Debates between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist during the 2019-2024 Parliament

Wed 24th May 2023
Tue 18th Apr 2023
Thu 23rd Feb 2023
Mon 6th Feb 2023
Wed 11th Mar 2020
Fisheries Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 9th Mar 2020
Fisheries Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued)

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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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.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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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.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I can offer to write to the noble Baroness and Members of the Committee on the progress being made.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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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.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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Before the noble Baroness moves on, will she address the issue of why, if everything is already fairly clearly laid out in both statute and the National Planning Policy Framework, the Planning Inspectorate is busy telling local authorities that they cannot do net zero?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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As I mentioned, this summer there will be a review of the whole framework, based on the responses already received. That will take place after the Bill has received Royal Assent. If there is any further detail I can add on the specific question about planning, I will either manage to get an answer while I am still at the Dispatch Box or write to members of the Committee. I will not make a commitment as to when that letter will be available, because we are coming back here on Thursday and that might be a little ambitious, but I will address those points separately.

Amendment 201 in the name of my noble friend Lord Lansley proposes that the joint spatial development strategy contribution to mitigating and adapting to climate change be made consistent with authorities’ other environmental targets, such as carbon reduction. I accept and understand the positive aims of this proposed amendment; however, new Section 15AA(2), as he mentioned, already contains requirements relating to climate change and environmental protection and improvement. In addition, the Environment Act 2021 has further strengthened the role of the planning system through mandatory biodiversity net gain and local nature recovery strategies, setting the foundations for planning to have a more proactive role in promoting nature’s recovery.

My noble friend also asked whether the provisions in Schedule 7 will ensure that local authorities meet their share of net zero. The net-zero target in legislation applies to the Government rather than individual authorities, recognising that net zero requires action across all aspects of policy, not just those within the remit of local authorities, and will therefore have different implications across different parts of the country.

As previously mentioned, chapters 14 and 15 of the current National Planning Policy Framework already contain clear policy that promotes the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, as well as protection and improvement of the environment. The Government will carry out a fuller review of the framework following the Bill’s Royal Assent, as I said, to ensure that it contributes to climate change mitigation and adaptation as fully as possible. In light of these factors, planning authorities are already bound to address these issues when setting their planning strategies and policies. Indeed, including specific references within this legislation could be counterproductive if those requirements are replaced, updated or added to with other requirements at some stage in the future. Therefore, we do not believe that this amendment is necessary and it is not one that we shall feel able to support.

Amendment 272 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, proposes that all planning permissions be subject to a new condition that requires any fencing granted by the permission to allow for free passage of hedgehogs. It would also give powers to the Secretary of State to publish guidance on design. The Government are committed to taking action to recover our threatened native species, such as hedgehogs, red squirrels, water voles and dormice. Our planning practice guidance already acknowledges the value of incorporating wildlife-supporting features into development, such as providing safe routes for hedgehogs to travel between sites. Our National Model Design Code additionally acknowledges the importance of retaining, improving and creating new natural habitats, through hedgehog highways, bee and bird bricks and bat and bird boxes.

Local planning authorities, in producing their design codes, need to ensure that nature is integrated into the design of places through the protection, enhancement and promotion of biodiversity. These small measures can have a large impact on enabling nature to thrive among developed areas, but the Government do not feel that mandating this through a standard national planning condition would be appropriate. There will be circumstances in which development proposals will not impact on hedgehog habitats. Those permissions would, if this amendment were accepted, be subject to additional and unreasonable requirements to accommodate species that are not present in that area, while creating financial burdens to comply with and discharge the condition. As a consequence, while the Government accept the positive intentions behind this amendment, it is not one that we feel able to support.

Amendment 273 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, seeks to ensure that opportunities for reclamation, reuse and recycling from demolition processes are considered during the assessment of planning applications. As I have already made clear, the Government are committed to ensuring that the planning system contributes to addressing climate change. For example, the national model design code encourages sustainable construction, focused on reducing embodied carbon, embedding circular economy principles to reduce waste, designing for disassembly and exploring the remodel and reuse of buildings where possible, rather than rebuilding. The implications of demolition are already something which local planning authorities may consider when assessing applications for development. They can, if necessary, grant planning permission subject to conditions.

I understand the desire to look more broadly at the implications of construction activity for climate change. That is a desire that we all share. Evidence on the impact of carbon assessment tools and how they can work effectively in practice is, however, not yet clear-cut. We have sought views on methods and actions that could provide a proportionate and effective means of undertaking a carbon impact assessment in planning, which could take demolition into account. We also intend to consult further on our approach to the measurement and reduction of embodied carbon in new buildings, and it will be important for this work to happen before we can commit to any intervention that affects the planning decision-making process. For these reasons, the Government believe this amendment is not appropriate at the present time, and thus it is not one that we feel able to support.

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I think the best thing I can do is commit to giving the noble Lord a definition of “regulatory burden” in writing in due course.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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When the Minister writes, can she also give us an indication of how that definition has already been shared with government departments, which are busy reviewing their legislation? They are presumably using some sort of metric—do we weigh the buckets by the pound? Is it the impact on business or is it the public good that is delivered? The Treasury has argued for years about the methodology for judging the benefit—or otherwise—of legislation. I would be interested to know what sort of guidance has been given to government departments.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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We will give as much further clarification as we can.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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In terms of the dashboard, the vast majority of the work is already done, but there will be bits that will be added or found, most of which will be from old legislation. Most of the relevant work has already been done, but it is still subject to review.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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It is good to hear that the dashboard is nearly finished; it has been interesting watching it emerge. Your Lordships will be glad to hear that I have read every single environmental provision in the original documentation that is on that list.

I wonder if the Minister could tell us about what happens when the buckets are published—not the list but the buckets we are sorting into. I do not know if your Lordships have ever watched that telly programme, “Snog Marry Avoid?”—that shows how intellectual I am on a Friday night—but I kind of typify the buckets like that. The “avoid” one is for the ones that we are going to get rid of because nobody really wants them; the “marry” one is for the ones that we all think are wonderful and we are going to just give a straight run through; and the “snog” one is for the ones that we have to spend a bit of time on to find out whether they are really up to it or not. The quicker we can get the buckets published, the better. Will the buckets come out early enough for this Parliament to play a proper role in coming to some conclusions and helping the Government decide whether they have everything in the right bucket? There might be a little desirable treasure tucked away at the bottom of one of the wrong buckets that we all cherish.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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We also seek clarification on something the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, said at Second Reading: that there will be impact reviews, as the Minister has said, of new legislation, which is what we would expect under the normal statutory instrument procedure. But what is not clear is whether there is any impact review of stuff being put in the “avoid” bucket. If stuff is going to be left to go out the door on 31 December, is there going to be any proposition showing our loss or gain on those? If not, why not?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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Not in terms of regulatory review, but those decisions will be taken within departments, and they will be sunsetted.

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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My Lords, I declare my environmental interests that are in the register.

In my 25 years in your Lordships’ House, I do not think I have ever heard a Bill so roundly condemned from all quarters. I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, who, although he supported Brexit, is clear, as was his committee, that the Bill itself is unsupportable.

Lots of other noble Lords have said that the Bill takes powers from Parliament and hands them to the Executive, that it is a super-framework Bill or that it is super-skeletal, but I have a simple term for it: it is a pig in a poke. We are buying something that we do not know what it is going to be when we vote it through.

It is basically a deregulatory measure. The Clause 15 measures have been paraphrased as, “Ministers can do anything provided it doesn’t increase regulatory burden”, which is defined as

“a financial cost; … an administrative inconvenience; … an obstacle to trade or innovation; … an obstacle to efficiency, productivity or profitability”.

That is pretty clear and no-bones. It is about deregulation, despite the fact that regulation is often most simple and efficient way of achieving environmental outcomes.

I shall focus on the environmental issues in the Bill. Of the 3,700 pieces of EU retained law—as is currently the case; we have seen the dashboard wobble about quite a bit regarding the number of pieces of legislation that is estimated, so I do not think 3,700 is the last word—1,781 are in Defra’s court, four times more than any other department. This is the department that has already been ticked off twice in the last four months by its new environmental regulator, the Office for Environmental Protection, for not meeting the targets and deadlines that Defra itself set. So I do not really have a lot of confidence that Defra is going to be able to cope with reaching decisions about four times more pieces of EU retained legislation than any other department.

I am a very sad human being and I have read the list of 1,781 pieces of Defra legislation. I would agree with the Minister, were he to say this, that some are indeed minor, some have lost their relevance as a result of us leaving the EU, and some of them are a bit tech-y. I am sure the Minister will agree with me on that. For example, I enjoyed reading the one on

“additional guarantees regarding salmonella for consignments to Finland and Sweden of laying hens”.

That looked like a showstopper to me. However, some pieces of retained EU legislation in that list are substantial, long-standing and deeply woven into the fabric of environmental protection in this country at national and local level, and are accepted by many people as vital, operational and well constructed.

I know that the habitats regulations are a bogeyman for deregulators, but the one thing that we have to remember is that they are effective because we invented them. The noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, talked about safeguarding British self-interest—although I disassociate myself from Mrs Thatcher in that. We showed British self-interest in negotiating and leading the EU into adopting a highly effective protection system for biodiversity of species and the habitats on which they depend. We were a mover and a shaker in the EU; this was not stuff that was done to us.

I thank the Minister for meeting us last week over the Bill. When pressed, he will tell us that alternatives to the habitats regulations have already been devised in the Environment Bill and, now, in the levelling-up Bill, but that has not been made clear while we have debated these Bills. Not once during the passage of the Environment Bill was it stated that its priorities were—

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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Will the noble Baroness conclude her remarks?

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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I will finish in two seconds. Not once during the passage of the Environment Bill was it stated that its provisions were intended to replace the habitats regulations. This is no sort of process, where alternatives are inserted piecemeal rather than laid out to show how they match up to what is being done away with.

The Bill is cosmetically and disastrously aimed at getting rid of EU legislation before the next election at any cost.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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The noble Baroness has exceeded the speaking limit by some margin. It is time for the noble Baroness, Lady Jones.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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I recommend that your Lordships’ House not amend the Bill but not pass it.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
Committee stage & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 11th March 2020

(4 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 View all Fisheries Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-IV Fourth marshalled list for Committee - (9 Mar 2020)
Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone
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I thank the Minister for her reply. I did not really hope or dare to dream that the Government would roll over on this one. I take the point that flexibility and improvements are important and that many of these pieces of secondary legislation will be about technical issues. But the question of ambition in this Bill comes into play here. The reality is that there could be instances where consultees would want to see more rather than less ambition in some of these technical solutions. When there is no ability to look at these statutory instruments in draft before they are laid, it becomes impossible to insert anything at that stage of the process. I am distraught and disappointed as usual when I talk about scrutiny of secondary legislation.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
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I reiterate what I said about the amendment. It also replicates a duty in Clause 41(1) to consult the devolved Administrations and all other interested parties before making regulations.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone
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I thank the Minister for that clarification. I shall read Clause 41 more closely and beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
Committee stage & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Monday 9th March 2020

(4 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 View all Fisheries Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-IV Fourth marshalled list for Committee - (9 Mar 2020)
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
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I am assured that the economic benefit objective will have some bearing on that.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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My Lords, I have not spoken on this amendment, but I am pretty horrified with the way that it has gone, to be frank. Earlier in Questions, the Minister said that we had legislation that was going to be world class on the environment, agriculture and fisheries, and this Bill is retrenching by the minute to being an endorsement of the status quo. It is very disappointing.