HC Deb 16 May 1991 vol 191 cc493-504

`For section 70(2) of the principal Act there is substituted— (1) The provisions of the development plan, so far as material to the application, shall be the starting point for the authority when dealing with such an application and it shall also have regard to any other material considerations".'.—[Mr. Soley.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Soley

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

Mr. Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take the following: new clause 13—Status of the development plan— `—For section 70(2) of the principal Act there is substituted— (1) In dealing with such an application the authority shall first consider the provisions of the development plan, so far as material to the application, and shall then have regard to any other material considerations.".'

Amendment No. 137, in schedule 3, page 108, line 49, at end insert `(11) The provisions of a current and properly constituted local development plan with an approved county structure plan shall prevail over any conflicting provisions or advice set out in planning policy guidance notes which may be issued from time to time by the Department of Environment'.

Mr. Soley

The new clauses will give a much higher status to the development plan. On Second Reading, the Minister announced that the Government had made a welcome conversion and that development should be plan-led rather than market-led. We welcome the Government's conversion. We felt that the Bill was weak in terms of ensuring that the plan was given a high enough status. The Bill ensures that structure and local plans are available throughout the country, but it does not ensure that they are given sufficient priority to guarantee that, when decisions are taken about development, the plan and not the developers' desires comes first.

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We have tabled two new clauses. New clause 9 would insert: The provisions of the development plan, so far as material to the application, shall be the starting point for the authority". We included the words "starting point" because they seemed to help the Government out of their problems of definition. We also tabled new clause 13, which is signed by a number of Conservative Members. It goes into more detail and states: `—For section 70(2) of the principal Act there is substituted— (1) In dealing with such an application the authority shall first consider the provisions of the development plan, so far as material to the application, and shall then have regard to any other material considerations.".' That is a stronger interpretation than that of new clause 9.

Mr. Lewis Stevens (Nuneaton)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley), but I missed the last Division. I was in my office, off the main Committee Corridor, and I did not hear a bell. My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) did not hear one either. Will the Serjeant at Arms check whether the bells are working properly?

Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was in Committee Room 21 on the upper Committee Corridor and heard no bell. It seems that the bells may not be working.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

I shall have inquiries made and inform the House of the outcome.

Mr. Soley

I am pleased that the Government have said that, following discussion between spokesmen from the two main parties this afternoon, the Government are to concede to us new clause 13. By any standards, that new clause constitutes one of the most important changes that the Government have made during the Bill's passage, both through this House and the House of Lords. I welcome that concession and look on it favourably.

I can set aside much of the rest of my speech for the moment, although I may seek the leave of the House to catch your attention again, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope that that will not be necessary and I think it might be easier and save the time of the House if I now make way for the Minister and other hon. Members to address the House so that we may take the matter further.

The commitment that the Government have given today gives a much higher status to the development plan and will go a long way to ensuring that development is plan led. The Bill will still not be the ideal one that the Labour party would have proposed, but it is undoubtedly a significant step forward and one that I welcome.

Mr. Wolfson

If what the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) has intimated is correct, I greatly welcome the Government's action. Over the past 12 years, I have had much correspondence with, and made many direct representations to, the Ministers' predecessors at the Department of the Environment on the key importance of local planning decisions—which are taken by local authorities with local knowledge and which are responsive to local interests and concerns being upheld on appeal. When such decisions are overturned, it is often a cause of anger, bewilderment and much concern in the local community.

During the past two years, one of the responses that I have received when making representations to the Department of the Environment has been that, where local plans do not exist or are out of date, it makes it difficult for the inspector and the Minister to uphold the local decisions. My local authority has been pressed by me into bringing its local plans up to date. It has also done so partly of its own volition. Therefore, I have always believed that it is important to give the maximum weight to the local plan in planning decisions, and I welcome both the new clauses. I am delighted if the Minister is to concede them.

Mr. Wiggin

My hon. Friend the Minister and one or two of my hon. Friends will know that I have taken a considerable interest in the planning process in the past few years. My attention was drawn to the subject by a substantial body of public feeling in my constituency and those of many of my hon. Friends. At least 100 of them have spoken of the almost unregulated way in which speculative housing was being permitted under our planning legislation. It swiftly became apparent that, to be constructive, I would have to become, if not expert, a great deal more knowledgeable on planning laws. Thanks to the able assistance of many people, I feel that my appreciation of the subject has improved. My conclusion has to be that the planning laws are a devious and elaborate device for the Government to impose their decisions on the population in an expensive, laborious and delaying manner, and without the due good effect of consulting local opinion, which is what we want.

When the Bill was first thought about two or three years ago, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), the then Secretary of State, intimated that he would abolis county structure plans. I shall not enter into a debate about the future of counties, because that is another matter, but it was more than 10 years before the majority of our counties had evolved proper structure plans. In my county of Avon, the structure plan was once again being amended recently. I do not complain about that, but to say that the county structure plan system had failed before the last of the babies were even born was a premature destruction of the theory—and I was totally opposed to that.

We had a debate on that subject, and my hon. Friend the member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) and others made it clear that we did not think that it was a good idea. Therefore, when the Bill was presented without such a proposal, we were all pleased. On Second Reading, my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning said: We want the system to be plan-led…We want the district plan to be the indicator—the signal—of what is permitted development and the market must respond to the local plan."—[Official Report, 12 March 1991; Vol. 187 c. 823.] In my constituency during the past two years there have been at least two substantial planning proposals—I can think of three, and there are probably many more—which fall well outside the structure plan. However, the proposals appeal to my district council and the planning authority for commercial and other perfectly good reasons, and so were given a "first reading" by the district council. The Minister, in my view rightly, called in both those cases and the plans have either been changed or the developers have withdrawn the applications. The system must work; it is no good having all the bureaucracy if we do not get a sensible result. Amendment No. 137 rightly gives priority to the local plan. On Second Reading and in Committee, there was much talk about the merits of the local plan. I should like an assurance from the Minister that he will ensure that henceforth the local plan matters.

The Minister's first job is to educate local councillors in the planning law—just as I had to learn more about the laws, the councillors will have to learn more about what they mean—and to emphasise again that, in inspectors' decisions confirmed by the Minister, the local development plan is the one that matters. It does not take much imagination to understand the expense and time involved in preparing detailed local plans. It is tiresome for a councillor, because he has to think into the future, make projections and consider what his district will look like. Once that has been done, Ministers must, for goodness' sake, uphold the decisions.

I am sorry to say that there is a fairly lengthy history of inspectors' decisions not upholding local plans. We come to the wretched intervention of central Government through the planning policy guidance notes and circulars which the courts have consistently regarded as overriding the local arguments and local opinion. I had hoped that the Bill would deal with that problem, but it has not. We are left with basically the same structure and with a mass of complicated guidance notes which are lengthy and legalistic—they have to be if they are to be used as the basis of planning decisions. More in sorrow than in anger, I must say that I believe that the Bill has missed an opportunity.

We strongly support our planning laws. I say "we" because I include my hon. Friends. The country should be grateful for the basic framework of our planning laws because they have saved us from many disasters. One has only to consider parts of America to realise how disastrous a lack of constraint can be. However, we have got into difficulties. We should have the wit and competence to get ourselves out, and I am sorry that we have not done so. However, a road lies through the local development plans. Ministers have considerable administrative capacity and enormous discretion in planning matters, probably more than in any other local framework, and I hope that the Minister will use his administrative capacity. I know that he thinks a great deal about the issues, and that he is sympathetic to what we are saying. I hope that, in due course, the administration of our planning laws will be satisfactory.

I welcome the speech of the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) which, to some extent, reflects what I am saying. If by any mischance he became the Minister, I hope that he would take the same good advice.

Mr. Steen

New clause 13 and amendment No. 137 are very important and I hope that the Minister will say something more helpful than what was said in Committee.

Some 10 to 20 per cent. of the country is covered by local plans—up-to-date, valid plans which govern the whole planning regime in a district. The remaining 80 per cent. of the country—I am taking a generous view, because it may be as much as 90 per cent.—does not have up-to-date valid local plans. That means that there is no consistency in planning: when one area that has no local plan decides against something and the matter goes to appeal, there is no local plan for the inspector to follow, so a different picture emerges. In one area, an inspector will find in favour of something that he finds against in another area.

Over the years, the number of appeals has increased, as will the number of inspectors. I recently asked a parliamentary question and was told that more money was being spent on planning inspectors because there were more appeals. Ultimately, the Bill will make it mandatory for every area to be covered by local plans. That will mean that, in every area, the local district council will go through the motions of discussions with parish and church councils, with neighbourhoods and with individuals. There will be local meetings at which everyone can have some input, which is to be welcomed. I commend the Government for that imaginative and constructive step, because it is the right approach.

In five years, every part of Britain will be covered by an up-to-date local plan approved by the Secretary of State. It will be a current local plan in a five-year cycle. Every five years,the plans will be brought up to date, and in every local plan every piece of land will be designated for some purpose. There will be a development area for housing; there will be areas for agriculture, leisure and recreation, and so on. I think that, in five to 10 years' time, every part of the country will have a local plan.

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I am fortunate, as is my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin), because my council has a valid local plan. Indeed, we have five valid local plans which are excellent and we are updating them. There are meetings in every town and village to discuss what they should contain. However, the critical issue is that, if there is a valid local plan—or five local plans, as in South Hams—what happens when a planning applicant wants to go to appeal? The inspector who is appointed by the Secretary of State considers not only the local plan, but what is known as the PPG or planning policy guidance issued by the Department. There is often a conflict because the inspector sees the Government's PPG issued by the Department and the valid local plan—on which there has been proper consultation—with the Secretary of State's imprimatur. How does he decide how to proceed? He does not. One inspector will decide to follow the PPG and another will decide to follow the local valid plans.

New clause 13 states: In dealing with such an application the local authority shall first consider the provisions of the development plan. Although that is welcome, it is hardly a major victory because it does not deal with the problem of the PPG issued by the Government. The clause states merely that the local authority should first consider the provisions of the development plan so far as material to the application". That is all very well—the local authority will say that it first considered the plan and then it will either reject or approve the application. If the local authority says that it will reject the application because the local plan says that it should not be approved, and it has first considered the provisions of the plan according to new clause 13, it will say that the planning application should not be approved. However, the application may then go to appeal and the planning inspector considers it. He would need amendment No. 137, which states: The provisions of a current and properly constituted local development plan with an approved county structure plan shall prevail over any conflicting provisions or advice set out in planning policy guidance notes which may be issued from time to time by the Department of the Environment. What is the point of going through the process in every district, with millions of pounds being spent and with hundreds of officials involved, if, on appeal, there is no clarity about whether the planning policy guidance note of the Secretary of State or the local plan carries sway? I believe that it must be the local plan. If not, what is the point of having a local plan? Local plans set the framework in which local decisions are taken. If, on appeal, the Secretary of State says that the planning policy guidance note says something slightly different and that he will follow that, it makes nonsense of the local plan. That is why amendment No. 137 is so important.

A former Secretary of State for the Environment, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) answered a question that I put to him. I asked whether, if there was a local plan that said there was enough housing, the planning inspector would be bound to follow the local plan. My right hon. Friend said that that was true. The Bill does not make it clear whether the planning policy guidance notes of the Secretary of State or the local district plan, approved by the county and by the Secretary of State, are to be followed.

New clause 13, although a welcome move in the right direction, is a bit of a cop-out. It is, in effect, a non-clause. It is perfectly all right to say that the first consideration should be the local plan, but that would make no difference ultimately. On appeal, there is no clarity about what should happen and that is why I believe that amendment No. 137 is so important.

Sir Anthony Durant

I am following my hon. Friend's arguments closely and I have great sympathy with them. There is a problem in my constituency. There are local plans in my area, but a development is proposed on the edge of two local districts. There is a conflict between the developer on one side and the developer on the other side. One district says that it must have the development, but the other says that it does not want it. There is a major problem in trying to get a third bridge across the River Thames. We cannot get a third bridge across the Thames because Oxfordshire will not allow it to land. We even have a developer who is prepared to pay for the bridge, but he cannot find anywhere for it to land on the other side of the river. How does one deal with such a problem?

Mr. Steen

My hon. Friend always asks good questions. It is always a pleasure to see him in his own or anyone else's place. His point is not entirely relevant to my argument, although I think that I can give him an answer. If there is a conflict between two local plans—I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister is the better person to give an answer, but I am acting as the Minister in this case—

Mr. Wiggin

And very well too.

Mr. Steen

I thank my hon. Friend.

If there is a conflict between two local plans, the inspector will have to decide which is right. The inspector should get cracking, because one cannot have a bridge that does not land on the other side. However, that does not affect the question whether the Government's PPGs conflict with the local plan. The PPGs are generic, whereas the local plans are detailed. In this case, if one cannot get the bridge anywhere, the local authority would appeal to the Secretary of State and the inspector would decide. That would not necessarily conflict with the PPGs. If it did, the inspector might either approve the scheme or not. We need clarity on whether preference is given to the PPGs or to the local plan. What weight does the inspector give to local plans and to the PPG?

I could give examples in my constituency where decisions have been wholly inconsistent with another decision taken a year later. I am sure that all hon. Members will have experience, as I have, of applications being made three times for the same development. The first inspector says one thing, the second says something else and the third says something else again. The problem is that there is no clarity from the Department of the Environment about whether the PPGs or the local plans take precedence.

Mr. Soley

Regional government in this country would help to resolve problems such as the bridge that goes nowhere. It would not solve them, but it would help.

The hon. Gentleman is on to an important point about amendment No. 137. We would not legislate in a confused way if we were in government. The PPGs may not necessarily be in conflict with the plan and the number of cases such as the hon. Gentleman has described may be limited, and I do not want the hon. Gentleman to play down too much the importance of new clause 13, although I must say that he is on the right lines. When we are in government and legislation is more plan-centred, I am sure that we shall be able to deliver some certainty on the issue, which he will welcome. Given his revolutionary views on planning, I imagine that it is only a matter of time before the hon. Gentleman crosses the Floor of the House. I am sure that many of his hon. Friends would also welcome some certainty.

Mr. Steen

I cannot wait for the hon. Gentleman to go into government. I will be a very old man by then.

It is worth reminding the House that my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) who is unable to be here today, asked a telling question on 20 January 1988. It was similar to that asked by the late Member for Mid-Staffordshire, Mr. Heddle. He asked the Secretary of State when he would be publishing his conclusions on the draft statement of planning policy on large out-of-town shopping centres. The Minister of State gave an interesting answer. He said: My right hon. Friend is publishing today two new series of guidance notes. Planning policy guidance notes (PPG) will provide guidance on general and specific aspects of planning policy, and minerals planning guidance notes (MPG) will give advice on the control of minerals development. PPGs and MPGs aim to provide concise and practical guidance on planning policies in a clearer and more accessible form than in departmental circulars, the earlier series of development control policy notes (DCPNs), and other statements. In future, advice on legislation and procedures will be given in departmental circulars, while PPGs and MPGs will be the main source of policy guidance on planning matters. In most cases the content of the new notes will be based on extant circulars and DCPNs. An index of all the relevant circulars is also being published today—in fulfilment of an undertaking in response to the fifth report, Session 1985–86, of the Environment Committee in the last Parliament. Unless otherwise stated in the PPGs and the MPGs, those circulars remain extant for the time being, but the need to retain them will be reviewed in the light of experience with PPGs and MPGs. DCPNs are now being withdrawn to the extent indicated in the relevant PPGs."—[Official Report, 20 January 1988; Vol. 125, c. 745.] I am sure that, although you do not have the script in front of you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will understand that the answer was not very clear. If it was not clear in 1988, how can a planning inspector in 1991, faced with a local plan on the one hand and a PPG on the other, work out what he should do? Amendment No. 137 says that the local plan, if properly constituted, shall prevail over any conflicting provision…set out in planning policy guidance notes". There must be some clarity. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will not fudge that issue when he answers, which I am giving him the immediate opportunity to do.

Sir George Young

This has been a useful debate about the role of the district plan. Opposition and Conservative Members have urged me to raise the profile and credibility of the district plan within the planning system. I hope to be able to say something helpful in a moment.

The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) implied that if we accepted new clause 13, it would be a giant step forward. My hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) said that the new clause did not really matter. The House will have to decide which of the two is right

. In reply to a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson), I must say that, if we are to enhance the credibility of the district plan, it must be up to date. That is an important ingredient. If one faces out-of-date plans, it is difficult to say that they should be the starting point or the first consideration. District plans must be consistent with national guidance. One cannot have a series of district plans that have somehow opted out of the national planning system.

My hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) will not expect me fully to subscribe to his rather critical analysis of the planning system and to his view of the somewhat sinister motives of planning Ministers. However, I understand the import of his point that more importance should be given to the district plan if one has gone through all the procedures.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Hams said that every local plan has to be approved by the Secretary of State. He is not quite right. Almost all such plans are now, and will still be when the Bill is enacted, adopted by the planning authority. In future, the structure plan will also be adopted by the county unless the Secretary of State calls it in.

My hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West (Sir A. Durant) mentioned the problem of the bridge. If there was a conflict between two district plans, I hope that the county structure plan would pick up the fact that there was some incompatibility and would refuse to validate them. If two different counties were involved, I hope that someone in my Department would notice that there was a certain inconsistency in the approach to river crossings.

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Mr. Wiggin

I am sorry if my hon. Friend felt that I was implying that his activities were sinister. That is certainly not what I had in mind. But I am sure that he will be the first to agree that the Bill gives him substantial powers. I fully recognise that the Government should and must have a hand in the general structure planning of the nation. That is completely right. I do not understand why he is opting out of giving his approval to the structure and district plans, because that is one way in which the Government could organise the bureaucracy.

Sir George Young

If we are not happy with them, we will call them in. The fact that we do not and that we allow them to be self-approved means that we have, in effect, validated them.

Section 70 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 requires the local planning authority considering a planning application to have regard to the provisions of the development plan in so far as they are material to the application and to any other material considerations.

The intention of clauses 9 and 13 is to ensure that the local planning authority starts its consideration of the application by looking at the development plan. Having established that position, the authority will turn to the other material considerations.

On Second Reading, I said that we wanted the development system to be plan led and that the market should respond to the signals given in the development plan. That has always been the fundamental principal underpinning the planning system.

If we are to go down the road of new clause 13, it is important that the development plans are up to date. But it would be wrong, within the planning law framework that has survived intact for more than 40 years, to change the status of a plan into a prescriptive document. We do not operate zoning mechanisms such as are found across the Atlantic. In our system, it is important that each planning application should continue to be considered on its merits and that all the material considerations should be weighed in the balance in reaching development control decisions.

Amendment No. 137 seeks to affect the weight attached to development plans in planning decisions. It would allow structure and local plan policies to prevail over conflicting national and regional guidance set down by the Secretary of State in his planning policy guidance notes.

Mr. Steen

That is correct. It would affect the balance. But then what is the point of having local plans?

Sir George Young

If my hon. Friend will allow me to develop my argument, I hope to persuade him that the conflict that he describes will not arise in quite the way that he envisages.

Just as we have made provision to ensure that consistency between structure plans and local plans is maintained when structure plans are updated, so it is right that we should expect planning decisions to reflect the most recent and up-to-date guidance issued at national and regional level. That must be done by properly weighing all the material considerations and taking everything that is relevant into account.

The circumstances envisaged by the amendment and by my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams should not arise. Through national planning guidance, the Secretary of State aims to ensure consistency between planning at the local level and the changing requirements of national policies. The regional guidance ensures consistency on broad cross-border issues that are beyond the scope of individual structure plans.

At the point when a new up-to-date development plan comes into force, all the relevant national policies should already have been taken into account. When new national or regional policies subsequently emerge that are not in line with the plan content, it is the plan that should be regarded as out of date in that respect. The planning system will not serve us well if those new policies are to be disregarded, because they could not have been taken into account in the earlier plan preparation. Therefore, I cannot agree that amendment No. 137 is either necessary or desirable.

However, I have been looking at new clauses 9 and 13 and I have listened carefully to the arguments advanced this evening, particularly by my hon. Friends. This is not the first time that we have debated the significance and status of the development plan in considering planning applications. I recognise the concern that has been expressed. It may not be enough for us to use non-statutory guidance to emphasise that we are operating a plan-led system. Given the procedures that have to be gone through to prepare, to consult and to secure agreement for a district plan, I understand the force of the argument that we have heard this evening that the plan should be the starting point or the first consideration when one looks at the planning application. I therefore propose to concede new clause 13 when the time comes, but to resist new clause 9.

However, both new clauses are defective in that they remove the current requirement for the local planning authority to have regard to the development plan. They would also cast doubt on the way in which, for example, enforcement decisions are taken where the same wording as section 70(2) appears. I readily accept that those promoting the new clause do not intend either to downgrade the plan or to cast doubt on other procedures. Their intention is exactly the opposite.

We shall therefore need to bring forward further amendments to the new clause in another place to achieve the effect desired by its promoters. We must be careful in our amendment not to remove the flexibility in our system that allows the weights to be attached to the various considerations to be determined by the relevance and significance of those considerations.

I sympathise with all the objectives of all the hon. Members who have spoken today. The Government want the weight given to the development plan increased. The Bill will do that by ensuring that we have all the mechanisms in place to provide a comprehensive, relevant and up-to-date development plan system.

Mr. Bellotti

If you place more importance on the development plan and if, as time goes on, development or local plans cover more and more of the country, will that lead to the Department turning down more and more appeals? In particular, on this historic day when we have had the launch in Birmingham of the United Kingdom forum for young people and gambling—it is a fact that between 1984 and 1989 two thirds of all appeals made on behalf of amusement arcade owners were upheld by the Department—do you think that we can in future look forward to fewer appeals being upheld and that that forum can look forward to a happier time for young people?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. It is the convention of the House to refer to hon. Members in the third person.

Mr. Bellotti

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Sir George Young

I do not want to be drawn into a rather narrow debate about amusement arcades, but I hope that we will have fewer appeals as a result of there being more confidence in the local district plan. If one has local up-to-date plans covering the whole country, there will be less need for appeals. Where that exists, it may be that there is less need for the Secretary of State to intervene. I want local plans to have more credibility and the decisions to be devolved down to local authorities. I do not want my Department to have to resolve on appeal a lot of decisions that could best be taken locally.

New clause 13, suitably amended, may help all those using the planning Acts by ensuring that the right balance between the development plan and other material considerations, including national guidance, is struck.

Mr. Steen

Let me be clear. There is a local plan which is approved by the county and the district which starts on day one and lasts for five years. During those five years, the Department of the Environment will be issuing PPGs which are sent both to the district council and to the planning inspectors. If there is an appeal from the local plan to a planning inspector, he will look at the local plan but will have to have first regard to any new PPG, which therefore will affect the credibility of that local plan and it will constantly be brought to a different stage by the Government introducing PPGs. The PPGs will take precedence.

Sir George Young

If national policy is changed after the preparation and adoption of the district plan, and if Parliament approves a change in national priorities, yes, the PPGs will then override a local plan. Where there are no such changes in national policy, on the scenario that I have just outlined, the local plan would be the starting point. At the end of the day, Parliament must prevail. It would be wrong for a local district plan prepared before national policy had been changed to be paramount in the circumstances that I described.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

When amendments are considered in another place, would it not be helpful to propose one to clause 13, to require that planning policy guidance notes take the form of statutory instruments? The Minister is saying that policy can be changed without Parliament being responsible or anything being brought before it. The PPGs are simply guidance notes issued by the Department without any scrutiny. If the Minister wants to keep the relationship between district plans and the PPGs, he could surely invoke Parliament's support by abandoning the quasi-legislative status of PPGs and introducing statutory instruments, so that, if right hon and hon. Members believe that requirements are being changed surreptitiously, they can have an opportunity to scrutinise them by putting down a prayer.

Sir George Young

The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting and wide-ranging point. He wants to change the way that the planning system operates by submitting the PPGs to parliamentary approval.

Mr. Wiggin

What a good idea.

Sir George Young

Whether or not it is a good idea is beside the point. That is certainly not the proposition before the House. If the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) had been more on the ball, he might have been able to table an amendment that would have done just that.

Mr. Cryer

I was waiting for the Bill to be considered in another place.

Sir George Young

The Bill has already been to another place, and the hon. Gentleman may find it difficult at this stage to do as he wishes. I must make it clear that the Government have no plans to change the present procedure. We have always regarded the development plan as important, but circular 14/85 appeared to downgrade it by referring to it as only one of the material considerations. Those days are well behind us. Today's debate should leave no doubt about the importance of the plan-led approach. For those reasons, I invite the hon. Member for Hammersmith to withdraw new clause 9, and the House to assent to new clause 13, when the time comes for it formally to be moved.

Mr. Soley

With the permission of the House, I intend to withdraw new clause 9, on the understanding that the Government will legislate according to the same principles when the Bill returns to another place. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

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