My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
Clause 28 [The London housing strategy]:
50: Clause 28, page 30, line 4, at end insert—
“( ) In preparing or revising the London housing strategy the Mayor shall consult—
(a) the Housing Corporation;(b) such bodies as appear to him to be representative of registered social landlords.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 50 reflects an amendment proposed in Committee by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, and the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield. I shall also speak to the other amendments in the group. Amendment No. 51 is very similar to one that noble Lords tabled in Committee. I hope that my comments will make it clear that the amendment is already fully covered within government Amendment No. 50.
The Bill already contains provisions requiring the Mayor to consult the London boroughs, the Corporation of London and any other person considered appropriate on the London housing strategy. This is in line with arrangements for other London strategies provided for in the GLA Act 1999. However, uniquely, delivery of the London housing strategy will be heavily dependent on the Housing Corporation and registered social landlords. That is in the nature of the policy. We are therefore happy to introduce, through Amendment No. 50, an explicit requirement that the Mayor should consult the Housing Corporation and bodies representative of registered social landlords on a new or revised London housing strategy.
It makes sense to consult practitioners on the practicality and deliverability of the contents of the London housing strategy. Indeed, it is difficult to see how the Mayor could sensibly and adequately develop such a strategy without advice of that kind. Amendment No. 52 is consequential on Amendment No. 50.
Amendment No. 51 requires the Mayor to consult the Housing Corporation and a body representative of registered social landlords on the London housing strategy. It also includes provisions to consult London boroughs, the Corporation of London, any other bodies thought appropriate by the Mayor and local housing authorities within Greater London. I can advise the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, that those additional consultees are already covered by Clause 28; perhaps I can explain how. They do not appear in the Bill but they are covered.
Subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 28 amend Section 41 of the GLA Act 1999 to apply it to the London housing strategy. That means that the London housing strategy is subject to the consultation requirements in Section 42 of that Act, including a requirement to consult the London boroughs, the Corporation of London and any other person whom the Mayor considers necessary.
Under Section 1 of the Housing Act 1985, in London a local housing authority can only be a London borough or the Corporation of London. I hope that that clarifies the position for the noble Baroness and gives her the confidence that what she wants is already achieved so that she can support the government amendment.
I have to confess that I was a little puzzled by Amendment No. 53. It is slightly more difficult for the Government. It envisages a situation in which the Mayor’s strategy would adversely impact on the ability of London boroughs to carry out housing functions that are their responsibility but fall outside the scope of the London housing strategy. We have drawn the definition of “housing strategy” very widely to cover every conceivable function that we could think of. That definition is expressed in new Section 333D(3).
Under this amendment, the requirement for general conformity within the London housing strategy would not apply. I have racked my brain, and departmental officials have racked their brains, which are far bigger than mine, but we cannot think of anything that would fall within the responsibilities of a local housing authority, would be influenced by the London housing strategy yet would fall outside its scope. Therefore, the amendment is not necessary. I am afraid that it could provide a spurious justification for opposition to the requirement that the London boroughs’ housing strategies should be in general conformity. I believe that it offers an opportunity for some mischief, which would hinder some justified attempts to tackle London’s housing challenges.
On those grounds, I hope that the noble Baroness will not move that amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing her Amendment No. 50 and speaking to my Amendments Nos. 51 and 53.
Her assurance that the local housing authorities in London are part of the consultation is on the record, which satisfies that issue. That now seems very clear and should be capable of acceptance by those who were concerned about it. I take that as an acceptance that they will always be consulted on any matters relating to housing.
On Amendment No. 53, the Minister set me a challenge, as she did previously, to say which responsibilities of the local housing authority are not functions within the scope of the London housing strategy and therefore should be excluded. We believe that preventing homelessness and reducing repeat homelessness fall outside the scope. Boroughs already have a strategy target set by the Government, which they need to address in meeting their targets on homelessness. They are already working hard to meet them; for example, the 2010 temporary accommodation target. The London housing strategy does not, and should not, take away a borough’s statutory housing role to meet these targets. It would only add a superfluous layer that would affect the borough’s ability to deliver on its targets.
In addition, the London housing strategy should not have any say on a borough’s allocations policies. Boroughs are accountable to their communities for how allocations are made and already have a statutory duty to manage a housing register and allocation policy which reflect local housing needs. Leaving allocation decisions in the control of local councils will ensure that they remain accountable to their communities and that these policies fully reflect local housing needs.
Boroughs have already demonstrated their ability in working together to address various housing problems. For example, they have taken the lead in developing choice-based letting schemes and now they are developing the pan-London choice-based letting and mobility scheme, which will enable more tenants to have greater choice and to move across the region.
Empowering tenants and residents and empowering, supporting and engaging local communities is an essential part of the borough’s strategic role. Boroughs have already developed expertise in involving tenants and residents. It is important that boroughs remain the key organisations, because they know their communities, who look to them as the first point of contact to resolve housing issues. If boroughs are seen to be working more towards the London housing strategy than to local housing strategies, communities may feel less need to be involved and that the regional strategy does not reflect their specific needs in the same way as their local council’s housing strategy.
“Improving housing management” covers estate management, anti-social behaviour, income management, repairs and maintenance. Those areas do not fall under the remit of the Mayor; they are part of a borough’s front-line services. Boroughs are already working hard to meet the comprehensive performance assessment requirements on housing management, and improving housing management is an important issue for them.
The list of examples that London Councils gave me is not exhaustive but demonstrates some areas that should not be in conformity with the London housing strategy. The Bill leaves potential for unproductive disputes between the Mayor and local authorities over which housing functions must be in general conformity. The amendment seeks to clarify the housing functions that must be in general conformity with the London housing strategy and to avoid disputes over whether it applies to other housing functions.
My Lords, I can just about hang the following question on to the amendment on the scope of the housing strategy. Will the Minister clarify the relationship between the housing strategy and the London Plan, if there is one? If there is any conflict, which takes precedence? I might get one of those planner’s answers, such as “It depends”, or using words such as “emerging”, “depending on the date”, “depending on which is most up to date” and so on. “Emerging” seems an extremely useful term.
My Lords, I welcome the amendment. I am intrigued at the lacuna that has been exposed in the strategy. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, knows, I am quite close to London Councils but it has not seen fit to advise me of this particular aspect. I shall listen carefully to what the Minister says, because the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, has pointed, quite rightly, to the enormous range of additional duties which not only fall upon councils but are carried out by councils. They have to be carried out by someone, and they should be a part of a strategy. If there is a reason why they should be excluded, I would be grateful if the Minister will tell us.
We are moving to an aspect of the Bill which is absolutely crucial to the people of London: who has responsibility not only to carry out their borough responsibilities but for the overall strategy? As I understand it from these papers, clarity on who does what is vital. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, is right to say that there could be difficulties if that is not laid down. If any area causes friction, it should be removed. I look forward to the Minister’s reply.
My Lords, this has been a very interesting short debate. I almost wish we had time for more. Those four examples fit very well within the definition of the housing strategy. I applaud the noble Baroness’s ingenuity, but those kind of functions fall within new Section 333D(3)(b), which refers to,
“any other statement of the local housing authority’s policies or proposals relating to housing”.
Although they are the key tasks of the borough, they fit very much within the range of tasks that any housing strategy has to address: preventing homelessness, allocation policies, empowering residents, improving management and so on—matters that are absolutely fundamental to delivering good housing. More than that, we are not just talking about the London Plan or the housing strategy; the London boroughs have to work within a national framework as well. Those are some of the key elements of our national framework policies. I am not moved in my opposition to the amendment of the noble Baroness because what is sought is contained within the definition to which I referred.
In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, the London Plan is the equivalent of the regional plan. The regional plan, in the hierarchy of plan-making, takes precedence over the housing strategy. I hope that that clarifies the position.
After that very nice, short debate, I hope that I can persuade the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[Amendment No. 51 not moved.]
52: Clause 28, page 30, line 15, at end insert—
““registered social landlord” has the same meaning as in Part 1 of the Housing Act 1996;”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[Amendment No. 53 not moved.]
54: Before Clause 36, insert the following new Clause—
“Water and sewerage strategy
(1) In section 41 of the GLA Act 1999 (general duties of the Mayor in relation to his strategies) in subsection (1) after paragraph (ef) insert—
“(eg) the water and sewerage strategy prepared and published under section 361F below.”.(2) In Part 9 of the GLA Act 1999 (environmental functions) after section 361E insert—
“361F The water and sewerage strategy
(1) The Mayor shall prepare and publish a document to be known as “the water and sewerage strategy for London”.
(2) The water and sewerage strategy for London document shall contain—
(a) the Mayor’s assessment as to the consequences of actual and planned development of whatever nature upon the water and sewerage infrastructure within Greater London; and(b) the Mayor’s proposals and policies for ensuring the water and sewerage infrastructure is adequate for the development referred to in paragraph (a).(3) The Secretary of State may give to the Mayor guidance—
(a) about the content of the strategy; and(b) in relation to the preparation or revision of the strategy.(4) The guidance that may be given under subsection (3)(b) above includes—
(a) guidance specifying or describing the bodies, persons or organisations which the Mayor must consult; and(b) guidance as to the consequences of development to which the Mayor must have regard.(5) In preparing or revising the strategy the Mayor must have regard to any guidance given under subsection (3) above.”.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, later in the day I shall return to the amendment that we were discussing—Amendment No. 53. Amendment No. 54 moves us on to the water and sewerage strategy for London. We had a brief discussion on that last time and we have put forward amendments again that would oblige the Mayor to prepare a water and sewerage strategy for London.
From time to time in the House, we have considered the need for some control over the amount of water that is used, particularly when there are to be major new developments in the outer areas of London, which will increase the requirement for water. It is a little odd to be talking about water at the moment. The last time we discussed this, we were in a serious drought and now we have serious floods. It does not always pay to talk about water. If we work on the average basis of neither feast nor famine, there will be a great requirement for more water use in London. It will be one of the few areas where I would admit that London needs a strategic overview. We have support for this amendment, perhaps unusually, from all five parties in the Assembly and from the Mayor. I very much hope that the Minister will be able to accept the amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, we support this amendment, as we did in Grand Committee. We have received a copy of the letter from the Secretary of State to the Mayor. To summarise it, this issue is in the “too difficult” tray. The letter expresses sympathy with some points but refers to problems such as the regulation regime and geographical difficulties. I do not think that the matter can be left in that too difficult tray; there are issues of water management that must be faced. To leave them to paragraphs and sections in other pieces of policy is not a satisfactory way of dealing with this.
I guess that we are too late in the process of this Bill to deal with it but I urge the Government to think seriously about a subject on which public thinking is moving very fast. As the noble Lord acknowledged—by leaving space between the lines rather than by actually saying it—there is a great deal of public dissatisfaction with how our water is managed. These issues need to be pulled together. In the case of London having a level of regional government, that is where they should be dealt with.
My Lords, Amendment No. 54 extends greatly the Mayor’s responsibilities into the area of water regulation. It will give the Mayor a duty to produce and keep under review a water and sewerage strategy for London that will include proposals and policies for ensuring that the water and sewerage infrastructure is able to cope with the actual and planned developments.
Water companies have for some time produced long-term water resources management plans on a voluntary basis, and from April this year, that became a statutory requirement. The Water Resources Management Plan Regulations 2007 set out certain steps a water company must follow with respect to publication of and consultation on a draft water resources management plan, and the publication of its final plan. The first set of draft plans are expected to be consulted on in the spring and summer of 2008, and we sincerely hope that the Mayor will respond to the consultation on the draft plans for companies that serve London.
The water resources management plan details what further information the water resources management plans should include and the timetable for their submission and publication. The Environment Agency has prepared detailed guidance for water companies on the content of water resources management plans and timings for the completion of each stage of the process. After the final water resources management plan is published, it will be reviewed annually by the water company. If there is a relevant material change in circumstances, such as significant new developments, then the water company must submit a revised plan. The Secretary of State can also direct a water company to submit a revised plan if required, after consulting the Environment Agency.
In addition, to comply with the EC urban waste water treatment directive, sewerage companies have to plan what is needed by way of sewage treatment in order to serve an increasing population. The Environment Agency advised Ministers as recently as September last year that large-scale water transfers for south-east England are not currently necessary before 2025. This is despite assumptions as to projected increases in population in the south-east of just over 2.2 million people by 2030. Development issues relating to water and sewerage infrastructure are already very much under consideration by regulators and the companies themselves.
As I said in Grand Committee, the regulation of water is far more complex than it is for all the other utilities. The noble Baroness said that we should ensure that someone is responsible for making sure that what needs to be done is done, and that that should be the Mayor, but it must recognised that London-specific proposals would have implications for services, infrastructure and customer bills over a much wider area than the administrative area of Greater London for which the Mayor is responsible. For example, it is much more appropriate and fairer for all the customers of the four companies that include parts of London within their supply areas that decisions on future water supply are taken on the basis of statutory water resource management plans that have been the subject of wide consultation.
Furthermore, the EC water framework directive requires regulation of the water environment to be carried out on a river-based and district basis. There is therefore no justification at all for a London-specific water policy. I understand that the Mayor intends to produce a non-statutory water action framework for London, which could be usefully added to the ongoing debate on water resources and efficiency. The noble Baroness mentioned development. I am not going to go into all the details of, for example, the development in the Thames gateway and the south-east but modern dwellings are much more efficient in the use of water than they ever were in the past. Our greatest problem is dealing with the stock of dwellings in this country, to make them as efficient as new dwellings. I am not saying that there is not a problem simply because new dwellings are more efficient.
The Secretary of State wrote to the Mayor on 8 May, confirming that he would have a non-statutory duty to consider the Mayor’s strategy when developing national policy. We will also offer a formal government response to the strategy. I hope that what I have said today—briefly, by necessity—and what was said in Grand Committee have demonstrated that planning in the water sector should be the primary responsibility of the water and sewerage companies and their regulators, of which there are many. I therefore ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that comprehensive reply. I have some sympathy with the view that this must go wider than London. I assert that water is, by definition, going to go wider than London, because the catchments for water—the reservoirs and hills where the water accumulates—are not going to be in London at all. If the Mayor is going to prepare even a non-statutory strategy, that would be helpful. Somebody beyond the water companies needs to have an overview of the provision, the amount required in the future and the outlet for sewage, which will also increase on the edges of London because of the developments.
I do not think that I am going to move the Minister on this one. I get the feeling that we are literally coming to the end of the road. As I say, however, I would welcome the Mayor producing a strategy so that Londoners can be consulted on it, in addition to the water companies which are not always greeted with the greatest joy and felicity by their customers. Perhaps an independent view would not be a bad idea. We have aired this to the limit of today’s efforts, so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
55: Before Clause 36, insert the following new Clause—
“(1) After section 360 of the GLA Act 1999 insert—
“360A The London Waste and Recycling Forum and Fund
(1) There shall be a body corporate to be known as the London Waste and Recycling Forum and Fund (in this section and Schedule (The London Waste and Recycling Forum and Fund) referred to as “the Forum”).
(2) The Forum shall have the following functions—
(a) to advise the Mayor of London and London local authorities on matters of strategic importance related to waste minimisation, recycling, waste collection, waste treatment and waste disposal in and for Greater London,(b) to administer a fund to be known as the London Waste and Recycling Fund (in this section and Schedule (The London Waste and Recycling Forum and Fund) referred to as “the Fund”) the primary purpose of which is to improve and enhance the waste minimisation, recycling, waste collection, waste treatment and waste disposal performance of London local authorities.(3) Schedule (The London Waste and Recycling Forum and Fund) makes provision in relation to the Forum and the Fund.
(4) The Secretary of State may, with the consent of Treasury, pay the Forum a grant to be used for the Fund and such other monies as he determines appropriate for the exercise of its functions.
(5) For the purposes of this section and Schedule (The London Waste and Recycling Forum and Fund), “London local authority” means—
(a) a London borough;(b) the Common Council of the City of London;(c) a joint waste disposal authority established under section 10 of the Local Government Act 1985 (joint arrangements for waste disposal functions) which is constituted of London boroughs.”(2) Schedule (The London Waste Recycling Forum and Fund) is to be inserted after Schedule 2A to the GLA Act 1999.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I would be happy to hear from the Minister on Amendment No. 56 in this group, which would probably resolve the problem of my Amendment No. 55.
[Amendment No. 55 not moved.]
56: After Clause 36, insert the following new Clause—
“London Waste and Recycling Board
(1) After section 356 of the GLA Act 1999 (directions by the Mayor) insert—
“356A London Waste and Recycling Board
(1) There shall be a body known as the London Waste and Recycling Board (referred to in this section and section 356B as “the Board”).
(2) The objectives of the Board are to promote and encourage, so far as relating to Greater London—
(a) the production of less waste;(b) an increase in the proportion of waste that is re-used or recycled;(c) the use of methods of collection, treatment and disposal of waste which are more beneficial to the environment.(3) For the purpose of achieving its objectives, the Board may provide financial assistance to any person towards or for the purposes of—
(a) the provision of facilities for or in connection with the collection, treatment or disposal of waste produced in Greater London;(b) conducting research into new technologies or techniques for the collection, treatment or disposal of waste;(c) securing, or assisting in securing, the performance of any function of a London borough council or the Common Council relating to waste. (4) For the purpose of achieving its objectives, the Board may provide advice on such matters as it thinks fit to any of the following—
(a) the Mayor;(b) any London borough council;(c) the Common Council;(d) such other persons as the Board thinks fit.(5) In carrying out its functions under this section, the Board must—
(a) act in accordance with the municipal waste management strategy;(b) act in general conformity with the spatial development strategy so far as relating to the collection, treatment and disposal of waste.(6) The Board may do anything that it thinks will facilitate, or is incidental or conducive to, the carrying out of its functions under subsections (2) to (4) above.
(7) The Board does not have the power to borrow money.
(8) The Secretary of State may issue to the Board guidance as to the exercise of its functions.
(9) The Board shall have regard to any guidance issued under subsection (8) above.
(10) Any reference in this section to the collection, treatment or disposal of waste includes a reference to the transport of waste for or in connection with that purpose.
356B Supplemental provision concerning the Board
(1) The Secretary of State may by order make provision as to—
(a) the constitution of the Board;(b) the appointment of its members (who must not be fewer than 7 nor more than 13 in number);(c) the payment of allowances and expenses to its members;and such other matters in connection with its establishment and administration as the Secretary of State thinks fit.(2) The Board shall not be regarded—
(a) as the servant or agent of the Crown, or(b) as enjoying any status, privilege or immunity of the Crown,and the property of the Board shall not be regarded as property of, or property held on behalf of, the Crown.(3) The Secretary of State may make payments by way of grant to the Board towards expenditure incurred or to be incurred by it.
(4) The amount of any grant and the manner of its payment are to be such as the Secretary of State may determine.
(5) Any grant may be paid on such conditions as the Secretary of State may determine.
(6) Conditions under subsection (5) above may, in particular, include—
(a) provision as to the use of the grant;(b) provision as to circumstances in which the whole or part of the grant must be repaid.”.(2) In section 420(3) of that Act (orders subject to affirmative procedure)—
(a) after “an order under” insert “any of the following provisions”;(b) for the word “or” at the end of paragraph (c) substitute—“(cc) section 356B(1) above,”.”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for not moving her amendment, giving me time to explain the thrust behind the Government’s amendments. This is our response to what was said in Grand Committee, where I undertook to consider—
My Lords, I am moving Amendment No. 56 and assuming that the group will stay the same. I am not the chair, but the noble Baroness will have the chance. There is nobody in charge here; you can do what you like. I am afraid that is one of the problems.
In Committee, I undertook to consider together with stakeholders the best way to implement the Government’s previous commitment to what was described as a London waste and recycling forum and fund. Following discussions with key stakeholders, we decided to put the body managing the fund on a statutory footing. Amendment No. 56 inserts a new clause in the Bill to achieve that. This approach will provide focus and stability, and we will ensure that the fund is deployed in the way that is best for London. In addition, this approach has advantages over a voluntary arrangement in that it provides legal certainty for the basis on which the fund is paid and administered, gives clarity and provides for greater accountability to Parliament. We also concluded that given the emphasis that the body will put on getting things done in London, a more appropriate name for it would be the London Waste and Recycling Board.
The board’s objectives will be to promote more sustainable waste management: less waste, more reuse, more recycling and waste management that respects the waste hierarchy and maximises natural resource efficiency. To achieve these objectives, it will be able to spend money, including giving grants, and will provide advice on other relevant matters to the London boroughs, the Mayor and others.
The London Waste and Recycling Board will not be a waste authority, but will be a body to help achieve a step-change in London through the administration of the fund and the continued development of a shared understanding of the issues and their solutions. Subject to the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Government have already committed £19 million in 2008-09 and we hope that the Mayor will contribute a further £6 million, as announced last July. The Government propose that the board will act in accordance with the Mayor’s municipal waste management strategy and in general conformity with the London spatial development strategy. In that way it recognises that the vision and the strategy for London’s waste are the Mayor’s and that action will have to take place in accordance with them.
The board will have the power to assist the boroughs in the performance of any of their waste functions. There is widespread agreement from London stakeholders that there is a need to stimulate more investment in infrastructure in London to enable it to manage its waste more sustainably. The board would be able to use the fund for this purpose. In addition, if the board agreed that there was a benefit in, for example, running pilot schemes, an awareness-raising campaign or research into barriers to current delivery or future waste provisions, it would also be able to use the fund for those purposes.
In order to carry out its functions, the board would be able to employ staff or consultants and commission research. The Government envisage that if part of the fund is used to facilitate the delivery of infrastructure, there is likely to be a need for a small dedicated support unit to assist, but the board will determine the nature and size of any such unit. The running costs of the board will be provided for by the London Waste and Recycling Fund and any additional contributions from members. It is clear that the board as a whole will develop an understanding of the wider needs, opportunities and risks in the delivery of more sustainable waste management in London. It will therefore be well placed to provide advice to the boroughs, the joint waste disposal authorities and the Mayor on waste matters, such as new technologies, the implications of landfill allowance trading schemes and planning issues.
The details of the constitution and administration of the board are being discussed and considered and will be set out in an order after the Bill receives Royal Assent. We hope that the Mayor will take a strong leadership role in the board by chairing it or nominating the chair from the committee membership. We believe that a board of 11 members, including the chair, would be the best size as it would be small enough to function but large enough to represent a range of interests. We believe that the best mix would be four members provided by the Greater London Authority, four members nominated by London councils and three members from business and other sectors jointly nominated by the GLA and the London councils.
The Government and many London stakeholders want to move forward. We therefore intend to lay an order setting out the details of the membership, constitution and administration of the body as soon as is practicable after the Greater London Authority Bill receives Royal Assent. The Government have discussed the issues raised in Grand Committee with London Councils and the GLA, and we have returned with this proposal. I genuinely believe that it addresses the concerns expressed in Grand Committee by the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Hanham, and the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield. Although the noble Baroness will obviously speak to her amendments, I hope that she will not press them to a vote.
The board will be a regional statutory body that will be set up to help to ensure that the boroughs deliver the Mayor’s municipal waste strategy collectively. It will also help the boroughs to deliver their own national and local obligations. We think that the links between the actions of the board and the regional strategy should be stronger than they are with the boroughs in exercising some of their waste functions. We therefore hope that Amendment No. 56A will not be pressed to a vote. We will discuss the membership and chairmanship of the board with stakeholders as soon as possible. The Government consider it appropriate that the Mayor should have the role at this time, as I have explained.
We need to get on with developing the infrastructure to equip London for a more sustainable future, and we believe that bringing together the boroughs, the Mayor and business in relation to the London waste and recycling fund is the best approach for the capital city. We also believe that there is a need for the continued development of a common understanding of the real issues facing London and the need for action on that basis. On both counts, the board will be able to make a significant contribution to the future of London’s sustainable waste management.
Finally, and briefly, on Amendment No. 57, the House has already debated whether it is appropriate to extend the offices to which confirmation hearings should apply, so I will not repeat the Government’s position. However, I make it clear that Clause 4 already contains an order-making power to allow the Secretary of State to extend the offices, subject to confirmation hearings. The amendment is therefore unnecessary. I beg to move.
56A: After Clause 36, line 31, leave out “accordance” and insert “general conformity”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for that reply and for taking up the point that I made in Grand Committee that the meeting to try to bring about this development fund did not take place. Clearly what has happened in the interim has been very satisfactory, and has brought a resolution to an outstanding problem. It is not unusual for the Minister to step in in this way, but I thank him anyway, because things were becoming ridiculous and the steadying hand that was needed to get this implemented was not being applied. We are very happy to accept the government amendment, as it is the right way in which to get an overview of London waste management. It is a good result. It also gives a statutory body the power to deal with the funding which the Minister has said will be available.
It is churlish to want tweaks at this stage, so I will say only that Amendment No. 56A seeks to leave out the word “accordance” in proposed new Section 356A(5) of the GLA Act 1999 and insert “general conformity”, although I cannot say that I feel very strongly about that at the moment. On Amendment No. 57A, which also amends Amendment No. 56, I think that the Minister resolved the problem to which it relates, but I simply want to be clear that, if the Mayor is not going to chair this body, someone else from the development body will and that the Mayor, and perhaps the leader of the London Councils, will decide together who will chair it. If the Minister responds in the affirmative, I will call this a clear win. I thank him again; I simply want those two points to be considered. I beg to move.
My Lords, the “general conformity” point would make a significant change. As years go by, that will be seen to provide the Mayor, not necessarily wrongly, with a very strong position. On Amendment No. 56 and the provision of financial assistance which the board will be able to make, dealing with waste is a very capital-intensive process. It is very welcome that the board will be able to provide financial assistance, including for providing waste facilities, research and so on.
The new clause states:
“The Board does not have the power to borrow money”.
I am not sure whether the £19 million and the £6 million to be made available to the board refer to the budget for the next year or to the starting budget and then seeing how it goes. I spoke at the last stage about the enormous importance of a change in culture and of convincing people that the waste authority should be responsible in how it deals with waste. I hope that the board will be able to play a part in that. It means not just good arrangements locally to collect waste for recycling, but also how the waste is dealt with; that is, using waste to make new materials and making products out of those new materials. All that will require more than the sorts of money being talked about.
As time goes on, if the parties—I hope that they will—make an effort to make the new board work, there will be a change. I would be interested to know why there is that restriction. We might be told that it will be a matter for individual authorities to make major investments. However, the new clause says that the board can provide financial assistance towards providing facilities,
“in connection with the collection, treatment or disposal of waste”.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, raised an important point about the chair. Generally, it is best for a board to appoint its own chair, but in this world one becomes rather used to the chair being designated as a particular office holder. For the board to work productively, it is important that its members are in agreement on the chair and who best can take them along together.
I accept that Amendment No. 57 is not necessary because of the possibility of extension under Clause 4, but I felt that it was important to draw attention again to the particular position of the Mayor in being able to make appointments and that those appointments should be subject to public scrutiny and understanding.
My Lords, I congratulate the Minister and his colleagues on having listened carefully in Committee and on obviously having consulted. The wording of this run of amendments does not just come from the minds of the Minister or civil servants. It must be the product of consultation and of trying to obtain the best possible form of words to carry out what is seen not only by Londoners but also by the whole country as the need to be more strategic in planning and in using our facilities and money to provide a good strategy for waste. It is really a question of not just settling for half, but of being politically realistic about the alternatives. I share the Government’s stance, which is also shared by London Councils, that there are some limits; if this strategy had not been produced, I can see that there would have been mayhem or worse in the relationships between London Councils and the Government. The Minister and the Government have actually produced the means of getting the best possible arrangements here.
Clearly, there is a move that the Bill, and the powers of the Mayor, ought to be different. We will perhaps hear about that in later amendments, but we must be politically realistic. I have trawled for reactions in a number of quarters, and in the light of my knowledge of those it is quite clear that the time is not ripe for a major step beyond that envisaged in these clauses. So although the words “congratulate” and “Government” rarely drop from the lips of many Members of this House, they certainly drop from mine, and I give the Minister my thanks.
My Lords, I briefly join in the general welcome for this proposal and I have declared previously that, in another life, I am an executive councillor on a London borough council. This proposal is in the best interests of all concerned. I hope, indeed, that once this matter is finally settled and the Bill becomes enacted that the Mayor will then stop referring to this proposal as an unambitious talking-shop, and that he will engage with it as enthusiastically as the Minister has rightly hoped.
I want to address briefly the question of who chairs the board. The Minister has expressed the hope that the Mayor of London will do so. If he wishes to do so, London Councils has said that that is entirely acceptable to it, as I am sure it would be to all. However, the Mayor already chairs Transport for London and will shortly, if he so wishes, have the power to chair the Metropolitan Police Authority. Those in themselves are two massive commitments in time and responsibility. It may well be that the Mayor determines that he cannot make the time or the priority to chair the board in person; we should not at all regard that as a lack of interest or commitment but rather, I suggest, as a realistic appraisal of how he spends his time. In that event, whoever chairs the board—if it is not to be the Mayor—needs to be acceptable to the members of the board, and to those who appoint them. Therefore, in the event that the Mayor is not chairing it, it will be of some significance that agreement is reached between London Councils and the Mayor of London as to who that chair should be. That chair, nominated in that way, will thus be much more influential and acceptable to the board, to London Councils and to the London boroughs as a whole.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend the Minister on coming forward with this proposal. We have not had much debate about this idea to create a statutory board in earlier stages; it is a good idea. But I still worry that, underneath the board, there will be all the boroughs and the waste disposal authorities; this creates yet another layer. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, talked about waste disposal being a capital-intensive process, and she would agree that there are clear benefits in scale. Yet I still worry about the incentives on the boroughs. Some of their current performance leaves a lot to be desired, and they will see this as a way of receiving money from the board, allocated from the Government, to try to improve what they do at the moment—or, more likely, to cut their own contributions while hoping that the money comes from either the Government or the board. In other words, they would see it as a subsidy to do less themselves and get more money.
This proposal is a lot better than doing nothing, which is what we were faced with before. However, I hope that somebody—maybe the Mayor, using his persuasive powers, or his successor—will finally persuade everybody that it is in their interests for London to deal with the processing and disposal of its waste as one body. I am quite convinced that that is the way to achieve more recycling and better benefits. This is a halfway stage, which is better than nothing, so I support it.
My Lords, we discussed the question of a single waste disposal authority in Grand Committee. The upshot was that it had become clear that there was not much possibility of persuading the Government to accept the recommendations which had been originally made by the Mayor. He believed that there was no substitute for a single waste disposal authority, and that remained his position until relatively recently. However, there is a general acceptance that this will not be possible for the time being. For that reason, I put my name to an amendment which will be debated later to deal with what could be described as a follow-up, should there not be the right outcome regarding these proposals.
My Lords, I am most grateful for the response to the amendment. All credit goes to my ministerial colleagues and officials in the Department for Communities and Local Government. I am just the bringer of good news—that does not normally fall to me, so I am very pleased.
Two central points have been raised. The majority of waste funding will continue to go to London’s waste authorities. As I said in my opening speech, the amount of funding will be decided as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. The boroughs and joint waste disposal authorities are already able to borrow money, so we do not think it is necessary for the board to have that power. The fund will enable extra strategic spend on top of the money that goes to the authorities.
I accept that I am a complete outsider regarding London’s politics and governance, but I understand that the issue of the chair is highly sensitive. It is our wish that the Mayor should take the chair. The second best option, which is in line with that, is that the board should be given strong strategic directional leadership by the Mayor, or by the chair, if he is not to be appointed to that position. We will discuss this further with the stakeholders. We believe that the chair should be appointed from the membership of the board and that it should have 11 members—four, four, three. It is better if the chair is appointed from the membership of the board by agreement, and details will be set out in the order. We are working on this and will discuss it further with the stakeholders. We want an amicable solution.
I have stated our preferences that the chair should be the Mayor or that the Mayor should give strong strategic leadership. Whoever is appointed chair from the board’s membership must carry the board with him or her anyway. This is a matter on which agreement can be reached but further discussions are taking place on it.
My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment No. 56A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 56, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 57 not moved.]
[Amendment No. 57A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 56, not moved.]
On Question, Amendment No. 56 agreed to.
58: After Clause 37, insert the following new Clause—
“Arrangements for waste disposal authorities in London
In Section 10 of the Local Government Act 1985 (c. 51) (joint arrangements for waste disposal)—
(a) in subsection (1) after paragraph (b) insert “or(c) that any arrangements in place for that purpose have ceased to be satisfactory,”;(b) in subsection (3) after “member of an authority established” insert “outside Greater London”;(c) after subsection (3) insert—“(3A) An authority established in Greater London by an order under subsection (1) above shall consist of such number of members as the Mayor may determine, of whom—(a) a bare majority shall be members of the London borough councils for whose areas the authority is established, appointed by the Mayor on the nomination of those councils acting jointly, and(b) the remainder shall be appointed by the Mayor.(3B) An order under subsection (1) above which establishes an authority in Greater London may make provision for enabling the Secretary of State to require the authority established by the order to submit to him a scheme for the winding up of the authority and the transfer to those councils of its functions, property, staff, rights and liabilities.(3C) An authority established in Greater London by an order under subsection (1) above shall exercise its functions—(a) in accordance with such guidance or directions as may be issued to it by the Mayor;(b) for the purpose of securing or facilitating the implementation of the Mayor’s municipal waste management strategy produced under section 353 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 (c. 29).”; and(c) after subsection (7) insert—“(8) In this section—“bare majority” means—(a) in the case of an even number of members, half of two more than that number, and(b) in the case of an odd number of members, half of one more than that number;“the Mayor” means the Mayor of London; andthe Common Council of the City of London shall be treated as if it were a London borough council.”.”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in the unavoidable absence of my noble friend Lord Whitty, I rise to move Amendment No. 58, to which I have added my name. My noble friend and other colleagues spoke eloquently in Committee about why a different amendment was proposed to secure the establishment of a single waste disposal authority for London. Since then, a modified version of that amendment has been crafted, which is the version that we debate today. This is a compromise that puts the triggering and timing of the creation of a single waste disposal authority for London in the hands of the Secretary of State, should—and I would say when—the need arises.
This is a significant compromise on the part of the Mayor and others who supported that earlier amendment, but it is still important. It goes further than the Government’s proposal for a statutory waste and recycling forum that we have just been discussing by providing executive powers for the new single authority. Some of us still believe that we need that for the longer term. Certainly, we will eventually need to go in that direction.
Since Committee, I have had clarifying correspondence with my noble friend the Minister, to whom I am grateful for his prompt and full answers. It is clear from those answers that, overall, the London boroughs have improved their performance on recycling and disposal. I would not quarrel with that, but I have to acknowledge from other briefing that I have received that there are some worrying unanswered questions about whether some boroughs, rather than genuinely reducing the amount of municipal waste being sent to landfill, may have been using loopholes to give the impression that landfill has been reduced. I do not quarrel with the general proposition that, overall, the London boroughs’ position on recycling has improved and looks as though it will continue to improve, but I and others continue to have concerns about whether the structure that we have in place is robust enough for the longer term.
In Committee, my noble friend prayed in aid the KPMG report as suggesting that the Mayor’s proposal for a single waste management body for London was one of the worst options. I did a dangerous thing: I read the report. It is quite true that the KPMG report says that the current systems options provide greater certainty in delivering short-term LATS targets. However, the report also says that much depends on the appetite to,
“take risks to secure future (potentially significant) financial savings”.
It goes on to say that none of the current set of options,
“would be reasonably expected to generate significant future operational savings”.
“It could … be argued that these options would not be future proofed with regards to the expected shift towards disposal, rather than collection, led solutions”.
KPMG actually concludes that the higher-risk options, including the Mayor’s, would be expected to perform better on longer-term targets.
We could debate for a long time whether the present arrangements will deliver the 2010 statutory targets, but I do not propose to do so. Personally, I remain sceptical on current information, but if that is a risk that the Government are prepared to take, so be it. Their proposal to establish a London waste and recycling board, if they can get it up and running quickly, is likely to help rather than hinder matters. However, if our focus should also be, as I think it should, on the 2020 position, I remain deeply sceptical, as do others, about whether sticking with what we have now will be good enough.
I have knocked around public sector management for quite a long time. One of its weakest aspects is devising end-to-end solutions to difficult problems. Too often it creates sub-optimising, piecemeal solutions unsuitable for achieving long-term goals. When we devise end-to-end solutions we make better progress, as I have seen in the health service with waiting times. We need a similar approach to waste disposal, with the ability to let the end point of minimising the volume of ultimate disposal in landfill determine the processes in place from the point when people dispose of their waste domestically. You need the executive authority to make changes stick. Under present plans, that is still not the focus, and the investment to ensure delivery of that kind of approach cannot be a guarantee.
Let me take an example from abroad. The importance of collection and sorting to achieve that end point has been well demonstrated in a city of the size of San Francisco, where investment in mechanical sorting has greatly increased recyclable collection, thereby reducing disposal. That is an investment strategy underpinning an end-to-end solution. The amendment, which is in my name and those of my noble friends, would give the Secretary of State the power to change his mind and go down a different path from the forum if, as we strongly suspect will happen, the present and proposed arrangements were not found to be sufficient. As the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee makes clear, the forum that is proposed will not provide any services.
I suspect that the mere presence of this amendment, if it was enshrined in the Bill, would, given the way that human beings behave, shift attitudes locally for the better. It would be a prudent way for the Government to keep their options open at a time of considerable uncertainty—and I think that my noble friend the Minister acknowledges that there are degrees of uncertainty. But the amendment would achieve that without needing to secure a further legislative slot. The Government have nothing to lose and everything to gain from this amendment. I hope that my noble friend will be prepared to take it away and consider it positively for Third Reading. I beg to move.
My Lords, I add my support to this amendment. I welcome government Amendment No. 56 as a step forward, but there are powerful reasons why we need to take this a step further; my noble friend Lord Warner has just asked when rather than whether, which is the key.
I make my brief contribution on the basis of the rapidly advancing technology, which demands a London-wide solution. I recently agreed to facilitate a meeting with the Mayor’s office, on a purely pro bono publico basis, on behalf of a large multinational company at the leading edge of technology, with successful schemes in every continent of the world. It struck me that we were falling behind in some respects. As I listened to the dialogue, it became apparent that, while we talk about the political sensitivities of the Mayor, the GLA and the boroughs’ relationships, looking at it from the point of view of a technology-driven solution one cannot simply begin with some of the language that we find in Amendment No. 56. The amendment says that,
“the Board may provide advice on such matters as it thinks fit to any of the following—
(a) the Mayor;
(b) any London borough council;
(c) the Common Council;
(d) such other persons as the Board thinks fit”.
Taking the point made by my noble friend Lord Graham, I think that we are in danger of generalising about all sorts of relationships—or, in energy terms, each stage in the fuel cycle. Clearly, no one is going to say that it is not Camden’s job to have a regular collection outside my London flat. There is a category problem in how we are discussing this. Equally, if we are going to move rapidly in the next 10 years to technology solutions with 100 per cent of waste possibilities being dealt with for the whole London area, that does not remove the fact that Camden must be somehow involved. Of course it must be. Executive decisions need to be made and contracts signed—they can involve not millions, but billions of pounds—to deal with a total energy cycle and waste solution for the whole London area.
We must make provision for that in the Bill. One can obviously introduce another Bill, but Bills on this subject, as the Minister will perhaps confirm, come along not every five minutes, but every five years. We know how elaborate the discussions are that have to take place. I am sure that the Minister cannot respond in detail to my point now, but will he put around a note about the challenge posed by rapidly advancing world technology and say whether a timescale is not attached to the structural context in which we are speaking?
My Lords, I have added my name to the amendment. As I said earlier, I originally supported the idea of there being an authority, an SWDA, in accordance with the Mayor’s briefing. That was not acceptable to everybody and it needed consensus, which it has not yet received. The amendment before us is a compromise, as my noble friend Lord Warner said. It would expand the range of situations where the Secretary of State could exercise powers to establish a single waste disposal authority for London if local authorities do not significantly improve their performance. We know from the briefing with which we have been supplied that some local authorities do not have a very good record in this respect. The amendment would give an opportunity for the Secretary of State to intervene and for a London authority to be established. The amendment is a compromise and I hope that my noble friends on the Front Bench will accept it in that spirit. The Mayor has already said that he will continue to monitor and highlight waste disposal and ensure that Londoners are aware of the impact of government policies in this regard. The amendment is a reasonable compromise and, in the circumstances, I hope that it will be acceptable.
My Lords, I hate to be the first to voice caution on the amendment. While it is enormously ingenious in shifting the decision on whether such an authority should be introduced to a subsequent occasion, that will presumably be done without further discussion. The matter could be brought back on an order, without anybody having to look at it again in the context of the time when it was decided that it would need to be implemented. Knowing as I do the difficulty involved in getting any order amended, I would be extremely concerned about leaving in the Bill provision for a power of this magnitude to be used in the future.
We were not in favour of the previous amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and we are not in favour of this one. If the noble Lord, Lord Warner, were to press it—I think that he will not, because he has spoken about returning to it at Third Reading—we would not support him in the Lobbies.
Pretty good arrangements already exist in most parts of London. There is co-operation between London boroughs. Large contracts are already in place for the disposal of refuse. The plea behind the amendment relates to landfill and an increase in recycling rates. It is up to the boroughs, which are the bodies nearest to the residents, to make sure that recycling rates are improved, although I am bound to point out that London is a very difficult city as far as waste collection, particularly separating waste, is concerned, in that where there are large blocks of flats, large mansion blocks and large council estates it is often difficult to get the co-operation that one will get from people who are in houses and who will co-operate automatically.
There are different problems in different parts of London. The local authorities need to be responsible for that. Large contracts are already being let by co-ordinating councils as waste authorities. Those have to be taken into account. If the situation were ever to arise again where it was thought necessary for consideration to be given to the Mayor having these powers, that should be in primary legislation at a later date. It should be debated and consulted on in far greater depth than we have had the opportunity to do in this Bill so far. I am not in favour of the amendment.
My Lords, it is always interesting in debates such as this, where the enormous difference in views goes along the political spectrum, to imagine how noble Lords would feel if—as I am sure will not happen—one day we had a Tory Government and maybe most boroughs controlled by the Liberal Democrats and Labour. I wonder whether some noble Lords’ views on this would be any different in those circumstances.
The amendment is a kind of compromise longstop if the board that we discussed on the previous amendment fails to achieve its objective. It is a good longstop, because it would take several years before we got around to introducing primary legislation to bring in a clause such as this one and, in the interim, the waste disposal process could have gone seriously wrong. I do not accept that London is any different from any other major conurbation, except that it is broken up into boroughs. There are big blocks of flats in many parts of this country. There is still a need to persuade people to sort out their rubbish and do the things that we talked about before. It would be extremely useful to have this clause, or an amended version of it, in the Bill as an adjunct to the board that we discussed earlier.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, made the point that I have made throughout our discussions on the Bill when I have been accused of personalising points: he said that it is often good to consider how one might feel if political persuasions were different and there were different politicians in particular roles. I have a two-part question for the noble Lord, Lord Warner. Why is the amendment necessary, given that Section 10 of the 1985 Act gives the Secretary of State an order-making power? I apologise to noble Lords that this is inevitably slightly technical, but is it because Section 10 refers to councils and the Greater London Authority is not for this purpose a council? I do not know the answer to that. It may be that the section, even if the authority falls within it, does not go as far as the noble Lord would like in enabling the Secretary of State to put a new body under the aegis of the Mayor of London. But given that section, is the amendment necessary?
My second question is more rhetorical. If the amendment is not necessary, the question answers itself, but if it is necessary, is it really appropriate for such a contentious matter—I echo the noble Baroness—to be dealt with by an order? We know that it is contentious—we have lived through all that—and we know that there would be almost nothing that the parties involved could do to change the order. I say “almost nothing” because I am well aware that we will be discussing an order about planning later, where the Government have moved considerably from their original position. I do not want to be so churlish as to suggest that this never happens. However, is the amendment necessary? If so, is this really the appropriate way of dealing with such a contentious matter?
My Lords, I have declared my interest as an executive member of a London borough council—it is the London Borough of Sutton. I mention it particularly because Sutton has, since records began, been in the top two or three London borough councils for recycling rates. In Grand Committee the Minister was good enough to inform the Committee that Sutton now enjoys beacon status for its waste management. I say all this not to boast—although I am always happy to boast about Sutton—but to demonstrate that there has always been a strong commitment to increasing recycling rates in my borough. It is therefore perhaps an even bigger embarrassment to us that too many London boroughs do not share our enthusiasm. It is in no sense a party political issue. There are councils of all political leaderships that are good; there are others, frankly, that are not good.
Over the last decade or so it has been demonstrated that this is an issue of political priorities. For whatever reason, some councils have chosen to make recycling a high priority; some have, for often very understandable reasons, decided that they have other priorities, which take precedence for the investment of finances and energy. But that is changing across London, as we recognised in Grand Committee. It may not be changing solely because of political enthusiasm. The financial incentives—or, more accurately, financial penalties—that all local authorities face are perhaps persuasive for those that have been less enthusiastic in their commitment to recycling. Nevertheless, it is changing. Since 2001, recycling rates in London as a whole have more than doubled. Between 2005 and 2006 there was a 15 per cent increase in recycling rates. For some of us it is never enough, and never fast enough, but it is a significant movement. To use modern parlance, it is a direction of travel—and fairly rapid travel—that we should all welcome.
A few minutes ago we all gave a general welcome to the establishment of the board, which we have just accepted. I am therefore rather disappointed that in the next group of amendments, we are to discuss one that assumes that the board will fail before it has even come into existence. I am much more optimistic. When we legislate in this House, I often think not what it will do for the worst authorities—because it is always relatively easy to improve the worst—but what will it do to improve the situation for the best authorities. I have believed that to impose a single waste authority against the authorities’ wishes was not the best move. This is now said to be a compromise. I would say, rather, that it recognises reality: we are not going to get a single waste authority. This is second best. My noble friend Lady Hamwee has asked whether it is necessary, or whether the 1985 Act does indeed give the Secretary of State the power if ever needed. We await an answer to that; we may not get one today.
I believe, quite strongly, that the best and most effective way of producing the dramatic increase in recycling needed in London is for the boroughs to work with each other and in co-operation with the Mayor of London. Peer pressure has been very effective in local government. I said earlier that I hoped the Mayor would change his rather niggardly attitude towards the proposed board, and embrace it with the enthusiasm that many of us share. I am sure that if the London boroughs work together, with the Mayor and through the board that will be established, this fallback position—which is how best to describe it—will not be necessary. Should it become necessary, we can address that in the years to come. In the short and medium term, significant progress is now at last being made in London. We should build positively on that and not impose what has already been described as a threat—it is an entirely unnecessary threat—on the boroughs.
My Lords, I am grateful for that debate, which has not exactly repeated what was said in Grand Committee. I shall respond briefly. The amendment relating to the board was agreed to but with this amendment we are in a different scenario. I have come with a cut-down speech; it will not take long to deliver but it is important to put it on the record because there is still another stage to go.
As noble Lords have said, this amendment is a variation on that which we discussed in Committee. Its ultimate aim is to create a single waste disposal authority—I stress that; no one is promoting a single waste disposal and collection authority.
The amendment would place an ongoing duty on the Secretary of State to continually review whether existing structures are satisfactory in London. Where they ceased to be so, the Secretary of State would be able to use his existing powers to create a single waste disposal authority for London that would be controlled by the Mayor.
When the Government undertook their review of waste governance structures in London, they commissioned research to assess a number of key criteria, such as achievement of the landfill directive targets against short, medium and long-term scenarios. The options that fared worst in the analysis—it is important to get this right, particularly in view of the excellent speech by my noble friend Lord Warner—were those that did not integrate collection and disposal functions across the capital. This is one of the key reasons why the Government are opposed to a single waste disposal authority for London. There is no best-fit solution.
The KPMG findings concluded that a London-wide option could be a good solution if it combined collection and disposal. Options that do not contain collection and disposal, such as the Mayor’s proposal, fared worse in the KPMG analysis. That is the point: a single waste disposal authority that was not a disposal and collection authority came out as the worst option. That is one of the reasons why the Government are opposed to a single waste disposal authority for London. Evidence suggests that the economies of scale and improved performance are more likely to be achieved where waste collection and disposal services are integrated. That also reflects the fact that we have moved over the past 20 years—we recognise that waste is a valuable resource that can be recycled or composted or from which we can recover substantial amounts of energy.
This approach requires a greater synergy between collection and disposal arrangements. The Mayor’s proposal for a single waste disposal authority for London goes against this, separating the waste disposal arrangements into a body run by the Mayor, but leaving the collection services with the boroughs. Delaying the creation of such an authority will not alter this and could result in an even worse outcome for London than creating one now.
We are at a critical stage in delivering this step change in the way in which we manage waste in the UK. I pay tribute to what has been achieved in recycling in recent years. In the list that I have, about two-thirds of London boroughs are not meeting their household recycling targets; some are exceeding them and some are meeting them. On that list, Sutton is number two, so well done there. London faces a tough challenge; there is no question about that. We are not complacent about the progress that must be made. In a separate amendment, which we have already approved, the creation of the new London Waste and Recycling Board is designed to accelerate the progress towards sustainable waste management.
Many London boroughs—the majority of them—need to raise their game significantly, particularly on recycling. The problem is that introducing the threat of creating a single waste disposal authority that is governed by the Mayor at some point in the future is not an effective way of facilitating their progress—if anything, it could jeopardise that.
London needs structural stability if it is to attract the necessary investment to further develop its waste management capacity. The boroughs, the waste management industry, their various financial partners and potential investors need security and to know that the business cases and contracts they put in place today, and in the future, are not going to require renegotiating with a new body some years later. Certainly being under the threat of continuous review is not a good way to get the investment going. That is the threat that lies behind the amendment. It is a compromise but not really a compromise at all.
The amendment threatens a fundamental change of government at some unknown point in time and creates massive uncertainty in a multi-million pound industry that requires investment. That is a real problem. People need to know that we are not planning to set up a single waste disposal authority in London either in the long term or the short or medium term. Otherwise the investment will not come. The pressure on the authorities and their financial partners will be removed, and that pressure needs to be maintained.
All the evidence that we have about the best way to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of managing London’s waste suggests that we should not go down the route of a single waste disposal authority. Creating a single authority for managing waste would also go against our approach to waste governance in England. The local government White Paper highlighted the need for local authorities to work together particularly in the two-tier areas in order to deliver improved accountability and leadership, increase efficiency and improve the outcomes. The strategy for waste in England, recently published in 2007, highlights the need for joint working on waste. At a time when the Government are encouraging integration between waste collection and disposal services, it would be quite wrong for the Government further to separate such services in the capital.
We believe that the waste collection services are best managed at local level, where they are most effectively tailored and adapted to meet local needs. I have just moved from a house in a London borough to a flat in the middle of London, and although I am not bewildered, I have struggled to work out the difference—and it is different. The best people to provide local needs are the local authorities. There is no question about that.
Many of the benefits of a single waste disposal authority, such as economies of scale and technology procurement, can be achieved through other means within the existing governance structures. Joint working on waste can deliver considerable efficiencies. The signs are that performance on waste disposal in London is moving in the right direction. Even those who have not met their targets are attempting to do so. Movement is under way, and we must be absolutely positive and supportive about that. The creation of a single waste disposal authority for London would be too disruptive of the good progress that all the authorities are seeking to make.
This is a critical time and we need to focus our efforts on vastly improving performance in recycling. We have a long way to go. As I said in Grand Committee, around the world, authorities similar to London have achieved much better performance levels. We need to up our game to match those.
For those reasons, the Government cannot accept the amendment.
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, will he comment, either now or in writing, on the fact that the rapid advance of technology may require very large contracts which are far bigger than any one borough? If that is so, the question is whether boroughs would be able easily to co-operate or whether some kind of integration policy on investment would be required to give confidence to those who provide technology solutions that they can deal with someone in a way that is not too fragmented. This is coming at us very rapidly indeed.
Why is the Minister so confident that, three or four years from now, the analysis which has been made will remain the same? The very interesting remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, could have been made at any time in the past 10 or 20 years. What has changed above all is the technology and the economics of advanced technology. That changes the context in which we are arguing. I therefore ask my noble friend to say, in a few words, that he accepts that this could make some difference.
My Lords, I accept what my noble friend says, but I do not accept that it necessarily has to be London-wide. It is undoubtedly technology driven, but cultural and climate change issues are also involved, and we are running out of landfill sites. There is gold in waste and a fortune to be made there. “Waste” is the wrong word; it is a resource. If local authorities and their financial partners develop the right infrastructures they can earn a great deal of money, create new assets and income streams, and at the same time not mess up the environment. It is a win-win situation all round. Changes in technology will encourage local authorities to work together and nothing that I have said today will prevent that.
As I said to my noble friend, either the relevant Minister or I will be quite happy in future to reinforce the fact that the benefits of a single waste disposal authority—the economies of scale in procurement and technology,—can be achieved by other means within the existing governance structures. We can embrace the technological changes through the existing structures of joint working on waste. It does not matter whether that entails creating energy out of waste or developing anaerobic digestion techniques, on which joint efforts are under way in experimental plants around the country, although we are way behind our continental partners on this. Nothing in the existing structures will stop London local authorities from making use of those technologies.
I am wholly supportive of my noble friend’s point. If that explanation is not sufficient, I am quite happy to facilitate one in a letter.
My Lords, my noble friend has argued for economies of scale and prays in aid other cities in Europe and around the world. He does not seem to accept that the same could apply to London rather than breaking it up among 26 different boroughs. With all the new technologies, and if it is working so well elsewhere, why is it not happening here? He said that two-thirds of the boroughs are not meeting their targets. I do not see why a Greater London waste authority should not do the collecting as well. It may be subcontracted to the boroughs, but the authority would be responsible for it. Will my noble friend respond to that?
My Lords, the argument which has been going on for months is not about that but about a waste disposal authority—not a waste disposal and single collection authority. That is not what we are debating. That is not the offer put to us. It was not an offer of options. We are debating the proposal put forward by the Mayor for a single waste disposal authority. We are opposed to that proposal for the reasons that I have tried to explain.
My Lords, it has been an interesting debate. The Minister will be pleased to note that I do not intend to trade quotations from the KPMG report. I am pleased that the amendment has extracted from Defra a few better arguments than it managed to put forward at previous stages of the debate. I congratulate my noble friend on extracting those arguments from officials in the department but ask him to consider one central point. Although I agree that you can sometimes make almost any system work to some extent, I question whether this system will efficiently deliver a waste disposal-driven set of solutions within the timescales we seek and achieve the best financial and cost-effective solutions. It is difficult to believe that a system which has at its heart a collection and recycling-driven agenda run by a collection of people with primarily those responsibilities is less likely to produce a solution than a system where there is a central authority, the main function of which is the effective and efficient disposal of waste and which has that kind of executive authority. We must agree to disagree, but I ask him to think a little further about that with his officials.
On the question put by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, about whether the existing powers are sufficient, the legal advice that we have been given is that our amendment is needed to achieve our objective. Although noble Lords may not agree with our objective, the amendment was tabled not for rhetorical purposes but to achieve the objective which my noble friends and I are trying to achieve. I shall consider the points made and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 38 [The general power of the Authority: duty to have regard]:
59: Clause 38, page 40, line 12, leave out “, so far as relating to Greater London,”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with these amendments we move to the climate change part of the Bill. In Committee, we moved some amendments to highlight the fact that one cannot regard London as an isolated place in relation to climate change. Everything that London emits affects not only the rest of this country but the rest of the world. The Minister accepted that the Bill is a precursor to the climate change Bill, and the committee considering that draft Bill, whose meeting I am missing at the moment, is discussing the same issues as it moves towards its report.
The importance of getting the matter right in this Bill is not to be underestimated. I am particularly pleased that the Government have put their name to two of my amendments, which recognise the important role that London plays in setting an example and as an emitter. London consumes as much energy as countries such as Portugal or Greece and produces over 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. It is vital to recognise the role that London can play in mitigating climate change.
This group of amendments is intended to remove the qualifications relating to Greater London and to widen the duties to recognise the national and international nature of emissions. Of my four amendments, the Government have put their name to two and added “in the United Kingdom” to two others, deleting “so far as relating to Greater London”.
In Committee, I pointed out that that wider perspective is already recognised in the Bill because sustainable development is considered in Section 35 of the GLA Act 1999 in the context of the United Kingdom and not only London. Government Amendments Nos. 61 and 64 take up that point by requiring the authority, when exercising its powers, and the Mayor, when making policies, to do so in such a way as to contribute to the mitigation of or adaptation to climate change in the United Kingdom. Of course, that makes sense because neither the Mayor nor the authority can exercise powers or make policies for outside the United Kingdom, although the influence of London as a major carbon emitter is recognised.
I am grateful to the Government for supporting my amendments in this group, not only in practical terms, but also in a totemic way, as many countries will watch what we do in the climate change Bill, in this Bill and in other Bills. Not only will we be setting an example, but we will be pointing to a practical way forward. I beg to move.
My Lords, like my noble friend, I welcome the Government’s move on this. I have a couple of questions on the relationship between London, the UK and the Mayor’s role. First, given that on some matters London is ahead of the rest of the UK, which may remain the case in the future, will reliance be placed on the Mayor to do more in London to increase the national average, as it were, and to improve the national picture overall? Does this give the Mayor greater responsibilities? Secondly, will the changes—I think that the answer is no, but let us get it on the record—give the Mayor any powers with regard to the rest of the UK, either the surrounding regions or the UK as a whole? It would be helpful to cover those two points, although I support my noble friend; I remember that, when we were first sitting together on these Benches, we looked at each other and said, “These issues don’t remain within an administrative boundary”.
My Lords, I hope that I can respond quickly to this positive short debate. I thank noble Lords for raising these points initially in Committee. As we have just heard, the Government support Amendments Nos. 59 and 62, tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Miller, which is why my noble friend Lady Andrews has added her name to them.
The provisions in Clauses 38 and 39 require the Mayor when considering whether or how to exercise the GLA’s general power, and in preparing and revising his strategies, to have regard to climate change and the consequences of climate change. It is sensible that in exercising these functions the Mayor has regard to the global, broader picture of climate change and is not restricted to how far it relates to Greater London.
Although we discussed the importance of the points made, we cannot accept Amendments Nos. 60 and 63. Amendment No. 60 would require the GLA to exercise its general power in a way best calculated to contribute to the mitigation of or adaptation to climate change generally or globally. Similarly, Amendment No. 63 would require the Mayor to include policies and proposals in his strategies that contributed to the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change globally.
The amendments would cast the scope of this duty too widely. We believe that it would be more reasonable for the Mayor to exercise these functions that are limited to Greater London in a way that contributed to climate change mitigation and adaptation nationally—as relates to the United Kingdom—which is what government Amendments Nos. 61 and 64 aim to achieve. As I said, the Government support the principle behind the noble Baroness’s amendments, but we hope that she will feel able not to press them but to support the Government’s approach through Amendments Nos. 61 and 64.
On the questions raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, it is tempting to be facetious about the position of London in the UK: it is a city in the middle. To be clear about the Mayor’s role in terms of his strategy and general power, we have tried to set that out in the next group of amendments. I do not believe that this Bill is about creating additional powers for the Mayor that will impact on the rest of the UK. We are talking about the role that the Mayor can play through his functions and powers in London and the contribution that he can make to achieving wider goals in a national climate change strategy. I hope that that answers the noble Baroness’s point.
61: Clause 38, page 40, line 18, leave out “so far as relating to Greater London” and insert “in the United Kingdom”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 39 [General duties of the Mayor with respect to his strategies]:
62: Clause 39, page 40, line 34, leave out “so far as relating to Greater London”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[Amendment No. 63 not moved.]
64: Clause 39, page 40, line 39, leave out “so far as relating to Greater London” and insert “in the United Kingdom”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 41 [The London climate change mitigation and energy strategy]:
65: Clause 41, page 42, leave out lines 24 to 33 and insert—
“(2) The London climate change mitigation and energy strategy shall contain the Mayor’s proposals and policies with respect to the contribution to be made in Greater London towards each of the following—
(a) the mitigation of climate change,(b) the achievement of any objectives specified or described in national policies relating to energy.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 65 and this wider group of amendments revolve around a number of important issues that were raised in Committee on the London climate change mitigation and energy strategy provisions, specifically the way in which we express the link with national policy, the coverage of greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide and support for low-carbon technologies. I thank noble Lords for raising these issues, which we have carefully considered in bringing forward our own amendments.
Let me start with the link with national policy. Legitimate concerns were raised in Committee that the provisions in the Bill that will insert new Section 361B(2) into the GLA Act 1999 implied that the Mayor’s strategy was just about implementation of national policy and that the Mayor would have no room to innovate. This was not our intention. As I said in Committee, we want the Mayor to innovate and, if possible and reasonable, to go further than national policy, particularly with regard to climate change mitigation. But, having listened carefully to noble Lords in Committee, we recognise that this might not have been clear in the Bill as drafted. Through Amendments Nos. 65 and 77, we therefore underline our intention that the Mayor should have the freedom to go beyond national policy, while retaining appropriate safeguards to ensure that action in London cannot undermine national efforts.
In Amendment No. 65, we propose to take slightly different approaches to climate change mitigation and wider energy policy. On the former, if the Mayor reduces emissions in London faster than they are reduced in the rest of the UK, we all benefit. We therefore propose to require the Mayor simply to set out policies and proposals on climate change mitigation with no reference to national policy. On the latter, it is more important that the Mayor acts within the boundaries of national policy objectives on security of supply and competitive energy markets. A co-ordinated national approach is critical for the energy security and competitiveness of the whole UK. Therefore, we still propose to ask the Mayor to set out policies and proposals for the achievement of national energy policy objectives, but the change in language to focus on objectives is meant to underline the fact that we are seeking the Mayor’s assistance with the high-level goals of energy policy, such as security of supply and competitive markets, rather than specific policy measures. Furthermore, Amendment No. 77 contains a provision to ensure that the strategy is not inconsistent with national policies. This will ensure that the Mayor cannot block or undermine national policies, but he will not be bound to take proactive action to support those policies if he does not agree with them. If the Mayor wishes to go beyond national policies, he will be able to do so.
Following discussions in Committee, I understand that concerns about the way in which we expressed the strategy’s link with national policy were a strong motivation behind Amendment No. 66, which removes all the provisions in the Bill that specify the issues that the Mayor’s strategy should cover and whom he should consult in preparing it. It would also remove the requirement for the Mayor to have regard to any guidance produced by the Secretary of State. Amendment No. 66 would replace all this detail with the stipulation that the strategy must be in general conformity with national policies and strategies. It appears to tie the strategy more closely to national policy than our suggestion that the strategy must not be inconsistent with national policies. We obviously have strong concerns about stripping out these important details in Clause 41, but I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, will be content that we have responded to the concerns raised in Committee with our own amendments and can be persuaded not to move her amendments.
I now turn to the question of greenhouse gases. In Committee, we promised to consider how we might make it clear that the Mayor should consider other greenhouse gases as well as carbon dioxide in his strategy. We understand that that is the concern that lies behind Amendments Nos. 68, 69, 71 and 72. As we said in Committee, it is important that we ensure that the Mayor, as a minimum, tackles carbon dioxide emissions, as carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas and the gas most related to energy use. However, we agree that the Mayor should also consider his options to address other greenhouse gases, particularly if there are quick wins to reduce emissions of gases that have a high global warming potential, such as nitrous oxide or methane. Amendments Nos. 67, 70 and 74 require the Mayor to consider and address other greenhouse gases as well as carbon dioxide but give him more discretion to select which other gases he should address. This ensures that he can prioritise and focus action on those gases that he thinks offer the greatest benefits. We will provide him with guidance on this, but beyond carbon dioxide we think that the Mayor should be able to assess and decide for himself where to focus his resources.
Through Amendment No. 76, we also propose to ensure that the Mayor reports on emissions of greenhouse gases from or attributable to London rather than just carbon dioxide emissions. This will underline the need for him to take seriously his opportunities to address other greenhouse gases. I note that since Committee the noble Baronesses have tabled Amendments Nos. 69 and 72, which specify the other greenhouse gases that the Mayor must address and would not allow him any discretion to prioritise. Without detailed assessment of the opportunities that the Mayor will have to address these gases, this presents some risk of the Mayor taking action on other specific greenhouse gases that may prove to be difficult, costly or possibly beyond his control. I hope that the noble Baronesses will agree that our proposals are a reasonable approach and will not press their amendments.
Finally—I promise that I will speak for only a few more moments—we discussed amendments in Committee aimed at ensuring that the Mayor focuses only on promoting and supporting low-carbon energy technologies. Indeed, this is the focus of Amendment No. 73. We recognise that the Mayor is likely to focus on low-carbon technologies, but we want to keep open the possibility that he might also support technologies that are important for the energy policy goals, including the security of supply, given London’s potential importance as a centre of investment. Our Amendment No. 75 is an attempt to balance those two concerns. It keeps the focus of the Mayor’s support broadly on energy technologies, but requires him to have regard to the desirability of supporting low-carbon technologies specifically. Again, I hope that the noble Baronesses will agree with us and not press their amendments today. Overall, our amendment strikes the right balance between the various concerns expressed in Committee. Again, I thank noble Lords for raising these issues then and helping us to find a way in which to improve these provisions. I beg to move.
My Lords, my Amendments Nos. 68, 69 and 71 to 73 are grouped with the Government’s amendments, which I thank the Minister for tabling, as they deal with most of our concerns about the matter. Although I cannot quite fathom what sort of advice has led them to call greenhouse gases “greenhouse substances”, no doubt there is a reason.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that explanation. Obviously the aim is the same, but the terminology varies. The Minister asked why we had specified methane, nitrous oxide, HFCs, PFCs and sulphur hexafluoride. They are the greenhouse gases listed in Annexe A of the Kyoto Protocol. We did not simply pluck them from the air; we were trying to tie in the provision with some of the international conventions, and so on. However, I recognise that we are, in effect, dealing with the Bill before we have a national policy with which to be consistent. As I mentioned earlier, the Select Committee on the draft Climate Change Bill is discussing these very issues this afternoon and deciding just what to include. I am sure that the debate on whether to include carbon dioxide alone or greenhouse gases in general will be particularly lively. It is very important to recognise that the whole climate change mitigation effort must include other gases beyond carbon dioxide. However, I accept that the Government’s amendments substantially recognise that advance, and although I would have preferred the simpler phrase “low carbon”, I understand the Minister’s explanation of why they prefer their amendment, and I am quite happy to accept it.
My Lords, I have a question about the term “significant”, which the Government have chosen. I wondered whether it was chosen to allow for developing scientific knowledge about which greenhouse gases, or substances, will have a “significant” effect, although the amendment does not appear to deal with that. The Minister introduced the amendment by saying that this was one of the Mayor’s priorities, but I was not clear whether that went to the term “significant” or just to proposed new subsection (3)(b), which cites,
“substances … which the Mayor considers it appropriate to deal with in the strategy”.
As for the Mayor’s approach to priorities in these matters, does that refer to prioritising the list of substances or to priority in dealing with the substance as opposed to a completely different strategy? I am not sure what priorities we are comparing here. My original note just asks for the Government’s confirmation that the Mayor must act reasonably. I realise that the question I have just asked goes a good deal further.
My Lords, the point we are trying to make here is that we see carbon dioxide as the key greenhouse gas which we want the Mayor’s climate change strategy to tackle. We recognise the importance of other greenhouse gases and want to give the Mayor the flexibility to address them. We want him to report on progress, addressing not just carbon dioxide but also other greenhouse gases. As I do not want to give a confusing or misleading answer, I will look at the noble Baroness’s questions and write to her with fuller detail before Third Reading.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[Amendment No. 66 not moved.]
67: Clause 41, page 42, line 36, after “dioxide” insert “and other significant greenhouse substances”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[Amendments Nos. 68 and 69 not moved.]
70: Clause 41, page 42, line 38, after “dioxide” insert “and other significant greenhouse substances”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[Amendments Nos. 71 to 73 not moved.]
74: Clause 41, page 42, line 44, at end insert—
“( ) In subsection (3) above “other significant greenhouse substances” means substances (other than carbon dioxide)—
(a) which contribute to climate change, and(b) which the Mayor considers it appropriate to deal with in the strategy.”
75: Clause 41, page 42, line 44, at end insert—
“( ) In performing the duty under subsection (3)(c) above, the Mayor must have regard to the desirability of advancing energy technologies which involve the emission of lower levels of substances which contribute to climate change.”
76: Clause 41, page 43, leave out lines 1 and 2 and insert—
“(b) the levels of emissions in, or attributable to, Greater London of substances which contribute to climate change,”
77: Clause 41, page 43, leave out lines 18 to 25 and insert—
“(6) The strategy must not be inconsistent with—
(a) national policies relating to mitigation of climate change, or (b) national policies relating to energy.”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 30 [Local development schemes]:
[Amendment No. 78 not moved.]
Clause 31 [Mayor to determine certain applications for planning permission]:
78A: Clause 31, page 34, line 42, at end insert—
“(3A) An application which includes or comprises residential development shall not be an application of potential strategic importance by reason of the residential development proposed provided—
(a) it accords with the development plan for the area in which it is situated,(b) no more than 500 houses, flats or houses and flats are proposed in the application or in any more substantial development on the same land or adjoining land of which the application forms part,(c) no building proposed is more than 30 metres high, or if adjacent to the river Thames, 25 metres high.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 78B and 78C. I thank the Minister very much for the time she has given us on the draft Mayor of London order and for the discussions we have had. We have not agreed on all the aspects but it has been very helpful to have the opportunity to speak to her and the officials. I thank her for that courtesy.
It is fortunate that we have the opportunity to debate the order today, as this part of the Bill brings us to the issue of planning. However, it is a shame that we cannot directly amend it. These amendments seek to set reasonable parameters within which the order could operate.
The current definition of strategic importance is, and remains, incredibly wide. It is important that the clarification of intervention triggers is provided in the order. I welcome the further clarification on the order and the inclusion of terms that I suggested in Committee with Amendment No. 93, which has laid out a process. But it is important that commercial applications are considered by the Mayor only if they stand to affect other boroughs. The inclusion of the words “sound planning reason” is a further concession to Amendment No. 93. It was intended in that instance to be taken in the context of the other two criteria. I would be grateful if the Minister could reassure noble Lords that that is still the intention.
It is clear that there could be much improvement on the definition of strategic importance. Amendment No. 78A provides a clear definition. If the Mayor determines a planning application to be of strategic importance, that is one of the triggers among others that will allow him to intervene. I applaud the Minister’s valiant efforts to persuade me in various meetings that the strategic importance test is not terribly important as it is one of a package of other tests that the Mayor must undertake. However, we part company on the Government’s decision to lower the threshold by which strategic importance is measured, from 500 housing units to 150. Such a lowering of the threshold threatens the independence of the boroughs, increased co-operation between boroughs and the freedom of the market. The order would allow even more central infiltration into local planning decisions.
Efficiency in the planning system is a vital concern for all boroughs, not least those that have a high percentage of businesses that need to be confident in planning procedures if they are to invest. The Mayor, on average, is taking six months to make a determination on a planning application—and that is to refuse an application, which is the only power he currently has—as opposed to the six to eight weeks taken by the City of Westminster. The Minister tried to offer us reassurances in the shape of expected uptake figures. She estimates—I hope I am not putting words into her mouth—that the lower thresholds will result in only 40 extra applications a year going to the Mayor. I am afraid that we have heard very different figures which paint a picture of far greater influence.
I will also be grateful if the Minister can reassure noble Lords that the Mayor will not be able to delegate the processing of and decision-making on planning applications in any circumstances. That is my understanding of the current material in Clause 31 and new Clause 2B(7). It would be helpful if the Minister could reassure us that the Mayor himself must consider the applications.
I am pleased to see that the Minister has given way on provisions for the City of London. I was, however, astonished to read in the notes accompanying the order that the Minister has used raising the threshold in the City as justification for lowering the threshold for the rest of London. Not only does that amount to an admission that the Mayor’s intervention will be on a much higher scale than before; I believe that it shows in which direction those applications are likely to go. While the City is unique in many senses, it is not the only area in London that needs special provision. Although the decision to raise the threshold is the right one, it is simply not the straight swap that the Minister has imagined, and it is wrong to raise the threshold in one area and use that as a reason to lower it in others.
Amendment No. 78A provides that a residential development in accordance with the borough’s development plan cannot be of potential strategic importance because of a residential component, provided that there are no more than 500 dwellings and the buildings are below 30 metres in height, or 25 metres along the Thames. The scheme might still be of strategic importance because of non-residential factors. Paragraph (b) of my proposed subsection (3A) is a safeguard; it is an anti-avoidance provision to prevent schemes being split up, reflecting paragraphs (2) and (3) of the schedule to the draft order. Amendment No. 78C is to be taken as consequential on Amendment No. 78A, as it requires “more substantial development” and,
“adjacent to the river Thames”
to be construed in accordance with an order.
Amendment No. 78B specifically addresses the City of Westminster. While I am fully aware of the Minister’s position, it would be a little strange, given her movement on the City of London, if she does not yet accept this position on the matter. It illustrates exactly how unique each borough is and how impossible it is to attempt to apply a one-size-fits-all policy through the Mayor. The Bill’s planning provisions are in stark contrast to the lofty aims of the planning White Paper, which proudly states that the Government intend to,
“improve the ability of local authorities to shape their local communities”.
The Government appear to be seeking to increase the powers of the Mayor to intervene at the expense of locally elected councillors.
Amendment No. 78B provides that defined categories of commercial development are not of potential strategic importance if they accord with the development plan and are less than 60,000 square metres in floor space and 60 metres in height, or 25 metres adjoining the Thames. If a scheme has a mix of commercial and housing development, then the housing development is disregarded provided it meets the requirements of proposed new subsection (3A), and the commercial element will be judged against new subsection (3B). For clarity, “the City of Westminster” is an expression used in Acts of Parliament, without needing a definition, for example, in Section 3 of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1969.
Under the use classes, class 5—hot food takeaway—has not been included because a Cornish pasty takeaway application of potential strategic importance stretches the imagination a bit far. It certainly stretches mine.
The amendments do not reinvent the wheel. They simply seek to allow the thresholds for mayoral intervention to remain at their current levels and to make special provision for unique areas of London. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 79 and 80. Amendment No. 79 deals with an issue that my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding raised on Second Reading and pursued in Grand Committee. I am speaking to it in his unavoidable absence today. I declare an interest as a former Member of Parliament for 24 years for the City of London, an interest which will likewise apply to Amendment No. 80 in this group and subsequently to Amendment No. 91, which stands alone, on both of which I shall also be substituting for my noble friend.
On Amendment No. 79, we now have the benefit of the new draft of the Mayor of London order. That was circulated last week, after my noble friend had tabled his amendment. He was very pleased—a sentiment shared by the City of London and by me—that the draft order provides for a revised height and size threshold in the City of 150 metres and 100,000 square metres of floor space. Subject only to the confirmation of what I believe to be the case from the draft order that these revised thresholds will apply to the Mayor’s power to take over applications as planning authority, as well as his power to direct refusal, I would be happy to withdraw the amendment. In doing so, I record my thanks to the noble Baroness for responding so positively.
Amendment No. 80 seeks to exclude planning applications for relatively modest developments down to 2,500 square metres from the definition of “potential strategic importance” unless they depart from the City’s development plan or are prejudicial to the plan’s implementation. The objective is to avoid a situation where applications which could in no way be regarded as strategic on account of their size become subject to reference to the Mayor as the result of an inconsequential departure from the City’s development plan. To appreciate the reason for the amendment, perhaps I may detain noble Lords for a moment with the relevant text of the latest version of the draft order. Category 3E of the schedule to the draft order provides that a development becomes referable to the Mayor where it,
“does not accord with one or more provisions of the development plan in force in the area in which the application site is situated and . . . comprises or includes the provision of more than 2,500 square metres of floorspace”.
In responding to the amendment tabled in somewhat different terms by my noble friend Lord Jenkin in Committee, but addressing the same problem, the Minister said that category 3E would not apply to the Mayor’s power to take over planning applications but would apply to his power to direct refusal of planning applications. The latest draft of the order reflects that position. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, also referred in Committee—on 8 May, at column 174 of Hansard—to the fact that the Mayor’s power to direct refusal had existed without apparent difficulty since the original Mayor of London order was made in 2000.
It is true that the Mayor has until now adopted a relaxed attitude to his involvement in smaller applications in the City, but the fact that there may have been an element of Nelson's eye so far is not a good yardstick for the future. Attitudes could change—indeed, Mayors could. If strictly applied, many relatively minor applications would be subjected to unnecessary notification to the Mayor. That would simply make the whole process needlessly bureaucratic.
In addition, as a result of changes made by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004,
“the development plan for the area”,
is now taken to mean the unitary development plan plus the Mayor’s spatial development strategy known as the London Plan. The practical consequence is that there are now far more policies to take into account—around 400 in the City—and a much greater chance, therefore, that any given planning application will not comply with the letter of all of them. I am relying on happenstance. In other words, going forward, far more applications will become susceptible to mayoral involvement than was the case when the original mayoral order was made in 2000, even if Nelson’s eye continues to be applied.
As for the amendment of my noble friend Lord Jenkin, to which I am speaking, I hope that the Minister feels the criteria to be appropriate. Instead of the trigger for mayoral involvement being departure from one or more of the provisions in the development plan, the amendment requires the departure to be significant—contrary to the plan itself or prejudicial to its implementation. That will raise the barrier in order to capture only the more strategic applications, which is what, as the Minister has made clear in all our debates, the Government intend.
My Lords, it is not possible to speak to the amendments without referring to the draft order, which has been circulated. I thank the Minister. It is quite clear that a considerable amount of time, energy and effort has gone into revising the order. I would be grateful if she could answer some questions that are more on the order than the Bill, but it is important to get some points clear at this stage.
At the start of consideration of the original draft order, I asked whether the Mayor had to act reasonably in considering whether an application was of potential strategic importance. The new version of the order is much more objective and it removes much of the concern about what might have been a subjective assessment of the criteria. In a letter to me, the Minister, in referring to Article 8 of the draft order, said that there must be “sound planning reasons” for issuing a direction. I assume that the Mayor has to be reasonable in Wednesbury terms in considering whether there are those reasons. It would be helpful if she would put on record what that term means and, in so doing, perhaps she can answer how the reasons would differ in particular from significant implementation of the London Plan, given that, as I understand it, the London Plan will form the context for the Mayor's decision.
Secondly, can she explain what is meant by “significant” in,
“significant effects that go wider than a single borough”?
Privately, the Minister gave me some examples which I have used when talking to others and it would be right to get those examples on record.
There has been understandable concern that the Mayor might trample on the boroughs and take over decisions that are properly for the boroughs to take. There is a practical as well as a statutory constraint. That is, as the noble Baroness said, that the Mayor’s powers cannot be delegated—and we will come to the procedures under the next group of amendments. That is significant.
The policy issue is the hierarchy of policies and plans. We have the London Plan—the local plan—with government policy overriding everything. I use the term “plan” although I know that it is not the correct one. We also have the issue of housing targets, which I believe are a matter of agreement between the boroughs and the Mayor. Will the Minister confirm the status of housing targets and how they come about?
Reference was previously made during the passage of the Bill to the enormous importance of housing, or the lack of it, particularly affordable housing. We on these Benches support the measures to address that. One particular problem is not just in numbers but in the size of affordable units provided as a result of the policies that require certain percentages to be affordable. There is a lack of units of adequate size, of three and particularly four bedrooms. Can the Minister comment on that and how it might be addressed through what is proposed? There is also the issue of density, which is not a matter for agreement in the same way as targets. There is a range of densities that an application can fall into to be acceptable. Can the Minister comment on density as it relates to these provisions?
I said that the Mayor should not be able to trample on the boroughs; nor should he be able to impose any sort of homogeneity across London. The noble Baroness referred to Westminster as being of a particular character, and the character of the different boroughs is important. It is refreshing to think about Westminster rather than the City, but I had not thought of the whole of the borough of Westminster being so very different from the rest of London. The West End has a particular character, but there are other areas of London which are of a different character from the West End but not so very different from other parts of London. With apologies to those who are working very hard in Westminster, I would not support a particular position for that borough.
On the lead amendment in this group, 150 units does not seem that small a development; it is pretty substantial. A development of 500 units, which the noble Baroness advocates in her amendment as a threshold, is a very large development indeed. I have had no professional advice on this, but a 500-unit development might be, for example, one of the major commercial sites along the river, where very big blocks of flats have been developed.
Having said all that and generally being supportive of what the Government propose, I must say that leaving the term “potential strategic importance” in an order that might change in future is not a position that I am happy with. However, the draft order that we have now reassures me a great deal—or it did before I left my office to come here this afternoon. I think that it is right to air this. I have been seeking to get information from London Councils, having understood indirectly that that body was content with the position. From the e-mail that I received, it seems that there has been no formal discussion with London Councils—there has been informal officer discussion. We are therefore having this debate in the absence of a view from that organisation. The officer who responded to my inquiries said that he understood that the Mayor had approached Labour borough leaders to get their agreement, but that London Councils had not been approached by the Mayor or by Ministers about whether this package was likely to be acceptable to boroughs. A letter which London Councils’ lead members wrote to the Minister, Yvette Cooper, on 23 April about the Mayor’s new planning powers remains unanswered. I would have given the noble Baroness warning of that, but it is no doubt somewhere in her papers. I received it just before I left my office.
I have given the Minister notice of my final question. Given that the Mayor cannot delegate, what happens if he comments, even casually, on an application or proposed application? I have three examples. The first is Heathrow. I assume that Heathrow will not be an issue. The Mayor has made his views on further development at Heathrow very clear. It will probably be taken care of if the Government’s proposals about a new commission come into effect. The second example is the Olympic Games. The Mayor has delegated his planning position on the Olympics site applications to the GLA’s chief executive because he has an obvious conflict of interest. The third example, wharfs, shows what could happen in other policy areas. I understand that the Mayor delegated the decision on the Peruvian Wharf because he had already issued a policy on preserving the wharfs and was therefore in a position of conflict. If the Mayor cannot delegate at all, but gets himself into a position, intentionally or not, where a conflict of interest arises, what is to happen?
My Lords, I, too, welcome the publication and circulation of the draft order, because it enables us to focus clearly on the Government’s intentions in this matter. The amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, sets the threshold at an extremely high level, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has just indicated. We have to address why some of the proposals have been made in the first place. They have been made because of an acute shortage of affordable housing in London and across the south-east. That is bad for the British economy: it is bad for London; it is bad for Londoners; but, above all, it is bad for the British economy. It must be remedied.
The London Plan has set a target for 50 per cent of new housing to be affordable, but, in practice, during the past few years, only one-third of housing output in London has been affordable, which is well short of that 50 per cent target. In some boroughs, the number of social rented homes completed has been in single figures. For example, I understand that in 2005-06 only six rented homes were completed in Havering and nine in Wandsworth. I understand that the figure in Westminster—an amendment in this grouping relates specifically to Westminster—was only 21 per cent during the period 2003-04 to 2005-06. So there is a need to raise performance across London in terms of the amount of social and affordable housing provided. That is why the modest threshold of 150 homes contained in the order is the very least that the Government can do to support the objective agreed in the London Plan.
I have received a briefing from the Labour members of London Councils and presume that everybody had the same opportunity to comment on the draft order when it was promulgated. They estimate that the vast majority of planning decisions, more than 99 per cent, will remain with the boroughs. They consider that a strong set of safeguards is already built into the proposals as contained in the draft Mayor of London order, ensuring that the new powers can be used only in a small number of cases that are of strategic importance for the city. My understanding is that we are in practice talking about perhaps 40 additional applications during the course of the year. That hardly seems to be an onerous burden, but it is extremely important in sending a clear signal that affordable housing in London is a critical national issue and that we support the Mayor of London’s objective of achieving a much greater supply. For those reasons, I must regrettably oppose the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham.
My Lords, I shall speak about two issues on thresholds, one relating to housing and the other to Westminster thresholds. I should mention before continuing that I am chief executive of London First, which is a business membership organisation.
I think that we are all struggling to find the appropriate strategic point of intervention on various issues. There appears to be common agreement that we are seeking to find a point at which the Mayor should strategically intervene. I support the Mayor’s intervention on strategic issues to do with housing supply.
I shall speak in a little more detail about the 500-units threshold. I am concerned about the Mayor becoming overloaded with planning cases. Interventions should be the minimum necessary to secure the strategic objectives. I would like further clarification on the additional 40 applications for between 500 and 150 housing units. A large number of different suggestions are being bandied about. Some clarity from the Minister at a later date on the difference between 500 and 150 housing units would be welcome.
The housing shortage in general is a major strategic issue at all levels. New construction is not keeping pace with increasing population and numbers of households. Since 1989, the population has grown by more than 750,000, but the number of new homes completed has averaged fewer than 15,000 a year, so it is not surprising that there is a housing shortage. The population is forecast to grow by 1 million during the next 20 years, with between 550,000 and 720,000 new households. New construction is now at a level of 27,500 homes per year and the Mayor’s target is 30,500 a year. There is therefore a clear need to sustain a higher level of construction.
The main mechanism for securing more housing is the London Plan, with boroughs conforming to it. The level of housing needed cannot be achieved by the Mayor intervening in individual planning applications. Intervention should be exceptional and only in the most important cases. The threshold of 500 units is about right. If the Government wish to reduce the threshold, 200 should be the minimum, which is consistent with the planning White Paper.
I oppose the proposal that individual boroughs’ performance on affordable housing should be taken into account when determining whether the Mayor should intervene. It is not a practicable or workable test; there are no current targets at borough level; and it is wrong in principle. The London Plan allocates 35 per cent of housing for social housing and 15 per cent to key workers. I could argue that that is the wrong way round. At the bottom of the pecking order, we leave the private-sector key workers—bus drivers, cleaners, PAs, shop workers, bank clerks and catering staff. I think that we can all agree that housing supply is the critical issue. Furthermore, boroughs have different needs: some already have a lot of social housing and may need more private housing to balance the mix. Boroughs are best placed to make that judgment.
Also, housebuilding is lumpy; different sites need different solutions and come on-stream at different times. The performance of individual boroughs varies from year to year. Targets for affordable housing should therefore be pan-London and not applied to each borough site by site.
I support the Mayor’s power of intervention on strategic sites, but not too many and not to decide how much affordable housing there should be on each site. Developing housing in London is difficult enough already; many major house builders will not operate in London. We must not make it even more difficult. After all, 50 per cent affordable housing of nothing is nothing.
I do not support the amendment to bring thresholds up for Westminster city. Westminster is a unique location not only in London but in the whole of the UK as the hub of a global city. It is also a place where people live, but we need to get those two constituents in balance. While I acknowledge the needs of the residents, we also have to take account of the role that London plays in the UK economy, especially for finance and business services, and the fact that Westminster now, alongside the square mile and Canary Wharf, lies at the heart of that. It is increasingly home to new-style financial institutions and international HQs. Their office requirements may not be on the scale of Canary Wharf residents, but they are none the less strategic.
Westminster is undoubtedly a constrained area with strategic views and conservation areas, so scope for development is limited. Where there are opportunities for major new development, it is important to make the most of them. Failure of the planning system to respond to the market and to demand and inappropriate policies such as requiring office developments to contain housing and affordable housing on already constrained sites are leading to hikes in rents and making London the most expensive office location in the world. Westminster rents are now around double those in the City. Most recently, Savills’s research showed that they cost £120 a square foot in the West End and £65 a square foot in the City. The shortage and cost of West End offices risks London losing its attractiveness as a centre for international business. There is also an urgent need to address the issues around Oxford Street that were highlighted in the West End commission report.
The capital and the country need London’s economic success to continue, and we need to ensure that the city’s infrastructure as a whole can accommodate it. The Mayor has to have a role in determining how and where the necessary development should happen. The thresholds outlined in the draft order are at the right level to allow him to do that.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendment No. 78A and the threshold of 500 homes for the level of the Mayor’s intervention. Not for the first time, your Lordships will hear a slightly different perspective from the Cross Benches on a similar subject. I declare an interest, since I have not spoken before in this debate, as president of the Local Government Association, which means that I am greatly in favour of localism, devolution, decentralisation and deregulation and therefore in favour of individual London boroughs having as much power as it is sensible for them to exercise. I also speak as someone who has been involved with housing over very many years. I currently chair one of the large housing associations, Hanover Housing Association. From the housing perspective, there are comments that I must make about the threshold of 500 homes at which the Mayor would be able to intervene in planning cases.
The case has already been well put that housing supply is crucial to the London economy, and that is true. Affordable housing within that supply is also an issue of the greatest importance. We lack homes that people on lower incomes can afford, which is bad not just for key workers but for the city as a whole. It leads to homelessness at the bottom end of the scale and it leads to severe overcrowding. The shortage of decent homes also increasingly means that social cohesion—neighbourhoods of people getting along together—is being undermined. People from black and minority ethnic communities, when they cannot get the home that they need, say that there must be discrimination against them. The indigenous local population, when they cannot find homes, say that it must be that the immigrants are getting all the homes. Neither of them is right; it is simply that there are not enough affordable homes to go round. This is setting community against community and family against family in those neighbourhoods. We must up our game and improve the quantity of affordable homes that are coming through the pipeline.
One instrument that we are now able to exercise, which is relatively new in my long period of being involved with housing, is the power of planning and the requirement on those doing a development to ensure that a proportion of all the homes are affordable homes. That is a powerful instrument, and as long as London boroughs use it we can secure a greater quantity of affordable homes. That has been happening. I was not overjoyed to hear Westminster cited, although I know that it is trying harder to up the percentage of affordable homes that it produces from each scheme that comes up the pipeline. Some London boroughs are neglecting their duties in this regard, and we must have the powers and the fallback there, which only the Mayor can exercise, to bring them up to speed. The London borough that produced only 12 per cent and not the hoped-for 50 per cent of affordable homes is really letting the side down, and that power of intervention must come into play.
Although we have our reservations from the local government perspective whenever powers are lost from the local borough level, London faces a crisis or emergency when it comes to housing and affordable housing in particular. It sounds as if bringing that threshold of intervention down from 500 to 150 is essential in that emergency situation. I fear that I am not able to support the amendment.
My Lords, why are we here? What is the raison d’être of this Bill? If everything was hunky-dory, why has there been a need in the revision after seven years of life to examine the balance of powers between the Mayor and the authorities? Quite simply, it is because there was a general dissatisfaction with the manner in which the legislation was being followed through. I bow to all those with superior knowledge to mine of the current situation, both in the GLA and in business. I was pleased to hear the point of view of London First. We are now examining the crux of the switch in the balance of power, strategic and otherwise, between the Mayor and the authorities.
I recall vividly the speech made in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, in which he used the illustration of his experience, as a Westminster ratepayer, of a development in Westminster. He illustrated for me more vividly than any others the reality of the situation. He said that, although the planning permission required the developer to develop affordable housing as a certain percentage of the total, when that percentage was complied with, it occupied only 10 per cent of the land. Of course, I ought to have known about that in general, but I was shocked and angry that such devices were being used by developers—I am not talking about collaboration with councils or planning committees. It is clear that no matter what we do to try to improve the position on affordable housing, numerous powerful, avaricious and greedy forces will take advantage.
Anyone like me who has been in a surgery with their constituents will know not only the size and the weight of the surgery in housing but the awfulness of the conditions that people are in. It is clear that the Minister and her colleagues recognise that, in order to get the Bill through and to take into account the various situations, compromises have to be made. However, I do not think that the compromise brought before the House by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, is acceptable in this instance.
I am well aware that whatever we do will never be sufficient. My noble friend emphasised that there is a desperate need to provide more affordable housing. This was re-emphasised around the House. The situation is not going to get any better unless there is a powerful drive spearheaded by the Government and fronted by the Mayor, the GLA and every local authority. There are many good reasons why, left to their own devices, authorities will reorganise their priorities and do a good job for their ratepayers, but that will not solve the problem for those who want affordable housing. Of course compromises need to be made, but I hope that the Minister and her colleagues will recognise that there should be no compromise on what is proposed in giving the Mayor extra powers over housing.
We have seen evidence during the passage of this Bill of the disparity between what authorities feel is adequate. Yet we know that when people are deprived of good housing, they not only have an inadequate lifestyle, but bring up children in poorer circumstances, where they are less able to benefit from education or get better jobs. So the whole cycle goes on. It starts with adequate housing. When we talk about affordable housing now, we talk about costs of rent and purchase that are way beyond anything that we contemplated five years ago. The sooner the Minister is able to put flesh on the bones of this particular nexus, the happier I will be.
My Lords, we have had a powerful debate and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have supported the Government’s intention in these clauses. I am glad that by providing the Mayor of London order we were able to have an informed debate. I was also pleased that we could have informal conversations to explain, because these issues are quite technical and difficult.
Amendments Nos. 78A, 78B, 79 and 80 go to the heart of the Government’s purpose in providing additional planning powers for the Mayor. In order for those powers to be effective and relevant, it is crucial that the Mayor sees those planning applications that could be of importance to London and that he is restricted to intervening only in those that prove to be of genuine importance. It is the debate about that balance, which the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, referred to, that occupied so much of our time in Committee.
We published the revised draft Mayor of London order, which proposes, at category 1A of the schedule, a 150-unit threshold for applications involving housing. That has been the burden of much of the debate. Amendment No. 78A would ensure that the Mayor saw applications that included housing only if they were for the development of more than 500 units. We have to resist that amendment. Many of the reasons have already been set out, but I want to explain briefly why we have changed our approach to housing development. I need first to make absolutely clear how the Mayor of London already identifies applications of genuine strategic importance that may warrant intervention.
Throughout our debates, I have tried to make it clear that defining whether an application is of strategic importance is a two-stage process. That process is mostly unchanged from that which operates now. The thresholds set out in the schedule to the draft Mayor of London order identify applications as being of potential strategic importance by virtue of, for example, their size, their height and their location. Developers make their planning applications to the boroughs, as they always have done. Boroughs assess the applications against the thresholds. If they consider that the application meets the thresholds, they refer it to the Mayor for consultation. The Mayor feeds his views on the application back to the borough, which then takes them into account alongside other considerations. Then, as is currently the case, the borough takes the application through the planning committee, makes a draft decision and refers it back to the Mayor. It is at this point that the Mayor applies the second stage, the policy test, to determine whether the application is of such genuine strategic importance that he should decide it.
The process is essentially the same now, and developers in London boroughs are well used to it. The major change lies in the content of the policy test, which we have developed to ensure safeguards for the local planning authorities—the borough—to balance the necessary new powers of the Mayor. Throughout the debate, here and in the other place, we have developed our thinking in response to the presentations and arguments made to us. We originally proposed a one-part test, which simply required the Mayor to demonstrate that a development would have significant effects on the implementation of the London Plan. To explain that to noble Lords who have asked about it, that will rule out cases where the application is only in minor conflict with an individual London Plan policy and where that conflict has no tangible effect on the wider intentions of the London Plan.
In response to representations in the House, we added a second part to the test, which requires the Mayor to show that there are sound planning reasons for his intervention. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked me to define that. To intervene, the Mayor will also have to demonstrate that the initial decision on the application reached by the borough is flawed in planning terms, taking into account the policies in the development plan applied to the circumstances at the site. One example might cover a proposed development that appeared to be failing to provide adequate affordable housing for a site of that size, in that location, based on the policies of the development plan.
To help to focus the Mayor’s power even more firmly on the limited number of key non-housing or waste planning applications out of those referred to him, there is a third test—the test of significance—which will require him to demonstrate that the physical effects of the development extend beyond the boundary of the borough that it is in. Those changes are set out in Article 8 of the draft order. This is important because we intend this to test more than whether a proposed development is visible across a boundary. Examples of the type of impact that we would consider to fall within the test would be a significant effect on the capacity of cross-border transport networks to carry additional passengers, or a significant diversion of trade, such as from a town centre in one borough to a huge retail development in another. Case by case, that is what we will be looking at.
No one should be in any doubt—certainly, the Mayor is not—that these are tough tests to meet. They should provide reassurance to boroughs that the vast majority of decisions will remain with them. The geographic test applies only to non-housing and waste applications.
We have looked again at housing and, for important reasons, made further changes to the order, to reduce the threshold for the size of housing developments that the Mayor will see from 500 units to 150. Let me be very clear about why we have made this distinction. My noble friend Lord Harris, the noble Lord, Lord Best, and other noble Lords have spoken about the crucial need for housing in London and the critical challenges faced by London in providing more housing—particularly affordable housing—and in managing waste.
Between 2006 and 2016, household numbers in London are expected to increase by nearly 400,000—that is 40,000 per year. That is an enormous challenge. The need to raise our performance across London to meet that challenge is precisely our reason for introducing this change. It is not something that can be done on a borough basis; it should not even be a cross-borough issue. It is a key shared task for boroughs, the Mayor and, indeed, central government. As noble Lords have said, this goes very much to the heart of our capacity, as a Government, to deliver affordable homes.
To reply to the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, the housing targets, set out and negotiated between the boroughs, are partly determined by the London Plan, but each borough has a set of circumstances that, as it works through its response in terms of what it can provide by way of affordable housing, is a realistic navigation between what is needed and what it can aspire to and provide.
I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, that the figure of 150 homes is not new. It is an extension of the existing 150-unit threshold, which relates only to schemes that do not accord with the development plan; that threshold was previously in Part 3 of the development order. We have already proposed changes to the thresholds on waste.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked about family homes. We are conscious that we have not been building enough larger homes; we need more choice and to meet the demands of cohesion, which the noble Lord, Lord Best, discussed. In planning policy statement 3, we make it clear that we now need housing policies that meet the real and complex needs of families as they change and grow. That is reflected in the London Plan, which refers to a balanced mix of homes and different types of housing. The GLA carries out detailed research with boroughs to establish those needs. I will write to the noble Lord about densities because the situation is slightly more complicated.
Some noble Lords argued that housing developments of 150 units are not strategically important because they are too small. I believe that it was the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who argued that the fact that the developments look small does not mean that they are insignificant. Cumulatively, if we assumed an average of 300 units per application, 12,000 new homes could fall within the scope of the provision, and 6,000 of them could be affordable. We are talking about significant numbers. The idea that smaller-scale developments cannot be significant is already established: the Secretary of State has already used her powers to intervene in housing proposals for as few as 15 units because they raise issues of wider importance.
The changes introduce greater clarity. To reiterate, the Mayor will have to meet two tests before he can intervene in housing or waste applications. He will have to show that there is a significant impact on the implementation of the London Plan and that there are sound planning reasons for intervening.
There is a further safeguard against unwarranted mayoral interference. The Mayor must also take account, in deciding whether there are sound planning reasons to intervene, the extent to which the borough is meeting any relevant delivery targets that are set out in the plan. That involves, for example, whether the borough is achieving the development plan targets that it has signed up to in relation to affordable homes. Boroughs are doing their part to deliver new housing supply; many do so but some, as has been mentioned today, do not. If a borough is meeting its targets, it has nothing to fear. We have made these changes after a great deal of thought and consideration.
I was asked about the Mayor’s delegation powers. The Mayor cannot delegate the decisions. It is for him to decide, which again adds to the significance of the arrangement. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, raised three examples. She was quite right: Heathrow would come under the new independent planning permission. The Olympics is covered by the fact that the powers now rest with the Olympic Delivery Authority. She also gave the example of wharves. It is perfectly fine to have a policy about wharves in the London Plan; the Mayor also has many other policies. He must apply all the policies that are relevant to a site in the context of the circumstances of a site. If he has a personal and direct interest in an application rather than a policy, he would not be able to take over a case. No more conditions of propriety apply there.
I turn to the number of applications that may be involved. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, that we looked very hard at the evidence from the GLA’s database—that is the source that we would use to see how many might be brought within the scope of the provisions. On the best evidence that we have, there would be only 40 applications a year. The Mayor will still be the point of reference for only about 330 applications a year. I believe that that is entirely proportionate. We cannot accept the amendment for the strong reasons that I have offered.
A threshold of 150 units, when taken with the other changes that we have made, represents a balanced approach which will protect a borough’s role.
I turn to Amendment No. 78B and the thresholds for Westminster, on which I can be brief. When we launched this review of the Mayor’s planning powers, we were very clear that our starting point was the existing thresholds in the Mayor of London order. These have operated for seven years. The case for other boroughs having other thresholds was not made. The amendment has probably been inspired because of what we achieved for the City. However, like the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, we could not accept the fact that individual boroughs should have separate thresholds. That would result in very different levels within each borough.
I turn to Amendment No. 78C. The first two terms to which the noble Baroness referred—that is, the “application of strategic importance” and,
“adjacent to the river Thames”—
are already defined in Part 1 of the schedule to the order. The term “more substantial development” as it is proposed to be used in the amendment does not, in our view, require a definition beyond the common-sense interpretation of those words. It would be clear in the circumstances of a particular case that that was so.
I turn to the two amendments that were spoken to so eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. We are very happy with the changes for the thresholds in the City because it is so different—it is unique—in relation to driving the national and regional economies.
The noble Lord asked for a statement in Hansard. In terms of detail, we are amending the thresholds so that the height threshold for buildings in the City, which is set out in category 1C of the draft Mayor of London order, will be raised to 150 metres and the floorspace threshold applicable to the City, which is set out in category 1B, will be raised to 100,000 square metres. Those new higher thresholds do not apply to buildings that are adjacent to the Thames because of the river’s wider contribution to the character and views of the capital. The draft Mayor of London order already sets a specific height threshold of 25 metres for buildings along the Thames; this will remain unchanged. Significantly, this change will apply to both the Mayor’s existing power to direct refusal of planning applications and the new power to take over applications. For those obvious reasons, we cannot accept the amendment. We have consistently said that, because of the detail involved, the order and not the Bill is the appropriate vehicle. That arrangement has worked well for seven years.
Amendment No. 80 seeks to amend what is now category 3E of the draft order to ensure that, where a development would require referral to the Mayor of applications for development of over 2,500 square metres that departed from the development plan, the development would need to be of a scale that would be contrary to the development plan as a whole or prejudicial to the implementation of the plan as a whole.
The noble Lord argued that the phrase,
“more provisions of the development plan in force in the area”,
could be said to mean that a conflict with an individual development plan policy could require the City to refer an application to the Mayor. I do not believe that that is the case. I listened closely to what he said. The category’s wording is unchanged from the original order and it has operated without difficulty for seven years. Circular 07/99 confirms that it is a matter of planning judgment for the local planning authority to determine what constitutes a departure. We do not think that minor conflicts would result in applications being referred to the Mayor. However, if it would reassure the noble Lord, I am happy to commit today to making this position explicit in the circular guidance that will accompany the new provisions. I hope that he is reassured.
Finally, I turn to government Amendment No. 82, which is a technical amendment to clarify the definition of “connected applications” in new Section 2B. Connected applications are those that are so related to a planning application that when the Mayor takes over the application he will also become the decision-maker for those other applications. They relate to listed building consent, conservation area consent and hazardous substances consent. The amendment makes it clear that those applications include applications for the variation or discharge of conditions.
This has been a large group of amendments. I am afraid that I have wearied the House but it was important to put some of that on the record. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that very comprehensive reply and I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate.
I remain completely unconvinced as to why the threshold should be reduced from 500 to 150 units. It seems to me that it would not be unusual for many boroughs to handle applications for 150 housing units in not very large sites, particularly under the pressure for housing at present. I simply do not understand why the Mayor should be involved in that when there are already agreements on affordable housing. The original threshold was 500. It is our belief that that is where it should remain. I therefore beg leave to test the opinion of the House.
[Amendments Nos. 78B to 80 not moved.]
81: Clause 31, page 35, line 17, leave out “and 2C” and insert “to 2C and 2E”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this will be a shorter debate but no less significant. I hope the government amendments which seek to introduce a new clause to the Bill will be welcomed on all sides of the House. Again we have listened closely to the views of stakeholders.
Let me start with the main amendment, Amendment No. 87, which gives effect to and, indeed, goes further than the commitment I made previously and further demonstrates the importance we attach to ensuring that the way in which the Mayor will make decisions on planning applications will be open and transparent, while respecting the practical circumstances of the Mayor as a single decision-maker.
New Section 2E brings on to the face of the Bill a requirement for the Mayor to give the local planning authority and the applicant an opportunity to make oral representations to him about a development proposal. It further requires the Mayor to prepare and publish a document setting out any other persons he will hear oral representations from, the procedures he will follow for considering oral representations and the arrangements for identifying the factual information that is agreed by the parties. These provisions were previously set out in the draft Mayor of London order. I am sure noble Lords will welcome this change to put them on the face of the Bill because, as I said, we have listened to legitimate concerns.
In keeping with my commitment to the House, new Section 2E also requires the Secretary of State to apply, by order, the requirements of Part 5A of the Local Government Act 1972 relating to public access to local authority committee meetings, relevant documents and the representation hearings the Mayor must hold, subject to such modifications as the Secretary of State considers necessary or expedient. Requirements such as ensuring that representation hearings are open to the public and the public have access to agendas and reports are important to ensuring that mayoral decision-making is as open and as transparent as that of borough planning commissions.
We will apply the detailed requirements of Part 5A through the Mayor of London order. For the avoidance of doubt, let me explain that the modifications we have made in the provisions of Part 5A are technical amendments to ensure that the provisions work as intended given the key differences between the way local authorities are constituted and the mayoral model. They certainly do not affect the substance or intentions of the 1972 Act.
Government Amendments Nos. 81, 85 and 86 are technical amendments consequential to Amendment No. 87 and I hope they are uncontroversial. Amendment No. 81 simply makes clear that new Section 2E contains provisions supplementing the provisions in Section 2A. Amendment No. 85 makes clear that the power to make an order in new Section 2E shall be exercised by statutory instrument. Amendment No. 86 requires that a statutory instrument made under Section 2E shall be subject to annulment by a resolution of either House of Parliament. Again our amendments demonstrate that we have listened closely to what we have been told. They further strengthen the new arrangements to provide for open, effective and balanced decision-making.
Perhaps I may also speak to Amendments Nos. 87A to 87C, 87CA, 87D and 87E, which would have us go even further. I understand the principle behind the amendments but the logic is flawed. Let me explain why I have to resist them. They seek to amend new Section 2E to require the Mayor to hold a representation hearing to allow the applicant and the relevant London borough to make oral representations to him before he decides whether to exercise his current power to direct a borough to refuse a planning application in addition to the requirement to do so under his new power to determine applications.
I can understand and appreciate the opportunistic intention behind the amendment to try to put on a power; the Mayor’s existing power and his new one. But the powers are not the same and they do not warrant the same arrangements. Under his new power, the Mayor could grant positive planning permission against which, under existing planning law, there is no right of appeal for any party. Therefore it is crucial—this is why we have made the change—that key interested parties are afforded the best opportunity to make their case to the decision-maker before the decision is made. As there is no subsequent right of appeal, it is the only opportunity they will get to make their case. Our amendment ensures that that opportunity is there. There is no equivalent on the London boroughs.
The existing power of the Mayor is very different because, under that power, the Mayor can only say no to development. If this happens under planning law, the applicant is provided a full opportunity to appeal to the Secretary of State and, as a result, to make their case, in person if appropriate, at an inquiry or hearing. That is a full and effective safeguard against decisions. In deciding whether to direct the refusal of an application, the Mayor will have had the benefit of seeing all the information that was available to the borough when it considered the application and he will be fully informed of the cases for and against the development. Those arrangements have operated very well for seven years and the Mayor has exercised great restraint on using the power to refuse. So I am not convinced of the case.
Amendment No. 87CA provides a right for any oral objectors to a planning application being decided by the Mayor to appear before him at a representation hearing if the initial decision of the borough has been to refuse planning permission. Again, I cannot accept the amendment. I understand the intention is very well meant but we would be creating a monstrous process which would be totally unmanageable and cause unreasonable delay. Let me explain why. For the large-scale, important planning applications to which the Mayor’s power is intended to be applied, there could literally be hundreds, if not thousands, of objectors. To provide a right for all of them or their representatives to speak in person to the Mayor would be unworkable.
This is not intended to open the door to a widening of the amendment, but it is not clear why the amendment would solely seek to cater for the views of objectors in the event that the borough had intended to turn down an application. In reality, objectors would be just as interested in giving their views to the Mayor where the borough intended to grant planning permission.
New Section 2E places a requirement on the Mayor to prepare and publish a document setting out any persons in addition to the applicant and local planning authority from whom he will hear oral representations; clearly, that could include objectors to a proposed development. But it must be a matter of choice for the Mayor and he has to bear in mind, as he does, that his decisions are closely scrutinised by the public.
On those grounds, I hope noble Lords opposite will feel able to withdraw their amendments. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for answering my questions before I have raised them. It is very helpful to know what line she is likely to take. On reflection, I shall not move Amendments Nos. 87A to 87E. I want to comment on the Minister's Amendments Nos. 81, 85, 86 and 87, which now put into the Bill the process by which the Mayor will have to consider applications and the representations that will be made to him—that is, applications that he does not refuse. I accept that that is not a very easy aspect to add to it. I am grateful to the Minister for having put in those new clauses. On the whole, they are satisfactory. Therefore, I am pleased to leave that matter alone.
My Lords, we very much welcome those provisions. Having to undertake the hearings in public and to be present throughout them is something to which I referred briefly on the previous group of amendments. Any Mayor—I do not refer to the present office holder particularly—who felt that it would be appropriate to take over many applications would find that that was all he did. It should be possible for a delegation to go perhaps to the deputy Mayor for some of those functions, although that is not a matter for discussion now. We will see how they go but that could place a very large burden on the Mayor.
I hope that the Minister will forgive me if I ask her for confirmation of something that she has already mentioned. I was scrabbling around among my papers to find a copy of the draft order for the Hansard reporters, who sent me a note saying that they had looked online but could not find it. I suppose that is understandable at this stage.
The Mayor becomes the planning authority. Local planning authorities—the development control committee—will have a published agenda which normally includes an officer recommendation to approve or to reject an application about conditions, reserved matters and so on. As I understand it, the same procedure will apply with the Mayor, so it will not just be a matter of turning up to a hearing, but it will be known in advance—I think five days in advance—what the recommendation to the Mayor is. That is very similar to the way in which a local committee operates. It occurs to me that that may probably take over the chamber at city hall on a fairly permanent basis but that is a small price to pay.
The Minister referred to Amendment No. 87CA as having the potential to create a monstrous process. I think that is right and it is something that local planning authorities have struggled with for some time. Most of them—I am a little shocked that it is not all of them—hear oral representations from both sides these days. When I chaired the committee in Richmond in 1983, I introduced that. I cannot believe that that was nearly 25 years ago. It is not, and does not have to be, a monstrous process. The local authority would need to get objectors together to sort out how they are represented and how many can speak. There is a point of principle here. I have worked on the assumption that if the Mayor takes over an application, it is because he disagrees with the borough’s draft decision. That is why I have framed it in this way. It could have been wider. For there to be confidence in the process, it is important that objectors as well as the applicant, whose position will be enshrined in statute, have the opportunity, through a representative if necessary, to turn up and explain their objections. One should not be too anecdotal, but my experience has been that, although it adds to the time, going through that process also adds immeasurably to the understanding of the outcome.
My Lords, the noble Baroness asked me to confirm a matter in relation to the process, which I can certainly do. On what she has just said, we feel that new Section 2E with its provision for the Mayor to set out who he will see and who he will hear oral representations from, surely did work well in Richmond. The GLA works on a rather larger scale, but we will have put protections in which I hope will be sufficient.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
82: Clause 31, page 35, line 43, at end insert—
“( ) In subsection (6)—
(a) the reference to an application for listed building consent includes a reference to an application for the variation or discharge of conditions subject to which listed building consent has been granted, and(b) the reference to an application for hazardous substances consent includes a reference to an application for hazardous substances consent without a condition subject to which a previous hazardous substances consent was granted.”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
83: Clause 31, page 36, line 3, at end insert—
“2BA Matters reserved for subsequent approval
(1) If the Mayor of London has—
(a) given a direction under section 2A in relation to an application (“the original application”), and (b) granted outline planning permission,he may, on an application for subsequent approval of reserved matters, direct that the application is to be decided by the local planning authority to whom the original application was made.(2) “Outline planning permission” has the meaning given by section 92(1).
(3) If the Mayor of London has—
(a) granted an application for listed building consent which is a connected application for the purposes of section 2B, and(b) imposed conditions requiring specified details to be approved subsequently,he may, on an application for subsequent approval, direct that the application is to be decided by the local planning authority to whom the connected application was made.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this group contains government amendments and opposition amendments, and I shall speak to them all at the same time. There has been much debate about the scope of the Mayor’s powers over planning applications. We have always been clear that decisions on applications should be taken by boroughs wherever possible; indeed, our proposals expressly provide for that. It is important that the Mayor takes only the decisions that it is appropriate for him to take.
Government Amendment No. 83 is an important change to give further effect to that principle of delegation. It will provide an express power for the Mayor to pass the decision-making on subsequent applications for approval of reserved matters that are related to planning applications that he has determined in outline back to the relevant borough. That provision relates specifically to the approval of reserved matters and the approval of details under a listed building consent. We have already provided through Clause 31 for the Mayor to leave applications for varying or discharging planning conditions attached to planning permissions with boroughs and, following discussions with stakeholders—again we have listened—this new provision ensures that decisions on all applications are taken at the appropriate level.
Amendment No. 84 provides for a new Section 2A order to implement or supplement this new provision for the Mayor to pass decisions back to the relevant borough. Currently, we see no need to exercise the power but if, in future, it should prove necessary it would be done through the Mayor of London order.
Therefore, we fully considered the case when we discussed these amendments for making all related subsequent approvals the responsibility of boroughs without involving the Mayor, as Amendments Nos. 83A to 83H would have us do. We were alive to those issues. But most of the details related to those matters, although not in all circumstances, would rightly be for the boroughs to determine. However, the circumstances of each approval request will be different. It is undoubtedly the case that some of those approvals could raise issues that will go to the heart of the original planning permission granted by the Mayor; for example, how details of access to a site could affect wider circulation routes in London. The Mayor should have an opportunity to consider each application on its merits and decide whether it would be appropriate for him to determine it. I am clear that that would be very much the exception, and the expectation is that the borough will be responsible for deciding these matters. We will make that position clear in guidance that accompanies the new Act. I hope that noble Lords will be satisfied with that.
I do not disagree with the sentiment of Amendment No. 83F, but I cannot accept it as we cannot envisage that the situation covered by the proposed amendment could arise. We have provided for the Mayor to delegate to the relevant borough decision-making on approval of details under a listed building consent because that is where the details tend to fall out, but we are not aware of conservation area consents or consent under the hazardous substances regime being granted in that way. I realise that this is a technical point. If it would help, I am happy to write to the noble Baroness to expand on the differences between those two regimes. I beg to move.
83A: Clause 31, line 6, leave out “outline”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the Minister has once again referred to the amendments, which may seem very opaque, although it is clear what they are about. I shall quickly go through them. Amendments Nos. 83A, 83B, 83D and 83F would ensure that the local planning authority—not the Mayor—would decide on the application in total. It will allow the Mayor to intervene on a planning application and to make his case within the existing parameters of holding public hearings and all the processes we have just been discussing, but he would not be able to determine the details of planning applications or make decisions on them himself—the details of the application. Our amendments propose that those applications are automatically dealt with by the borough councils. That is almost what the Minister has said, but perhaps we could be sure that there were no caveats to her remarks.
Amendments Nos. 83C, 83E, 83G and 83H address what looks like an omission in Amendment No. 83. It provides for reserved matters and details under conditions on listed building consents to be approved by the local planning authorities. It does not provide for approvals under conditions—actually, it is not the approvals under conditions but the discussions in relation to conditions on planning applications, or any conditions on conservation area consents and hazardous substances consents. They are not very frequent it has to be said, but they may be conditioned as well.
Major planning permissions will have a substantial number of approvals required under conditions so there is information on conditions again. The boroughs will be in a much stronger position to see what they amount to under their borough plans. Few approvals will be required under conservation area consents, although approvals are likely to be needed occasionally under the hazardous substances consents.
The amendments work whether the Mayor has a power to direct that the details are dealt with by the borough council or whether, as our other amendment proposes, details are automatically to be considered by the borough council. The Minister has almost encompassed what I asked for, but a couple of further words might make it easier. I beg to move.
My Lords, I hope that I addressed that point, if not as eloquently as the noble Baroness. I realise that I should have given her the opportunity to address her amendments before commenting on them. If I may, I shall read in Hansard what she has said, and we can probably expand on these issues in a letter. As I said, they are technical issues in that they deal with the conditions attached to listed building consents. The same conditions are not attached to conservation areas or hazardous substances applications and there is a difference in how they are treated. The matter can be dealt with satisfactorily if I may write to the noble Baroness.
84: Clause 31, page 36, line 12, leave out “or 2B” and insert “, 2B or 2BA”
85: Clause 31, page 36, line 22, after “2A,” insert “2E,”
86: Clause 31, page 36, line 23, after “2A,” insert “2E,”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
87: After Clause 31, insert the following new Clause—
After section 2D of TCPA 1990 (which is inserted by section 32 of this Act) insert—“2E Representation hearings
(1) This section applies to—
(a) an application in relation to which a direction has been given under section 2A, and(b) an application which is a connected application for the purposes of section 2B.(2) Before determining an application to which this section applies, the Mayor of London must give—
(a) the applicant and(b) the local planning authority to whom the application was made,an opportunity to make oral representations at a hearing (“a representation hearing”).(3) The Mayor of London must prepare and publish a document setting out—
(a) the persons, in addition to the applicant and the local planning authority, who may make oral representations at a representation hearing, (b) the procedures to be followed at a representation hearing,(c) arrangements for identifying information which must be agreed by persons making oral representations at a representation hearing.(4) Each person who may make oral representations at a representation hearing must be given at least 14 days’ notice of the hearing.
(5) The Secretary of State must by order make provision for Part 5A of the Local Government Act 1972 (public admission to meetings of principal councils, public access to documents, etc) to apply to—
(a) a representation hearing as it applies to a meeting of a principal council, and(b) the Mayor of London in the conduct of a representation hearing as it applies to a principal council in the conduct of a meeting of that council.(6) The application of Part 5A may be with such modifications as the Secretary of State considers necessary or expedient.”.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move.
[Amendments Nos. 87A to 87E, as amendments to Amendment No. 87, not moved.]
On Question, Amendment No. 87 agreed to.
88: After Clause 32, insert the following new Clause—
“Duty as respects gardens and urban green space in exercise of planning functions
After section 71A of TCPA 1990 (assessment of environmental effects) insert—
“71B Duty as respects gardens and urban green space in exercise of planning functionsIn the exercise of any function under or by virtue of the planning Acts, the Greater London Authority Act 1999 or the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, special regard shall be had by the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority to the desirability of preserving gardens and urban green spaces within the Greater London Authority area.”.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we come to a different area of garden protection, which takes us a little bit away from what we have been discussing, but it is a new innovation in the Bill.
This amendment is inspired by the Private Member’s Bill introduced in another place by my honourable friend Caroline Spelman, which has received a warm welcome and support from all parties and from environmental campaigners. Gardens and green space are nowhere more important than in London, where the provision of habitat for wildlife and a sense of space and greenness depend to a huge extent on the existence of gardens, both front and back. Indeed, gardens are a glory of many parts of the suburbs of our capital city and provide vital oases in the city’s heart.
Gardens are under attack as never before—under double pressure from planning policies that are skewed in favour of infill, backfill and the demolition of suburban properties to increase densities and from ill-thought-out parking policies that promote the paving over of front gardens to avoid the imposition of parking charges. In the context of this Bill we can do nothing about the pressure from parking policies, such as the introduction of tax surcharges for parking family cars on the highway, which in turn will lead inevitably to the paving over of front gardens. I appeal to all those who are concerned, and the Mayor, to read the outstanding report from the GLA, Crazy Paving.
The GLA report appeals to the Mayor and to London boroughs to think carefully before implementing planning and parking policies that will lead to the loss of front gardens. I hope that more attention will be given to this. It would be tragic if a mix of misguided planning policies led to more of our beautiful suburban front gardens being turned into environmentally damaging parking lots. I urge the Government to consider at the highest level this ongoing environmental loss.
How much more do the same considerations apply to back gardens? Here, too, the designation of gardens as brownfield sites unbalances any consideration to protect green space, green vistas and gardens, which leads to an accelerated loss of back gardens. I know of recent cases where, despite past local decisions by inspectors, lack of any specific requirement to protect or to consider the protection of gardens has led to the green light being given to developers intent on building not only higher density flats, but single residences in back gardens. These actions inevitably destroy the character of an area for ever. Both the Royal Horticultural Society and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have ongoing campaigns to protect gardens, and I believe that it is essential that we inject into the GLA a planning process and some balancing element requiring consideration for these green spaces. I very much hope that the Government will see the importance of this protection in both planning and environmental terms. Even at this late stage of the Bill, I ask the Minister to give positive consideration to incorporating some such proposal.
Unless it is specifically included, concreting of the suburbs will drive on apace, to the loss of us all and future generations. If the precise wording of the amendment is not acceptable to the Minister, we would be delighted to discuss improved wording before Third Reading, to try to incorporate protection for London’s gardens in the overall planning considerations of the Mayor and the Greater London Authority. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Baroness did not mention it, but I am very proud of my home borough’s introduction of differential parking charges, and I stress differential. But we are not here to discuss that—or perhaps we are, because we are discussing how one balances all these considerations.
I have some questions for the noble Baroness and one for the Minister, which is how PPS 3 deals with this issue. It acknowledges the issue, but I am not sure what the strength of that is. First, however, perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, what is meant by “special regard”. I am not sure where that comes in the hierarchy of “having regard”, “being in conformity with”, or whatever. I suppose that it is a little more than “having regard”. It was the terminology used in the Private Member’s Bill to which she referred, but I am not sure what it means. Perhaps it is a matter of common sense.
Is it necessary for primary legislation to deal with this issue? It is certainly appropriate for us to debate it as a mechanism to raise the matter, but should not the London Plan be the vehicle for it? It would then be in place and everything else would fall into place afterwards. If the London Plan is not tough enough on this, I should think that it is open to the boroughs to create their own policies on it. The noble Baroness may say that that would not be adequate if the London Plan went in a different direction, but there is a certain amount here about which we need to understand the framework. However, I congratulate the noble Baroness on raising an issue that is clearly important to the physical and mental well-being of Londoners. It is hugely important to have green spaces.
My Lords, I entirely agree with the sentiment expressed by both noble Baronesses. Gardens are extremely important. The Government certainly think so, as does the Mayor for the reasons which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has just set out. There is nothing between us on that.
The context, as we heard earlier, is the pressure for new housing in London. We all agree that it is important to ensure that development is in the right place, and that includes preventing inappropriate development in residential areas and on gardens where it is not sustainable and other sites are available. I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, was coming to the conclusion that it is unnecessary to place a specific duty on the Mayor to have special regard to the desirability of preserving gardens and urban green space because local authorities have all the powers they need—they have had them for many years—to stop or prevent infill development on gardens.
There has been an argument both in this House and the other place about whether gardens have become more vulnerable because of the emphasis on brownfield sites. We have certainly put an emphasis on the use of brownfield land, and I do not apologise for that. However, the issue is not whether land is classified as brownfield or greenfield but whether land is suitable for development, how sites are managed for development and what is appropriate in the local context. Existing national policy guidance already gives local authorities flexibility to shape development in their areas. For many years, they have been able—as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, indicated—to set out particular policies in their development plan to manage infill development and protect gardens if appropriate. Many local authorities have done so. Those can then be applied to individual planning applications taking account of the specific circumstances. I say to London Boroughs that there is nothing to stop any London borough from doing that.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked about PPS 3. This is a good opportunity to say that not only have we not weakened the position of gardens in terms of development, but we have strengthened the protection afforded to gardens and open space in planning policy statement 3, which we published last year. We have done so by giving local authorities more flexibility to shape new development according to the needs of their area, allowing them to make the decisions on where new housing should be located and making it clear that local authorities can put strong emphasis on protecting urban green spaces, parks and play areas. They can specify targets for different kinds of brownfield land, enabling them to distinguish between residential sites and other kinds of brownfield land. We have given them greater powers to restrict garden development if they have alternative viable land available and if the level of development they are achieving within residential areas is much higher than their plan requires. As long as they are delivering the level of new homes that the area needs, they will have more flexibility on how and where those homes should be built.
That is all being placed in a context where far stronger emphasis is put on the quality of residential design and layout, which are absolutely vital to mental and physical well-being, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, made clear. PPS 3 makes it clear that design which is inappropriate in that context or which fails to take account of the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions should not be accepted.
The boroughs already have the powers that they need to protect gardens. They also have additional powers and tools afforded through national policy. That will guide the Mayor’s decisions when he uses his power to determine and when he acts as local planning authority, in the same way as the borough would. It is not necessary and contrary to good planning to put in place a blanket statutory requirement such as the amendment would impose. It is an emotive subject but, in the light of what I said, I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, will feel that she can withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I thank both noble Baronesses for their comments. The trouble is that while the policies and PPS 3 may be available, the Royal Horticultural Society and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds think that they have to run campaigns to protect gardens. Somewhere along the line messages are not getting through or local authorities are not paying “special attention” to what is going on. That is apparent particularly on the outskirts of London where people are taking the opportunity to put in buildings here and there, completely destroying garden areas.
I hear what the Minister says about boroughs being able to control all this, but that is clearly not happening. Gardens are seen as brownfield sites and are being destroyed at a regrettable rate. We need to be sure that we can stop that and that far more attention is paid to those garden areas, even if they are sometimes not very well maintained.
The Minister is not going to give way today. I shall think about this before Third Reading. For today, I beg leave to withdrawn the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
88A: After Clause 32, insert the following new Clause—
“Local planning authorities to enforce planning obligations
(1) Section 2D of TCPA is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (5) for “application—” and paragraphs (a) to (b) substitute “application is enforceable by the local planning authority”.
(3) Section 33 of the GLA Act 1999 is amended as follows.
(4) Omit subsections (2), (3) and (5).
(5) In subsection (4) for “to the Mayor of London” substitute “an additional copy shall be sent to the Mayor of London”.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this brings us back to our more usual path. I am, initially at least, seeking clarity from the Minister. At the moment, the Mayor can decide whether planning obligations are due and can enforce the obligations himself. The new clause that amends Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 gives the Mayor wide-ranging powers to detail the obligations needed and to allocate and manage the money needed to carry them out. The provisions in the Bill for the Mayor to consult local boroughs are deeply inappropriate. The Mayor would be able simply to consult the local authorities, to state in a report buried deep in the files that he has taken account of what they have said, and to plough on regardless. There is no duty to take account of the local authorities’ input in the decision.
Amendment No. 88A ensures that where the Mayor makes a decision on a planning application, he would have to relinquish to the local authorities the management of those obligations. It proposes a new clause that amends new Section 2D of the Town and Country Planning Act and what would be new Section 33 of this Bill. It ensures that the payment of sums, the enforcement of planning obligations and the charging on land of expenses recoverable would be carried out by the local planning authority. This would ensure that where obligations need to be fulfilled, local authorities will be best placed to monitor progress and ensure completion. Above all, the amendment ensures transparency in the decision process by holding the Mayor to account for ensuring that all decisions taken go back to the local authorities of the areas that they affect. I beg to move.
My Lords, this amendment would remove the Mayor’s ability to enforce the provisions of obligations attached to the planning permissions which he grants. He would have to rely on the borough to do so in each case. It would also prevent the Mayor receiving any of the sums due under a planning obligation. Although I cannot accept the amendment because removing the Mayor’s ability to enforce the terms of planning obligations would open the door to a worse situation where the provisions of any planning obligation attached to a planning permission granted by the Mayor might be at risk of being unenforced, I hope to be able to reassure the noble Baroness in due course. The result could be development that harmed the local environment or the capital’s wider planning interests contrary to the intention of the planning permission. This would be in the interests of neither the Mayor nor the boroughs.
During the Bill’s passage we have discussed planning obligations and mayoral involvement, and there has been some confusion. It may therefore be worth while briefly reiterating some of the key points on planning obligations. Planning obligations are private agreements negotiated usually between local planning authorities and developers or offered unilaterally by developers for the benefit of the local planning authority. In previous debates there seemed to be real concern that the Mayor could somehow run away with the money from planning obligations. However, strict parameters govern when planning obligations are appropriate, and they are set out in Circular 05/05. We are not changing that. For example, the circular states that planning obligations are to be sought only when they meet all the policy tests. An obligation has to be,
“relevant to planning; necessary to make the proposed development acceptable in planning terms; directly related to the proposed development; fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the proposed development; and reasonable in all other respects”.
Those are tough tests to fulfil. The purpose of an obligation is to mitigate harm that might arise from a planning proposal and to make it acceptable in planning terms; for example, a proposal that otherwise could be refused planning permission might provide open space to mitigate for the loss of such space.
The amendment would leave all enforcement actions to the borough. In most cases that will be the best and most effective way forward and, significantly, it will be the route that we expect to be followed. The problem is that it may not be the route in all cases, such as where the borough’s enforcement team is overstretched or in the unlikely event of a lack of co-operation between the two parties. We have had to provide a fall-back for such cases. The clause as drafted does not substitute the Mayor for the borough for those applications decided by the Mayor, but it provides the Mayor with enforcement powers that parallel those of the borough. We do not envisage the Mayor employing large numbers of enforcement officers, and we are not providing funds for that. This is simply a sensible safeguard to ensure that development takes place in the terms for which permission was granted.
I shall deal with the substance of subsection (4) of the amendment, which removes the Mayor’s ability to receive funds due under a planning obligation, when we come to Amendment No. 89. I shall not rehearse those arguments here. We are convinced that, for entirely practical reasons, it is necessary for the Mayor to do so. I must therefore resist the amendment.
My Lords, I am not at all surprised by the Minister’s response. Planning obligations should without exception be dealt with and enforced by local authorities. I think the Minister is saying that there are going to be exceptions where the Mayor will step in. In my experience, a planning obligation is very seldom undertaken on the basis that the application might be refused. But an obligation might be undertaken on the basis of a requirement in an accepted application which further ameliorates the application and might bring benefit from the development. That is a local issue which only the local authority ought to be able to determine. We are talking about developments that the Mayor will decide. I have been advised by the Minister that those developments will be so small and limited that the Mayor will hardly have the chance to blow the whistle on any of them. If they are going to be that limited in number, it seems that it would still be much better for the local authority to deal with them.
I have made the point for today and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 33 [Amendments of section 106 of TCPA]:
89: Clause 33, page 37, line 4, after “Authority” insert “which shall transfer the sum to the authority which would be the local planning authority in the absence of a direction by the Mayor under section 2A”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 90, which relates to Clause 34. These amendments relate to planning applications. When we raised concerns at an earlier stage of the Bill about who would be in control of Section 106 matters, the Minister wrote to noble Lords explaining, as she explained again today, that the decision maker on the application is responsible for agreeing the planning application. I understand that, but it does not necessarily mean that the Mayor, as the planning authority, should hold funds that are transferred as a result of that negotiation.
Amendment No. 89 was drafted in response to the Minister’s explanation. She told us about the tests that have to be met and that it is not a matter of thinking that it would be nice to charge something and then charging it. I understand that. However, the fact that there are tests to be met is not the same as, as she put it, the Mayor running away with the money. I had not quite thought of it in those terms. I think of it in rather the same way as the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, does. This starts as a local application which will end with a local effect and there should be local involvement in dealing with the planning obligation. Can the Minister explain how commuted payments—which are currently made at borough level and can be accumulated and used for a project within the borough—fit with what is proposed for the Mayor?
My Amendment No. 90 was tabled because I am a little puzzled by proposed new Section 106A(12), in Clause 34(4), which states:
“The Mayor … must consult the local planning authority before exercising any function under this section”.
My amendment would provide that the Mayor,
“must have due regard to the views of the authority which would be the local planning authority”,
if he is minded not to exercise a function. In short, does proposed new subsection (12) also include not exercising a function? For instance, if the Mayor proposed not to enter into a Section 106A agreement, but the local planning authority thought that he should, what statutory opportunity would it have to make any representations? Would it have any say? I hope that the Minister can help me with that. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the noble Baroness’s amendment, which is very much along the lines of my earlier amendment. It is very important that we clarify entirely and precisely the Mayor’s role in planning applications. Both the noble Baroness and I are saying that he should be taken out of the equation completely. We should ensure that the boroughs deal with the negotiations, the planning obligations and the receipt of the money and that the Mayor should not be involved—nor, indeed, should he be involved in keeping any of the proceeds, which should go to the boroughs.
My Lords, these issues are quite technical. I will do my best to clarify them, but I may revert to writing to the noble Baroness if she feels that I have not addressed the point. In fact, I have a note that says, “Promise to write”. I will certainly do that. Amendment No. 90 would amend Clause 34, which amends Section 106A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 on applications to modify or discharge planning obligations. The amendment would require the Mayor to have due regard to the views of the borough, which would have decided the application if the Mayor had not taken it over, before he decides not to agree to modify or discharge an obligation.
I understand the intention behind the amendment. It is clearly important that the Mayor should take account of the views of the local authority in considering whether to modify or discharge an obligation that he has been responsible for agreeing. That is why we set out in Clause 34(4) proposed new Section 106A(12), which requires the Mayor to consult the local planning authority before he exercises any function under Section 106A. Our wording requires the Mayor to consult the borough before he decides whether to agree to modify or discharge an obligation, as in either case he is exercising a function under Section 106A. That addresses the point made by the noble Baroness about the negative power. Therefore, our wording achieves the position that she has sought in her amendment. I hope that that reassures her and that she will not press the amendment further.
Amendment No. 89 would amend Clause 33 to require the Mayor to pass all sums due under a planning obligation to the borough that would have been the local planning authority if the Mayor had not taken over the decision whether to accept a planning application. This would not be of much benefit, but it would certainly bring confusion and delay. Given that the purpose of planning obligations is to mitigate the harm caused by planning proposals, the logic is obviously that the responsibility for negotiating them with developers should lie with whoever is responsible for determining the planning application, whether that is the borough or the Mayor. Without that responsibility, the decision-maker could not be sure that a proposal was acceptable in planning terms such that planning permission could be granted. The obligation would therefore depend on individual circumstances. As we know, the mitigation could be that money, land, an urban open space or improvements to the strategic road network should be provided. The amount and timing of the funding for the mitigation will be clearly set out in the terms of the planning obligation.
It is the responsibility of the local planning authority, whether that is the Mayor or the borough, to distribute any sums due under an obligation in accordance with the terms of the agreement. Therefore, if the obligation requires a financial contribution towards the provision of an open space, to be provided by the borough, clearly the borough must receive the funds and carry out the work, irrespective of whether the money initially went to the Mayor as the local planning authority. Consequently, if the obligation requires funds to be made available to carry out improvements to the strategic road network under the control of TfL, the relevant funds would be passed to TfL, as that is the body that carries out the works. Nothing is to be gained by requiring the Mayor to pass all sums due under a planning obligation to the borough, irrespective of whom the sums are due to under the terms of the planning obligation. The amendment would simply add delay while money is moved from the Mayor to the borough before being passed to another party.
I suspect that the noble Baroness was actually asking a slightly different and slightly more detailed question, so, with her leave, I will read what she said about her amendment and will certainly write to her with further detail and clarification if I can.
My Lords, given that commuted payments are important, I may well retable the amendment so that the letter can be read into the record at the next stage of the Bill. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 89A and 89B not moved.]
Clause 34 [Planning obligations: further provision]:
[Amendment No. 90 not moved.]
Clause 45 [The Board’s expenditure: transfer of powers and other provisions]:
91: Clause 45, page 46, line 38, at end insert—
“(5) Where in consequence of payments made by the Greater London Authority under subsection (2), the Assembly exercise their power under section 61 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 (power to require attendance at Assembly meetings) in respect of the Board of Governors of the Museum of London, the Director of the Museum or its officers, the exercise of that power shall be subject to a like power exercisable by the Corporation.
(6) In subsection (6) “Assembly” has the same meaning as in section 424(1) of the Greater London Authority Act 1999.”.”
The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 91 takes forward, in a slightly different form, the amendment that was tabled by my noble friend Lord Jenkin in Committee and to which my noble friend Lady Hanham spoke so ably from the Front Bench in his unavoidable absence. I will not repeat in detail today what my noble friend so lucidly told the Committee then. As I said when I spoke to Amendment No. 79, I am speaking today in his unavoidable absence.
The nub of the issue is the parity of scrutiny arrangements between the City and the GLA once the half-share of funding currently met by the Government is met instead by the GLA. The City will continue to meet the other half, as it does now. That issue, as I will explain in a moment, also ultimately bears on the independence of the board of governors of the museum. The position under the Bill is that, under the new arrangements, the board of governors and its officers, including officers of the City of London Corporation, will be subject to the London Assembly scrutiny powers in Section 61 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. The effect of this was ably explained by the Minister in Committee, when she said:
“This means that the Assembly may require the governors or staff of the Museum of London to attend proceedings and give evidence, or produce documents in their possession or control, which is relevant—I stress, relevant—to the funding relationship which the museum will have with the GLA. The Assembly’s scrutiny will, of course, focus chiefly on the Mayor’s exercise of his functions relating to the museum. It may also look at the museum’s use of those funds that it receives from the authority and the museum’s financial health as a whole, including the levels of funding from other sources, such as the City Corporation, and the use it makes of those funds”.—[Official Report, 14/5/07; col. GC 25.]
I should mention that the scrutiny power is available to the London Assembly in relation to any body that may be lucky enough to receive a grant from the GLA.
Unlike for a charity or other deserving cause that receives a grant, the funding relationship of the museum to the GLA is intended to be permanent, so the GLA will acquire a continuous oversight role in respect of the museum. The board of governors and its officers will be in the same position as the board and officers of the functional bodies of the GLA, such as Transport for London, whose scrutiny arrangements are also governed by Section 61 of the 1999 Act.
However, the museum is not a GLA body. The board of governors is, as the Minister emphasised in earlier exchanges on this subject, independent. It is intended that this status should remain. I do not make any sort of case against scrutiny, but, as proposed, the powers to call the board and its officers to account, under substantial criminal sanction if they do not—Section 64 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 provides for a term of imprisonment of up to three months—without giving a counterbalancing power to the other half of the funding relationship, namely the City, could result in the relationship between the museum and the GLA becoming skewed.
The Minister appeared to recognise this in Committee when responding to the earlier amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Jenkin. She said:
“In practice, we would expect the City and the Assembly to work together co-operatively to establish a robust scrutiny regime for the museum”.—[Official Report, 14/5/07; col. GC 26.]
She preceded that comment by reference to the City’s ability to agree with the museum its scrutiny arrangements as a condition of the City’s financial support. That, however, presupposes the power to set such conditions. The only power dealing with scrutiny that I have been able to find in the current legislation is in Section 5 of the Museum of London Act 1965—I differentiate that from the 1986 Act—which requires reports to Parliament. But that provision of scrutiny is being repealed by the current Bill. The other provisions in existing legislation dealing with financial support by the City make no reference to the City’s ability to subject that support to conditions relating to scrutiny. Given that the function has until now been provided through Parliament, that absence is unsurprising.
In these circumstances, I should be most grateful if the Minister could confirm that a power to require collaborative scrutiny arrangements with the GLA is available to the City. If it is not, the Minister will understand why I will contend that further provision to facilitate the arrangement that the noble Baroness anticipated in Committee is needed. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, for moving his noble friend’s amendment and making this short debate possible. As we have heard, the amendment was tabled in Committee. While the Government will continue to resist the amendment, it provides us with a further opportunity to allay some of the concerns about the scrutiny arrangements to which he refers.
As I stated in Committee, when the GLA Bill comes into force, the museum will be subject to the scrutiny of the Assembly under the powers set out in Section 61 of the GLA Act 1999. As the noble Lord said, the Assembly will have the power to summon the governors or staff of the Museum of London to attend proceedings and to give evidence, or to produce documents in their possession or control, relating to the GLA’s sponsorship of the museum. The Assembly’s use of these powers naturally will centre, as the noble Lord rightly said, on scrutinising the Mayor’s exercise of his functions in relation to the museum. It will also be able to look at the way in which the museum uses the funds that it receives from the GLA and at the museum’s overall financial state, including the levels of funding that it receives from other sources, such as the City of London Corporation, and the use that it makes of those funds.
As we have heard, there has been some concern that the powers of scrutiny that the Assembly will have in respect of the museum might tip the balance too far towards the GLA to the detriment of the City of London Corporation’s role. We do not believe that this will be the case. The powers that the GLA and the Assembly will gain as a result of this Bill will not lessen the role that the corporation plays in the life of the Museum of London. The corporation was a founder of the museum, owns the premises in which the museum operates, co-funds the museum and appoints half the membership of its board of governors. The corporation’s powers and responsibilities in relation to the museum are enshrined in statute in the Museum of London Acts of 1965 and 1986. This Bill does not change that fact.
The importance of the corporation’s role has not been diminished by the museum’s present status as a non-departmental public body sponsored by central government. There is no reason for us to believe that it will be diminished when the GLA takes over the Government’s role in respect of the museum. I should like to take this opportunity to reiterate the point that we expect the City of London Corporation and the GLA to work together effectively as co-sponsors of the museum and that the corporation will continue to play as full and active a role in the future as it does at present. However, as I made clear in Committee, there is no need to change the corporation’s powers of scrutiny to do this. I can agree that the corporation has the powers that it needs in order to scrutinise jointly with the Assembly.
As I stated in Committee, the corporation is, and always has been, able to agree with the museum, as a condition of its financial support, how it will scrutinise its operations. Such an agreement would not require any change to this Bill or to any other existing legislation. There is nothing to prevent the corporation and the Assembly from reaching an agreement whereby they could scrutinise the museum jointly should they wish to do so. Whether they choose to take that route or not, we would positively encourage the corporation and the Assembly to work together as partners in establishing a robust scrutiny regime for the museum.
Finally, I reiterate a point that I made in Committee. There is a clear distinction between the Museum of London and the City of London Corporation. The Assembly’s legitimate, rightful scrutiny of the museum, which I described earlier, should not extend to detailed scrutiny of the corporation. The Assembly’s powers to summon apply to the corporation only in respect of any specific contractual relationships between it and the GLA or any grant given by the GLA directly to the corporation.
I hope that I have been able to provide reassurance to the noble Lord and to his noble friend Lord Jenkin when he has time to reflect on what has been put into the record today. With that in mind, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, will be able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. I fear that I will disappoint her in the hope that she expressed in her final sentence. There is a paradox between the Government emphasising in Committee and today how strongly they wish to resist amendments moved in this context and their desire to see the City and the GLA reach an amicable agreement.
The Minister says that the Bill does not alter the powers of scrutiny of the Corporation of London in terms of the museum. In my speech, I sought to indicate that there will be no powers relating to scrutiny on the statute book if the Government persist in repealing the one clause in the Museum of London Act 1965, to which the Minister made reference; since that is to be repealed by the Bill, there will be no provision in statute for the corporation to insist on scrutiny of the museum’s officers and board of governors. The Minister said that the situation has not been altered, but I believe—and she will be able to read what I said—that by that repeal it has been. If the Greater London Authority is to have unique powers and sanctions, the museum will always look over its shoulder to the GLA rather than to the City of London Corporation. To borrow from Dr Johnson, to whom another excellent museum within the City of London is dedicated, the prospect of three months’ imprisonment can concentrate a man’s mind wonderfully.
There is, of course, nothing to prevent the two bodies from reaching an amicable conclusion. However, the London Assembly will have greater powers of persuasion, because of how the Act is constructed—I refer to Section 61. If it does not wish to develop a system of joint scrutiny, there is no way in which the City of London Corporation can persuade it to do so, as the balance of advantage in powers of scrutiny is different.
I will make a constructive suggestion, if I may, as I obviously wish to resolve this matter, although we will not do so tonight. The London Assembly has the power, which it has used, to set up a panel on, for instance, the governance of London. It has been able to invite people to come and give evidence to it; that has worked extremely well. Some people on that panel were not part of the Assembly itself but independent contributors from outside. If that sort of example can be followed, from which the condition about three months’ imprisonment is removed, the City of London Corporation would be contributing to such a panel as an equal, rather than as, frankly, an unequal. Of course, all of us would wish that some agreement might be reached but, as I said in my peroration, unless we have confidence that such an agreement will be reached between the Assembly and the City of London Corporation—when we are deciding something that will be set in stone for ever—we are in a state of disadvantage.
Finally, although I totally understand what the Minister said about the intended object of this exercise not being to let the London Assembly pursue the corporation or its officers, the wording—as currently structured—is that officers of the corporation will be capable of being summoned in the context of the Bill. For that reason, I regret that I do not want to withdraw this amendment save to provide an opportunity for reflection. At the moment, I do not believe that there is a meeting of minds between us; therefore, we will have to return to it at a later stage. For now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 92 not moved.]
[Amendment No. 93 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]
Clause 57 [Short title, citation, commencement and extent]:
94: Clause 57, page 52, line 22, at end insert—
“(10) Different days may be appointed in respect of section (Mayor: limit on number of terms) in the case of—
(a) persons twice elected to the office in question before the day on which this Act is passed, and(b) other persons.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 93, which has been withdrawn from the Marshalled List, had a similar aim. That was debated with a similar group of amendments last week, regarding a limit on the number of terms that a Mayor or an Assembly Member can serve. Your Lordships will be aware that the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, was agreed to on that occasion. I refer to Assembly Members, although I am a little unclear on whether the amendment agreed would have the effect of limiting the number of terms that an Assembly Member could serve, which was the aim of the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Tope and myself that was also debated.
We had proposed the predecessor to this amendment for a reason that we were at pains to explain; that the limitation on the number of terms that a Mayor might serve was not a personal attack on the current Mayor. As I said then, had my noble friend been the Mayor, I would have been moving exactly the same amendment. Nor did we feel it appropriate, so close to the May 2008 elections, to change the rules of the game. This amendment, then, is designed to allow for commencement of the limitation on the number of terms at a later date; so, it could be postponed until after the next elections.
The Government should accept this amendment, because it is a proper consequence of the debate that we had last week. I am not naive enough to expect the Commons not to throw out the amendment that your Lordships agreed; nevertheless, that is a part of the Bill as it currently stands—and as it will go back, in due course, to the Commons. I want to emphasise fairness, so that there is no change in the rules at a relatively late stage, and that this is not a personal matter. I beg to move.
We have been here before, my Lords; it is still the same issue. While I appreciate the nuance, the noble Baroness is saying “Let the next election take place, and if the Mayor is re-elected for a second time, then that should in fact be the end of his attempts”. Well, we had the argument before, which is that rather than by legislative device, as this is, we would remove the opportunity for the people of London to elect their Mayor. They would not have the opportunity to do that. So, if the Liberal Democrat Benches are suggesting that there ought to be limits on the extent of powers, where do we start and finish?
We may certainly consider something along the lines of “No party shall be elected as the Government more than twice”. In recent years, and in the memory of most people here, that would have seriously affected the will of the people to elect a Conservative Government in the 1980s and 1990s. It would certainly have affected the ability of the people of this country to elect Labour, or to re-elect and re-elect it again. I honestly am puzzled about why this device should be taken.
When I spoke on this matter last week, I mentioned that the Conservatives did not hesitate when they were bothered by the activity of the GLC in the early 1980s. By diktat, they simply passed into their manifesto an amendment that extinguished the GLC at the drop of a hat. That was wrong, because the people of London had no opportunity; it took more than 10 years and a change of government to Labour to realise that London needed a government. So, I do not fall out on the issue, which is one of principle, and I appreciate that the noble Baroness said that this will allow the Mayor, if the people of London wish it, to be elected a third time. But if they want to do that for the fourth time—and he has a record upon which to stand, and the support in London—I see no reason why he ought not to be re-elected, provided he is a candidate. This amendment should be resisted.
My Lords, an amendment was passed in this House last week. This amendment would clarify the position on what we believed we were passing; it would make it more rational for the other place in discussing this further. There need to be parameters in which the principle is discussed. All we have been discussing so far is the principle of whether the Mayor should have a limited term. I am happy to support the noble Baroness but hope that it will not be necessary to press the amendment to a Division.
My Lords, when this was discussed in Committee, I thought that the arguments of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Hanham, were comprehensively destroyed. I gather that in my absence last week, your Lordships passed an amendment. We are now being asked to tidy up that amendment because those who tabled it did not get it right the first time. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, is shaking his head; I appreciate that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is helping out the Conservative group in tidying up the mess that the previous amendment made.
If the amendment’s intention is to make something a little more palatable for the other place, it should be resisted. Term limits do not make sense in the British political system. We are actually saying that we will limit and restrict the ability of Londoners to choose whom they want to be their Mayor. We are singling out this one office, of all other elected offices in this country, and saying that term limits should apply to it. In trying to make things more palatable for the other place, the amendment seems to be an attempt simply to gild what is already an extremely unpalatable pill.
My Lords, it is salutary for my noble friend to realise that when he misses a stage in our proceedings, all sorts of things go wrong. I hope that he will be faithful and stick with the Bill until the end. I am sorry to disappoint the noble Baroness. We heard another eloquent speech from my noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton, who was forensic in setting out the arguments on the amendment debated last week and the one before us today.
We resist the amendment. The principle is clear; it is fundamental. Londoners should be free to decide who should be their Mayor. There should be no limit on the number of terms of office a Mayor can serve. That principle was supported by the Conservative spokesman in the other place and reiterated in an Early Day Motion. The Government stand by their principles.
Last week, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats joined forces to disqualify anyone who has been Mayor twice from standing again for that office. We were told that if he held office for more than two terms, he might become disparaging of and disconnected from the electorate. We were assured that term limits were about the position, not the person. I warned your Lordships, more in sorrow than in anger, that no matter what the avowed intention of those who tabled the amendment—and I pay tribute to their integrity—it would be seen as nothing more than a back-door way of stopping Ken Livingstone from standing again for a third term and of denying Londoners the right to choose for themselves who should be their Mayor. So it turned out. Noble Lords did not listen to my warnings; they have only to read the Evening Standard of 21 June to see that argument displayed in full colour.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, anticipated, the Government will certainly come back to this issue when the Bill returns to the other place. As my noble friend Lord Harris said, Amendment No. 94 is an attempt to redeem the situation but without conceding that to interfere in the democratic process is wrong in principle. This amendment, like its flawed predecessor, would allow the Secretary of State to commence provisions on the two-term limit at different times in the case of the current Mayor and other persons and graciously allow the current Mayor to stand for a third term in next year’s mayoral elections. It offers explicit acceptance of the principle of term limits and is therefore wholly unacceptable on this side of the Chamber.
There are no convincing arguments in favour of term limits in British politics. It represents a break with our democratic tradition sufficient for the honourable Member for Surrey Heath, Michael Gove, to say:
“I hope I have made it clear that we do not believe in term limits in principle or for the Mayor of London”.—[Official Report, Commons Greater London Authority Bill Public Bill Committee, 18/1/07; col. 331.]
I could not agree more. The amendment is wholly unacceptable to the Government and I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw it.
My Lords, I really tried not to rehearse the arguments that we had last week. My noble friend Lord Tope and I referred to the predecessor to this amendment. I thought that I had made it clear at the start of this debate that this is not an afterthought; it is drafted in the same terms as Amendment No. 93, which was withdrawn. It is simply changed with regard to the reference to the section. The amendment which my noble friend and I tabled, which was debated with that of the noble Baroness, was termed slightly differently. The only difference is the italicised words in brackets.
This is not a matter of palatability or redemption. It is a matter of completeness—the completeness of the argument which my noble friend and I made last week. It is not necessary or desirable for me to respond to the points of principle on the original amendment. I see this as consequential to an amendment which this House has agreed. To end tonight with a flourish, even if it will lead my colleagues into the jaws of defeat, I wish to test the opinion of the House.