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Agencies (Appointments)

Volume 470: debated on Tuesday 15 January 2008

8. Whether Parliament and local authorities will have a role in the appointment of members of the restructured regional development agencies, the Homes and Communities Agency and the Infrastructure Planning Commission. (178392)

Appointment of members to the boards of those bodies and proposed bodies would be made by Ministers, on merit, in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ code and guidance. There are no current plans for either Parliament or local authorities to play a direct role in those appointments processes.

The Infrastructure Planning Commission will be unaccountable. It will be judge and jury in its own cause, and it will even decide the process by which local people can make representations on contentious planning issues. How can that conceivably be fair?

I think the hon. Gentleman may have missed the boat. We had a good discussion about that during our deliberations on the Planning Bill. It is a shame that he is not a member of the Bill Committee. The purpose of the Infrastructure Planning Commission will be to streamline and speed up the planning process, and strong safeguards are built into it to ensure that consultation with local communities will be enhanced.

What I have said is not directly related to the hon. Gentleman’s question, but I hope it is helpful to the House.

Further to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) about the bodies he listed, will the Minister say when the Secretary of State will reply to my letter dated 21 December setting out concerns in my constituency about the proposal to build a new town of up to 50,000 inhabitants on the Co-operative Society’s almost 5,000-acre farming estate in the Harborough district? May I tell the Minister that that massive development, which might well come before the bodies my hon. Friend referred to—

Order. That is a wide supplementary question. Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman should bring up the matter in an Adjournment debate; that might be the best thing to do.

When does the Minister next plan to meet representatives of the East of England Development Agency, my local regional development agency, and can he tell the House of one positive measure or initiative that it has carried out that would not otherwise have taken place?

That has a slightly tenuous relationship with the main question about public appointments. However, I am always happy to meet members of any RDA, and I know from work I have done on the Migration Impacts Forum that they have done some good work in the hon. Gentleman’s region. With regard to the initial question on public appointments, the hon. Gentleman will know that the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform is responsible for the body concerned, in terms of its representation and who is on it, and I think it has a good mix.