Cookies: We use cookies to give you the best possible experience on our site. By continuing to use the site you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more.

House of Commons Hansard

Infrastructure Bill [Lords]

26 January 2015
Volume 591

    Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

    [Relevant documents: Eighth Report from the Environmental Audit Committee, Session 2014-15, on Environmental risks of fracking, HC 856, and Sixth Report from the Environmental Audit Committee, Session 2014-15, on Action on air quality, HC 212.

    Fifteenth Report from the Transport Committee, Session 2013-14, Better roads: Improving England’ Strategic Road Network, HC 850, and Fourth Special Report from the Transport Committee, Session 2014-15, Better roads: Improving England’s Strategic Road Network: Government Response to the Committee’s Fifteenth Report of Session 2013-14, HC 715.]

    New Clause 15

    Advice on likely impact of onshore petroleum on the carbon budget

    “(1) The Secretary of State must from time to time request the Committee on Climate Change to provide advice (in accordance with section 38 of the CCA 2008) on the impact which combustion of, and fugitive emissions from, petroleum got through onshore activity is likely to have on the Secretary of State’s ability to meet the duties imposed by—

    (a) section 1 of the CCA 2008 (net UK carbon account target for 2050), and

    (b) section 4(1)(b) of the CCA 2008 (UK carbon account not to exceed carbon budget).

    (2) As soon as practicable after each reporting period, the Secretary of State must produce a report setting out the conclusions that the Secretary of State has reached after considering the advice provided by the Committee on Climate Change during that reporting period in response to any request made under subsection (1).

    (3) The Secretary of State must lay a copy of any such report before Parliament.

    (4) In this section—

    “CCA 2008” means the Climate Change Act 2008;

    “petroleum got through onshore activity” means petroleum got from the strata in which it exists in its natural condition by activity carried out on land in England and Wales (excluding land covered by the sea or any tidal waters);

    “petroleum” has the same meaning as in Part 1 of the Petroleum Act 1998 (see section 1 of that Act);

    “reporting period” means—

    (a) the period ending with 1 April 2016, and

    (b) each subsequent period of 5 years.” —(Amber Rudd.)

    This amendment requires the Secretary of State to seek advice from the Committee on Climate Change on the likely impact of petroleum (including natural gas) produced onshore in England and Wales, and to report periodically on the conclusions reached as result of the advice given.

    Brought up, and read the First time.

  • I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

  • With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

    New clause 1— Hydraulic fracturing—

    ‘(1) The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010, Schedule 1, Part 2, Chapter 1, is amended as follows:

    (2) After Section 1.2 insert—

    “SECTION 1.3

    Hydraulic Fracturing Activities

    Part A(1)

    (a) carrying out exploration or assessments prior to hydraulic fracturing;

    (b) drilling wells for use in hydraulic fracturing;

    (c) process of hydraulic fracturing;

    (d) decommissioning and long-term maintenance of hydraulic fracturing wells.””

    New clause 2—Shale gas extraction: devolution—

    ‘(1) The Scotland Act 1998 is amended as follows:

    (2) In Schedule 5, Part II, section D2, after “gas other than through pipes,”, insert—

    “( ) The licensing of onshore shale gas extraction underlying Scotland.

    ( ) Responsibility for mineral access rights for onshore extraction of shale gas in Scotland.””

    New clause 4— Committee on Climate Change shale gas reports—

    It shall be a duty of the Committee on Climate Change to produce Reports into the effects of exploitation of shale gas in the UK on net carbon emissions from the UK.”

    New clause 6—Hydraulic Fracturing exclusion zones—

    ‘(1) The Petroleum Act 1998 is amended as follows.

    (2) In Section 3, after subsection (4), insert—

    “(5) No licences shall be granted to search and bore for petroleum in protected areas using the process of hydraulic fracturing.

    (6) For the purposes of this section, “protected area” means—

    (a) special areas of conservation under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c) Regulations 1994,

    (b) special protection areas under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981,

    (c) sites of special scientific interest under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981,

    (d) national parks under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949,

    (e) The Broads under the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988, and

    (f) areas of outstanding natural beauty under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.”

    New clause 7—Environmental Impact Assessment: publication—

    “(1) Any Environmental Statement undertaken in respect of the possible exploitation of petroleum or deep geothermal energy, under the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011, must be publicised before a planning application is submitted to the local planning authority and/or the Secretary of State.

    (2) The publication of an Environmental Statement under subsection (1) must be in accordance with the procedures set out in Article 13 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010.”

    New clause 8— Impact on rural communities—

    “The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs must, within one month of this Act receiving Royal Assent, lay before the House of Commons the full report on Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts.”

    New clause 9— Moratorium on onshore unconventional petroleum—

    “(1) All use of land for development consisting of the exploitation of unconventional petroleum in Great Britain shall be discontinued during the relevant period.

    (2) The Secretary of State must ensure that an independent assessment is undertaken of the exploitation of unconventional petroleum in Great Britain including the use of high volume hydraulic fracturing.

    (3) The assessment must take account of the impacts of the exploitation of the unconventional petroleum on—

    (a) climate change;

    (b) the environment;

    (c) health and safety; and

    (d) the economy.

    (4) The Secretary of State must—

    (a) consult such persons as the Secretary of State thinks fit; and

    (b) publish the assessment

    within the relevant period.

    (5) For the purposes of subsections (1) to (4)—

    “relevant period” means a period of not less than 18 months and not more than 30 months commencing on the date two months after Royal Assent;

    “unconventional petroleum” means petroleum which does not flow readily to the wellbore.

    (6) In section 3 of the Petroleum Act 1998, at the end of subsection (4) add “and subsection (4A).

    “(4A) Nothing in this section permits the grant of a licence to search and bore for and get unconventional petroleum in Great Britain during the relevant period.

    (4B) For the purposes of subsection (4A) “relevant period” and “unconventional petroleum” have the meaning specified in section [Moratorium on onshore unconventional petroleum] of the Infrastructure Act 2015.”

    New clause 10— The security of supply of gas—

    (1) The Secretary of State shall, in accordance with section 4AA of the Gas Act 1986 and so far as it appears to him practicable from time to time, keep under review whether further measures may be appropriate in order to protect the interests of existing and future consumers in relation to the security of the supply of gas to them.

    (2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the Secretary of State may direct the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority to conduct a Significant Code Review in relation to whether modifications to licences granted under Part 1 of the Gas Act 1986 or to the Uniform Network Code are appropriate in order to underpin the demand for and the security of supply of gas.

    (3) For the purposes of this section—

    “consumers”, for the avoidance of doubt, includes domestic and non-domestic consumers;

    “Significant Code Review” has the meaning given in Standard Special Condition A11 (24) of licences granted under section 7 of the Gas Act 1986;

    “Uniform Network Code” means the document of that title required to be prepared pursuant to Standard Special Condition A11 of licences granted under section 7 of the Gas Act 1986.

    New clause 11— Annual report by Secretary of State on security of energy supplies—

    “(1) Section 172 of the Energy Act 2004 (annual report on security of energy supplies) is amended as follows.

    (2) In subsection (2), at the end insert—

    “(e) the security of supply of gas to consumers in Great Britain, including available storage capacity, and any appropriate remedial measures.””

    New clause 19— Hydraulic fracturing: necessary conditions—

    Any hydraulic fracturing activity can not take place:

    (a) unless an environmental impact assessment has been carried out;

    (b) unless independent inspections are carried out of the integrity of wells used;

    (c) unless monitoring has been undertaken on the site over the previous 12 month period;

    (d) unless site-by-site measurement, monitoring and public disclosure of existing and future fugitive emissions is carried out;

    (e) in land which is located within the boundary of a groundwater source protection zone;

    (f) within or under protected areas;

    (g) in deep-level land at depths of less than 1,000 metres;

    (h) unless planning authorities have considered the cumulative impact of hydraulic fracturing activities in the local area;

    (i) unless a provision is made for community benefit schemes to be provided by companies engaged in the extraction of gas and oil rock;

    (j) unless residents in the affected area are notified on an individual basis;

    (k) unless substances used are subject to approval by the Environment Agency

    (l) unless land is left in a condition required by the planning authority, and

    (m) unless water companies are consulted by the planning authority.”

    The purpose of this new clause is to ensure that shale gas exploration and extraction can only proceed with appropriate regulation and comprehensive monitoring and to ensure that any activity is consistent with climate change obligations and local environmental considerations.

    Amendment 50, page 39, line 12 leave out clause 37.

    This deletes the Clause that puts into primary legislation a new duty to maximise the economic recovery of UK oil and gas.

    Amendment 68, in clause 37, page 39, line 17, leave out

    “the objective of maximising the economic recovery of UK petroleum, in particular through”

    and insert

    “not the objective of maximising the economic recovery of UK petroleum but ensuring that fossil fuel emissions are limited to the carbon budgets advised by the Committee on Climate Change and introducing a moratorium on the hydraulic fracturing of shale gas deposits in order to reduce the risk of carbon budgets being breached, in particular through—”.

    This reflects the conclusions from an inquiry into the Environmental risks of fracking by the Environmental Audit Committee, whose report is published on 26 January (Eighth Report, HC 856).

    Amendment 73, page 39, line 31, at end insert—

    “(3A) A strategy must be compatible with the Climate Change Act 2008.”

    This would require strategies drawn up under clause 37 on maximising the economic recovery of oil and gas to be compatible with the Climate Change Act 2008, thereby avoiding the risk that the Secretary of State could, as a result of clause 37, be required to fulfil conflicting duties.

    Amendment 51, page 45, line 22 leave out clauses 39 to 44.

    This deletes the Clauses that seek to change the trespass law and introduce a new right to use deep-level land, which would allow fracking companies to drill beneath people’s homes and land without their permission and to leave any substance or infrastructure in the land.

    Amendment 44, in clause 39, page 45, line 25, leave out

    “petroleum or deep geothermal energy”

    and insert—

    “(a) petroleum; or

    (b) deep geothermal energy.

    “(1A) The right under (1)(a) only applies if the Committee on Climate Change’s most recent report under section (Committee on Climate Change Shale Gas Reports) concludes that shale gas exploitation leads to a net reduction of UK carbon emissions.

    (1B) The carrying out of hydraulic fracturing in connection with the exploitation of unconventional petroleum is not allowed unless the Committee on Climate Change’s most recent report under section (Committee on Climate Change Shale Shale Gas Reports) concludes that shale gas exploitation leads to a net reduction of UK carbon emissions.”

    Amendment 47, page 45, line 27, leave out from “if” to end of line 29 and insert—

    “(a) it is deep-level land,

    (b) it is within a landward area, and

    (c) the well shaft is not within two kilometres of any village or town.”

    Amendment 56, page 45, line 29, at end insert—

    “(c) subject to the agreement of the owner of any land altered by the use.”

    Amendment 83, page 45, line 29, at end insert—

    “(c) outside:

    (i) Special Areas of Conservation under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994,

    (ii) Special Protection Ares under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981,

    (iii) Sites of Special Scientific Interest under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981,

    (iv) National Parks under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949,

    (v) The Broads under the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988, and

    (vi) Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty under section 82 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.”

    Amendment 117, page 45, line 29, at end add—

    “(c) subject to the prior collation of existing environmental data and that data is published in a form that enables it to be subject to scientific peer review.”

    Amendment 57, page 45, line 32, at end insert—

    (a) The right of use shall be subject to the precautionary principle being applied;

    (b) The Environment Agency will determine whether the condition under paragraph (a) has been met; and

    (c) In this section, “precautionary principle” shall mean that no land is used for the purposes of exploiting petroleum or deep geothermal energy unless it is proved that it is not harmful to the environment.”

    Amendment 3, page 45, line 33, leave out “300 metres” and insert “1,000 metres”.

    Amendment 65, page 45, line 33, leave out “300 metres” and insert “950 metres”.

    Government amendment 86.

    Amendment 2, page 45, line 36, at end insert—

    “(6) The Secretary of State shall, before the award of licences in relation to the use of deep-level land for onshore oil and gas exploration, issue additional planning guidance introducing a presumption against such developments within or under protected areas.”

    Amendment 48, page 45, line 36, at end insert—

    “(6) The Secretary of State shall prevent the exploitation of shale oil or gas if either a water company or the Environment Agency credibly asserts that to do otherwise would—

    (a) create substantial risks to public health due to potential contamination of groundwaters from the extraction process; or

    (b) create substantial risks to nearby surface waters due to potential contamination from flowback and waste water arising from hydraulic fracturing activity; or

    (c) create substantial risks to the nearby environment due to potential contamination from flowback and waste water arising from hydraulic fracturing activity.”

    Amendment 49, page 45, line 36, at end insert—

    “(5A) The use of hydraulic fracturing in connection with the exploitation of unconventional petroleum shall be prohibited.

    (5B) For the purposes of subsection (5A), “unconventional petroleum” means petroleum which does not flow readily to the wellbore.

    (5C) In section 3 of the Petroleum Act 1998, at the end of subsection (4) add “and subsection (4A).

    “(4A) Nothing in this section permits the grant of a licence to search and bore for and get unconventional petroleum in Great Britain.

    (4B) For the purposes of subsection (4A), “unconventional petroleum” has the meaning set out in section 38(5B) of the Infrastructure Act [2015].””

    This amendment would ban fracking (the use of high volume hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas) in the UK.

    Amendment 66, page 45, line 36, at end insert—

    “(6) This section shall not extend to Wales unless an order authorising it has been passed by the National Assembly for Wales.

    (7) An order under subsection (6) may contain any conditions which the Assembly deems appropriate.”

    Amendment 82, page 45, line 36, at end insert—

    “(5A) The Secretary of State shall be required to commission and consider reports on—

    (a) The cumulative impacts of water use in hydraulic fracking of exploratory and productive gas wells;

    (b) The cumulative impacts of flowback and waste water arising from hydraulic fracking activity; and

    (c) The cumulative impacts on communities of road and vehicle movements from hydraulic fracking activity

    Before providing any permissions for exploitation of petroleum on deep level land where one or more exploitation facility exists within one mile of a proposed site.”

    Amendment 60, in clause 40, page 46, line 6, at end insert—

    “(f) any substance used for the purposes of paragraph (d) must be—

    (i) approved by the Environment Agency; and

    (ii) publicly declared by the operator.”

    Amendment 1, page 46, line 17, at end insert—

    “(3A) Before a well design is commenced or adopted in connection with the exploitation of petroleum, the right of use requires the Health and Safety Executive to inspect the well so as to satisfy itself that—

    (a) so far as is reasonably practicable, there can be no unplanned escape of fluids from the well; and

    (b) risks to the health and safety of persons from it or anything in it, or in strata to which it is connected, are as low as is reasonably practicable.

    (3B) Where the Health and Safety Executive is satisfied that a condition in subsection (3A) is met, it shall give notice to the Secretary of State.

    (3C) The Secretary of State shall publish the information received from the Health and Safety Executive in accordance with subsection (3A).”

    Amendment 59, page 46, line 17, at end insert—

    “(3A) The right of use shall be conditional on operators ensuring the—

    (a) safe conveyance of wastewater from the site to a safe place of storage;

    (b) effective treatment and disposal of wastewater from the site; and

    (c) publication of the details of the treatment and disposal of wastewater under sub-paragraph (ii).”

    Government amendment 87.

    Amendment 78, in clause 41, page 46, line 41, leave out “may” and insert “shall”.

    Amendment 79, page 46, line 44, leave out “may” and insert “shall”.

    Amendment 61, page 47, line 2, at end insert—

    “(c) to compulsorily purchase properties in the event of blight from the activities of the extraction and exploitation of petroleum and geothermal energy in deep-level land.”

    Amendment 80, page 47, line 4, after “the”, insert “minimum”.

    Amendment 81, page 47, line 5, after “payments”, insert

    “which shall be calculated as a percentage of the gross value of the gas extracted”.

    Amendment 62, in clause 42, page 47, line 19, leave out sub-paragraphs (i) and (ii) and insert

    “to persons of specified descriptions”

    Amendment 63, page 47, line 22, leave out “within the area” and insert

    “on the Parish Council noticeboard”.

    Amendment 64, page 47, line 24, at end insert—

    “(2B) Failure to display or publish notice under the terms of subsection (2) will negate any right to exploit or extract petroleum or geothermal energy.”

    Government amendments 88, 89, 90, 96, 97, 98, 99 and 103.

    Amendment 69, title, line 10 leave out

    “to make provision about maximising economic recovery of petroleum in the United Kingdom;”

    This reflects the conclusions from an inquiry into the Environmental risks of fracking by the Environmental Audit Committee, whose report is published on 26 January (Eighth Report, HC 856).

  • I rise to speak to new clause 15 and amendments 98 and 103. Both shale gas and geothermal energy are exciting new energy resources for the UK, with the potential to provide greater energy security, growth and jobs, while also playing an important role in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

  • Will the Minister give way?

  • I will make some progress, but I will give way to the hon. Lady during my speech. The provisions in the Bill provide for a right to use deep-level land for the purposes of exploiting petroleum or deep geothermal energy. That will help us unlock exploration for shale gas and deep geothermal as we move towards a low-carbon economy.

    Several hon. Members have brought forward new clause 4, which would place a statutory duty on the Committee on Climate Change to produce reports on the effect of shale on the UK’s net carbon emissions. Amendment 44 states that the right of use, and the carrying out of hydraulic fracturing, are conditional on the finding in the Committee’s reports

    “that shale…exploitation leads to a net reduction of UK carbon emissions.”

    The Government are committed to reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. To meet our challenging climate targets we will need significant quantities of renewables, nuclear and gas in our energy mix, and we are committed to listening to the experts and their advice on how to reach those targets.

  • Will the Minister explain how public confidence in fracking is enhanced by the Government’s refusal to let the public see an unredacted copy of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs report on the impacts of fracking on the rural economy? Will she make a gesture today by saying that that report will be unredacted and put in the public domain?

  • The hon. Lady will know that this matter is included in one of the amendments, which I will come on to discuss more fully later. Although I cannot make the commitment she is asking for, I will speak more fully on it a little later.

  • Three times now the Minister has referred to moving to lower carbon emissions in the UK, but what good is that if it results in displaced coal being available for use in other parts of the developed world? Whether the emissions come from coal being burnt in Germany or in the UK, they still contribute to climate change.

  • That is why, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, the Government have been so keen to get targets into Europe that apply across the whole of Europe. He will be aware that we are leading on those, and we will continue to do so. It is very important to lead by example, and he is right to raise the issue relating to Germany, which is why we are pleased to have a cross-European agreement. However, that does not detract from the importance of making sure that we do the right thing in this country.

  • On that point about displaced coal, is it not a fact that it is displaced coal from north America that is contributing to a rise in the burning of coal in Europe? If we take matters into our own hands and develop more gas, we can reduce the amount of coal that is burned. It is coal that is the enemy of climate change and that is enemy No. 1. Gas is our ally in a green future.

  • My hon. Friend makes an excellent point based on his clear expertise in this area. The Committee on Climate Change has said that for flexible power supply, the UK will

    “continue to use considerable, albeit declining, amounts of gas well into the 2030s”

    which will leave

    “a considerable gap between production of North Sea gas and our total demand.”

    It argues that that demand

    “can either be met through imports or UK production of shale gas.”

    It concludes that

    “if anything, using well regulated UK shale gas to fill this gap could lead to lower overall lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than continuing to import LNG. It would also increase the proportion of energy produced within the UK, improving our energy sovereignty.”

  • The important thing that has come from these exchanges is that it is the use of carbon that causes the emissions. Therefore, it is crucial that we have a proper emissions trading scheme throughout Europe and that the source of the energy should be as low carbon as possible. Therefore, maximising the economic production from the North sea is an important first step.

  • The hon. Gentleman is entirely right. It is absolutely essential that we do also maximise economic recovery, and we will be coming on to that later in this debate.

  • The Minister rightly said that the displacement of coal by gas could make a massive impact on reducing our carbon emissions. But it is also right to say that that is no good if countries such as Germany go down the coal route. Does she think she can persuade those countries to follow us in going towards gas more quickly?

  • We will certainly do our best. The UK is a leader in Europe in providing our own example and in trying to corral our European partners to ensure that we move to a low carbon economy.

  • I will make a little more progress.

    Professor David MacKay and Dr Timothy Stone have supported the findings of the Committee on Climate Change and in 2013, they published recommendations on how to reduce emissions from shale gas operations, which the Government have accepted. In addition, the Environment Agency has agreed to make green completions—techniques to minimise methane emissions —a requirement of environmental permits for shale gas production.

  • I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, but first I want to outline what the Government are doing on this matter.

    I am pleased to say that we have tabled an amendment that will place a duty on the Secretary of State to seek advice from the Committee on Climate Change as to the impact of petroleum development in England and Wales, including shale gas operations, on our ability to meet the UK’s overall climate change objectives over time, and it is not limited to a specific carbon budget period. The Secretary of State must consider the advice of the Committee on Climate Change and report on his conclusions at least every five years. By introducing this amendment, we are making it absolutely clear that shale development will remain compatible with our goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

  • I thank the Minister for that amendment. It goes halfway towards my amendment, which called for that to happen and then said that we should not allow fracking if it increased emissions. She spoke about the report from Dave Mackay, one of my constituents. Does she accept that he also says that

    “in the absence of strong climate policies…we believe it is credible that shale-gas use would increase both short-term and long-term emissions rates?”

    If it turns out that we do see higher carbon emissions, will she agree that we should end fracking at that point at least?

  • The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. I am confident that our amendment addresses exactly that. The Committee on Climate Change will take a view on what it sees, now that there is an obligation on the Secretary of State to consult with it. I am encouraged by the fact that that obligation is now in place.

  • On the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat), is the Minister aware that, historically, the German nation has been providing massive subsidies—up to £4 billion a year—to its coal industry? She could do something in the Council of Europe about solving the problem that she has been describing. Will she do that?

  • I thank my hon. Friend for his expression of confidence in our ability to work with our European partners to improve output in the UK and in Europe more widely.

  • Is my hon. Friend aware that David MacKay, to whom the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) referred, also reported that carbon emissions from shale gas are lower than those from liquefied natural gas, and that because the most likely effect of developing our shale gas reserves will be to substitute for LNG imports, the direct and immediate effect of allowing shale gas to go ahead will be a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right: it is a win-win for the UK in both potential economic benefit and reducing our carbon footprint.

  • In addition to all the advantages my hon. Friend has already mentioned, does she accept that we need to have a shale gas industry to go hand-in-hand with our wind industry, because wind-powered generators require gas generators to back them up?

  • My hon. Friend is right: having a successful shale gas industry is an important part of supporting our renewables industry.

    New clause 2 proposes specific changes to the Scotland Act 1998. Although I understand the intention, the Bill is not the right vehicle to make those amendments. The new devolution settlement should be debated as a whole package in the next Parliament. Last Thursday, the Government published their Command Paper, “Scotland in the United Kingdom: An enduring settlement”, which sets out that draft clause 31 will devolve to Scottish Ministers the regime for licensing exploration and extraction of oil and gas, and transfer to the Scottish Parliament legislative competence for the licensing of onshore oil and gas exploration and extraction. Responsibility for mineral access rights for underground onshore extraction of oil and gas in Scotland will also be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

    I assure hon. Members that those matters will be fully addressed through the broader process of reviewing the devolution settlement, to which all three major parties are committed. Whoever forms the next Government will take forward the draft legislation for further Scottish devolution. I announced in Committee the Government’s intention to table an amendment to remove Scotland from the scope of the provisions concerning the right to use deep-level land. We have now tabled amendments that will achieve that.

  • I note what the Minister says, and obviously I am keen that the powers be transferred as soon as possible, but does she not acknowledge that, as I and the Scottish Government have said on numerous occasions, there is a gap? Scotland has planning and environmental powers, but will not, if the Government do as she is saying they will, get powers on licences for some time yet. Will the Government give a guarantee that no more licences will be granted in the meantime? What is the position of licences already granted? Would it not be more sensible to support new clause 9, so that there is a moratorium until the Scottish Parliament can make a full decision on these matters?

  • I feel that the Government new clause deals with the specific issues that are relevant to the Infrastructure Bill. I understand—we all do—that many other measures may need to be debated, but the time for that will be after the next Government are in place, when there will be a fuller debate on proper devolution.

  • The Minister said that onshore energy and fuels will be devolved, but when will offshore be devolved to the Scottish Government—Scotland’s oil?

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman for that contribution, but I must defer to other Departments on that. For now, I will deal with the specific issues on the table for the Infrastructure Bill.

  • The Minister is talking about new clause 2 and the devolution of licensing, which she says is promised and will be delivered as part of the Smith agreement. Given that the 14th round has been started but the licences not awarded, does it not make sense for those licences not to be awarded in Scotland until devolution has happened?

  • The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point—one that was not raised in Committee, although we did debate this fairly fully. I take the view that the Bill is not the place to do that, but it could be considered after the next general election.

  • The Minister has outlined a road map for further powers for Scotland in regard to licensing powers. What consideration have the UK Government given to giving similar powers to the Welsh Government?

  • The Secretary of State for Wales has announced that a set of commitments agreed by the four main political parties in Wales on the way forward for Welsh devolution will be in place by 1 March. These commitments will form a baseline for devolution after the election. I understand that a strong case is being made for devolution of those powers.

    That covers the hon. Gentleman’s amendment 66, which seeks to render the application of the clauses to the approval of the National Assembly for Wales. In addition, the current Government of Wales Act 2006 clearly sets out that oil and gas are excluded from the list of devolved subjects, and the exploitation of deep geothermal resources cannot be considered to have been conferred under any of the subjects in schedule 7. We see no grounds on which this measure would currently be within the legislative competence of the Welsh Assembly. That is the situation for now. Scotland and Wales will continue to have substantial control of onshore oil and gas, and geothermal activities through their own existing planning procedures and environmental regulation, as these are already devolved. I ask hon. Members not to press their amendments.

    New clause 6 and amendments 2 and 83 suggest that the national planning policy framework leaves gaps in respect of protected land, but this is not the case. Strong protections already exist for these areas and further protections are not necessary. A blanket ban, as proposed, would be disproportionate.

  • Is the Minister saying—she should be very clear on this—that there is absolutely no prospect of any fracking happening on any of this list of properties, and that anybody reading this debate should be clear that the Government have no intention of allowing that? Is that what she is saying?

  • If the hon. Gentleman will let me comment on that aspect in my own words, I hope that will reassure him.

    The existing legislative framework provides a robust framework of protection for those sensitive areas. The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 require a developer to undertake a habitats regulation assessment whenever a proposed project is likely to have a significant impact on a special conservation area or a special protection area. These protections derive from European law and set a very high bar. The regulations are supported by the national planning policy framework, which recognises areas that should be given a high level of protection, even if the development is outside the site boundary. These include special areas of conservation, special protection areas, sites of special scientific interest and Ramsar sites.

    Planning guidance published last July set out the specific approach to planning for unconventional hydrocarbons in national parks, the broads, areas of outstanding natural beauty and world heritage sites. The guidance makes it clear that planning authorities should refuse planning applications for major development in these areas unless it can be demonstrated both that exceptional circumstances exist and that it is in the public interest.

  • Does the Minister accept that 18% of the UK’s sites of special scientific interest, 13% of the special areas of conservation and 14% of the special protection areas are covered by the 14th licensing round?

  • Let me add to my earlier comments that we have agreed an outright ban on fracking in national parks, sites of special scientific interest and areas of outstanding natural beauty. I hope that will reassure the right hon. Gentleman about the liability potential for any of the areas that I know he is particularly keen to protect.

  • I know that my hon. Friend will shortly respond to some of the amendments tabled in my name, but will she complete the sentence? Is she saying that there will be an outright ban on any fracking in national parks? Have the Government removed the words “except in exceptional circumstances”?

  • My hon. Friend is right. That is exactly what we have done. We have now put in place an outright ban and will effectively remove those words.

  • Can the Minister clarify the situation in respect of ancient woodland? Will she also clarify the situation in respect of decisions by local planning authorities and whether, despite what she has just said, it will be possible for the Secretary of State to overturn those decisions?

  • That is something that I will have to look into. For the moment, I will make progress and hope to come back to the hon. Lady on that point this afternoon.

  • On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you assist the House? The Minister seems to have suggested that an amendment is being made to the amendments before us. If that is the case, and what she has said about words being removed from the Bill is correct, will we have an opportunity to scrutinise that amendment?

  • I think that is a matter of the hon. Gentleman’s interpretation. For the avoidance of doubt, I must say that no manuscript amendment has been tabled. The normal course would have been for it to be tabled prior to the start of the debate, and it has not been. I think that the best course at this stage is for hon. Members in all parts of the House simply to listen to the Minister’s speech. [Interruption.] There is indeed no manuscript amendment—I do not think that I can be clearer.

  • On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is there, then, an amendment to that effect?

  • No amendment is required to prove that there is no amendment. That makes me think that the hon. Lady has been reading Heidegger—“the nothing noths”. There is no manuscript amendment, and consideration of this matter should not be clouded by thoughts of a manuscript amendment. I have been given no indication that there will be a manuscript amendment. It would be extraordinary, to put it mildly, for a manuscript amendment to be proposed or put forward for consideration by me or by professional advisers when the debate has already started. Things need to be dealt with in an orderly manner.

  • On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

  • Order. I will take the point of order from the hon. Lady and then the Minister can either respond to that or continue her speech.

  • Thank you, Mr Speaker. I think that the House would like some clarification as to whether what we are going to be voting on will be an overall ban. Members on both sides of the House have tabled many amendments seeking to bring that about. When, in an hour’s time, we vote on these amendments, we will not know whether we can be confident that the Government are really doing as they say. I would be grateful if the Minister, if not instantly, then in the next 45 minutes, could tell us what she is actually proposing.

  • Of course Members must listen to what the Minister has to say, but, for the avoidance of doubt, Members will be voting on that which is on the amendment paper. I do not mean this in any sense discourteously, but it is not for the Chair to seek to interpret amendments or new clauses, and I would not presume to do so. Each right hon. or hon. Member must make his or her own assessment of the merits or demerits, and implications, of new clauses and amendments and vote accordingly. We are voting only on what is on the amendment paper, not on that which is not on it. I call the Minister.

  • Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.

    I will address new clause 7 on environmental impact assessments—EIAs—and new clause 19 and its various themes in turn. The Government share the desire expressed in new clause 7 and new clause 19(a) to ensure that the public are made fully aware of issues raised in EIAs before a planning application is submitted, and I can assure Members that this is the case. The comprehensive requirements for planning applications for which there is an environmental statement are already set out in article 13 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010, which requires that the environmental statement be publicised before a local planning authority can determine an application. Planning authorities are already required to ensure that mineral developments will not have unacceptable adverse impacts on the environment. Where a development is likely to have a significant effect, an EIA is required. If any significant environmental effects are identified that cannot be mitigated, planning permission can be refused.

    This approach works well in practice and is consistent with our European obligations. It ensures that an EIA, which involves substantial work often taking up to a year to develop, is undertaken only where it adds value. However, the Government understand the need to build public confidence in the shale sector. We therefore welcome the reassurance provided by the industry’s public commitment to carry out EIAs for all exploration wells that involve hydraulic fracturing. The industry has made a further commitment to produce an annual report listing the shale sites that have produced an EIA.

  • Will the Minister give way?

  • I am going to make some progress. I will give way again before the end of my comments, but I am conscious that the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) might want to address some of the points that I have raised.

    New clause 19(b) and amendment 1 are concerned with the inspection of wells. The Health and Safety Executive is the independent regulator. Its specialist inspectors assess operators’ well notifications and weekly operations reports throughout well construction. Final consent for drilling operations rests with the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which will check that the relevant environmental agencies and the HSE have no objections before giving consent.

    Health and safety legislation in the UK requires all well activities to be reviewed by an independent well examiner. There is an important principle that it is the well operator who retains responsibility for preventing any unplanned release of fluids. It is right that that fundamental duty rests with those who create the risk. The proposal that the HSE should approve each well could remove that responsibility. Rather than give a one-off approval, as is suggested in amendment 1, the HSE currently takes a lifecycle approach and can intervene at any time.

  • Earlier, the Minister seemed to ask the House to rely on an order and on a commitment by the industry, rather than on putting the matter into primary legislation. If she agrees with what is in new clause 6, what is her objection to having it in the Bill?

  • The hon. Lady raises an interesting point. There is a lot that can be considered in primary legislation, but there is also a place for secondary legislation. We have decided that what is in primary legislation is sufficient.

    I reassure Members that each shale site will still be inspected by the Health and Safety Executive during the exploration phase. I have agreed with the HSE that it will publish information for each visit to a shale site in its assessments.

  • I asked this on Second Reading and I ask it again today. Will those inspections be unannounced and rigorous, and will there be full transparency on what HSE inspectors find?

  • The short answer to that is yes. The purpose of HSE inspections is to ensure that there is safety and clarity. I believe that my hon. Friend will be reassured about that when he takes a closer look.

    On new clause 19(c) and (d) and amendment 117, I reassure Members that we support the use of baseline monitoring. At issue is the appropriateness of the monitoring period and the requirements involved. The Environment Agency has the power to require baseline monitoring under the conditions that are set in the environmental permit. The operator reports that information to the Environment Agency, which places it on the public register.

  • I will make progress, but I assure hon. Members that I will let them intervene before I finish.

    The environmental regulator adopts a risk-based approach to its assessment that is endorsed by the Royal Society. In addition, as was announced in Committee, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will direct the Environment Agency to require operators to undertake at least three months’ baseline monitoring of methane in groundwater before hydraulic fracturing can commence.

  • I want to take the Minister back to what she said about the use of secondary legislation. She will know, having been a Member of the House for a number of years, that secondary legislation is dealt with in a Committee that lasts a maximum of merely 90 minutes. We need to enshrine the environmental safeguards in primary legislation. Why is she so obsessed with not doing that?

  • I am only sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not have time to listen to the Committee, where we spent many, many hours debating this subject and many different subjects. That gave everyone a great opportunity to raise all the issues. There is no suggestion that there has not been enough time to address this matter.

  • On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Will you please rule on the Minister’s view, because she seems to be confusing the Bill Committee with an Order in Council committee, which lasts a mere 90 minutes?

  • I do not think that that is a matter for the Chair. Members must make their own assessment. The hon. Gentleman has made his assessment. For all I know, he might beetle around the Chamber to share it with others, but people will form their own assessment. Let us hear the Minister’s oration.

  • Thank you for that clarification, Mr Speaker.

    On the announcement I made in Committee, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will direct the Environment Agency to require operators to undertake the three months’ baseline monitoring. That is a minimum of three months so, in practice, the Environment Agency may require a longer period of monitoring where appropriate.

  • Earlier in the Minister’s speech, she mentioned that she would use the Health and Safety Executive. There have been cuts to its budget and numbers. It is reduced to doing just the occasional health and safety spot-check. How can that organisation be competent to monitor the provisions in the Bill?

  • The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. It is essential that the HSE can do its job well. We have had conversations with it and there is no suggestion that it cannot do its job well, but we will keep that under review.

  • In the Minister’s assessment prior to coming to the House, did she look at whether the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive need additional staff? If not, will she do so before she pushes the Bill further? We do not know what it costs to do that job properly.

  • The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. It is essential that the Environment Agency and Health and Safety Executive have sufficient staff. They have not raised that with me and have accepted the fact that they will have the responsibility, but we will keep conversations with them open to ensure they can do their job correctly.

  • Will the Minister give way?

  • I am going to make progress.

    On fugitive emissions, I have spoken about the report produced by Professor David MacKay and Dr Timothy Stone. Their report determined that, with the right safeguards in place, the net effect on greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas production will be relatively small. We report fugitive emissions from onshore energy extraction annually as part of our international reporting obligations on the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. That is done in accordance with guidelines produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is audited annually by a group of international experts.

  • On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

  • I may be wrong, but I just have a slight sense that this might be a point not of order but of frustration. We will discover.

  • There is a lot of frustration in the debate, Mr Speaker. In Committee, the Government made an extraordinary statement that there were some issues around baseline monitoring that the Minister regards as commercial-in-confidence. That is why I have tabled the amendment. Would it not be helpful if the Minister answered that point now, while she is dealing with that measure, rather than simply moving on?

  • That is not a point of order.

  • No, but it is on the record.

  • All sorts of things are helpful and all sorts of things are unhelpful, but they usually have one thing in common: that none of them is a point of order.

  • Thank you, Mr Speaker. The hon. Gentleman is right and asks an interesting question. I reassure him that I have written to him and other members of the Committee about that point.

  • Where is the letter?

  • It was sent to every member of the Committee.

    With regard to industry reporting commitments, fugitive emissions levels will be constantly monitored at all stages of development. The data will be made available in line with best practice and regulatory reporting requirements. However, to provide additional reassurance, I am pleased to announce that the Government will direct the Environment Agency to require operators to monitor and report fugitive methane emissions. In addition, the industry has confirmed its commitment to site-by-site reporting of fugitive emissions.

  • Several hon. Members

    rose—

  • I am going to make substantial progress. I am concerned that other hon. Members will not be able to speak.

    New clause 19(g), and amendments 3 and 65, are on depth limits. A company looking to develop shale or deep geothermal will need to obtain all the necessary permissions before it can proceed. The process of obtaining those permissions rather than the level at which we set the depth level will provide the relevant safeguards. There is no question of changing the existing regime governing access to land at surface down to depths of 300 metres.

  • How can the Minister assure us about fugitive emissions and the safety of fracking when she proposes to give untrammelled access at 300 metres to developers, as she has just mentioned? Fracking lines travel far higher than 300 metres and cannot be detected in advance by the Environment Agency or others undertaking baseline monitoring.

  • The hon. Gentleman raised that in Committee. We share his concern about safety and care for the community, but the Government believe that the Environment Agency is able to address that, and that we can rely on it to do so. In my conversations with the agency, it has given us that assurance, and it is the expertise that we have in particular in the UK that is so useful.

  • Will the Minister give way?

  • I wish to make some progress.

    A company looking to develop shale or deep geothermal will need to obtain all the necessary permissions before it can proceed. It is the process of obtaining all those permissions, rather than the level at which the depth limit is set, that will provide the relevant safeguards—

  • Will the Minister give way?

  • I will not: I am going to make some progress.

    There is no question of changing the existing regime governing access to land at the surface and down to the depths of 300 metres. Extending the depth limit would not improve landowners’ enjoyment of their land or achieve any increase in the level of protection.

    On new clause 19(i) and amendments 78, 79, 80 and 81, the Government have been clear that communities hosting shale gas developments should share in the benefits that are created. The shale industry is at a nascent stage. We will need more exploration to go ahead before knowing exactly how communities will benefit. At this stage, we need to ensure that schemes are flexible. A voluntary scheme offers a multitude of benefits to communities when compared with a statutory system, enabling schemes to be tailored to communities’ needs. Any statutory scheme might not be suitable for every situation, and would be more difficult in future.

    The industry, represented by UK Onshore Oil and Gas—UKOOG—has already committed to the community benefits charter, which will provide significant benefits to affected communities. Industry will pay £100,000 per hydraulically fractured well site at exploratory stage to communities, and 1% of revenue if it successfully goes into production.

  • Does the Minister yet have a definition of “community” in this instance?

  • My hon. Friend has raised that issue before and I hope that we will hear from him later. As he will be aware, we believe that that question is best decided later, when we have a charter in place that will address the issue.

  • On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Earlier in the Minister’s speech, she referred to a letter that she claims to have sent to the members of the Committee. I have checked my file—everything was sent electronically—and no such letter arrived in my office. I would be grateful if a copy of the letter could be made available to Members now.

  • That is not a point of order for the Chair, but the hon. Gentleman has clarified what he believes to be the position. The Minister may or may not wish to comment.

  • The letter came from the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), and with that information the hon. Gentleman may be able to find it. I am happy to send him another copy.

    The industry will need to show how it has complied with the charter on an annual basis, and any failure to follow through will ultimately result in a loss of membership and the benefits attached. In addition, operators will contribute a voluntary one-off payment of £20,000 for the right to use deep-level land. Each year, operators will need to publish evidence detailing how these commitments are being met. The Department of Energy and Climate Change will regularly monitor this evidence. Let me reassure the House that the proposals in the Bill will enable the Secretary of State to introduce regulations to set up a statutory payment mechanism, if not satisfied.

    On new clause 19(j) and amendments 62, 63 and 64, notice and publicity requirements relating to the planning and environmental permitting processes are already in place. We believe the system works well, but we recognise the concerns that have been raised by the new clause.

    New clause 19(k) and amendment 60 are on the approval of substances to be left in the land. As part of the application for environmental permits, the EA will require full disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and has the power to restrict or prohibit the use of any substances where they would pose an environmental risk. Our regulations ensure that information on chemical substances and their maximum concentrations is included within the environmental permit, along with information on the total daily discharge of hydraulic fracturing fluid into the ground and the fluid taken off-site for disposal. The permit is placed on the public register.

    I have already announced that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will direct the Environment Agency to publish information about chemicals it requires operators to disclose.

  • Will the Minister indicate why she is not taking the opportunity to regulate and impose environmental requirements on other non-conventional gas extraction processes, such as underground coal gasification?

  • The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point. I hope he will find that it will be dealt with later on, but if it is not I will certainly write to him on that point.

    New clause 19(m) relates to water companies. The Government recognise the importance of ensuring that water companies are engaged fully in shale gas development. The existing regulatory framework ensures issues relating to water are addressed robustly. The water industry and shale operators have already agreed a memorandum of understanding to engage early, and share plans for water demand and waste water management. The Government have considered this issue carefully and want to provide further reassurance to the public. Therefore, we are consulting on whether to make water companies statutory consultees in respect of these applications. Subject to the response to the consultation, which closes at the end of this month, we would seek to bring forward any necessary secondary legislation.

    New clause 19 has raised some very interesting and critical points in relation to reassuring the public. It is the Government’s view that we will accept new clause 19, but we plan to amend it in the other place to replace provision (g) on depth, with a review to put back the depth at the appropriate level for proper development.

    On amendment 61, regarding compulsory purchase of properties in the event of blight, I would like to reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Miss McIntosh) that the regulatory regimes for planning, environmental permitting and health and safety already provide a very robust framework that ensures residential amenity is properly protected from any unacceptable effects of development. The protection of amenity is recognised in the core planning principles of the national planning policy framework. In the unlikely event that operations caused any damage, there are various options available. The landowner may be able to bring claims in tort, such as negligence and nuisance, against any operator. I trust my explanation of this issue reassures hon. Members, and that they will withdraw the related amendment.

    On new clause 8, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ “Rural Economy Impacts” document was a draft internal document, which was not analytically robust; it was a literature review of existing studies and was not exhaustive. Where policy work is current, draft documents are usually kept within government, because they do not provide a complete and accurate picture of the overall material. This is a highly sensitive and fast-moving policy area. Releasing information that is at the formative stage of being shared between Government Departments risks substantially undermining our ability to deliver effective policy.

    DEFRA retains an interest in the implications of shale gas development for rural communities, but the Department of Energy and Climate Change leads on the economic aspects of shale gas policy. It is therefore my view that DEFRA should not have produced a document of this kind. The redactions were made for those broader reasons, not on the basis of sensitivity of materials. In fact, in the interests of providing free access to the information on which the draft paper was based, the Government have provided the full list of references. Following Committee, I consulted with a range of colleagues. Releasing the unredacted draft paper would not help to inform the debate on developing the UK’s shale industry. I ask, therefore, that my hon. Friend withdraws her amendment.

  • What the Minister has said, essentially, is that DEFRA should not do research that might possibly become embarrassing if it become public. How on earth does she expect people to have any confidence in the Government’s policies on fracking if the Government cannot even put the research in the public domain?

  • I do not think the hon. Lady quite heard my comments. If somebody in another Department has prepared something, a junior member perhaps, and it was not appropriate for them to have done so, which is a comment I have fairly made, I do not think it is appropriate for it to be released. It could mislead the public. It is because I am so concerned about the public that we have taken this view.

  • I think my hon. Friend would wish to put a message out to rural communities today that we take their concerns very seriously indeed. We must be seen to listen, in the House this afternoon, to their concerns. It is unfortunate that the report will not be in the public domain. My hon. Friend answered one point on my amendment relating to blight. Does she also accept that in the event a house could not be sold, there may be an option for the fracking company to compulsoily purchase that property?

  • Of course, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Government take very seriously the security, the safety and the right of good abode of everybody in the rural community, and we will keep that constantly in our minds as we move forward.

  • Several hon. Members

    rose—

  • I am concerned that I still need to cover several amendments. If I may, I shall move swiftly on, and I hope that hon. Members with particular concerns will take the opportunity to speak later.

    New clause 9 and amendments 49 and 57 propose a moratorium on the exploitation of onshore unconventional petroleum, subject to an impact assessment, and that the right of use be subject to the precautionary principle. I am surprised by these proposals. It is far more sensible to explore the potential of shale and assess the impacts along the way, while ensuring that development is regulated and risks managed. I hope I outlined my confidence in that process earlier. On the amendment suggesting that the right of use be subject to the precautionary principle, I reassure hon. Members that the right of use is limited to being no greater than access rights granted by landowners under the existing system.

    Amendments, 51, 56 and 47 are not necessary. I have already outlined why the underground access provisions are required. Many other industries already access underground land beneath peoples’ homes, in order to lay cables and build infrastructure such as water pipes and tunnels. I ask that hon. Members do not press these amendments.

  • I shall not take any more interventions, as I must finish my comments.

    Amendments 50, 68, 69 and 73 touch on the recovery of UK petroleum. Amendment 50 would delete clause 37, which puts into primary legislation a new duty to maximise the economic recovery of oil and gas. The Government feel that oil and gas recovery makes an important contribution to the national economy by supporting jobs and growth. In June 2013, we commissioned Sir Ian Wood to review UK offshore oil and gas recovery and its regulation, and we have been making good progress implementing the recommendations.

    The amendments would also place a moratorium on hydraulic fracking for shale gas to reduce the chance of our carbon budgets being breached. As I indicated, UK shale development is compatible with our goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions and does not detract from our support for renewables. I hope hon. Members will find this explanation reassuring and will not press their amendments.

    I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry) for tabling new clauses 10 and 11. It is critical for any Government to secure reliable gas supplies, and we keep our gas security under constant review, but let me be clear: the risks to consumers are low. We still have significant levels of domestic gas production, pipelines from Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium, liquefied natural gas terminals and 10 gas storage facilities. Indeed, two new gas storage sites have opened for business in the last six months. This diversity of supply is how our gas needs are met.

    Under the Gas Act 1986, the Government and the regulator have a duty to carry out their functions in a way that protects the interests of existing and future gas consumers, including the security of supply. Ofgem also has the ability to launch a significant code review, if it suspects a problem in the gas market. I respect my hon. Friend’s experience on these matters and take his concerns seriously, and on that basis, I will commit to including information about gas storage capacity in our annual statutory security of supply report to Parliament. I hope he will find that reassuring.

  • On that point, will my hon. Friend give way?

  • I will not, I am afraid, as I need to finish. I am sure other Members would like to speak.

    On new clause 1, the Government welcome in principle the sentiment behind the proposed amendment to the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 to make explicit reference to hydraulic fracturing, and I would like to reassure hon. Members that the Government will continue the work we have initiated and introduce any appropriate changes to the regulations in due course. I therefore ask hon. Members not to press the new clause.

    It is my firm belief that there is no need for new clause 19(e) or amendment 59, because the necessary protections are already in place. Outside source protection zone 1 areas, extraction activities will be permitted only if they do not pose a significant risk to groundwater.

    In covering all the amendments and new clauses, I hope I have reassured hon. Members of the care the Government are taking to develop the best shale gas environment we can, for the benefit of the UK generally.

  • I have to say at the outset that if Members and those watching our proceedings were short of confidence in the Government on this issue before we started the debate, they will be even more bereft of confidence after witnessing the last hour or so. What appears to have happened is that the Minister is seeking to amend an amendment on providing protection for areas that has not been put in front us. She says that she—or, rather, her ministerial colleague—has sent a letter that none of the members of the Committee has received. I am looking round to see whether any Committee members in their places today can confirm that they have received it. Finally, we appear to have received a mixture of a commitment from the Minister: she said that she will accept new clause 19 but went on to say that she disagrees with elements of it. Let me make it absolutely clear that our new clause 19 is all or nothing; it cannot be cherry-picked. All the conditions need to be in place before we can be absolutely confident that any shale extraction can happen. It should be stopped until all those conditions are met.

  • The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I was not a member of the Committee, but if it provides him with any reassurance, I did receive a letter late last week from the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), about the Infrastructure Bill. As it was a letter sent to all MPs, I assume that if Members looked at their e-mails carefully, they would find they had received it as well.

  • The right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns) will be well aware that the Minister to whom he refers is a prodigious correspondent. We get plenty of letters from him, but this was about a very specific point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Andrew Miller) that was raised in the Committee and was relevant to his amendment. I do not see any members of the Committee here and I have checked my own in-box. If we have not received this letter, how can we take the Minister at her word and the Government at their word?

    What we have seen so far this afternoon has been an absolute shambles. The Government have not got a clue what they are doing, leaving us in a difficult position. This Bill, and particularly this part of it, has attracted a huge amount of attention, and many Members of all parties wish to speak about it. It is not particularly party political, and many Members have concerns and have tabled amendments, yet it is not clear what exactly the Minister and the Government are saying. I feel sorry for the Under-Secretary who has spoken this afternoon, as she has been put in this position by her ministerial colleagues. They are good at giving quotes to The Sun about this issue, but they seem to shy away from taking part in any of our discussions.

  • The Minister said that she had commented on every single amendment put forward from all sides of the House, but does my hon. Friend agree that we still do not know how even to raise in Parliament the points the amendments make, let alone vote on them because we are not going to have the opportunity to speak to the amendments that we have tabled?

  • I thank my hon. Friend, who makes an important point. We are here to scrutinise this Bill, and we have reached this stage after our debate in Committee with a whole stream of amendments on a range of relevant issues. We asked for two days and we have secured only one, and we are left with a very short time to try to deal with the issues. It is very difficult indeed for the House collectively to make a judgment on them. That is an indication of a dereliction of duty on the part of the Government in bringing this Bill before us this afternoon.

  • I have no desire to embarrass the hon. Gentleman—I regard him almost as a protégé, so I would never want to do that. I have to tell him, however, that the letter in question, which he claims not to have received, was dated 20 January and was sent by me on the specific issue raised by the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Andrew Miller). It was addressed, by the way, to “the right honourable Andrew Miller, MP” and it says at the bottom: “I trust this is a response to your question and I am copying it to the Chair and members of the Public Bill Committee.” There must therefore be some misunderstanding on the part of the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex). I know he is a decent and honourable man, so I take it that the matter is now closed.

  • I am sorry to disappoint the Minister, given that I seem to have just been anointed his protégé. That will have done me no good at all. If my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston cannot find any evidence that he has received that letter—[Interruption.] If he has not received the letter, it makes it very difficult for us to deal with these issues.

    Let me return to the wider issue of what the Minister said a moment ago now in relation to the protection of certain areas, which the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Miss McIntosh), the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Sir John Randall) and others have raised in amendments. There seems to be a suggestion that the exception in the Bill would be removed, but no indication of how that would be done, given that the Bill has been through the House of Lords and we are now dealing with its final stages.

  • Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Andrew Miller) has not only wasted 40 minutes of the House’s time, but has been dilatory in reading his Bill Committee letters?

  • I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, who has himself tabled amendments to this part of the Bill, would be much more confident about the Minister’s approach if it had not just been suggested that a change would be made in relation to the protection of areas yet we do not have that information in front of us. How can we have any confidence in such an approach, given that we have less than 40 minutes in which to consider a wide range of amendments?

  • The hon. Gentleman is being very courteous in giving way, but may I appeal to him, on behalf of my constituents, to try to leave these procedural matters behind and deal with the substantive issues about which they and other Members’ constituents are concerned?

  • The hon. Gentleman is usually a stickler for procedure. This is about scrutiny of the Bill, and we need to have confidence in the way in which that scrutiny takes place. I think that it ill behoves the House to become involved in a situation such as the one that we have experienced during the last few minutes.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that this is also about potential applications that are due to be submitted in the next month—including one affecting Misson in my constituency—and that the clarification or otherwise of the point that has been raised may well be a fundamental issue for the planning authority and the general public when it comes to making decisions?

  • My hon. Friend has made an important point in a very cogent fashion.

    Let me now deal with some of the new clauses and amendments. I am very conscious of the amount of time that we have left, and I shall try to be exceptionally brief so that others can speak.

    There are two facts that are fundamental to any debate about unconventional gas extraction in the United Kingdom. First, hydraulic fracturing cannot be permitted to go ahead without robust regulation, comprehensive monitoring and local consent. Secondly, it cannot take place at the expense of our binding commitments on climate change.

    As Members will know, 80% of our heating demand, and many industrial processes, are reliant on gas. This debate is not just about sources of electricity generation, although that is how it is sometimes portrayed. As the independent Committee on Climate Change has made clear, we shall need gas for some time to come. The issue is how much gas we use, and whether that can displace imports of gas in a way that does not breach our climate commitments. That has consistently been our position, and I have been making the case on behalf of the Opposition for nearly three years.

    In March 2012, I set out a range of regulatory principles that would need to be addressed before fracking could commence, at a time when it was suspended. Since then we have pushed the Government on those specific points. For instance, as members of the Bill Committee will know, we did so during the Committee stage. Given the number of new clauses and amendments that reflect concerns and include specific suggestions, such as those in new clause 19, those concerns are widespread, they are not party political, and they are deeply held. It has always been, and continues to be, our position that the stewardship of these issues requires a Government’s approach to be careful, cautious and coherent. Such issues demand a responsible approach on the part of Government and regulators, not only for the sake of regulatory coherence, but to meet the higher public acceptability test and the legitimate environmental concerns that many people feel.

  • Has my hon. Friend had a chance to read the report that was published today by the Environmental Audit Committee? It examines the whole issue of the regulatory regime and how it can be made compatible with the carbon budget. Will my hon. Friend say a little more about how we could press the pause button, and ensure that the safeguards that he wants could be introduced?

  • I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. I did indeed have a chance to read her Committee’s report of this morning, and she explained how that was a rapidly produced but important piece of work which touched on the many issues I have raised concerns about. In the summary of the report, her Committee highlighted a number of issues in terms of methane emissions and monitoring and nationally important areas and water protection zones which are addressed in new clause 19, and I think her Committee has done the House a service in bringing those points forward.

  • On that point, will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • I am responding to an intervention. I have said I will not have time to give way again, as I know other Members want to contribute to this debate.

    As I said, those points are important. In terms of carbon budgets and meeting the carbon commitments, I would just refer to the evidence the Environmental Audit Committee got from the Committee on Climate Change about the way in which that can be done if it is done appropriately. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley) will know that we have a commitment to a 2030 decarbonisation target in terms of electricity supply as well as maintaining carbon budgets. This is about how the gas we may produce fits within those budgets. I think that is something we can do, provided that we have the right regulatory framework and the right processes in place.

    I do, however, have to say in respect of amendment 68 that I have a concern particularly in relation to the removal of the maximising economic recovery clause. That will have a serious impact in the North sea, which I know is of concern to many Members.

  • To be fair, I did say I was not going to give way again. I am conscious of time.

    The Government said they were sympathetic to our new clause 1. We think it is very important to ensure that there is clarity and coherence in how permitting happens and in the responsibility of the Environment Agency in this regard. The Minister touched on new clause 2 and we had some exchanges on it. It is clear from the concessions that the Government made in Committee that there will be no change to underground access rights in Scotland without the approval of, and the decision being made by, Scottish Ministers. I welcome that change, but I reiterate to the Minister that it is very important that the licences in Scotland under the 14th licensing round are not granted at a time when we are effectively devolving the licensing process for onshore as well. I think she should reflect on that.

    The Minister went through the subsections of our new clause 19 in detail. That new clause incorporates many amendments tabled by other Members from all parts of the House. She seemed to suggest that she would accept that amendment but that she still disagreed with parts of it. I am afraid that is not good enough because the entirety of that amendment needs to be agreed this afternoon, as it makes it absolutely clear that there will be no shale gas exploration or extraction until those conditions are in place. It is not a pick list from which she can decide which ones she likes and which she does not. It is intended to ensure that it is absolutely clear in legislation that those protections are in place. If this is, indeed, the Government’s case now, it proves that all the contributions from the Minister and others saying that they thought the regulatory process was coherent, correct and comprehensive during the course of the Committee and in discussions leading up to it have been demonstrated this afternoon to be entirely false. That underlines the importance of our taking a responsible attitude to these issues and making sure that they are properly covered. As I have said, that has been reflected by many others who have tabled amendments to this Bill, including Members of the Minister’s party.

    A number of other amendments have been tabled by other Members, and I must say that I am disappointed in the response of the Energy Minister, the right hon. Member for West Suffolk (Matthew Hancock), to the DEFRA report. It is so redacted that it seems that it was written by someone called “Redacted”. It does not meet the concerns of the Chair of the relevant Committee, and the Minister’s total contribution to this debate so far has been to suggest from a sedentary position that what I say is not so. However, I have the report in front of me—“Shale gas rural economy impacts” by “Redacted”. That is how ridiculously redacted this report has become and it highlights why we have so little confidence in the Government, because they seek not to publish it and not to enable Members of this House to look at the cumulative impacts.

    The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton has tabled a number of amendments on that issue, mandatory EIAs and other matters, all of which we agree with. We also agree with the amendments on water companies, and those providing a statutory footing for community benefit, tabled by the right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) and others. The Minister should properly consider those amendments.

  • This is a controversial subject in which there is much interest outside and inside this Chamber. It is one aspect of a Bill that contains many measures, some of which are supported and others not. It is absolutely the role of Government to address those concerns and to take on board the issues we have already heard about today and will continue to hear about for the next half an hour—not just from one party but from probably every party represented here.

    The focus for the House and for the Government this afternoon is to listen to Parliament, to respond to the concerns and reflect on them, and to ensure that no fracking takes place until the wider confidence that is needed is applied in the regulatory framework—not partially, not with exceptions, not for some but not others, but in full, completely and comprehensively. For those reasons, I implore the Government to accept new clause 19 in full, and not to cherry-pick its subsections. If they fail to do so, we will divide the House on new clause 19 and other of our amendments.

  • I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, and in particular to my interests in the energy industry.

    I want to contribute briefly on the subject of shale gas and fracking, on which my Committee has reported twice, in 2011 and 2013. Those were two detailed reports involving seven oral evidence sessions, two with Ministers, and visits to Lancashire to look at what Cuadrilla was doing, and to Texas to see an established shale gas industry’s operations. Our conclusions, which were based on a very careful analysis of the evidence, were totally different from those of the Environmental Audit Committee, whose consideration of the matter appears to have been rather briefer. We concluded that fracking is a safe technology from which Britain could benefit substantially by exploiting our shale gas reserves, if indeed those reserves turn out to be significant—something we cannot know without doing a great deal more drilling.

    Far from attacking the Government for rushing on this issue—

  • We will be pushing new clause 9 to a vote this evening to ensure that we have a proper moratorium on fracking. Will the hon. Gentleman and his Conservative party colleagues support us?

  • No, I will not support that. A moratorium would not serve Britain’s national interests.

    Far from attacking the Government for rushing on this issue, our concern is that they have been going rather slowly. We could speed up the process of encouraging fracking, so that we can establish whether it is indeed a valuable natural resource whose exploitation would be generally for the benefit of consumers and the environment.

  • Does my hon. Friend accept that it is arguably safer to take a cautious approach before proceeding with any fracking licences?

  • We should proceed as fast as possible, consistent with environmental safeguards, which the Government recognise to be essential.

    Let me deal with this rather curious idea that allowing fracking somehow increases greenhouse gas emissions. It does nothing of the sort. It is common ground between supporters and opponents of fracking that the UK will use a lot of gas in the next 15 to 20 years. Since 2000, we have become extremely dependent on imported gas. By the mid-2020s, perhaps three quarters of our gas will come from abroad, and we will be competing in the Qatar LNG market, for example, with the likes of China and other Asian giants. So, allowing fracking will enable us to replace imports with domestic supplies, which will improve energy security—a very important aim of energy policy. Further, it will actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions because, as David MacKay reported in September 2013, the net greenhouse gas emissions from LNG are higher than those from shale gas.

  • My hon. Friend is talking about the extent to which we are increasingly dependent on imports. By 2030, probably 75% of our gas will be from imports. Does that not make the case for our doing more now on gas storage, as set out in new clauses 10 and 11? It takes more than five years to build such facilities, and our vulnerability is increasing all the time.

  • My hon. Friend is exactly right. I was very tempted to sign his new clauses on that point. Improving gas storage would not only greatly improve our energy security, but make it possible for some of the low-carbon, intermittent generating technologies, such as wind and solar, to be used much more widely.

    There is no reason to suppose that decreasing our reliance on imports will lead to an increase in gas consumption. Consumers will not suddenly think, “Oh, as we’re not importing gas, we’ll turn the heating up.” It is a completely mistaken notion to think that allowing fracking has such malign consequences.

    In any event, emissions in this country are now subject to the carbon budgeting process. It is greatly to the coalition’s credit that it has confirmed the fourth carbon budget. Achieving that rigorous set of targets will absolutely put us on the path to meet the EU target of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. That will be the case whether or not fracking occurs in this country.

    My Committee looked very carefully at the environmental and safety concerns. We are satisfied that with the right robust and rigorous regulatory framework, fracking presents no danger to the integrity of the water supply, the health of local residents or the environment generally. The mistakes made by the fracking industry in the US in its early stages can easily be avoided in this country.

  • Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that, according to all the projections produced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the amount of gas used between 2020 to 2030 will be substantially less than at present—not none, but substantially less—and that the likely net effect of recovering gas by fracking is that it will be for export, not the domestic market?

  • I do not entirely agree. The fall in gas consumption in the UK will not take it below the level at which we require imports. Even if gas consumption goes down, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, we will probably still import gas. For the reason I have just mentioned, if that gas is LNG, using our domestic supplies of shale gas would be beneficial in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

    I note that the environment, health and safety concerns highlighted by the Environmental Audit Committee are not shared by the Environment Agency. I also note that Lancashire county council’s objections relate not to such concerns, but to noise and traffic movements. Those understandable issues arise in all sorts of planning applications, many of which have nothing to do with the energy industry.

  • It is worth pointing out that the hon. Gentleman’s arguments about safety are supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society, the Geological Society and the British Geological Society.

  • I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that extremely pertinent point.

    We have probably all received a great many e-mails on the trespass issue. It is worth pointing out that the coal industry has enjoyed such a right for generations, and there seems to be no reason why it should not be extended to the gas industry.

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • Will my hon. Friend give way?

  • I should now make progress, because other colleagues wish to speak, but I give way to my hon. Friend.

  • I am concerned about the potential impact of subsidence from fracking. I represented Cannock and Burntwood for nine years, and I saw the effects of subsidence from coal mining. The coal industry did not require planning permission to undermine people’s homes.

  • My hon. Friend makes a very important point. I am glad to have the opportunity to say how welcome he is as a resident in my constituency, where he has recently purchased a house. I assure him that any evidence of subsidence in his property will receive my close personal attention.

    That brings me to the subject of earth tremors. When they were experienced in Lancashire, Cuadrilla acted very responsibly by immediately halting its activities while it investigated them. The investigation showed not only that the tremors were so light they could not be felt on the surface, but that they were at a level routinely experienced across the UK every week. The vast majority of such tremors are caused, as my hon. Friend said, by old coal mine works.

    On the positive side, in addition to the improvements in energy security there will be a significant improvement in our balance of payments—not that many people seem to worry about the trade balance any more. If, as we hope, UK reserves turn out to be substantial, there will be significant employment opportunities as well. Equally importantly, there is now a real chance for the UK to lead Europe on the issue. If we press ahead now, others will follow but we will have an enormous first mover advantage. It could be UK regulations that set the standard right across the EU and UK businesses that dominate the supply chain.

    I urge the Government to ignore today the siren voices calling for delay; to look objectively at the facts, which have been analysed by many learned institutions as well as by my Committee and other bodies; and to recognise the huge potential benefits of fracking, without exaggerating their impact, as I am afraid some of our less well informed supporters have done. Let us oppose amendments that would obstruct the development of a potentially valuable natural resource.

  • I am conscious of the fact that we have about 20 minutes left for the debate, and that there are about 60 amendments on the amendment paper. It will be impossible for the House to do justice to the concerns of people across the UK about how the Government are going all-out on fracking.

    I will respond to the points that the esteemed Chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr Yeo), made. His Committee did produce reports on fracking, but the concerns that the Environmental Audit Committee received related to the haste with which the Government are taking fracking forward and the fact that we have started out with a regulatory regime that has not been thought through from every different perspective. We have the Health and Safety Executive, local planning inspectors, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Environment Agency, and we have petroleum exploration and development licences, which the Department for Energy and Climate Change issues, but we do not have an overarching, integrated way of dealing with applications. From the evidence that my Committee received, we felt that the matter should be looked at from every single perspective. We need an overall strategic assessment, not individual case-by-case assessment of each application. Until that is sorted out, it is difficult to see how the system will be right for the country’s energy security and supply.

  • An application was made last year in Lound, in Bassetlaw, a former munitions site. The county council, as planning authority, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive were all unclear about who should have responsibility for knowing the state of play with potential contamination, and the application simply bounced around between them.

  • That is exactly the point—no one knows who has overall responsibility. The Environment Agency appeared before the Environmental Audit Committee to give evidence, but it was unable to take overall responsibility. Somebody has to, otherwise we will be dealing with liabilities long into the future.

    I know that our time is brief, but I wish to raise the issue of whether there could be a moratorium. People out in the country see that we currently have exploration for shale gas going on, but not full-scale industrialised extraction. When that is in place, 10 or 15 years down the line, the issues will not have been properly thought through. Why do we not sort all of that out now? Why do we not have a regulatory regime that is fit for purpose both for exploration and for the larger-scale extraction that will happen later?

  • My hon. Friend is right that we should be discussing that—actually, now is not when we should be discussing it, because it is an outrage that we have 20 minutes or so left for speeches on a matter that could have been discussed at much greater length before. We all know that half the time in Parliament we are not debating Bills and there are no votes, so more time could have been made available to discuss fracking at a much earlier stage, and the Government could and should have made more time available now.

  • I agree with my hon. Friend about having more time. People in this country will not forgive us for not having the time necessary to scrutinise this Bill in detail. We could well end up with a fossil fuel industry in 15 years’ time, precisely when we should be phasing out fossil fuels. That is what we have signed up to in international agreements, but we could well end up with an industry that has not been properly regulated because of these failures on overall strategic assessments.

  • I endorse the comments the hon. Lady is making. I am now on to dealing with my fourth and fifth shale gas applications in my constituency. On Second Reading I made it clear to the Government that I wanted to see an overarching body that looked at end-to-end regulation—from start to finish—just as she is envisaging. The Government are still not out of time—they can still relinquish on that.

  • As we heard from the Minister just now, there may well be time for further amendments, because clearly we have not got the amendments that we need to be looking at right now. When those further amendments are introduced, it is imperative that the Government examine that long-term issue, making sure, for example, that whatever a local planning authority is going to rule on it is not going to be overturned by the Secretary of State. That is the real danger we face. On something as controversial as this issue and this Bill, the current approach makes no sense. There has been consultation and people have been saying that they do not want these proposals coming forward in this way. It is a toxic recipe for the Government to be—

  • On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Minister has referred to the potential for further amendments to be introduced. I know we have had an iterative process here this afternoon, to put it mildly, but even I did not think there would be scope for the Government to introduce further amendments in this House. Will you rule on this issue and clarify whether the Minister is making a statement correctly or incorrectly?

  • Let me help by saying that it would be possible for the Lords to look at that and do something about the Bill at that stage.

  • I am interested in that point of order because it sets out for us the situation we are in: we are going to be voting today in this House on something that is not before us, in the hope that the concerns that we do not have time to raise can then be addressed by amendments in the other place. That is just not the right way to make good legislation.

    I am conscious that so many Members wish to speak, so let me just say that there should be a moratorium, that the Government have overlooked the needs of people all over the country and that without that public support this policy and this haste—going all out for fracking—is just a failed policy.

  • I will try to be brief, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley), and I pay tribute to her for her work on this issue and her call for the moratorium, with which I agree. We have the problem of using too many fossil fuels; despite knowing the harm that climate change is causing and is going to continue to cause, we still see a thirst to have more and more of them. The solution has to look different. Perhaps in the future it will be nuclear fusion—who knows? We are 25 years away from that, as we have been for about 50 years. We have to reach a situation where we have renewables and other low-carbon energy sources, and energy efficiency, so that we use less energy, be it for heating, transport or anything else.

  • I will give way only the once.

  • Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that there is no obligation to make sure that renewables are considered as part of large major infrastructure projects?

  • Indeed; we should be seeing a quest for more renewables. One of my concerns about the dash for fracking and for gas is that it can be seen as a substitute for a dash for renewables and other low-carbon technologies, which is where we have to get to. That is what worries me about all this. When we know from study after study of the huge amounts of fossil fuels that we have to leave in the earth because we simply cannot afford the harm that would come from burning them, why go to a mass effort to legislate to say that we have to take as much as possible out of the ground? That is not the right way to go. Carbon emissions, be they carbon dioxide or methane, are the biggest problems with shale gas and fracking.

    It is very interesting to look at the scientific evidence on the comparison with liquefied natural gas. A comment was made about my constituent Dave MacKay and the range of carbon emissions. What he found was that the range of carbon emissions from shale gas overlaps with that from liquefied natural gas. There is no guarantee that we will see a reduction as a result.

  • Several hon. Members

    rose

  • I will not give way, because many Members wish to speak.

    Other concerns have been mentioned. I am talking about not the extreme claims that do not stack up but the real issues around this matter such as water usage.

  • Let me reassure the hon. Gentleman that we take this matter seriously. We will introduce a further amendment in the Lords to place a duty on the Secretary of State to consider in every carbon budget period advice from the Committee on Climate Change as to the impact of UK shale development on the UK’s overall climate change objectives. If the Committee on Climate Change advises that shale development adversely impacts on climate change objectives, the Secretary of State must either choose to deactivate the right of use provisions or to make a written statement to Parliament explaining the reasons.

  • I thank the Minister for that welcome news. I was going to talk about water usage, but I will turn to that matter instead. The Minister’s words effectively bring us closer to proposed new clause 4 and amendment 44, which were tabled by me and a number of my Liberal Democrat colleagues. They propose that we should not allow fracking if it leads to an increase in carbon emissions.

    I thank the Government for new clause 15, which takes us halfway there, and this other amendment, which takes us even further. We will know, as a result of this change, whether there are higher carbon emissions. The change does not go quite as far as banning fracking, but it is, none the less, a welcome step. I will not now be pressing new clause 4 and amendment 44 to a Division.

    I still feel strongly about new clause 6, but we are waiting to get clarity from the Department about exactly which areas are excluded. I hope that we will get that clarity later. New clause 9, on a moratorium on onshore unconventional petroleum, was tabled by the hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi), who asked me to speak in support of it as she is unable to be here today. I believe that we should have that moratorium, and so am happy to support that new clause. I would love to hear what the position of the official Opposition is on it as they were not prepared to say. On amendments 50 and 51, which I also feel strongly about, the Opposition made it clear that they do not support them. We will see what happens if we have the opportunity to test the will of the House on those as well.

  • I rise to speak in support of amendment 117, which is in my name. In Committee, I brought to Members’ attention the Government’s own science and innovation strategy, which talks very clearly about openness. It says:

    “Technology allows openness and public scrutiny of research that was not possible until now –going far beyond the ability to share a published paper through open access; the data and the information behind the paper can be made available to all.”

    That substantive document, which was produced by the Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, sets out the case for openness. There are two areas of this debate where openness has not occurred. The first relates to the redacted documents from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is hardly consistent with the Government’s stated position. The second relates to the point made in amendment 117, which is that baseline monitoring data should be published

    “in a form that enables it to be subject to scientific peer review.”

    It can be done.

    The Minister of State, Department for Transport, the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes) referred to a letter—I thank him for giving me a copy of it because I had not seen it—but it does not address the substantive point of the amendment, which is that data should be published in a form that enables them to be available for scientific peer review. I am not talking about any old published charts and data. The data should be published in a way that the scientific community can use. There are established standards that are well understood by the Departments of the Minister and the Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd). I also ask the Minister to consider that matter with some care as the Bill progresses through the Lords.

  • Let me give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. If the letter was not clear that is my fault, not his. I am absolutely clear that the information must be made available in an appropriate and proper form and in the way that he describes.

  • I am extremely grateful to the Minister, and ask him to clarify that matter in the Bill.

  • I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to the amendments standing in my name, which were tabled in a personal capacity as the constituency MP for Kirby Misperton, where Third Energy proposes to apply for a licence in six weeks. At a public meeting attended by residents of the three villages affected, Third Energy admitted that there is a minuscule risk of contamination of groundwater. I therefore urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to look extremely carefully at the contents of amendment 59.

    My hon. Friend the Minister talked about the amount of monitoring that would be done three months before a licence application for drilling can be started. Is she aware of the worrying fact that at least one insurance company has stated in writing that it will not insure for public liability any landowner who allows the oil and gas industry or fracking companies on to their land? That raises the question whether during the monitoring stage and, in the long term, during the fracking stage, home owners will be able to obtain insurance.

    Another point raised is about emissions after the fracking operation has finished. Third Energy seems to think that the land will revert to the landowner at completion of the fracking operations, but I believe that that is a misunderstanding. I shall be grateful if the Minister clarifies that matter.

    I am delighted that my hon. Friend says that compensation for blight may indeed be possible, as proposed in my amendment 61.

  • I am sorry that there is such a lack of time to make a serious response to the amendments still outstanding for debate this afternoon.

    I wish we could press amendment 51 to a vote, because that amendment would stop the Government’s proposed change to trespass laws. Some 360,000 people signed a petition opposing that change and 99% of those who responded to the Government consultation opposed it as well. To see the Government just flinging that back in people’s faces, simply not listening to the consultation, raises big questions about what the consultation is for and undermines the credibility of the process, as does the ongoing secrecy about the DEFRA report. I am not reassured by what the Minister said about it.

  • Will the hon. Lady give way?

  • No—I am sorry, but I am short of time.

    Labour’s new clause 19 does not offer the kind of protection it pretends to offer. It certainly does not offer any kind of moratorium, and it will be interesting to see whether Labour supports a moratorium. That is what people are asking for, hence the importance of new clause 9.

    In summary, the big point is that it is simply not compatible with our climate change objectives to be exploring for yet more fossil fuels and to start a whole new fossil fuel industry as fracking does. By the time fracking comes on stream in 10 or 15 years, it simply will not be possible to be compatible with our CO2 objectives. For those reasons, we must have a vote on new clause 9.

  • I welcome new clause 7 and the Minister’s comments on new clause 19(a), (e) and (m). I have chalk streams in my constituency; they are a valuable water resource. The public need reassurance about contamination or pollution of such special sites, as they are rare resources in our country.

  • I rise to voice my support for new clause 19, which I believe provides a substantial series of baseline starting points for any fracking to take place. If those baselines are not in place, no fracking takes place. That is my understanding of the new clause and it seems to me to provide very substantial protection indeed.

    I am also concerned about the cumulation of fracking over a period. I tabled a new clause which addresses that. If we have substantial and extensive fracking to the extent that is envisaged in the Government’s rush for fracking, we may well find that we have 18,000 or 20,000 wells across the country, perhaps more than half of those in two particular parts of the country, with virtually no environmental safeguards on the cumulation of those arrangements, even if there are some environmental safeguards on individual fracking enterprises as they go forward. It is essential that should there be any cumulation of fracking, those safeguards are in place. New clause 19 provides protection both in the individual exploration phase and in the production phase. I would like to see—

  • Debate interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

    The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the clause be read a Second time.

    Question agreed to.

    New clause 15 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

    The Deputy Speaker then put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

    New Clause 1

    Hydraulic fracturing

    ‘(1) The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010, Schedule 1, Part 2, Chapter 1, is amended as follows:

    (2) After Section 1.2 insert—

    “SECTION 1.3

    Hydraulic fracturing activities

    Part A(1)

    (a) carrying out exploration or assessments prior to hydraulic fracturing;

    (b) drilling wells for use in hydraulic fracturing;

    (c) process of hydraulic fracturing;

    (d) decommissioning and long-term maintenance of hydraulic fracturing wells.””—(Tom Greatrex.)

    Brought up.

    Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.

    Division 137

    26 January 2015

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 224
    Noes: 320

    Question accordingly negatived.

    View Details

    New Clause 2

    Shale gas extraction: devolution

    ‘(1) The Scotland Act 1998 is amended as follows:

    (2) In Schedule 5, Part II, section D2, after “gas other than through pipes,”, insert—

    “( ) The licensing of onshore shale gas extraction underlying Scotland.

    ( ) Responsibility for mineral access rights for onshore extraction of shale gas in Scotland.”’—(Tom Greatrex.)

    Brought up.

    Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.

    Division 138

    26 January 2015

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 231
    Noes: 324

    Question accordingly negatived.

    View Details

    New Clause 9

    Moratorium on onshore unconventional petroleum

    ‘(1) All use of land for development consisting of the exploitation of unconventional petroleum in Great Britain shall be discontinued during the relevant period.

    (2) The Secretary of State must ensure that an independent assessment is undertaken of the exploitation of unconventional petroleum in Great Britain including the use of high volume hydraulic fracturing.

    (3) The assessment must take account of the impacts of the exploitation of the unconventional petroleum on—

    (a) climate change;

    (b) the environment;

    (c) health and safety; and

    (d) the economy.

    (4) The Secretary of State must—

    (a) consult such persons as the Secretary of State thinks fit; and

    (b) publish the assessment

    within the relevant period.

    (5) For the purposes of subsections (1) to (4)—

    “relevant period” means a period of not less than 18 months and not more than 30 months commencing on the date two months after Royal Assent;

    “unconventional petroleum” means petroleum which does not flow readily to the wellbore.

    (6) In section 3 of the Petroleum Act 1998, at the end of subsection (4) add “and subsection (4A).

    “(4A) Nothing in this section permits the grant of a licence to search and bore for and get unconventional petroleum in Great Britain during the relevant period.

    (4B) For the purposes of subsection (4A) “relevant period” and “unconventional petroleum” have the meaning specified in section [Moratorium on onshore unconventional petroleum] of the Infrastructure Act 2015.”—(Dr Huppert.)

    Brought up.

    Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.

    Division 139

    26 January 2015

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 52
    Noes: 308

    Question accordingly negatived.

    View Details

    New clause 19

    Hydraulic fracturing: necessary conditions

    Any hydraulic fracturing activity can not take place:

    (a) unless an environmental impact assessment has been carried out;

    (b) unless independent inspections are carried out of the integrity of wells used;

    (c) unless monitoring has been undertaken on the site over the previous 12 month period;

    (d) unless site-by-site measurement, monitoring and public disclosure of existing and future fugitive emissions is carried out;

    (e) in land which is located within the boundary of a groundwater source protection zone;

    (f) within or under protected areas;

    (g) in deep-level land at depths of less than 1,000 metres;

    (h) unless planning authorities have considered the cumulative impact of hydraulic fracturing activities in the local area;

    (i) unless a provision is made for community benefit schemes to be provided by companies engaged in the extraction of gas and oil rock;

    (j) unless residents in the affected area are notified on an individual basis;

    (k) unless substances used are subject to approval by the Environment Agency

    (l) unless land is left in a condition required by the planning authority, and

    (m) unless water companies are consulted by the planning authority.—(Tom Greatrex.)

    Brought up, and added to the Bill.

    Clause 39

    Petroleum and geothermal energy: right to use deep-level land

    Amendment made: 86, page 45, line 34, leave out subsection (5)—(Amber Rudd.)

    This amendment, which removes a restriction on the exercise of the right of use in Scotland, is consequential on amendments 96 to 99 (under which the right of use will not be exercisable in Scotland).

    Clause 40

    Further Provision about the right of use

    Amendment made: 87, page 46, line 26, leave out “or delict”—(Amber Rudd.)

    This amendment, which removes a limitation on a person’s liability in the Scottish law of delict in respect of exercise of the right of use, is consequential on amendments 96 to 99 (under which the right of use will not be exercisable in Scotland).

    Clause 43

    Payment and notice schemes: supplementary provision

    Amendment made: 88, page 48, line 9, leave out “the Scottish Ministers or”—(Amber Rudd.)

    This amendment, which removes provision that stops a statutory instrument under clause 41 or 42 from conferring functions on the Scottish Ministers, is consequential on amendments 96 to 99 (under which the right of use will not be exercisable in Scotland).

    Clause 44

    Interpretation

    Amendments made: 89, page 49, line 4, leave out from “area”” to end of line 6 and insert

    “means those parts of the landward area (within the meaning of the Petroleum Licensing (Exploration and Production) (Landward Areas) Regulations 2014) that are in England and Wales or are beneath waters (other than waters adjacent to Scotland);”

    This amendment, which secures that the right of use is only exercisable in those parts of the “landward area” which are in England and Wales or the adjacent waters, is consequential on amendments 96 to 99 (under which the right of use will not be exercisable in Scotland).

    Amendment 90, page 49, line 16, leave out from beginning to end of line 17—(Amber Rudd.)

    This amendment removes the definition of the expression “Scottish deep-level land”, as the expression is only used in clause 39(5) (which amendment 86 removes).

    Clause 51

    Extent

    Amendments made: 96, page 58, line 13, leave out “sections 39 to44,”

    This amendment removes the provision which specifies the extent of the clauses dealing with the right of use (as new provision is made by amendment 99).

    Amendment 97, page 58, line 15, leave out second “and”

    This amendment is consequential on amendments 96 and 99.

    Amendment 98, page 58, line 16, leave out “extends” and insert

    “and section (Advice on likely impact of onshore petroleum on the carbon budget) extend”

    This amendment provides that NC15 will extend to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

    Amendment 99, page 58, line 17, at end insert “, and

    ‘( ) sections 39 to 44 extend to England and Wales only.”—(Amber Rudd.)

    This amendment inserts new provision which specifies that the clauses dealing with the right of use will extend only to England and Wales (and so they will no longer extend to Scotland as well).

    Clause 52

    Commencement

    Amendment made: 103, page 59, line 20, leave out “44” and insert

    “(Advice on likely impact of onshore petroleum on the carbon budget)”—(Amber Rudd.)

    This amendment provides that NC15 will come into force two months after the Bill is passed.

    New Clause 14

    Expenditure of Greater London Authority on housing or regeneration

    ‘(1) In section 31 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 (limits of the general power) after subsection (5A) insert—

    “(5B) Nothing in subsection (1)(a) above shall be taken to prevent the Authority incurring expenditure in doing anything for the purposes of, or relating to, housing or regeneration.”

    (2) The amendment made by subsection (1) applies in relation to expenditure incurred before as well as after the coming into force of this section.—(Stephen Williams.)

    This removes a prohibition in the Greater London Authority Act 1999 against the Greater London Authority incurring expenditure on anything that may be done by Transport for London. It applies in relation to expenditure incurred before as well after the coming into force of the new clause.

    Brought up, and read the First time.

  • I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

  • With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

    New clause 3—National Infrastructure Commission—

    ‘(1) There shall be an independent National Infrastructure Commission.

    (2) The Secretary of State may by regulations provide for the appointment, duties, functions and staffing of the National Infrastructure Commission.

    (3) Regulations made under subsection (2) may make provision for any consequential matter that the Secretary of State considers is necessary to establish the National Infrastructure Commission.

    (4) Regulations made under subsection (2) shall be made by statutory instrument.

    (5) A statutory instrument under this section shall not be made unless a draft of it has been laid before and approved by both Houses of Parliament.

    (6) In this section—

    “National infrastructure” means infrastructure of strategic significance in or relating to the sectors including—

    (a) transport covering ports, transport networks (including railways and roads) and aviation;

    (b) energy;

    (c) flood defences;

    (d) hazardous waste;

    (e) telecommunications;

    (f) water; and

    (g) such other sectors as are prescribed.”

    New clause 12—Abolition of the Planning Inspectorate—

    ‘(1) The Planning Inspectorate is abolished.

    (2) Subject to paragraph (3), all the functions of the Planning Inspectorate are transferred to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

    (3) The functions of the Planning Inspectorate in relation to Wales are transferred to Welsh Ministers.

    New clause 16—Use classes and demolition: drinking establishments—

    ‘(1) The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (SI 1987/764) is amended as follows.

    (2) At the end of section 3(6) add—

    “(n) as a drinking establishment.”

    (3) In the Schedule, leave out “Class A4. Drinking Establishments”.

    (4) The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (SI 1995/418) is amended as follows.

    (5) In Part 3 of Schedule 2 under Class A: Permitted Development, leave out “A4 (drinking establishments)”.

    (6) In Part 31 of Schedule 2 under A.1 add—

    “(c) the building subject to demolition is classed as a drinking establishment”.”

    The purpose of this New Clause is to aim to ensure that any proposed demolition of or change of use to public houses and other drinking establishments would be subject to planning permission. Currently such buildings can be demolished or have their use changed without such permission being granted.

    New clause 20—Community right of appeal—

    ‘(1) The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 is amended as follows.

    (2) In section 78 (appeals to the Secretary of State against planning decisions and failure to take such decisions) after subsection (2) insert—

    “(2A) Where a planning authority grants an application for planning permissions and—

    (a) the authority has publicised the application as not according with the development plan in force in the area in which the land to which the application relates is situated; or

    (b) the application is not supported by policies in an emerging development plan;

    certain persons as specified in subsection (2B) below may by notice appeal to the Secretary of State, provided any one of the conditions in subsection (2C) below are met.

    (2B) Persons who may by notice appeal to the Secretary of State against the approval of planning permissions in the circumstances specified in subsection (2A) above are—

    (a) the ward councillors for the area who have lodged a formal objection to the planning application in writing to the planning authority, or where there is more than one councillor, all councillors by unanimity;

    (b) any parish council or neighbourhood forum by two thirds majority voting, as defined in Section 61F, covering or adjoining the area of land to which the application relates is situated; or

    (c) any overview and scrutiny committee by two thirds majority voting.

    (2C) The conditions are:

    (a) the application falls within the definition of “major development”;

    (b) the application is accompanied by an environmental impact assessment;

    (c) the planning officer has recommended refusal of planning permission.”

    (3) Section 79 is amended as follows—

    (a) in subsection (2), leave out “either” and after “planning authority”, insert “or the applicant (where different from the appellant)”;

    (b) in subsection (6), after “determination”, insert “(except for appeals as defined in section 78 (2A) and where the appellant is as defined in section 79 (2B)).

    (4) In this section—

    “emerging” means a development plan that is being examined by the Secretary of State, or is due to be examined, having met the public consultation requirements necessary to proceed to this stage; and

    “major development” means cases within categories defined in guidance produced by the Secretary of State.”

    Government amendments 84, 45 and 46.

    Amendment 53, page 27, line 9, in clause 28, at end insert

    “provided that any designated property, rights or liabilities to be transferred pursuant to a scheme—

    (a) have been classified as surplus;

    (b) do not compromise land forming part of a common, open space or fuel or field garden allotment;

    (c) do not extinguish any public right of way;

    (d) are subject to transparent reporting of all aspects of the transaction to the Land Registry; and

    (e) shall be subject to a test of viability that is underpinned by guidance and an open book approach.”

    Government amendment 85.

    Amendment 52, page 34, line 2, leave out clauses 30 to 32.

    Amendment 54, page 34, line 36, in clause 33, at end insert

    “and shall relate to buildings or developments of any size”.

    Amendment 67, page 34, line 36, in clause 33, at end insert—

    “(e) carbon abatement offsite must only be considered exceptionally, where:

    (i) it has been demonstrated that the carbon abatement can not reasonably be met on the development site, and

    (ii) the homes on the development site achieve a high standard of energy efficiency.”

    Amendment 71, page 35, line 5, in clause 33, at end insert

    “and where the requirement cannot reasonably be met on the building site.”

    Amendment 72, page 36, line 21, in clause 33, at end insert—

    ‘(7) No variation to the requirement of the building regulations in respect of a building’s contribution to or effect on emissions of carbon dioxide may be made solely by regard to the number of buildings on any particular building site.”

    Government amendments 91 to 93, 95, 100, 102 and 104 to 106.

    Amendment 74, page 128, line 2, in schedule 8, leave out from “sharing” to end of line 4 and insert

    “do not change its appearance.”

    Amendment 75, page 132, line 20, in schedule 8, leave out paragraph (b).

    Amendment 118, page 165, line 28, in schedule 8, leave out “or other vegetation”.

    Amendment 119, page 165, line 30, in Schedule 8, leave out “or vegetation”.

    Amendment 120, page 165, line 41, in schedule 8, leave out “or vegetation”.

    Amendment 121, page 165, line 41, in schedule 8, leave out from “lopped” to second “to” in line 42.

    Amendment 122, page 166, line 2, in schedule 8, leave out

    “or cutting back of the vegetation”.

    Amendment 123, page 166, line 11, in schedule 8, leave out from “lopped” to end of line 12.

    Amendment 124, page 166, line 13, in schedule 8, leave out “or cuts back vegetation”.

    Amendment 125, page 166, line 16, in schedule 8, leave out “or vegetation”.

    Amendment 126, page 166, line 24, in schedule 8, leave out

    “or cutting back of the vegetation”.

    Government amendments 107 and 108.

  • The group touches on an incredibly wide range of issues, but I shall concentrate my remarks on the amendments and new clauses that have aroused significant interest across the House.

    Government new clause 14 relates to the Greater London Authority’s powers to incur expenditure on transport elements of housing and regeneration projects. This matter was raised in Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), and I promised him that I would look urgently at the legislative options available to address this important issue. We have concluded that it is necessary to make a minor change to the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and have therefore proposed the new clause.

    The new clause removes a prohibition in section 31 of the Greater London Authority Act preventing the GLA from incurring expenditure on anything that may be done by its functional body, Transport for London, if it relates to housing and regeneration. We are making this change to the 1999 Act because the GLA has said that, because TfL’s powers are wide-ranging, they preclude the GLA from incurring expenditure on anything transport related. This includes expenditure on transport elements of projects to deliver housing, jobs and growth in London, which the GLA has been responsible for since 1 April 2012, when it took on the roles, land and contracts of the former London Development Agency and the Homes and Communities Agency in London. The new clause will apply in relation to expenditure incurred by the GLA before, as well as after, the coming into force of the new clause, because it was clearly the intention of Parliament that the GLA should have powers equivalent to those of the LDA and HCA following the Localism Act 2011. Making this change to the 1999 Act is therefore essential to ensure that the GLA can deliver new homes and jobs for London.

    Government amendment 95 provides for new clause 14 to extend to England and Wales only, and Government amendment 102 provides for the amendment to the 1999 Act to come into force on the day the Act is passed. Government amendment 85 relates to clause 29 and will ensure that future purchasers of land owned by the HCA, GLA and mayoral development corporations can develop and use land without being affected by easements and other rights and restrictions. Clause 29 will bring the position of purchasers of land from the HCA, GLA and MDCs into line with those currently enjoyed by purchasers from local authorities and other public bodies involved in regeneration and development.

  • May I welcome the new clause and thank the Minister, along with the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), for engaging with us on this important matter? It is extremely helpful to the GLA and much welcomed by the Mayor.

  • I thank my hon. Friend, a former Minister in the Department, for his intervention. We did indeed seek to concur with the GLA: it identified the problem, and now we have introduced the solution.

    I turn to new clause 3 and Labour party policy on the proposed introduction of a national infrastructure commission. The Bill covers a range of important issues, but the debate we had in Committee on this proposal from the Opposition was one of the more thoughtful and interesting: we dealt not only with the intricacies of formulating infrastructure policy, but with the role of the Government and Members of Parliament in formulating a vision for rail, road, energy and other infrastructure development? I am grateful to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) for re-tabling the new clause and allowing us to deal with these issues again.

  • We recognise that infrastructure development does not happen fast enough in this country, but, since 2010, we have started to turn this around and address the regulatory barriers that have held back delivery of our infrastructure networks. We have introduced the national infrastructure plan for transport, energy, flood defences, communications, water and waste networks, and we have agreed long-term funding settlements for public infrastructure investment. This has generated a new momentum in infrastructure delivery, and, as a result, more than 2,500 projects have been delivered during this Parliament. However, we are not complacent, and we understand that there is still much to do to reverse the long-running issue of under-investment.

  • In Committee, I brought hon. Members’ attention to the fact that, while we were debating the Bill, the Institute for Government published a document entitled “The Political Economy of Infrastructure in the UK”, which drew conclusions similar to those in the Opposition’s new clause. Has the Minister had a chance to read the document, and will he be replying to the Institute for Government?

  • In recent weeks and months, the question of whether to set up a separate body has been much debated in both Houses, and many people outside Parliament, including the Armitt commission set up by the Opposition, have contributed thoughtfully to that debate. All of that has informed our discussions, but the Government take the view that it is up to Ministers, accountable to Parliament, to set out the infrastructure vision for the development of our country. It is not something we should subcontract to another body; it should be up to us. Our constituents should make representations to hon. Members to inform our deliberations, rather than feeling they have to go to a non-elected body to make those important recommendations.

  • In the light of those remarks, will the Minister tell the House whether the Government were right to subcontract the issue of airport capacity to Sir Howard Davies?

  • It is tempting to debate whether there should be a third runway at Heathrow or whether it should be built at Gatwick—we have all seen the adverts on the tube and elsewhere in London—but I do not think you would want me to go down that path, Mr Deputy Speaker.

    We recognise the need for one interconnected strategy for all our infrastructure networks.

  • Will the Minister reassure my constituents in public, as the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), has tried to do for me in private, that given a proposal such as the massive port development at Dibden bay, on the edge of the New Forest, which was stopped by a year-long public inquiry, the forest would be no less protected as a result of the Bill?

  • I can repeat the reassurance—because he has just given it to me—that my right hon. Friend the Minister gave to my hon. Friend: the Bill will provide no less protection than currently exists in the planning system.

    Following advances in delivery, the natural next step is to establish a long-term infrastructure investment strategy. The Government have already begun this process: we have developed the road investment strategy, which will treble spending on our strategic roads, and established an ambitious new energy market strategy to incentivise additional electricity capacity and support low-carbon electricity generation.

  • The Minister just mentioned the Bill’s relevance to the roads investment strategy, which I take to include the dualling of a large part of the A1 in my constituency. Am I right in thinking that the mechanism in the Bill gives some assurance that future Governments will have an obligation to continue with that responsibility?

  • My right hon. Friend is an astute parliamentarian and he takes every opportunity to raise the dualling of the A1 in his constituency. The Government have already made significant investments on that road, and I am sure that the next Government will see what more can be done to speed up travel through his beautiful constituency.

    However, we have serious reservations about the model proposed by the Labour party today. As I have said, the Armitt review was clearly a genuine effort, from a well-respected source, to find a solution to the long-term infrastructure challenges that our country faces. None the less, its recommendations appear to establish a rigid, process-driven and bureaucratic body. There is a danger that this type of bureaucracy would stifle the innovative process needed to resolve the challenges facing UK infrastructure.

    Establishing such a commission would also present significant complexities. For example, the commission’s assessment would be debated in the House and if the majority disagree with one aspect of the assessment and vote against it, the whole process, as we understand it, would have to start all over again. This kind of to-and-fro is clearly not what is intended by the proposals, and the uncertainty that would follow could be detrimental to the environment for infrastructure investment. There are other areas of the proposed commission about which we have real misgivings—not least the new powers that would enable the Government to give directions and guidance to independent economic regulators. This could severely threaten the trust investors have in the stability of the UK’s regulatory regime.

    In conclusion on new clause 3, the Government have already begun to tackle some of the barriers to delivery, and this has led to £460 billion-worth of public and private investment planned over the course of the next Parliament and beyond. While the Government welcome public discussion and ideas for infrastructure strategy, changing the way we oversee and set UK infrastructure strategy must not be something we rush into without due care and thought. The concept of a national infrastructure commission proposed by the Opposition remains an unproven and untested idea.

    Let me deal now with new clause 16, about protection for pubs, which I know has aroused a good deal of interest around the House. The Government are certainly aware of this strength of feeling, and as a constituency MP, I deeply understand people’s concerns that pubs that are valued by the community could be lost to them because of the regulatory environment in the planning system and elsewhere, which has not supported the community in the past. Several years ago, I campaigned in my constituency to save a pub called the Ashley Court hotel in St Andrew’s in Bristol, and there was nothing we could do about it as planning law stood at that time—back in 2008. We could not stop the pub’s owner from selling it to a housing developer, which demolished the pub, one of the best viewing platforms in the whole of the city of Bristol.

    Now, however, there is protection in the national planning policy framework and in the Localism Act 2011, enabling people to list an asset as one of community value. The most popular use of this asset of community value legislation is for public houses, and we propose to go even further today.

  • Is not the argument that the Minister has just made the perfect argument for new clause 16?

  • It is not, because the planning use class orders deal with the totality of asset use classes right across the country. What most of us would be concerned about—whether in Northampton or Bristol—is whether the assets of real value to our constituents, such as the pubs that are truly popular and provide a wide community benefit, whether or not they have a community hall, are at risk. That is more important than dealing with every single pub, whatever the circumstances. If my hon. Friend listens to what I have to say, I hope he will be reassured.

    I draw attention to the written ministerial statement laid today by me and the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Kris Hopkins), who is responsible for community pubs, on the introduction of secondary legislation at the earliest opportunity to build on the existing protections to help communities preserve those pubs that benefit the community the most.

    As part of our steps to strengthen community rights, we have already given local people the opportunity to nominate assets to be placed on a local register of assets of community value—those assets that are most important to them. More than 1,800 sites have been listed in this way, over 600 of which have been pubs, making them by far the most popular type of asset to be listed.

  • This news will be warmly welcomed in Mid Sussex, where we have had some real trouble on this front. Are there any criteria in the Minister’s excellent proposal relating to what councils may put on their community asset lists to be protected?

  • The Localism Act 2011, the regulations, the guidance issued by the Department and statements by Ministers are quite clear that all that needs to be done to prove that an asset is of community value is for 21 members of the public to sign a declaration to the local authority—to Mid Sussex district council, for example—saying that the asset is important to them. As long it is not a private residence or a form of other asset precluded in the Localism Act 2011, the council must list it as an asset of community value, and there should be no gold-plating of the regulations as they are currently drafted. It is a very straightforward procedure, so I encourage my right hon. Friend to encourage his communities to adopt this policy.

    The listing allows the local community the opportunity to develop a bid to purchase the asset, should it come up for sale. We have seen some positive examples in the case of pubs—the Angler’s Rest in the Peak district and the Ivy House in Camberwell, for example—where listing has helped to prevent the pubs from closing. We want to do more.

  • I am interested in the Minister’s comments. My concern is that where a council chooses not to determine that a pub or any other asset is a community asset, there is no right of appeal. That is a real issue. If the council has a particular interest, could there not be conflict?

  • My hon. Friend came to see me to discuss a particular example in her constituency. I believe the problem was that the local authority itself owned the piece of land in the Newton Abbot area. Ministers have been quite clear to local authorities that they should not put artificial obstructions in the way of listing assets of community value. There have been other examples where people have asked about requirements for business plans, but these are not contemplated at all under the Localism Act 2011, so local authorities should not be doing this. The provision is designed to be simple for residents to use and to be simple for them to identify an asset that is important to them. As long as the 21 signatures of support are obtained, the council should list the asset.

    Although national permitted development rights are important in creating a flexible planning system, we recognise that there are cases were individual local consideration is merited. We will therefore remove the permitted development right that allows for the change of use from pubs to shops, financial and professional services, and restaurants and cafes or for the demolition of any pubs as long as they are listed as an assets of community value. This will mean that, for these pubs, a planning application must be made to a local planning authority before a change of use or demolition of a pub can take place. This gives the decision back to the council representing the local community.

  • My hon. Friend should be proud of his record in supporting local pubs, both nationally and locally. The announcement he has just made is very welcome—it is an improvement to the provisions on asset and community value use. On the theme of not putting undue obstacles in the path of protecting local pubs, surely it would be simpler to adopt new clause 16—instead of going through the process of the asset of community value, which has its risks and its problems, putting them in the path of protecting local pubs.

  • I hear what my hon. Friend says. I can assure him that the Government have not pulled this rabbit out of the hat today as a sort of emergency response. This is something that I and my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government have discussed for some time, going back several months. The issue has been explored with the Campaign for Real Ale, which is an important partner for the Department, and particularly for me, in rolling out adoption of all these community rights across the country. CAMRA has run a campaign to urge its members to list a pub as an asset of community value. Its advice—and the Government’s advice—is completely consistent and joined up. If people think a public house in their village, suburb or, in my case, city centre is important, they should list it now. They should not wait for or anticipate a threat, but list it now.

    That will protect a pub from any future change of ownership. Our proposal deals with the, in fact, quite reasonable criticism from CAMRA and others that the existing protection, although welcome, does not go far enough, because it does not include planning protection. Listing a pub as an asset of community value not only gives the community a chance to gain ownership of that pub, but secures the full protection of the planning system.

  • CAMRA fully supports new clause 16, which provides for a simpler, cheaper, less bureaucratic way of protecting pubs. The House needs to be clear about what we shall be voting on when we vote on the new clause, as we will. It is simply this: do we think that any application to change the use of a pub to something fundamentally different by converting it to a supermarket or a solicitor’s office, or to demolish it, should be dealt with by the planning process so that local people can have a say? If the pub is not viable, the application will proceed. It is a simple vote: do we think that that is an important principle or not? The Government’s proposal is complicated and unnecessary.

  • I think that my hon. Friend—who has a good record of campaigning on behalf of beer drinkers and community pubs—is trying to make our proposal sound complicated when we should be agreeing that what the Government are offering is incredibly straightforward. It should present a challenge to all of us, whether we are in Bristol West, City of Durham or, indeed, Leeds North West. If we cannot persuade 21 people to recognise that a pub in one of our constituencies is important, we shall not be doing terribly well as campaigners.

    This is, in fact. a good campaigning opportunity. Members, who will currently be in campaigning mode, can go out into their communities and, possibly working with their local branch of CAMRA, identify pubs that are particularly important to them. Once the list is in place—and the procedure is very simple—the full protection of the planning system will follow.

  • Let me begin by drawing attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

    I am encouraged by what the Minister is saying. I was attracted to new clause 16, but I think that his compromise —or alternative—proposals have their attractions as well. He said earlier that secondary legislation would be introduced at the earliest opportunity. Will that happen during this Parliament?

  • Yes. In this instance, terms such as “earliest opportunity”, “shortly” and “soon” really do mean that. We all know that we are up against the buffers of a fixed-term Parliament, which is a very good constitutional initiative. When I say “at the earliest opportunity”, I mean “at the earliest opportunity”. In other words, we hope that the statutory instrument to which my hon. Friend has referred will be published and laid before Parliament in the next few weeks.

  • Has the Minister, or have the Government, given any thought to how the provisions relating to pubs could be extended to local newspapers?

  • Although a newspaper is an important community asset in the widest sense, it is literally here today and gone tomorrow. It is not a permanent, fixed, tangible asset in the community, so the Bill, as currently drafted, could not apply to it. However, the Welsh Government have yet to adopt all the provisions of the Localism Act 2011, although its provisions were available to them at the time. I therefore encourage the hon. Gentleman to put pressure on the Administration in Cardiff to adopt the provisions and protections that already exist in that Act.

  • The Minister said that he would introduce secondary legislation during the current Parliament. Given that there are only 32 or 33 sitting days left before Dissolution, does he intend to introduce secondary legislation that will become law during this Parliament?

  • That is certainly the intention, but I do not want to be drawn into matters of parliamentary procedure. This is a very straightforward change, which builds on provisions that already exist in the Localism Act. It does not require complicated legislation; indeed, it does not require primary legislation. As the hon. Gentleman and others will know, today’s written ministerial statement will carry some weight in the planning system, and a statutory instrument will follow shortly to give full weight to it.

  • I give way to my fellow Williams.

  • My hon. Friend said that the Welsh Government had not taken full advantage of the Localism Act. In my constituency, and in Wales in general, pubs enjoy the full protection of the planning law, and that includes a real presumption against the closure of the last pub in the village. Is the situation similar in England?

  • Yes. That is exactly the position with which we are familiar all over the country. I have visited several pubs in England that have been listed as assets of community value precisely because they are “the last pub in the village”. I urge my hon. Friend, as well as the hon. Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards), to put pressure on the Welsh Government to ensure that not only planning protections but “asset of community protections” are in place.

  • The Minister has told us that once a public house has been listed as an asset of community value, it will benefit from full planning protection. Will he explain exactly what “full planning protection” means in that context?

  • Let me repeat what I said earlier. If a pub is listed as an asset of community value, the owner will be required to obtain planning permission for either a change of use or its demolition. The owner of the pub in my constituency demolished it in order to build flats, but, at the time, planning permission was not required. Our new clause will provide the full protection of planning law, similar to the protection of other assets that are currently sui generis in the planning system. My hon. Friend looks puzzled, but I think that that is clear enough. The new clause will give the full protection for which campaigners are calling to listed assets of community value, but will not offer it to the whole community of pubs throughout the country.

  • I thank the Minister for this morning’s ministerial statement. Does he agree that, while his proposal will protect pubs that communities really care about, new clause 16, although well intended, could cause pubs that no longer had the support of their community and were no longer financially viable to be boarded up, perhaps vandalised, and to be local eyesores for many months as a result of pointless bureaucracy?

  • The hon. Gentleman has a long and proud record of campaigning on behalf of pubs, and I am encouraged by what he says. I agree that new clause 16 would have those adverse consequences, as well as being flawed in other ways. It would have a detrimental effect on high streets and communities.

  • The Minister has not mentioned a very real risk that has been raised with me. Sandwell council is currently considering an asset of community value application for the Haden Cross Inn in Cradley Heath, but it seems to believe that the application involves a significant compensation risk.

  • That is similar to examples that I gave earlier, in which councils were conservative, with a small “c”, in their interpretation of the legislation. The Localism Act makes it clear that if 21 people come forward and say, “This is an asset of community value to us”, the local authority should list it unless the criteria set out in the Act apply. The Act contains nothing about compensation, requirements for business plans, or any of the other matters that campaign groups have brought to my attention. We are reviewing the Act, and I trust that all those concerns will be knocked on the head in due course.

  • The process described by the Minister seems incredibly convoluted, not least because if a listing application is made, the local authority will decide on the application, and it will then receive planning protections. Why not just give the planning protections in the first place, and allow the local authority to decide, through the planning process, whether or not the pub should be saved for the future?

  • Precisely for the reasons just outlined in an intervention from the hon. Member for Burton (Andrew Griffiths), who has a very good record of campaigning in this area. A blanket protection for every single public house in the country, which is what the new clause envisages, would protect pubs that for various reasons are no longer enjoying the patronage of the community. In my constituency, lots of pubs have closed, but it is usually because of demographic change. Some parts of my constituency, which had a “white working-class community” 20 or 30 years ago, are now populated primarily by recently arrived Somalis and other people. Obviously the pubs in those areas have closed, and some have been converted to other uses, but some of them are still derelict. Is the hon. Gentleman really saying that in all those circumstances, whatever they might be, full planning permission should be required simply to change the use of a former pub to something that may be of benefit to the community?

    The Government are proposing to look at the public houses that are genuinely popular and valued by the community now, giving them the protection that is already allowed under the Localism Act, and further enhancing that protection under the planning laws, saying, “You cannot convert this pub into another use or demolish it without planning permission.” That should address all the worries that people rightly have about the pubs that really are important to them.

  • Does my hon. Friend not realise that if a pub is boarded up and the issue goes to the local authority, the local authority will want to move pretty quickly to stop a building becoming derelict? That is not a problem, but does he also recognise that the owner of the building is often not the owner of the business that operates inside that building? Does he therefore share my concern that in certain cases pubcos in particular have sold out even though there was a need locally for the pub to exist?

  • If there is a need for the pub to exist in the community—whether in Northampton or somewhere else—I would encourage my hon. Friend and all colleagues to get that asset listing in now. That provision has existed since September 2012, and 600 communities have already used it. I would urge all colleagues to go out and identify the pubs that are important to them and their constituents, start a campaign to list them—that can be done very quickly and easily—and with the proposals we have announced today, full planning protection will follow.

  • I was very attracted to new clause 16 before coming to today’s debate, but having listened to the arguments and read the written ministerial statement today, it seems to me that this new clause is another classic case of this House over-legislating when legislation is already on the statute book. Is it not the case that what the Minister has outlined with his asset of community value is a classic example of localism being put into action—of using legislation we have already passed in this Parliament and trusting our communities, instead of things being broad-brushed always from Westminster?

  • I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. What we have been saying to local authorities around the country is that article 4 directions are already available to them to suspend permitted development rights. They have been reluctant to do that for a whole variety of reasons. The proposals we have outlined today should remove all that uncertainty and allow planning protection to go ahead.

  • The Government have of course already put various other measures in place to protect community pubs. We have scrapped both the beer and alcohol duty escalators, and cut beer duty in successive Budgets, thereby reducing the tax burden on the pubs and brewing industry and enabling economic growth. We have provided £250,000 in funding for business partners to help deliver more community-owned pubs and pubs which provide community-focused services. This funding has contributed to the number of co-operatively owned pubs more than doubling over the last two years, and many rural pubs now offer a wide range of community-focused services and facilities—for example, a community centre and library at the Brockweir inn in Gloucestershire and a community function room, keep-fit club and film club at the Packhorse, Suffolk.

    We have also introduced various measures on business rates and put in place a statutory code of practice which will be enforced by an independent adjudicator. All of these measures demonstrate our continued support for community pubs as part of our broader strategy of lower taxes, less regulation and a growing economy to support a thriving and diverse pub sector.

    I hope hon. Members will agree that our measures, including those announced today, provide a strong, clear framework for protecting pubs of community value. Given these protections, this amendment—while I recognise that it has the best of intentions behind it—is unnecessary in the vast majority of cases, and, as I have explained, in some cases would have an unhelpful impact on our high streets and communities. If this approach is not seen to work, we will return to it at a later stage, but at the moment we think it strikes the right balance to protect our most valued pubs.

    I turn now to new clause 12 on the role of the Planning Inspectorate. I should say at the outset—

  • Order. I hesitate to interrupt the Minister and I appreciate that he has taken a great many interventions because many Members wished to ask questions and make points, but he has also taken up a very large chunk of this fairly short debate and I am conscious that many Members wish to speak. I trust, therefore, that as he turns to what is only the third new clause in the group, he will not have to address all 16 amendments.

  • Madam Deputy Speaker, your colleague Mr Deputy Speaker was in the Chair when I introduced my remarks. I assure you that I said very clearly that although this group of amendments raised a whole range of issues, including protection for the European beaver, I was not going to address every single one of them but would stick to the main ones. First, however, I should draw the House’s attention to the fact although it is not in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, I should state as a ministerial interest that the Planning Inspectorate is based in Bristol West.

    My right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) tabled new clause 12, which proposes that the Planning Inspectorate should be abolished and its functions carried out directly by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Planning law requires the Secretary of State to appoint an independent person to carry out appeals and plan examinations. The Planning Inspectorate carries out this function for the Secretary of State. Consistently, two thirds of all appeals support the council’s decision; only 1% of all planning applications nationally are overturned by appeal. The inspector’s role is to undertake an independent examination or appeal on behalf of the Secretary of State. We believe that, in the vast majority of cases, this role is carried out to the highest standards. We are always happy to discuss informally better ways of ensuring that our planning policy is fully understood by inspectors and councils alike.

  • I appreciate that the Minister is saying that two thirds of council decisions are upheld, but is he aware that sometimes the Planning Inspectorate is used as bogeyman or fairy-tale villain by large-unit developers or town planners, and the effect is, “Come on councillors, be good children, hurry up with your local plan, put in large sections of greenbelt development; otherwise the Planning Inspectorate will get you”? Wittingly or unwittingly, the Planning Inspectorate is being abused in this way.

  • Hon. Members

    Hear, hear!

  • I hear what my hon. Friend says and she clearly has loud support for that.

    Following your exhortation, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will skip the various examples I have of different planning appeals around the country. What I am saying today is that the Government are committed to doing far more to publicise those recent cases widely, to provide reassurance that unsustainable development should be resisted.

    We will use the Planning Advisory Service to ensure that our message is clearly understood: the national planning policy framework does not stand for development at any cost. It promotes positive planning and sustainable development. We must ensure that councils have confidence to exercise their responsibilities for the benefit of their communities.

    I appreciate the intention of new clause 20, also tabled my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs. It seeks to give communities and their representatives the power to intervene, or “appeal”, certain planning proposals if they oppose the local authority’s decision to grant planning permission. I entirely agree with the premise of giving communities as great a say as possible in planning, and this is at the heart of all this Government’s reforms. I therefore welcome the fact that on 22 January Angmering neighbourhood plan, in my right hon. Friend’s constituency, was supported at referendum with a 97% yes vote on a turnout of 31%. It allocates sites for at least 100 homes, and is the 45th successful neighbourhood planning referendum.

  • What would the Minister say to people in Airmyn, in my constituency, who have just had a factory forced on them, against the emerging local plan? We know that councillors were put on the committee specifically to vote for that proposal. People are really angry. None of what the Minister has said will help those people, who want to appeal against this decision to build a factory on greenfield land in a village against the wishes of local people and local representatives.

  • My hon. Friend has put his remarks on the record. He will know that neither I nor any other Minister in the DCLG can comment on a particular plan.

    Government amendments 84, 45 and 46 deal with the control of invasive and non-native species. Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall resist the temptation to speak about the European beaver and other interesting items that would have been in my speech.

    I turn to the telecoms provisions that were introduced into the Bill in Committee, as we heard earlier. The House will have heard the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), give the reasons why the Government now wish to withdraw these proposals when he discussed the programme motion. Accepting Government amendments 91, 92, 93, 100 and 104 to 108 would give effect to what my right hon. Friend described at the beginning of our deliberations.

  • When the Opposition urged the Minister’s colleague, who was leading on this issue, to do exactly that in Committee, the Minister who responded accused the Opposition of burying their head, ostrich-like, in the sand. Have Ministers now decided to put their heads in the sand—or do they admit they were wrong?

  • The right hon. Gentleman enjoyed, I am sure, the deliberations in Committee, including my right hon. Friend the Minister telling us about mobile telephone reception in Lincolnshire and having to stand on a chair in order to take a call. This is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with, and the Government have listened very carefully to what was said in Committee and to the representations made by interested bodies. We have decided at this stage to withdraw the proposals as drafted, but this issue will have to be revisited.

    I turn finally in this wide-ranging group of new clauses and amendments to the part of the Bill that introduces zero-carbon homes—a part of which I am particularly proud—and the Opposition’s amendments. Amendments 67 and 71 seek to give preference in all cases to on-site carbon abatement measures. That would cause uncertainty and cost to house builders, because the house builder and the building control body would have to agree a “reasonable” on-site energy performance level on a case-by-case basis before any development could commence. The house building industry needs to know the technical requirements and the costs it will face in order to plan for the future. That is why we set specific performance standards in the building regulations —standards we have already tightened twice during this Parliament, and which, as a result of the Bill, will be further tightened in 2016 to make sure that our constituents have the pleasure of living in not only a new home but one insulated to the highest possible performance standards.

    With those brief remarks—not quite as brief as you would have liked, Madam Deputy Speaker—I commend the new clauses and amendments in the Government’s name and ask the House to resist those in others’ names.

  • As the Minister acknowledged, there are a lot of amendments on different topics in this group, and I will do my best to respond to the Government amendments and speak to the Opposition ones in as coherent and related a way as I can. However, I point out that we have just over half an hour left, and lots of Members want to speak. That again demonstrates that the Government have rushed the Bill and not left enough time for the House to scrutinise it properly.

    Government new clause 14 is a technical amendment and provided that the Greater London authority is on board with it, we see no reason not to welcome it.

    We welcome new clause 16, in the name of the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland). His proposals are in line with our localist policy to return decision making about permitted development and change of use class to local authorities and the local communities they represent. We are very much against permitted development being able to ride roughshod over the needs and wishes of local communities, so we welcome the amendment and concur that having to make a pub an asset of community value, or make an article 4 direction, is bureaucratic and burdensome on local communities and not at all necessary. The hon. Gentleman’s new clause provides communities with a straightforward way of saying what is happening to their local pub and whether or not they wish a change to be made.

    On Government amendments 45 and 84, the Minister will know that in Committee we called for greater clarity on how the species control agreements would work in practice. For example, when would one be considered complete, and requirements no longer be needed? We therefore support amendment 45 and the Government’s clarifying this point. They have also clarified that landowners who cannot dispose of land due to legal restrictions will still be subject to these agreements and orders. However, important questions remain about the cost and implementation of species control orders that the Government need to answer in statutory guidance.

    On Government amendment 46, we are pleased that they have excluded from the species control orders the European beaver, a native species that has established populations in the UK. However, the classification of the beaver under part IB of schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981—“Animals no longer normally present”—is bizarre and lists them alongside the wild boar. It seems strange that, despite European beavers being recognised as a native species to the UK and a natural component of British river systems, they will need a licence from Natural England to continue to exist in the wild. The Minister knows that we proposed in Committee an amendment—supported by a number of non-governmental organisations, including Friends of the Earth—stating that the Government’s definition of invasive non-native species should correspond to the EU habitats directive adopted in 1992. It would be interesting to hear from the Minister why they have not gone down that route.

    I was very disappointed with the Minister’s response to new clause 3, which seeks to shake up the way we progress national infrastructure matters. It would establish an independent national infrastructure commission in order to offer strategic planning to meet our national infrastructure requirements, and provide a greater degree of devolved power to ensure that large-scale projects also relate, where possible, to local priorities. I was surprised that in Committee, Government Members—and indeed the Minister himself—were so dismissive of the recent CBI survey showing that, despite some advances in national infrastructure policy, the UK is still some way off delivering the transformational upgrades the country needs. There is a widely acknowledged view that we are lagging behind other countries on national infrastructure delivery.

    New clause 3 seeks to bring an evidence-based assessment of our infrastructure needs before the House for approval. The process would be supported by sector infrastructure plans, and there would be a time scale for implementation. That would get us out of the parliamentary cycle, and away from the stop-start approach to national infrastructure. All we have heard from the Minister is more complicity and a lack of engagement about the need for a timely upgrade to our national infrastructure.

  • Many of the sectors listed in new clause 3 are devolved. Has the hon. Lady given any thought to how the new body will work in a devolved context, and will she give the House categorical reassurances that it is not about taking powers away from Ministers in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland?

  • The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. We hope that an independent national infrastructure commission could take information from all the devolved structures, which is why I mentioned the importance of devolution with regard to new clause 3.

    Amendment 53 seeks to get further clarification from the Minister on land transfers to the Homes and Communities Agency. In Committee, it was far from clear what was meant by surplus land, and the Minister has given us no clarification about how surplus land would be categorised, or about whether it covers open and common space.

    We also heard nothing from the Minister about whether the Government intend to promote best practice in improving the transparency of land transactions by reporting all aspects of the transaction of land to the Land Registry. The lack of publicly available information about land transactions, ownership and options on land markets makes it difficult to understand the extent to which land is controlled by those who intend, or do not intend, to develop it. We need to increase transparency, particularly on options, if we are to ensure that enough land is made available for development. The Minister had absolutely nothing to say about that matter today.

    The Minister did not say anything about ensuring that better guidance is given on how we assess viability. Opposition Members are arguing that a clearer way of assessing viability might mean that more land was brought forward for development. One would have thought that that was an objective of an infrastructure Bill, but apparently it is not.

    Amendment 52 seeks totally to remove the Government’s proposals regarding the transfer of local land charges to the Land Registry. In England and Wales, two searches are currently undertaken as part of the standard conveyancing process for the purchase of land or property. In short, clauses 30 to 32 will transfer responsibility for one of the searches, the local land charges search, from local authorities to the Land Registry. It is important to note that responsibility for collecting the information necessary for the searches will still be held by local authorities, which will have to pass the information to the Land Registry. Furthermore, local authorities will continue to be responsible for the second of the two searches—the CON29 search.

    The Opposition believe that the separation and fragmentation of the service is misguided and poorly evidenced, and that it has next to no hope of achieving the Government’s stated policy objectives. Peeling off part of the service simply does not make sense and is likely to make the service worse, not better. It is telling that even the Government, in their own consultation, have struggled to find anyone in favour of the change. Indeed, they acknowledge that no one supports the proposals.

    In the past few days, we have had correspondence from the District Councils Network, the Law Society, the Council of Property Search Organisations, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, the Association of Independent Personal Search Agents, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers, the Public and Commercial Services Union and many others who are all totally against the changes. Even the organisations and companies that the Government suggest will benefit from the changes oppose them. Just last Friday, those organisations signed a letter to the Secretary of State calling for the proposed changes to be dropped. We agree with them, and we will divide the House on that issue at the appropriate time if the Minister does not make another prompt U-turn.

    On amendment 67, we had a wide-ranging discussion in Committee on the carbon abatement provision in clause 33, but I have again been very disappointed by the Minister’s speech today. He will know that we made lots of strong arguments in Committee about why it is not sensible to exempt small sites from the allowable solutions requirements on the basis of the number of housing units. It is not exactly clear what the Government will do because the consultation has only just finished and, as far as I am aware, neither its results nor the Government response have been placed in the public domain. This is clearly not a sensible way to make policy, but if the Minister intends to continue to allow the exemption for small sites purely on the basis of the number of units, we would ask him to think again.

  • Does the hon. Lady share my concern that the recent consultation was very cramped and gave nobody the opportunity to say that they did not wish there to be any limitation on the size of site or, indeed, of contractor?

  • The right hon. Gentleman makes a really good point, which we did not rehearse very well in Committee. If we had had adequate time today, we might have considered the consultation’s shortcomings and the fact that people had to choose from a very limited number of options.

    I should point out that we have great concerns about the general carbon abatement provisions. It is really important for the Minister to clarify what the allowable solutions measures will contain. That was not clear in Committee, so we sought clarification, but we still have not received any. Will clause 33 make it a definite requirement for all homes to be built to the equivalent of code level 4?

  • In case I cannot respond on that point later, I can say that it is definitely our intention that on-site requirements should come up to code level 4, and that those for allowable solutions should come up to code level 5. On sites and exemptions, we are obviously looking at the consultation. The number of units will be one factor, but we might look at company size and square meterage—

  • Order. We have had a great many interventions in this debate. I appreciate that the shadow Minister has had only a moderately long time in which to speak and that she has a lot to say. However, I must now appeal to all Members: we have 21 minutes left and a great many matters to discuss, so they must all speak quickly. If everybody proceeds with no repetition, hesitation or deviation, everyone will get to speak.

  • It would be helpful if the Minister put some of those reassurances in writing.

    Finally, as we know, the Government tried to rush through a poorly drafted reform of the electronic communications code, without adequate parliamentary scrutiny, as part of an uncosted deal with mobile phone operators that could lose the taxpayer £1 billion. It is good that the Government have listened to Labour, and that they have made a U-turn and are going back to the drawing board, but their incompetent failure to reform the code now puts the whole deal in doubt.

    Reforming the code that governs the agreements between mobile phone operators and landowners is important for the expansion of mobile telephone access, and the Government need to get it right. We welcome the move to withdraw from the Bill the clause and schedules on the electronic communications code, and we are glad that the Government listened to us and to various organisations. We hope that they will now take the time to renew and update the code properly.

    I will leave it there, Madam Deputy Speaker.

  • I will be brief, to allow other Members to speak. We clearly need more time to debate major Bills such as this on Report. It does us no credit that we have insufficient time.

    I rise to speak to new clauses 12 and 20. New clause 12 is supported by more than 20 of my right hon. and hon. Friends and would abolish the Planning Inspectorate, and new clause 20 would create a new community right of appeal against adverse planning decisions.

    I believe that the Localism Act 2011 was one of this Government’s most important pieces of legislation. It gives communities power, and the provisions on community assets are one example of that. I welcome the Government’s proposals to strengthen those provisions so that pubs may be protected, which is a sensible way forward. I also welcome the development of neighbourhood plans, which, as the Minister said, are now proceeding well, with community support, including in my constituency. They give the local community the power to decide where developments should go.

    However, that plan-led system can sometimes be a developer-led system, which is not what we want. Localism can be undermined, especially by decisions of the Planning Inspectorate. In a good report issued before Christmas, the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government said that it had received a great deal of evidence that the national planning policy framework

    “is not preventing unsustainable development in some places”

    and that

    “inappropriate housing is being imposed upon some communities as a result of speculative planning applications.”

    Such speculative applications, put in against the wishes of communities drawing up neighbourhood plans, are particularly damaging. Developers know that they have an opportunity to get permission for sites that they would not get permission for were the neighbourhood plan to go through. Too often, the Planning Inspectorate either upholds on appeal a local authority’s decisions to decline those applications or terrifies the local authority into submission, so that it gives permission because it knows that otherwise it would lose an appeal and would have to spend a great deal of money on doing so.

  • I entirely agree with the thrust of my right hon. Friend’s argument. Does he agree that it is immensely discouraging to communities trying to make local plans when their wishes are ridden over roughshod by the Planning Inspectorate?

  • I strongly agree with my right hon. Friend, who has been tireless in promoting the interests of local communities against such developments in his constituency.

    The first problem is the Planning Inspectorate upholding or encouraging speculative applications. The second is that the inspectorate is interfering with local plans drawn up by planning authorities. The Conservative party’s manifesto at the last election stated:

    “To give communities greater control over planning, we will…abolish the power of planning inspectors to rewrite local plans”.

    That is exactly what we should now do, but the inspectorate is rewriting local plans. It is raising housing numbers in my constituency to beyond the level set out in the south-east plan, and it is causing delay at a time when responsible authorities are planning for a great number of houses—40,000 in the district council areas that cover my constituency, where there are 7,000 unbuilt planning permissions in one authority alone.

  • My right hon. Friend is making a powerful and persuasive case. Let me be absolutely clear: if the existing regime is not satisfactory, as he describes, we will have a regime that is. New guidance will be issued that is stronger and more effective, that defends the interests of local authorities and that prevents the problems he has set out.

  • I very much welcome the Minister’s important intervention, and we look forward to that new guidance.

    The Planning Inspectorate is meant to stand in the shoes of Ministers. I submit that Ministers could stand in their own shoes and take decisions themselves if they had to interfere. That would perhaps deal with at least some of the £40 million budget and 80 staff of the Planning Inspectorate.

  • My second proposal is that we redress the imbalance whereby communities do not have a right of appeal against planning decisions but developers do so. How can that be proper or fair? To redress that inequity, communities should be given a limited right of appeal against planning decisions that run contrary to the local plan or emerging neighbourhood plan. There would be conditions attached to that, but it would be a means of restoring trust and accountability and it would show that Parliament means what it says. When we set out to give local communities the right to make decisions, and when we say that we will give people local power, we should mean it. It is not good enough for bureaucratic bodies—in the main, we are pledged to abolish or reduce such bodies—to get in the way of that power and take decisions that should be made by local people.

  • May I start by drawing attention to my interests, as declared in the register?

    I agreed with the right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) on one point only, which was his opening remark about the lack of time for this debate. I am afraid that I will not have time to explain in detail why he is totally wrong about the Planning Inspectorate, because I want to address two other issues. However, I have to say that over many years the Planning Inspectorate has delivered a highly professional service in assessing developments and giving impartial advice to Ministers, and it would be an absurdity to do away with such a body.

    The first issue that I want to cover is the importance of a national infrastructure commission. I am disappointed by the Government’s rejection of that proposal, which was made in a cogent, well-presented and well-received report by Sir John Armitt. In case Members are not familiar with him, Sir John is widely recognised as one of our country’s leading experts in the field and was the chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority, which demonstrated remarkably well how to deliver a major infrastructure project in the most exemplary way, so we should pay attention to his recommendations. Those recommendations were not, as some opponents of them have claimed, about taking decision making away from Ministers or Parliament. On the contrary, Sir John’s report was clear that there should be a detailed and thorough appraisal, carried out by experts and then presented to Ministers, who in turn would have a responsibility to report to Parliament on their decisions in response to the infrastructure commission’s recommendations. That would be wholly democratic and ensure that proposals were properly considered by experts before being presented to Ministers, who would then come to Parliament with final decisions.

    The second argument that the Minister made against the Armitt report was that the recommended procedure would be too cumbersome and bureaucratic. He conjured up the image of a recommendation being rejected by Parliament, and asked what would then happen. That is pretty rich coming from a Government who have just reduced by one third the total size of the Bill that came back from Committee. That was a fairly enormous decision to reverse a proposal that they had made a little while before, but we have not heard any suggestion that it is somehow a mistake. On the contrary, it is an example of Parliament working well in stopping Ministers doing something ill-considered. The basis of the Minister’s argument is unsound, but in any case, if Parliament is to take decisions, it must be right that it has the discretion to say no occasionally. That seems an entirely admirable principle.

    I wish to conclude with a few words about zero-carbon outcomes. The Government are resiling from the commitments that were put in place under the previous Government to achieve those outcomes by 2016. There have been four backtracks. The first was the Government’s abandonment of code level 6, which was the original definition of zero carbon. The second was no longer saying that zero carbon is equivalent to code level 5 and must be delivered in all cases. They now say that the objective is code level 5, but it will be possible not to deliver it under two circumstances. The first is where allowable solutions include off-site contributions, rather than doing it on site—and even there, the Government are not adhering to the principle the Minister enunciated on Second Reading, which was that this should apply only where it is not reasonably practicable to deliver on site. The second relates to the small site exemptions, which are badly drafted and a loophole that could easily be exploited, not by small builders, but by any builders, to fail to deliver on small sites. There has been some serious backtracking by the Government, and if we are to achieve the zero-carbon objective and an effective response to climate change, we will need to revisit these issues in the next Parliament.

  • I rise to support new clause 16 and I will be brief. The Government have done a lot on pubs, but I wish to address the points made by the Minister and explain why new clause 16 is, on all fronts, a better and neater solution that the very welcome concession the Government have made.

    Let us bust some myths. First, new clause 16 simply puts pubs on the same footing as laundrettes, theatres and—would you believe it—casinos and nightclubs, which currently enjoy more protection under the planning law than pubs do. Most people in this House would think that was very strange and needs rectifying. So there is an easy precedent for this clause and nothing draconian about it.

    Secondly, we are being presented with the straw man of boarded up pubs lining our high streets as a result of the new clause. A local pub of mine, The Foresters, was known to be a drug den. It was turned into a Tesco and nobody shed any tears. Had new clause 16 been in place then, that would have simply gone through the planning process, as most things would do. Local authorities have every incentive to approve planning for a derelict site, and so we can discard that straw man out of hand.

    Let us look at what the Government have already done. An article 4 direction is well intended, but in practice it is burdensome. People cannot apply for an article 4 direction for their pub unless it has already been threatened, and many communities will want to apply for an article 4 direction before it is threatened. Each article 4 direction is expensive, costing between £2,000 and £3,000 for local authorities, which are already stretched. If communities wanted to protect every pub in the country, the cost would be about £50 million to £100 million. However, a much more fundamental question lies at the heart of this issue: what is localism? In a welcome move towards localism, this Government decided that it is about local planners making decisions, as is the case elsewhere in localism. However, the Government’s concession seems to present it as a patchy, bureaucratic position, which also favours those with sharp elbows. I am deeply concerned that it will be inequitable in practice.

    I am particularly puzzled as to why the Government’s default position is against, not for, community pubs. Most of us would consider that the default position should be for the community pub and in favour of the community, not in favour of developers, who can move far faster than communities, particularly our most vulnerable ones. Indeed, if the Government had implemented new clause 16 long ago, we would have avoided the confusion involving, and potential overlap between, assets of community value and article 4 directions. I very much welcome the Government’s move, but we have a short time left in this Parliament. Indeed, we are on last orders for our parliamentary time—[Interruption.] Thank you very much; I am here all night. There is doubt as to whether we would actually be able to make this proposal in time. I thank the Government for their welcome move, but new clause 16 does it better, it does it here, and this evening we have an opportunity to do it now.

  • I congratulate the Minister on keeping a straight face while introducing his proposals for the Government to introduce zero-carbon homes. He knows that the proposals go away from zero-carbon homes, systematically and determinedly, and do not move us towards them, as had originally been intended under the code for zero-carbon homes, and the time scales and levels it proposed. As we have heard, we are moving away from code level 6 and down to code level 5. As the Minister says, code level 4 is regarded as the starting point for alleged zero-carbon homes, but there are exceptions within that relating to affordable solutions and the small site exemptions where fewer than 10 units are being built, which will affect about 20% of new builds. That is nothing like having zero-carbon homes for the future. The amendments try to put this at least some way back on track, and I urge hon. Members to examine them carefully and support them if they value zero-carbon homes for the future, as I am sure we all do, in making sure that our building stock is of the best quality we can get for future sustainability.

  • I rise to support two of the provisions tabled and ably espoused by my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert). The first is new clause 12, where he has put the case succinctly; after all, we made a manifesto commitment to abolish the Planning Inspectorate. I also want to draw the House’s attention to the fact that the inspectorate is not taking sufficient account of local feelings in the judgments it makes.

    I particularly wish to draw the Minister’s attention to new clause 20, which, as my right hon. Friend has said, builds on our localism agenda. The limited right of appeal to the Secretary of State is extremely important and would be of great benefit to my constituents in Sutton Coldfield, where there is massive opposition to the proposition that we should build between 5,000 and 6,000 homes on its green belt. Yet that opposition, expressed in marches across the countryside as well as in public meetings, has been entirely ignored by the local authority.

    In proposed new subsection (2B), my right hon. Friend points out the importance of

    “ward councillors for the area who have lodged a formal objection to the planning application in writing to the planning authority, or where there is more than one councillor, all councillors by unanimity”.

    Giving that degree of local support to what the local community want is extremely important. I believe and hope that the Minister, perhaps on Third Reading, will be able to give my constituents some comfort on that.

    The opportunity of genuine community involvement should be built in at every stage of planning the process; there should not just be the one-off chance that those responsible for development can choose either to respond or to ignore. Recently, when the inspector held an oral hearing at which I was able to give evidence on behalf of my constituents, he asked for more evidence to be adduced on the requirement for the colossal amount of building involved. We have always argued that there was not sufficient evidence to build on Sutton Coldfield’s green belt, particularly in respect of the inward immigration figures in the area. We draw some comfort from the decision by the Planning Inspectorate, but it is extremely important that the local community is able to have far more say than we do at that moment, at this important juncture in the life of the royal town of Sutton Coldfield.

  • I shall be as quick as possible, Madam Deputy Speaker. I had a conversation with the Minister of State, Department for Transport, the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), and I must thank him for his collaborative way of working, and his attempt to find a solution and get through to the Department for Communities and Local Government—alas, he failed. The Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol West (Stephen Williams) rather gave the game away when he said that what is being proposed is not a concession but something the Government were discussing and planning to do in any case. So this has nothing to do with a concession for today; the House needs to be clear on that. One serious point is that DCLG civil servants told the Campaign for Real Ale that the change that has been proposed—not a concession, as we know—would need primary legislation and could not be done through secondary legislation. There is a concern as to whether it could even happen.

    New clause 16 is a much better solution. It is not partial and the Government’s solution would cost more, involve much more bureaucracy, take much longer and be considerably less effective. None of us wants red tape, but if hon. Members think red tape is acceptable for nightclubs, theatres and laundrettes, not supporting new clause 16 sends a clear message that not only do they not support local pubs, but they do not think local people should have a say. If hon. Members support pubs and support local democracy, they should vote for new clause 16, and if they do not, they should vote against.

  • I shall take a minute to tell hon. Members that we all need to see pubs protected and to see them thrive. What the Minister has done today is to say that if 21 people in a community want to protect their pub, they can do so and they can afford it protection under the planning laws. If a pub cannot get 21 people to support it, it is not financially viable. There is no need to have extra red tape and regulation as proposed in new clause 16. The Minister has, simply and succinctly, put the power back in the hands of pub goers, pub lovers and beer drinkers, and I commend him for doing so.

  • My plea to the Minister is to consider issuing new guidance that will put an obligation on commercial buildings to have zero-carbon or low-carbon emissions. In my constituency, it is possible to have 3.5 million square feet of rail freight interchange, and not one single green initiative is necessary. We are considering such an obligation for homes, and we should be considering it for commercial premises too. Will the Minister please issue some guidance to be used during the planning process?

  • Like many people here this evening—

  • Debate interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

    The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the clause be read a Second time.

    Question agreed to.

    New clause 14 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

    The Deputy Speaker then put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

    New Clause 16

    Use classes and demolition: drinking establishments

    ‘(1) The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (SI 1987/764) is amended as follows.

    (2) At the end of section 3(6) add—

    “(n) as a drinking establishment.”

    (3) In the Schedule, leave out “Class A4. Drinking Establishments”.

    (4) The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (SI 1995/418) is amended as follows.

    (5) In Part 3 of Schedule 2 under Class A: Permitted Development, leave out “A4 (drinking establishments)”.

    (6) In Part 31 of Schedule 2 under A.1 add—

    “(c) the building subject to demolition is classed as a drinking establishment”.” —(Charlotte Leslie.)

    The purpose of this New Clause is to aim to ensure that any proposed demolition of or change of use to public houses and other drinking establishments would be subject to planning permission. Currently such buildings can be demolished or have their use changed without such permission being granted.

    Brought up.

    Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.

    Division 140

    26 January 2015

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 245
    Noes: 293

    Question accordingly negatived.

    View Details

    Clause 20

    Environment control of animal and plant species

    Amendments made: 84, page 13, line 8, at end insert

    “or

    (c) a person who for the time being exercises powers of management or control over the land.”

    This amendment extends the definition of “owner” to include persons with powers of management or control over land.

    Amendment 45, page 14, line 23, at end insert—

    “Notice of compliance

    8A Where an environmental authority considers that an owner of premises has complied with all the requirements in a species control agreement to carry out species control operations, the authority must give the owner notice to that effect.” —(Stephen Williams.)

    This amendment requires the environmental authority to issue a notice to an owner once it considers that the owner has complied with all the requirements in a species control agreement.

    Clause 21

    Native and non-native species etc

    Amendment made: 46, page 23, line 11, at end insert—

    “Beaver, Eurasian (but not in relation to Wales)

    Castor fiber”

    (Stephen Williams.)

    This amendment aims to secure that, in England, the species control provisions will not apply to Eurasian beavers which are released into the wild under licence. It will continue to be the case that Eurasian beavers may only be released into the wild under licence.

    Clause 29

    Easements etc affecting land

    Amendment made: 85, page 33, line 35, leave out “which is” and insert

    “the freehold interest in which was” —(Stephen Williams.)

    This amends clause 29(11) with the effect that the amendments made by the clause do not apply to any freehold disposals of land made before commencement by the bodies to which the clause applies. Those amendments will apply to land in respect of which a lease was granted by those bodies before commencement.

    Amendment proposed: 52, page 34, line 2, leave out clauses 30 to 32.—(Roberta Blackman-Woods.)

    Question put, That the amendment be made.

    Division 141

    26 January 2015

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 209
    Noes: 330

    Question accordingly negatived.

    View Details

    Clause 49

    The Electronic Communications Code

    Amendment made: 91, page 55, line 32, leave out clause 49.(Stephen Williams.)

    This amendment and amendments 106 and 107 remove clause 49 and schedules 8 and 9 which included provision replacing the telecommunications code in schedule 2 to the Telecommunications Act 1984 with a substantially revised version called the electronic communications code, and made related consequential amendments. The existing telecommunications code will accordingly continue in effect.

    Clause 50

    Regulations and Orders

    Amendments made: 92, page 57, line 15, at end insert “or”.

    This amendment together with amendments 93, 100, 104, 105 and 108 remove the provisions about secondary legislation, extent and commencement and in the long title which were consequential on the provisions of clause 49 and Schedules 8 and 9.

    Amendment 93, page 57, line 17, leave out from “Act,” to end of line 19.(Stephen Williams.)

    The explanatory statement for amendment 92 also applies to this amendment

    Clause 51

    Extent

    Amendments made: 95, page 58, line 9, leave out “and 29(11) and (12)” and insert

    “,29(11) and (12) and (Expenditure of Greater London Authority on housing or regeneration)(2)”.

    This provides for NC14 to extend to England and Wales only.

    Amendment 100, page 58, line 20, leave out subsections (7) and (8) .(Stephen Williams.)

    The explanatory statement for amendment 92 also applies to this amendment.

    Clause 52

    Commencement

    Amendments made: 102, page 59, line 5, leave out “section 26 comes” and insert

    “sections 26 and (Expenditure of Greater London Authority on housing or regeneration) come”.

    This provides for NC14 to come into force on the day that the Act is passed.

    Amendment 104, page 59, line 28, leave out subsection (8).

    The explanatory statement for amendment 92 also applies to this amendment.

    Amendment 105, page 59, line 31, leave out “, (6)(c) or (8)” and insert “or (6)(c)”—(Stephen Williams.)

    The explanatory statement for amendment 92 also applies to this amendment.

    Schedule 8

    The electronic Communications Code

    Amendment made: 106, page 122, line 13, leave out schedule 8.(Stephen Williams.)

    The explanatory statement for amendment 91 also applies to this amendment.

    Schedule 9

    The Electronic Communications Code: Consequential Amendments

    Amendment made: 107, page 177, line 17, leave out schedule 9.(Stephen Williams.)

    The explanatory statement for amendment 91 also applies to this amendment.

    New Clause 13

    Cycling and Walking Investment Strategies

    ‘(1) The Secretary of State may at any time—

    (a) set a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy for England, or

    (b) vary a Strategy which has already been set.

    (2) A Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is to relate to such period as the Secretary of State considers appropriate; but a Strategy for a period of more than five years must be reviewed at least once every five years.

    (3) A Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy must specify—

    (a) objectives to be achieved during the period to which it relates, and

    (b) the financial resources to be made available by the Secretary of State for the purpose of achieving those objectives.

    (4) The objectives to be achieved may include—

    (a) activities to be performed;

    (b) results to be achieved;

    (c) standards to be met.

    (5) Before setting or varying a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy the Secretary of State must consult such persons as he or she considers appropriate.

    (6) In considering whether to vary a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy the Secretary of State must have regard to the desirability of maintaining certainty and stability in respect of Cycling and Walking Investment Strategies.

    (7) A Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy must be published in such manner as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

    (8) Where a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy has been published the Secretary of State must from time to time lay before Parliament a report on progress towards meeting its objectives.

    (9) If a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is not currently in place, the Secretary of State must—

    (a) lay before Parliament a report explaining why a Strategy has not been set, and

    (b) set a Strategy as soon as may be reasonably practicable.”. (Mr Hayes.)

    This amendment makes provision for the Secretary of State to set and vary Cycling and Walking Investment Strategies

    Brought up, and read the First time.

  • I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

  • With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

    Government new clause 17—Route strategies.

    Government new clause 18—Periodic reports by the Secretary of State.

    New clause 5—Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy—

    ‘(1) The Secretary of State may at any time—

    (a) set a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy; or

    (b) vary a Strategy which has already been set.

    (2) A Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is to relate to such period as the Secretary of State considers appropriate but must be reviewed as least every five years.

    (3) A Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy must specify—

    (a) the objectives to be achieved during the period to which it relates; and

    (b) the financial resources to be provided by the Secretary of State for the purpose of achieving those objectives.

    (4) The objectives to be achieved may include—

    (a) activities to be performed;

    (b) results to be achieved; and

    (c) standards to be met.

    (5) The Secretary of State must comply with the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy and shall be responsible for updating Parliament annually on his compliance with it.

    (6) If a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is not currently in place, the Secretary of State must—

    (a) lay before Parliament a report explaining why a Strategy has not been set; and

    (b) set a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy as soon as may be reasonably practicable.

    (7) Schedule (Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy: Procedure] (which contains provision about the procedure for setting or varying a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy) has effect.”

    Amendment 4, page 1, line 4, leave out clauses 1 and 2.

    Amendment 5, in clause 3, page 2, line 40, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 6, page 3, line 4, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 43, page 3, line 7, at end insert—

    “(c) the anticipated impact of the Roads Investment Strategy upon the condition and development of the local roads network;

    (d) the anticipated impact of the Roads Investment Strategy upon the provision of local transport, including increasing walking and cycling;

    (e) the anticipated impact of the Roads Investment Strategy on links with other nationally and regionally significant transport and infrastructure projects, including ports and airports, and;

    (f) the anticipated impact of the Roads Investment Strategy on the growth plans of city regions and sub-regional bodies.”

    Amendment 7, page 3, line 16, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 8, page 3, line 18, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 10, in clause 4, page 3, line 27, leave out “A strategic highways company” and insert “The Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 11, page 3, line 32, leave out “A strategic highways company” and insert “The Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 70, page 3, line 34, leave out “the environment, and” and insert

    “air quality and other aspects of the environment, and”.

    The Amendment would add an explicit obligation on the Strategic Highways Company to address air quality, as recommended by the Sixth Report from the Environmental Audit Committee, Action on Air Quality, HC 212, paragraph 61.

    Amendment 12, page 3, line 36, leave out clauses 5 to 7.

    Amendment 13, in clause 8, page 5, line 34, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 14, page 5, line 38, leave out “a strategic highways company’s” and insert “the Highways Agency’s”.

    Amendment 15, page 5, line 42, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 16, in clause 9, page 6, line 22, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 17, page 6, line 26, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.

    Government amendment 112.

    Amendment 18, page 6, line 29, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 19, page 6, line 35, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 20, page 6, line 37, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 21, page 6, line 39, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Government amendments 113 and 114.

    Amendment 22, in clause 10, page 7, line 2, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 23, page 7, line 8, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 24, page 7, line 9, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 25, page 7, line 10, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 26, in clause 11, page 7, line 16, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 27, page 7, line 20, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 28, page 7, line 22, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 29, page 8, line 2, leave out clauses 13 and 14.

    Amendment 30, in clause 15, page 9, line 32, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 31, page 10, line 10, leave out clause 16.

    Government amendments 94 and 101.

    New schedule 1—“Schedule

    Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Strategy: Procedure

    1 This Schedule specifies the procedure by which a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is set or varied.

    2 The proposals in a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy must include details of—

    (a) the objectives to be achieved, including but not limited to—

    (i) increasing the share of travel that is walked and cycled;

    (ii) increasing the proportion of the population that regularly walks or cycles; and

    (iii) improving actual and perceived safety of walking and cycling.

    (b) the financial resources to be provided by the Secretary of State for the purpose of achieving those objectives; and

    (c) the period to which the proposals relate.

    3 Publication of the Cycling and Walking Strategy may be in such manner as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

    4 The Secretary of State may only publish or vary a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy if the Secretary of State has consulted on the proposals with such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

    5 In performing functions under this Schedule, the Secretary of State must have regard to the desirability of maintaining certainty and stability in respect of Cycling and Walking Investment Strategies.”

    Amendment 32, page 60, line 2, leave out schedule 1.

    Amendment 33, in schedule 2, page 87, line 11, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 34, page 87, line 19, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 35, page 87, line 20, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 36, page 87, line 22, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 37, page 87, line 27, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 38, page 88, line 4, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 39, page 88, line 7, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 40, page 88, line 10, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 41, page 88, line 22, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.

    Amendment 42, page 88, line 25, leave out schedule 3.

    Amendment 127, in schedule 3, page 89, line 8, at end insert—

    ‘(2A) The transfer scheme may make consequential, supplementary, incidental or transitional provision and may, if the TUPE regulations do not apply in relation to the transfer, make provision which is the same or similar.”

    Amendment 76, page 92, line 5, at end insert—

    “(d) that person is protected by the conditions set out in the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006.”

    Government amendment 115.

    Amendment 77, page 92, line 5, at end insert—

    ‘(1A) The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 apply to the transfer of a relevant undertaking either.

    (a) to a different company appointed as a highway authority under section 1 of this Act, or

    (b) to any other equivalent public sector body established to undertake general duties of a strategic highways company.”

    Government amendment 116.

  • I rise with some enthusiasm because, as the House knows, cycling has moved up a gear as a result of this Government. New clause 13 reflects the Government’s commitment to cycling and walking, and making these the natural choice for shorter journeys. The cycling fraternity has responded already. No less a personage than Chris Boardman described this proposal as representing

    “a massive shift in thinking and, most importantly, commitment.”

    He went on to say:

    “It brings us one step closer to realising our vision for a cycling nation . . . Everyone who rides a bike should see this as the start of something really exciting.”

    Government have to take difficult decisions, and not everything we do is universally popular, but when one gets such acclamation, one has to—I will not say milk it; that would be wrong—draw it to the attention of the House in a measured and humble way, which is what I intend to do in this short debate about cycling.

    This is certainly an exciting move forward. Since 2010, the Government’s spending on cycling overall has more than doubled compared with the last four years of the previous Administration, with £374 million committed between 2011 and 2015. The Minister responsible for cycling—I do not count that among my encyclopaedic list of responsibilities—is the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill). He has been a champion of this and should be recognised for his efforts and dedication in listening to the issues raised by cycling groups and responding to them.

  • Let us look at some of the facts. Spending on cycling is currently about £6 per person each year across England and £10 per person in London and our eight cycling ambition cities. In November, we announced a further £140 million for the cycling ambition cities, and, through the road investment strategy, a further £100 between 2015 and 2021 for additional cycling provision on the strategic road network. As I am sure the House is aware, in October we published our draft cycling delivery plan—a 10-year strategy on how we plan to increase cycling and walking across England. This plan illustrates the Government’s long-term commitment to cycling and walking. It is in that spirit that we tabled the new clause, which places a duty on the Secretary of State to have just such an investment strategy.

    Each of the strategies, which cover England only, will be set for a given period and must specify objectives to be achieved and the financial resources that will be made available for that purpose. Furthermore, the Secretary of State will be required to report to Parliament on progress on achieving those objectives and, where a strategy applies for a period longer than five years, to ensure that it is reviewed at least once every five years.

  • The Minister is making an important speech. He is setting out a very clear strategy, which is absolutely vital. Does he agree that it is not just the investment but the outcomes that will be so important for the nation, particularly in tackling the growing challenge of physical inactivity?

  • My hon. Friend is right; not for the first time, he highlights these matters. That is precisely why the reporting mechanisms implicit in the new clause are so significant. As he rightly says, it is not enough simply to put in the resources, although we are clearly doing that, as I have shown; it is also important that we measure the effect of those resources. As I said, the arrangements that we have set in motion ensure that these matters are reviewed regularly, and that when setting or varying the strategy we bear in mind the desirability of certainty and stability. We will consult on whether to make a variation once the strategy has been set. For those reasons, I hope that the whole House will join me in welcoming this exciting development.

  • On behalf of everyone else from the all-party cycling group, others who supported the new clause and all the organisations who have worked on this, I thank the Minister for the Government agreeing to do this, because it will make a big difference. Will he update us on what has happened to the draft strategy that came out last year? When should we expect a full-blown strategy to take effect?

  • The new clause, should it turn from a vision to a proposal to a law, will facilitate that strategy and escalate the process by which it is developed and delivered. Much of the work has been done, as the hon. Gentleman implied, but it has now been framed in the most appropriate place—that is, the Bill, which sets in motion a road investment strategy about which I shall wax lyrical in a moment. It would be ironic to have a road investment strategy without having a walking and cycling strategy alongside it. That case was made by cyclists here in the House and beyond, and it is a persuasive one. The hon. Gentleman can look forward to the achievement of his ambitions being carried out with alacrity.

    New clause 5 and new schedule 1 on a cycling strategy are designed to achieve a very similar purpose to new clause 13. The Government’s new clause and amendments make the duty clearer. On that basis, I invite those who gave them life to recognise the progress that has been made and withdraw their amendments.

    I turn to new clause 17 and the important issue of ensuring that the road investment strategy will take account of local issues. Opposition Members made that argument powerfully when we considered these matters in Committee, and the case was made both formally and in informal discussions across the House. The road investment strategy—as I need not remind you, Madam Deputy Speaker, because I know you are intimately familiar with it—is a series of documents that sets out a long-term commitment to road investment, backs that with funding, and determines by empirical means where that money will make the most difference. It was said that the strategy needed to marry with much of what is happening on local roads, which are the preserve of local highways authorities. It was argued that if there were a mismatch between that local activity, and the decision making that takes place in those authorities, and the judgments that are made as part of the bigger strategy, there could be problems of inconsistency, overlap or perhaps even contradiction between local and national ambitions.

    It therefore seemed important that the Government look at the role of route strategies in those terms, and that is precisely what we intend to do. The road investment documents that were issued in December, to much stakeholder acclaim, clearly demonstrated how the investments that we have prioritised will support cities by helping to connect housing sites, enterprise zones and other industrial developments. Just as we have committed to supporting ports, airports and the construction of High Speed 2, the road investment strategy is designed to give a degree of certainty, to build confidence, and to facilitate investment accordingly. This is a significant change in public policy. We are moving from the piecemeal annualised funding of roads to a bigger vision supported by bigger policy assumptions.

  • I very much welcome this plan, because for too long we have had isolated, year-by-year approaches. This will make a real difference, particularly in the north, where we have, for example, the A69 dualling scheme. That was approved for a feasibility study by the Chancellor in the autumn statement, but now we can plan for a long-term future supported by both local enterprise partnerships. Is not this part of the way forward?

  • Yes, that is right. As I said, this is a significant change in terms of public policy assumptions. To be frank—this is not a criticism of a particular Government—post-war Governments have not always approached infrastructure as well as they might have done. There are all kinds of reasons for that, such as a nervousness about binding the hands of one’s successors or a reluctance to get these big decisions wrong. In democratic politics, there is a pressure towards delivering results in a five-year span—understandably, as we all have to be re-elected—and some of the decisions we are making in this strategy will have a payback over a much longer period than that. When building roads, rather like power stations and significant railway projects, the reward in terms of well-being and economic activity has a reverberating effect for many decades. As a result, Governments sometimes do not take these big but necessary decisions that serve the national interest.

  • There is no better illustration of the Minister’s point than the history of A1 dualling over decades. I commend the Government for building in a commitment to, and the means of achieving, a substantial part of that. We would like more to be dualled, but that is a very significant move forward.

  • I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. As he knows, I am a frequent visitor to his constituency for recreational purposes. I tend to holiday on the north-east coast in Bamburgh and other places. I know the road north of Newcastle extremely well, and I am aware of the difficulties in terms of safety and congestion, although we have addressed the issues around Newcastle itself. As he will also know, I have visited the area as a Minister to see first hand some of the challenges and what can be done to overcome them.

  • Will the route strategies include strategies on speed limits? If so, does my right hon. Friend intend to make greater use of variable speed limits, which have been quite successful?

  • Variable speed limits are part of the smart motorway schemes that we are doing immense work on. Indeed, I was speaking about them at lunchtime today. They reflect a greater understanding of and ability to alter the way in which people interface with roads through the provision of dynamic information, and allow us to make much better use of infrastructure once the investment has been made. The way in which people drive, what they drive and the way in which they interface with the information that is provided for them on the road will change considerably over our lifetimes and beyond. It is important that we do not allow any rigidity in public policy to inhibit the developments that will spring from such technological changes.

    My right hon. Friend is right that variable speed limits are an important part of that future. He has been a great champion of them. Indeed, what greater champion of roads and motoring has there been than my right hon. Friend, who has shared many long evenings discussing just these kind of matters with me? I look forward to many more.

    Through the route strategies, Highways England, the body that we are creating, will work closely with local authorities, LEPs and other bodies, including rail bodies, to develop the building blocks of future plans. It will ensure that local roads, local transport, our cities and other modes of transport are considered throughout the strategy development process. That is the point. It is a point that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) made in Committee. It was taken on board by the Government. People call me the people’s Minister, but I would rather be called the listening Minister, because I listen and respond to good argument, and I try to develop politics and policy accordingly.

  • On that basis, I am happy to listen to the hon. Lady.

  • I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, because he is clearly a well travelled Minister, just like the well travelled road. While he is in listening mode, I remind him that when he gave evidence before the Environmental Audit Committee on air quality, he said specifically that the remit of the new body he was creating would include environmental concerns. If he has read our report and listened to what we have said, he will know that we are calling for

    “a legal duty to protect air quality”

    and the introduction of

    “a specific clause to that effect in the Infrastructure Bill”.

    Will he tell us how he has listened and brought that to fruition?

  • Let me say two things, the first of which is how much I enjoy giving evidence before the hon. Lady’s Committee. I have enjoyed many exchanges with her on policy matters over a considerable period. Secondly, I will ensure that environmental considerations are built into all the strategic thinking and the development of all these plans. Air quality should be regarded as a salient that is taken into account in the building blocks, as I have described them, that we put together between local roads and the national strategy.

    Furthermore, the hon. Lady will be delighted to know—indeed, I hope that she will be in the audience—that I will be making a speech in the next few weeks on precisely these issues: the environmental aspects of the strategy and how we need to develop a new paradigm in respect of the environmental impact of infrastructure development. I can tell that the excitement is building in the House as a result of that. I can see that she is excited enough to intervene again.

  • Does what the Minister has just said amount to a legal duty? He has referred to the way in which some of the responsibilities for roads lie with local authorities and some with the new agency. Without a legal duty, it is impossible to see how there can be certainty—rather than uncertainty—that everything possible will be done to reduce air quality problems.

  • Even my audacity does not allow me to make up legal duties on the hoof. I shall take away what the hon. Lady proposes and look at the legal ramifications. I am clear that air quality and the environment are an absolute salient in these matters. As I said, I will ensure that those considerations are built into the development of the strategies, but far be it from me to say what I cannot subsequently justify. I do not want to make up a legal duty as I go along, and I know that she would not expect me to do so.

    Notwithstanding what I have said about the importance of route strategies, I understand that there are those who would like additional reassurance that they will happen. That is why I tabled new clause 17, which will insert a reference to route strategies in the Bill. The Secretary of State will require a strategic highways company to prepare and publish one or more strategies on the management and development of the highways to which it has been appointed, which will be known as route strategies. The strategies must be published, as must the Secretary of State’s directions to the company, so we have provided that the process will be transparent and comprehensible. The new clause, along with the provisions in the statutory directions and guidance, which we have updated, provides reassurance, while giving Highways England the flexibility to adapt the route strategy process to meet the needs of cities, the country as a whole and the Government of the day. It is clear that, as a result of new clause 17, amendment 43 is not needed, so I ask that it not be pressed.

  • The title of the new body that will oversee the work of Highways England was raised in Committee. It was argued that the Office of Rail Regulation was, nominally at least, an inappropriate description of a body that will oversee road investment, as well as the rail strategy. In giving the Office of Rail Regulation new responsibilities over the roads sector, we risk causing public confusion over its remit. I agreed in Committee to reflect further and to return with a view on how such an undesirable situation might be avoided.

    Amendment 114 will alter the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 to allow the ORR to be renamed through secondary legislation. It does not rename the ORR, but creates a power for the Government to do so. I have discussed the matter with the ORR. It wants to discuss it in a consultation. As you can imagine, Madam Deputy Speaker, when that was said, I took a step back because consultations bring forth images of curious names being devised by all sorts of curious people. I therefore suggested that the ORR hold a short discussion with its stakeholders, who would want to have a say in any such changes. However, that should be a short and straightforward process, and not a great national conversation. We do not need one of those in respect of the renaming of the Office of Rail Regulation. As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield pointed out, it will not actually be a regulatory body in respect of roads, so we need to be careful about the name so that we do not cause the very confusion that we are trying to avoid or prevent.

    My preference would be to call the organisation the office for rail and road. To give credit where credit is due, that was first suggested by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield. [Hon. Members: “Ah!”] I am an honest chap. I do not want to steal his thunder. It is a jolly good idea. It has a certain elegance, after all. Never underestimate the importance of style. Substance matters, but style matters too.

    I urge Members to support Government amendments 115 and 116. I am determined that staff who transfer to the new organisation should not be disadvantaged in respect of terms and conditions. I have given assurances to the House that that is the case and intend, through the amendments, to reaffirm those protections and the stated commitment that the transfer of employees to Highways England will follow TUPE principles.

  • Will the Minister clarify the difference between staff transferring under TUPE and under his proposal in amendment 115?

  • I am coming to that. In shorthand, let me assure the hon. Gentleman that I do not want staff to be disadvantaged in any way, as I said. We will honour TUPE principles in this transfer of staff.

    Amendment 115 makes it clear that when existing Highways Agency staff transfer to the new company, their employment terms and conditions will not change. I recognise that the changes that are planned for the Highways Agency will cause anxiety for existing staff. The amendment confirms that the existing rights and liabilities of staff will not change following transfer to the new organisation.

  • I will make a little progress and then let the hon. Gentleman come back.

    The Bill provides that a transferring employee can terminate their contract if there is a substantial detrimental change to it if they transfer. That reflects regulation 4(9) of TUPE. Government amendment 116 supplements that by providing that where the employee claims constructive dismissal in those circumstances, no damages are payable in respect of any unpaid wages that relate to a notice period he or she has not worked. I should stress that the amendment does not prevent employees from claiming for damages for constructive dismissal, but seeks to establish a common-sense position that damages cannot be claimed for a period of required notice that has not been worked. I should highlight that the amendment ensures that the provisions in the Bill properly reflect TUPE in that regard.

  • I should like to press the Minister to clarify Government amendment 116. From what he has said, it seems that the intention is to put the TUPE principles into the Bill. The amendment contains the words “constructive dismissal”. It seems to me—this is certainly the advice we have had—that that is inappropriate. Will he look again?

  • The hon. Gentleman, with the courtesy he personifies, raised that with me before we came to the House today. I have committed to take another look at that through the parliamentary draftsman. There is no intention to disadvantage staff in that regard. I give that absolute assurance, but I will double-check the language, because language in such things matters. He and I are in discussion and I have committed to write to him as soon as possible, and certainly before the matter is discussed further, to clarify the use of the language to which he has drawn the House’s attention.

  • Will the Minister clarify why he has used a formulation unused in any other legislation in the past? I have set out the various options in three amendments showing what the Government have used in past legislation to assure staff that they are transferring either under TUPE or under the Cabinet Office statement of practice, the TUPE-like agreement that the Cabinet Office agreed with the trade unions involved. Why are we not using the past formulations?

  • Originality and imagination are part of my style. I said style is as important as substance. The substance is in the Bill; the style is all my own. The important thing is that, having met staff representatives on 13 January, I am fully aware that there are other aspects they want me to look at. I fully recognise the concerns they raised. Some of those issues need to be considered further, and I have asked my officials to pursue those matters urgently. In the spirit that I have described, I will not allow staff to be disadvantaged by any changes. The House has my absolute assurance on that. Government amendments 115 and 116 reaffirm our commitment that existing Highways Agency staff terms and conditions should be protected, as I have described.

    New clause 18 places a responsibility on the Government to report periodically to Parliament on the performance of Highways England. I have introduced this to reassure some who fear that Ministers will lose control of Highways England, and that they will have no accountability to Parliament if Highways England fails to deliver. It is absolutely right that the new body can get on and deliver the strategy that the Government devise, establish and agree, but let me be clear that should the implementation and delivery of the strategy require further involvement, direction or adjustment by Ministers, in concert with the House, the ability to make those changes must be established in the Bill. I am absolutely clear that Highways England must report to the House, and that Members on both sides of the House must have the chance to scrutinise its work. Ministers must have a role, indeed play a key role, in the delivery of the strategy.

    It might be true to say that the greatest challenge we face is getting the delivery right. We have surmounted an important hurdle in developing a strategy founded on empiricism and backed with funding for the long term—more than £15 billion up to 2021—but it will happen only if we have in place the right resources, skills and partnerships, and the right range of other organisations, to make it happen. It would be inappropriate if Ministers and all hon. Members were not involved in that process. I expect directions to emanate from the Department for Transport periodically—it is not meant to be an exceptional power. I expect reports to be made to the House periodically. That, too, should not be a matter of exception. That was raised at length by the shadow Minister. The strong governance arrangements and framework we have put in place provide some of the measures he sought when he argued the case for greater accountability.

    The use of directions in the licence will allow the Government to exert control over how the company exercises its statutory functions. In addition, as sole shareholder the Secretary of State can ensure that the company is properly led and governed. More detail is in the summary document published in December, but I will write again on some of those matters following today’s consideration.

    Opposition Front Benchers and all Members of the House will be familiar with the new copy of the licence, which strengthens those provisions, and which was provided to hon. Members on 22 January and placed in the Library of the House. Let me say again that if there are problems with performance, I expect Ministers to make use of those directions; I expect Parliament to see the Highways monitor’s report on the impact; and I expect Ministers to ensure that Parliament is informed of how issues have been resolved.

    It is obvious from the amendments that were tabled that I need to explain why we need to change the status of the Highways Agency and create an arm’s length body, and I am happy to repeat an argument I made earlier. Let me start with the point of view that some suggest—they suggest that we should do nothing more than implement a road investment strategy without changing the structure necessary to deliver it. Of course, the Highways Agency would make every effort to do so efficiently, and of course we would have some success in delivering that strategy, but we need to understand that if we are to deliver the strategy, we need to make significant changes to the existing arrangements.

    The relationship between the agency and the Government has on occasions failed to reflect the wider interests of the economy and the long-term interests of taxpayers and road users. The measure is about providing a clearer, more strategic role for the Government, and providing a stronger, more certain framework, through the licence and the road investment strategy and the framework document, for the organisation mission to deliver those important infrastructural changes to our nation. By the way, those changes are not just about economic well-being; they are also about societal and communal well-being.

    The industry is keen to see change both in the way funding is committed and in the way the Highways Agency is constructed. In the call for evidence for the Bill, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association said:

    “Even with an apparently committed five year programme, not transforming the Highways Agency into an arms-length body could still leave it a target, should future Governments decide cuts to spending…The supply chain…has confidence that the creation of a Government-owned company would significantly reduce the likelihood of this happening.”

    The CBI said that business welcomes the Government’s important decision to reform the Highways Agency to a more independent body, giving it greater funding certainty through fixed five to six-year funding cycles.

    The road investment strategy provides a logical and credible commitment between two separate parties—the focus of the company is on delivering its operational objectives, and the focus of the Government is on providing a long-term funding stream. I know that some fear we will lose control of the reins of the company. That is why I have gone as far as I have in the framework document, the licence and the Bill. We will also of course have the monitor—the new body that will oversee the operation of the new arrangements. That is all in line with the conclusions of the Public Administration Committee’s recent report on the relationship between Government and arm’s length bodies, which said:

    “Relationships should be high trust and low cost, but too often are low trust and high cost.”

    On that basis, I resist amendments 5 to 42 which would remove the relevant clauses or reinsert the words “Highways Agency”.

  • In conclusion, the Bill will transform the quality of our roads infrastructure, secure delivery, drive growth and provide the network operator with the stability needed to deliver a better service for those who rely on and use our roads, as well as generating £2.6 billion over 10 years in additional savings. These changes will provide certainty for the industry and help it to get ready for the significant increases in investment over the next few years, with the confidence to recruit and train skilled workers. That confidence will mean that suppliers can build capability for the future and sign longer-term contracts with a new company at reduced cost to the taxpayer.

    In short, these changes will lead us towards the effective, long-term planning and development of the world-class national road infrastructure that road users deserve. In that spirit and with that confidence, bold, but humble—because, as I said, we must listen and learn through the process of scrutiny—I am proud to commend the Government’s new clauses and ask that the other amendments, which would create a very different model, be withdrawn.

  • Time is clearly short, so I will be as brief as I can be in having to cover a wide range of amendments and issues.

    The Minister began by mentioning the walking and cycling issues covered by the amendments and new clauses. For too long, walking and cycling have been an afterthought in transport policy, given attention only when the end of the list is reached and the tick needs to be put in the box. There is now widespread consensus on the need for change. Getting more people walking and cycling will improve our nation’s health, tackle congestion and make our towns and cities better places to live.

    We lag behind many other countries. Just 2% of overall journeys are made by bike and walking levels continue to decline. Some 64% of all journeys are made by car, but more than half of them are shorter than five miles, with a fifth being under a mile. We need to move walking and cycling to the mainstream of transport policy. We raised that point time after time in the other place and in Committee. In the other place, Labour secured an explicit consideration of pedestrian and cyclist safety in the Bill, and that is to be welcomed. In Committee, we pressed the Government to include a long-term strategy and funding for active travel, but sadly they voted against our plans. One always welcomes a sinner who repents, but if that was the Government’s intention all along, why did they oppose our amendments in Committee?

    The Government’s change of course is a credit to the cross-party members of the all-party cycling group; to cycling groups such as British Cycling and the CTC; to transport campaigners such as Living Streets, Sustrans, the Campaign for Better Transport and the Campaign to Protect Rural England; and the Richmond group of health charities. They have all put the right kind of pressure on in the past two weeks to secure this change, which we welcome.

    The new clauses and amendments tabled by the Minister are almost identical to those tabled earlier, with the exception that the original contained an explicit obligation on the Secretary of State to “comply” with the strategy. The absence of that word may not mean anything significant, but perhaps that could be clarified.

    The Bill will turn the Highways Agency into a wholly owned Government company. We support road investment strategies to give the roads sector the same funding certainty as the railways, to enable efficiency savings to be delivered in the supply chain and to improve infrastructure planning. Most reviews of the Highways Agency—most recently the Cook review of 2011—have shown that the ending of stop-start Government funding could cut costs on the strategic road network, construction maintenance and management by 15% to 20%. We support that, but we will continue to ask the Government why we need a top-down reorganisation of the Highways Agency to deliver that strategy.

    We have still not had the evidence for that. The only real evidence I have seen is an EC Harris paper in 2009, which found that motorway construction costs were higher per lane kilometre in the UK than in Holland, where the road operator is at arm’s length. If we look closely, however, we see that the additional costs in the UK were from CCTV, speed enforcement and vehicle recovery services, which are funded separately under the Dutch model. The additional costs also come from higher technical standards for pavements and structures, more complex ground conditions, design solutions and drainage provisions. Therefore, there is not the evidence to say that the Government need to have that top-down reorganisation. We are not convinced. We have debated this and scrutinised it in two Houses of Parliament, but there is no substantial evidence to prove that an institutional reorganisation, with estimated transitional costs of £100 million, is needed. That is why we will be moving to delete the clauses from the Bill today, while maintaining a commitment to the road investment strategy.

    The Minister touched on accountability. I welcome the changes and amendments he has made. There are still some pretty fundamental questions, however, about primary accountability and responsibility. We cannot allow the Secretary of State to become a third party commentator on the performance of a company and the state of the road network: he must be answerable for it. The Minister has said that he completely signs up to that and I believe that that is his intention, but if so why are we having to debate a structure that separates responsibility for the road network from ministerial responsibility? In the absence of any real evidence to prove that this is needed, is it any surprise that many people are worried that this could become—not now, but in the future—a way of creating an increasingly contracted out, carved out and removed from public control structure? That is causing concern from organisations as diverse as the Public and Commercial Services Union, Prospect and the Alliance of British Drivers, right the way through to members of the British Chambers of Commerce. Our amendment would keep the oversight mechanisms of a monitor and road user watchdog in place, even if we did not go ahead with the reform of the Highways Agency.

    The Minister talked about route strategies. He was right to do so, as they have been a major part of the discussion in Committee and elsewhere. Our concern is that, while reform and investment in the strategic highway network is absolutely necessary, we have to remember that the changes and the whole Bill affect just 2% of roads. The Department for Transport’s own research shows that 90% of the public are satisfied with those roads. That is not to say that there should be any complacency, but it does not affect the 98% of local roads that people rely on every day. It is here that we see the pothole epidemic, and it is here that we see record public dissatisfaction and congestion levels estimated to rise by 61% by 2040, so it is crucial that strategic road plans support city, county and regional growth plans and help councils to improve road conditions and to tackle congestion. Strategic roads must be co-planned with local networks and other transport modes so that we can really improve people’s everyday journeys and reduce traffic congestion.

    I am pleased that pressure from Labour and transport campaigners has secured a greater priority for local roads and joined-up transport thinking in the Bill, and I thank the Minister for the movements he has made, but we need to go further. We need to get our entire transport system working as a connected whole. That is why we want Network Rail and the new company to sit down and map and plan road and rail routes together, and not only to take reasonable account of each other’s views. We want to ensure that local authorities and devolved bodies are represented at board level in the company, too. There are long-running difficulties in joining up local and strategic roads to get the network moving as one. We do not agree that “considering” local views and allowing local authorities to align their plans with a company is enough.

    For that reason, our amendment 43 sets out some safeguards to ensure that the road investment strategy is a genuine co-product of plans with other transport networks, devolved growth plans and local transport provision, including walking and cycling, and to ensure that the road investment strategy is developed in consideration of the condition of local roads, a third of which, we know, are in urgent need of attention. Under the Government’s plans, £1.4 million per mile will be spent on the maintenance of strategic roads, but only £31,700 per mile is allocated to local roads. I hope that hon. Members will seriously consider the safeguards that we have argued for and which have been supported by the Local Government Association and others today.

    Throughout this debate, it has been clear that infrastructure must be planned to meet clear economic, social and environmental objectives, but we have seen from previous debates on energy and planning that the Bill has often fallen far short of doing that. Along with groups such as the Campaign for Better Transport and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, therefore, we have pressed for obligations to ensure that strategic roads investment improves our environment. That means action to meet legally binding climate change targets by 2050. Worryingly, the Department’s forecast predicts that although road traffic emissions will flatten they will then start to increase in the 2030s. We need urgent action, therefore, to tackle air pollution, which is estimated to be killing up to 29,000 people prematurely each year, and vehicle emissions, such as particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen, which are major sources of the problem.

    The road investment strategy states that the new company should make progress towards reducing the negative impacts on air quality, but in the light of the Government’s record on air quality that is not very reassuring—a point to which my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley) alluded earlier. The UK is not compliant with EU limits on air pollution now. In November, the European Court of Justice said that urgent action was needed, but under this Government’s plan we will not be compliant until 2030, and that simply is not good enough. That is why we are asking for much greater action than is in the Bill; why we have committed to a national framework of low-emission zones to help local authorities tackle the problem; and why we are pleased to support amendment 70, which my hon. Friend tabled, and which would add an explicit obligation on the new company to address air quality issues.

    I wish to say a word about transfers—I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) will want to say something about this as well. I welcome the Minister’s assurances in Committee that the terms and conditions of employees transferring will not diminish—I believe he meant it, and it was good he met the trade unions—but, as my hon. Friend said, one issue remains: if the TUPE regulations, or the mechanisms used to apply them in other reorganisations, are to apply, why has that not been enshrined in the Bill? As the Bill continues its passage, I hope that those issues will be addressed further, and I welcome the Minister’s clarification today that he will come back to us on the question of constructive dismissal, on which the Bill does not currently make sense.

    The road reforms could have done so much more to fix Britain’s roads. A constituent of mine wrote to me last week:

    “I have major concerns about the ill thought out proposals which will do nothing to assist the UK economically and will be of great concern to road users.”

    I think a lot of people would agree with that. We need to ensure that infrastructure decisions are based on national independent evidence-based assessments, which could be done if we set up the national infrastructure commission; we need to facilitate more efficient joint road and rail planning, which could have been done had our amendments been accepted; and we need to join up local and strategic roads to get the whole network moving. Unfortunately, the Bill is a wasted opportunity. Its centrepiece, before all the others things were added, was another top-down reorganisation that cannot deliver the changes our road network needs.

  • Several hon. Members

    rose—

  • Order. I remind hon. Members that the debate ends in 16 minutes, because the knife will fall at 9 o’clock, so it would be helpful if each Member spoke briefly to enable everyone to make their points. We will start voting at 9 o’clock.

  • It has been a long struggle for many of us, and I congratulate hon. Members of all parties on instituting, bringing forward and finally getting Government agreement on the cycling strategy, which I shall briefly address.

    We have spoken in various debates over many years to get where we are, but as with all the best cycling strategies, if we stick at it and power on through, the destination is always worth the journey. I congratulate the various cycling groups behind the campaign. Speaking as someone who cycles to work here in Westminster and at home in the great county of Northumberland, I say that whether it be off road in Kielder or taking the highways and the byways, this is without a shadow of a doubt one of our finest assets.

    This decision by the Government, and the reaching of cross-party agreement on it, will definitely be welcomed in Northumberland. There is a tremendous desire there for a cycling strategy. We have looked enviously at the city of Newcastle, which has enjoyed £6 million to £7 million of cycling investment. That is wonderful for Newcastle, but has been somewhat to the disadvantage of us in Northumberland. While we now have an integrated strategy, I genuinely feel that there is an opportunity for our constituents to get the cycling strategy that they so enthusiastically require.

    Locals have already prepared strategies for Hexham, Prudhoe and other towns in Tynedale and Castle Morpeth. I am pleased to say that Northumberland county council has at last got into gear, and it needs to pitch to the Government for the funding; otherwise the cycling groups in my area will definitely be disappointed and potentially left behind. That is not something that anybody wants.

    Let me finish by saying that I do not believe we can improve tourism without a cycling strategy; I do not think we can improve our health, the obesity problem and pollution without a cycling strategy; I do not believe we can improve the cost of living that is an issue for so many people without a cycling strategy; and I certainly think we could do great things to improve the quality of life if we had such a strategy.

  • Everyone is aware that the Environmental Audit Committee has now drawn up three reports on air quality. We came up with a series of recommendations, clearly showing that there is no one single solution to the problem of improving air quality and that we need a raft of measures. Cycling and walking are certainly part of that, and I am very pleased with the progress that has been made. It is imperative for the Minister to do exactly what he said he would do, and give further serious consideration to the amendments tabled, following the Environmental Audit Committee discussions, about how placing a legal duty on the new Highways Agency is critical if we are to deal with the public health issues.

    I see the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), who chairs the Health Select Committee, in her place. The whole House is aware that we have something in the order of 29,000 premature deaths a year. We know that air pollution is an invisible killer. It is vital that when the new agency comes to do its work, it does not just look at the environmental appraisal, but ensure that it has real teeth. We need real ways to plan roads and provide green walls to help reduce pollution, and to look at layout and public transport integration. The whole integrated approach to public transport needs to be taken on board. Without the legal commitment, which I hope will come forward in the other place, we cannot begin to tackle the problem of our being in breach of EU regulations. We must deal urgently with that.

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) for saying that he would support amendment 70. At this stage, it is incumbent on us to see what progress can be made by the Government in the other place.

  • I warmly welcome the cycling and walking strategy. It is not just a cycling and walking strategy; it is a cycling and walking investment strategy. As the Minister knows, good cycling infrastructure does not happen without that vital investment. I am particularly pleased to see the words “certainty” and “stability” in new clause 13. That is what it is all about, and it is how Holland achieved its objectives. It makes it appropriate for the Minister to be the Member for South Holland and the Deepings. Holland achieved its goals by having £24 a head of stable, long-term investment. If we can get that level of investment—£10 to £20 a head has been called for in the all-party cycling group—we can do the same. I pay tribute to all my colleagues in the all-party cycling group for the work they did, and I commend the cycling report. I warmly welcome the opportunity of discussing the issue with the Minister responsible for cycling, the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), who is in his place.

    I think that we can expect an increase in the number of cycling journeys from 2% in 2011 to 10% within a decade, which will have enormous benefits for health. I hope there will be investment in not just infrastructure but training, and that cycle to work schemes will, in some form, be extended to young people. I warmly thank the Secretary of State for tabling the new clause, and look forward to seeing the health and well-being of the nation improve as a result.

  • On Second Reading I echoed the fear that had been expressed by Highways Agency staff that this was the first stage of a privatisation process. Since then, the Minister has written to various Members saying that the Bill will not privatise the agency or any part of it. It is true that the Bill contains no such provision, but the staff nevertheless feel that they are being packaged up into an organisation and that the second stage will be privatisation, along with tolling.

    The Minister has also given an assurance that the roads investment strategy budget will no longer be annualised, but the chief executive has made clear to staff that the revenue budget for the maintenance of the new company will be annualised. Staff fear cuts and the prospect of being transferred to a company that will be privatised in due course.

    It is crucial for committed, dedicated professionals who, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden), have done everything asked of them by this and the last Government over the years to be secure in the knowledge that they will have a job following the transfer. Both Governments have normally provided that assurance by including a reference to TUPE in legislation. In some instances, however, that may not be appropriate.

    TUPE usually obtains when a group of staff have been transferred from the public sector to the private sector. When the transfer is between Government agencies, or from the Government to an agency, a formal agreement called COSOP operates. It was initiated by the last Government, and has been confirmed by this one, and it is negotiated and signed off by the Cabinet Office. My amendment 127 provides that

    “if the TUPE regulations do not apply in relation to the transfer”

    the transfer scheme may

    “make provision which is the same or similar.”

    There is real anxiety about the fact that the form of words used by the Government does not include such a provision, and hence does not abide by the agreement reached by them and by the last Government with the trade unions.

    Amendment 115 refers to

    “all the rights and liabilities relating to the person’s contract of employment.”

    The transfer of undertakings extends beyond the basic contract of employment to a range of other assurances that should be given to staff on transfer. That is why people are worried, and I feel that we will lose some very dedicated professional staff as a result of the lack of commitment that is being given to the staff who have served us so well. I urge the Minister to reconsider, and to translate into the Bill a form of words that has been used in every other Bill, relating either to TUPE or to similar arrangements. If he does not do so, the staff will remain anxious and concerned.

  • It is a pleasure to have an opportunity to speak at the end of the debate, and to see the new clause make progress.

    As I think the House knows by now, the case for cycling and walking is incredibly strong. It is a great way to travel. It is environmentally friendly, healthy, reliable, cheap and fun. It cuts congestion, so that everyone else benefits as well. It boosts the economy, it saves money and it saves lives. Public Health England recently said that one in six deaths was due to physical inactivity. What we do to promote physical activity helps people to improve their health.

    The all-party parliamentary cycling group set some targets during the Get Britain Cycling inquiry. If we achieved those targets, about 80,000 disability-adjusted life years would be saved each year by 2025. That is a huge number. When mental as well as physical health is taken into account, the financial savings would amount to between £2 billion and £6 billion, and the national health service would save £17 billion a year if we could reach the Dutch and Danish levels. That is worth investing in. That will save money as well as lives.

    The case is strong, and that is why in our report we called for spending of up to £10—heading towards £20—per person per year. The report was supported not only by all the cycling organisations, of course, and by Living Streets, a pedestrian group, but by organisations such as the Automobile Association. All forms of transport want to see this happen, and business does, too. The director general of the CBI has called for a major effort to expand the dedicated cycle network, and it is very good that the Government have agreed and are doing the right thing by supporting this amendment. I thank the Minister with responsibility for cycling, the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), in particular. I remember when the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) and I tried to talk to him, and I am glad he has managed to deliver on what he knows is the right thing.

    This amendment has been backed not only by the cycling organisations, but by health organisations—all of them, ranging from the British Heart Foundation to Age UK, to Macmillan, and to Rethink Mental Illness. This is clearly a popular thing to do, therefore.

    This Government have made progress on the policy on cycling and walking. We have seen more money go in to this policy than ever before, and I welcome that. The £241 million from the Deputy Prime Minister is the largest single investment in cycling, but it goes nowhere near far enough. To get the benefits I spoke about, we must have the money going in. This strategy says there has to be some, but it does not say how much. My party is committed to the £10 per person per year that was agreed by this House and the cross-party group. It would also be something we would enshrine as part of our green transport Act.

    I would love to see the other parties join in. I know that Back Benchers on both sides of the House are supportive, but I also know that the Front Benches on both sides are against this—or at least they have been so far. At the beginning of this year we saw an awful spat with the Conservatives putting out something saying that Labour is going to spend £63 million on cycling, as though that was too much. Unfortunately, we saw Labour respond by saying that that was nonsense and that Labour was not committed to spending any money on cycling. I hope both Front Benches will fix that, because I know their Back Benchers would like to see that happen. I know the shadow Minister was taken to task by the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) for not committing any money to cycling. I hope both sides and all parties will join us in committing to cycling and walking, because it is not enough to have a strategy; we have to put the resources in and we have to make sure they are available. We can do that and we should do it, and it is something this House has voted for. I hope it will become a reality in the next few months and after the general election as well.

  • I will address matters in reverse order to add excitement. On cycling and spending, I said at the outset, but repeat for the sake of clarity, that this Government have committed to spend £374 million between 2011 and 2015. We have more than doubled spending on cycling compared with the last four years of the previous Government. As I said, about £6 per person each year across England and £10 per person in London is being spent as part of cycle city ambition. Of course we understand that the strategies have to be funded and that money matters, and the Government put their money where their mouth is.

    On the circumstances of staff, let me be absolutely crystal clear once again that it is not our intention to disadvantage staff. Far from it. I want to ensure that they are treated properly and fairly in their terms and conditions and all that that means. There is no hidden agenda, despite what the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) says; there is nothing under the bed that he should fear. The plan is to be absolutely straightforward, transparent and fair to all those staff transferring from the existing organisation to the new one. I have already said I will come back to the shadow Minister on the particular point he raised in his intervention.

    Finally, we do believe a new body is necessary. This new strategy requires a structural change in the way the strategy is delivered. This is a complex argument, but I will try to make it as cogently as I can in less than a minute. It is probably true to say that the existing Highways Agency is too close to Government and too far away from Government. The new arrangements, with the framework, the licence and the statutory requirements to be put in place under this Bill, mean that this new body will be close to Government but far enough away to deliver the Government’s objectives. That is our proposal. I think it has force. It has been widely welcomed and I hope the Opposition will come to the view that most others have: that this is an idea whose time has come.

  • Debate interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

    The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the clause be read a Second time.

    Question agreed to.

    New clause 13 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

    The Deputy Speaker then put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

    New Clause 17

    Route strategies

    “(1) The Secretary of State must from time to time direct a strategic highways company to prepare proposals for the management and development of particular highways in respect of which the company is appointed (“a route strategy”).

    (2) A route strategy must relate to such period as the Secretary of State may direct.

    (3) The strategic highways company must—

    (a) comply with a direction given to it under subsection (1), and

    (b) publish the route strategy in such manner as the company considers appropriate.

    (4) A direction under subsection (1) must be published by the Secretary of State in such manner as he or she considers appropriate.”—(Mr Hayes.)

    This amendment inserts a new clause requiring the Secretary of State to direct a strategic highways company to prepare route strategies. The company must comply with such a direction and publish route strategies in such manner as it considers appropriate.

    Brought up, and added to the Bill.

    New Clause 18

    Periodic reports by the Secretary of State

    “(1) The Secretary of State must from time to time prepare and publish reports on the manner in which a strategic highways company exercises its functions.

    (2) The Secretary of State must lay a report prepared under subsection (1) before Parliament.”—(Mr Hayes.)

    This amendment would place a duty on the Secretary of State to prepare and publish reports on the exercise by a strategic highways company of its functions.

    Brought up, and added to the Bill.

    Amendment proposed: 4, page 1, line 4, leave out clauses 1 and 2.—(Richard Burden.)

    Question put, That the amendment be made.

    Division 142

    26 January 2015

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 203
    Noes: 323

    Question accordingly negatived.

    View Details

    Clause 9

    Monitor

    Amendments made: 112, page 6, line 28, at end insert “, and

    (c) the effect of directions and guidance given by the Secretary of State to a strategic highways company under this Part.”

    This amendment provides that the activities of the Office of Rail Regulation may include investigating, publishing reports or giving advice on the effect of directions and guidance under Part 1 of the Bill.

    Amendment 113, page 6, line 42, at end insert—

    “(8) The Secretary of State must lay a report published by the Office under this section before Parliament.”

    This amendment provides a duty for the Secretary of State to lay a report published by the Office of Rail Regulation before Parliament.

    Amendment 114, page 6, line 42, at end insert—

    ‘(9) In Part 2 (Office of Rail Regulation) of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, after section 15 insert—

    “15A Change of name

    (1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for the body established by section 15 to be known by a different name.

    (2) Regulations under this section may amend this Act or any other enactment, whenever passed or made.

    (3) Regulations under this section are to be made by statutory instrument.

    (4) A statutory instrument which contains regulations under this section is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.”’—(Mr Hayes.)

    This amendment inserts a new section 15A into the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 which provides for the Secretary of State to change the name of the Office of Rail Regulation by regulations. The regulations may also make amendments to legislation which are consequential on the name change.

    Clause 51

    Extent

    Amendment made: 94, page 57, line 45, at end insert—

    ‘( ) Part 1A (Cycling and Walking Investment Strategies) extends to England and Wales only.”—(Mr Hayes.)

    This amendment provides for the new clause relating to Cycling and Walking Investment Strategies, which it is intended will form a new Part after Part 1, to extend to England and Wales only.

    Clause 52

    Commencement

    Amendment made: 101, page 58, line 32, at end insert—

    “( ) Part 1A (Cycling and Walking Investment Strategies) comes into force on such day as the Secretary of State appoints by regulations.”—(Mr Hayes.)

    This amendment provides for the new clause relating to Cycling and Walking Investment Strategies, which it is intended will form a new Part after Part 1, to come into force by regulations.

    Schedule 3

    Transfer schemes

    Amendments made: 115, page 92, line 5, at end insert—

    “(1A) Where in accordance with a scheme a person employed by a transferor becomes an employee of a transferee, the scheme must provide for the transfer of all the rights and liabilities relating to the person’s contract of employment.”

    This amendment requires a transfer scheme to provide for the transfer to the transferee of all of the transferor’s rights and liabilities relating to a person’s contract of employment, where the person becomes employed by the transferee as a result of the scheme.

    Amendment 116, page 92, line 19, at end insert—

    “(3A) No damages are payable by virtue of a constructive dismissal occurring under sub-paragraph (3) in respect of unpaid wages relating to a notice period which the employee has not worked.”—(Mr Hayes.)

    This amendment provides that, where a transferred employee claims constructive dismissal as a result of a substantial detrimental change made to the employee’s working conditions, no damages are payable in respect of any unpaid wages relating to a notice period which the employee has not worked.

    Title

    Amendment made: 108, line 15, leave out

    “to make provision about the electronic communications code;”. —(Mr Hayes.)

    The explanatory statement for amendment 92 also applies to this amendment.

    Third Reading

    Queen’s consent signified.

  • I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

    This is a Bill for the long term. As I said on Second Reading, Governments of all persuasions neglect the long term. Perhaps that is only human—[Interruption.]

  • Order. Perhaps Members leaving the Chamber could do so quietly. Secretary of State, that means you as well—we want to hear your eloquent Minister move the Third Reading.

  • It is bewildering, Madam Deputy Speaker, that Members do not want to stay and hang on my every word. It is bizarre. I know you agree.

    On Second Reading, we said the Government were determined to put in place a strategy, backed by statutory changes, that allowed us to invest in this nation’s future. I was about to say that it is only human nature to focus on the immediate, on the imminent. It is easy to forget that the present is an illusion, as now becomes then in an instant; it is the past that matters and the future. As I said a few moments ago when we were debating the Government amendments, it is easy for Governments to neglect infrastructure investment for just that reason. This Bill looks beyond short-term political expediency to a future of greater investment—a future of more jobs, more opportunities and more growth. This Bill improves the funding and management of our major roads, streamlining the planning process, particularly for major projects, and so facilitating investment. It also supports house building; introduces rights for communities to buy a stake in new, commercial renewable electricity schemes; boosts our energy security and economic growth by making the most of North sea oil and gas reserves; and facilitates shale gas and geothermal development. This is a bold Bill, introduced by a far-sighted Administration.

    A few moments ago, we debated some of the measures we will introduce to act on the road investment strategy—the exciting strategy I was delighted to be part of, alongside the Secretary of State for Transport, who is here, adding glamour and insight to our consideration today. He was its architect and under his stewardship it has come to pass. This is the most exciting road investment strategy for a generation, and this Bill makes the statutory changes necessary to deliver it. We have committed to Highways England remaining in the public sector. Let me repeat that this is not about privatisation; it is about a public sector organisation fit for purpose. We will not diminish the fundamental accountability to parliamentarians, which I am so keen will allow us to gauge, monitor and, if necessary, alter things over time, but without compromising the essential role of the new body to deliver the plans we have set in motion.

    In addition, as the House knows, we have amended the legislation further to ensure better integration between local and national networks through route strategies. As has been celebrated throughout the House this evening, we have also committed to setting and reporting upon a cycling and walking investment strategy, acknowledging the strategic importance of those things for the first time. We have had more tributes tonight than a ’60s pop band for that change. In total, this paradigm shift to a longer-term vision for transport infrastructure will give the construction industry the certainty and confidence it needs to invest in people and skills for the future. That clear vision, with the confidence it breeds and the investment it will bring, is crucial to the health and well-being of our nation.

    In planning we have a number of measures designed to help get Britain building. The Bill makes changes to speed up the approval of nationally significant infrastructure projects and to the discharge of planning conditions that will ensure planning applicants can get on and build without unnecessary delay. The small changes in the Bill will have an important cumulative impact: they will send a clear message to investors and developers that the steps to deliver these transformational schemes are as simple, sensible and straightforward as possible. We have responded to concerns and shared the draft statutory instrument on deemed discharge in advance. Our Land Registry reforms will enable proper record keeping and modern digital efficiency, with the aim of making dealings with property quicker, cheaper and easier.

    On zero-carbon homes, the “allowable solutions” approach is cost-effective and practical, and it has been welcomed by the Home Builders Federation, the UK Green Building Council and Federation of Master Builders. We have also introduced new legislation related to planning. The abolition of the Public Works Loans Board removes—

  • Before my right hon. Friend leaves the issue of planning, may I ask him about new clauses 12 and 20, tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert)? Obviously, there was no possibility for a Minister to respond to the points he and I made on those clauses, but if the Minister has a moment to say a word or two on them, I am sure my constituents in the royal town of Sutton Coldfield would be grateful.

  • I am delighted to amplify the remarks that I made in an earlier intervention and say that we do take very seriously the remarks made by my right hon. Friend and the amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert). We will take the necessary steps to ensure that the spirit that underpinned those amendments is realised in respect of Government policy. I must say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield has been a doughty champion of the interests of the people in his constituency in this regard. He is right that development needs to enjoy community support, to be proportionate and, in my judgment, to inspire and to elevate. Is that too much to ask for in our age? I say that it is not.

    The introduction of mayoral development orders will allow the Mayor of London to assist local authorities to regenerate London. Across the nation, these planning reforms will help kick-start a new era of construction that is fit for purpose.

    Tonight, we have also debated energy. Some of the measures that we have introduced are designed to assist our current and future energy needs. We will take a lead in improving global transparency in the extractive sector by participating in the extractive industries transparency initiative. Our country has an enviable record on the regulation of extractive industries. We have listened carefully to concerns about new forms of extraction and have put in place additional measures to reassure Members across the House. The House will have seen tonight that, because we are sensitive to those concerns, because we are responsive to arguments, and because we listen and learn, we will take on board the perfectly proper considerations of those who are as determined as we are to ensure that these things are done safely and securely and in tune with local interests.

  • As a Minister, my right hon. Friend has genuinely listened to the concerns of Members on both sides of the House. I wish to put on the record my thanks to the Government for taking on board some of the issues that I have raised, particularly in allowing the British Geological Survey to play a role, thereby ensuring closer, independent monitoring, which is very important for me in Fylde. Will he give me an assurance that this is not the end but a continuum of the process and that we will continue to see calls for rigorous on-the-ground inspections delivered by this Government?

  • This is an iterative business. No one has made the case more forcefully for their constituents than my hon. Friend. I was pleased to visit Fylde with him to look at these matters in some detail. He has worked tirelessly throughout this Parliament to represent the views of his constituents and to improve shale gas regulation. I commit to working with him to ensure that we take further the matters that he has raised.

    That determination means that we will issue statutory direction to the Environment Agency on a minimum of three months baseline monitoring—that was an issue raised by the shadow Front-Bench team when we debated the matter in Committee. We will publish information on chemicals that the agency requires operators to disclose; require operators to monitor and report fugitive emissions for each onshore hydraulic fracturing site; and issue statutory direction to the Health and Safety Executive to ensure independent well inspection and public reporting for each onshore oil and well. The industry has committed to produce an annual report of shale sites and an environmental impact assessment.

    We will seek advice from the Committee on Climate Change on the likely impact on carbon budgets and report each carbon budget period on the conclusions reached as a result of the advice given. Making water companies statutory consultees in respect of planning applications for shale oil and gas development via secondary legislation in this Parliament, subject to consultation, will also form part of our determined effort to ensure that these things are done properly, safely and securely. We have introduced new legislation to help with the sharing of costs for connecting to the electricity distribution network and to help strengthen competition in the connections market.

    This Bill has been broadly welcomed by Members across the House. As I said earlier, Opposition Front-Bench Members have scrutinised the Bill in a mature and measured way because they understand, as we do, that infrastructure investment is about not a single Government or a single party but the future of our nation. Of course there are debates to be had, differences to be aired and arguments to be made, and of course scrutiny should improve and enhance thinking, and that is precisely what has happened in relation to this Bill. I am grateful for the conciliatory approach to the scrutiny of this Bill. Even when we have disagreed, it has been in a considered way. I therefore thank the Opposition Front-Bench team—the hon. Members for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden), for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex), and for City of Durham (Roberta Blackman-Woods)— for their challenge and understanding.

    I wish to express my deepest thanks to my fellow Ministers, the Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd), and the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol West (Stephen Williams), for their constant hard work throughout Committee and again in the House today. That work is not just about what happens on the Floor of the House or in Committee; it is about the dialogue that takes place outside the Chamber to ensure that we get the provisions right, and my hon. Friends have played a full part in that dialogue with Members from all parts of the House.

    During the passage of the Bill my colleagues and I have listened carefully, and where appropriate we have changed or added to its detailed provisions, but on its fundamental purpose we have stood firm, because we are absolutely convinced of the necessity of a step change in the way we approach infrastructural investment, its planning and delivery. This Government, with this Bill, confirm their courage and their willingness to put long-term thinking before short-term expediency. This Government, with this Bill, corroborate their confidence and their confident vision of a bold, ambitious nation.

    Governments are of two types: timid and reactive, or bold and proactive. Politics needs to be confident. In the words of the great Conservative philosopher Edmund Burke—the Opposition will be delighted that I am ending with Edmund Burke—

    “When the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, in the construction of the state, will be of no service. They will become flatterers instead of legislators; the instruments, not the guides, of the people.”

    This Government are ambitious not for themselves, but for Britain; not just for now, but for the future; not for piecemeal advantage, but for the people’s well-being, for the common good, in the national interest, driven by virtue, gauged by our determined successes, inspired by the people’s will. This is a Bill of which to be proud, a Minister honoured to articulate its strength, and a Government marking their place in history.

  • Toward the end of his remarks, the Minister praised members of the Bill Committee and adopted a consensual approach, so perhaps I shall start in the same vein. I, too, thank all those who have contributed to debate on the Bill as it has gone through its various stages. In particular, I add my thanks to Labour’s team in the other place for the improvements they sought, and in some cases secured, and to my hon. Friends the Members for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) and for City of Durham (Roberta Blackman-Woods), with whom I led for the Opposition in Committee and again today.

    I also thank all members of the Committee on both sides who scrutinised the Bill, but two in particular: my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr Raynsford) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Andrew Miller). For both, this will have been their last Bill Committee, I suspect, unless they do something dreadfully wrong in the next few weeks. Both have given great service to the House. In fact, when we were both new in this place, the first Bill Committee I served on was also my hon. Friend’s first Bill Committee, so it is great that we have shared his last.

    Finally, I thank the Minister and his colleagues, and all those who have contributed to today’s debate. We all know that infrastructure is critical to the UK’s future, from affordable energy in our homes to a modern communications system, or a transport system connecting people to jobs, opportunities and each other. Good infrastructure is vital to our economy and our quality of life. That is why it was so important to give the Bill the thorough scrutiny that it deserved. Given its wide-ranging nature, it should have had more than one day for Report and Third Reading; the way debates today have been truncated underlines that fact.

    It is of course even more wide-ranging than what the Library briefing described as a “portmanteau Bill”, when it was introduced in this place. The Bill has had a new long title, and it has two more parts and many more clauses than when it was introduced. It ranges from the abolition of the somewhat mysterious Public Works Loan Board commissioners to invasive non-native species to the British Transport police, and everything in between.

    Constructive criticism has strengthened the Bill, ensuring that a rushed and badly drafted reform of the electronic communications code governing mobile telephone infrastructure will be rethought. We have new requirements to support apprenticeships and training in road construction, and we have a walking and cycling strategy which is welcome and must be built on. Important actions that will follow from the Bill include the Wood review, whose implementation will be vital. If we needed reminding of that, the current situation in the North sea is such a reminder. In a victory for wildlife groups, communities in Devon and Scotland and the Opposition, we have protected the European beaver.

    For making some of those changes and changes in other areas, including some of the roads clauses, I pay tribute to the Minister for the way that he has approached these matters. We still disagree on some key points, particularly on converting the Highways Agency into a Government-owned company, but he understands the need for scrutiny of Bills and he has made changes to the Bill in response to issues that we and others have raised. That shows how legislation can be approached. Sadly, that is the part of proceedings in this place that the public all too seldom see.

    However, as we approached today’s debate, some things went badly wrong, starting with the timetable and the fact that we had only one day on Report. We have seen far too many last-minute changes to the Bill and things being tagged on without time for parliamentary scrutiny, despite the Minister’s best efforts. We saw it in the rushed electronic communications code, which ended up pleasing nobody and had to be rethought. It was not in the Bill in the other place; it came in more than halfway through the Committee stage and had to be withdrawn today. It was not necessary for that to happen. The issue should have been approached in a more measured way.

    In relation to new regulations regarding planning and pubs, we tabled a thought-through amendment, but the response was a last-minute rushed statement to try to head off that amendment, instead of Ministers looking at what was being said, responding to that and enshrining it in the Bill. Most notable today has been the issue of shale gas extraction. I am pleased that the Government accepted our new clause 19, which introduces 13 conditions as vital protection if shale gas extraction is to be taken forward. The matter should not have had to be resolved today at the last minute with the Government finally accepting an Opposition amendment, presumably because they thought they would lose unless they did so. These issues have been raised in Committee and elsewhere, and they could have been resolved elsewhere. My hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West has been raising them for three years. We now know that new clause 19 has been accepted and I welcome that.

    I have to say to the Government that one or two comments made today suggested that although new clause 19 was being accepted today, when the Bill went back to the other place, there could be attempts to tinker with it—take a bit out here, put a bit in there. If the Government go down that road, they will be asking for trouble. That new clause was thought through. It is a package, not a pick and mix. I hope the Government will respect that as we go forward.

    As the Opposition have continued to state throughout proceedings on the Bill, we face major infrastructure challenges—a population rising to 73 million in just 20 years’ time, the challenges of energy security, a chronic shortage of affordable housing, airports, roads and railways all straining under demand, and the threat that climate change presents to us all. There is a cross-party consensus on the need to address these issues, but all too often decisions are not taken, public support is not achieved and projects are not delivered.

    We may be one of the world’s leading economies but we lag behind other countries that take a more strategic and long-term approach to infrastructure investment. As the noble Lord Adonis said last week, infrastructure investment

    “will not happen on the scale required unless it is better planned, better led and better financed.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 22 January 2015; Vol. 758, c. 1392.]

    During the Committee stage, the Institute of Government published a booklet called “The Political Economy of Infrastructure in the UK”, which concluded that we need to change the “institutional architecture” for infrastructure decision making. Labour Members completely agree. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham called for this House to back the proposal by Sir John Armitt, chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority, for a national infrastructure commission that would look three decades ahead and consult across all sectors to provide an evidence-based assessment of infrastructure priorities in the UK. Parliament would be able to vote on these, and Governments would be held accountable for delivering them.

    For me, the debates on this Bill have crystallised why that kind of evidence-based approach is needed so badly, from controversy about the priorities in the road investment strategy, to disputes about rushed electronic communications regulations, to the need for robust environmental and regulatory safeguards in relation to energy security. We need a more rigorous and independent look at infrastructure needs in energy, transport, telecoms and many other sectors. It is a travesty that the Government continue to oppose such a common-sense reform, which is backed by the LSE Growth Commission, EEF, the Institution of Civil Engineers, 89% of businesses surveyed by the CBI, and many more. By establishing that commission, the Bill could have set the UK on course for the challenges of the 21st century, but it has failed to do so. The repeated failure of the Government to address these issues in a sufficiently planned-out way is not good enough.

    This could all have been very different. With a shared national purpose, long-term planning, proper public engagement and cross-party support for our world-leading engineering and construction sectors, we can deliver the improvements our country’s infrastructure needs. The 2012 Olympics were a model of that kind of approach. We urgently need the same framework for decision making and planning across national infrastructure. This Bill could have delivered that, but it has not done so, and we have a Government who are not going to do so. That is why it will take a change of Government in May to deliver the change that is needed.

  • The development of an electronic communications code in part 7 has been closely followed in my constituency, because all too often the standard of infrastructure in the City of London and surrounding areas as regards mobile telephone coverage and broadband lags behind that which commercial tenants nowadays expect to find in a world-leading business district. It is vitally important that this situation be improved if London is to keep up with its global rivals in established sectors and in the emerging tech industries. In particular, we cannot allow the business heart of the capital to be left behind in state-of-the-art technology such as fibre optics and 4G—and eventually 5G when that arrives.

    New rights to upgrade and share communications infrastructure could play a very important part in improving that situation. Could we introduce a simpler procedure for landowners to require the removal or repositioning of equipment, where necessary, in order to enable redevelopment to proceed? That might sound counter-intuitive, but at present, especially in areas such as the City of London with very high rates of development, there is a strong incentive for landowners to resist the installation of equipment such as telephone masts in the first place if they fear that the presence of that equipment will obstruct future redevelopment of the site.

    I entirely understand the reaction by the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex), to the late tabling of amendments dealing with the communications code, now removed by amendment 91, and the fact that further time is required to consider the new code. That is necessary; let us get the code right if we can. It is also important to ensure that the code strikes an appropriate balance between landowners and network operators, because only by so doing will it be effective in bringing about the expanded coverage that we all so desperately require. I hope, however, that the process will not take too long, and that we can move forward swiftly with the introduction of a new code, having taken account of the views expressed by industry representatives.

  • Just for clarity, the Government will move ahead with the reform of the communications code. We will begin a full consultation in the next few weeks, with a view to bringing forward draft legislation, for exactly the reason that my hon. Friend gave: to ensure that we have the agreement of all those who are most directly involved or affected and to ensure that there is agreement across the House.

  • I am very encouraged by the Minister’s words and I know that that will be true of many of my commercial constituents, as it were.

    I ask the Government to consider two other things as this important work continues. The first is the position of infrastructure that has been installed before the new code comes into force, whenever that is. As I understand it, the new rules will not apply automatically to such dated infrastructure. Although I understand the reluctance of the Government to interfere in pre-existing legal relationships, I suggest that it would be beneficial to find some means of encouraging existing infrastructure to be brought under the new code as swiftly as possible.

    Secondly, there are numerous cases in the City of London in which lengthy wrangling between freeholders and network operators over the terms and conditions for the grant of the necessary consents has delayed the installation of mobile masts or broadband facilities by several months. In the most serious instances, that has prevented business tenants from taking possession of new offices on time or forced businesses to occupy new office space with no functioning communications. Naturally, this is principally a matter of negotiation between private parties, and I would not expect any Government to interfere in such issues, so there are rightly limits to the extent to which they can furnish a solution.

    However, when the Bill is enacted, there will be an opportunity under the code for the relevant industry bodies, which have been referred to, to encourage the adoption of model terms and conditions to deal with the issue. Although that is not a complete answer, it would be a constructive step and I hope that it is taken. The City of London corporation has held positive meetings with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on the matter and will be looking to provide further support where possible, potentially in conjunction with the Greater London authority.

    I have spoken before in this House about the need to ensure that adequate investment in the electricity distribution network can be made to meet tomorrow’s demand for new connections, without imposing unreasonable costs on today’s consumers. This is not the occasion to delve into the intricacies of the matter. Suffice it to say that the need for action is increasingly pressing. In relation to my constituency, I am aware that the Government are working with interested parties such as Ofgem, UK Power Networks, the Greater London authority and the City of London corporation with a view to developing new models that might enable the necessary upfront investment to be delivered, with the costs being recouped from customers over time as new connections are made. It is not yet clear whether the amendments that were made in Committee to extend the second-comer rules to independent connection providers will prove directly relevant to that work, but if so, they are to be welcomed.

    In conclusion, I commend the Government for the attention they have given to this important matter in part 7. I urge them to continue that focus to ensure that we get it right. As with telecommunications as a whole, this is a crucial, bread-and-butter issue when it comes to London’s future competitiveness as a commercial centre.

  • Having heard the honeyed tones in which the Minister opened the debate for the Government, I feel a bit guilty about having to say that I still have severe reservations about parts of the Bill.

    Not all the Bill applies to Scotland, but the main part of it that does is on energy. It is a great shame, as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) said, that we had so little time to debate those issues today. We had serious concerns about some of them, but we were not given the opportunity to debate them fully. However, that is the way it goes.

    On Second Reading, I referred to two issues with fracking in Scotland: drilling under people’s homes without consent and the complexities in Scots law in relation to that. I am pleased that the Government have moved on those issues. I welcome the Government amendments removing Scotland, but I remain concerned that they have not taken the obvious action of moving licensing powers from the UK Parliament to the Scottish Government.

    All powers relating to fracking lie with the Scottish Government, apart from the crucial power of licensing. The UK Government say that they intend to move those powers under the Smith commission proposals after the next general election, but with the best will in the world the process of getting that Bill through both Houses will take some time, and it will be some considerable time before the powers are with the Scottish Parliament.

  • Given what the hon. Gentleman has said and new clause 2 on licensing, does he agree, as I suggested earlier to the Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, that it would be sensible for the Government to stop the 14th licensing round in Scotland so that any new licenses may be granted after the powers have been devolved, and a Scottish Government of whatever complexion can make those decisions?

  • That is one of the few things on which the hon. Gentleman and I agree. I made that exact point earlier. My concern is that, currently, there are a few existing licences, but not many. The Department of Energy and Climate Change could grant licences between the current time and when the powers are devolved. That leaves us in a dangerous situation. All powers should be in one place. I am disappointed that the Government have not done that.

    That was one of the reasons why Scottish National party members supported the moratorium on fracking. I have severe doubts about fracking, but we wanted that moratorium to ensure that work can be done before the Scottish Parliament has the opportunity to consider it in great detail.

    In Scotland over the weekend, the Labour party was telling us that it was very keen on a moratorium, and that it was going to stop fracking. Labour Members came down here today and abstained on that proposal. We are told that Labour’s new clause 19 will stop fracking in the UK. Frankly, it will do no such thing, as the Minister rightly said. Nowhere does new clause 19 mention a moratorium. As far as I can see, it does not even apply to Scotland. Unlike Government new clause 15, which had a consequential amendment to ensure it applied to Scotland, new clause 19 had no such consequential amendment. The new clause therefore does not apply to Scotland at all.

    Interestingly, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield said that the Minister had hinted that she might change the Bill in the Lords. She was a lot clearer than that. She said definitely that the provision on the depth of the drilling would be changed in the Lords. There is no moratorium, and new clause 19 does not apply to Scotland and is likely to be changed in the Lords in any event. We have not got very far with the Bill.

    I remain concerned. I accept that the Bill has improved, but on fracking I urge the Government, even at this late stage, to think again in the Lords about the transfer of powers. Transferring them now will close the potential difficulty, put all the powers together and allow the Scottish Parliament to take decisions in line with the wishes of the Scottish people.

  • I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) for his kind remarks. Unless I commit a sin that means the Whips require me to do something else in the next few weeks, this will be the last Bill I serve on in Committee. I did so voluntarily, because I take a great interest in a number of its clauses, not least the one referred to by the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field). I followed his remarks carefully and agreed with virtually every word he uttered. I am sure he would agree that the draft presented to the Committee last week was grossly inadequate for its purpose. He described the issues in thriving urban areas that need to move quickly to accommodate the needs of developers and the economy, as well as the changing technologies in the telecoms space. Different issues arise when it comes to rural access. Access arrangements have been far from satisfactory, but the clause—drafted in haste—has resulted in this step backwards. That is regrettable because—as was said in Committee—this is long overdue.

    I will get the Minister into trouble with the Whips if I go on too much, but he is a man of such integrity that in the last general election he even invited his Labour opposite number, who was at one time my agent, to go for a coffee to discuss how their business should be conducted. That is an example of how collegiate he is. I thought that he would get into trouble with the Whips again when he praised the Secretary of State. I thought that the Minister was going to say that the Secretary of State was adding his weight to the matter, but as I am of similar girth I can get away with that remark.

    The Bill has some extraordinarily important aspects. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield said, it covers an enormous area. The House will have to come back to the telecoms code and in the interests of all parties—including those mentioned by the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster—that will need to be done sooner rather than later, but with careful engagement with all the players.

    I was especially interested in the clauses relating to hydraulic fracturing. In the dim and distant past when I worked in geology, I taught students how drilling technology works. I made the point in Committee that had we been using the technology today that we were using 40 years ago I would be against hydraulic fracking, but the technologies have developed to an extraordinary degree. We do not know enough about the UK’s general environment subsurface, so a huge amount of work is needed. In Committee and in the other place, amendments were tabled on baseline monitoring, and I am pleased that the Government have started to move in the right direction. It is possible to come up with a regulatory structure that works for the communities we seek to represent and in terms of the economics of the industry. To achieve that goal, the Government will need to think carefully about some of the issues and the underlying science.

    The amendment that I tabled in Committee, about peer reviewing baseline monitoring data, is acceptable to the industry. It is in the interests of the Government and the country to reach cross-party agreement so that the data that go into the public domain are fully understood and we can argue from an evidence base, which we cannot do at present. When the first pilot well was drilled in my constituency, I got only five letters about it: three were technical questions and two were letters of objection. The second one, which was handled differently by the developer, resulted in a massive number of objections and a protest camp that is very firmly in place.

    It is important that this House, the industry and the regulators engage with the public, so that there is a better scientific understanding of what can be achieved with the regulatory machinery we put in place. I have no doubt that that is an achievable goal. I hope those on the Government Front Bench recognise that when they seek to develop the Bill further in the other place.

    Serving on the Bill with my hon. Friends on the Labour Front Bench and the rest of the Labour team has been a pleasure, as has been working on this topic with the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings and the Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd). These are hugely important issues and Parliament must get them right.

    Finally, there is a message to consider. Reflecting on the way the Bill has been conducted, it is important that the next Parliament looks carefully at the process we have gone through. There are better ways to legislate and perhaps the next Parliament can learn from that. I wish the Bill well in the Lords. I want to see the robust amendments retained so that the regulatory issues raised by those on the Opposition Front Bench can be protected and enshrined in the Bill. That will enable this important industry to develop in this country with the support of the public we seek to represent.

  • The animation of the House knows no bounds when the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes) seeks to take to the Dispatch Box.