the Bill?
My hon. Friend raises an important issue. He has a proud record in this House of ensuring that local people, in particular, have a proper say and that there is accountability. I hope to be able to convince him and other Members that there will be accountability under the Bill. There will be democratic input into the national policy statement, parliamentary scrutiny and a big national debate, and then the independent commission will take its decisions with that national policy statement, which will be its primary consideration, as the place where there is proper political accountability. That combination will be a very robust form of accountability.
To return to the excellent point made by the hon. Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping), who will be in charge? For example, if there were a proposal to build an eco-town in Salford, the Homes and Communities Agency established by the Government might say, “This is a very good idea”, but the IPC might say, “No, this is a poor idea.” Given how the Bill is drafted, is not the truth of the matter that in the end the Minister will be pulling the strings from behind the scenes?
The hon. Gentleman is under a fundamental misapprehension and raises an issue that should not be of concern to him. Matters such as eco-towns and large housing developments will continue to be decided by local authorities under the town and country planning system and by reference to the local development plans that have been selected. The Bill is primarily about major infrastructure projects in roads, aviation, energy and so on. We expect that there will be about 45 major infrastructure projects per annum.
I need to press on with my speech. I have only just got to 1947, and I need to make a little bit more progress. The Labour Government of that time were committed to positive steps for managing a period of great change, and my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping) raised the importance of that point. At that time, the Government were rebuilding blitzed cities, building new towns and reconciling the growth of great new industrial activity with making the country a desirable and convenient place to live. The Act they designed then set out the principles of a planning system that has endured for 60 years. We have managed to secure growth and jobs while protecting green spaces. Today, again, a Labour Government are ready to make those tough decisions that are in the long-term interests of the country.
Planning should help us to meet and to master the unprecedented challenges of the 21st century: climate change, the economic pressures of globalisation, and the urgent need for new housing and secure, clean energy supplies. The current system really struggles to do that. Nationally significant infrastructure projects, such as transport links or renewable energy, that are vital to our competitiveness and our quality of life face unacceptable delays. It took six years to get approval for a vital upgrade to the north Yorkshire power line; three and a half years to turn down the proposed container port at Dibden bay; and nearly three years for a decision on Little Cheyne Court wind farm in Kent, which had the potential to provide over 50 MW of green energy. No one benefits from such delays: not business, local people, the economy or wider society.
Does the right hon. Lady accept that part of the rural economy revolves around people visiting areas such as the north Yorkshire moors, the Yorkshire dales, the Scottish borders and beautiful, remote and isolated parts of the United Kingdom? Does she accept that when a line of pylons is to be built that will be needed for the new wind farms announced by the Government today, people should have the right and the time to have their views considered before such decisions are taken?
Indeed. In fact, under the Bill, people will have three opportunities to have a say. At the moment they have only one chance, at the inquiry. Under the Bill, they will have an opportunity when the national policy statement is being drawn up; a second opportunity because the developer has to consult the community when he or she introduces a proposal; and a third opportunity when we get to the inquiry itself. Far from reducing the public’s voice, the Bill will provide a stronger voice, so that they can have their say.
My right hon. Friend will not be surprised to hear me say that the best armlock that the public could ask for is third-party right of appeal. All Oppositions sign up to that idea, but find it difficult to adhere to when they get into government. I am prepared to consider various ways in which that could be introduced, but will my right hon. Friend look seriously at a way in which the public could genuinely participate in the process? They would be able to stop something that had been agreed to by the formal planning authorities if they had a proper way of intervening in that process.
I know that my hon. Friend has been pursuing this issue assiduously for a considerable time. Under the Bill, there is provision for consultation before an application is brought forward, and I hope that in many cases the public will be more engaged than they are now. At the moment, I have a sense that developers with a lot of money get a say, as do organised pressure groups or lobby groups. The people who do not get a say are often the individuals who need to be brought into the process, and we shall put an extra £1.5 million into the Planning Aid organisation, which goes out to seek the views of those who do not normally get a say. I hope that the process will be more robust.
In the light of what the Minister has said about the prospective 45 schemes per year, does she agree that it sounds remarkably as if those sorts of schemes would have been dealt with under private legislation before a Committee of this House? They would have been decided on by Members on behalf of their constituents on the Floor of the House.
Secondly, where major projects with huge resources behind them are concerned—where those driving them can afford to pay—does the right hon. Lady agree that it would be a good idea if there were some means whereby residents associations or amenity societies could call on public funds in order to fight their cause at a local level?
Some of them would have been hybrid Bills because they impinged on private rights. The new system, I think, is a much better way to deal with complex overlapping consent regimes, which are often based on a range of legislation, some of which is pretty ancient. The new system will be better. In relation to the second part of the hon. Gentleman’s question, I replied to my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) that we would fund substantial extra resources for Planning Aid. It will go out and help the residents groups to have their say in the inquiry process. I hope that that will reassure the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash).
As I said, the system is complex and we have lots of different bits of legislation. For example, Heathrow terminal 5 apparently required 37 different applications under seven pieces of legislation. That complexity makes it harder for people who are poor in time, resources and expertise to get involved. We are proposing some fundamental changes. The Bill will introduce a new, single system, which will run alongside the town and country planning system, to handle big infrastructure projects such as ports, power stations, major roads and reservoirs.
The Bill contains three stages. First, the Government will set out the case for the infrastructure that the nation needs in national policy statements. That is the heart of the Bill. The national policy statements will be subject to debate across the country and in Parliament. I want to ensure that there is good parliamentary scrutiny. Secondly, for the first time, whenever a developer puts together a proposal for a major project, they will be required to consult local communities before they submit the planning application, as well as carrying out the environmental assessment that is usually required under European law. The third stage is the establishment of the new independent infrastructure planning commission. It will consist of leading experts from a range of fields—including community engagement, to ensure that the processes work, as well as planning, local government and the environment. Those experts will work within the legal duties set by Parliament and the policy set by Government and they will make the decisions on individual projects.
Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the Planning Bill and the new Climate Change Bill will mesh together properly to ensure that we cut carbon emissions? Will she therefore ensure that the independent committee on climate change is a statutory consultee in the development of national policy statements? Will she also ensure that individual—
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I know that she takes a significant interest in these issues. This Bill, the Climate Change Bill and the energy Bill are part of an integrated package to ensure that we can meet our challenging targets on climate change. If we can speed up some of the applications in the system for renewable energy sources, particularly wind farms, that will help us significantly. We will be drawing up a list of statutory consultees, and I am sure that a range of bodies that deal with climate change will need to be included. I shall confirm that to her at a later date.
It is not a matter for me as a member of the Government to dictate to Parliament how it should scrutinise the national policy statements. However, it is important that a new Select Committee should perhaps be drawn up to consider the range of policy statements. Parliament may decide to include people with experience from the existing Select Committees in that Committee, because they will have the expertise to probe and ask questions. If that Committee were to decide that the issues were of such importance that there needed to be a debate in both Houses of Parliament, we should make time for that debate to happen. If Parliament were to want a vote on those issues, that will be the right and proper course to take. I mean to ensure that there is proper parliamentary scrutiny of the national policy statements. It is so important that we get them right, because they are where the accountability in the new framework lies. I am determined that not only Parliament but the public should take part in a national debate about what infrastructure the country needs.
The Secretary of State will understand that many hon. Members have great sympathy with the Government’s objectives. However, we are concerned about the lack of democratic accountability and transparency. The right hon. Lady reckoned that some 45 cases a year would be major infrastructural projects. Is she seriously suggesting that we will have long debates in the House on each of those cases?
No. I know that a range of hon. Members of all parties want the system to work better, be quicker and provide more certainty. The debate will be on the national policy statement, which could be about aviation or energy. If it was about energy, it could deal with nuclear, coal and gas. Once the debate has happened and the framework has been set, the inquiry stage for the independent planning commission should be quicker and less contentious because the national policy statement will be the primary consideration for the commission. The debate on need, which is often repeated time and again at every inquiry, will happen when formulating the policy statement. The decision making will be better because every single inquiry will not go over the same old ground of the national need for the infrastructure.
An application is likely to be made for a nuclear power station in my constituency. I would be in favour of that. When the previous application was presented, the same argument was made again and again, and the Secretary of State is right that such matters can be decided centrally. However, people in my constituency wanted to know how the goods would be brought; how the lorries would get there, and where the roads would be. Those matters were debated in front of a judge, and the people believed that the judge was independent—the inquiry was independent of any Minister—and would therefore make an independent decision. Instead, they will now get a quango, appointed by the Secretary of State, to make the decisions. They will not put up with it. The Secretary of State will not get what she wants quicker, but very much slower, because Swampy will rule.
I was happy to give way to the right hon. Gentleman. I stress that the decision-making process will be independent. The infrastructure planning commission will be independent and robust and include experts who are renowned in their fields. That will reassure people that the decisions are being made properly.
It is interesting to note that as many people say that Ministers should make the decisions as those who say that they should not. Some people claim that the planning commission will be too independent rather than not independent enough, so I look forward to that clash of ideas in the House. Some people claim that ministerial decisions—the way in which matters are tackled now—are somehow more accountable. However, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, Ministers make quasi-judicial decisions in a legal framework that can be challenged only in the courts, not by Parliament. I therefore believe that the process for the national policy statements will give us more, not less accountability.
There is a significant distinction between a debate on a national policy statement, which, by definition, is about a principle, and that about the positioning of a power station or a runway. If 45 decisions a year are to be made, will the entire membership of the commission hear the whole submission in every case, or will a handful of members perhaps chair sub-committees—instead of the entire commission, according to the Secretary of State’s written statement of a couple of weeks ago, receiving representations from every member of the public who wishes to be heard?
As I expected, the right hon. Gentleman made a genuine and practical point. When he has a chance to examine the Bill in detail, he will realise that it includes provisions that set out exactly how the panel will operate.
In some circumstances there will be a panel of three to five commissioners who will consider applications, because some of those 45 applications will relate to energy, some to aviation and some to ports and harbours. We will want people on that commission with a degree of expertise and knowledge that is specific to an application. We anticipate that probably only 30 of the 45 applications will be major applications and that the other 15 will be ancillary to those applications, so some could be considered by a single commissioner reporting back to the council of the commission. That is all in the Bill, however, if the right hon. Gentleman has a chance to look at it.
I am going to make a little more progress, because I am conscious of the time and other hon. Members will want to get in. I want to say a little about town and country planning, because the Bill has a bit about that in it. I think that we are up to about 1970—I feel a bit like Gene Hunt in “Life on Mars”—but I promise that we will get there. [Interruption.] It is one of my favourite shows.
The changes to town and country planning seek to make it fairer, more proportionate and greener. They will also devolve more power to the local level, which is something close to my heart. The changes are part of the widespread continuing improvement to the planning system. First, we propose the community infrastructure levy in part 10, which will increase investment in the vital infrastructure that is needed for many new communities, which hon. Members have already mentioned. The levy has the potential to raise hundreds of millions of pounds of additional investment, on top of current Government funding and the section 106 negotiated agreements. It is for local authorities to decide what community infrastructure is needed, which could relate to transport, new schools, parks or health centres. It is absolutely right that local developers contribute to the cost of that infrastructure and that local communities benefit from the increase in land value when permission is granted.
Some 13,000 houses are expected to be built in my constituency over the next 20 years. That will generate huge demand for infrastructure, with a significant amount from the levy. Will the Secretary of State assure my constituents that money raised in Fareham will be spent there and that priorities will be determined locally, not nationally or regionally?
Yes, I can certainly reassure the hon. Gentleman that the levy will be determined by the local authority. The levy is there to fund the necessary infrastructure for that community. Some of that infrastructure—a road, for example—might go beyond the boundary of the local authority. It might therefore be necessary for some of the moneys raised from the levy to contribute to some wider infrastructure, and the Bill makes provision for that. The levy is very much a devolutionary measure, in that it is for local authorities to determine, in order to get infrastructure in the right place. I was pleased by the letter issued today by the British Property Federation, which indicated the widespread positive consensus for the levy across a range of bodies, including the Local Government Association.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will accept that there is general support for the approach of the levy, but so far we have only 10 clauses in the Bill that merely sketch the outline of the complicated system that will ultimately be introduced. Will the Government table more detailed amendments during the Bill’s passage through Parliament to flesh the system out, or is all that likely to be left for secondary legislation? If so, can we in the House and those outside be assured of full consultation on the important details needed to ensure that the levy works properly?
Yes, my hon. Friend is right. What we have in the Bill is the architecture for the scheme. We have committed to issuing regulations that will fill out the detail. I assure him that we shall provide more detail as the Bill goes through, too, because it is important that the system, which will beneficial for communities, can work properly, and is practical and feasible. I am sure that my hon. Friend will want to pursue that as the Bill goes through.
I thank the Secretary of State for giving way. May I take her back a sentence or two, when she said that the funding would go back to the community? In a sitting of the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government, there seemed to be some vagueness about whether, as I understood it, the funding would go into a central pot and then be reallocated back. Is that correct or does the funding stay immediately local, without being taken into a central pot?
The hon. Lady may be aware that there were proposals for a planning gain supplement, which is different from the community infrastructure levy, so things have moved on since then. I want to be clear to the House that the assurance that I gave the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban) was that the levy is there to fund the infrastructure in local communities, but that some of that infrastructure could well have wider implications, making it necessary for something wider than a particular community, and I would not want the House to be under any other impression. It is for local authorities to make determinations in that way.
I am very grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. Further to the excellent intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban), she pointed out that some of the money might be top-sliced. Will she confirm that, if a levy were to be raised in Norfolk, that money would stay within the county of Norfolk, if not in the specific district involved, and not go outside the area?
All hon. Members will want to see something for the money that has been raised. I am trying to give them the assurance that this money is there for the much-needed infrastructure in such areas, although it might go a little wider than that. We shall certainly set out further details as we develop the Bill, but the intention is very much to ensure that the health centres, parks and other facilities that make life worth living in a community can be properly funded.
The Secretary of State is being extremely generous in giving way, but these points are of immense importance and her answering them might save a lot of time later on. It is clear from the Local Government Association briefing on the community infrastructure levy that an element of the levy would be assigned to regional and sub-regional projects. Is she saying that she has now retreated from that view?
No. If the hon. Gentleman has the opportunity to read the record of this debate, he will see that I have tried to give the House reassurance and to be straightforward about this matter. The levy is intended to fund the requirements of developing communities, but some of it might well go wider than the particular area involved. As we develop the proposals for the levy, we will make that as clear as we possibly can, so that people are under no misconceptions. The purpose of the fund will primarily be to ensure that we fund the infrastructure for which Opposition Members have been calling for a considerable period. I hope that they will therefore welcome the levy, as most other people have done.
May I help my right hon. Friend with a practical example from Milton Keynes? Junction 13 of the M1 is hugely important for supporting infrastructure and for the growth of housing in Milton Keynes, but it is not in Milton Keynes. Indeed, it is not even in Buckinghamshire; it is in Bedfordshire. It is, however, an infrastructure scheme that could have huge benefits for Milton Keynes, and it would be perverse if such a scheme could not be funded by such an infrastructure levy.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I know that Milton Keynes has been one of the forerunners in developing effective section 106 agreements to ensure that infrastructure can be funded. I am sure that we have a great deal to learn from my hon. Friend and from her constituents.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. She has spoken about the potential for a greener approach through the reforms. Part of the legislation relates to tree protection. Is she aware of the fact that some of the finest trees in the country still have no protection? Is she planning to widen the protection through the reforms, or simply to devolve the present inadequate protections to local authorities?
My hon. Friend will know that the Bill contains a number of provisions on tree preservation orders. He will probably agree that the whole system of tree preservation orders is at present unnecessarily complex and bureaucratic, and very difficult to understand. There will certainly be no less protection for trees under the proposed system. As the Bill goes through, perhaps he will be able to bring his considerable tree expertise to these problems, so that we can make some progress on the matter.
I want to make a little more progress, as I know that many hon. Members want to speak in the debate and I do not want to squeeze them out.
On town and country planning, I want to mention a couple of areas in which we are going to make changes. They are minor issues in the context of the Bill, but they are actually very important. We are going to make it easier for families to extend their homes. Planning permission under permitted development will be there in certain fairly constrained circumstances. We are trying to minimise the impact of extensions on other people’s enjoyment of their own property. Planning permission will not be required for small-scale extensions and conservatories. At the moment, 80,000 applications go through without any objection each year, and we want to free up the planning system to concentrate on applications that will cause a problem, rather than on the 80,000 that do not. Through secondary legislation, we will allow householders to install small-scale renewable technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines without planning permission, where it is clear there will be little or no impact on neighbours. I hope that that will be broadly welcomed across the House.
The final aspect here—something that I know my hon. Friends hold very dear—is that there will be a requirement for local councils to take action on climate change when preparing their local development plans. Some people have portrayed the Bill as being anti-environment, but a whole range of measures in it seek to enhance our attitude towards climate change and ensure that local government and local planning authorities put it at the centre of their concerns.
My right hon. Friend mentions the question of local authority permissions for renewable devices on roofs. As the Bill makes its way through the House, will she ensure that that permission is genuinely widely based and is not constrained by various considerations such as the nature of the protection of the particular zone that a house is in or the way in which the house relates to other properties in the area? Will she ensure that there is a genuinely clear definition that enables renewable devices to be placed on houses without hindrance by local authorities on a variable basis across the country?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. As the Bill proceeds, we want to ensure that we enable people, wherever possible, to install not just solar panels and wind turbines, but a range of fairly small-scale technologies that can contribute to this agenda. It is very important indeed that we do that. We have to be aware of noise and its impact on neighbours, but by using accredited products, ensuring that we get those that are recognised to be the best and introducing a new helpline for householders to get the right products, I believe that we can make significant progress. In fact, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has estimated that about 250,000 households will want to take up such technology in the years to come. I hope that we see an expansion of such use.
I want to get through more of my speech, if hon. Gentlemen do not mind.
It is important to realise that we consulted on all these proposals in the summer and had 32,000 responses. In fact, we have changed our policy in three areas as a result. We sometimes hear complaints that the Government ride roughshod over consultees, but I can tell my hon. Friends that I took the decision to change the policy in advance of the Bill rather than waiting for concessions to be dragged out of us. That is absolutely the right thing to do. As I say, we have changed the Bill in three areas and, I think, very much for the better.
First, on participation, we have changed the original policy so that people will have more than one chance to get involved. They will now have three chances in the new system and there will be a transparent debate in public—and in Parliament, which is crucial to the House. We have also listened to the consultation and taken steps to ensure that every party has a right to be heard orally, both at the examination stage of the inquiry and where the commission decides to probe a specific issue. Provided that people have registered the fact that they want to give their information and evidence, they will be entitled to do so.
Secondly, on sustainable development, many consultees said that they were worried that the Bill might emphasise economic objectives at the expense of the environment. Now, however, the Bill provides for a duty to ensure that national policy statements contribute to sustainable development. I hope that that will reassure people who are concerned about the environment that we are very serious about sustainability. As I say, the Bill will ensure that many of our new technologies to enable sustainability can get through the planning system quicker than they can now. Presently, many applications are being held up—literally for years—before they come through the system.
Thirdly, the Bill will now, in my view, deliver proper accountability. I know that many of my hon. Friends, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Keith Hill), have been particularly concerned about accountability. I hope that as the Bill progresses, I will be able to persuade him and others whose opinions I genuinely respect that there will now be stronger accountability under the Bill than in the previous system. I look forward to having that debate.
My right hon. Friend was talking about planning permission. Where there is more than one type of equipment that may need to go through the planning system, will exactly the same piece of equipment require a different planning permission to be granted in each area or will one planning permission for that device suffice for every area in the country?
The Bill provides that planning permission for things such as wind turbines and solar panels will not be required, provided that we get the system right and it does not impact on neighbours. It will enable people to embrace this method of tackling climate change in a big way and not require planning permission.
My right hon. Friend has hit on one area that I was talking about. The other was nuclear power. If it came about that a company was going to build two or three nuclear power stations, would it need planning permission for each type or would one planning permission be needed for the whole range?
I am clearer about my hon. Friend’s question. In the national policy statement phase, there would be a debate on what was the nation’s need for nuclear power. Some of that debate might be specific to locations and it might say that it would be likely that certain places were suitable for nuclear power, but every application would then need to go to the commission to be considered. The commission would weigh the local impact against the national interest and have the opportunity to involve the public so that they could have their say. I can give my hon. Friend what is, I hope, the assurance he is looking for: those things will be inquired into in great depth and great detail.
The Secretary of State is being generous in giving way. Following that exchange, can she confirm that, in terms of nuclear power and the specifics on renewables technologies, what she has said will not apply to Scotland? Indeed, the Bill’s only application to Scotland is the construction of cross-country oil and gas pipelines. In relation to clause 187(3), does that extension require a consent to legislate motion from the Scottish Parliament?
As the hon. Gentleman is aware, planning decisions in Scotland are devolved, and there is no intention to change the devolution settlement through the Bill. However, he is also aware that some matters, such as aviation and energy, are reserved. We cannot have designated national policy statements because Scotland will not have the planning commission, but there will be national policy statements around those reserved areas. Clearly, when individual decisions are being made in Scotland on those big issues, some national policy statements might be considered as material considerations in those decisions. The hon. Gentleman can be reassured that this is not an attempt to change the devolution settlement in those terms. I understand that cross-border pipelines would not require a legislative motion, but no doubt we will continue to discuss those issues as the Bill goes through Parliament. I hope that that gives him reassurance.
I have spoken for far too long, but I should say a word about accountability, which I know has greatly exercised my hon. Friends. Ministers will take the political decisions when we do the national policy statement and the commission will take the individual decisions, but it will have to do so on the basis of the political decisions reached by Parliament and, indeed, by the Government.
Finally, it would be remiss of me not to say that the Bill is also about efficiency. We think that it will enable us to save a considerable amount of money. Instead of every local inquiry rehearsing all the arguments, that debate will take place at the national policy statement stage. We think that the Bill could deliver benefits of nearly £5 billion by 2030, as well as getting the proper long-term decisions in the interests of the country. That is why we think it is a good Bill.
Our planning regime needs to be fit for the 21st century. Going back to the 1947 Bill, Hugh Dalton closed the debate on Second Reading by saying:
“We could do great things with this land of ours, if we chose. I believe the Bill gives us the instrument with which we can do these great things.”—[Official Report, 30 January 1947; Vol. 432, c. 1232-33.]
We have listened to the people who responded to our consultation, and today’s Bill will provide for a fairer and faster planning system—one that delivers for the economy and the environment, and that gives everyone a fair chance to have their say. Those are indeed great things, and I commend the Bill to the House.