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Public Bill Committees

Debated on Tuesday 19 July 2022

National Security Bill (Seventh sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: Rushanara Ali, † James Gray

† Bell, Aaron (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Con)

Eagle, Maria (Garston and Halewood) (Lab)

† Elmore, Chris (Ogmore) (Lab)

† Everitt, Ben (Milton Keynes North) (Con)

† Hart, Sally-Ann (Hastings and Rye) (Con)

Higginbotham, Antony (Burnley) (Con)

† Hosie, Stewart (Dundee East) (SNP)

† Jones, Mr Kevan (North Durham) (Lab)

† Jupp, Simon (East Devon) (Con)

† Lynch, Holly (Halifax) (Lab)

† McPartland, Stephen (Minister for Security)

† McDonald, Stuart C. (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (SNP)

† Mann, Scott (North Cornwall) (Con)

Mohindra, Mr Gagan (South West Hertfordshire) (Con)

† Mumby-Croft, Holly (Scunthorpe) (Con)

† Phillips, Jess (Birmingham, Yardley) (Lab)

Sambrook, Gary (Birmingham, Northfield) (Con)

Huw Yardley, Bradley Albrow, Simon Armitage, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 19 July 2022


[James Gray in the Chair]

National Security Bill

On a point of order, Mr Gray. I wrote to Mr Speaker about new clause 6, which was tabled in my name, to ask whether it was in order. I understand that that the decision was then passed to you and Ms Ali, the Chairs of the Committee. Have you have contemplated the new clause, is it in order, and will it be discussed later?

I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He is right: his new clause has been received and we have been contemplating the matter for some time. The question is whether the subject of new clause 6 is in scope, and learned authorities have different views on that. Some, including the previous Lord Chancellor, believe that it is in scope, while others believe that it is not.

Mr Speaker ruled that it is for my co-Chair—the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow—and I to decide. We have taken the view that we are not legal experts and are therefore unable to judge correctly whether the new clause is in scope, but that the business of this place is to debate things rather than to stifle debate, so without commenting on whether the matter is in scope, we believe that it should be debated. If the Government do not like it, they can vote it down in Committee or at a later stage, but deciding that the clause is out of scope would be beyond our pay grade. We have taken the view that the new clause will indeed be in scope and that we can debate the public interest defence.

Further to that point of order, Mr Gray. I thank you and Ms Ali for your consideration of the new clause.

Clause 27


Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Amendment 48 to clause 27 was debated earlier on, but I understand that its proposer does not wish to press the amendment to a vote. Is that right?

I do not intend to detain the Committee long on this interpretation clause, but I think it might contain a typo, because it states:

“‘foreign power threat activity’ and ‘involvement’, in relation to such activity, have the meaning given by section 27”.

This will be section 27, so that is rather circular. I think it should read “the meaning given by section 26”, because clause 26 defines “foreign power threat activity” and “involvement”. I just wanted to point out that possible typo, which the Minister may want to consider.

I am sure that the Minister, the Clerks and I are most grateful for that point. I certainly cannot answer it immediately, and the Minister does not look as if he is going to—

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pointing out that typo. That is very important to us all, and I will carry on talking while I wait for some information. I think that is an important point. As we know, the Bill is evolving and will continue to evolve. We will ensure that any potential errors are corrected throughout its passage. It does look as though it should say “section 26”, so we will definitely fix that.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East for his eagle eyes.

The learned Clerk also agrees that it should read “section 26”. We are most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pointing that out.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 27 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 28

Offences by bodies corporate etc

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 28 deals with offences committed by bodies corporate. It is a significant clause. I imagine that this legislative area will continue to need to evolve as threats continue to emerge. The clause asserts that where a corporate body commits an offence under part 1 of the Bill

“the officer, as well as the body, is guilty of the offence”.

Finding the right balance here will not be straightforward, but this will become a key battleground, as the Government acknowledged with the National Security and Investment Act 2021.

In its report, the Law Commission outlined that classified evidence, which it was considering, could be explained using the following hypothetical example. P, an IT services company headquartered in a foreign state, has a managed services contract for a large Department. As part of that contract, P creates back-ups in the UK of the Department’s corporate email and file storage system. P is compelled under the foreign state’s national security legislation to share that information with the foreign state’s intelligence services, which use it to target UK interests. Worryingly, that will not be an uncommon scenario; we see such examples regularly in the UK press, and a range of stakeholders need to be alive to the risks. I am afraid to say that the Government have been too slow to respond.

In December 2020, the US Department of Homeland Security issued a data security business advisory, which

“describes the data-related risks American businesses face as a result of the actions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and outlines steps that businesses can take to mitigate these risks. Businesses expose themselves and their customers to heightened risk when they share sensitive data with firms located in the PRC, or use equipment and software developed by firms with an ownership nexus in the PRC, as well as with firms that have PRC citizens in key leadership and security-focused roles…Due to PRC legal regimes and known PRC data collection practices, this is particularly true for data service providers and data infrastructure.”

The advisory was issued as a result of several new laws passed in China in recent years—not least the national intelligence law of 2017, which compels all PRC firms and entities to support, assist and co-operate with PRC intelligence services, creating a legal obligation for those entities to turn over data collected abroad and domestically to the PRC.

A UK employee working for a Chinese company will need really robust legislative support in pushing back against the obligations placed upon Chinese businesses by those new laws under the Chinese Communist party. For that reason, we welcome clause 28, and believe that the provisions are sufficiently broad to include anyone in a company who may commit an offence under part 1 of the Bill, and to provide clarity in this space, with a need to consider employees who stand to find themselves in a difficult position due to the Chinese legislative framework.

Subsection (5) will allow the Secretary of State to make regulations to improve the clause through secondary legislation. I have said that I recognise that legislation will need to be dynamic if it is to be effective, but any such regulations should be laid under the affirmative procedure, and must be debated and actively approved by both Houses of Parliament. I hope the Minister will confirm that that will be the case.

The clause provides that where a body commits an offence under part 1 of the Bill

“the officer, as well as the body, is guilty of the offence”

if it is attributable to the officer’s consent, connivance or neglect. The provision is based on a similar one in the Official Secrets Act 1911. For example, where a body commits an espionage offence of obtaining protected information under the direct guidance of the head of the body, both the body and its head would be guilty of the offence. Clause 28 mirrors the provisions found in section 36 in part 3 of the National Security and Investment Act 2021, which makes suitable provision for when an offence under that part is committed by a body corporate.

It is worth noting that in a similar provision in the 1911 Act, a director would automatically be held liable unless they could prove that they did not consent or were unaware. Rightly, the provisions move beyond that burden of proof: the prosecution must now demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that an officer was culpable in such a case, which provides more safeguards. This is therefore an important provision to ensure that both companies and relevant officers can be held liable for their involvement in state threat activity, and that where there is wrongdoing on the part of an officer of the company that officer can be appropriately prosecuted for the offences.

For an officer to be held liable, they must consent or connive to the act or be negligent in relation to it, which is a higher bar than simply being unaware of the act, as the prosecution would need to demonstrate not just a lack of awareness but that, in being unaware, the person was failing to properly discharge their duties. The clause goes on to define a number of terms, such as a “body” and an “officer of a body”, and it provides that the Secretary of State may make regulations to modify the section in relation to

“its application to a body corporate or unincorporated association formed or recognised under the law of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom.”

That may be required as a result of differences in the nature of bodies corporate, their structures or their terminology under the laws of foreign jurisdictions. This ensures that bodies corporate outside the UK that commit offences under part 1 of the Bill can still be caught under these offences.

I will refer to the example given by the hon. Member for Halifax. We have tried throughout the Bill to demonstrate that the offence will be based on an individual acting directly or indirectly on behalf of a foreign power, and on whether they should reasonably know that that behaviour is on behalf of a foreign power. I understand her point about foreign-owned companies, but the Bill does not say that whole companies are acting on behalf of a foreign power. As she rightly says, there will be a whole range of UK individuals engaged in completely legitimate activity within the UK, and we do not want to give employees of those companies any problems.

The regulations will involve technical, rather than substantial, changes, so they will not widen the scope whatsoever. That is why they will be made under the negative procedure.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 28 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 29 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 30

Consents to prosecutions

I beg to move amendment 63, in clause 30, page 23, line 16, at end insert—

“(c) in Scotland, only with the consent of the Lord Advocate.”

This amendment would require the consent of the Lord Advocate to prosecute certain offences.

Clause 30 puts in place one of the protections that the Minister has referred to a few times, including when we were debating the offences of disclosure and the breadth of the foreign power condition. The protection in question is the requirement of consent to certain prosecutions, with that consent coming from the Attorney General in England and Wales, and from the Advocate General in Northern Ireland.

Our amendment 63 simply asks why there is no equivalent requirement of consent from the Lord Advocate for prosecutions in Scotland. It might be a conscious choice—if so, it would be useful to hear what the thinking is behind that. It could also be another mistake, because I notice that section 8 of the 1911 Act requires consent to prosecution, but only the Attorney General is mentioned. Section 12, which provides an interpretation, states that the expression “Attorney General” is taken “as respects Scotland” to mean the Lord Advocate, and “as respects Ireland” to mean the Advocate General for Northern Ireland. That is a slightly dated way of doing things, because if we mean the Lord Advocate, we should say that.

On the clause itself, I have absolutely no objection to the idea that consent for prosecution is an appropriate step. As I say, our amendment simply asks what the provision is in relation to Scotland.

Let me quickly answer those points. Clause 30 provides that the consent of the Attorney General is required in England and Wales, and that the consent of the Advocate General is required in Northern Ireland. I understand that the Lord Advocate is not included because the Lord Advocate has a constitutional role as the head of the criminal prosecution system under the Criminal Procedures (Scotland) Act 1995, and all prosecutions on indictment are taken by, or on behalf of, the Lord Advocate. It is technically not necessary to include the Lord Advocate, because all offences in relation to Scotland are prosecuted by the Lord Advocate under Scots law, so I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Very educational; I have learned something new. I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 30 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 31

Power to exclude the public from proceedings

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

I wish only to add that I imagine we would all agree that transparency in this legislative area should be the default, especially given the need to raise awareness of the challenges we face as a country and the individual responsibilities that we all share in combating those challenges with the arrival of these new offences. That said, it is of course right that clause 31 provides power to the court to exclude the public from any part of proceedings or offences under part 1, or for proceedings relating to the aggravation of sentencing, or other offences where the foreign power condition applies, should the evidence being considered deem it to be in the interests of national security to do so.

As the hon. Member said, clause 31 provides those protections. It builds on the Official Secrets Act 1920, which gives the court the power to exclude the public from any proceedings if the publication of any evidence to be given would be prejudicial to national security. However, the passing of the sentence must still take place in public.

One important point is that the decision to exclude the public will be made by the court, not the prosecution. It is also important to reiterate that the power does not grant the use of closed-material proceedings. Therefore, as is the precedent in our criminal justice system, the defendant and their legal team will have access to all the evidence, as they would in other criminal proceedings.

I will end by reassuring the Committee that the clause is not meant to limit the transparency of our justice system or the independence of the judiciary, but to ensure that—only where necessary—the courts themselves have the power to protect the United Kingdom’s national security.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 31 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 32

Power to impose prevention and investigation measures

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 57, in schedule 4, page 111, line 1, leave out paragraph 12.

This amendment would remove the power to require participation in polygraph sessions.

That schedule 4 be the Fourth schedule to the Bill.

Clause 32 is the first clause of part 2, and introduces the state threat prevention and investigation measures, or STPIMs, replicating the terrorism prevention and investigation measures, or TPIMs, framework, which is already in existence. Like TPIMs, STPIMs impose significant restrictions on a person’s freedoms without that being the consequence of a crime having been committed and tried before the courts.

Schedule 4 sets out a list of the types of measures that may be imposed on an individual under this part. The Secretary of State may impose any or all the measures that he or she reasonably considers necessary, for purposes connected with preventing or restricting the individual’s involvement in foreign power threat activity.

Taken cumulatively, the measures will restrict the freedoms of the STPIM subject in a way that is normally possible only during criminal or immigration proceedings, or restrictions under the Mental Health Act 1983. Inevitably, we are looking for assurances that measures of this kind are necessary and effective, especially as the threshold for applying an STPIM is naturally lower than the threshold for a criminal conviction.

In considering the balance, we have looked to the efficacy of TPIMs as a starting point, and at the invaluable work of the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Jonathan Hall QC, who provides an ongoing assessment in his annual review. According to the latest independent annual review of terrorism legislation, between the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 receiving Royal Assent and 31 December 2020, only 24 individuals were served with a TPIM notice. That would suggest that they are not used often.

In 2020, all but one of the TPIMs in force were against members of the proscribed terrorist network ALM—al-Muhajiroun. The report makes clear that ALM’s direct or indirect impact on UK terrorism includes the 2013 murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby, the 2017 London Bridge Attack and the 2019 Fishmongers’ Hall attack. That underlines the severity and level of risk that those measures are seeking to manage and suppress, when considering the terrorism equivalent.

Jonathan Hall was asked whether he thought the STPIMs might be used more readily that TPIMS when he gave evidence in the Committee’s first session. He said,

“if the regime operates as it is intended to, because the Bill replicates the obligation for the Secretary of State to consider whether it is possible to prosecute in the first place. I do not think in practice that they will become a measure of first resort, just because they are so resource-intensive and complicated.”––[Official Report, National Security Public Bill Committee, 7 July 2022; c. 10, Q16.]

When asked about the efficacy of STPIMs, he said,

“I expect that they will be effective because the agencies and the Home Secretary will only think about imposing one when they think it is going to work.”––[Official Report, National Security Public Bill Committee, 7 July 2022; c. 6, Q6.]

We are reassured by Jonathan Hall’s contributions in that first session of the Committee. We will revisit some of his other comments in debates on other clauses, particularly around oversight in clause 49 and the ongoing review process under clause 40.

On schedule 4, there is uncertainty about who might be issued with a part 2 notice, so I am speculating, but given that all TPIMs subjects in 2020 were British nationals, does the Minister envisage that there will be more foreign nationals among those subject to STPIMs? How will the provisions in part 2 interact with the Government’s immigration controls?

Jonathan Hall said in evidence that STPIMs were unlikely to ever become a tool of first resort,

“just because they are so resource-intensive and complicated.”––[Official Report, National Security Public Bill Committee, 7 July 2022; c. 10, Q16.]

Although I understand that counter-terrorism police lead on the enforcement of TPIMs, for obvious reasons, with a regional CT hub and support from the regional police force, who will lead on the enforcement of STPIMs? Will it be the intelligence community, counter-terrorism policing or regional police forces?

When speaking to the differences between terrorist and state threats, Jonathan Hall said that

“unlike some of the terrorist TPIM subjects who are individuals without a huge amount of access to resources, some of the individuals who may be under an STPIM could be backed by a huge amount of resources”.––[Official Report, National Security Public Bill Committee, 7 July 2022; c. 10, Q16.]

I hope the Minister can assure us that the right agencies, with an understanding of those resources, will be dedicated to monitoring and enforcing compliance with a STPIM, in order for it to be effective.

Paragraph 5 of schedule 4, which covers restricting access to cash and financial services, makes no mention of cryptocurrency. Microsoft’s “Digital Defense Report” notes that nation state actors from North Korea added monetary gain to their motives for cyber-attacks. It says:

“North Korea targets companies in cryptocurrency trade or related research, likely seeking either to steal cryptocurrency or intellectual property. North Korea’s economy is never strong, but the COVID-19 pandemic coming after years of UN sanctions has pushed it to its worst state in a generation, forcing North Korea to seek to find money by any means necessary.”

The BBC reported in January this year claims that North Korean hackers stole almost $400 million, or £291 million, of digital assets in at least seven attacks on cryptocurrency platforms in the previous year. We know cryptocurrency is a particular focus for some hostile states, so why are we not adding cryptocurrency to the list in paragraph 5(6)?

SNP amendment 57 would remove the power to require participation in polygraph sessions. I asked Jonathan Hall about that issue, having read his assessment of polygraphs in his annual review, where he said that

“a power to add a polygraph measure was added. No regulations have yet been made for the conduct of TPIM polygraph sessions. Evidence from TPIM polygraph sessions is expressly excluded from criminal proceedings, but, although the government stated that the provision ‘is not designed to allow for information derived from a polygraph examination to be used as evidence in proceedings for breaching a TPIM (which is a criminal offence), to extend the duration of a TPIM notice, or to impose a new TPIM’, and indeed that ‘any attempt to use information derived from a polygraph examination to extend the duration of a TPIM notice would be unlawful’, there is no statutory bar as such. I expect the Home Office to draw to my attention any case in which polygraph evidence obtained under compulsion is sought to be introduced (in any manner) into TPIM proceedings, so I can consider the position in next year’s report.”

That all sounds a bit messy, and that is why I was keen to ask about polygraphs during the evidence session. I asked Mr Hall whether he had been able to consider their use in any ongoing cases. He said:

“What I have been told is that polygraphs have not been used for TPIMs, as far as I am aware, but they have been used for released terrorist offenders and some disclosures have been made. Everyone always thought that the real utility of polygraphs and the clear reason for their use is the disclosures that people make when undergoing the process. I gather that some admissions have been made that have been valuable and have led to a recall. I do not have a huge amount of data, but they seem to have had some success in the context of terrorism offences.”––[Official Report, National Security Public Bill Committee, 7 July 2022; c. 7, Q7.]

For that reason, we will be following their use carefully and will await a proper assessment of the use of polygraphs in the next annual review; I hope the Minister can be clear about how he envisages them working.

There have been several reviews of polygraph accuracy, and they are accurate about 80% to 90% of the time. Although they are far from foolproof, they can detect lies, thoughts and intentions to deceive. They are already used in the UK for probation purposes, and their use can encourage people to tell the truth. Along with the other measures in the Bill, they will have their use.

As the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Halifax, set out, clause 32 introduces the power to impose STPIMs on an individual via a part 2 notice, and schedule 4 sets out the types of measure that can be imposed.

As I argued on Second Reading, none of us should ever feel comfortable about curtailing people’s liberties via administrative civil orders rather than as punishment for crimes that have been proven through trials. None the less, we acknowledge that such prevention and investigation measures are a necessary and useful part of combating terrorism, and our position on TPIMs has been to focus on trying to clip their wings, improve oversight and limit their invasiveness, rather than to oppose their use altogether.

We think that the balance of evidence shows a similar case for STPIMs. However, we should again be careful in our scrutiny of them, and not permit interference in people’s liberties without proper justification and appropriate limits and oversight. We welcome, for example, that the residence measures in paragraph 1 to schedule 4, which are among the most restrictive measures set out in that schedule, apply only to individuals who are thought to be involved in the most immediately serious activity. Some of the measures are broad, but they seem to be curtailed and properly restricted by the provisions in clause 33—which we will discuss shortly—ensuring that they cannot go beyond what is necessary, although we have some concerns about the various tests that the Secretary of State has to require before applying the measures.

As the Committee has heard, amendment 57 would take out paragraph 12 of schedule 4, on the use of polygraph tests as a means of assessing compliance. Our view is that as polygraph tests remain too unreliable and lack an evidence base, they are inappropriate tools for measuring compliance with STPIMs, especially in the light of the all the other means at the Secretary of State’s disposal, including the monitoring measures in paragraph 15 of schedule 4, as well as the full range of investigatory powers that the services have at their disposal. It is hard to see what paragraph 12 will add. As the shadow Minister said, polygraph tests are not currently used at all.

If there is a case for the use of polygraph tests and the Minister is keen to retain the power to impose such a condition, I ask him to consider removing their applicability in Scotland. There is a precedent for that: polygraphs were introduced for TPIMS in the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Act 2021, but during the Act’s passage, the Scottish Government indicated that they would not promote a legislative consent motion for polygraphs on the basis that, because polygraph testing is not currently used at all in the criminal justice system in Scotland, the fundamental change of introducing them should be a matter of principle to be determined by the Scottish Parliament.

The SNP welcomed the decision by the then Justice Secretary, the right hon. and learned Member for South Swindon (Sir Robert Buckland), who is now the Secretary of State for Wales, to remove the provisions on polygraphs that applied to Scotland. Following that concession, a legislative consent motion was eventually approved at Holyrood. If I recall correctly, the Northern Ireland Executive expressed similar concerns. We see no case for polygraphs, but we assume that the Minister does, and if he wishes to retain their inclusion in the Bill, we respectfully ask that he take the same approach as his right hon. and learned Friend by not applying the provisions to Scotland.

I support the measures because they are an extra weapon in the armoury to fight against hostile state intervention in this country. Clearly, the arguments about the level to which the restrictions will be imposed are very complex. There will be cases in which the prosecution test will not be met but we still have evidence about individuals.

My only problem with the measures is in relation to how they will be used practically. As we all know, TPIMs have not exactly been uncontroversial in their prosecution. Will the Minister give us an understanding of how they will be used and in what circumstances? If the evidence is there—and I accept that sometimes that will be difficult, in the sense that a lot of evidence against individuals will be unable to be put in the public domain—when will the measures be used, and for what duration? That would give people some assurance that they will not be used for lengthy periods against individuals. I accept that in a number of cases the evidential test for prosecution will not be met, and therefore the measures may well be a useful tool in the armoury, but we need some oversight of how they will be used and their effectiveness.

On polygraphs, I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East. Interestingly, the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye seems to be answering for the Minister; I do not know whether she is auditioning for the job, but I thought it was the Minister who replied to such things.

I think the jury is out, not just in this country but internationally, on the effectiveness of polygraphs. If we are to ensure that they will not be challenged legally, we could put something in the Bill. I am not suggesting for one minute that polygraphs be used on every occasion, but if one is used in a case that is then thrown out because of the unsafeness of the test, that would unfortunately weaken the tool. The Minister has to justify it. As I say, I would be interested to know about the oversight, and how long he envisages their being used.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I have a question on paragraph 8 to schedule 4, entitled “Electronic communication device measure”. It is eminently sensible, when one is considering how an STPIM might be constructed, that one looks at all the restrictions that that may involve. However, when we get to sub-paragraph (6)(c), which refers not to computers or telephones but to other equipment

“designed or adapted, or capable of being adapted, for the purpose of connecting to the internet,”

I want to ensure that there is clarity, and that the provision will be defined in a cogent way.

As we move further into the internet of things, one’s fridge or toaster will be designed for the purpose of connecting to the internet. That might sound glib or flippant, but we may get to the point when half the white goods in any individual’s home are internet enabled. Given that there could be huge sensitivities in the deployment of STPIMs, the last thing that we want to see is a police constable or bailiff removing half the items from someone’s house, when that clearly is not the intention but those items nevertheless fit the category in paragraph 8(6)(c).

I am grateful for Members’ contributions and look forward to trying to answer as many of the questions as I can. I will start with the clause and then come to the amendment and some of the questions.

Part 2 and clause 32 mirror the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011—TPIM—and allow the Secretary of State to impose by notice

“specified prevention and investigation measures on an individual”

if specific conditions are met; I will refer to them as STPIMs going forward. The STPIMs mirror the equivalent counter-terrorism measures: well-established tools that have been in use for over 10 years and have been subject to vigorous examination by the courts, including with regard to European convention on human rights compliance. The courts have never found that a TPIM in its entirety should not have been imposed, or that any of the provisions of the TPIM legislative framework are not ECHR compliant. That should give us all reassurance, and give Parliament confidence that the measures will be applied sparingly and only where necessary and proportionate.

I will not go through the exhaustive list, but the Government have publicly committed to provide operational partners with the tools that they need to combat state threats. To be very clear, STPIMs are a tool of last resort; the Government’s preference is to prosecute under any means possible first and foremost, and STPIMs are to be used only when all else has failed and no other options are available to us. I hope that that provides some reassurance as well.

I was reassured by some of the detail in these clauses about that point, but the impact assessment from the Home Office says:

“It is assumed that the prosecution rate of state threats investigations is 33 per cent. This is an internal estimate from CPS, based on prosecution of previous OSA 1911-1939 cases.”

Based on where we envisage we might have challenges in securing prosecutions, I wonder whether STPIMs are also for the other side of a prosecution, as well as for when we cannot secure prosecution and get there in the first place.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that point. I understand that our responsibility is to scrutinise the legislation to make sure that, as the hon. Member for Dundee East made clear, we do not open up a can of worms that can lead to greater and greater unintended consequences, but the reality is that the provision is to be a last resort.

If we are talking practically, counter-terrorism police are responsible for enforcing STPIMs. The amount of resources required to enforce and monitor a TPIM or STPIM is so great and so large that, as Members can imagine, it is not something that any of the agencies or anybody in Government wants to do, so it is not something that we will look to push. First and foremost, this is about prosecution by any means possible.

To give some kind of hope and clarity, I would like to make the point that the number of TPIMS currently in use is less than four. The number of TPIMs that have been used throughout the 10 years of their existence is less than the clause number that we started on today. I hope that gives some reassurance on how limited the measures will be, and on how few occasions they will be used.

We have been looking at the specific time limit, and we are including a specific condition to have a maximum of five years for the duration of an STPIM. Again, that is to mirror what is in the TPIM legislation. Additionally, subsection (4) requires the Secretary of State to publish factors that she considers are appropriate to take into account when deciding whether to restrict a person’s movement in the UK—for example, ensuring that they have access to appropriate medical facilities.

Part 1 to schedule 4 sets out 16 measures. Right hon. and hon. Members will know there are 17 measures in TPIM legislation for differences around drug testing, but we do not believe that is applicable in this case. The measures have to be tailored to the specific threat that an individual poses.

I want to touch on the polygraph measure, as it has been raised by a number of colleagues. It is designed to allow the Secretary of State to require an individual to take a polygraph test at a specific date, time and location. The purpose of the measure is to assist operational partners to assess whether an individual is complying with the other measures under their STPIM. The outcome of the session may be used to make changes to the individual’s suite of measures—for example, removing or adding specific measures to prevent or restrict their involvement in state threat activity. Again, this measure is expected to be used exceedingly rarely.

Let me reassure the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East that the polygraph session cannot under any circumstances be used to gather evidence for a future prosecution. I am stating on the record that polygraph measures cannot be used to gather evidence for a future prosecution, and I hope that that provides reassurance.

I am grateful for that clarification, but what happens if someone gets a negative polygraph test and has actually broken their STPIM? Surely it will be used as an evidential test, because they have not complied with their conditions.

Under the way the law system works, that might provide some kind of information, but it will not be used as evidence. The operational partners would then have to go off and identify the evidence in order to find out how they could do that, because breaching a notice is a criminal offence, so they would need the evidence in order to then go to court to demonstrate that.

I understand what the Minister is saying, but I have a real problem with this; I think the Government are opening up an argument for lawyers who want to defend people. Obviously, if somebody is prosecuted for breaking an STPIM, then in discovery, the lawyer is going to ask, “Was a polygraph test done? Does the individual know they have done it?” I am worried about putting this in, because there is a controversy about polygraphs allowing the defence an opportunity to undermine the process. I understand why the Bill is belt and braces, but I am not sure that this part of it is going to be helpful.

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for his point, and I understand it, but polygraph measures are currently used in the management of sex offenders in this country, and the Bill will operate very much on the same principles. He should remember that in this legislation we are not trying to create new bits and pieces for controlling an individual; operational partners have found these tools effective over the past 10 years, so we are trying to mirror what is already out there. That is the purpose of the legislation.

The hon. Member for Halifax asked about foreign nationals. Our ambition is to prosecute using any means possible, including deportation, so if that is not available, we would look to use one of the measures in the Bill. Because we would look at deportation and everything else as an option, we would expect the measures in the Bill to apply more to British citizens than they would to foreign nationals. As I have stated, counter-terrorism police are responsible for looking after and enforcing the measures. We talked about the number of TPIMs; I am not allowed to give the exact figure, but I have given an indication of how rarely they are used. We imagine that STPIMs will also be used very rarely.

On the right hon. Member for Dundee East’s point about the internet of things and trying to future-proof the legislation, under paragraph 8 of schedule 4 we can restrict access to electronic devices, and as such restrict access to electronic currencies. We talk about cryptocurrency, but cryptocurrency is already becoming a bit old-fashioned. Before I took on this role, I launched an all-party parliamentary group on digital currency and potential bearer currencies run by central banks; cryptocurrency is already becoming something of the past and we are now moving on to bearer currencies managed by digital banks. It is about safeguarding and future-proofing, and under paragraph 6 we can restrict the transfer of property, so we could restrict a transfer of funds in that way.

Before the Minister moves on, can I add to the point that the right hon. Member for North Durham made about polygraph tests? The Minister said that polygraph tests will not be used to secure a criminal conviction; that is true but, as he said, the STPIMs are measures of last resort in lieu of a conviction if it is not possible to secure one. The polygraph measures in paragraph 12(1)(a)(ii) of schedule 4 refer to

“assessing whether any variation of the specified measures is necessary for purposes connected with preventing or restricting the individual’s involvement in foreign power threat activity”.

A STPIM is not a criminal conviction, then, but it is in lieu of a criminal conviction; therefore, the Minister cannot be right when he says the polygraph test would not be used to do something, because it could well be used to vary the conditions and possibly to toughen the STPIM—

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for highlighting that point; I very much enjoy the suggestions that are made in this Committee. I understand the points he is making, and one of the things I have tried to demonstrate throughout the Bill Committee is my willingness to listen and try to work cross-party to get the legislation through.

I hear what the Minister is saying and I think it is important, but would it be possible for him to write to the Committee when he has given the matter a bit more thought? The point that the right hon. Member for Dundee East has made is pretty important.

I am always willing to write to the Committee, as the right hon. Member knows. I am happy to go away, think about this issue and then write to the Committee, so that I can put in writing the safeguard that I do not want a polygraph test to be able to lead to future prosecutions. I think that would work.

Before the Minister moved to the polygraph point, he was talking about cryptocurrencies and said that they are already quite a dated concept; however, my proposal is that we add cryptocurrencies to the list, in paragraph 5 on financial service measures, that includes postal orders, cheques and bankers’ drafts. With that in mind, it might be worth making an explicit reference in that list to whatever form of digital currency or cryptocurrency, given that we know it is a focus for hostile state activity.

The hon. Lady makes a very good point. As she knows, I am always prepared to improve legislation so that we are happy with it on a cross-party basis, it goes through the House and we can support our intelligence communities. I am very happy to look at that issue. I did not even know we could still get postal orders and bankers’ drafts.

Let me give some examples of how STPIMs could be used, specifically for the right hon. Member for North Durham—I know that he would like that. If a British national were recruiting, talent spotting and reporting for a foreign intelligence service, and the evidence to prove the foreign power links was too sensitive to be used in court, meaning that a prosecution was not viable, an STPIM that might prevent harm could include a financial order, to prevent the person from accessing funds from the foreign intelligence service; a restriction on contact or association with individuals, to prevent the person from being debriefed by the foreign intelligence service handler; and electronic communications device measures, to ensure full coverage of devices used by the subject. That is one example of how an STPIM could be used.

Another example relates to a British national working in one of our defence companies, and would prevent sensitive technology transfer. Suppose a disgruntled British national employee of an advanced technology company is seeking to market specialised, valuable and unclassified knowledge to foreign companies. The investigation and disruptive conversation means that the individual is moved to less sensitive work and their company computer access is restricted, but they cannot be dismissed. They remain disgruntled, but prosecution is not viable. In that case, we could disrupt travel to prevent an individual from meeting foreign representatives abroad, so that they could not pass the secrets over to them, and we could restrict contact and association with individuals in the UK for the same purposes.

This example relating to the intimidation of dissidents is particularly important. Suppose a senior member of, for example, a cultural organisation from a foreign Government based in the UK is seeking to exert pressure on dissident diaspora through intimidation, harassment and damaging rumours. The individual cannot be expelled or deported, so victims are afraid to make criminal complaints for fear of recrimination in their home country. The STPIM could be imposed, because prosecution is not viable—the victim will not testify or make a statement. We could put measures in place to prevent an individual from associating with the victim or members of their family. We could prevent serious violence by ordering the subject to relocate to an alternative area in the UK. The STPIM could be justified in closed court proceedings, because it would prevent any identification of the victim. I hope the right hon. Member for North Durham enjoyed those examples.

I did, actually—I am very grateful to the Minister. He has set my mind running in terms of the possible uses of the measures. There is open-source evidence of the intimidation of protesters against the Chinese Government at universities, for example, by Chinese nationals here in the UK. Proving that those individuals were working directly for the Chinese Communist party or a people’s front, for example, is difficult. Could the Minister envisage the measures being used to prevent that type of harassment, by individuals who are intimidating or trying to close down legitimate protest against the Chinese Communist party, of legitimate protesters on university campuses?

I can genuinely understand and imagine a pathway in which that could be the case. However, as I say, because of the huge amount of resources involved in an STPIM, we will try any other means possible, through normal criminal procedures, to prosecute individuals for harassment under normal criminal law. We will be doing everything we can to not actually use an STPIM. We want to prosecute these people. The Government’s first line is prosecution, and the last resort is an STPIM, when there is no other option available to us.

I will also ensure that we add crypto to the list one way or another, but I have to work out how we define it.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 32 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 4 agreed to.

Clause 33

Conditions A to E

I beg to move amendment 55, in clause 33, page 24, line 6, leave out “reasonably believes” and replace with

“believes on the balance of probabilities”.

This amendment would apply the civil standard of proof in relation to the decision to impose Prevention and Investigation Measures.

Clause 33 sets out the conditions that must be met before a part 2 notice, or an STPIM, can be made. In short, the individual must have been involved in new foreign power threat activity so that the measures imposed by the Secretary of State are necessary, and generally a court then has to give permission.

Amendment 55 revives an earlier argument about the standard of proof that the Secretary of State must apply when assessing whether someone has been involved in activity that requires a prevention and investigation measure. The relevant standard in relation to TPIMs has varied over the years. When TPIMs were first introduced, the requirement was “reasonable grounds for suspecting”, but that was then lifted to “the balance of probabilities”. When the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Act 2021 was introduced, the Government sought to take it back down to “reasonable grounds for suspecting”. However, during the passage of that Bill, a compromise was reached in the House of Lords and the test was set at “reasonably believes”. My understanding at the time was that the compromise set a standard not as low as “reasonable suspicion” but not as robust as “the balance of probabilities”, and we took the view that the probabilities test operated perfectly well.

Indeed, Jonathan Hall QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, told the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Public Bill Committee:

“If it is right that the current standard of proof is usable and fair, and I think it is, in a word, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” ––[Official Report, Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Public Bill Committee, 25 June 2020; c. 7, Q6.]

At that stage, he was happy with “the balance of probabilities”, and not the Government’s original intention to restore the “reasonable suspicion” test. That said, those who accepted that amendment in the House of Lords suggested that the difference between “reasonably believes” and “the balance of probabilities” would be fine, and I acknowledge that far greater legal minds than mine were content with that compromise. Of course, Mr Hall’s clear evidence to this Committee was, slightly to my surprise, that to all intents and purposes the balance of probabilities is the same thing as reasonable belief.

Essentially, this comes down to two questions. First, why not just use the tried and tested terminology of “the balance of probabilities” if it is the same thing as reasonable belief? Secondly, does the Minister agree that basically the two tests are the same? I suppose that is the most important question to ask the Minister arising from this amendment.

I will keep my remarks brief. Conditions A to E, set out in subsections (1) to (5), provide a clear framework that the Secretary of State must work within, with conditions that would then be tested by the court. I listened carefully to my friend the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East. His amendment probes whether clause 33 should apply the civil standards of proof in relation to the decision to impose prevention and investigation measures, by proposing that “reasonably believes” be replaced with

“believes on the balance of probabilities”.

In considering that, as the hon. Member said, we look to Jonathan Hall’s evidence in this Committee’s first sitting, and then to the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011, and we can see that the wording has pretty much been copied verbatim to this Bill.

With that in mind, and given Mr Hall’s assessment that the measures have not been overused, the lower numbers subject to TPIMs and the reality of just how resource intensive they are, I am satisfied that “reasonably believes” is justifiable, but I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response to the points raised by the SNP spokesperson.

Clause 33 mirrors TPIMs, in that it specifies the conditions that must be met in order for the Secretary of State to impose prevention and investigation measures on an individual under an STPIM. Condition A is that the Secretary of State must reasonably believe that the individual is or has been involved in foreign power threat activity. Condition B is that some or all of the foreign power threat activity is new. That ensures that when a notice has expired after the five-year limit provided by clause 34, a further notice may be imposed only where the individual has re-engaged in further foreign powers threat activity since the start of the five-year period.

Conditions C and D outline the two limbs of the necessity test for imposing the measures, so the Secretary of State must reasonably consider, first, that the notice is necessary for protecting the UK from the risk of foreign power threat activity, and secondly, that it is necessary to prevent or restrict the individual’s involvement in foreign power threat activity by imposing the specific measures.

Those two conditions provide an important safeguard that makes it clear not only that must it be necessary in general terms to impose measures on the individual, but that, in addition, each individual measure that is imposed must be necessary in its own right. Condition E requires the Secretary of State to have obtained the court’s permission before imposing measures on an individual. The function and powers of the court on such an application are set out in clause 35.

In urgent cases in which the Secretary of State considers that measures must be imposed immediately, the case must be referred to court for confirmation immediately after measures are imposed. In practice, we expect the emergency power to be used very rarely. The conditions are designed to ensure that STPIMs are used only where they are necessary and proportionate, and they cannot be imposed arbitrarily. There are also several stages at which the courts will be involved in the STPIM process, including granting permission before a notice may be served or confirming one that has been made in an urgent case. The automatic substantive review of the decision to impose the STPIM and all its obligations and a right of appeal against decisions taken in relation to the STPIM provide checks and balances to the decisions taken by the Secretary of State, so I encourage fellow members of the Committee to support the clause.

I thank the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and the right hon. Member for Dundee East for tabling their amendment. It proposes amending one of the conditions for imposing an STPIM by changing the wording from the Secretary of State “reasonably believes” to

“believes on the balance of probabilities”.

I reassure the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman that in the development of the measures consideration was given to the conditions that must be met in such cases. The Government consider reasonable belief of a person’s involvement in foreign power threat activity to be the appropriate test for STPIMs. Foreign state intelligence operatives are highly trained, sophisticated and equipped to obfuscate in relation to their activities and avoid Government security measures. Given that, it is important that the threshold is not too high.

The Minister appears to be saying that the test is slightly different from the balance of probabilities, but from Jonathan Hall’s evidence, he seemed to think they were pretty much the same. I want to tease out whether the Minister thinks that this test is essentially the same as the balance of probabilities, but with a slightly different formulation, or is it a lower test?

I am going to give in to the hon. Member and say I think that the standard of the balance of probabilities test is slightly higher than reasonable belief, but we are dealing with incredibly sophisticated actors who are very highly trained. In this country, reasonable belief is used throughout in relation to war, and we have gone with the reasonable belief definition because of the nature of the people we are dealing with, the nature of the threats to national security and the nature of state threats, but I accept the point the hon. Gentleman is making.

If the Minister is saying that the “reasonably believes” test in conditions A, C and D is appropriate for the reasons he has just given, why is condition B so hard and fast? The Bill states:

“Condition B is that some or all of the foreign power threat activity in which the individual is or has been involved is new foreign power threat activity.”

There is no evidential test, such as the Secretary of State having a reasonable belief about some or all of the foreign power activity. What is the rationale for having the slightly reduced test in conditions A, C and D, but no test at all in condition B?

As I am a kind and forgiving person, I will answer and say that we have condition B because, throughout the legislation, someone has to have engaged in activity on behalf or in support of a foreign power. That is one of the key tests throughout the Bill, the foreign power test. That is the reason for it.

My view is that “reasonable belief” strikes the right balance, and the threshold mirrors that of TPIMs, which have recently been amended by Parliament in the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Act 2021. I ask the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East to withdraw the amendment.

I am grateful to the Minister for answering the question. We will give that answer further thought before consideration on Report, but in the meantime, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 33 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 34

Five year limit for Part 2 notices

I beg to move amendment 56, in clause 34, page 25, line 12, leave out “four” and insert “two”.

This amendment would mean the Secretary of State could seek to extend a part 2 notice on two occasions rather than four.

The clause allows part 2 notices, or STPIMs, to be extended by a year. Not only that but, as drafted, the clause allows for up to four further extensions, thus allowing an STPIM to be in place for five years, even if there has been no new foreign power threat activity.

As we know, these measures can place really significant restrictions on people’s liberty. The ability to extend TPIMs was controversial and only happened after they had been in place for a significant period. The views of the previous Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Lord Carlile QC, have been summarised as:

“The TPIM Act 2011 was a balance between on the one hand enabling administrative controls to be imposed outside the criminal process for a significant period of time, and on the other hand ensuring that individuals were not controlled indefinitely on the basis of an assessment that they had once engaged in terrorism-related activity, unless there was evidence that they have done some further act.”

Indeed, the stated purpose of TPIMs when introduced by the 2011 Act was that they were

“targeted, temporary measures and not to be used ‘simply as a means of parking difficult cases indefinitely’”.

The case for and against lifting the two-year cap was considered in detail by another independent reviewer, Lord Anderson, in his report, “Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures in 2012”. He observed that it was tempting to wish for longer in the most serious cases, noting:

“The allegations against some subjects are at the highest end of seriousness”.

However, he concluded that the two-year limit was an “acceptable compromise” because, in summary,

“even 2 years was a serious length of time in the life of an individual, and TPIMs should not be allowed to become a shadow alternative to criminal prosecution with their lesser standard of proof…with the possibility of no serious thought being given to how the measures might come to an end.”

It is easy for the Government to say, “Let’s mirror the current TPIM time limit as it is now,” but why should we do that? Those time limits were extended to five years only after about a decade of use of TPIMs. Starting with a five-year time limit appears to be jumping off at the deep end. If we want to mirror TPIMs, we should start off with a much shorter time limit, as happened with TPIMs, and then if, over time, evidence shows that a longer limit is required, we can make that change. But it should be based on evidence about how the orders are operating in practice and not just on saying, “Let’s cut and paste the existing position with TPIMs.”

Kirkintilloch East. Thank you for that, Mr Gray—make sure that is in Hansard.

I thank the hon. Member for amendment 56. Clause 34 stipulates that a part 2 notice can remain in force for a limit of five years. There are a number of overlapping clauses in this part of the Bill, focusing on reviews and the ongoing considerations about the necessity of a TPIM. When we get to clauses 39 and 40, I will speak to the importance of the TPIM review group, which Jonathan Hall made very clear in his evidence is essential if we are to learn anything from the lessons of TPIMs. On clause 34, could the Minister confirm the due regard that the Secretary of State must have for other agencies and the review group when considering whether to extend a part 2 notice?

I will start with the clause and then deal with the amendment. Clause 34 provides for when a STPIM notice comes into force, how long it will remain in force and how many times it can be extended. It sets a five-year limit in total. Once a notice has been imposed, it remains in force for one year. Unless renewed, it will expire after that time.

If the Secretary of State believes that conditions A, C and D, which we have just discussed, are met, it may be extended for a further year up to four times, taking the total to five years. A further STPIM notice cannot be imposed after this time unless new foreign power threat-related activity is uncovered. I would also like to make it clear that the notice is reviewed every quarter. Those measures ensure that STPIMs cannot be imposed indefinitely, and there are constant safeguards throughout their imposition.

The one-year period and the five-year limit balance the need to protect against threats to the UK from individuals, and allow further extensions to be granted if there continues to be evidence of the risk of involvement in foreign power threat activity. The provisions do not just look back, but recognise the important work that our security services and police would need to carry out both before and after a notice expires. I would therefore appreciate the Committee’s support for the clause.

Amendment 56 relates to the time limits placed on part 2 notices. Like hon. Members, the Government agree that it is important to ensure that individuals are not placed on STPIMs indefinitely. That is why we have included two important time-limit safeguards. The first is that STPIMs can be extended only after a year if the conditions on which they were imposed are still met. In particular, the approach we have taken contains a number of points where positive action is required to keep an STPIM in place. That important safeguard ensures that an STPIM cannot remain in force when it is no longer appropriate.

Secondly, STPIMs can be extended on only four occasions. The hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East asked why we had not opted for two occasions, mirroring the original TPIM legislation. That is because of evidence over the last decade from our operational partners about what they feel is appropriate and necessary. We are mirroring their experience with TPIM notices over the last decade, and we will work with them on STPIM notices.

The one-year period and the five-year limit balance the need to protect against further threats. Given the safeguards I have outlined, I ask the hon. Member to consider withdrawing his amendment.

I am grateful to the Minister, because he did not just say, “Well, we’re just cutting and pasting from TPIMs.” He did provide an explanation of the thinking behind the five-year limit. I will take that away and give it further thought. In the meantime, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 34 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Scott Mann.)

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.

National Security Bill (Eighth sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: Rushanara Ali, † James Gray

† Bell, Aaron (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Con)

Eagle, Maria (Garston and Halewood) (Lab)

† Elmore, Chris (Ogmore) (Lab)

† Everitt, Ben (Milton Keynes North) (Con)

† Hart, Sally-Ann (Hastings and Rye) (Con)

Higginbotham, Antony (Burnley) (Con)

Hosie, Stewart (Dundee East) (SNP)

Jones, Mr Kevan (North Durham) (Lab)

† Jupp, Simon (East Devon) (Con)

† Lynch, Holly (Halifax) (Lab)

† McPartland, Stephen (Minister for Security)

† McDonald, Stuart C. (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (SNP)

† Mann, Scott (North Cornwall) (Con)

Mohindra, Mr Gagan (South West Hertfordshire) (Con)

† Mumby-Croft, Holly (Scunthorpe) (Con)

† Phillips, Jess (Birmingham, Yardley) (Lab)

Sambrook, Gary (Birmingham, Northfield) (Con)

Huw Yardley, Bradley Albrow, Simon Armitage, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 19 July 2022


[James Gray in the Chair]

National Security Bill

Clause 35

Prior permission of the court

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to consider the following:

Clause 36 stand part.

That schedule 5 be the Fifth schedule to the Bill.

Clause 37 stand part.

Clause 38 stand part.

Clause 35 sets out the function and powers of the court on the application by the Secretary of State to obtain permission from the court before imposing measures on an individual, as required under condition E in clause 33(5).

Subsection (4) provides that the court may consider the Secretary of State’s application without the individual on whom the measures would be imposed being aware of the application or having the opportunity to make representations. That feels to be at odds with the rest of the justice system; however, given the nature of the risks we are attempting to manage and supress with the measures, the clarity in the explanatory note that this is

“to avoid a risk of the individual absconding”

is a sobering reality.

We welcome subsections (7), (8) and (9), which provide powers for the court in various scenarios. Clear tests are set out for the courts in subsection (3)(a), under which the court has to determine whether the Secretary of State’s decisions are “obviously flawed”. That standard is also used in schedule 5, under clause 36.

I sought a legal opinion about “obviously flawed” and, although there is a similar test in schedule 2 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, the sense from lawyers was that “obviously flawed” sets an unusual standard—for example, decision making might be found to be flawed only upon scrutiny, but not obviously so. Will the Minister clarify the standard? Is he in a position to confirm how many times the Secretary of State’s decisions have been deemed to be “obviously flawed”, so that we can consider any learning from that?

Clauses 37 and 38 provide for a directions hearing and a review hearing. Under clause 37(2), on giving the Secretary of State permission to impose measures the court must give directions for a directions hearing. According to subsection (3), those directions must not be served on the individual in a case in which permission has been granted until the part 2 notice has been served.

We will come to the importance of the ongoing review in clauses 39 and 40, which I expect will feed into the processes set out in clause 37. I am reassured that the operability of the whole of part 2 will be considered by an independent reviewer, as outlined in clause 49, in addition to the review hearing and the ongoing assessment of individual circumstances.

As the shadow Minister says, these clauses put in place some important oversight and a scrutiny mechanism in relation to state threats prevention and investigation measures. On the whole, the oversight and scrutiny mechanisms appear to work, but I have some questions to put to the Minister for clarification.

First, to pick up on a point made by the shadow Minister, why is it the function of the court to determine whether the Secretary of State’s decision was “obviously flawed”? I was slightly surprised by that standard and not familiar with it at all. What is the difference between an “obviously flawed” decision and one that is merely “flawed”? Is not the simple requirement in clause 35(6) to apply judicial review principles in itself sufficient to let the court know what it is supposed to do?

Secondly, clause 35(4) allows the court to have its hearing on the Secretary of State’s application “in the absence of” the relevant individual and even without that person being notified of that happening. I can well understand that there will be some reasons why that may appear to be necessary, but the Bill does not provide any guidance at all to the courts as to when it would or would not be appropriate to proceed in that way. That struck me as quite a strange way to do things. It just says that the court may consider the application

“in the absence of the individual”,

without providing any guidance as to when that would be appropriate and the reasons the court should have for doing that.

That question is even more pertinent when the court hears an urgent case under schedule 5, which says that the Secretary of State must serve the part 2 notice on the individual and then, immediately after, refer the measures to the court. Given that the part 2 notice has been served on the individual and is enforced because of urgency, it seems strange that there would be justification for the court to consider the reference under the part 2 notice without the individual being present or even aware of the hearing. The individual will have been served the notice, so why does the hearing then need to proceed without them even being aware of it? Why would that power be necessary?

Finally, on the review hearing, clause 38(3) gives the court a broad power to simply

“discontinue the review hearing in any other circumstances.”

There is not much in the Bill that sets out why the court might want to do that and what factors would prompt a court to behave in that way. When is it envisaged that that would be necessary and why is there no more detail about that in the Bill?

I will respond to the questions as I go through my speech. I am always happy to take interventions.

Clause 35 mirrors the terrorism prevention and investigation measures and sets out the function and powers of the court on an application by the Secretary of State to obtain permission before imposing measures on an individual, as required under condition E of clause 33. The clause means that the court must apply judicial review principles and consider

“whether the relevant decisions of the Secretary of State are obviously flawed”.

The hon. Member for Halifax asked how many times decisions have been considered “obviously flawed” by the court and the answer is never; hopefully that gives some reassurance.

The Secretary of State will put the draft part 2 notice before the court. If the court considers that the decisions that conditions A, B or C are met were obviously flawed, it may not give permission to impose the notice. If the court considers that the decisions relating to condition D were obviously flawed, the court can give directions to the Secretary of State on the specific measures while otherwise permitting the notice to be imposed—again, there are more safeguards.

The court may assess the Secretary of State’s application without the potential subject of the measures being aware. That is important because, as the hon. Member for Halifax made clear, it prevents the individual from receiving notice that the measure could be imposed on them and obviously stops them running away and absconding.

Once the measures are imposed, the subject will of course have the right to an automatic full review by the High Court where the individual will be present and have legal representation. For any closed proceedings in the review hearing, there will be a special advocate to act in the subject’s interest. I have checked that the special advocate cost will be met by the Home Office for both parties. The review hearing is where the court will apply a high level of scrutiny to the Secretary of State’s decisions. The Government feel it is right that, rather than at the initial stage of obtaining court permission, the full scrutiny takes place at the second stage of court review, after the individual has had an opportunity to seek legal advice. We will come on to that in more detail.

Clause 36 gives effect to schedule 5, which makes provision for urgent cases in which the Secretary of State may, under clause 33(5)(b), impose measures on an individual without first obtaining the permission of the court. This provision has long-standing precedents: there are similar provisions relating to TPIMs in the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 and to control orders in the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.

This urgent and exceptional power has never been used since the TPIMs regime was introduced. In all cases, it has been possible to obtain court permission in advance, and that will always be the preferred option. We do not expect the regime in this Bill to operate any differently. We have tried to put in place safeguards throughout the whole Bill. As I have said, the STPIMS are a last resort and it is all about trying to find other ways to prosecute.

As we know, the power will be used in rare and exceptional cases when there is an operational need to avoid any delay in taking measures that are considered necessary to protect the UK from a foreign power, threat or activity. We will come to oversight in later deliberations on this part of the Bill. To help the hon. Member for Halifax, I will say that I absolutely expect the person appointed to review the operation of this part to comment on the appropriateness of any use of the urgency process. I hope that provides reassurance.

Clause 37 ensures that there is timely and clear progress towards a full High Court review. The basis of the clause is, in essence, to ensure that in each case, when measures are imposed, a prompt and clear timeline is put in place, with the steps that need to be taken towards the subsequent full High Court review. The directions hearing must take place within seven days of a part 2 notice being served on the individual or, in an urgent case, within seven days of the notice being confirmed. Directions must then be set for a full review hearing to take place as soon as possible. The proceedings leading up to the full review hearing will be agreed by all parties.

The clause is not about the court considering the restrictions or the nature of the evidence; it is there more to ensure the speedy process of the approach to the full hearing. It is important that the hearing takes place speedily within that seven-day period, so that there is a direction of travel to ensure that subsequent oversight is well prescribed.

On clause 38, the involvement of the court is an important safeguard for the rights of the individual subject to the measures, and full judicial oversight of the process of imposing measures is key. As I alluded to earlier, clause 38 provides for a full High Court review to take place automatically in every single case in which state threat prevention and investigation measures are imposed. This will happen automatically, with no need for the individual to initiate the proceedings, in each case in which measures are imposed, subject only to the provisions that allow the discontinuance of proceedings included in subsection (3)—for example, if the person does not want the review to take place. Only the individual or court may make the decision to discontinue the proceedings, and the individual will always be able to make representations in respect of a proposal to discontinue.

At the full review, the function of the court is to review the decisions of the Secretary of State that conditions A, B, C and D were met at the time she made the decision and continue to be met at the time of the review. To remind the Committee, the decisions are that they reasonably believe the individual is or has been involved in foreign power threat activity; that some or all of that activity is new foreign power threat activity; that they reasonably consider that the imposition of STPIMs is necessary to protect the UK from the risk of action that constitutes foreign power threat activity; and finally, that they reasonably consider that it is necessary, for purposes connected with preventing or restricting the individual’s involvement in foreign power threat activity, for the specified measures to be imposed on the individual.

Clause 38 requires the courts to apply the principles that are applicable on an application for judicial review. As Committee members will be aware, the courts take the view that judicial review is a flexible tool that allows for differing degrees of intensity of scrutiny, depending on the circumstances and the impact of the decision in question on the individual concerned.

As well as setting out the functions of the court in a review, clause 38 sets out the powers available to the court, which may overturn the Secretary of State’s decisions in their entirety if it finds that they were unlawful. If the court finds that it was necessary to impose measures but one or more of the measures imposed was unlawful, the Bill is clear that the court may quash the particular measures or direct that they be varied, while also directing that the rest of the notice comes into force. That will provide a balance between being able to protect the UK and ensuring that the measures imposed represent the minimum necessary interference with the rights of the individual.

In addition to the function and powers of the court, clause 38 also makes provision for circumstances in which the review may be discontinued. The court must discontinue the review if the individual requests it—for example, if they do not wish to challenge the case against them. However, as a further safeguard, the Bill specifies that before the court may discontinue proceedings under the power the individual subject to the measures and the Secretary of State must have the opportunity to make representations.

It is imperative that the correct checks and balances are in place to govern the operation of STPIMs, and the Government consider that clause 38, together with other provisions in the Bill that provide the requirement for court permission before the imposition of measures and subsequent rights of appeal, will deliver rigorous end-to-end judicial oversight of the decisions taken by the Secretary of State in the exercise of her powers. The continuous involvement of the court will provide a key, important safeguard for the rights of the individual subject to the measures.

In summary, clauses 35, 36, 37 and 38 are exceptionally important for the Bill and I urge the Committee to support them.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 35 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 36 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 5 agreed to.

Clauses 37 and 38 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 39

Criminal investigations into foreign power threat activity

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 39 creates a requirement on the Secretary of State to consult the chief officer of the police force that is investigating or would investigate any offence, acts or threats in clause 26(3) that could fall to have been committed by the individual, on whether there is evidence that could realistically be used to prosecute the individual. During the evidence session, it was asked whether STPIMs would be easier to secure than a prosecution, so I welcome the provision in clause 39 that a prosecution has to be considered before the move to a part 2 notice—to be fair to the Minister, he was clear about that earlier in today’s discussion. The clause will also give the chief officer a statutory duty to consult the relevant prosecuting authority.

I am mindful that there is a difference between consulting a chief constable for the purposes of information gathering with a view to securing a prosecution and the ongoing necessity of managing someone in their force area who is subject to an STPIM. Will the Minister confirm whether the Civil Nuclear Constabulary or Ministry of Defence police, for example, would be consulted under subsection (2), given their roles in protecting prohibited places, regardless of the fact that they do not have any of the regular responsibilities of the other forces in England and Wales beyond their specific duties? The chief officer must also keep the investigation of the individual’s conduct under review, with a view to bringing a prosecution for an offence, acts or threats under clause 26(3), and must report on that to the Secretary of State while the part 2 notice remains in force.

If we get clauses 39 and 40 right, they will mitigate some of the concerns raised by the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East in the debate on clause 34. Although work of this nature must be undertaken if we are to keep the public safe, I note that the Home Office impact assessment gives indicative costs of anywhere between a low-cost estimate of £0.1 million and a high estimate of £1 million per TPIM. As I say, although I recognise the invaluable nature of the work, there would need to be a consultation between the Home Office and a regional force about the resources required to allow for effective monitoring and investigations to take place when the top-end costs are so significant.

We will come on to the importance of ongoing review in our debate on clause 40. Although there is a distinct lack of detail about the formal structures for a review process in either clause 39 or clause 40, the references in this clause are certainly welcome. I hope to push for more detail on the specifics in the debate on the next clause.

Clause 39 sets out the detailed requirements relating to the interaction between criminal investigations and the imposition of the STPIM notice. I want to make it very clear that it is always the Government’s preference and priority to seek the prosecution of those engaged in state threat activity. Where we can prosecute, we will. However, we accept that there are and will continue to be dangerous individuals whom, despite our best efforts, we cannot prosecute, which is why we need preventive measures to protect the UK from the threat posed by that small number of dangerous individuals. We believe the provisions in the Bill represent the most appropriate, proportionate and effective powers for dealing with this risk.

The commitment to prosecution is properly reflected in clause 39, which deals with criminal investigations. It requires, before the imposition of an STPIM notice, prior consultation with the police as to whether there is

“evidence available that could realistically be used for the purposes of prosecuting the individual for an offence”

relating to state threats. The police must consult with the relevant prosecuting authority on the same matter before responding to the Secretary of State. The provision will ensure that STPIM notices are not imposed on an individual when prosecution for state threat offences is viable instead. The police will continue to investigate and will refer the case to the prosecuting authorities if sufficient evidence comes to light.

Clause 39 makes the ongoing review of the investigation of the individual’s conduct with a view to prosecution a statutory requirement. As mentioned, there should be absolutely no doubt about our absolute and unwavering commitment to prosecute individuals where possible, which is reflected in the clause. The counter-terrorism police will continue to have full responsibility for overseeing this matter but, if necessary, they will engage with all other forces to ensure a full case for prosecution. The better our chance of getting a full prosecution, the better our chance of not having to use a STPIM notice.

The Government believe prosecuting to be the best way to move forward. The only situation in which prosecution does not result will be when a case has not passed the relevant test in the code for Crown prosecutors. Our ambition is to prosecute at every single stage and use STPIMs as an absolute last resort.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 39 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 40

Review of ongoing necessity

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 40 introduces a review of ongoing necessity, meaning that the Secretary of State has a duty to keep under review the necessity of a part 2 notice and the measures imposed under it while the notice is in force. Through case law, a parallel system was established for TPIMs, following the Court of Appeal ruling that

“it is the duty of the Secretary of State to keep the decision to impose a control order under review, so that the restrictions that it imposes, whether on civil rights or Convention rights, are no greater than necessary.”

We welcome the clause. In Jonathan Hall’s 2020 review of counter-terrorism legislation, he gave a review of the TPIM review group—the TRG—meetings, at which officials from the Home Office, counter-terrorism police and MI5 review the necessity and proportionality of TPIM measures, consider variations, discuss exit strategies, are updated on the prospects of criminal prosecution and consider the outcome of practical and ideological mentoring sessions. He said:

“The Home Office official chairing the meeting injected a proper degree of challenge to the ongoing management of the TPIM subject, including on the possibility of relaxing certain measures, and impact on family members. The TRG is conducted using a draft agenda which now requires consideration of each measure in turn: this is a clear improvement over the previous practice of considering the measures as a whole. Following my observations in previous reports, I am pleased to say that there is greater analysis of whether prosecution for terrorism offending is a reasonable alternative to a TPIM.”

In the first oral evidence session, Mr Hall said:

“The first message from the TPIMs is that you need to have a strong chair of the TPIM review group, or the equivalent”––[Official Report, National Security Public Bill Committee, 7 July 2022; c. 5, Q2.]

for the STPIMs.

The clause says only that a Secretary of State must keep the notice under review. Will the Minister confirm that an STPIMs review group will be a key feature of the ongoing assessment of an STPIM? How often will it meet? Will he confirm that the review group will be a primary mechanism for providing information to the Secretary of State, allowing them to make informed decisions?

I will detain the Committee on this clause for only about an hour and a half. [Laughter.] I can feel the excitement. The Government recognise the disruptive nature of the measures on a person’s life. That is why the notice should remain in place only for as long as necessary and the measures imposed should remain tailored to the threat.

Clause 40 provides for an important safeguard by placing a duty on the Secretary of State to keep under review the ongoing necessity of both the STPIM notice itself and the measures specified in it. Regular monitoring to consider how the individual is responding to being on a STPIM, reviewing whether any new evidence has come to light for a prosecution to be possible and considering whether any changes are needed by varying the restrictions will remove any doubt that, while it remains in force, an STPIM notice will be assessed to ensure that it remains necessary at all times.

There were a few questions from the hon. Member for Halifax; I will try to answer them as best I can. There will be quarterly reviews and the individual will be able to appeal, as we discussed earlier in the debate. She is correct that reporting will be done quarterly. The review will be accountable to the Secretary of State and will be chaired by an expert civil servant and attended by operational partners. Here is the bit that the hon. Lady and our friends in the SNP will be most keen to hear about: as with TPIMs, there will be an independent reviewer to ensure that clause 40 and the whole of the STPIMs regime will be implemented correctly. I hope she can support the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 40 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Scott Mann.)

Adjourned till Tuesday 6 September at twenty-five minutes past Nine o’clock.

Written evidence reported to the House

NSB04 Matrix Chambers, Mishcon de Reya, Powerscourt Group

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill (Sixteenth sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: Sir Mark Hendrick, Mr Philip Hollobone, Mrs Sheryll Murray, † Ian Paisley

† Atherton, Sarah (Wrexham) (Con)

Benton, Scott (Blackpool South) (Con)

† Farron, Tim (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)

Fletcher, Colleen (Coventry North East) (Lab)

Gibson, Patricia (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)

† Henry, Darren (Broxtowe) (Con)

† Johnson, Gareth (Dartford) (Con)

† Jones, Mr Marcus (Minister of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

† Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma (South Shields) (Lab)

† Maskell, Rachael (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)

† Moore, Robbie (Keighley) (Con)

Mortimer, Jill (Hartlepool) (Con)

† Nici, Lia (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

† Norris, Alex (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)

† Pennycook, Matthew (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab)

† Smith, Greg (Buckingham) (Con)

† Vickers, Matt (Stockton South) (Con)

Bethan Harding, Adam Mellows-Facer, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 19 July 2022


[Ian Paisley in the Chair]

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Before we begin, I have some preliminary announcements. Members should please email copies of their speaking notes to No food or drinks are permitted, but there is plenty of water provided—obviously, you should drink that today. If you would like to remove your jackets, feel free to do so, and please keep electronic devices on silent mode.

Clause 88

Contents of a neighbourhood development plan

I beg to move amendment 119, in clause 88, page 94, line 27, at end insert—

“(aa) policies (however expressed) relating to the proportion of dwellings which may be in—

(i) use class 3A (second homes), or

(ii) use class 3B (holiday rentals)

under Schedule 1 of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (S.I. 1987/764).”

This amendment would enable neighbourhood plans to include policies relating to the proportion of dwellings which may be second homes and short-term holiday lets under use classes created by NC38.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 38—New use classes for second homes and holiday lets

‘(1) Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (S.I. 1987/764) is amended as follows.

(2) In paragraph 3 (dwellinghouses)—

(a) for “whether or not as a sole or” substitute “as a”, and

(b) after “residence” insert “other than a use within Class 3B)”.

(3) After paragraph 3 insert—

“3A Class C3A Second homes

3A Use, following a change of ownership, as a dwellinghouse as a secondary or supplementary residence by—

(a) a single person or by people to be regarded as forming a single household;

(b) not more than six residents living together as a single household where care is provided for residents; or

(c) not more than six residents living together as a single household where no care is provided to residents (other than a use within class C4).

Interpretation of Class C3A

For the purposes of Class C3A “single household” is to be construed in accordance with section 258 of the Housing Act 2004.

Class C3B Holiday rentals

Use, following a change of ownership, as a dwellinghouse as a holiday rental property.”’

This new clause would create new class uses for second homes and short-term holiday lets.

New clause 39—Planning permission required for use of dwelling as second home

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

(2) In section 55 (meaning of “development” and “new development”), after subsection (3)(a) insert—

“(aa) the use of a dwelling as a second home following a change in ownership involves a material change in the use of the building (whether or not it was previously used as a second home);”.’

This new clause would mean planning permission would be required for a dwelling to be used as a second home following a change of ownership.

Good morning, Mr Paisley; it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship on this lovely day. I am grateful for the opportunity to move the amendment and to speak to new clauses 38 and 39.

I volunteered for this Committee for many reasons: to spend time in great company and to be involved with a Bill that gives great opportunities to make a difference for this country, if we get it right. However, my fundamental motivation was to try to address a problem that has afflicted my community in Cumbria, and others, for a number of decades, and which I referenced in my maiden speech more than 17 years ago. That problem has got catastrophically worse in the last two years.

Before the pandemic, the average house price in my constituency was about £250,000, and the average household income was about £26,000. In the lakes and the dales, there is a much greater disparity in scale, where average house prices were already pushing towards £500,000 and average household incomes were no greater than in the rest of the district. There were 5,500 people on a council house waiting list and we have fewer social rented properties than that. Second home ownership was creating massive problems with under-population in villages that were losing their schools, their post offices and their bus services. In many communities, more than 50% of properties were empty.

Even before the pandemic, there was a huge problem. We have pushed the Government to take action for years, but we have seen precious little action. Since the pandemic, the situation has gone from crisis to catastrophe and urgent action is needed. The Government are dragging their feet; the one or two things they have talked about doing to address those issues will not even touch the sides.

Let us look at the situation now. Between June 2020 and June 2021—we are awaiting the figures for this year—in South Lakeland alone there was a 32% rise in the number of holiday lets. That area includes the most populated parts of the Lake district and the Yorkshire dales, and there was a colossal number of holiday lets to start off with, so where does a rise of 32% come from? They were not built for the purpose; they were long-term lets that migrated into short-term lets or Airbnbs.

According to estate agents, up to 80% of all house transactions in the last two years fall into the second homes market—to people who own a property but do not live in that property. From live information—literally, given yesterday—AirDNA says that within our community there are 8,111 short-term available lets. Rightmove sent a snapshot yesterday of 262 long-term lets, which means that there are 35 times more short-term lets in our community than long-term lets. We are seeing lakeland clearances, which have taken place in just a couple of years. People have been evacuated and expelled from the communities where they served and worked, where they may have grown up, where they sought to retire. People of all ages, not just the working-age population, have been evicted under section 21. Typically, those homes then migrate instantly into the Airbnb market.

Let me give you some examples. Debbie in Windermere, a hotel manager, was evicted from her property under section 21 and had to move to Lancaster, 30 miles away. She could find no way of staying in that community. As a consequence, that hotel is still without a manager. I think of a couple in Ambleside: him a chef, her a teaching assistant. They have one child in school and one about to go to school. They have been evicted from their property, which is now worth five times more on Airbnb than they were paying for it. They do not live anywhere in Cumbria now. They both had to give up their jobs and pull their children out of school and nursery, robbing that community of their services and their work.

I also think of Mike, who I spoke to on Saturday. He works in Windermere and lived in Troutbeck Bridge, just two or three miles up the road. He was evicted from his long-term let there, where he had lived for years, and he now has to live in Morecambe. It is a lovely place, but it is 30 miles away. He will soon have to give up his job. Good luck to his employer in finding anyone to replace him.

In the relatively small Yorkshire dales town of Sedbergh, 24 people were evicted during a two-week period in April. Not a single property is available on Rightmove to help those people. There is no doubt whatsoever of the reasons for that. I have some schools in our national parks reporting drops in school rolls of between a fifth and a third of their entire school numbers over the past two years. There are consequences to inaction. We are talking about the death of communities. It is happening as we speak.

We are seeing the annihilation of the workforce. In a study a few weeks ago, 63% of Cumbria Tourism’s members reported that they had to operate below capacity last year because they could not find staff. The workforce is being expelled at a rate of knots. What is the impact of that on our economy? Cumbria Tourism is the biggest employer in Cumbria, contributing £3.5 billion to the Exchequer. Our businesses are underperforming because they are understaffed, because the workforce has been cleared out. In Sedbergh, again, just a few weeks ago—in a snapshot of this one dales town—there were 104 unfilled vacancies. By the way, there are zero spaces available for any long-term let on Rightmove.

Look at the care sector. In the census report a couple of weeks ago, we saw a 30% rise in retirement age groups in our communities. Subsequently, there is a massive rise in the demand for care and a massive drop in the number of people available to provide that care. A tragedy is happening on our doorsteps and within our communities, and not just in the lakes and dales, but elsewhere in Cumbria and other parts of rural Britain. What we are seeing is the tragedy not only of divided families, but of lost services—the impact on schools under pressure and on bus services being lost because of a lack of an active, full-time population in our communities.

Those of us who live in or around a national park—I have the honour of representing two—are not trying to hold them tightly and keep them for ourselves. We want to share them with the country. We are stewards of our national parks for the whole country. However, due to Government inaction and the market being broken, we are seeing our communities and national parks being turned into no-go zones for anybody who is not a millionaire.

There is nothing in the Bill that even touches the sides of being able to tackle this crisis. I want the Government to tackle it with the urgency and speed with which the problem itself is developing. Rarely would we find anything like this amendment and these new clauses when looking at legislation, but they are genuinely the silver bullet to give communities the power to take back control and ensure that they breathe life back into those communities.

I will briefly talk the Committee through the amendment and the new clauses. New clause 38 would provide local planning authorities with the power to make a difference. Under current planning criteria, a permanent dwelling, a second home and a holiday let are all the same category of use, technically. Practically, of course they are not the same category of planning use; they are three very distinct categories. All that the new clause would do is allow local council planning authorities in the Lake district and the Yorkshire dales to be able to differentiate between the three. In a community such as Coniston, where more than half of the homes are not lived in all year round, the council will be able to set a cap and say, “No more.” These measures are about simply giving our communities the power to decide their own destiny.

I simply ask the Minister to take this matter seriously and accept the amendment and the new clause. Together, they would allow local communities to decide their own destiny, to prevent the clearance of a local working-age—indeed all-age—population and ensure that our national parks and rural communities, not just in Cumbria but across the country, are available to everyone, not just the wealthy.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley. I will be relatively brief, both because we have discussed these issues extensively in Committee and because the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale made the case so comprehensively, speaking about the communities in his constituency and the lives and livelihoods of those who make up the communities.

As I have said before, one need only speak to any hon. Member with acute housing pressures of the kind the hon. Gentleman set out to realise that the Government have not got the balance right between the benefits of second homes and short-term holiday lets to local economies and the impact of excessive concentrations of them on local people. It has also become apparent over the course of previous debates that there is a divide between those on the Opposition side and those on the Government side when it comes to how urgently and how boldly we must act to address the problems of excessive second home ownership and its staggering growth. The hon. Gentleman gave truly staggering figures of short-term holiday lets, showing the problems they cause around the country.

The Opposition are clear that we need urgent action in a range of areas to quickly bear down on this serious problem. There is no doubt in my mind that the introduction of new planning use classes could—along with a suite of other measures, because more measures would be needed—go a long way to restoring the balance that we all agree must be struck, giving communities back a measure of control that they do not currently enjoy. For that reason, we wholeheartedly support the amendments and urge the Government to give them serious consideration.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley. I want to add my support to these amendments. The issue seems to be that holiday destinations in particular have been hit by the Airbnb market. I am sure the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale will be hearing from many of his colleagues about the implications it has, whether they are from Cornwall or Devon, and it is now spreading across the country.

York has been hit, in particular over the pandemic. We have seen a 45% increase in Airbnbs over that period, and it is hitting our communities hard. According to today’s figures, there are 2,068 Airbnbs in my community. We are seeing an extraction economy, where money is being taken out of our local economy predominantly by people from London and the south-east, who can afford to buy these additional properties. They are clearly trying to make a profit, but it comes at the expense of our communities.

We have heard about the impact on public services and the local economy. Hospitality venues are now not able to open full-time for the guest economy, because they cannot recruit the necessary skills. It is skewing the whole economy and our public services, in particular care work, and that is now orientating into our NHS. It is jacking up the house prices in the area, and we are getting this heated housing market because demand is so great. We hear about people coming and buying six, seven or eight of these properties at one go.

The result of this increased demand is that local people are impacted. They are faithfully saving for their mortgage, but when they go to put an offer on a house, someone undercuts them by tens of thousands of pounds, because they know that they will get the return. Renting a property in York costs, on average, £945 a month. An Airbnb stay over a weekend costs £700. That is why we are seeing this massive reorientation. Section 21 notices are being issued to people in the private rented sector to move them on to make way for Airbnbs.

The undercutting of prices is also impacting on the regulated B&B and guesthouse market, and because Airbnb and second homes are not regulated, the health and safety is not there, and there are so many other checks that are not in place. A registration scheme, which I know the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is consulting on, is completely insufficient for addressing the challenge. It is a new challenge, and the Bill provides the Government with the opportunity to right the wrongs of what is happening and at the scale it is happening.

Creating these new classes would bring opportunity, but revenue can also be drawn from them. Many of the properties in question are classified under small business rates, so their owners do not pay council tax, but because they reach the threshold for small business rate relief, local authorities such as York are missing out on millions of pounds in revenue that they could get from such properties. It is therefore really important to categorise the properties and then look at how we use the categories.

I mentioned that in York we have 2,068 properties listed as Airbnbs; two weeks ago there were 1,999, so the number of properties that are going out to this new market is going up week by week. That is having a significant impact on York and York’s communities, so I trust that the Minister will not only support the amendment but engage in a wider discussion about what is happening to our communities, particularly in holiday destinations, so that we can ensure that, through this legislation, there is a suite of policies to ameliorate that market.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley. The amendment and new clauses raise an issue on which the Committee touched when we discussed our proposal for a second homes council tax premium. As was said in that debate, we recognise the impact that a large and growing concentration of second homes and short-term holiday lets can have on communities.

The hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale is charmingly persistent on this matter, not just for his own constituency, and I have some sympathy with his case. We know that in areas such as the Lake district, Cornwall, Devon and the Isle of Wight there are concerns about the impact of second homes and short-term holiday letting on the availability and affordability of homes for local people. I also know that the proliferation of short-term lets has affected our cities—we have heard the hon. Member for York Central talk about that, and I am aware that it is also an issue in Bath and London—which is why we are listening to local communities about the measures that they think will help to address the issues in their area.

Neighbourhood planning is an important tool in this context and, as I am sure we will discuss further, the Government wish to strengthen it. However, neighbourhood plans can already set policies concerning the sale and use of new properties in their area, including by limiting the sale of new homes for second homes and holiday lets. An example of this is in St Ives, where the neighbourhood plan, approved by local people, introduced a principal residence policy to prohibit the sale of new homes as second homes. Although the policy was challenged in the High Court, the court found in favour of St Ives and its policy. As such, I hope that the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale will agree that the changes he seeks to make with amendment 119 are already built into the neighbourhood planning system.

I want to highlight the fact that the issue is not just with new properties; it is predominantly existing properties that are brought forward. To put such a policy into the planning process, as the Minister proposes, will address only part of the problem— the future problem—and certainly will not stop the market because it will orientate completely to the existing housing stock.

I completely understand where the hon. Member is coming from. Clearly, this is about not just new builds but the wider property market. I will address that point later, but let me say now that we are aware of the issue and are doing a significant amount of work to understand the problem further and to work through the possible solutions with communities.

It is important that proposed solutions help to address the issues while avoiding unintended consequences. In that regard, I have some concerns about new clauses 38 and 39, which were also tabled by the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale. First, they risk increasing the burdens faced by local planning authorities throughout England by creating extra planning applications that they will need to decide. The issue affects different areas in different ways, so our view is that any solutions should provide tools that can adjust to local circumstances.

In addition, I am unsure why the proposal is that a change of ownership, rather than changing a property to a second home or a holiday rental, should trigger the requirement. That means that cases where the existing owner changes the property to a second home or a holiday rental would not be covered until the subsequent owner sought to continue that use. That adds a new test for local planning authorities to apply and monitor and adds complexity to the proposed use classes, in a way that could prove unhelpful.

As I have highlighted, the Government published a call for evidence on a short-term accommodation registration scheme on 29 June so that we can better understand the positive and negative impacts of holiday lets on local communities, and that consultation runs until 21 September. We want to hear from a wide range of stakeholders, including local authorities, in order to build a much-needed evidence base on the issues and develop proportionate responses. I hope the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale will be reassured—although I am not absolutely sure he will be—that we are taking the matter seriously and are taking onboard his concerns, and will continue to do so.

The Minister mentions a consultation that will end on 21 September. If it recommends putting what is being asked for into the Bill, will he come back and do that?

For a number of days now, issues have been raised in Committee that it is right for us to reflect on. Clearly, 21 September coincides with the last day of this Committee’s considerations but, as the hon. Member knows, that is not the end of the process. I am not in a position to confirm what she asks for, but it is important that matters drawn to the Government’s attention in Committee are considered carefully. We will see what amendments are tabled on Report, by the Government and by Opposition parties. On that basis, I hope that the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale will withdraw his amendment.

Thank you, Mr Paisley; that is very nice of you. I am also grateful to the Minister, but I think that my constituents and many other people in rural Britain, on hearing his reply, will consider this a case of the Government fiddling while communities such as mine die. The Minister deployed some interesting language, and perhaps we should change the name of this Committee to the increasing burdens Committee. Give us the flipping burdens! We want the burden of responsibility to save our communities; that is what we are asking for.

As I said, planning authorities, committees and departments need the resources to enforce the powers they already have. They also need the resources to enforce the new powers that I hope the Government will see the light over and grant. But it is worth addressing what the Minister said about what the Government are already doing because, to be clear, it will not touch the sides. I reckon the council tax premium will affect the wealthiest 5% of second home owners. It will not make one bit of difference to whether they carry on having a second home, particularly when they are allowed to rent their holiday cottage out for 70 days a year, which they do. They can then register as a holiday let small business. As a consequence, they do not pay council tax, and as a “small business” they do not pay business rates either.

In other words, some of the people who are just about clinging on in my communities—single parents living on the estates in Windermere, Milnthorpe, Kendal or Sedbergh—are subsidising the Mancunian barrister’s or London banker’s second home in Coniston. It is out-flipping-rageous, and the Government have the power to do something about it. Never mind having further inquiries and investigations. We know what the problem is and what the solutions are, and I am utterly frustrated that the Government will not accept it.

This is a test—a burden on the Government—of whether levelling up means anything in rural communities. Rural Britain, today and through the coming weeks, will hear whether the Government are up to that test. Many of the Minister’s right hon. and hon. Friends who represent constituencies like mine will be forced to make a big choice: will they take the Whip or will they stand for their communities? I will start by posing that test today and pressing this amendment to a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

I beg to move amendment 120, in clause 88, page 94, line 27, at end insert—

“(aa) policies (however expressed) limiting new housing development in a National Park or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to affordable housing;”.

This amendment would enable neighbourhood development plans to restrict new housing development in National Parks and AONBs to affordable housing.

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 40—Local authorities to be permitted to require that new housing in National Parks and AONB is affordable—

“(1) Notwithstanding the National Planning Policy Framework, a local planning authority may mandate that any new housing in its area that is within—

(a) a National Park, or

(b) an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

is affordable.

(2) A local planning authority may define ‘affordable’ for the purposes of subsection (1).”

This new clause would enable local authorities to mandate that new housing under their jurisdiction and within a National Park or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is affordable, and to define “affordable” for that purpose.

We have just talked about what we do with existing housing stock and about seeking to make sure that it is retained and that we increase the amount that is available for permanent occupancy, for all the reasons I set out earlier. The amendment would tackle extreme situations, using some admittedly extreme measures, to ensure that new build also provides for the needs of local communities.

I want to stop for a moment to make it clear that we are not saying, “Only homes for locals.” We are delighted for anybody to come to Cumbria to become new locals and part of our community, to work and to contribute. We are proud of our diversity and of being a welcoming community, but let us ensure that the houses we build are affordable.

It is a pleasure to represent the Lake district and the Yorkshire dales, as well as the Arnside and Silverdale area of outstanding natural beauty, which has many of the features, including some of the planning powers, of a national park. Any property that goes on the market in those areas will be snapped up within seconds for a premium price. That includes new properties that are potentially built for local occupancy. It is easy to get around the occupancy clauses: people can buy the properties and then turn them into holiday lets quite quickly or move away from the area and use them as second homes, so the occupancy clauses are no protection.

The amendment would give planning authorities in national parks, which face extreme circumstances, radical powers that they can use, in some circumstances, for a period of time. We are not saying that they have to use them, but the powers would be there and available to them. If the Lake district or the Yorkshire dales wished to say, as I am sure they would if they were given these powers, that they would permit only developments that were genuinely affordable, which would normally mean social rented or shared ownership properties, they would be able to enforce that.

The experience in the not-too-distant past, when national park planning authorities had greater powers in practice than they do today, was that such provisions worked. There is a wrong view, which I think is held by some in this place, that the more restrictions there are, the less development we get. That is baloney. Practice proves that that is not true. If authorities are crystal clear to developers, housing associations and others that this is what they will get, and no more, people will either come forward or they will not.

I can call on experience in places such as Grasmere; Ambleside, where the Methodist and Anglican churches worked together to provide new affordable housing with the support of the national park; Windermere, where a similar thing happened; Coniston; and Hawkshead. The communities there were the diametric opposite to nimbys: they actively went out to find land to develop, which people gave up cheaply; they worked and fundraised to make sure things happened; and they left properties in their wills to make sure that collaborations could happen and we could build affordable houses. One reason why that was possible was that people potentially leaving a bequest knew that they could trust the national parks to ensure that their property would end up being redeveloped in an affordable way for a local family, which also meant that developers were clear that that was all that would be on the table. The evidence from 20 years’ experience is that if we are more restrictive, clearer and more directive, we will get the homes that we need for communities such as mine.

The simple fact is that in many parts of the country—not just Cumbria but especially there—if we build it, someone will buy it. By not giving local communities that power, we are simply building for demand, not for need. We can carry on building for demand, but as a result, we will lose our workforce and there will be no one to care for the older people in our community, of whom there are many, in their need. The economy will dissolve because of that lack of workforce, and communities will die.

We need to ensure that we build the houses so that they are there and people can afford them, and that affordable means affordable. We need to ensure that the national parks can enforce those criteria for a period of time, so that we can solve this problem through what we do with our new builds, as we should be doing with the properties that already exist.

I thank the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale for tabling these amendments, the intention behind which we very much sympathise with. We know that excessive rates of second home ownership in rural and coastal areas are having a direct impact on the affordability, and therefore availability, of local homes, particularly for local first-time buyers. Correspondingly, we know that the marked growth in short-term and holiday lets in such areas is having a direct impact on the affordability and availability of homes for local people not just to buy but, as he said in relation to the previous group of amendments, to rent.

Research from CPRE, the countryside charity, makes it clear that our rural housing supply is disappearing and social housing waiting lists in rural areas are lengthening year on year. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is crucial that more is done to ensure that national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty have not just more affordable homes but—I make the distinction—more genuinely affordable homes.

If I am honest, however, I am concerned about the implications of the blanket nature of the restrictions provided for by these proposals. Although there is no doubt in my mind that the provision of genuinely affordable homes to buy and rent must be the priority in such areas, I worry slightly about the potential for unintended consequences, such as ruling out the provision of housing for general demand, which might be needed in some parts of the country to sustain the life of communities.

That said, I appreciate that these proposals are premised on giving communities discretion as to whether they use these powers, and I recognise and support the point that the hon. Gentleman is making with them. I hope the Government respond constructively.

I, too, am sympathetic to these proposals, but I want to point out an area of unforeseen consequence. My constituency is not an area of outstanding natural beauty—although I would argue that it is—or a national park, but we sit just beneath the Howardian hills, and the dales and moors are not far away. If these blanket proposals and bans are orientated to those areas, the challenge is that they could heat up the Airbnb market even faster, particularly in somewhere such as York.

On the application process for a world heritage site, it would seem sensible for a world heritage site to be included in the criteria. I would compare the measure with a residential parking scheme: as we know, if we restrict parking on one street, people tend to park on the next street along, and we just build out and out. That may happen if we do not give flexibilities and opportunities to all areas.

Although I am really sympathetic to the sentiment behind these proposals and to the powers they would give, the scope should be broadened to enable all authorities to have the opportunity to control the housing and the lease of housing within their governance.

Although I entirely understand the desire of the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale for more affordable housing, particularly in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, I fear that the approach he advocates would be counterproductive.

Clause 88 sets out what communities can address in their neighbourhood development plans. It already allows communities to include policies on the provision of affordable housing in their area, taking into account local circumstances. We recognise that delivering affordable housing in national parks and AONBs can be a challenge. To help address that paragraph 78 of the national planning policy framework includes a specific rural exemptions sites policy. It allows affordable housing to be delivered on sites that would not otherwise be developed to meet specific local housing need, and the majority of that housing will be required to remain permanently available to those with a local connection. In addition, in 2021 we published planning practice guidance to help bring forward more of those sites in the future.

Hon. Members will be aware that authorities in designated rural areas can set policies that contain a lower development threshold, above which affordable housing can be sought. That threshold can be between one and five units, compared to a threshold of 10 units in other areas. We will be consulting on how the small sites threshold should work in rural areas under the infrastructure levy.

New clause 40 would enable planning authorities for national parks and AONBs to mandate that new housing under their jurisdiction is affordable and to define “affordable” for that purpose. Authorities are already empowered to set policies in their local plans that require developers to deliver a defined amount of affordable housing on market housing sites, unless exemptions apply. These policies are able to take into account local circumstances in setting the appropriate minimum amount of affordable housing to be delivered, which will vary across the country.

Under the infrastructure levy, we will introduce a new “right to require” through regulations, by which authorities can require a certain proportion of the levy to be delivered as on-site affordable housing. That will be in addition to the rural exemptions sites, which I have already outlined. The revenue from market housing is vital for delivering affordable housing and other vital infrastructure, with over 24,000 affordable homes being delivered through developer contributions in 2020-21. As we will discuss, the new infrastructure levy has been designed to deliver as much on-site affordable housing as at present, if not more. Requiring only affordable housing could therefore reduce the amount of affordable housing obtained in these areas by making market development unable to proceed at all. Ultimately, that would make the affordability challenges in those areas worse rather than better. As such, although the concerns raised by the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale are valid and the Government are taking them seriously in our design for the infrastructure levy, I hope he will agree to withdraw his amendment.

Just to be clear, the wording of the amendment means that it would enable national parks to do these things, and they can choose not to if they wish. If we are about respecting local communities, then what we do is about giving people power, not telling them what they must or must not do. For the Government to not support what I am proposing is effectively removing that choice from them.

I hear what people say about the impact on neighbouring communities. It is worth bearing in mind that national parks are—rightly or wrongly—made up of people from a whole range of different backgrounds. The people who are placed on national parks include those appointed by a Secretary of State, people from parish councils within the national park, and the principal authorities that make up that national park, which also cover areas that are not in the national park. At the moment, most of the area that Cumbria County Council covers is not a national park. It includes larger towns and, indeed, one city within Cumbria, which are not in the national park. Likewise, the district councils also have representatives, and not one of those district councils is majority national park in terms of population, so there is that understanding of the impact beyond the boundaries of a national park.

I understand what the Minister says about the importance of the revenue raised by market housing, but the evidence we see with our own eyes in communities like mine is that when communities can bank on new developments being affordable, we suddenly see a huge reduction in build costs, because landowners will give up land for significantly less than they would have done otherwise. Build costs reduce, and the whole community tries to find ways to achieve things. It is very similar to what has happened in my area with rural broadband—communities can deliver broadband much more cheaply than BT because, as it turns out, landowners are quite happy to allow a bunch of people to dig trenches as part of a community effort. People will do that for nothing, whereas they would not do that for a commercial enterprise. So that does not undermine the case at all.

The evidence I have brought before the Committee—the Rural Services Network stating and showing evidence that, on the Government’s own metrics, rural England is more in need of levelling up than any of the geographical regions of England, even the poorest of them—tells us that we have to do something to tackle the need. This amendment is one way in which that could be done. I understand, however, and was interested in, some of the things that the Minister said, so I will not press it to a vote at the moment. I would love to see further action from the Government to address the issue in the coming weeks. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 131, in clause 88, page 94, line 27, at end insert—

“(ab) policies (however expressed) that can require that some or all housing development sites within the neighbourhood plan area are used exclusively for the delivery of affordable housing, as determined in the neighbourhood plan;”.

This amendment would specifically provide for neighbourhood development plans to specify that housing development must deliver affordable housing.

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 41—Local authorities to be permitted to require that new housing is affordable

“(1) Notwithstanding the National Planning Policy Framework, a local planning authority may mandate that any new housing in its area is affordable.

(2) A local planning authority may define ‘affordable’ for the purposes of subsection (1).”

This new clause would enable local authorities to mandate that new housing under their jurisdiction is affordable, and to define “affordable” for that purpose.

I will be brief, Mr Paisley. We have just been talking about affordability, and I am sure that the Minister is listening carefully to our considerations and the different challenges we face across our communities. It is so important to be able to develop good, sustainable communities in the future. The amendment simply seeks to take that to the next level and enable neighbourhood planning processes to ensure that 100% affordability is built in to include social development, which is so important to building sustainable communities. We clearly do not see that at the moment. My amendment therefore speaks for itself.

New clause 41 would get there by a different route, so I am supportive of it, because I am trying to find a solution to the issue of affordability, which so many of our constituencies struggle with at the moment. I will say no more on that, but I trust that the Minister has heard and will respond appropriately.

I understand that the hon. Member wants to see more affordable housing delivered, but I do not agree that the amendment is necessary to achieve that objective. The Government remain committed to neighbourhood planning, and the reforms in the Bill will ensure that neighbourhood plans continue to play an important role in the reformed planning system.

The clause sets out what communities can address in their neighbourhood development plans. It already allows communities to include policies on the provision of affordable housing in their area, taking into account local circumstances. New clause 41 seeks to enable local authorities to mandate that new housing under their jurisdiction is affordable, and to define “affordable” for that purpose. I entirely understand the desire for more affordable housing, but the approach that is advocated through the new clause would be somewhat counter-productive.

Local authorities are already empowered to set policies in their local plans that require developers to deliver a defined amount of affordable housing on market housing sites, unless exceptions apply. Such policies are able to take into account local circumstances in setting the appropriate minimum amount of affordable housing to be delivered, which will vary across the country. Under the infrastructure levy, we will introduce a new right to require in regulations, through which local authorities can require a certain proportion of the levy to be delivered as on-site affordable housing.

The revenue from market housing is, as I said, vital to delivering affordable housing, and we have already provided 24,000 affordable homes through developer contributions during 2021. In addition, the new infrastructure levy will help to deliver more on-site affordable housing than at present. I hope that, with those reassurances, the hon. Member will withdraw the amendment.

I listened intently to what the Minister said. It does not fully satisfy me or answer the inquiry that I am making in the amendment, because he simplifies the ability to achieve the objective, which we know is not happening at the moment with the provisions that are in place.

I will withdraw my amendment today. However, I trust that we can perhaps look at this matter at a later stage of the Bill, in order to achieve the objective I am seeking. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 132, in clause 88, page 95, line 4, at end insert—

“(e) in areas of historical, cultural or environmental sensitivity, requirements intended to ensure that development is in keeping with the proximal environment.”

This amendment would enable neighbourhood plans to require that development in areas of historical, cultural or environmental sensitivity is in keeping with the surrounding environment.

I will again be brief, because my amendment is self-explanatory. In an area such as York, the development of part of the city can impact on the whole city. As I have previously mentioned, we are in an application at the moment for the tentative list of world heritage sites. Therefore, we want to ensure that the space in our city is built sensitively to best reflect our environment. That does not mean that it has to be identikit, just that we need to look at how we can build something that respects the historical, cultural and environmental sensitivities of an area such as York. We have a lot of development happening in York and many plans coming forward simply do not fulfil those criteria. I have spoken to Historic England and to archaeologists in the city, and they have deep concerns about the effect that new build could have, including detracting from our city’s incredible assets.

The amendment would also apply to the natural environment, ensuring that blend is built in with that. It does not mean that something new and vibrant cannot be developed, but it means that the sensitivities are considered. As a city, we are certainly interested, as I am sure many other places are, in how we can ensure that developers build according not just to their own desire, but to address the local sensitivities of an area.

I thank the hon. Member for York Central for tabling the amendment. I understand that she wants to ensure that communities can protect their cherished local environments from harmful development. However, I do not agree that the amendment is necessary.

Under clause 88, communities will already be able to include policies that place requirements on new development to prevent it from harming sensitive areas. Furthermore, throughout the Bill we are already introducing measures to strengthen protections for our historic and natural environments, such as extending the protections for certain designated heritage sites, including a power to issue temporary stop notices, and moving to an outcomes-based approach in environmental assessment. On that basis, I hope that the hon. Member will withdraw her amendment.

I beg to move amendment 133, in clause 88, page 95, line 9, after “contribute” insert

“to the mitigation of flooding and drought and”.

This amendment would require neighbourhood development plans to be designed to secure that the development and use of land in the neighbourhood area contribute to flood and drought mitigation.

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

Amendment 2, in clause 88, page 95, line 9, after “contribute” insert

“to the mitigation of flooding and”.

This amendment would require neighbourhood development plans to be designed to secure that the development and use of land in the neighbourhood area contribute to flood mitigation.

New clause 2—Minimum requirements for flood mitigation and protection

“(1) The Secretary of State must, before the end of the period of six months beginning on the day this Act is passed, use the power under section 1 of the Building Act 1984 to make building regulations for the purpose in subsection (2).

(2) That purpose is to set minimum standards for new build public and private properties in England for—

(a) property flood resilience,

(b) flood mitigation, and

(c) waste management in connection with flooding.”

This new clause would require the Government to set minimum standards for flood resilience, flood mitigation and flood waste management in building regulations.

New clause 3—Duty to make flooding data available

“(1) The Secretary of State and local authorities in England must take all reasonable steps to make data about flood prevention and risk publicly available.

(2) The duty under subsection (1) extends to seeking to facilitate use of the data by—

(a) insurers for the purpose of accurately assessing risk, and

(b) individual property owners for the purpose of assessing the need for property flood resilience measures.”

This new clause would place a duty on the Government and local authorities to make data about flood prevention and risk available for the purpose of assisting insurers and property owners.

New clause 4—Flood prevention and mitigation certification and accreditation schemes

“(1) The Secretary of State must by regulations establish—

(a) a certification scheme for improvements to domestic and commercial properties in England made in full or in part for flood prevention or flood mitigation purposes, and

(b) an accreditation scheme for installers of such improvements.

(2) The scheme under subsection (1)(a) must—

(a) set minimum standards for the improvements, including that they are made by a person accredited under subsection (1)(b), and

(b) provide for the issuance of certificates stating that improvements to properties have met those standards.

(3) The scheme under subsection (1)(a) may make provision for the certification of improvements that were made before the establishment of the scheme provided those improvements meet the minimum standards in subsection (2)(a).

(4) Regulations under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(5) A draft statutory instrument containing regulations under this section must be laid before Parliament before the end of the period of six months beginning with the day on which this Act comes into force.”

This new clause would require the Government to establish a certification scheme for improvements to domestic and commercial properties in England made for flood prevention or flood mitigation purposes and an accreditation scheme for installers of such improvements.

New clause 5—Insurance premiums

“(1) The Financial Conduct Authority must, before the end of the period of six months beginning on the day this Act is passed, make rules under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 requiring insurance companies to take into account the matters in subsection (2) when calculating insurance premiums relating to residential and commercial properties.

(2) Those matters are—

(a) that certified improvements have been made to a property under section [flood prevention and mitigation certification and accreditation schemes], or

(b) that measures that were in full or in part for the purposes of flood prevention or mitigation have been taken in relation to the property that were requirements of the local planning authority for planning permission purposes.”

This new clause would require the Financial Conduct Authority to make rules requiring insurance companies to take into account flood prevention or mitigation improvements that are either certified or planning permission requirements in setting insurance premiums.

New clause 6—Flood Reinsurance scheme eligibility

“(1) The Secretary of State must, before the end of the period of six months beginning on the day this Act is passed—

(a) establish a new Flood Reinsurance scheme under section 64 of the Water Act 2014 which is in accordance with subsection (2), and

(b) lay before Parliament a draft statutory instrument containing regulations under that section to designate that scheme.

(2) A new Flood Reinsurance scheme is in accordance with this section if it extends eligibility to—

(a) premises built on or after 1 January 2009 which have property flood resilience measures that meet the standard under section [minimum requirements for flood mitigation and protection](2)(a), and

(b) buildings insurance for small and medium-sized enterprise premises.

(3) The Secretary of State may by regulations require public bodies to share business rates information with the scheme established under subsection (1)(a) for purposes connected with the scheme.

(4) The Water Act 2014 is amended in accordance with subsections (5) to (9).

(5) In section 64 (the Flood Reinsurance scheme), after “household premises”, in each place it occurs, insert “and small and medium-sized enterprise premises”.

(6) In section 67 (scheme administration), after “household premises”, in each place it occurs, insert “and small and medium-sized enterprise premises”.

(7) After section 69 (disclosure of HMRC council tax information) insert—


Disclosure of business rates information

(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations require public bodies to disclose information relating to business rates to any person who requires that information for either of the following descriptions of purposes—

(a) purposes connected with such scheme as may be established and designated in accordance with section 64 (in any case arising before any scheme is so designated);

(b) purposes connected with the FR Scheme (in any case arising after the designation of a scheme in accordance with section 64).

(2) A person to whom information is disclosed under regulations made under subsection (1)(a) or (b)—

(a) may use the information only for the purposes mentioned in subsection (1)(a) or (b), as the case may be;

(b) may not further disclose the information except in accordance with those regulations.”

(8) In section 82(5) (interpretation)—

(a) for “69” substitute “69A”;

(b) after “household premises” insert “small and medium-sized enterprise premises”.

(9) In section 84(6) (regulations and orders), after paragraph (e) insert—

“(ea) regulations under section 69A (disclosure of business rates information),”.”

This new clause would require the Government to extend the FloodRe scheme to premises built since 2009 that have property flood resilience measures that meet minimum standards and buildings insurance for small and medium-sized enterprise premises.

New clause 7—FloodRe Build Back Better scheme participation

“(1) The Financial Conduct Authority must, before the end of the period of six months beginning on the day this Act is passed, make rules under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 requiring insurance companies to participate in the FloodRe Build Back Better scheme to reimburse flood victims for costs of domestic flood resilience and prevention measures.

(2) In making those rules the Financial Conduct Authority must have regard to its operation objectives to—

(a) protect consumers, and

(b) promote competition.”

This new clause would require the Financial Conduct Authority to make rules requiring insurance companies to participate in the currently voluntary Build Back Better scheme, which was launched by FloodRe in April 2022.

I am indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy) for tabling many of these new clauses in order to address the issue of flooding. However, I will first turn to amendment 133, which I tabled. At the time I tabled it, nobody could have predicted the day on which we would debate it, when temperatures are soaring to the highest the country has ever seen. Nevertheless, that highlights the importance of addressing the issue of drought.

Drought is a serious consideration for the Environment Agency, and it is really important that we are prepared for it. At the moment, we are seeing that, as a country, we are clearly not prepared. With the globe heating up, we know that this is the future, unless there is a serious reorientation around wider policy planning.

We are hearing loud and clear the importance of addressing issues of drought—looking at water supply and soil health, which is vital, and at construction. Planning has a massive impact on flooding as well as on droughts, so it is important that we look at how we move that forward.

It is also important that we look at mitigation of flood risk, which is addressed in amendment 2 and will lead us to the specifics of the new clauses. Scientists are saying today that we are now reaching the point where mitigation may not be possible, and that we will have to consider adaptation, so we are arriving at a very serious juncture in how we prevent, and protect our planet from, further degradation.

I will turn to the new clauses. Ironically, I represent a place that also floods—everything mentioned in the Bill happens in York. We have the ludicrous situation of new developments being built on floodplains without the resilience required to prevent flooding. It is important that we consider three core areas: property flood resilience, flood mitigation and robust mechanisms for waste management in connection with flooding.

Since the Boxing day floods of 2015, I have spent six and a half years building and fighting for resilience in my constituency and in our city. Exorbitant sums of money—£45 million and £38 million respectively—have been spent on flood defences and the Foss barrier. However, the Environment Agency warns that resilience in our city will hold for 17 years before the risk comes again, so there is a short period in which to bring the adaptations to the upper catchment and build the long-term resilience we need.

Although property-level resilience has been put in place, we must understand that new risks are coming and that mitigation is essential. We need to look at how to slow the flow, restore peat, and plant sphagnum moss and other planting programmes to enrich soils so that they can hold greater quantities of water upstream and water comes downstream more slowly. When flooding occurs and sewage enters people’s properties, however, they need extensive decontamination processes, and it can take months to clear and restore buildings, so building resilience is important.

The way in which resilience funding works is an issue, because funding comes from different places. Building back better, which the new clauses call for, is essential, but it is also important that we consider long-term community solutions. One property could take the approach of keeping water out, whereas another could enable flooding but have a quick clear-up. Co-ordination across the board, so that communities are integrated and work together, will be important.

I will address new clause 3. Flood Re was introduced in 2016. That welcome scheme has yielded a massive dividend in my constituency, but there are exemptions, including businesses, leasehold properties and properties built after 2009. Many properties built after 2009 still flood, including in my constituency, so the scheme has not had the impact it was expected to have in deterring the building of non-flood-resilient properties. We must reset the clock to enable such opportunities, including by ensuring that prevention is built into buildings.

Let me turn to new clause 4. I chair the all-party parliamentary group on flood prevention, and when we look at building future resilience, mitigation certification and accreditation schemes have very much been a part of our considerations. We must ensure that the people building resilience into properties are properly accredited. In 2015 and subsequent floods, people came along and said that they would build resilience into properties, but they did not have the qualifications or knowledge to do so. Unfortunately, they did not build in resilience, and people got their fingers burned.

For portable appliance testing, we expect electricians to have the relevant qualifications, and it is essential that, when it comes to flooding, we have people who are flood prevention or resilience certified in order to protect the public. Often, it is public money that is spent on resilience, so it is important that we protect the public purse and ensure that money is spent appropriately. I therefore support the new clause. We are also thinking about the certification of property, because people need to know what they are buying and be sure of its security. This is about maintaining the measures that are put in place and ensuring that resilience is used to its maximum effect.

I support the other new clauses in the group. New clause 6 would address the gaps, so that properties—particularly leasehold properties—are not exempt. It is important because it would address the small and medium-sized enterprise market. There has been a lot of discussion about that in the insurance sector through the Association of British Insurers, which set up the British Insurance Brokers’ Association scheme. Although that has improved the situation, it does not address the risk share approach that Flood Re takes, which is important for the residential community. I know that small businesses are looking at that as a way through. If SME properties are in the next tranche to be covered by the flood reinsurance scheme, that would help the industry as well as small businesses. I therefore hope the Minister will look carefully at the new clause.

New clause 7 is about building back better—building back with resilience. That is essential, but, as I said, the money does not always work. First, there is money from Government grants—perhaps under the Bellwin scheme—and DEFRA has now increased its resilience grants to £10,000, so we are talking about significant Government funding. On top of that, there is the money that comes in from the insurance companies and the Environment Agency’s community assessed schemes. That money is worked out separately and is not co-ordinated. As a result, there is not necessarily an opportunity to build greater resilience into structures. Co-ordination could protect a micro-community, as opposed to just one or two properties. Therefore, we should look at the modelling that is done on bringing insurance money and Government money together. That could have a significant impact and could mean that the Government pound stretches much further. That is obviously really important for building resilience.

I will end my comments there, but I trust that the Government will support the amendments and new clauses, which are important for communities that experience flooding.

I am happy to support this group of amendments and new clauses. Flood resilience is of huge importance. We are dealing with extreme weather—today is an example, but there are other days that are extreme in a different way. In my part of Cumbria, in the past 18 years we have had two storms deemed to be one-in-100-year events, and a third that was deemed to be a one-in-200-year event. That does not add up, does it? It is because our weather and our climate are changing. We need to mitigate, prepare and build to protect homes, families and businesses.

Most recently, in 2015 Storm Desmond devastated the town of Kendal as well as many parts of Burneside, Staveley and other communities. The human and economic consequences are vast, and vastly greater than spending money up front to do the right thing in the first place. It is very wise to build into the Bill powers to ensure that neighbourhood development plans and planning controls can bring on board very powerful bodies that otherwise might seek to shirk their responsibility to ensure people are protected. I am thinking in particular of the water companies, which made nearly £3 billion in profit last year, and the extent to which they are compelled to ensure their drainage and other facilities can cope with new development, not just in that small parcel of land but as regards the impact on the wider community.

There is also the work with farmers, who are desperate to be part of the solution, to make sure we retain water in the uplands so that we slow the flow and minimise the impact on communities. The River Kent is one of the fastest-flowing rivers in the country and only 20 miles or so long from source to sea. When floods come they are dramatic, but the water can be down to quite a reasonable level within 24 or 48 hours. It therefore stands to reason that if we can hold back some of that water in the uplands by investing there and supporting farmers to do that, we can save millions of pounds and thousands of people from the terrible experience of being dramatically flooded.

It is about making sure we build in those things in the first instance. As we speak, we are building flood resilience networks in Kendal: both what can be seen by the river in the town and what cannot be seen up in the hills, where we are seeking to retain the water by tree planting, bunding and other work to slow the flow. We should be doing that sort of stuff in advance, before communities get devastated, as happened to mine. That is why the amendments are important. They are about making sure we build resiliently for the future so that other families do not have to go through what families in my community did in December 2015, with the devastation of soggy, sodden Christmas presents and wrecked Christmas trees on the sides of streets in the estates and people utterly devastated by what they had experienced, unable to get back into their homes for six months or more. Surely it is possible for us to prevent these things. With the right powers and provisions, we can.

I rise to strongly support this important group of amendments, and I congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle and for York Central on proposing them. It is right that my hon. Friends seek to amend the Bill to ensure that planning rules on flood prevention and mitigation are strengthened and that the planning system responds better to the challenges associated with drought. As has been said, the amendments would not only ensure that we enhance the resilience to flooding of communities across England, but reform how the insurance and reinsurance markets operate in terms of data accuracy and how premiums take into account mitigations and defences, as well as beneficially extending reinsurance to small and medium-sized enterprises.

Although I am more than happy to acknowledge the positive steps taken by the Government on flood prevention and mitigation in recent years, such as the publication of the adaptation communication 18 months ago and the investment allocated to improving flood defences up to 2027, it is clear that there has been an absence of cross-departmental working when it comes to addressing the issue explicitly in the Bill. When the adaptation communication was published in 2020, it promised that climate mitigation would be integrated across Government Departments, including, most importantly in this case, infrastructure and the built environment. It is therefore problematic that the Bill lacks any explicit reference to flood mitigation and, indeed, references the term “flood” only once in relation to what charging authorities may spend the proposed infrastructure levy on. It is laudable that mitigating and responding to climate change has been included in the Bill as a new requirement for development plans and spatial development strategies. However, the Bill as a whole does nowhere near enough to address the specific issue of the susceptibility to flooding experienced by so many of our communities.

The risk and frequency of flooding will only increase as global temperatures rise and its effects, as hon. Members will know, can be devastating, not only in terms of its impact on people’s lives but on businesses and the economy. How can we plan, for example, to respond to the increased frequency and potency of flooding events when surface water flood hazard maps for the UK have not been improved upon since 2013? They urgently need updating. Indeed, that issue speaks to a wider concern, which is the dearth of accurate, up-to-date and publicly available data about flood prevention and risk. If accepted, new clause 3 would ensure that data, so that property owners could better plan for surface water flooding in areas at risk and, importantly, insurers could more accurately assess risk and therefore insurance premiums. There is widespread support in the sector for the amendments for that very reason.

When it comes to insurance, the introduction of a certification and accreditation system for flood prevention and mitigation improvements, which new FCA rules would ensure were taken into account in setting rates, is an entirely sensible reform that should help lower premiums. I hope the Government will consider accepting new clauses 4 and 5 on that basis.

On reinsurance, although the Flood Re scheme has always been designed to cover residential properties, small businesses are also struggling to get insurance in high flood risk areas. There is no equivalent scheme to help small and medium-sized enterprises access insurance, and the consequences of that can be severe. As well as their not being able to claim for losses if there is a flood, it can create difficulties in getting loans, managing cash flow, acquiring property and entering into contracts. New clause 6 would address that eligibility issue. Again, it is an entirely sensible proposal. Building standards and setting consistent approaches to flood resilience and defences across local authorities cannot be a matter for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs alone; it requires a level of co-ordination and cross-Government working.

New clause 2 simply requires the Government to set minimum standards for flood resilience, flood mitigation and flood waste management and building regulations. Again, that is an entirely sensible measure that the Government should have no problem accepting. I hope the Minister will consider this group of amendments carefully. If he will not accept them today, as I suspect, will he at least use the summer to reflect on whether the Government can introduce amendments of their own that achieve the same ends? More generally, could he consider what more the Bill could do to strengthen flood prevention and mitigation rules? The absence of any concrete proposals in the Bill on these important matters is a deficiency.

I fully understand why flooding is a matter of particular importance to the hon. Members for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle and for York Central, as well as other hon. Members, given the flood risk in many constituencies and the devastation caused by flooding. It should concern us all across the House. Although they are linked by that concern, it makes sense to deal with each of the amendments in turn rather than all together.

I take amendments 2 and 133 first: since 2009, climate change adaptation and mitigation has been a key part of the planning system. The management and mitigation of flood and drought risks is a central component of that. We are already strengthening that through the Bill. Clause 88 amends existing legislation to put beyond doubt that neighbourhood planning groups should consider climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Furthermore, to support communities, in 2020 the Centre for Sustainable Energy published a guide to policy writing and community engagement for low-carbon neighbourhood plans, which covers flood and drought risk policy as well as mitigation techniques and infra-structure that they might wish to consider in their plans. Specific reference to flooding and drought in that provision would not strengthen the commitment but might unintentionally undermine focus on other aspects of climate change adaptation and mitigation. Our view, therefore, remains that the duty is most effective when it takes all the causes and effects of climate change together.

On new clause 2, managing flood risk is a Government priority. We are investing £5.2 billion to better protect 336,000 properties, alongside a range of actions to increase resilience to flood risk. Statutory guidance on the building regulations already promotes the use of flood resilient and resistant construction in flood prone areas. However, the building regulations system does not deal with the whole interconnected system of responsibility for managing flood risk. Drainage systems for new developments are already required to be built to a standard that minimises flooding. Those duties sit outside the building regulations system.

Furthermore, the national planning policy framework already makes it clear that inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding should be avoided. Where necessary, there is an expectation that a development should be made safe for its lifetime without increasing flood risk elsewhere. In combination, I hope hon. Members will agree that the effect of the new clause is already provided for in wider systems in place for flood mitigation and protection.

Similarly, on new clause 3, we agree that communities should have access to the information they need to manage and prepare for their level of flood risk. That is why the Environment Agency publishes flood risk data and maps for England. Lead local flood authorities are also already required to have a strategy for managing flood risks in their area, which must include an assessment of local flood risk. All that information is already openly available to both insurers and householders. As such, I hope that hon. Members will agree that new clause 3 would not add to the existing provision of data.

Again, I hope the Committee will not be surprised that we agree with the intention behind new clauses 4 and 5. That is why, in July 2021, we committed to publishing a property flood resilience road map by the end of 2022 to ensure that all relevant bodies are playing their part, and that consumers have assurance about the quality of products and their installation.

The road map will set a national, strategic policy framework for property flood resilience and set out our—and the industry’s—approach to addressing the barriers to property flood resilience uptake. That includes exploring the best approach to ensure that property flood resilience professionals undertake work that meets industry standards, and establishing mechanisms to collect the evidence insurers need to recognise property flood resilience and factor it into their premiums.

As I have already said, we are clear that inappropriate new development in floodplains should be avoided, and must be made safe and resilient where they have to occur, without increasing flooding risks elsewhere. That is why Flood Re does not extend to homes built after 2009. Similarly, Flood Re was designed to provide available and affordable insurance for households. It does not cover businesses.

Business insurance operates differently to household insurance; it is often more bespoke, based on the individual nature of the business. In addition, Flood Re is funded via a levy on household insurers. Expanding its scope to cover businesses would require a new levy on businesses, which could result in businesses and therefore customers across the country subsidising profit-making organisations located near rivers or the coast, often to their advantage. That is one of the delicate issues that must be considered. Although it is undoubtedly an issue for some, there is no evidence of a systematic problem in accessing insurance for businesses with high flood risks. For businesses that experience problems, a number of innovative products are being offered to businesses by insurers.

Finally, on new clause 7, we have made important changes to the Flood Re scheme, helping to drive the uptake of property flood resilience. Regulations came into force in April that allow Flood Re to pay claims from insurers who pass flood risk on to the scheme. That includes an amount of “resilient repair”, up to a value of £10,000 over and above the cost of like-for-like repairs, to enable homeowners to return to their homes more quickly following a flood and to reduce the cost of future claims.

Build back better has deliberately been introduced on a voluntary basis. We aim to drive a cultural shift across the insurance market, raising awareness and demand for property flood resilience and helping to capture evidence on the benefits of property flood resilience to support future changes. Hon. Members may also be aware that customers of insurers covering more than 50% of the market are already able to benefit from Build Back Better. We continue to encourage more household insurers to participate in the scheme. In light of those assurances and explanations, I hope that hon. Members will be willing to withdraw the amendments.

I am grateful for the debate. I thank the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale for highlighting the importance of the upper catchment management work, which is so necessary for mapping what will happen across other communities, and the Environment Agency’s commitment and the work it is doing in that arena.

My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich hit the nail on the head when he talked about the importance of cross-governmental working, which is clearly not at an optimum at the moment when addressing issues around flooding. While the Minister has talked through a number of steps the Government are taking, I refer him back to the 2016 national flood resilience strategy, which highlighted the importance of co-ordination across Government and of ensuring that resilience was built into the system. That is not happening at the moment. As much as policy may aspire to that, it has further to go. The amendments are therefore still relevant as the Bill does not meet the requirements of the communities that currently flood, and those that will flood in the future as we see weather patterns change and risk increase.

I am not planning to press the amendment to a vote, but I hope the Government will reflect on it, and on my amendment about drought, because this is a significant and serious issue. Right now we recognise that as we move forward we need to build in how we have sufficient water supply. That will be increasingly important. I reserve the right to bring the issue back up on Report, and to give the opportunity to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle to table her amendments too. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 110, clause 88, page 95, line 17, at end insert—

“(5) After subsection (4) insert—

‘(4A) A neighbourhood development plan which is in effect on the day on which section 88 of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 comes into force may remain in effect contrary to the provisions of that section no longer than until the end of the period of five years beginning on the day on which that section comes into force.’”

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause stand part.

Clause 89 stand part.

New clause 35—Report about uptake of neighbourhood development plans

“(1) Section 38A of PCPA 2004 (Meaning of “neighbourhood development plan”) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (11C) insert—

‘(11D) The Secretary of State must prepare and publish an annual report on the uptake of neighbourhood development plans. The report must, in particular, set out—

(a) the uptake of neighbourhood development plans in less affluent neighbourhoods,

(b) the uptake of neighbourhood development plans in urban neighbourhoods, and

(c) the steps that Government are taking to increase this uptake.’”

Statutory neighbourhood plans became part of the system in 2011 when they were introduced under the Localism Act 2011 as a formal part of the development framework. The concept of neighbourhood planning is far from problem free, but we support it in principle as an important means of giving communities a greater say in where future development takes place, how it is designed and what infrastructure is provided with it.

To the extent that it enables communities better to shape development in any given area, neighbourhood planning can—although it is by no means always the case—increase public engagement, reduce the number of objections to planning applications and boost housing supply over and above local authority targets. As the Minister noted previously, neighbourhood plans can also provide communities with an important tool to mitigate the impact of acute housing pressures in their localities—for example, on the issue of excessive rates of second-home ownership and the marked growth of short-term and holiday lets that we have considered a number of times.

Clause 88 is a straightforward one in that it merely confirms the statutory role of neighbourhood planning and sets out a list of the policies and requirements that a neighbourhood plan may include. We welcome that confirmation and clarification, as well as the sensible new requirement set out in proposed new subsection (2B) for the qualifying body to design its neighbourhood plan, so far as it considers it appropriate, in such a way that it contributes to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change.

I wish to raise two specific issues with the Minister, one that relates directly to the implications of the clause for existing neighbourhood plans and another that relates to the future of neighbourhood planning more widely. The first issue concerns potential conflict between a neighbourhood plan and a national development management policy. As the Minister would expect given the arguments we have set out in previous debates, we take issue with proposed new subsection (2C)(b) under clause 88, which stipulates that a neighbourhood plan cannot be inconsistent with any NDMP. However, given that I have set out the Opposition’s reasoning on that issue in considerable detail in relation to both clause 83 and schedule 7, and proposed new paragraphs 15(c) and 15(ca), I do not intend—the Minister will be relieved to hear—to rehearse our arguments once again in the specific context of neighbourhood plans. I do want to know what will happen in the case of any one of the 1,061 neighbourhood plans, which have already been approved via referendum, that turn out not to be consistent with an NDMP published in the future.

Amendment 110 probes the Government on that scenario by suggesting that it would be sensible to insert a new subsection into clause 88, making it clear that a neighbourhood development plan that is in effect on the day on which that section of the Act comes into force has a grace period of five years to be brought into conformity with the relevant national development management policy. Given the effort that goes into producing and securing approval for a neighbourhood plan, we believe that a grace period of that length is entirely reasonable. I look forward to the Minister rising to say that he will accept the amendment—I live in hope—but if he will not, I ask him to reassure us regarding what will happen in cases where existing neighbourhood plans come into conflict with future NDMPs.

My second issue relates to the take-up of neighbourhood plans. As we discussed during the debate on new neighbourhood priority statements, all the evidence suggests that the vast majority of neighbourhood plans made to date have emanated from more affluent parts of the country, where people have the time and resources to prepare and implement the plans, rather than from less affluent areas and more complex urban environments. The Government accept that that is a problem and clearly believe that neighbourhood priority statements are a means of addressing it, but in our view those statements cannot be the only means of doing so. More could and should be done outside the legislative process to expand and support community involvement in planning decisions: for example, the Government could strengthen and expand the neighbourhood planning support programme.

We also believe that the objective of boosting the take-up of neighbourhood plans in deprived and urban areas should be included in the Bill. New clause 35 would achieve that by inserting into the Bill a requirement that the Secretary of State

“prepare and publish an annual report on the uptake of neighbourhood development plans”,

including what steps the Government are taking to increase uptake in those areas where neighbourhood plans are rarely to be found at present. It is not an onerous requirement by any means, and is fully in line with Government thinking on this important matter, so I look forward to the Minister telling me he can accept it without reservation.

I understand that the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich is keen to ensure that existing neighbourhood plans continue to be recognised in the reformed system, but I have to disappoint him by saying that I do not consider the amendments to be necessary. Clause 195 gives the Secretary of State the power to set out transitional and saving provision in regulations. The Government’s intention is to use those powers to limit disruption for communities preparing a neighbourhood plan under the current rules, and to ensure that they continue to have a role in decision making in the new system. We have listened to what Members have said about potential transitional arrangements, and we will in due course set out details of how we intend to transition to the new system of neighbourhood plans.

I fully agree with the hon. Member that more can be done to increase the uptake of neighbourhood planning in urban and deprived areas, but I do not agree that the amendment is necessary to achieve that goal. The Government are already taking action to increase uptake in such areas. New section 15K of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, inserted by schedule 7, introduces neighbourhood priority statements, which will provide communities with a simpler and more accessible way to participate in neighbourhood planning. The new neighbourhood planning tool will be particularly beneficial for communities in urban and more deprived areas that often do not have the capacity to prepare a full neighbourhood plan. In addition, we are running a pilot whereby we are able to provide additional funding to a select number of local authorities in under-represented areas to enable them to provide more help to neighbourhood planning groups in getting a neighbourhood plan in place.

I hope that with those reassurances, the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich will feel comfortable withdrawing his amendments.

I will continue to live in hope—we may get there one day. I am grateful for the Minister’s response; I noted carefully what he said about transitional arrangements, and I think I understood it. However, if he will allow me, I will perhaps at come back to him a later date to seek further clarification on precisely how an existing approved neighbourhood plan could be brought into line with future NDMPs, because there remains a slight concern about the implications.

On take-up, I am disappointed, as the Minister would expect. He will not accept what is, as I said, not a particularly onerous requirement to produce an annual report that sets out progress towards the objective. However, I hear what he said about pilots, and I am very interested to see the work that they produce. The key point, which I think he accepts, is that neighbourhood priority statements for less affluent and complex urban environments cannot be the only means of driving uptake. To drive uptake, we must do much more in a variety of areas. However, he has partly reassured me, and on that basis I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 88 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 89 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 90

Requirement to assist with certain plan making

I beg to move amendment 104, in clause 90, page 96, line 15, leave out “public”.

This amendment, together with Amendments 105 to 108, would enable plan making authorities to require a prescribed private body to assist the authority in relation to the preparation or revision of a relevant plan by the authority.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 105, in clause 90, page 96, line 18, leave out “public”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 104.

Amendment 106, in clause 90, page 96, line 23, leave out “public”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 104.

Amendment 107, in clause 90, page 97, line 4, leave out “public”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 104.

Amendment 108, in clause 90, page 97, line 5, leave out

“and certain of whose functions are of a public nature”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 104.

Clause 90 inserts new section 39A into the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, setting out a requirement on specific bodies to assist in the plan-making and plan-revising process. The explanatory notes to the Bill make clear that the clause is intended to support the more effective gathering of the information required for local planning authorities that produce local, strategic, supplementary and other forms of plans.

It appears to us that the clause is the Government’s answer to the question of how to sustain engagement and co-operation between plan-making authorities and relevant bodies after the removal of the duty to co-operate, which is an issue that we debated in relation to schedule 7. However, it is not at all clear how the clause interacts with the Government’s stated intention to introduce a “more flexible alignment test” in planning policy. I would be grateful—again, we have touched on the issue—if the Minister could set out in more detail precisely how the clause and that forthcoming alignment test will ensure that there is sufficient engagement and input in the plan-making process on the part of those bodies that are important contributors to the process of delivering infrastructure at local or strategic levels.

That question aside, we welcome the new duties that the clause places on infrastructure providers to engage with the production of local plans, which is an entirely sensible measure. However, we question why the prescribed bodies referred to in the clause are confined to those that are public. If one considers even for a moment which types of body it might be useful and necessary for a plan-making body to engage in terms of the information required for the production of a plan, it quickly becomes apparent that they would include private infrastructure providers—for example, private utility companies.

Amendments 104 and 105 to 108 would revise clause 90 in a way that would enable plan-making authorities to require prescribed private bodies to assist in the plan-making and plan-revising process. They achieve this simply by clarifying that prescribed bodies need not be public in terms of their ownership or have functions that are entirely of a public nature. The Minister will no doubt surprise me with the ingenuity of his reasoning as to why the amendment is unnecessary, but I cannot imagine what reason the Government have to oppose it. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

This is a really useful amendment, and I hope that the Minister takes it seriously. Utility companies have been mentioned already. When I think of Openreach, or United Utilities, a water company in my part of the world, I think about the impact that these businesses have on our communities. The infrastructure that they oversee and are responsible for is fundamental to the wellbeing of those communities. For example, we have seen sewage on the streets in places such as Staveley and Burneside, and the answer from United Utilities is, “Put it a bid, and we’ll look at it in our next-but-one funding round.” Surely communities ought to have the ability to say to United Utilities or other water companies, or to broadband providers and other such bodies, that their access to the greater public realm and their almost monopoly position in the market mean they have a responsibility to those communities, which will be overseen by those in local authorities who have the right to make these decisions.

It is right that private bodies should be included; it should be specified in the clause. The amendment would help communities like mine to bring in hugely powerful and very wealthy outfits such as Openreach and United Utilities, so that they perform the role they should perform—to provide for every part of our community—and do not take advantage of their power and strength over the relative weakness of local authorities.

As you have probably gathered during Committee sittings, Mr Paisley, I am not necessarily one for surprises, especially on such a hot and sunny day.

The Government support giving local authorities the full range of powers necessary to prepare robust plans. I can offer reassurance that that is our intention. The power as drafted will apply to those private sector bodies that authorities are likely to need to involve in plan making. Clause 90(6) sets parameters for which bodies can be prescribed. It requires them to have functions “of a public nature.” That might, for example, include utilities companies, which are privately owned but serve an important public function and should be proactively involved in the plan-making process. The clause does not exclude relevant private bodies where they are involved in public provision, but the amendments potentially extend the requirement to private landlords, voluntary groups and unrelated businesses, which would be disproportionate where those bodies do not have public functions that are likely to be relevant to plan making.

On alignment policy, the policy will require local planning authorities to engage with neighbouring authorities and bodies involved in their area. That will be covered in the future national planning policy framework. The power places the obligation on the bodies involved. I hope that with those reassurances the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

To surprise the Minister—it is the other way round—I am entirely reassured by his response. The language in the clause is about allowing for private infrastructure companies to be involved in the plan-making process in terms of the provision of information. That is what I took from what he said. I appreciate what the Minister said about the potential disproportionate impact from drawing in other types of bodies; that was not the intention. On that basis, I am content and beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 135, in clause 90, page 96, line 30, at end insert—

“(3A) Where regulations under this section make requirements of a local authority that is failing to deliver a local plan in a timely way, the plan-making authority must consult the local community on the contents of the relevant plan.”.

This amendment would require, in the event of a local authority failing to deliver a local plan in a timely way, those taking over the process to consult with the community.

I will not labour the point because we have already had extensive discussions about the need to break the deadlock in the planning system. York is a very live example of that need: the local plan is going through a very painful process and we are absolutely determined to see the plan amended rather than being imposed. To break the deadlock and to be able to move forward, it is right that communities get a greater say. I do not plan to push the amendment to a vote today, but I trust that the Minister is hearing the importance of being able to engage with communities in order to get the right outcomes in the planning system, particularly where there is deadlock and we are on the naughty step, or at the special measures stage of the process.

The amendment would modify clause 90 to support the more effective gathering of information required for authorities producing plans. However, its substance relates more to the plan intervention powers in proposed new section 15HA of the PCPA 2004, as inserted by schedule 7, and the importance of community engagement in plan making.

It is vital that communities are given every opportunity to have their say on draft local plans and supplementary plans. The English planning system already gives communities a key role so that they can take an active part in shaping their areas, and in doing so build local pride and belonging. We do not seek to challenge that; in fact, we are strengthening it through the Bill, and I have set out elsewhere how this will be achieved. Intervention powers have been used only sparingly in the past, and that is expected to remain the case under the plan-making system. However, they act as an important safety net and ensure that all areas can benefit from having an up-to-date local plan in place.

I would like to reassure the Committee that if the Secretary of State or a local plan commissioner were ever to take over plan preparation by using the intervention powers in proposed new section 15HA of the PCPA, the plan would need to undergo public consultation, just like any other plan. Like other procedural requirements, this will be set out through secondary legislation using the powers set out elsewhere in the Bill. Incorporating the amendment into clause 90 is therefore unnecessary. I hear that the hon. Member for York Central will not press the amendment to a Division, but I hope that I have been able to reassure her on this occasion.

I beg to move amendment 134, in clause 90, page 97, line 8, after “activities” insert—

“undertaken not more than 5 years from completion of the plan”.

This amendment seeks to ensure that material used in plans would not be older than 5 years old to still have relevance to the planning process.

In previous discussions, I have stressed the importance of ensuring that we have relevant and up-to-date information, made available in a timely way, to display the realities of situations as they stand, and we have suggested a timeframe for work around that. Circumstances change in the planning system, and I can think of a number of things that have changed in my own community—whether it is around transport planning in the area, population demographic changes or, indeed, situations like the one we are dealing with at the moment, where we are seeing a real change in the number of displaced people.

We think about the Afghans we cannot house: 12,000 of them have been in hotels for a year now. We were discussing the climate crisis earlier, and we know that 100 million people are displaced across our planet. Some of them will come to the UK and need housing. Things such as the Afghanistan crisis suddenly shift the dial, yet we do not have housing for these people. That is why it is so important to ensure that we are not relying on old information but have relevant and up-to-date information in our planning system, so we can break the deadlocks that can occur by being dependent on old data. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the planning system is more reflective of the now, as opposed to the past—a point that I have made a number of times. Unfortunately, that impacts on the outcome of the planning process.

Clause 90 is about helping planning authorities to gather the information they need to plan effectively. It does that by requiring those organisations responsible for vital local services to assist in creating plans. We want to ensure that planning authorities can receive that assistance across a range of scenarios and issues.

I understand that the amendment is motivated by a desire to ensure that local plan evidence is up to date. Unfortunately, its effect would be to limit planning authorities use of this power to create effective plans. The amendment applies a blanket five-year time limit on the use of the power in clause 90 in advance of plan adoption, which makes it insensitive to the circumstances or type of information involved. There are many cases where it would be vital to include information gathered more than five years before a plan was adopted. For example, the character study of a conservation area might well be relevant for more than five years, as we have discussed in relation to the hon. Member’s constituency. The same goes for a utilities assessment based on information from energy networks, which work on different, longer term business planning cycles. If, for instance, the preparation of a local plan was delayed for any reason, the arbitrary time limit would prevent more information being taken into account, as the power needed to gather it could not be used.

The Government agree, however, that local plans should be backed by relevant and up-to-date evidence, which is why the evidence supporting plans will continue to be tested at the public examination. That is the place where any issues with the relevance of evidence can be addressed. I hope that with these reassurances, the hon. Member will seek to withdraw the amendment.

I hear what the Minister is saying, but he raises an important point about the different business planning cycles that involve different factors. There is certainly a need for greater co-ordination to ensure that the relevant data is available in a timely way so that it is more synced with the planning process. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 90 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 91 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 8 agreed to.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Gareth Johnson.)

Adjourned till this day at Two oclock.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill (Seventeenth sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: † Sir Mark Hendrick, Mr Philip Hollobone, Mrs Sheryll Murray, Ian Paisley

† Atherton, Sarah (Wrexham) (Con)

Benton, Scott (Blackpool South) (Con)

† Farron, Tim (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)

† Fletcher, Colleen (Coventry North East) (Lab)

Gibson, Patricia (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)

† Henry, Darren (Broxtowe) (Con)

† Johnson, Gareth (Dartford) (Con)

† Jones, Mr Marcus (Minister of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma (South Shields) (Lab)

† Maskell, Rachael (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)

† Moore, Robbie (Keighley) (Con)

Mortimer, Jill (Hartlepool) (Con)

† Nici, Lia (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

† Norris, Alex (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)

† Pennycook, Matthew (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab)

† Smith, Greg (Buckingham) (Con)

† Vickers, Matt (Stockton South) (Con)

Bethan Harding, Adam Mellows-Facer, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 19 July 2022


[Sir Mark Hendrick in the Chair]

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Before we begin, I have a few preliminary reminders for the Committee: please switch your electronic devices to silent; no food or drinks are allowed, other than the water provided; and Hansard colleagues would be grateful if Members emailed their speaking notes to

Clause 92

Regard to certain heritage assets in exercise of planning functions

I beg to move amendment 64, in clause 92, page 97, line 31, leave out “desirability” and insert “duty”.

This amendment would clarify that the planning authority has a duty to have special regard in planning permission decisions for preserving or enhancing heritage assets or their settings.

It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Sir Mark. We have now reached chapter 3 of part 3 of the Bill, which relates to heritage. Britain’s incredible heritage is one of our best assets, and is loved universally by our constituents. The debate is well-timed, as this year the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the UNESCO world heritage convention, the most significant feature of which is the linking together in one place of the concepts of nature, conservation and the preservation of cultural properties. This is the international convention under which sites of outstanding universal value to all people are inscribed as world heritage sites. Parliament ratified the convention in 1984, so I think it is widely believed by the public that our 30 sites in Britain that are inscribed on the world heritage list have strong statutory protection, meaning they cannot be harmed and that there must be engagement to actively conserve them so that they can be better enjoyed and understood. However, this is not quite so.

It is a shame that the draft Heritage Protection Bill in 2010 never got further than it did; its progress was impeded and it was never replaced, leaving gaps and weaknesses in the preservation of world heritage sites. As a result, the historic environment has remained a subsidiary consideration in the planning rules and regulations that govern development work, which can so often impinge on our irreplaceable cultural heritage sites. The protection of archaeological sites with no current designation continues to hang in the balance, not to mention the buried historic environment, which has no designation and includes the vast majority of prehistoric to early medieval archaeology in this country.

While it is mainly professional archaeologists who are aware of and interested in the irretrievable loss of such buried heritage, the consequences of the lack of specific heritage protection for standing buildings and monuments is immediately visible to all. We have some relatable and understandable examples in this country: UNESCO has made clear that the Stonehenge, Avebury and associated sites, which were originally inscribed in 1986, could face delisting in the face of the plans for development around that site; and we have seen in Liverpool that when development is not sympathetic to a heritage site it can lead to delisting. Local authorities need the tools to make sure they develop their areas sympathetically.

Having engaged with the heritage profession, I know it welcomes the enhanced protection that clause 92 will introduce, although thinks that the categories could be wider, as we will discuss in subsequent amendments. However, there is concern among heritage professionals, such as those on the RESCUE Council at the British Archaeological Trust, that the use of the word “desirability” in clause 92 does not sufficiently reflect a duty on planning decision makers to have special regard to preserving or enhancing heritage sites and monuments, or their settings. The word “desirability” suggests that that duty would be a conditional or subjective judgment based on balances of other features of development. This could lead to a situation where developers argue that conservation is inconvenient or too challenging, and that their own interests ought to take precedence, as they do under current legal arrangements. That is what has happened in the case of the Liverpool site.

I am keen to test this with the Minister. I am largely aiming to probe with this amendment, but it is arguable that the current wording would not give protection to, for example, Stonehenge, whose delisting would be a real problem for all of us. I hope to hear from the Minister that the fear is misplaced and that the Government’s understanding is that the language in the Bill will have the same effect as I am seeking. Amendment 64 is simple: it swaps the word “desirability” to “duty” to strengthen the wording in the Bill and to take away some ambiguity. I hope that the Minister can establish that and is minded to agree on at least the substance, if not on the granular point.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship once again, Sir Mark.

The purpose of clause 92 is to introduce a similar legislative duty for other types of heritage asset to the one that already exists for listed buildings and conservation areas. Amendment 64 would replace “desirability” with “duty”. The specific wording used in the clause is not new; it is taken directly from the existing duties for listed buildings and conservation areas in sections 66(1) and 72(1) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

Those duties have been in place for many years, and are well established and well understood. The courts have confirmed that those duties to have special regard provide important protections. They require decision makers to give considerable importance and weight to the desirability of preserving or enhancing heritage assets. The intention behind clause 92 is to put other types of heritage asset in a similar position. I hope that the hon. Member takes that into account. In my considered view, the amendment is not required and we do not need to change the duty that has worked well to date. I hope I have provided sufficient reassurance for him to withdraw his amendment.

I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I am slightly uncomfortable that he relies on the 1990 Act, because that clearly was not sufficient in Liverpool, and there is a real and current risk around Stonehenge. On his point about case law and strong consideration, again that has not always been effective in cases where we might have wanted it to be. We then rely on the courts to test the edge cases; maybe that is inevitable, but we could eradicate some of that with slightly stronger language. At this point, I do not think it is beneficial to labour this any further, because the Minister made a clear statement about his intent, which was welcome. We may wish to return to this at a later stage, but if colleagues are content then I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 128, in clause 92, page 97, line 31, after “enhancing” insert “the significance of”.

This amendment adds to the description of the purpose of sensitive management of heritage assets.

It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Sir Mark. This amendment looks at not just an asset, but the significance of an asset. Preserving or enhancing an asset may not be possible, but preserving its importance and significance could be.

In York, there is much to determine the social history of our city. Of course, assets are often thought about in terms of bricks and architecture, rather than their social significance and the way that has fed into the wider architecture of a place. In York, there is a process that prevents anything from obliterating the view of the Minster, for instance, and thus its significance as a centre and a beacon across not only York, but North Yorkshire. It can be seen from miles away, so the building of flats as is happening currently, or the plans proposed on the site of the gasworks, would remove the significance of that asset. Preserving it is really important. Likewise, the centre for heritage arts that is currently being developed to go to planning is causing concern about the way it could detract from the view of the Minster. Although it is not directly impeding on the material asset, its development could have significance.

Another example many will know of is Bootham Crescent, the former home of York City Football Club. It was built in 1932 and has only just closed. The stands were something to behold. Maintaining the spirit of Bootham is important. It is where many people have laid ashes to rest. There are significant tunnels under the ground, which have important graffiti on them—fans would cross the stadium through them mid-match and fights would break out. Maintaining these assets is about the working-class population of York and the significance of football to them.

York Central—here we go again—was the home of the British Rail carriage works, and has real significance for the blue-collar workers of our city, who made a tremendous contribution to the railways. Yet this could well be wiped out by the York Central development, so none of its significance to the building of the railways over 100 years would remain. Therefore, it is not just about the asset itself and how important it is, but is about the social story that can be told by it. That is why I believe that my amendment is important for looking at how heritage assets are preserved.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for York Central on amendment 128. It is very thoughtful, as was the case that she made for it. In the next group we are going to talk a bit more about the importance of social history, so I will save a few points for later, but I do want to reflect on the point about significance and developing significance.

We know, as I said on opening in the previous group, that our constituents and people in this country generally feel strongly about their culture and their heritage assets. They want our generation and all subsequent generations to be custodians of those assets. We have a duty to bring them to the fore, develop them and to have them in the way that they can be best enjoyed because they are a core part of our identity, our culture and our history—both the easy and the less easy bits to talk about. They are such an integral part of our story that people feel strongly about them. There is a duty to enhance the significance of a particular asset, so that those jewels—diamonds in the rough, perhaps—are not laid there and just ignored for generations and generations, getting harder to bring to the fore. It would only be a good thing to put that in the Bill.

Clause 92 introduces a new statutory duty for

“the local planning authority or (as the case may be) the Secretary of State”


“have special regard to the desirability of preserving or enhancing”

scheduled monuments, protected wreck sites, registered parks and gardens, registered battlefields, world heritage sites, and their settings when considering whether to grant planning permission or permission in principle for the development of land in England which affects them. Clause 92 provides that

“preserving or enhancing a relevant asset or its setting includes preserving or enhancing any feature, quality or characteristic of the asset or setting that contributes to the significance of the asset.”

The significance of each asset is set out in the Bill, so the hon. Member for York Central should be reassured that the consideration of the significance of our heritage assets forms part of this new duty.

While I appreciate that the concept of significance is crucial to the protection of designated heritage assets within the national planning policy framework, the amendment is not necessary, as the issue of significance is already addressed in the legislation. For those reasons, we cannot accept the amendment, and I hope that on the basis of my explanation the hon. Member will withdraw it.

I think we will go on to have a further discussion about this matter. Given that the concept is within the NPPF, as the Minister said, I am happy to beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 136, in clause 92, page 98, line 34, at end insert—

“a site of significant social history relevant to the heritage of a place

some asset or setting which has significant impact on the social history of a place”.

This amendment is designed to protect areas where significant social history of a place was established.

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 138, in clause 92, page 98, line 34, at end insert—

“a National Park

the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage, and the opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the area by the public, under section 5 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949

an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area, under section 82 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000”.

This amendment would protect as heritage assets National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Romans, Vikings and medieval Britain are often on people’s minds as they visit and walk the walls of our city, yet the social history of York has a far more powerful application to our city’s development. The amendment highlights the importance of that. I think of Bootham Park Hospital, built in 1772, and the history that it made in managing mental health in our country and really advancing mental health treatment; only in 1796 did the Retreat open and improve mental health provision. Those assets have been disposed of to the private sector, which just wants to turn them into commercial outlets. Of course, that does not take on board their significant contribution to mental health in our country, and how it changed the way mental health was dealt with across the world. We are losing the significance of those assets because there is simply not enough protection in law to preserve that amazing history.

I can give other examples—for instance, the Castle Gateway project in York. Clifford’s Tower is very significant to our nation’s history, particularly Jewish history in our country. It is also a site of justice. It is where Lascelles fought Wilberforce to come to this place to fight slavery. A significant debate took place there, yet the Castle Gateway project would turn it into parkland. There would be no reference whatsoever to the significance of that major piece of British history. It is therefore really important that we look at how we can build in such assets, and recognise the incredible fabric of social history.

Amendment 136 is therefore really important, as is amendment 138. I hope that the Government will understand the significance of it too, given the felling of ancient woodlands—bulldozing our cathedrals of nature. Our natural heritage must also be preserved.

It is a pleasure to serve under your guidance, Sir Mark. I support the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for York Central, but will speak to my own, amendment 138.

Clause 92 is important. What is in it is not a problem. I propose to add to it national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, which are defined areas within the country, as heritage assets that would require consideration in planning.

We mentioned world heritage site status. The Bill defines a world heritage site as

“a property appearing on the World Heritage List”.

The Lake district is not a property; it is an area, which is a different classification. In any event, not all national parks, and certainly not all areas of outstanding natural beauty, are world heritage sites. It is five years to the month since the Lake district obtained world heritage site status, which we are very proud of.

It is worth saying that the document that UNESCO presented on the day that world heritage site status was given to the Lake district gave as much credit to the farmers as to the glaciers for how the landscape was formed and maintained. It is important to recognise that the things that count as our heritage that are part of our landscape need preserving. There are many threats that we need to guard against, one or two of which I will come on to in a moment, and that is why it would be helpful for the amendment to be included in the Bill.

It is worth bearing in mind that features such as dry stone walls, barns, and the general look, appeal and aesthetics of the landscape do not happen by accident. They happen because they are farmed, and because they are maintained by people who, alongside their farming, maintain the infrastructure and the structures of the landscape in the Yorkshire dales, the Lake district, the Arnside and Silverdale area of outstanding natural beauty in my own constituency, and many more areas besides.

Of course, our written heritage—our heritage of literature, poetry and art of all different kinds—is massively inspired by the natural landscape. The work of the likes of Wordsworth, Ruskin, Potter more recently, Alfred Wainwright and even Kurt Schwitters was very much inspired by the environment where they were.

However, if we look at the transformation in recent years of the Langdale valleys, Troutbeck valley, Kentmere valley in the Lake district, Dentdale and Garsdale in the Yorkshire dales, and many more besides, we see an evolution—and not in a good way. There has been a human de-stocking of those valleys, which it is not the focus of this Committee to look at; nevertheless, because of the change in the way the farm payments are being operated, there are incentives for people to become landowners, including big finance houses. There is a very clear incentive to buy up huge tracts of land—land that currently comprises dozens of tenanted farms—and apply through landscape recovery for funding from the Government, clearing the tenant farmers off the land. That is what we will see.

Now that in itself is an appalling thing and will have an impact on our heritage, but it will often lead to planning proposals that could end up being very relevant to the Bill. Take the example of a hedge fund that buys up two or three valleys in the hope of taking free cash from the Government by clearing off its tenants to allow the place to go wild. In doing that, it will potentially have to apply for planning permission to change houses into holiday accommodation of different kinds, and the hedge fund might seek to do a whole range of things with the buildings that it takes on once it has cleared the tenants out of them. This is all gruesome stuff, by the way, but it is absolutely possible given the Government’s trajectory at the moment.

If the amendment is included in the Bill, we will at least have given our planning authorities some power to push back against that terrible abuse of the Government’s current trajectory, which allows those who have the power to buy up huge tracts of land in our countryside and eject farmers from places that they have often farmed for generations. It is sometimes very hard to specify what aesthetics is—how do we measure aesthetics? Well, UNESCO has managed it: it has given world heritage site status to the Lake district, and—as has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Nottingham North—Liverpool proves that that status can be lost. It would be terrible if that were to be the case, so let us put into the Bill measures that will protect our environment, our landscape and all those huge cultural benefits that are at risk, both from features that are beyond the Government’s control and some that are well within their control.

It is a pleasure to speak to these two thoughtful and very good amendments. I do not think anywhere has a richer social history than Nottingham, so amendment 136 feels very close to home.

In 1642, at the beginning of the civil war, Charles I raised his standard in Nottingham, at what is now called Standard hill. That was not met with an awful lot of enthusiasm from the people of Nottingham, so when the civil war had finished the castle that he had sought to make his base was torn down. It was rebuilt a little later, and was then burned down 200 years after that during the riots relating to the second Reform Bill and the failure of Parliament to pass legislation that extended the franchise. Now we are about 200 years later than that, so I hope we are not due for that castle to once again meet an untimely demise, because we have put an awful lot of money into it through a heritage lottery fund bid.

That tells a big story about our city, as do the cheese riots, which took place because people were upset about the price of cheese—the Lord Mayor was bowled over by a big rolling cheese, according to legend. The luddite movement has its roots in Nottingham, and the first Chartist MP came from our city. Those rich and rebellious streaks are characteristic of our city’s community and social history, and they are an important part of the fabric of our memories about ourselves and those who came before us.

The point is true across the country, particularly in relation to the industrial revolution, which birthed the trade union movement and women’s movements. Those collective acts of thousands and thousands of ordinary people may not have big buildings, palaces or castles as obvious monuments and heritage, but they had sites that are just as important: the meeting rooms above taverns, houses, public spaces and parks where those events took place.

It is important that we understand that those places are as much a part of Britain and Britishness as the really huge and obvious monuments. The Bill should prioritise such places because they are more easily lost—it is much easier to lose the meeting room above a pub as part of a development than it is to lose a palace. We would not wish to lose either one more than the other, so including a sort of equivalence in the Bill would be a good thing.

Amendment 138 is a good idea. The hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale is in good company because, as he said, UNESCO has already designated the Lake district a world heritage site. Putting the Bill on the same footing would give it strength and send a clear signal to developers, planners and all those interested in heritage that we consider such places to be clear and obvious assets. They may not be as obvious as a single building in a single place, but they ought to be treated just as well. I commend the amendments and the Members who tabled them.

Clause 92 provides additional legislative protection in the planning system to the list of designated heritage assets that have previously been afforded protection through the national planning policy framework.

Sites of significant social history are important to our nation’s history. Many of them are already afforded protections in the planning process, either as designated or non-designated heritage assets. Manchester’s Free Trade Hall, for example, is a site of significant social history due to its role in the repealing of the corn laws, and it is a listed building.

The heritage assets set out in the table in the clause are all recognised historic environment designations. Amendment 136 would add a new category that is not clearly recognised as a heritage designation. There is no national list of sites of significant social history, which would, in practice, lead to arguments and legal challenges if the status of a site—whether it falls within the definition and should benefit from protection—is disputed.

Amendment 138 would add national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty to the clause. Although I agree that those are a vital part of our nation’s environment and landscapes, the amendment would result in environmental designations that are already protected elsewhere being added to the list of protected heritage assets. They are already well protected under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, and as environmental designations in the planning system. Different regimes with conflicting protections relating to the same assets would cause confusion.

We also already have a strong set of environmental protections in the national planning policy framework. It sets out that areas of outstanding national beauty, national parks and the broads have the highest status of protection. Under our broader reforms to the planning system, the conservation and enhancement of wildlife and cultural heritage should be given great weight in development plans and planning decisions. Major development should be refused other than in exceptional circumstances. Areas of outstanding national beauty are also exempt from the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

In response to the landscapes review, the Government set out their intention to strengthen the statutory purposes of national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty to create a clear objective to ensure that those areas deliver more for nature and are accessible to everyone. We propose to create a single set of statutory purposes for areas of outstanding natural beauty teams and national park authorities, providing a more consistent and unified statutory framework for all protected landscapes.

We also propose to strengthen the associated statutory duties towards national park and areas of outstanding natural beauty purposes and management plans so that they are given greater weight by the relevant bodies when exercising public functions.

Natural England is also producing new guidance on national park and areas of outstanding natural beauty management plans, with the intention that management plans should set out clear actions, aligned with local management plans and national priorities such as those within the 25-year environment plan, including on beauty, heritage and engagement. For those reasons we do not accept amendments 136 and 138. I hope I have provided sufficient reassurances to the hon. Members for York Central and for Westmorland and Lonsdale to enable them to withdraw their amendments.

I listened carefully to the Minister’s response. First, I want to thank the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale for setting out the implications of his amendment for natural and rural heritage; we can see how that can rapidly disappear into a developer’s dream and a local community’s nightmare. A highland clearance in the modern era is something that we have to take stock of. The protections clearly are not there, in the same way that protections are not there currently under the NPPF, because we are seeing significant sites of social history also having a diminution of their significance through the developments being brought forward. Although the Minister is right to say that there is legislation that can address the issues, there is clearly a mismatch in what happens in practice. As a result, I still have significant concerns.

The Minister talked about the fact that sites of social significance are not currently recognised in the legislative framework, and I will certainly take that back to archaeologists because they would want to see significant change—perhaps even a Bill in its own right—to address that. Because of the way that many developers are currently behaving, I fear we will lose much of our significant past, so we need to find mechanisms to protect us. On the basis of exploring further legislation, I am happy to withdraw my amendment now, but we will return to it. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

I am grateful to the Minister for his detailed response to the amendments.

The landscape review does give potential for there to be additional protections for areas of outstanding beauty such as the north Pennines and Arnside and Silverdale in Cumbria and across north Lancashire. It is worth bearing in mind that landscape heritage is lost quickly and subtly and not often as a result of a direct planning proposal. It is not that developers come in and decide to build several hundred properties in Longsleddale; it is that Longsleddale changes because farmers cease to be farmers and the area ceases to be farmed.

We therefore see—moving away from Lonsdale to other parts of the lakes and dales—the dry stone walls crumbling, with the loss of that vital part of our heritage going. We see the barns crumbling. The historic heritage species disappear, and access to the fells and dales disappears as well. The subtle but perceptible feel and aesthetics of those places—not just those that we have grown up with, but that have been the feature of a lived experience over hundreds and hundreds of years—begins to change.

Landscape heritage is lost quickly and subtly, and partly in response to Government action or inaction, whether accidental or deliberate. We have a food strategy, or an approach to farm funding, that is almost deliberately written to reduce the amount of food that we produce in this country. As a result, it will be a less-farmed environment, and it will look different. Given that the tourism economy of the Lake district, Yorkshire dales and Cumbria is worth £3.5 billion a year, that will have a huge impact monetarily and economically, as well as aesthetically.

I am happy not to press my amendment to a vote. We will keep a close eye on what the Government intend in terms of safeguards for our landscape heritage and culture, and we will wait to see whether greater protections are provided as the Bill progresses.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 69, in clause 92, page 99, line 29, at end insert—

“(5) The Secretary of State must, within one year of the day on which this section comes into force, publish a report of a review of the efficacy of Local Heritage Lists and the resources local authorities have to produce them.

(6) The Secretary of State must, on the day on which this section comes into force, publish the results of the 2018 review of the non-statutory guidance on Assets of Community Value.”

The amendment proposes two new subsections to the clause, which I will deal with in turn. First, proposed new subsection (5) concerns local heritage lists, which identify heritage assets that are not protected by statutory listing designation but are of local interest. They provide a consistent and accountable way of highlighting the existence of those important assets and affording them a layer of extra protection against unwanted development. Those sites may not be the sort that bring someone from one place to visit another, but for those who live in the community, they are an integral part of the fabric of their daily lives: community centres, libraries, old town halls or pubs.

At the moment, local planning authorities have discretion on whether to develop local heritage lists, although they have very much been encouraged to do so by the Government and by bodies such as Historic England and Civic Voice. More recently, the national planning policy framework stated that local listing should be taken into account in the consideration of relevant planning applications. Additionally, some planning authorities include in their local plans policies that recognise the importance of non-designated heritage assets, so that status will be a material consideration if and when planning applications are lodged. On the face of it, the lists are a really powerful and important way of balancing the planning system and protecting the assets that communities know and love.

We welcome the fact that, in February last year, the Government announced funding of £1.5 million to support local authorities in improving, extending or updating their local heritage lists or preparing their first lists. Twenty-two areas put in successful bids. We are pleased for those areas, but this comes back to what we discussed in relation to previous clauses: another beauty parade where some authorities succeed and others do not, and in the end all are worse off because of cuts to council budgets. Given the universal importance of the local heritage lists, we want them to be put on a properly funded basis.

There is a lot in that to be optimistic about. However—and herein lies the rub, and the purpose of this element of my amendment—it is believed that only around 50% of planning authorities have a local heritage list. That means that citizens in neighbouring boroughs and districts can experience very different standards of recognition and protection of their local heritage assets. Amendment 69 would require the Government to research the extent to which local heritage lists have been developed, the quality and effectiveness of the lists, the reasons for any disparities between local authorities and some of the resource issues that underlie heritage list production.

The provision is relatively basic. It requires the Government to understand what practical effect previous legislation has had, and what practical effect the funding that they put in place is having. It would ensure a proper evaluation of local heritage lists, so that—and this is my goal—they are promoted and properly used by local communities to protect important assets, and that all people have the protection of those heritage lists in law, as they ought to. It is a problem that we do not know how many local heritage lists there are, their quality or how well they are used. This is supposed to be an important provision—where used properly, it has been—but we do not have a good sense of it. The amendment would make that much better, so I hope that the Minister is minded to agree to it.

Proposed new subsection (6) relates to assets of community value. The Localism Act 2011 enables community groups to ask local authorities to register properties of local importance as assets of community value. Many valued premises—the subsection has pubs in mind—have been successfully nominated. That is in no small part thanks to the work and activism of members of the Campaign for Real Ale who, around the country, have made great efforts to ensure that important assets have been registered as assets of community value, because that gives a distinct importance and protection to local communities.

If the owner of an ACV listed property wishes to sell it, in normal circumstances the community group can lodge a bid, triggering a six-month moratorium during which no other sale can take place. That gives them a right to bid and has no doubt been a factor in the growth of community-owned pubs, up from 56 in 2017 to 179 today and rising. We can do much better than that. Colleagues may have seen announcements in recent days from the Opposition about how we will do that in future, although we are likely to need a general election rather than pass primary legislation to make that the case.

The 2011 Act was accompanied by non-statutory guidance from the then Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government to local authorities on the implementation of the ACV process, in particular how they should deal with nominations. It soon became apparent that parts of that guidance were unclear or ambiguous, which has led to significant disparities in the way in which authorities consider nominations. In many areas, local groups find it difficult to get their nominations accepted because of the restricted ways or lack of focus with which their local authority interprets the Act and the guidance.

The Government recognised that, because in 2018 they instituted a review of the guidance and invited interested parties to make suggestions for improving or clarifying the content. The Government have not said how many responses they received, but I know that the Campaign for Real Ale made a detailed submission highlighting some of the pitfalls. It has a good view because it works with local authorities all over the country, so were able to tell the Government the different ways in which the process operated with regards to definitions, the nomination process and the procedure for appeals.

All that is very good, but the problem is the resounding silence in the four years since. There is no indication if or when there will be action on improving the guidance and whether it will be made public. Subsection (6) is a relatively minimal ask. It just says that on the day that the measure comes into force, the Government ought to publish the results of the review. They have had them for four years. It is hard to believe that they are not ready to go. I am not sure whether the Minister was in the Department at that point, but he may recall that.

If the Minister is not minded to accept that provision in the Bill, would he give a commitment on whether the consultation is coming out or whether too much has elapsed over the last four years and it is no longer active? People put a lot of effort into the submissions to the consultation, and they deserve the finality of knowing one way or the other.

If the answer is no, the Government should want to find a way to establish assets of community value in a similar way to the local heritage list: why the system works in the way that it does, with a sober and honest assessment of whether it reflects what they were minded to do in the 2011 Act. I argue that it does not at the moment, and has created disparities, not in the form that is genuine localism, which we support, but in the form where some communities have the protection of local heritage lists and assets of community value registers and others do not. We should want to get to the bottom of that, if such provisions are to be effective.

The Government recognise the need to protect historic buildings and other assets that are valued by local communities, but the national listed buildings regime protects our most special buildings. We recognise that there are many other buildings and assets which local people cherish. Planning practice guidance already encourages local planning authorities to prepare local lists of non-designated heritage assets. Those assets are protected through national planning policy, which states that the effect of an application on the significance of a non-designated heritage asset should be taken into account when determining the application.

As the hon. Member for Nottingham North mentioned, we have given £1.5 million to 22 areas across England to support local planning authorities and their communities to develop new and updated local heritage lists. The intention is to see what lessons are learned from that work. Those lessons will then be shared with other local authorities so that they can benefit from the good practice that has been built up. We will also develop new proposals for statutory national development management policies, including to protect local heritage sites, alongside the development of the new national planning policy framework. Such proposals will be subject to future consultation, as we have discussed a number of times in Committee.

Turning to assets of community value, we recognise that community ownership of assets is a proven way of ensuring that important local assets and amenities remain under local control for the benefit of current and future generations. Our approach will therefore provide both the policy framework to support community ownership and the practical resources to achieve it. In the levelling-up White Paper, we committed to strengthening the frameworks around community ownership of assets, including assets of community value schemes, and we will continue to make funds available to groups through the community ownership fund.

As the hon. Gentleman will know, I was involved in the review of assets of community value in its embryonic stage in 2017, as I recall. It was completed in 2018, when I was no longer in the Department. The review was not published; however, the findings were used to inform policy decisions and direct further work, such as the commissioning of the report by Power to Change on the contribution of ACVs to local economies, as well as the communities framework, which was published in 2019. In the levelling-up White Paper, we made the following clear commitment:

“As part of the strategy for community spaces and relationships, the UK Government will consider how the existing Community Asset Transfer and Asset of Community Value Schemes can be enhanced, and consult on options to go further to support community ownership.”

That supersedes the original 2015 manifesto commitment.

We are currently scoping out plans for that strategy in the Department. Once we have taken that further, no doubt we will be able to provide further information to the hon. Gentleman and to Members across the House. On that basis, I hope that I have provided him with enough reassurance to withdraw the amendment.

I am grateful to the Minister for that very full answer, which addressed both points of substance very clearly. I heard what he said about money having been given to 22 areas for local heritage lists on a test and learn basis, which will clearly be part of the rest of the Bill. I will not labour the point any further, but I hope that that could be operated quite quickly, because there are lots of people in the sector who could tell Ministers very clearly where best practice is, and perhaps where it is not. I do not think that it ought to take a very long time to roll that out beyond the 22 areas to all local authorities, although I was pleased to hear the Minister’s commitment to doing so. We will be keeping a close eye on the resourcing of that.

On assets of community value, the legislation is supposed to be the White Paper made real—the White Paper brought to life in statute. If we take the Government’s commitment in the White Paper at face value, it is a shame that the moment has been missed to do that now, instead of leaving it to consideration of how it might be developed, as the Minister said. This would have been the perfect moment to act on that commitment, but clearly the Government are not minded to do that.

I am grateful again to the Minister for directly addressing the point of the 2018 review. It is good to hear that the findings were used. It is clear that there was value in the exercise, although I would say gently that there should have been some completion. I have talked about this to a number of people in the sector who are still awaiting a response. From the Minister’s response today, they will understand that that will not be forthcoming in a formal way. At least they now know that, and I am grateful for that.

The amendment was designed to provoke a conversation and I am grateful for the Minister’s response. We will very much hold these issues at the forefront of our mind—particularly to move at greater speed on local heritage lists, but also to ensure that that the consideration of assets of community value actually leads to some sort of action. I very much hope that it will. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

We are committed to protecting and enhancing our historic environment, which is an irreplaceable asset. Any planning decisions that impact on it should be given the utmost consideration. Generally, we consider the current planning framework for the historic environment to work well. However, through our work with stakeholders, we have identified areas in which it can be improved.

One such issue is the lack of statutory underpinning for key designated heritage assets within the planning system. The national planning policy framework defines designated heritage assets and sets policies related to their conservation and enhancement. However, planning legislation currently stipulates only that decision makers shall have special regard to the desirability of preserving listed buildings and preserving or enhancing conservation areas when exercising the planning functions specified. Clause 92 creates a similar legislative planning duty to have special regard to the preservation or enhancement of scheduled monuments, registered parks and gardens, protected wrecks, registered battlefields and world heritage sites when granting planning permissions or permission in principle.

Additionally, the existing legislation provides only for special regard to be given to the desirability of preserving listed buildings when granting planning permission or permission in principle. Clause 92 extends that to include the desirability of preserving or enhancing a listed building. Creating a statutory duty to have special regard to the desirability of preserving or enhancing these heritage assets aims to streamline the decision-making process and provide consistency between the legislative heritage planning framework and national planning policy framework.

On clause 93, under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, local planning authorities have the power to issue temporary stop notices. The notices are a powerful tool that can be used by authorities to require that development or an activity is stopped if the planning authority thinks that there has been a breach of planning control and that it is expedient for that activity to be stopped immediately. They can use the time to investigate the suspected breach and decide what, if any, further enforcement action to take.

However, there is not an equivalent provision in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 for unauthorised works to listed buildings in England. That means that where there are suspected unauthorised works to a listed building in England the local planning authority’s only options are to issue an enforcement notice—which will not immediately stop the works—or apply to the court for an injunction to stop the works, which is often costly. The clause creates a new power for local planning authorities to issue temporary stop notices in relation to unauthorised works to listed buildings in England if, having regard to the effect of the works on the character of the buildings as one of special architectural or historic interest, they consider it expedient that the works, or part of them, be stopped immediately. That power will allow works to be paused for up to 56 days while the facts of the case are established and the local authority decides what, if any, further action to take.

Failure to comply with a notice will be an offence with a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine. There are circumstances where compensation may be payable for any loss or damage directly attributable to the effect of the notice. Addressing the gap in local authorities’ enforcement powers in relation to listed buildings will help to protect irreplaceable assets for generations to come. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation of the clauses that complete the heritage part of the Bill. It is clear from the amendments and the debates that we have had about them that this is something that interests hon. Members and their constituents, and I believe there is broad support for this part of the Bill—the entirety of part 3 up to chapter 3. However, I want to ask the Minister a couple of questions. I will not make any further points about clause 92 because we have covered them in a previous debate.

On clause 93, we support the idea of stop notices, which would allow work to be paused for up to 56 days in order for an investigation to take place. I wonder why the Minister chose that duration. Why 56 days? What would be the effect of that? Has he or his officials spoken to the Local Government Association about whether it feels that that would be effective? The developer is entitled to compensation for delay, which will be interesting when we get to clause 95. Will the Minister tell us how that will work in practice and what local government colleagues have said about that?

On clause 94 and empty dwellings, we were not able to persuade the Minister to adopt the Welsh Government’s approach, but we are delighted to see in the clause that that is exactly what the Government have done. It will allow urgent works take place where a building is at risk from the weather, vandalism or any other neglect. That will be a good thing. It is welcome that that measure has been replicated here in England.

Finally, clause 95 governs building preservation notices. Currently, a council can add a BPN to an unlisted building that is at risk of demolition or alteration and which a council considers of special architectural or historic interest. The notices last for six months and must be accompanied by an application to Historic England for listing. The Secretary of State then has six months to decide whether to accept that, and the building is essentially listed during that period to protect it. It is a very good provision. Can the Minister say how frequently that has been used to give us a sense of the scale of the challenge ?

The clause removes compensation, but in clause 93 that is not the case. The conversation continues there. There has certainly been some interesting written evidence and direct contact with members of the Committee from different organisations from both sides, both the preservation side and the development side, saying that it is unfair that that is not the case. We can read that argument either way. I am comfortable either way, but I am interested that the Government have chosen different ways in different parts of the Bill. They are different things, so I can understand it to an extent, but they are not so different that that lack of consistency will not raise a few eyebrows. I am interested in why the Minister chose that approach.

I thank the hon. Member for Nottingham North for his questions. I will first address his question on the serving of notices. As he knows, building preservation notices protect a building for up to six months while it is being considered for designation as a listed building. BPNs achieve targeted and time-limited intervention to protect buildings of such interest that are under threat, rather than the blanket protection placed on all buildings being considered for listing during that interim period, regardless of whether they are under threat. BPNs are considered an appropriate stopgap mechanism for the interim period before longer-term protections are applied, while balancing the rights of owners and property rights.

As I have mentioned, interested parties currently have a right to claim compensation for loss or damage incurred during that period if, at the end of it, the building in question is not listed by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Clause 95 removes the possibility that a local planning authority will be obliged to pay compensation should it decide to make use of its power to serve a building preservation notice.

That right to claim compensation often deters local planning authorities from serving building preservation notices—some do not even consider a BPN because of the risk of compensation—which occasionally results in the demolition or alteration of buildings that are potentially of listable quality before they can be considered by the Secretary of State. Removal of the right to compensation for building preservation notices will strengthen the range of enforcement tools available to local planning authorities.

The 56-day period that the hon. Gentleman mentioned is basically to ensure consistency in the provisions for when local authorities have the opportunity to take such action.

The Minister has made a compelling case for clause 95—he has certainly persuaded me—but it also reads across to clause 93, so why would those measures not apply in this case?

As I read it, clause 93 requires the works to stop for up to 56 days, which demonstrates consistency across both clauses. On that basis, I commend the clauses to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 92 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 93 to 95 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 96

Street votes

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 96 is a placeholder clause. The Government’s intention is to replace it with substantive provisions later in the Bill’s passage.

New development is commonly met with hesitance from local residents—it is often perceived as a threat to the beauty of the area or as an unwanted disruption—usually because residents see it as imposed upon them and bearing little relationship to the character of the area. Fundamentally, people are more likely to support development that they feel they can control.

Street votes will provide a new way of consenting to development that will enable residents to come together and bring forward the development they want to see on their streets. A group of residents will be able to develop proposals to extend or replace properties on their street. They will have the option either to provide a detailed development specification, or to prepare a design code that any development they permit must comply with. Development proposals put forward by residents will be independently examined against a set of development and design rules set out in legislation to ensure that they meet high design standards and do not lead to adverse impacts on the local environment and the wider community. Planning permission will be granted only when an examining body is satisfied that the proposal has met these and other statutory requirements, and when the proposal is endorsed by a large majority of residents at referendum.

The use of street votes will be restricted in sensitive locations, such as the green belt. Street votes will encourage residents to consider the potential for new development on their streets. Where residents choose to take up the opportunity, street votes will help to deliver new or more spacious homes in places where they are most needed and in a way that is supported by the people who are most affected by that development. I commend the clause to the Committee.

As the Minister has made clear, clause 96 is a placeholder clause. All it specifies is that the Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for a system that permits residents of a street to propose development on it and to determine, by means of a vote, whether that form of development is given planning permission. At the outset, I have to put on the record that we are instinctively uncomfortable with placeholder clauses of this kind. They are an implicit admission that a piece of legislation is incomplete and that policy in a given area has not been finalised. The absence of any detail about what substantive provisions might replace such placeholder clauses in future is an impediment to effective legislative scrutiny.

Furthermore, the increased use of placeholder clauses in recent legislation, as well as the general upward trend in the number of amendments that add new policies to a Bill part way through its passage or following completion, should be a cause of concern to any hon. Member who values good lawmaking. Nor are we satisfied with the reassurances set out in the explanatory notes to the Bill that any new system introduced by means of the clause will receive appropriate scrutiny—we are all familiar with the limitations of an affirmative procedure in that respect. We therefore seek from the Minister some sense—further to what he has just said—of what the new system will look like, how it will operate in practice and what its wider implications might be.

The basic concept of street votes is easy to grasp. We certainly appreciate that, at least in theory, democratically approved codes that permit development, or the extension or redevelopment of all the properties on any given street, may be a way to facilitate the gentle densification of inner suburbs—an outcome that would undoubtedly have a range of benefits, not least boosting productivity. The issue is whether and how such a system would work in practice. My strong suspicion is that any new street votes system introduced will likely be something of a damp squib and, ultimately, we will not see any significant uptake, which is largely why I struggle to get too worked up about the prospect of its introduction.

However, given the powers that the Government are seeking for themselves by means of the clause, we do need some answers from the Minister, and I ask that he provides them on six distinct areas. First, we deserve to know why the Government believe that an entirely new system for the hyper-local devolution of planning powers is required or, to put it another way, what problem are the clause and the substantive provisions to follow attempting to address.

I ask because the Minister will know that the Localism Act 2011 gives neighbourhood forums the power to create and vote on neighbourhood development orders. Such orders grant planning permission for specific types of development in a particular area following a referendum, thus enabling greater control over development, densification and design. That is essentially the same principle that lies behind the street votes concept. As such, is it not simply the case that for all the hype around the clause, it does little more than adjust the electorate for neighbourhood development orders from the neighbourhood level to the street? If that is the case, should we view the intention to introduce a new street votes system as an admission that NDOs have failed to achieve the objectives that the Government set for them, and what makes the Government think that street votes will be any more successful as an initiative?

Secondly, we should be told why the Government believe that a street is the appropriate spatial area for the powers. The Minister mentioned that it might give residents a greater sense of control but, further to the question I just put to him on neighbourhood development orders, is the choice of a street as the appropriate spatial area related to evidence that the size of the electorate involved in approving NDOs is the reason that initiative has not been taken up more extensively? Do the Government have any reason to think that street-level democratically approved codes will be utilised more extensively than NDOs?

Thirdly, we need to know what the Government believe the impact of street votes will be on housing supply and affordability. It stands to reason that successful street votes are likely to lead to substantial value uplifts for those properties that use the planning permission secured as a result. If a street votes to permit mansard roof storeys to be added to existing terraces, the homeowners who take advantage of that will increase the space within, and value of, their properties. However, I struggle to see how the benefit that those homeowners will gain from the new system will be shared in any way by those who do not already own their own home.

Street votes are unlikely to contribute much, if anything, to new housing supply. In practice, how many residents are likely to organise themselves to secure new powers to provide for infill development on their street? I suggest not very much. If, as seems more likely, street votes are largely used to add space and value to existing properties, the system could end up making it harder for first-time buyers to get on the housing ladder. Can the Minister therefore tell us whether the Department has modelled the likely impact of a street votes system on housing supply and affordability, and whether it is likely to exacerbate existing housing inequality? If not, why not, and will they do so before we get to Report and Third Reading?

Fourthly, local planning authorities deserve an indication of how the Department will assist them financially to carry out the new demands that will be placed on them as a result of the introduction of a new street votes system. We have already debated in previous clauses the parlous state of local planning authorities when it comes to capacity and resources. We have considered the new burdens placed on them as a result of numerous measures included in the Bill. If a street votes system is introduced, the Government must ensure that councils are given sufficient resources to oversee it.

We cannot have a situation, as we do at present with neighbourhood plans, where the cost of sending a plan to referendum nearly always outstrips the amount that local authorities can claim from central Government to hold them. The Government must also ensure that we do not replicate the problems experienced in the uptake of neighbourhood plans, with only affluent communities able to take advantage of them. What resourcing can local authorities expect to run a new street votes system? What steps will the Government take to ensure that less affluent communities are able to take advantage of it?

Fifthly, given the concerns expressed that street votes could prove to be an extremely divisive measure to relations between neighbours on a street, we deserve some sense of how the process might work. Will there be a minimum number of residents in any given street required to bring forward proposals to extend or redevelop properties on it, or can a single resident do so? If it is the case that a single resident can submit a proposal, what safeguards are in place to ensure that local authorities do not constantly have to put different proposals to a referendum of residents on a street?

Surely a vote should not pass if a significant minority of residents on a street are opposed to it. I think the Minister mentioned a large majority, but what does that mean? What threshold will apply to a street referendum? Are the Government minded to adopt the recommendation, made by Create Streets, that it be at least two thirds of residents on the electoral register, or Policy Exchange’s suggestion of at least 60% of votes cast? We all know that nothing gets as bitter as a dispute between neighbours, so I would like the Minister to respond to my questions and tell the Committee that the Government’s thinking when it comes to the process by which planning permission via this new system will be secured.

Finally, we need to know how a new street votes system will interact with local development plans and the Government’s wider housing and planning policy objectives. It is an obvious question, but could the Minister confirm that any street votes proposal will have to be in conformity with a local development plan in order to proceed to a vote? I think he mentioned that the new proposals must be examined: does that mean they need to be compliant with a local development plan in order to move to a vote?

How will a street votes system work in an area with a neighbourhood development order already in place, or a design code adopted as part of it? Again, will any proposals need to be found to be in accordance with an existing NDO or design code before it can go forward? Will the new provisions that the Bill puts in place for neighbourhood plans to ensure that they consider climate change mitigation and adaptation apply to street vote proposals, and will similar safeguards be put in place as those that clause 89 provides for in relation to neighbourhood plans, ensuring that street votes cannot be used to block development from taking place?

The sheer volume of questions provoked by this placeholder clause not only illustrates how absurd it is that we are being asked to approve it, but highlights the very real risk that a badly designed system could have a detrimental impact on local authorities, communities and those struggling to rent or buy a home of their own. We do not intend to vote against the clause, partly because we are not opposed to the principle of trialling a new street votes system, and because we believe, as I said, that one is unlikely to be utilised to any significant degree. However, while I appreciate that the Minister will not be able to set out the full details of the system that the Government wish to introduce using the powers in the clause, we expect answers to the basic questions that I have put to him, as it is not reasonable to ask that we simply nod through an expansive placeholder clause of this kind without them.

This short placeholder clause has all the hallmarks of a post-it note stuck on the A board by the boss on an away day that nobody had the courage to say was silly. The boss has gone now, so we could just take it off the whiteboard. The Government are trying to think about democracy and involving people in a hyper-local way in planning. Let us be generous and say that that is commendable. I will not vote against the clause either, but to have a placeholder clause, with a total absence of detail, seems very peculiar. The Conservative-led Local Government Association talks of its fears about the risk of

“stifling the production and implementation of local plans.”

That will need to be answered very clearly in any further work on the clause.

There needs to be some clarity on the specific requirements that will need to be met in order for a street to vote in favour of or against a proposal. If we are to go ahead with this, surely it is right to do some learning via a pilot process before we roll it out everywhere. Not only do I understand but I am ahead of the Government when it comes to desiring to involve local people in a genuine democratic way. Other members of the Committee are as well. We have given the Government, through the Committee, opportunities to do just that. The hon. Member for York Central tabled amendments on a deliberative planning process, and this morning I sought to give the Government the opportunity to give communities power over their own housing stock, to ensure that they preserved an appropriate amount for permanent dwellings. Those were rejected, but we will have a referendum on Terry and June’s new garage.

As the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich indicated, we are all seriously in favour of local democracy, but I am concerned that the proposal will potentially be very divisive, and that we have not thought it through. We reject genuine local control and go for this instead. It feels like a triumph of the trivial over the useful. There are other questions that we could ask. How do we define a street? Does the 6-mile-long Kentmere valley count as a street? If we were serious about this, we would not have a post-it note on the whiteboard. Either fill it in or take it off, but I am sceptical.

I will add my scepticism to the comments that have already been made. I have so many questions about the clause. When a clause throws up the number of questions that this one does, the Government should withdraw it. I understand that they want to involve communities, but there are many ways of doing that far more comprehensively. I do not know whether the Minister’s constituency is like mine, but people are saying that they want involvement and consultation; they are certainly not hammering at my door in order to have a referendum, vote or whatever we want to call it over a particular commodity. They want good planning put in place.

We have been discussing the opportunity for people to have a real voice in things, as in the situation that we have, with whole swathes of my city bought up by people trying to turn it over to Airbnbs. If they buy a number of properties on a street and have a monopoly on that street, could they push through developments? That would mean they are exploiting the opportunity being set out by the Minister in the legislation. Indeed, people in the surrounding area would have no say whatever. That is open to abuse without tighter controls in the legislation.

This measure is a way of democracy-washing the Bill: we are taking away significant powers through the national proposal from the Minister, under which the Secretary of State could impose planning decisions on communities, but then saying, “By the way, you can have a vote on an extension on your street.” That democracy-washing approach does not wash with those on the Labour Benches. We want something more enduring that involves more debate, listening and engagement to get an outcome that is right for communities. The Minister must answer these questions.

This feels very much like the Minister is saying, “Children, you can vote on something on your street, while we grown-ups get on with the big development plans.” It is those plans that will affect whole swathes of the community, perhaps through national development management strategies taking over the big decisions, while people can only vote on an extension—or not—on their street.

We need to think about the context in which we want communities involved in planning—which we absolutely do—and decisions made. But this democracy-washing simply does not wash with me or my Labour colleagues.

I am pleased that you know who Terry and June are, Sir Mark, because I fear that even some members of the Committee do not remember “Terry and June”. [Interruption.] The Government Whip is professing not to know who Terry and June are, although that might not absolutely be the case.

I thank hon. Members for their comments and views on street votes. As I said at the outset, this is a placeholder clause, and I have heard their views. The overriding idea is to provide further tools to local communities in the spirit of trying to help local people shape their communities and to have flexibility at a very local level.

On the particular questions asked in Committee, it would be right for me to write to hon. Members, because their questions were specific and detailed. Clearly, it is important to consider them more carefully to provide that level of detail, given the stage in the process we are at with the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 96 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 97

Crown development

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to consider that schedule 9 be the Ninth schedule to the Bill.

For a long time, Crown development was not subject to planning permission. In 2006, that changed, and a new route to seek permission for nationally important and urgent Crown development was introduced under section 293A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Crown development includes development on land owned by the Government and carried out by the Government, as well as land owned by Her Majesty and by the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall. It also includes works to prisons and the military estate.

However, since its introduction this route has never been used. It takes too long to deal with truly urgent Crown developments—it can take months—and when responding to crises Government Departments have used other measures in the planning process, such as permitted development rights and special development orders. Those may be appropriate in some instances, but they take time to get in place and may not be suitable, in particular for a one-off special development that is urgently needed within weeks.

Clause 97 seeks to update this urgent route using two new faster, more proportionate routes to obtain permission for Crown land development. The objective of these reforms is to ensure that planning permission can be granted in a timely and proportionate way for the delivery of nationally important Crown development. The Government believe that, given the national importance of these developments and the unique nature of Crown land, the Secretary of State, who is democratically accountable to Parliament, is best placed to grant planning permission for these developments, rather than individual local planning authorities.

The first route, set out in proposed new sections 293B and 293C, is tailored for exceptional development. It is a new streamlined process to secure planning permission for development that is of national importance and required urgently. For these cases, the application would be submitted to the Secretary of State, but there will be limited statutory procedural requirements, to allow decisions on truly urgent and nationally important development to be made in a matter of days, rather than months, as is the case now.

This route would be used only in the most exceptional circumstances, where development is needed urgently in response to, or in preparation for, a crisis. For example, it could be used for development needed on Crown land to accommodate an influx of refugees or to develop medical centres in the event of a pandemic, or for biosecurity measures such as processing or checking imports entering the country, in circumstances where food or other essential goods are in short supply.

We recognise that that might cut across greater community engagement and local decision taking, which is why this route will be used sparingly and only where it is clear that there is an urgent need for an accelerated decision in the wider public interest, and where development cannot be delivered through other planning routes.

Government Departments proposing such development will have to demonstrate that it is needed urgently and is of national importance, and we will set out guidance on these matters. We would also strongly encourage early and meaningful engagement between all parties before any applications are submitted. Only if the Secretary of State agrees that a proposal meets this high bar will it be able to be considered. Local authorities and other bodies, such as service providers and statutory bodies required to inform a quick decision, will be consulted, and local communities will be notified when applications are submitted.

The second route to permission, covered in proposed new sections 293D to 293J, is intended for development on Crown land where the development is considered to be of national importance but is not urgent. For example, this may include a new prison facility or substantive defence-related development. For these cases, the application would be directly submitted to the Secretary of State, and an independent planning inspector would first consider whether it was of national importance.

Where such a development is not considered of national importance, it can be rejected and directed to the relevant local planning authority to consider. Where it is considered of national importance, it can be considered by the independent inspector, who would consider it in the same way as a conventional planning application. The inspector would consider the application on its planning merits, and decisions would be made in line with the new plan-led approach set out elsewhere in the Bill. As with a conventional planning application, there will also be public consultation and engagement with local communities, and their views will be considered. This process should provide more certainty and should be quicker than if the application was subject to a local planning authority and then to appeal or was called in for determination by the Secretary of State.

Given the national importance of these developments and the unique nature of Crown land, the Government believe that the Secretary of State, who is democratically accountable to Parliament, is best placed to grant planning permission, rather than individual planning authorities. These routes to permission are crucial to enable nationally important development to be considered in a timely and proportionate manner and to enable quick decisions on exceptional developments that are needed to respond to moments of crisis. As I said, since its introduction, this route has never been used, as it takes too long to deal with truly urgent Crown developments. We could not use it during covid to secure one-off temporary permissions for vaccination centres, and nor can we use it to secure permission to respond to other crises that we may face in the future. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

As the Minister outlined, clause 97 of the Bill inserts new sections into the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to provide for two new routes to apply for planning permission in respect of the development of Crown land in England—that is, land in which there is a Crown or Duchy interest. In the case of either route, the provisions in the clause will allow the appropriate authorities to apply for planning permission direct to the Secretary of State, rather than being subject to the same requirements and the same application processes as any other person undertaking development.

In such circumstances, the Secretary of State must notify the local planning authority whether or not they intend to decide the application. If they opt to determine it themselves, they can approve it conditionally or unconditionally or refuse it. They have to consult the local planning authority to which the application would otherwise have been made, but the authority would have no right to veto it.

The policy paper accompanying the Bill portrays the clause as a means simply to

“provide a faster and more effective route for urgent and nationally important Crown development”,

but we are concerned that, in practice, its effect is likely to be far less benign. Specifically, we are concerned about the implications of introducing such an open-ended measure, in terms of both removing appropriate and necessary limits on the exercise of Executive power and denying communities a chance to express views about development in their area and to signal their consent or opposition.

We appreciate fully that there are emergency situations where it is necessary to expedite the planning application process to facilitate essential development, and the construction of the seven Nightingale hospitals during the pandemic to provide critical and step-down care for patients is probably the best recent example—the process exists by which they could come forward, and they did. However, the broad scope of the provisions in the clause, which do not provide for any limit on the type of development that can be approved directly by the Secretary of State or in what circumstances, means that it could be used for a much wider range of proposals.

Let us take the system of large-scale accommodation centres that the Government have announced they intend to establish to house people seeking asylum while they await a decision on their claim. The system includes the “new, bespoke, reception centre” the Government plan to open on an ex-RAF base in Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire for up to 1,500 people—a development that the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) has raised serious concerns about on a number of occasions.

The Committee will know that the Government have variously opened, or signalled their intention to open, centres accommodating—I use the term “accommodating” very loosely—asylum seekers in Penally in Pembrokeshire, Napier in Folkestone, Barton Stacey in Hampshire and in the shadow of Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire. All the sites were either on, or proposed for construction on, Crown land. All have been subject to controversy and, in the case of Penally and Napier, legal challenge—not least because of the lack of consultation with local communities in the areas where they have been, or were proposed to be, situated.

I have very much been involved with the community around Linton-on-Ouse. The fact that there has not been any proper consultation on transportation issues or on the impact on the local community has caused real concern that the Government will just press ahead with these developments without considering those issues. Does my hon. Friend agree that a more thorough, thoughtful process needs to be put in place? Also, should we really be offering refugees this type of accommodation? They are clearly in a desperate situation and need community to be wrapped around them, not to be isolated away from people and services.