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Grand Committee

Volume 830: debated on Wednesday 24 May 2023

Grand Committee

Wednesday 24 May 2023

Arrangement of Business


My Lords, I have to give the usual notice that if there is a Division in the Chamber, which seems unlikely, this Committee will adjourn immediately for 10 minutes.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill


Relevant documents: 24th and 31st Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee, 12th Report from the Constitution Committee

Amendment 481

Moved by

481: After Clause 214, insert the following new Clause—

“Local authorities: report of land contamination(1) Within 24 months of the passing of this Act, the Secretary of State must publish a review of the incidence of land contamination in the UK.(2) The review must—(a) publish the reports in subsection (3),(b) have regard to the reports in subsection (3),(c) identify the resources required to bring all land contamination in England to safe levels, and(d) identify any necessary legislative changes to bring all land contamination to safe levels.(3) Within 12 months of the passing of this Act, local authorities in England must report to the Secretary of State on the overall incidence of land contamination in their area, and the resources needed to bring this contamination to safe levels.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment would require the Secretary of State and Local Authorities to identify the level of contaminated land in England and the necessary resources to bring contamination to safe levels.

My Lords, in moving Amendment 481, I shall also speak briefly to Amendment 483, the other amendment in this group. It has not been introduced yet, so we can regard this as perhaps an amuse-bouche—a taster of what is to come—given that we are talking about growing food, as well as other things. Last week, I was at the Sheffield Festival of Debate, talking about just access to land. People were saying that what we should be doing in the House of Lords was speaking up for the right to grow food. I am looking forward to the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and others speaking to that amendment, which really sets out an important principle.

Amendment 481 is my second attempt to bring in what is generally known as Zane’s law, named after Zane Gbangbola. The Truth About Zane campaign is still working, with a wide range of support, to get on the record the truth about the seven year-old’s death in Chertsey in 2014, when floods swept hideously toxic hydrogen cyanide into the family home. That is not what the inquest verdict concluded in 2016, but the inequality of arms in legal representation in that inquest and the illogic of the verdict—given that Zane’s father, Kye, was at the same time left paralysed by hydrogen cyanide—means that it will surely have to go back. That very much highlights a broader issue, which is why I, the family and many others are campaigning for Zane’s law.

To go back in history to set out the legal background to this issue, in 1974 the Control of Pollution Act first took control over waste disposal. When that came into effect, many historical dumps were quietly closed and, essentially, forgotten about, except perhaps by people in the local community. EU regulations on waste and pollution came in through the Environmental Protection Act 1990, tightening up controls. In particular, Section 143 provided an obligation for local authorities to investigate their area and draw up public registers of land that may be contaminated. Section 31 of that Act also gave local authorities powers to inspect and close landfills and clean them up if necessary.

The fact is that lots of housing developments are and continue to be on old landfill sites. There were three consultations between 1991 and 1993, which eventually decided that Section 143 of the 1990 Act would not be implemented and all plans for public registers of contaminated sites were to be dropped. The explanation was that it was about the cost and desire not to place “new regulatory burdens” on the private sector. Limited powers were brought back in 1995, although they did not come into force until five years later, which meant that when developers found contamination problems, public authorities had to pay. But the situation further worsened in 2011. As part of the Cameron Government’s bonfire of red tape to reduce statutory burdens, the right of the enforcement authorities to use the law was further reduced. The emphasis was on voluntary clean-up by developers, with no real power to check that it had been done.

Amendment 481 attempts to return to the situation that we would have been in if Section 143 had been implemented. In discussion about this, a noble Lord asked me who was going to pay for this measure—the big question. Being in your Lordships’ House, where we are not allowed to allocate spending, I have not addressed that issue directly in this amendment. However, proposed new subsection (2)(c) would make it the law to

“identify the resources required to bring all land contamination in England to safe levels”.

I would therefore say in answer to that question that I am going as far as I can.

The last time I brought Zane’s law before your Lordships’ House was during a debate on the Building Safety Bill in this very Room. The Labour Front Bench, albeit different from today, expressed some interest and support for the amendment—as did the Lib Dem Front Bench—but asked, “Is this really a problem?” Of course, we have the tragic death of Zane to point to and we are in a climate emergency situation, seeing increasing levels of flooding, increasing temperatures and erosion around the sea where there have often been landfill sites at sea level. These are increasing problems.

I will give the Committee some practical examples—just three cases that have been highlighted in the media in recent weeks. First, near Cedar Avenue in Coseley, Dudley, there are plans to build 72 homes on a former landfill site that was once home to hundreds of tonnes of toxic waste. It was an old open-cut coal mine that became a fishing site and then, in the 1970s, became a landfill site. Some of the things that locals recall being dumped there were fruit machines, vegetable and medical waste and up to 220 tonnes of toxic metal compounds, including industrial waste products such as mercury, arsenic, cyanide and asbestos, all of which, as I do not need to tell the Committee, are seriously concerning. There are plans to put 72 affordable homes on that site, which are currently on hold because of local controversy, as far as I am able to establish.

Secondly, in the village of Somercotes in Derbyshire there are plans to develop hundreds of homes on a patch of land dubbed the most contaminated site in England. It is supposed to include particularly highly toxic dioxins, which have been illegally dumped there in the past. My third case study is the 263-home Coppenhall Place development in Crewe, Cheshire, where it is feared that the homes have been built on a contaminated site.

We have a very clear issue here, and an approaching issue with the Government talking about building hundreds of thousands of new homes and the rightful desire to put them on brownfield sites. The first thing we have to know is what is on those brownfield sites and whether they are suitable for housing, in view of the potential contamination problems. That is what this amendment would do. It is not particularly new or creative; it simply seeks to bring in something that decades ago was thought necessary and is clearly even more necessary now.

I will keep pushing this. I would love to think that the Minister will leap up and say, “Yes, you’re absolutely right”, but I ask the Government at least to look at this issue, because there is a problem here that clearly affects many people and presents an enormous risk to their lives. Surely, a basic duty of the Government is to ensure the security of people in their own homes, which, quite frankly, they are unable to do now because they are not empowering, directing and resourcing local authorities to ensure that they know what is in their land. I beg to move.

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 483, which is in my name and those of the noble Baronesses, Lady Scott of Needham Market and Lady Young of Old Scone, and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness. I am very glad that this group of amendments has been reached today, because otherwise we would not have had the noble Earl with us. That is great.

It is a real bonus. This is an incredibly simple amendment. It does not demand money, it demands very little to be done and it would bring an enormous number of benefits. As the amendment says, we are asking councils across the country to publish lists of where there is vacant land within their area that could be suitable for food growing or other kinds of growing. Take a group such as Incredible Edible Todmorden; it has grown both vegetables as well as flowers. It cheers up a neighbourhood but does a great deal more.

This first important thing to say is that we are not asking for allotments. Allotments are completely impossible, as anyone who has ever been involved in any campaign to get rid of an allotment will know. Allotments are there in perpetuity, as it should be, and they cover large areas, and the queues for them are huge. I have a couple of examples: the queue in Camden is 12 years, and in Southampton it is 20 years. More allotments are not going to be created—they need to be on land in the middle of town, which will therefore be seen as prime for building houses—but we can get community growing spaces.

In the belief that any good idea is best told in stories, I will tell your Lordships a few stories. In 2008 I went to work for the then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson—he later became Prime Minister, but that is another matter—as chair of the London Food Board. Not long after I got there, I was approached by a very eager group, which said: “We’ve seen something that was done in Vancouver before the Olympics, where they created edible community gardens. We want to do 2,012 gardens in London by 2012”. “Uh oh”, I thought, “How is that going to happen?” But I thought it was a good project—and, I have to say, so did the mayor.

We undertook the project and in the autumn of 2008 we opened the first garden at the Thrive garden in Battersea. It is a vegetable garden that is primarily used for people who have mental health issues—their doctors prescribe a session at Thrive for them. It is still going. There are many Thrive gardens, and it is extraordinarily important in what it does for people having a traumatic and difficult time.

However, things were very slow. We got hardly any gardens, and we could not figure it out. Councils and hospitals were reluctant; there was space, but what could we do? Then a man from the water board said, “What you need is a meanwhile lease”. That is a very simple thing: it says that you can be there for a few years but can be thrown out. That changed everything. Overnight, it flipped this project from being, quite frankly, hopeless to suddenly being a runner. We would assemble leaders of councils for breakfast, and I would collar them and say, “I want you to do 60 sites”. We would go to the housing associations and ask them to do 10 or 15 sites. Bit by bit, over years 2 and 3, we suddenly started to have this explosion of gardens.

Today, we have 2,500 gardens. We opened the 2,012th at St Charles Hospital in the north of Ladbroke Grove in the winter of 2012—it is a fantastic garden and is still going. I remember some of the objections. Most of these gardens did not have fences and it was said that people would steal from them. Weirdly, no one ever stole. In fact, we opened a garden outside City Hall, by Tower Bridge. We got the patch of land, and someone called the Phantom Guerrilla Gardener would come by and plant extra plants—it was all very mysterious but wonderful.

We had a garden in King’s Cross, which, following on from what the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, said, was on contaminated land. Some genius came up with the idea that we could have a garden in a skip, and furthermore that the skip could move. We had three skips on one of those sites just behind the station—sites which are now unrecognisably beautiful and modern. We had three gardens, which you climbed up to; they were used by schools on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Then the building developers wanted the site back, so they picked up the skips and moved them to another site, with the gardens. We did that three times before it was finally filled in.

We had gardens that were in the middle of tower blocks. When the designers in the 1950s put up those pretty terrifying concrete blocks, they left areas in the middle. We saw photographs of people walking, pushing children in their prams and walking dogs, but nowadays they are completely terrifying, because they are full of old needles and dog poo, rather than nice dogs on leads. People did not want to come down from the tower blocks and go there. But put a garden in, and something magical happens. People became protective of it and felt they could come downstairs and join in.

Every garden developed differently, with different people leading them, people deciding to have weddings or barbecues in them, and schoolchildren getting involved and selling things. We had several gardens that helped supply herbs to Indian restaurants. There were a million different outcomes, and it cost very little money. We even had lots of wonderful deals with local builders, who would give us cracked scaffolding planks; they were unsafe for scaffolding but brilliant for raised beds. We also had gardens on rooftops and in a Tube station. A brilliant teacher in Brixton started a garden in which the school got involved; it became so intrinsic to what they did and how they ate that they extended out into the community—every Friday, old-age pensioners would come and have a free lunch and sit in the garden.

There were extraordinary benefits, which came from different places. For instance, the police said that a garden in the middle of an area with many high-rises was one of the best community watch places. I have seen people leaning off the 16th floor, shouting at someone attempting to molest the garden, “Oi! Get off it—it’s ours”.

A survey commissioned by City, University of London said that the best route back to work for the unemployed was community gardening: you must have patience and fortitude for growing and you have to talk to people —everything magical that you could do. We also found that it helped marginalised children: we had another brilliant school, where there were 37 languages, and they were being taught that if 12 beans create six rows, how do you work that out.

It is extremely difficult to find any downsides to this project when it gets going. There are downsides when people cannot find anywhere to grow, and the appetite is huge. We had 200 acres of London under cultivation by the end of it; we are sequestering 4,529 kilos of carbon; we are growing over 40 tonnes of food, which is valued at over £300,000; and there is a fabulously efficient little website, which I tried to turn into a national project before the COP—so far, I have failed, but watch this space.

The point is that this is an easy amendment that would not cost anyone anything and would bring an extraordinary benefit. I see no reason why the Government —especially a Conservative Government who, at the end of the day, like things to do with communities and plants and growing—should not welcome it with open arms.

My Lords, I support Amendment 483, to which I have put my name. I will not repeat that excellent introduction by the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, but simply commend the amendment on the basis that it is probably truer to the title of the Bill and to levelling up—which we have drifted rather away from in many of the recent amendments—than many others. It is about healthy food, environmental improvement and well-being. For me, it is mostly about allowing communities to express self-agency and be the driving force in achieving those benefits.

I pay tribute to Incredible Edible, a group that the noble Baroness mentioned, which is a force of nature. If noble Lords want to see some really uplifting stories about what communities can do, they should go on its website. The point it makes on a regular basis is that, often, the land we are talking about is already in taxpayer ownership—owned by public authorities—but temporarily not doing very much and could be brought into use for a number of months or years, until its permanent use has been agreed and taken forward.

The noble Baroness was very uplifting with her stories of success, but I am a miserable soul. I will tell the Committee why this needs to be in law, rather than simply in admonition. I was involved very tangentially in an attempt to get a community growing scheme going in one of our major cities. It was led by a celebrity gardener, working with a group of local residents. It was exactly that: an acre or two for a shorter or longer period—however long it could be released—for a community in a particularly disadvantaged area to grow their own food and encourage young people to get involved. It was hugely flexible, and we did not much care where or how long for, provided that they could get started.

There were terrific words of support from the top end of the local authority but, three years later, they still had no land, so they gave up. Every plot that was identified had some reason or other why it could not be used. The lawyers got in the way and there were always health and safety and insurance issues, which became a morass that they could not get out of. However, it is great to hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, that there are lots of good examples, including from Incredible Edible.

This amendment would do a couple of things. First, it asks the local authority to do something very simple: to list the bits of land available on a transient basis that could be used for community cultivation, or even just for simple environmental improvement. Secondly, it could be underpinned by what the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, called a “meanwhile lease”—something like a certificate of lawful use, a simple agreement between the local authority and the community gardeners that is standard across the country, has already been crawled over once by the lawyers and therefore does not need to be crawled over on every occasion and avoids the expense and slowing-down effect of lawyers being involved on both sides and every agreement having to be negotiated afresh. I hope that the Government will have a rush of blood to the head in this run-up to the bank holiday and support this amendment.

My Lords, as we enter this record-breaking 15th day in Committee on a Bill, I pay huge tribute to my noble friends on the Front Bench and noble Lords on the Opposition Front Bench for their considerable patience, humour and endurance.

The sadness of this levelling-up Bill, which has not ground us down, is that there has been absolutely no give from the Government. I am not as hopeful as the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for this amendment, because I fear that the top right-hand corner of the Minister’s brief will say, “Reject”. If I may say so, that has not helped the process of this Bill. Perhaps a message could be sent back to the department that, if one wants to get the Bill through this House, there could be a little more understanding that a lot of the amendments, whether from the Opposition or our side, are there to constructively help the Bill, not destroy it. Because we do not divide in Committee, we will have to go through the whole process in a few weeks’ time on Report, which will be longer and more agonising than it might necessarily have been.

I come at this from a different perspective from the noble Baroness, who made an interesting speech from her own experience. When I came here, I was told that you speak on your honour and experience and vote on your conscience. It is wonderful that we have someone like the noble Baroness, with her experience, but I come at this from the point of view of having served on the Food, Poverty, Health and Environment Committee of your Lordships’ House. The devastating evidence that we received on food made me reassess what the priorities ought to be. Food in this country will probably kill you more quickly than any disease. We eat an enormous amount of processed food—it is 57% of our diet. Some 80% of the processed food that we eat in this country is not fit to be fed to children. It is not good for us, which is why 60% of us are obese and the number is growing. It is one of the unsung scandals that will one day hit the headlines in a major way. Hopefully, we can take some action before that happens. The cost is astronomical. It is estimated that the bad food that we eat contributes to losses of about £74 billion a year to the British economy.

That is the angle that I come at this from, so let us do anything we can to help to grow and produce our own vegetables freshly. It must be devastatingly sad for farmers to grow top-quality food—because our standards are so high—only to have it macerated into virtual poison and sold in supermarkets. What a waste of time and effort, from their point of view.

I also come at this from the health and recreation angle, picking up the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I do not have my own kitchen garden, but I dig my daughter’s. I have been fascinated by doing that with my grandson because, over the last three years, I have noticed a considerable change: this year, he was fascinated by the difference in the sizes of the seeds of the peas, the salads and the courgettes. He kept asking why each one was different and why they were not all the same. He has now taken charge of his vegetables in the garden. His willingness to eat green vegetables has gone up in proportion to his interest in the garden, because they are his vegetables and they are now on his plate. He has seen them grow—he helped me to plant them and will help me to pick them this autumn.

When I was doing this with him a couple of weekends ago, I thought that this amendment absolutely encapsulates that. I gave your Lordships just one instance, but, if this were done on a much bigger scale, not only would there be recreational and mental health benefits from being outside and digging the garden but the young would be educated. My grandson and I now have a competition about who is the first to see the robin once we start digging, because, sure enough, one will appear on a fence-post, looking for what we have turned over in the hope of getting a free meal. If this can be done for those who have never had the experience of handling food in its natural state, the benefits could be amazing.

Going back to what the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, said about the gardens that she helped to create in London, I multiply my experience of this and think, “Yes, we can do something”. That is why I hope that the Government will take on board that this is something where local authorities can give a real benefit. It is not allotments; it has to be on a different scale from that. We have heard about the problem with allotments and how long the waiting lists are, so a different tack has to be taken to try to get the local authorities to move, because the end benefits are so worth while.

I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, that we on these Benches have supported her in the past and will continue to do so. I should reveal that it was me who quietly raised the issue of resources with her just before we began. I note that the amendment mentions identifying

“resources required to bring all land contamination in England to safe levels”.

I say to her and the Committee that that will be a challenging task. She rightly pointed out that, in your Lordships’ House, we are not allowed to discuss those matters, but I hope that someone will take this on board, whether through this amendment or through anything else, because it is a big issue.

This is a helpful reminder to us that, if we recognise that huge problems are caused by land that was previously contaminated, we have to make sure that we are not continuing to create problems for the future with the contamination of land now. Separately, I have been looking into the issue of lithium-ion batteries and the way we are currently disposing of them, which I do not believe we have yet addressed. There are all sorts of problems. People have been killed by lithium-ion batteries exploding, but increasingly they are being dumped, not least in single-use vapes, which, sadly, many young children are now using. They are thrown away in landfill sites and cause all sorts of problems. It is worth checking what lithium can do: lithium toxicity can lead to cancer, brain damage and even death, so we are currently creating toxicity in our landfill sites that we need to address. This is a reminder to do that.

I turn briefly to the important Amendment 483, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and signed by, among others, my noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market, who regrets that she is unable to be with us today. As we know, restoring a sense of community is one of the levelling-up missions. There is no question whatever but that a project such as this, which would get communities to come together for the benefit of the environment in their local area, is something that everybody can get behind and would help to fulfil that particular mission.

Community cultivation—the idea that people can get together and grow food in their area—has, as we have heard, a vast range of benefits: supporting local food producers and markets, improving health and well-being, reducing costs to the NHS and making non-processed food readily available, especially during the cost of living crisis. We know, as we have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, that there is huge demand for it in some areas, with people waiting for years to get access, for instance, to allotments, particularly when many allotments are, sadly, closing.

The amendment seems a straightforward approach that we could adopt. I gently say to the Minister that we already have a vehicle whereby we might be able to achieve this, because the Localism Act 2011, championed by my noble friend Lord Stunell, who preceded me as a Minister in DCLG, provides a model that we could use, particularly with the sections of that Act about assets of community value, especially land of community value, with the accompanying rights to bid, and even asset transfers from local authorities to local community groups. There is a way of doing this. It is a brilliantly good idea that is simple and straightforward. I hope that it will get the Government’s support.

My Lords, we appreciate all the reasons powerfully set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, in her proposal in Amendment 481 to instigate a nationwide assessment of land contamination and put in place steps to mitigate that contamination. The push to use brownfield sites for development, which the noble Baroness referred to, is another key reason why this is becoming even more of an issue. As the noble Lord, Lord Foster, said, there are some practicalities around the resources that would be needed for such a survey, while mitigation might be even more challenging.

As the noble Baroness said, at present land contamination is usually determined at, although sometimes before, the planning stage. The developer is then charged, albeit voluntarily, with ensuring that contamination is cleared before the development can go ahead—except, of course, in Teesside, where the public seem to pick up the tab.

There is a case to be made for employing a polluter pays principle, which might be successful where contamination of the land is relatively recent, but that will not always be the case, so some further thought needs to be given to this. If we are going to carry on using more brownfield sites, we will have more occasions when we need to work out how this will be done. Further consideration is certainly needed for that amendment.

The amendment in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Boycott and Lady Scott, my noble friend Lady Young and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, builds on a truly uplifting initiative that we have seen in many areas recently, where councils designate areas of public land that can be used for community cultivation. I was pleased to hear the fantastic examples from the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott.

In my area, we have some beautiful community orchards, funded through local council budgets, but very much at the instigation of the public and with their support for the ongoing maintenance and cultivation. It was just wonderful to hear a conversation in the orchard in my ward between two gentlemen who had harvested the quince tree—we do not have a lot of quinces in Stevenage but we have a quince tree in my orchard. They had found recipes for quince jelly and were standing there comparing notes about the variable qualities of their quince jelly, which was wonderful to hear. It has also been a real pleasure to see local groups taking on the cultivation and management of small parcels of land to improve the street scene in their own area. In some cases, these are designated as pocket parks; in others, they are operated under the licence to cultivate regulations.

The provisions set out in this amendment are proportionate and sensible in requiring a determination by the local authority of what is meant by community cultivation, how it is to be designated and nominated, the setting of clear parameters around the timescales for which land may be made available—I like the idea of a meanwhile lease on these areas—and the publication of lists of such land. We believe that a provision for community cultivation in this way would build on the initiatives already developing in our communities, provide a welcome but very different element to the ever-popular allotment movement—most areas have long waiting lists, as we have heard—and give residents a real stake in managing and cultivating their local area. In some cases, it would provide a way of growing much-needed fresh fruit and vegetables for the community. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, referred to the quality of food. These projects of course have a double benefit, which was outlined by the noble Earl in reference to his grandson, because people learn about food as they grow it and then also have fresh food to eat.

With all the objectives of this amendment—healthy food, the environment, well-being, community engagement and meanwhile leases of land not currently being used —I cannot see any reason why it could not be accepted by the Government. I hope that it will be.

My Lords, in response to Amendment 481 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, of course this Government support lessening the risks from contaminated land. Indeed, I well remember our debates on Zane’s law throughout the passage of the Environment Bill and the noble Baroness’s passion for this subject.

Under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, local authorities already have a duty to inspect their areas “from time to time” to identify and require the remediation of any land prior to any housebuilding. Current statutory guidance states that a local authority’s approach to inspection should “reflect local circumstances”. This enables a flexible approach to providing value for money and to protecting the environment and human health. There is also a duty for the Environment Agency to report on the state of contaminated land “from time to time’, or

“if the Secretary of State at any time so requests”.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Bennett and Lady Taylor, and the noble Lord, Lord Foster, expressed concerns about resources. The 2012 contaminated land statutory guidance outlines the polluter pays principle, enabling, where possible, costs of remediating pollution to be borne by the polluter. Under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the Environment Agency may inspect on behalf of a local authority if a local authority identifies contaminated land that it considers will meet one or more criteria for special site designation, as set out in the Contaminated Land (England) Regulations 2006. If the land is determined as a special site, the Environment Agency will become the enforcing authority and responsible for requiring appropriate remediation to the site.

If no polluter can be found and the site is not designated as a special site, the local authority must investigate and require appropriate remediation of the site. The Government recognise that the costs of remediation, including landfill tax, can be a financial barrier for local authorities seeking the remediation of contaminated land. Defra is currently developing a grant scheme to help local authorities to cover the cost of landfill tax in land remediation projects. In 2023, Defra will publish a revised Construction Code of Practice for the Sustainable Use of Soils on Construction Sites, which will empower and inform industry to protect its sites’ soil health, prevent contamination and mitigate soil being deposited in landfill. I hope that that provides a modicum of reassurance.

May I finish? Not all land contamination may be able to be remediated, for a variety of reasons. A risk-based approach is used to define contaminated land, where regulators are required to intervene in cases where land poses an unacceptable risk.

The cleaning up of contaminated land ensures that brownfield sites are safe for their intended use, such as housebuilding. Land contamination has been successfully addressed in many cases through the planning system. In the majority of cases the risk is likely to be very low and the value of the land may not be high enough for remediation to be economically viable.

I thank the Minister for giving way. She identified cases where there is an application for building permission and a case where something is drawn to the attention of the Environment Agency. The problem is that we know that there are many hundreds of sites out there that present a risk to the local community and perhaps to houses built on it. Unless there is a survey to identify the problem, the first time we will know that there is one will be in tragic cases such as Zane’s.

Much of that may be down to limited resources. The grant scheme Defra is putting in place should help ameliorate that by enabling local authorities to take more proactive action if they realise their costs might be covered by the grant scheme.

On Amendment 483, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, the Government agree that community assets play a vital role in creating thriving neighbourhoods. These are places where we meet, connect and spend time with our neighbours.

The Localism Act 2011 already enables communities and parish or community councils with the right to register a building or a piece of land as an asset of community value if the asset’s principal use furthers their community’s social well-being or social interests and is likely to do so in future. I was pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Foster, refer to this. The assets of community value process also provides communities with the opportunity to raise finance and bid to buy a local asset of community value. This could include land for cultivation. Local communities should determine which spaces and places are most important to them.

I agree that meanwhile leases sound interesting. I certainly had not heard of them before. I should like to discuss them with the officials in Defra, whom I am afraid could not be here to respond today.

I hope this provides sufficient reassurance, and that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, will feel able to withdraw her amendment and the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, will not press hers.

My Lords, I thank everyone who contributed to this debate, which was fairly brief on my side but extremely rich on the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott. The case was overwhelmingly and passionately made on that amendment.

On my amendment, I thank in particular the two Front-Benchers for acknowledging in different ways that there is an issue that needs to be addressed. I hope that is something both parties will consider taking forward when they think about their manifestos for the election that we know is not too far away.

I am afraid the Minister might find that I will come back on the same issue on the next available Bill, because I do not want another child to die like Zane did. I think that the Government have a responsibility. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 481 withdrawn.

Amendments 482 to 484 not moved.

Amendment 485

Moved by

485: After Clause 214, insert the following new Clause—

“Removal of prohibition on local authority from making grants to churches etc.In section 8(1)(i) of the Local Government Act 1894 (works to church property), omit “, not being property relating to affairs of the church or held for an ecclesiastical charity”.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would remove the prohibition concerning churches and ecclesiastical charities in section 8(1)(i) of the Local Government Act 1894 and would ensure that local authorities’ spending power under section 8(1)(k) could be used to make grants to places of worship.

My Lords, I am pleased to speak to my Amendments 485, 505, 510 and 512. I thank the Government for making time so soon after the conclusion of the debate on Monday. I declare my interests as a board member of the Church Commissioners, as set out in the register, and as the Church of England’s lead bishop for church buildings. Noble Lords will also recall the debate on Amendment 163, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, which took place earlier in Committee on 15 March.

I tabled these four amendments to clarify the issue of local authority funding responsibilities for all Christian churches, including parish churches. The Bill affords the opportunity to bring much-needed clarity to this issue and resolve a long-standing problem. I am delighted to say that these amendments have received strong cross-party support, and I am particularly grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Best, and the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, for acting as sponsors. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, is unable to be in her place today, but I am assured of her continued support for these amendments.

I am pleased to say that these amendments also have the backing of the Church in Wales, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and the Methodist Church, among others. The National Association of Local Councils and the Society of Local Council Clerks are supportive, as are many in the heritage sector. Last June, I had the pleasure of meeting the right honourable Robert Jenrick MP, who, as a former Secretary of State for Communities, made clear his personal support prior to returning to government in a different role.

Parish churches are vital to the flourishing of their local communities. The Warm Welcome campaign, for instance, saw millions benefit from spaces for relationships, community building and practical support over the last hard winter period. Clarifying the current confusion in law would help local churches continue to play such an important role in their areas.

In many parts of the country, churches are the only community buildings open and available to all. The National Churches Trust’s House of Good report, published in 2021-22, estimated the social and economic contribution of UK Church buildings across all generations to be £55 billion, using the Treasury’s own calculations. It found that investing £l in a Church project returned £16 of community benefit—not a bad return on investment.

My amendments would remove the prohibition on parish councils funding places of worship in the Local Government Act 1894, which conflicts with the Local Government Act 1972 and the Localism Act 2011. This causes local councils to be reluctant to grant aid to places of worship, for fear of legal challenge. To reassure the Committee, the Localism Act enables all faith communities to apply for grant funding.

Specifically, my Amendment 485 would insert a new clause to remove the prohibition concerning churches and ecclesiastical charities in Section 8(1)(i) of the Local Government Act 1894. It would ensure that local authorities’ spending power under Section 8(1)(k) could be used to make grants to places of worship. Consequently, Amendment 505 would provide for this new clause to extend to England and Wales. Amendment 510 would provide for the new clause to come into force two months after the Bill receives Royal Assent, and Amendment 512 would amend the Bill’s Long Title to include reference to the new clause’s subject matter.

I turn to the Minister’s letter to all Peers of 27 January 2023. She will be aware that I wrote to her in response on 21 February and thanked her for her reply, but I feel that a few clarifications need to be put on the record for the Committee. The Minister mentioned in her letter that the current set of laws applies solely to Church of England parishes. However, it is worth noting that the scope of Church buildings impacted extends beyond those in the Church of England. Indeed, evidence collected by the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance shows that the ban on local council funding is also being applied to other Christian denominations. The Minister also said in her letter that there is limited evidence that this is an issue. I urge her to consider the case studies that the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance sent to her on 15 February and the lengthy correspondence that her department has had on this matter with the Church of England over many years.

Finally, the Minister mentioned in her letter to Peers that only the courts are empowered to give an authoritative interpretation of the law. I am sure she will accept that the cost of bringing a legal case will be prohibitive to a parish. In contrast, the minor change these amendments seek to make would resolve the question of interpretation simply and effectively, without the necessity for such action.

Meanwhile, church buildings continue to lose out on an important funding opportunity, with negative consequences for our national heritage and for the communities they serve. Those who give their time and resources to support their parish are too often unsung heroes who should be thanked for their continued generosity. These are important community buildings, over 12,000 of which are of particular historic interest. I stress that this proposal would place no new funding obligation on local authorities; my amendments would not entail any additional cost or demand on them or on His Majesty’s Government.

In closing, I thank the parish councils team in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, who have been in touch with officials at the Church of England’s National Church Institutions to indicate that the Government are exploring their options following the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance consultation. I hope the Minister will be able to be more forthcoming with details.

I very much look forward to hearing the contributions of other noble Lords on these amendments. I beg to move.

My Lords, I support the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol. I will speak to Amendments 485, 505, 510 and 512 in her name and mine, and those of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews. I declare one or two interests that have not been relevant before: until last year I was a Church Commissioner, and my wife is a member of our local parochial church council.

The amendments would clarify a grey area of the law and ensure that local parish and town councils can make grants, if they wish, to projects that involve ecclesiastical buildings. At last, we have an amendment that costs the Government nothing, does not require anyone to do anything they do not want to do, helps build and sustain local communities, chimes with the principles of devolved decision-making, involves no political controversy and deprives lawyers of undeserved fees for pointless legal cases.

The amendment addresses the situation facing a local council that wishes to support a local initiative by an ecclesiastical charity. Making grants to such bodies toward building works of any kind was prohibited by Section 8 of the Local Government Act 1894. It is believed that the Government intended to remove this barrier to local grant-making through Section 215 of the Local Government Act 1972, but doubts remained as to whether the 1972 Act achieved this intention.

On behalf of its 10,000-member local councils, the National Association of Local Councils obtained legal advice which it has been obliged to share. The advice was, unfortunately, that the 1894 Act still stands because it is a specific prohibition, despite the intentions of the 1972 Act, which addresses generalities. There is no point anyone blaming the messenger; the fact is that the legal position appears to be clear: parish and local councils cannot give grants toward works by ecclesiastical charities.

As a result of this interpretation of the legal position, some church bodies, of different denominations, have had grant applications rejected by local councils and many more are put off making applications, even though those councils may be keen to help. Often, the applications have been for small but locally significant initiatives. Typical examples collected by the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance of church-based projects where support was refused include the funding of a disabled toilet in a church hall not used as a place of worship but by a range of secular groups. Support could also not be offered for a nonconformist hall creating a meeting place for Guides and Scouts.

Many local church organisations have converted church buildings into centres for community activity—for classes, a café, food banks, youth clubs, et cetera—often while retaining use of the building as a place of worship. Similarly, ecclesiastical charities have modified their church halls for the benefit of local people. Grants for the retention of what is often a landmark building, frequently in the centre of town, for a renewed or extended purpose, give new life to places that have served local communities for sometimes hundreds of years. The alternative of demolishing a redundant church building not only loses this opportunity for the benefit of the locality but takes away a visual asset that can enhance a sense of place and belonging.

It has been suggested that local councils should take cases to the courts, as the right reverend Prelate has mentioned, to test the legal position. If it then becomes clear that no such grants can be made, new facilitating legislation could be introduced. However, this forgoes the opportunity to act now through the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill. There might be a very long wait before another legislative opportunity arises. Anyway, it seems unfair that Parliament should pass the buck to the courts to decide this matter instead of expressing its will clearly and definitively. Moreover, going to law is a costly business and should clearly be avoided if at all possible.

The wording of these four amendments may well be imperfect; I am sure the right reverend Prelate and all of us supporting them would be more than happy with a government amendment that achieves the same outcome more elegantly. There are only winners here. I look forward very much to the Minister’s response.

My Lords, I am delighted to follow the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Best. I agree with everything they said. I begin with an apology to the Committee; I have not played the part in debates on this Bill that I would like to have done because I have been caring for a wife recovering from an operation and have not been able to be present late into the night. I am grateful that things came to a halt in the Chamber on Monday, which enabled us to be here today.

I declare an interest in that I have been a church warden of three churches for a total of 36 years, in each of which I had to be in charge of or strongly supporting an appeal. I remember being church warden in the early 1970s in the village of Brewood in Staffordshire, when we suddenly discovered dry rot. We had to raise some £40,000 very quickly, and we did it. When I was church warden at St Margaret’s, Westminster, we had to raise £1 million in the early 1980s, and we did it. At Enville, in Staffordshire, where I was warden for some 16 years, we had to raise something like £250,000, and we did it—but with great difficulty. As one who has been a trustee and then a vice-president of the National Churches Trust for well over 40 years, president of the Staffordshire Historic Churches Trust for some 20 years, and vice-president of the Lincolnshire Churches Trust for a very long time, I speak with a little knowledge and great feeling.

I want to share a specific example with your Lordships. The benefit from clarifying the law, because the best you can argue is that it is ambiguous, would be enormous in a rural county such as Lincolnshire, which has hundreds of churches—almost as many as in Norfolk. Many of them are grade 1 listed and of enormous historic importance. Many of them have enormous social importance as well. Next week, I am due to go to see a church I know quite well in the village of Revesby, from where Sir Joseph Banks, one of the greatest sons of Lincolnshire, came. It is not the church that he knew—it was replaced in Victorian times—but the village is a conservation area of great beauty and the church is the one big building where people can gather together. In parish after parish in Lincolnshire, that is the case. As president of the Tennyson Society, I know and love the wonderful churches in Tennyson country: Somersby, Bag Enderby, Harrington. Again, in each of those places, the church, although not large, is the one public building. Everyone uses it for one purpose or another.

The great thing about these amendments is that they would not oblige anyone to do anything but would enable local people—because very often the parochial church council and the parish council are very similar in composition—to help the building that, in most cases, is dearest to their hearts. So I make a real appeal to my noble friend the Minister. The noble Lord, Lord Best, put it so beautifully: it costs nothing; it avoids protracted legal wrangling and filling the pockets of lawyers. They are just enabling amendments to allow local people to help the building that, in many cases, means most to them.

I speak as one who is of the Church of England, of course, but I am very glad that the Catholic bishops have signed up to this, and the Methodists and others, because sometimes it is a Methodist or Roman Catholic hall or church in a suburb or a small urban area that is vital to youth groups or kindergartens. I was passing a church hall in London only the other day that is home to a kindergarten.

All I say to my noble friend is that there are very few things that we debate in your Lordships’ House that would put no cost on government. This is something that enables. I beg my noble friend to accept the spirit of these amendments so that, on Report, we could have something that we can all support, ideally in the Minister’s name.

My Lords, I support the amendments in this group. We had a clear and compelling case put to us by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol. I thank her very much for that. She was very ably supported by the noble Lord, Lord Best, who emphasised what, to me, is the really significant part of the value that would come from the passage of these amendments.

Clearly, the heritage angle, which is one that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, dwelt on effectively, is important. However, in the context of the levelling-up Bill, I say to Ministers that the social and community impact of investment by parish councils in their local facilities is a key part of ensuring that we have some levelling up. Perhaps principally in rural and suburban areas, but throughout the country, it is absolutely normal—I would say commonplace—for church buildings and buildings for those of other faiths to be used by the local community for a wide range of community functions, such as recreational functions, learning and educational functions, and food banks, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Best. I should perhaps have said by way of introduction that I am a member of the Methodist Church. Quite close to me is a Baptist church, and a significant part of its building is used as a very busy food bank; that is by no means an unusual situation.

The Minister’s letter expressed the view that this was a small issue which affected only quite a specific, niche situation. I put it to her that there are thousands of buildings which at the moment are excluded from help by parish councils and which perform valuable community functions, and where that exclusion is pointless and disabling for the development of those facilities and that community. I hope that her approach to this is gradually changing. I hope that her most recent letter gives a little glimmer of hope that perhaps she recognises the force of the arguments being deployed today, which were set out so clearly by the right reverend Prelate.

I very much hope that the Minister will offer a commitment to re-examine this before we get to Report, and, if she is able, to persuade her ministerial colleagues to table an amendment on Report that we can all enthusiastically endorse. If not, and if the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol is minded to do so, I will certainly support her in an amendment of her own on Report.

My Lords, I have made only one intervention in Committee, which was on my pet subject: leasehold. I will not do that today. First, I will get on the record a number of interests. I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association, the chair of a housing association in Kent, and a director of MHS Homes, as set out in the register.

I offer my full support to the right reverend Prelate in her amendments. This is one of these debates where all sides of the Committee are happy to come together. They can see the sense of the amendments and, as the noble Lord pointed out, they are easy amendments for the government to agree. There is no cost to the Government and they are passive—no one has to do anything at all. However, the amendments would allow people to do something if they want, which is the good thing about them.

I hope that, as the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, said, we will get a positive response from the Minister—at least a commitment to meet people, go back and talk to officials, and bring back a government amendment that deals with this issue and provides for clarity. That is what these amendments are all about: providing clarity on an unclear issue. I know that the Government would want to ensure that things are clear.

I should say that I was brought up a Catholic. I grew up in Elephant and Castle in south London. I would probably describe myself as a lapsed Catholic, but I was brought up as a Catholic and come from a large, Irish Catholic family. My two younger brothers and my sister regularly attended the youth club at St Paul’s, in Lorrimore Square, run by the Reverend Shaw—a wonderful man who retired a few years ago. He set up the youth club and a mental health drop-in centre. When he retired, I had become a local councillor. We went to his retirement do and you could not move in the place. There was a complete cross-section of the community—people of different faiths and of no faith. Everyone there knew what this man had done in that parish church in the Walworth area of south London. He had done everything. If you were a young person growing up in that part of south London, there was not really much else to do. This parish church had become the centre of the community. Why can it not be that if a local authority wants to support such a place, they can do so? It seems ridiculous that they cannot.

As we have said, this is about having clarity about what councils can and cannot do if they want to support different things. My experience as a councillor was many years ago, but I am conscious of the work that churches do now, as the right reverend Prelate set out herself. People in many different situations are going through difficult times and churches host different groups and organisations—people can go in just to have a cup of tea and be warm. Such places are really important in communities and, sometimes, all that is now there is the local parish church and the church hall.

I really hope that the Minister is convinced by what she has heard today. There have been many good arguments made around the Room. As the noble Lord, Lord Best, said, these amendments on their own would not do anything at all, but they would enable things to be done. I hope the noble Baroness will support them. I will leave it there.

My Lords, first, I thank the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Bristol, my noble friend Lord Cormack and the noble Lords, Lord Best and Lord Scriven, for raising these amendments. They highlight the confusion around the prohibition in the Local Government Act 1894 and therefore attempt to clarify the basis on which local authorities are able to provide support to churches and other places of worship.

Amendments 485, 505, 510 and 512 aim to do this by removing some of the wording from that Act. Amendment 504GJJ, which has been withdrawn from the Marshalled List, would have aimed to do that by providing that the powers in the 1894 Act could be used to provide support to places of worship to ensure that, where they are used to offer support and services that are of benefit to the wider community, the facilities could be maintained and operated safely and effectively by, for example, helping meet the costs of maintenance and repairs. However, the Government do not consider that these amendments would be effective in achieving these aims.

The intention of the Local Government Act 1894 was to provide a clear separation between the newly created civil parishes and what are now parochial church councils. However, the Government do not consider that it includes any general or specific provision that prohibits parish councils from funding the maintenance and upkeep of churches and other religious buildings. Parish councils have other powers that enable their contribution towards the upkeep of these buildings, if it were deemed to be within their local communities’ interest to do so. However, I understand the confusion and I thank the noble Lords who have raised these amendments. We have heard their concerns that the law may be ambiguous, and I know this is of great concern to parishes and noble Lords. I can assure them that we in the department are considering this issue carefully and will reflect on the comments made during this debate.

Yes, it was promising. It is good that the department will look at this matter, but I hope that, as part of that reflection on the matter, the department will get the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol in and speak to her and other people. It is one thing that we are all saying that it is fine, but if the department gets legal advice that it is not fine, no one will do anything, will they? That is the basic problem we have here: there is legal advice saying this is not fine. Then people will be nervous, saying “If I do this, I will be going beyond my powers”. That will cause all sorts of problems. If there is ambiguity here but all of us agree that what has been suggested is a good thing, I really do not understand why we cannot clear up the ambiguity. I hope that we can address that. If we all agree that it is good, then let us make it absolutely crystal clear and not leave it so that we have problems with legal opinions that are different from what the Government are saying.

I am pretty sure the noble Lord opposite knows that I will not say anything further today, apart from the fact that we have had many talks with the National Association of Local Councils and interested churches, and we will continue to do so as we move to Report.

My Lords, I thank the Minister and my fellow sponsors for a useful and effective debate. I thank them for their support in clarifying the law. Rather naughtily, I wonder, if there is not yet enough commitment for the Government to bring their own proposals, whether the Government might fund the legal case that might otherwise be necessary to create clarity on this issue. I hope that the Minister hears that there is real confusion in localities about this and there is inhibition to supporting these ecclesiastical charities.

I hope very much that the Government will be persuaded to bring their own amendments on Report. My fellow sponsors and I stand ready to offer to help in any way. For instance, we could convene representatives of not just the Church of England but other denominations. I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Stunell and Lord Kennedy, for mentioning the ecumenical aspect of this. At this stage, it is necessary to achieve the clarity that the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, very pointedly mentioned. I look forward to working with the Minister and her team ahead of Report; I hope that will be possible.

I conclude that these amendments are necessary, as I have stated. They would enable all Christian denominations, like all other faith communities, to continue to live out their calling and provide a space to support those in need in their communities. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Amendment 485 withdrawn.

Amendments 486 to 491 not moved.

Amendment 492

Moved by

492: After Clause 214, insert the following new Clause—

“No fault evictionsWithin one year of this Act being passed, a Minister of the Crown must publish a review of whether legislating to prohibit no fault evictions would support the implementation of this Act.”

My Lords, first, I apologise that I have to leave before the end of the session today. The late setting of the time for this session means that I have another engagement at the same time.

The LURB has become a bit of club, albeit niche, over these 15 days of Committee. There will be time to thank other people working on the Bill in due course, but, as she steps down from her Front-Bench role, I thank very much indeed the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, for her courtesy, diligence and good humour during the days spent on this Bill.

Our Amendment 492 refers to the topic of no-fault evictions—much discussed in your Lordships’ House—and suggests putting provision in the Bill to cease this practice. At present, landlords can evict tenants without giving a reason and by issuing a Section 21 notice. This gives tenants just two months before their landlord can apply for an eviction order. Last year, research by Shelter said that nearly 230,000 private renters had been served with no-fault eviction notices since April 2019.

The utter misery and fear this creates for people in rented property is untold. I deal with so many cases of this as a local councillor. There is disruption when people have to move schools, particularly for families that have children with special educational needs and have to be moved away from one school but may not have the provision they need in another school. It disrupts work, childcare and people’s social lives and contacts. We have to think about how we address this issue.

We appreciate that there have been recent announcements from the Government about the Renters (Reform) Bill that may address this practice. However, surely the quickest and most effective way to end this practice, which has caused so much distress to renters—including the disruption to family life that I mentioned—and, importantly, adds to the homelessness burden on local authorities, is to put this measure into the levelling-up Bill.

We understand that, under the proposed reforms, landlords will be able to evict tenants only in certain circumstances, including when they wish to sell the property or when they or a close family member want to move in, and only after a six-month notice period. However, we believe that after three months they will be free to put the property back on the rental market. We also point out that, under the current proposals, renters who receive a possession notice will no longer have the right to immediate help from their council to avoid homelessness. Shelter is calling for these time periods to increase and for the notice period for evictions to increase from two to four months. In areas of high housing demand where supply is limited, it can take months for a family to find a new property suitable for their needs. These short time periods for evictions cause untold stress and harm to the families affected.

Our Amendment 504GJF in the name of my noble friend Lady Hayman and the noble Lords, Lord Young, Lord Wasserman and Lord Best, refers to the long-standing issue of the Vagrancy Act 1824. It asks Ministers what impact they think the continuing provisions of this ancient Act will have on levelling up and regeneration. As recently as 17 May, my noble friend Lady Kennedy of Cradley raised this issue in your Lordships’ House, pointing out that

“the delay in commencing the repeal of the Vagrancy Act has left this matter unresolved for more than a year. In that time, more than 1,000 vulnerable people have been arrested under its provisions”.

In response to the Minister’s Answer that

“we will repeal the Vagrancy Act when suitable replacement legislation is brought forward”,

my noble friend pointed out the concern that the Government are seeking

“to recriminalise homelessness through new anti-social behaviour legislation … contrary to the principles established in the Government’s rough sleeping initiative. That is, in effect, the Vagrancy Act by the back door.”—[Official Report, 17/5/23; col. 240.]

We believe the Government could now move past criminalisation as a response to homelessness and offer genuine, workable support. It is simply not acceptable as we move rapidly forward towards the second century of this punitive Act being in place that we are waiting to repeal it until we can find a similarly punitive alternative. The levelling-up Bill could and should be the place to address the issues of those who are street homeless.

Look at projects such as the Finnish Housing First, where packages of support for people with complex needs are delivered alongside housing. We have delivered some of this in my borough, using modern methods of construction homes. They make a real difference; four out of five of the people supported in this way end their homelessness for good and get themselves on a different path in life. The levelling-up Bill would really be doing its job properly if it addressed issues such as that. Our amendment would start the process of making sure that we consider street homelessness a levelling-up challenge. I beg to move.

My Lords, I support Amendment 504GJF from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, also supported by the noble Lords, Lord Young of Cookham and Lord Wasserman. However, this is not the amendment I would have liked to see. That would read: “The Vagrancy Act 1824 is hereby repealed”. That amendment was ruled to be outside the scope of this Bill. This amendment is a tentative step in the right direction and the very least we should be taking forward at this stage.

Your Lordships’ House played a crucial part in getting the repeal of this antiquated Act into the House of Commons’ version of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. This House passed the repeal amendment on a cold February night, at 25 minutes past midnight, earning the thanks of the coalition of homeless charities, led by Crisis, that had campaigned for this change over many years. In the Commons, Nickie Aiken MP and the right honourable Robert Jenrick MP helped secure this repeal, and all that remained was for the commencement date to be set. But the Government postponed the repeal for well over a year, pending the results of consultation on whether losing the 1824 legislation would deprive police forces of powers they need to address “aggressive begging”.

Those of us involved in the efforts to get rid of this archaic Act have emphasised two points. First, the criminalisation of people sleeping rough not only sends out all the wrong messages in a civilised society but directly undermines efforts to help people off the streets and provide them with the support—for example, to tackle alcohol and substance misuse and mental health problems—that they desperately need. Many homeless people, knowing that homelessness is itself illegal, will not come forward, even if they are abused and harassed by obnoxious bullies. The police have a role not in arresting the homeless but in supporting them to receive the help they need. Indeed, it would seem a step forward if the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017—which requires certain public bodies, including prisons, to notify local authorities when they know of people at risk of homelessness—could be extended to embrace the police as well.

Secondly, there is the objection that powers need to be retained from the old Act—invented or included in a new Act—to protect the public from anti-social begging. We considered this point when discussing the repeal of the Vagrancy Act with Ministers. We were not convinced that there are gaps in existing legislation that need new laws. The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 provided a range of powers to deal with nuisance of this kind. Other legislation, including the Modern Slavery Act 2015, addresses cases where criminal gangs are involved. Drawing upon the expert legal advice of the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, we concluded that it was entirely unnecessary to create new legislation to supplement all of the existing police powers. Indeed, only a very small minority of police forces currently make use of the Vagrancy Act, strongly suggesting that, since the others are operating without recourse to the penal measures in the old Act, a new Bill is quite unnecessary.

I recently asked the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe of Epsom, for news of positive action by the Government to end street homelessness, which they aspire to do by the end of 2024. It was good to hear the positive measures being taken to fund local initiatives and support multiagency working. There is much more to do, and I encourage the Government to step up the important positive work to ease the miseries of those sleeping rough on our streets. In the meantime, let us have all the evidence that government has collected on the Vagrancy Act, including its damaging impact. Let us move forward as quickly as possible towards the repeal of this dreadful relic of the Napoleonic Wars, before its 200th anniversary.

My Lords, I am sure that we are all disappointed that we will not hear from the noble Lord who also sponsored these amendments—

There is a convention that, if you speak in a debate, you have to stay until the wind-ups. Sadly, I have a commitment that means that that would not be possible. I endorse everything that has been said.

We are grateful to the noble Lord, and we will miss him for the rest of our deliberations.

We have had many interesting debates on the issue of housing during the discussion on the Bill, from the need to introduce the decent homes standard into the privately rented sector or to address much more urgently the need to improve the energy efficiency of our homes. But I would argue that these amendments are particularly critical, not least during the cost of living crisis, as they deal with the really important issue of evictions and homelessness. Of course, they come at a time when there is huge pressure on temporary accommodation, given all the additional demands being made—not least, in housing refugees. We know that local councils are massively stretched and are using bed and breakfasts and hotels well beyond the legal limit.

As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Best, these are not the ideally worded amendments that we would like but the best that are allowed to be done under the rules of the game, as it were. We know that, at the time when the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, first introduced the amendment, we did not have any sense of when a ban on no-fault evictions would be coming in. Of course, it was a commitment in the 2019 Conservative manifesto and was contained in the 2022 Queen’s Speech. That legislation has now materialised, in the Renters (Reform) Bill introduced in the other place on 17 May, which would bring into force the long-awaited ban on Section 21 evictions. That is welcome, if overdue, and we on these Benches have supported and called for it for a very long time.

We know that it is vital legislation. For example, Shelter pointed to a 50% rise in the number of households in England threatened with homelessness as a result of Section 21 evictions. Given that access to secure, decent and so-called affordable housing is a key metric of the Government’s pride in place mission, I would think that the ban on no-fault evictions would definitely support the implementation of the Bill. We absolutely appreciate that the Government will say that this proposal is unnecessary, given the introduction of the Renters (Reform) Bill. However, as we have already heard, given the current uncertainty about the timeline for the Bill’s passage, it would be extraordinarily helpful if the Minister, as I am sure she is going to, would give us some assurances on when the ban on no-fault evictions is likely to come into force.

Similarly, the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, would require the Government —again, using the required language—to publish an assessment of the effect of the Vagrancy Act on levelling up. Of course, that is linked to the previous amendment, not only because it relates to homelessness but because it relates to another important government commitment. Noble Lords will recall, in response to an amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Best, during the passage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act in 2021, the Government introduced their own measure to repeal the Vagrancy Act. That was a response that came after many years of campaigning from many organisations, including Crisis and my honourable friend in the other place, Layla Moran MP. However, despite the PCSC Act including provision for the repeal of the Vagrancy Act, yet again the section commencing the repeal has not yet come into force. As the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, reminded us, more than 1,000 people have been arrested under the Vagrancy Act since the Government pledged to scrap it.

We can talk about levelling up, but how can we do that when we still have an Act that forces us to belong in the age of Dickens? The Government should be concerned with the causes of homelessness and not wasting police time in arresting people who are sleeping rough. My question is a simple one: when are the Government going to commence the repeal of the Vagrancy Act? Those facing homelessness, especially those sleeping rough, are some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and surely we cannot level up if we do not put them at the centre of our conversations about housing.

My Lords, I am glad to address the important issue of no-fault evictions in response to Amendment 492 from the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage. The Government strongly feel that the threat of eviction means that renters cannot feel secure in their homes and that many do not have the confidence to challenge their landlords on poor standards.

For this reason, the Government have introduced the Renters (Reform) Bill, which will abolish Section 21 no-fault evictions. This was introduced in the other place on Wednesday 17 May. To answer the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, that Bill has only just started and it has not begun substantive debate in the other place. Subject to that—and we anticipate that the Bill will proceed at the normal pace—it will be before your Lordships’ House in the next Session after the King’s Speech.

The Commons Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee recently published a report on the private rented sector. The Government are grateful for this and look forward to responding shortly. In the light of our upcoming response and legislation, we do not think that the review proposed in the amendment would add any further detail to the debate. I reassure noble Lords that the Government’s commitment to abolish no-fault evictions is unwavering and that there will be ample opportunity for scrutiny of this legislation.

In response to Amendment 504GJF, which the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, spoke to, I assure her that the Government are clear that no one should be criminalised simply for having nowhere to live. We have committed to repealing the Vagrancy Act, which is outdated and not fit for purpose. However, we have been clear that we will repeal the Act once suitable replacement legislation has been brought forward. This is so we can ensure that the police, local authorities and other agencies have the tools they need to respond effectively to begging and rough sleeping, so that they can keep their communities safe, restore pride in place and direct vulnerable individuals to the support they need.

Last year, we consulted on options for replacement legislation. We have considered these responses alongside other feedback from stakeholders and continue to give these complex issues careful consideration. Provisions relating to the Vagrancy Act have therefore been removed from this Bill and replacement powers will be the matter of separate legislation.

In the meantime, the Government have made the unprecedented commitment to end rough sleeping within this Parliament. We remain steadfastly committed to that goal. In September, we published a bold, new rough sleeping strategy, backed by £2 billion, which sets out how we will end rough sleeping for good. The Government’s Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan, published on 27 March, reconfirms this commitment. It also sets out our intention to bring forward new powers to tackle begging and rough sleeping, with the detail to be brought forward in future legislation, which will be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny.

I hope this provides reassurance for the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, and that she will withdraw her amendment.

My Lords, I am not going to say that I am grateful for the reply on this occasion because it was really disappointing. We have here a mechanism that we can use to do two things that there is broad consensus about in your Lordships’ House, one of which has already been passed through legislation, which is to repeal the Vagrancy Act, and the other of which is subject to new government legislation but could be done much more quickly by using this Bill. On the Vagrancy Act, as the noble Lord, Lord Foster, and I mentioned, 1,000 people were arrested under it during the course of last year, and on no-fault evictions, families are living in misery now. Anyone who has been a councillor—I know the Minister has been—will have heard the terribly distressing stories from families when they get evicted and end up finding it very difficult to find somewhere else to live.

When we went through the Covid crisis, I was very pleased to see the Government taking immediate action with their “Everyone In” programme, getting people sleeping rough into accommodation as quickly as possible. We have the opportunity to build on that, but rough sleeping is already starting to go up again. Why not take the opportunity of this Bill to do something about it now? Can the Minister tell us how many people are sleeping rough tonight, or any night in the coming week? If you can do something about this, why would you not?

The noble Lord, Lord Best, rightly mentioned that a number of powers have been introduced in recent Acts, particularly the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, that already allow the police to address anti-social begging, and there are powers for councils to set aside areas where they do not allow people to hang around. There are lots of powers already. We do not need any more powers; we need the Government to get on and scrap this 200 year-old Act that criminalises those who are sleeping rough. The postponement of this repeal for over a year is already far too long. I shall withdraw my amendment for today, but I am sure that we will come back to this on Report.

Amendment 492 withdrawn.

Amendments 493 to 497 not moved.

Amendment 498

Moved by

498: After Clause 214, insert the following new Clause—

“Social mobility(1) Within one year of this Act being passed, a Minister of the Crown must publish a strategy for increasing social mobility which includes an assessment, in respect of each local authority, of—(a) the number of pupils previously in receipt of free school meals now attending university,(b) available careers guidance, and(c) access to apprenticeships.(2) The strategy must consider the impact of this Act on social mobility.”Member's explanatory statement

This means a Minister must publish a strategy for increasing social mobility.

My Lords, Amendment 498 is in the name of my noble friend Lady Taylor of Stevenage, who has to leave early, as she has told the Grand Committee.

In a world of increasing inequality, helping improve social mobility is hugely important, as I am sure we all agree. Everyone, irrespective of their background, should be able to achieve their full potential. However, the UK has one of the poorest rates of social mobility in the developed world, which should be a concern for us all. This means that people born into low-income families, regardless of their talent or hard work, do not have the same access to opportunities as those born into more privileged circumstances. In other words, your social background still impacts on your opportunities in life.

By the age of three, poorer children are estimated to be, on average, nine months behind children from wealthier backgrounds. By 16, children receiving free school meals achieve 1.7 grades lower at GCSE. Just 7% of children in the UK attend independent schools, but 30% of all A* grades at A-level are achieved by these children. Some 32% of Members of Parliament, 51% of top medics, 54% of FTSE 100 chief executives, 54% of top journalists and 70% of High Court judges went to an independent school, compared to 7% of the population. Those figures tell us something. The transition to a green economy will also bring challenges for social mobility.

Amendment 499 in the name of my noble friend Lady Hayman of Ullock seeks to probe the disparities in cost of living between rural and urban areas. Roughly 19 million people live in England’s rural communities, some 17% of the population. Since the 1990s, Governments of all persuasions have taken the view that urban and rural areas are sufficiently different to merit different treatment in terms of public policy. However, there is a growing disconnect between urban and rural areas, with a sense of rural communities coming off second best in many areas of national decision-making and resource allocation. The last 13 years saw an austerity cuts programme to public expenditure, which exacerbated this feeling, to the point that many rural, small-town and village dwellers feel left behind and left out of national life, along with the consideration of their needs.

The decline in the provision of services, public or private, is prominent among those concerns. Some 20 years back, most small towns and villages would have had a choice of pubs, a post office, a police station, access to a doctor’s surgery, a primary school, a bank and maybe a range of shops. Most would have been on a bus route with a reasonably regular connection to large population centres, providing wider access to the facilities and services that cities and towns provide. Of course, with those connections come opportunity, aspiration and well-being. However, in many parts of Britain, especially England, those assumptions no longer hold. As I said, I grew up in central London, but I now live in West Sussex, and what surprised me was the infrequency of bus services—it is shockingly bad. If you live in a small town or village, how do you get into the bigger population centres?

The Rural Services Network’s analysis of the Government’s levelling-up White Paper found that,

“Were England’s rural communities a distinct region, their need for Levelling Up would be greater than that of any other part”

of England. To counter the tendency for rural areas to be overlooked in favour of urban ones, the Rural Services Network called on the Government, when devising funding formulae, to include more “rural-relevant indicators”, such as workplace-based incomes and rates of employment. That is how the Government should look at this, and I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, will address this in her response.

With Amendment 504GC, my noble friend Lady Blower tries to address these issues again, looking at how we eliminate areas of illiteracy and innumeracy. We need to look at that and refocus spending on the most disadvantaged parts of the country. Of course, her amendment asks for a report from the Government, within 90 days of the Act being passed, looking at the

“impact of geographical disparities in adult literacy on levelling-up and regeneration”.

If levelling up means anything, it surely must mean looking at the areas where indicators suggest there are a range of problems, and then seeking to drag them up. So my noble friend addresses an important point here because, if you have problems with reading and writing, how will you get out there, get a job, provide for your family and make a contribution, paying your taxes and everything else? So this is really important. I am sceptical about the Government’s levelling-up stuff but, if it means anything, it must address the issues set out in this group. I beg to move.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Kennedy. I shall speak specifically to my Amendment 504GC. As evidenced in previous debates on the Bill, levelling up can clearly be about large and strategic macro issues, but a significant aspect of it is that, on an individual level, some people simply cannot read as well as we would want. On an individual level, there must be an aspiration to ensure that all adults are literate. Speaking on this issue in another place, Margaret Greenwood MP said:

“Poor literacy skills and illiteracy often consign people to insecure and low-paid work. They are a form of deprivation that can lead to isolation and poverty and can leave people vulnerable to exploitation”.—[Official Report, 23/11/22; col. 353.]

It would seem that the most recent national survey of adult basic skills in England was as long ago as 2011. It showed that 1 million adults had literacy skills at entry level 3 or below. At this level, people are deemed to be functionally illiterate, although they can, for the most part, read straightforward text on familiar topics and obtain information from everyday sources—but this is not reading at a level that any Government should want the population to function at. It is not the level at which a parent can be confident to read with a child beyond infancy, and it is not the level at which a parent can assist with, or show interest in, schoolwork with children as they grow up. It is not the level at which a worker can seek retraining, upskilling or new opportunities.

As is often said, talent is everywhere but opportunity is not. Adult further and community education provision is not uniform. This provision affords opportunities to adults who have a lower level of literacy than that which we want for everyone. For precisely that reason, this amendment calls for a report on the “impact of geographical disparities” in adult literacy on levelling up and regeneration and for the Secretary of State to publish a strategy

“setting out steps they intend to take to improve levels of adult literacy”.

In 2022, 11 years after the survey to which I referred, the National Literacy Trust found that 7.1 million adults can be described as functionally illiterate. If this is accurate, we are, as a nation, allowing about 16% of our population to languish without the skills they need both personally and to be effectively economically active. As I said, the provision of adult learning opportunities to address low levels of literacy in the population is not uniform, and therefore neither is the participation. This amendment would require the Government to publish the information and then the strategy. If we accept, as I am sure we all do, that employers value and require essential skills, of which literacy is clearly the foundation, improving the capacity of those who struggle to read and write must be a priority.

Speaking as a teacher of many years, it pains me to recognise that not every young person finishes their schooling able to read and write as well as they might or as we would want. However, for a variety of reasons, adult illiteracy and low levels of literacy are a fact in our society. Regrettably, there have been significant cuts in adult education, with as much as a 50% fall in classroom-based adult learning opportunities. This must be addressed if we are to afford the opportunities needed to ensure that all are able to reach their potential.

The Government should not ignore this, especially now, as we continue to tackle education issues arising from the Covid pandemic. There can be no real levelling up without attention to adult illiteracy and a strategy to eradicate it. It is a matter of levelling up but also of social justice.

My Lords, I will speak extremely briefly and only to Amendment 499, just to ask the Minister two very basic questions.

It is my firm belief that, for far too long, there has been a failure by Governments of all parties to tackle the inequalities between rural and urban areas. So much of government policy is designed for urban areas and ignores the special and different requirements of rural areas. So, frankly, it is no wonder that there is a disparity in the cost of living between urban and rural areas. In rural areas, house prices are higher and wages are lower; council taxes are higher, but government support for their councils is lower; and the funding per head for services such as healthcare, policing and public transport is lower, but it costs more to provide those services. If you look at other issues, from broadband coverage to banking, you will see that rural areas lag way behind urban areas.

I said in my speech at Second Reading that the Rural Services Network used government metrics to come to the conclusion that, if all rural areas were treated as a single region, their need for levelling up would be greater than that of any other region. At the time, I asked what in the Bill would address that disparity. I ask again: in relation to this amendment, what aspects of the Bill will address the need to level up between urban and rural areas? Related to that is a question that I have also asked but that has not been answered: can the Government tell us how the absolute requirement for rural proofing of all legislation was carried out in relation to the Bill?

My Lords, I will speak to all three amendments. In different ways and on different aspects, they set out a clear path for the Government to address some significant issues that, unfortunately, are not covered in the main text of the Bill at present.

In passing, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, on his experience of public transport: welcome to everywhere that is not London. It is not just that there are no buses in rural areas outside London; he should try the urban areas.

At the moment, there are fundamental problems with how we deliver education to potential parents on how they might best help their children to develop and grow. There are also problems with delivering education in our formal education system for children and in our adult education and further learning courses and opportunities that are available to people not only immediately after leaving the school system but in later life. The noble Baroness, Lady Blower, made that point powerfully, and I will reinforce it: in a rapidly changing technological society, what you might describe as in-course training is vital, even for people like me, to discover how to use the latest devices properly and effectively. That is very much the case for those who come out of the education system with a limited level of skills, and maybe without even having the resilience and skills to learn and develop themselves without substantial help and assistance.

So we have a ladder: literacy is certainly an issue in the absolutely crude sense of the word—whether people can read and write—but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, pointed out, it is a question not just of that but of being able to use that process to inform and educate yourself, to learn from what people present and give to you. That shortage spills into an inability or failure, at the end of your school career, to get magic pieces of paper that are the doors to routes to acquiring skills and qualifications. Of course, that failure means that there is an inability to get and hold high-value, high-quality jobs.

The consequence for the individual is, clearly and very often, a waste of their potential, a lack of fulfilment and, sometimes, an alienation from wider society. But the impact for the community is also negative, and the impact for our country and economy is very negative indeed. I say to the Government that, for levelling up to be successful, there has to be more economic growth in areas that are not flourishing at the moment.

To best spend taxpayers’ money on levelling up, however and wherever that tax is collected, it needs to go to areas that need the growth and help. It is exactly those areas where there is that deficiency in skills and professional qualifications, and where it is difficult to recruit people. That means that we are not getting the productivity growth in the industries and geographies where they are most needed. For instance, we get high economic growth in London and the south-east but not in the north-east of England. Unfortunately, all of these are connected in a line that starts with the process of how children grow and flourish in our education and training system.

We know that, to get that growth and development, we need to recruit highly skilled people in large numbers, so I say to the Minister that if we want to have a flourishing green economy, we need many more engineers and people with the skills necessary to develop the industry right across the country. If we want to have a flourishing service sector in the broadest sense, we need many more doctors and many more nurses. Incidentally, I saw an article in the evening newspaper yesterday which said that we are running out of judges, and the Ministry of Justice has just appointed an extra 140 judges—part time, of course—with a view to dealing with the backlog of criminal cases. Indeed, I quite often read reports about how this or that industry needs so many tens of thousands of people with special skills if it is to flourish. However, those people do not exist. Unless we get the issues set out in these amendments clearly in focus in the Bill, as they should be, and clearly and strongly projected forward by the Government, as they should be, it is impossible to see how the various industries and regions which are clamouring for skilled people will ever be able to fulfil their targets to achieve their objectives.

I therefore strongly ask the Minister to please consider these amendments and the thought behind them carefully, and give us some hope that the Government recognise the problem, as well as the opportunity of the wasted talent being brought into focus and use. I hope she will give us a positive answer.

My Lords, Amendment 498 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, seeks for the Government to publish a social mobility strategy. The issues raised in this debate are all indeed important and vital if we are to deliver social justice. However, they provided the rationale for the levelling up project itself, and the levelling up White Paper provides a clear plan to level up every corner of the UK, underpinned by 12 ambitious missions over 10 years and tracked by an annual report.

I also reassure noble Lords that the Office for Students has launched the equality of opportunity risk register, which will set national priorities for tackling inequalities in higher education, including geographical inequalities. It was heartening to see the recent climb up the international league tables for literacy rates in younger children in the UK, which is a hugely encouraging sign.

We are committed to ensuring that more people from disadvantaged backgrounds enter apprenticeships—a great driver of social mobility—and we are increasing the apprenticeships care leavers’ bursary to £3,000 from this August. We are also providing additional funding to support social mobility generally in apprenticeships, which includes £1,000 payments to employers and training providers who take on apprentices aged under 19 or apprentices with a learning difficulty or disability, as well as a £1,000 bursary payment to apprentices who were previously in care, as mentioned.

The Government are also investing over £18.8 million in 2023-24 to support the rollout of a network of careers hubs across the country, to help drive improvements in careers education. Schools and colleges in the most disadvantaged quartile are reporting the strongest progress.

Numerous measures in the LURB will improve outcomes and reflect better the interests of rural communities across the country. Rural communities will benefit from opportunities for increased democracy, measures designed to improve housing affordability, and improved infrastructure. The new infrastructure levy will be designed to deliver as much, if not more, affordable housing.

That really related to the next amendment, Amendment 499, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock. The framework set out in the Bill provides ample opportunity to scrutinise the substance of the missions against a range of government policies, including levelling up in rural areas.

As the noble Lord, Lord Foster, outlined so passionately, we know that some cost pressures, including transport and energy, can be even greater in rural areas than in urban areas. That is why the Government have, for example, offered rural energy support through alternative fuel payments and extended the subsidy scheme for buses to protect vital bus routes, helping with the cost of living and enabling people to get to where they need to affordably and conveniently. The recovery grant scheme comes in addition to government investment of £3 billion promised for bus services by 2025.

The Government are already committed to delivering an annual report on rural proofing. The White Paper trailed the publication of the second annual report, Delivering for Rural England, which was published in September 2022. It set out specific considerations for levelling up in rural areas and how government departments seek to address these through targeted approaches, where needed, as well as broader measures to strengthen the rural economy, develop rural infrastructure, deliver rural services and ensure good management of the natural environment. It also announced the launch of the £110 million rural England prosperity fund so that local authorities can support rural businesses and community infrastructure.

Amendment 504GC, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, considers the extremely important issue of adult literacy. I should declare that I have a very personal interest in this whole area, having taught literacy in Huntercombe young offender institution for a while. The levelling up skills mission sets out an ambition for 200,000 more people to complete high-quality skills training in England each year by 2030. As part of this, we are fully funding study for adults in England who do not have essential literacy up to level 2. We have a strategy. Approximately 60% of the adult education budget is devolved to nine mayoral combined authorities and delegated to the Mayor of London, acting through the Greater London Authority. These authorities are responsible for the allocation of the adult education budget in their local areas and are best placed to understand local needs.

In the light of these efforts and commitments, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, is reassured and that her noble friend feels able to withdraw the amendment.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. However, while listening to the response, it was easy to think, “Well, everything’s great, isn’t it? Nothing is going wrong; there are no problems”, when in fact the house is on fire. Everybody can buy into levelling up, but you then have to actually do some levelling up. It is very frustrating—we cannot equip people with the skills they need to read, to write, to get the job, to make their lives better. It frustrates me that what the Minister said suggests that there is not really a problem here and it will all be fine. We have to invest in people. That is so much of what is wrong here.

We mentioned transport services. If you cannot get on the bus to get the job, you will not get the job. I know that I am a Londoner and sound like one, but I did live in the Midlands for 20 years—in rural Leicestershire, in rural Nottinghamshire, in Nottingham and in Coventry—so I know a bit about living outside London. If you cannot connect areas of deprivation with areas of prosperity, you will not make any progress.

What worries me is that levelling up will go like the big society—do we remember that one? It disappeared after a couple of years; it was quietly pushed away. It was the big thing and all over the Tory manifesto in 2010, then it just vanished without a trace. After about two years there was never any mention of it, except by the Opposition. I worry that this Bill will become an Act but, when we look back in three, four or five years’ time, we will ask how much has really been enacted. After lots of consultation and lots of discussion, how much will have been enacted and how many regulations will have been laid?

I will leave it there and withdraw the amendment. This is such a big area that has cross-party support. We need to see more action, and things are not quite as rosy as the Minister said.

Amendment 498 withdrawn.

Amendments 499 to 504E not moved.

Amendment 504F

Moved by

504F: After Clause 214, insert the following new Clause—

“Duty to produce a land use framework(1) The Secretary of State must, no later than one year following the passing of this Act, lay a land use framework for England before Parliament.(2) The framework must—(a) outline government objectives and principles in relation to the multifunctional use of land;(b) be based on the principle of multifunctional land use and take account of the whole range of land uses, including agriculture, climate change, biodiversity, access, development, housing, infrastructure, water, energy, natural capital and ecosystem services;(c) promote collaboration and integration across the statutory organisations impacting on land use;(d) provide guidance on the application of the framework to enable decision making at national, regional and local levels and to assist individual landowner decision;(e) provide accessible data on land use to support decision makers at national, regional and local levels, including the decisions of individual landowners.(3) Before laying the framework before Parliament, the Secretary of State must publish a draft framework and consult with such bodies as have relevant interests in land use and also with the general public.(4) Subsections (2) and (3) apply to a revised framework as they apply to a framework laid under subsection (1).”Member's explanatory statement

The new Clause would require government to publish a land use framework for England to improve the ability of decision makers at all levels, including individual landowners and managers, to reconcile conflicting land use pressures, make better decisions about conflicting land uses and enable scarce land resources to be used to deliver for multiple objectives.

My Lords, in moving this amendment I will also speak to my Amendment 504G, both of which are on land use. A number of noble Lords will have heard me bang on about this interminably, so I shall try not to take too long. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, and the noble Baroness, Lady Willis of Summertown, for putting their names to these amendments. Alas, the vagaries of timing have meant that the noble Baroness cannot be with us.

Land is a finite resource and pressure on it is growing. There are needs for land in a whole variety of areas, not just for traditional uses such as agriculture and timber production but for carbon sequestration, green energy generation—solar and wind—housing and development, biodiversity recovery, water protection and flood risk management, infrastructure, transport, energy transmission, recreation, mental health and access to the countryside. Recent research has shown that, if you put all these competing needs together, we will require a third more land than we possess. I do not know whether noble Lords have recognised this, but we are not making any more land at the moment.

These competing demands are already being felt by landowners, farmers, communities and leaders in local authorities and other areas, but we do not have any framework in this country within which those who make that multitude of decisions on land use priorities at a national and local scale can work. This means that decisions on how to make the best use of this scarce, pressurised resource are being made on a piecemeal basis and often in silos.

For example, good agricultural land can be used inappropriately for solar arrays and land important for biodiversity recovery can be threatened by inappropriately routed infrastructure development. Everybody says that we need to plant more trees, but they need to be planted in the right place, which is not always the case as a result of the current dash for carbon; we see investors with very deep pockets buying up good agricultural land to plant it with trees that will attract for them carbon payments. Land that could deliver for biodiversity and carbon is being planted just for carbon, which is not the most efficient way of using land in a multifunctional way. All these pressures are adding to the price of land. If you are looking at buying land in any way, for whatever use, it is a bit like the wild west out there.

There is a real and growing pressure on land, and therefore a real and growing need for a land use framework which would consider how increasingly scarce land resources can deliver for multiple objectives at the same time and deliver a range of outcomes across several policy areas in a co-ordinated and optimised way which makes the best use of that scarce resource. A framework would harness the rapidly accruing wealth of data on land use and use modern mapping techniques to provide principles and tools about land use for decision-makers, ranging from national government to individual, small-scale landowners and farmers to enable them to make the best decisions on the competing priorities that they face day in, day out. It was good to see the national Geospatial Commission release a report on this issue yesterday, demonstrating the power of modern, accessible open-access data.

There is also growing support for a land use framework. Two House of Lords Select Committees have commented on it; the Rural Economy Committee, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Foster, and the Land Use in England Committee, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, both called for a land use framework—as have the Climate Change Committee in its report Land Use: Policies for a Net Zero UK and Henry Dimbleby in the national food strategy.

Other organisations are recommending such an approach. They include such august bodies as the Royal Society. I should declare several interests, having sat on both the Select Committees I mentioned and having helped to produce the Royal Society’s recent report on multifunctional land use. Others that I have not laid a hand on are the Royal Town Planning Institute, Green Alliance, the RSPB, CPRE, the County Councils Network, Chatham House and the Government’s Geospatial Commission. The Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, which I also sit on, is piloting a couple of multifunctional land use frameworks in two counties, Cambridgeshire and Devon. So a lot of folk out there are saying that a land use framework is the right way forward.

Delight upon delight, in 2022, the Government, seeing the rightness of the case—but perhaps just because they were being pestered by everybody in sight—announced that they would develop a land use framework for England by the end of 2023. However, it is unclear how much progress has been made because there has been no real external consultation on either the process for setting the land use framework or the content.

In evidence to the House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee—I should also declare an interest that I sit on that committee; noble Lords might detect a pattern of gradual infiltration of every body under the sun that I can get to talk about land use—the Defra Minister, Trudy Harrison, indicated that although there would be consultation with other government departments, including DLUHC, the framework would be restricted to Defra issues of carbon, climate change, agriculture and biodiversity. That is not in line with the multifunctional approach across the full range of key land use pressures recommended by the Select Committees and others. Simply restraining the focus to Defra issues would mean that key issues of planning and development, housing, infrastructure, energy and transport would be omitted. It really would not join up the silos in the way that is required.

However, two weeks later, on Monday, the noble Lord, Lord Benyon, in answering an excellent Question from the noble Lord, Lord Roborough, said that the framework would operate across a number of departments. It seems that even Defra Ministers do not have a shared understanding of what the framework will cover. It would be good if the Minister could clarify this evening exactly what policy areas the framework will cover.

The Government’s response to the Select Committee on land use was a bit short, dismissive and did not really systematically address the committee’s proposals. It was not very encouraging about the issue being taken forward in an integrated way and with vigour. In the absence of more positive progress from the Government, I tabled Amendment 504F, on a duty to produce a land use framework, and Amendment 504G, on the establishment of a land use commission for England, which would put into statute two of the key recommendations of the Select Committee on land use.

Briefly, I will finish with the content of these two amendments. Amendment 504F would require the Secretary of State to produce a land use framework for England within a year of the passing of the Bill. It outlines the key principles that a framework should cover, based on this principle of multifunctional land use, covering a wide range of the key land use needs. It also states that it should involve a range of government departments and statutory bodies, and be consulted on fairly widely and publicly, as land is a key resource and there are many people whose interests will be impacted.

The amendment also says that the land use framework should provide accessible data and tools for decision-makers at all levels, as I have already talked about. I assure noble Lords that it would not take decisions that are quite rightly for individual landowners and land managers to make, but it would provide a framework, and the data and tools, for those who influence land use decisions and those who make them on a day-to-day basis, whether local authorities, national government or an individual farmer deciding what he is going to do with his land for the next few years.

It is clear that the Government are now committed to a joined-up framework for land use, one that I hope will bridge the current departmental silos, as the noble Lord, Lord Benyon, stated on Monday. If that is indeed the case, I hope that the amendment can simply be accepted. If that is what the Government are intending to do, why not just accept the amendment? It would not be pressing them further than they already intend to go.

The Minister may well say, as Ministers before her have said, that the local nature recovery strategies that local authorities have now been tasked with undertaking would be a basis for land use frameworks locally. But the clue is in the title. They are what they say on the tin: local nature recovery strategies are strategies all about nature recovery, not necessarily about all the other pressures that I have outlined that need to be rationalised in a joined-up way.

Amendment 504G requires the Secretary of State to establish an independent land use commission for England. That draws very much from the Scottish Land Commission, which has operated in Scotland since 2017. The amendment outlines a range of functions for a land use commission for England, including oversight of the preparation, and reporting on progress in implementation, of the land use framework. It would also ensure co-ordination of accessible and comprehensive land use data for decision makers at all levels, which is vital to reaching proper, rational decisions; build on initiatives such as yesterday’s report by the Geospatial Commission, and the recent data-mapping exercise; encourage integration and collaboration on land use issues across government departments and policy areas that currently have a distressing habit of retreating into silos; and conduct deep dives into particularly tricky land use issues. It would be subject to an annual report to Parliament and would report good practice to help to support good decision making on conflicting land use pressures at national, regional and local levels.

To encourage the Minster to not believe that this is just another quango that will consume resources, the sort of scale envisaged is simply in line with that of the Scottish Land Commission or the Climate Change Committee: their scale and resources are pretty modest, but they have a hugely important function.

On Monday, the noble Lord, Lord Benyon, in his response to a Question by the noble Lord, Lord Roborough, said that he was not yet persuaded by the case for a land use commission. I was rather encouraged by that: “not yet” made it sound as if he might be persuaded shortly. The reason he gave for not yet being persuaded was that he was concerned that it would need legislation—well, here it is. He said that Ministers wanted to continue to lead the drive in land use policy. Well, Ministers come and go, and it may be that Governments come and go, too. I believe that a land use commission would provide persistence and a longevity, and a focus on behalf of Ministers, who may be distracted by turbulent times.

I believe that the time has come for some sort of national organisation for the taskforce expert group, preferably a commission, to look at these issues and to help government to take them forward. I beg to move.

My Lords, I rise to support Amendments 504F and 504G. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for the work that she has done, not only on this but on many related issues. She is a great asset.

As the noble Baroness mentioned, back in 2019 I chaired your Lordships’ special Select Committee on the Rural Economy. Part of our deliberation addressed the issue of land use at a time when regional spatial plans had been withdrawn with nothing to replace them. Several witnesses at that time told the committee that they were unhappy with the situation. For example, Hugh Ellis of the TCPA said:

“For me, a national spatial plan is essential. Almost every other advanced economy has one”.

It was hardly surprising that the committee concluded that the

“Government should revisit the merits of a spatial plan for England”.

Of course, much has happened since then, but we still have no form of detailed spatial plan. However, we are delighted that the Government have committed to publishing a land use framework, as they call it, by the end of the year. We know that your Lordships’ Land Use in England Committee recently considered the issue and welcomed the Government’s intention to produce a framework. As we have heard, there was some uncertainty as to whether the Government’s intentions were to have a framework that covered the full range of demands on the use of land, from food production and energy resilience to nature recovery strategies and access to green and open spaces.

The committee’s proposals are neatly summarised in Amendments 504G and 504F: to establish a land use commission

“to prepare and publish for consideration by Government the draft land use framework for England”,

and a requirement that the Government

“lay a land use framework for England before Parliament”.

Amendment 504F may seem redundant, given the Government’s commitment to bring forward such a framework this year, but it seems vitally important that we have something like this on the statute book pretty quickly to ensure that the commitments given by the noble Lord, Lord Benyon, earlier this week are followed through. It is not just a framework. The amendment is very clear that the output must cover the full range of demands on the use of land, and that, crucially, an exemplar list, while not exhaustive, is included in the amendment. However, it goes further, making it clear that numerous bodies, including other government departments as well as Defra, local authorities and relevant public bodies, should be involved and that there should be wide-scale consultation. It is important to set these down very clearly.

It may be that the Government will agree with such an idea in some form or other and bring forward some wording on a similar line. If there is to be further consideration of the wording, there is one other issue which I hope will be included. It would allay some fears if it was made clear that the proposed framework that the Government are going to bring forward is not seen as replacing, or even being in conflict with, the current planning regime. Your Lordships’ land use committee was very clear about this. It said:

“It is not suggested, and we do not propose, that the land use framework sets any distinct housing development policy or replaces the planning system in any way. Nevertheless, the framework cannot ignore the interaction of housing with land use and so it must incorporate some acknowledgement of this”.

I hope that it may be possible, at least in the Minister’s response. Further paragraphs in the report suggest a way forward, but the clear statement that the land use framework does not replace the planning system may be a useful addition to the amendment.

It is clear—and the situation is clearly changing—that the Government are not yet persuaded of the need for Amendment 504G, which proposes, as we have heard, the establishment of a land use commission. It is worth recalling that when the Government responded, quite recently, to the land use committee’s report, they said,

“we disagree with the proposal for a separate Land Use Commission”.

There has obviously been some shift, and it is good to hear that. Perhaps the Minister can at least confirm that she agrees that the Government have not yet been persuaded—not that they disagree. That is quite a significant shift in the language.

I genuinely hope that the Government will take this on board. A separate commission, as the amendment proposes, with commissioners from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, will also ensure other things: that relevant data is collected on a regular basis, dialogue between all involved parties continues, advice and best practice is widely shared, an annual report is presented to Parliament for debate, and modifications to the framework can be proposed to the Government. These are all important things to ensure that we do not do it just once and then forget it, and that we ensure that we can move forwards.

Frankly, I have no confidence that a single government department, be it Defra or anything else, with all the ongoing pressures, will necessarily keep its eye on this particular ball. In the committee that I chaired back in 2019, we advocated a national spatial plan or framework. We have waited a long time for something to happen. The Government are now committing to the production of one, which we welcome. I believe, however, that these amendments will ensure that it is prepared in such a way that it will deliver what is needed now and for years to come.

My Lords, I am afraid that you have the understudy. As a former leader of a city council, I have followed the Bill very closely. I am delighted to make a contribution, even if it is in the last minute of the game. I thank my noble friend Lady Young, the noble Baroness, Lady Willis, and the noble Lord, Lord Foster, for their detailed and careful consideration of these issues—land is, indeed, a finite resource—and how these might be incorporated into the Bill, as well as for their long-standing championing of the issues of shared land use. These challenges are of incorporating the needs of competing demands, alongside ensuring proper protections for the environment and that consideration is given for access to green space and all the benefits that that brings to people and communities.

It continues to be a disappointment that no progress has been made on a land use framework in spite of ministerial promises, which have been reiterated by both noble Lords in the earlier part of this debate, and to hear that the Government seem to be rolling back from a land use framework that addresses all the issues flagged up in your Lordships’ Select Committee, including planning, development, housing, infrastructure, energy and transport. If these issues are not addressed in a land use framework, it will be seriously incomplete, which will undermine its ability to ensure that our scarce land use resources are able to deliver for all the policy areas covered by the levelling-up Bill.

The introduction of this Bill, with its intention to reshape the planning framework—I have had plenty of headaches about planning in my time in local government—and to deliver on cross-departmental and multifunctional land uses, seems like an opportunity too good to miss. I hope that the Minister will give careful consideration to using this legislation to give some impetus to the introduction of a land use framework, and that all the hard work that has gone into the Bill from all sides of the House will lead to a satisfactory conclusion in an extremely important area.

My Lords, Amendment 504F in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, would introduce a legal duty for the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to lay a land use framework for England before Parliament no later than one year following the passage of the Bill and would also define content and scope.

The Government agree with the principle and recognise the need for the land use framework, which is why we committed in the food strategy to publish one this year, earlier than this amendment would require. The Secretary of State for Defra reiterated this commitment in the environmental improvement plan in January this year. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, has been unduly pessimistic: there is progress on the work on the land use framework. It is under way and will build on the insights presented by the Land Use in England Committee in its recent report. The noble Baroness and others are right to focus on multifunctional land use. That will be critical in delivering on this Government’s ambitious plans.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, also asked for clarity on the progress of government work. I can reassure her and the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, that several government departments have targets with land use implications. We are working with them all to understand and take account of their land use expectations. As well as Defra, this includes the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, the Department for Levelling Up and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. I hope that provides some reassurance.

Amendment 504G introduces a legal duty on the Secretary of State to establish a land use commission as an independent arm’s-length body reporting to the Cabinet Office. The amendment builds on the work of the House of Lords Land Use in England Committee, as has been said, which recommended this in its final report. The Government accept some of the reasoning behind the proposals for a land use commission, including there being significant opportunities for government departments to collaborate on research, analysis and policy development on land use.

In the Government’s response to this recommendation in the committee’s report, they do not agree that a separate commission is necessary. This is because many of the potential benefits of a commission are achievable with improvements in collaboration on land use between the different departments. This improvement is already under way through the preparation of the land use framework.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, mentioned the different experience of Scotland. While the department agrees that there are strong similarities, there are differences between the biophysical, cultural and ownership characteristics of land in England and Scotland and a number of important matters for land use, such as planning, are devolved. While we want to learn from the experience of the devolved Governments in land use, we do not think that we will share all the same issues and solutions.

As I think my noble friend Lord Benyon mentioned at the Dispatch Box this week, the cost of a land use commission would be somewhere between the Scottish Land Commission’s £1.5 million and the Climate Change Committee’s £4.5 million. I hope this provides sufficient reassurance.

The noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, asked about planning system additions. The Government’s response to the House of Lords Land Use in England Committee report stated:

“We agree with the suggestion that the framework should not replace the planning system, which is the main mechanism through which development is considered strategically”.

With those few comments, I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, will feel able to withdraw this amendment and not move the other.

I thank noble Lords for their contributions and support. I very much value and endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, said about it not replacing or being in conflict with the planning system. It was good to hear that reinforced by the Minister, because it is an important reassurance that we need to give to local landowners, who might otherwise see this as a bit of a bogeyman.

The response on progress is encouraging, but it would be good to know what that progress is. It is all very well getting assurances of progress, but this is such an important issue, impacting so many people, that there ought to be a much more public element to the process to demonstrate how that progress develops over time.

That would be extremely helpful; I thank the Minister. I also very much approve of the assurances we have got that the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, DLUHC and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology will be an integral part of the process. We just need reassurance that there will not just be consultation with these departments on Defra land use issues but that this will cover the policy areas of these departments that have land use implications.

I accept that Scotland is different—I kind of know that, because I am Scottish—but I have been very encouraged recently by work beginning on a land use strategy in all-Ireland. I spent some time with civil servants in Northern Ireland and representatives of the south on the importance of a land use strategy there. It was heartening to see that it was being accepted on the island of Ireland.

On the cost of a commission, task force, expert group or whatever body might carry the flag to help the Government on land use, I think that £1.5 million to £4.5 million is a drop in the ocean these days. I do not know about other noble Lords, but I have been really taken by the fact that, during Covid, we got used to dealing with billions rather than millions—£1 million or £4 million is kind of just the fluff out of the Chancellor’s back pocket rather than a substantial element of national investment for such an important issue.

To finish, history is always a good teacher and, although I cannot remember because I was just a twinkle in my daddy’s eye at that stage, the post-war settlement very much stressed the fact that there were three important pillars of the national resource. The first was capital investment, the second was labour and skills, and the third, strangely enough, was land. Over the years, we have forgotten about land being an important national pillar of resource. We need to get back to giving it that degree of priority.

Although I beg leave to withdraw the amendment at this point, I am afraid that I cannot promise not to keep banging on about it. I may well come back with one or other amendment in some form at a later stage.

Amendment 504F withdrawn.

Amendments 504G to 504GJA not moved.

Amendment 504GJB had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendments 504GJC to 504GJI not moved.

Amendment 504GJJ had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendments 504GJK and 504GJL not moved.

Clauses 215 to 218 agreed.

Clause 219: Regulations

Amendments 504GK and 504H

Moved by

504GK: Clause 219, page 249, line 17, at end insert—

“(ja) under section (Power to replace Health and Safety Executive as building safety regulator);”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides that any regulations made under the new Clause inserted by the amendment in the Minister’s name after Clause 214 (Power to replace Health and Safety Executive as building safety regulator) are subject to the affirmative procedure.

504H: Clause 219, page 249, line 32, at end insert—

“(ea) under section (Street votes: modifications of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017);”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides that the new power in the amendment in the minister’s name to make regulations to modify the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 is subject to the negative resolution procedure.

Amendments 504GK and 504H agreed.

Amendment 504HA not moved.

Clause 219, as amended, agreed.

Clause 220 agreed.

Clause 221: Extent

Amendments 504I to 504O

Moved by

504I: Clause 221, page 250, line 25, leave out “section 123 extends” and insert “sections (Street votes: modifications of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017) and 123 extend”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides that the new power in the amendment in the minister’s name to make regulations to modify the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 extends to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

504J: Clause 221, page 250, line 26, at end insert—

“(d) section (Participation in certain proceedings conducted by, or on behalf of, the Secretary of State) extends to England and Wales and Scotland.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides that new Clause (participation in certain proceedings conducted by, or on behalf of, the Secretary of State) in the minister’s name extends to England and Wales and Scotland.

504K: Clause 221, page 250, line 32, leave out “to 11” and insert “and 10”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the second amendment in the Minister’s name to Clause 221, page 250, line 32.

504L: Clause 221, page 250, line 32, at end insert—

“(8A) Part 11 extends to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides for Part 11 to extend across the UK (but see the first new Clause in the Minister’s name before Clause 204).

504M: Clause 221, page 250, line 34, leave out “section 212” and insert “sections 212, (Power to replace Health and Safety Executive as building safety regulator) and (Transfer schemes in connection with regulations under section (Power to replace Health and Safety Executive as building safety regulator))”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides that the new Clauses inserted by the amendments in the Minister’s name after Clause 214 (Power to replace Health and Safety Executive as building safety regulator) and (Transfer schemes in connection with regulations under section (Power to replace Health and Safety Executive as building safety regulator)) extend to England and Wales only.

504N: Clause 221, page 250, line 34, leave out “section 212” and insert “sections 212 and (Transfer of land by local authorities)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides that the new Clause inserted by the amendment in the Minister’s name after Clause 214 (Transfer of land by local authorities) extends to England and Wales.

504O: Clause 221, page 250, line 34, leave out “section 212” and insert “sections 212 and (Open access mapping)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides that the new Clause relating to open access mapping inserted by the amendment in the Minister’s name after Clause 214 (Open access mapping) extends to England and Wales.

Amendments 504I to 504O agreed.

Amendment 505 not moved.

Clause 221, as amended, agreed.

Amendment 506 not moved.

Clause 222: Commencement and transitional provision

Amendments 507 to 509

Moved by

507: Clause 222, page 251, line 6, at end insert—

“(aa) in Schedule 4—(i) if a provision amended by any of paragraphs 51, 55, 56 and 57 has not come into force before the end of the period mentioned in paragraph (b), that paragraph comes into force when the provision that it amends comes into force (but otherwise it comes into force at the end of that period);(ii) paragraphs 59 to 63 come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by regulations appoint;”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment makes provision for the commencement of certain amendments made by Schedule 4 in cases where the provisions amended are not yet in force.

508: Clause 222, page 251, line 20, leave out “sections 70 to 72 come” and insert “section 70 comes”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the Minister’s name inserting provision after line 21 of Clause 222.

509: Clause 222, page 251, after line 21 insert—

“(ia) section (disposal of land) comes into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by regulations appoint;(ib) sections 71 and 72 come into force at the end of the period of two months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed;”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides for new Clause (disposal of land) to be brought into force by regulations made by the Secretary of State and makes other consequential amendments to Clause 222.

Amendments 507 to 509 agreed.

Amendment 509ZA not moved.

Amendments 509A to 509E

Moved by

509A: Clause 222, page 251, line 31, after “sections” insert “(Street votes: modifications of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017),”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides that the new power in the amendment in the minister’s name to make regulations to modify the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 comes into force two months after Royal Assent.

509B: Clause 222, page 251, line 33, leave out “and 123” and insert “, (Power for appointees to vary determinations as to procedure), 123 and (Participation in certain proceedings conducted by, or on behalf of, the Secretary of State)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides that new Clauses (power for appointees to vary determinations as to procedure) and (participation in certain proceedings conducted by, or on behalf of, the Secretary of State) in the minister’s name come into force two months after Royal Assent.

509C: Clause 222, page 252, line 7, leave out “, section 212 and section 214” and insert “and sections 212, 214 and (Transfer of land by local authorities)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides that the new clause inserted by the amendment in the Minister’s name after Clause 214 (Transfer of land by local authorities) comes into force in accordance with regulations.

509D: Clause 222, page 252, line 9, leave out “and 213” and insert “, 213, (Power to replace Health and Safety Executive as building safety regulator) and (Transfer schemes in connection with regulations under section (Power to replace Health and Safety Executive as building safety regulator))”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides that the new Clauses inserted by the amendments in the Minister’s name after Clause 214 (Power to replace Health and Safety Executive as building safety regulator) and (Transfer schemes in connection with regulations under section (Power to replace Health and Safety Executive as building safety regulator)) come into force 2 months after Royal Assent.

509E: Clause 222, page 252, line 9, leave out “and 213” and insert “, 213 and (Open access mapping)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides that the new Clause relating to open access mapping inserted by the amendment in the Minister’s name after Clause 214 (Open access mapping) comes into force 2 months after Royal Assent.

Amendments 509A to 509E agreed.

Amendments 510 and 511 not moved.

Clause 222, as amended, agreed.

Clause 223 agreed.

In the Title

Amendment 512 not moved.

Amendments 513 to 515

Moved by

513: In the Title, line 10, after “licences;” insert “for a body to replace the Health and Safety Executive as the building safety regulator;”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment amends the long title to reflect the new Clause inserted by the amendment in the Minister’s name after Clause 214 (Power to replace Health and Safety Executive as building safety regulator).

514: In the Title, line 10, after “licences;” insert “about the transfer of land for Academy schools;”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment amends the long title to reflect the new Clause inserted by the amendment in the Minister’s name after Clause 214 (Transfer of land by local authorities).

515: In the Title, line 10, after “licences;” insert “about the review of maps of open country and registered common land;”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment amends the long title to reflect the new Clause relating to open access mapping inserted by the amendment in the Minister’s name after Clause 214 (Open access mapping).

Amendments 513 to 515 agreed.

Title, as amended, agreed.

Bill reported with amendments.

Committee adjourned at 7.05 pm.