Debates between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 23rd Oct 2023
Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments
Wed 13th Sep 2023
Wed 6th Sep 2023
Tue 18th Jul 2023
Thu 13th Jul 2023
Thu 13th Jul 2023
Tue 11th Jul 2023
Mon 22nd May 2023
Thu 18th May 2023
Mon 24th Apr 2023
Thu 20th Apr 2023
Mon 20th Mar 2023
Wed 15th Mar 2023
Mon 13th Mar 2023
Mon 27th Feb 2023
Mon 27th Feb 2023
Wed 22nd Feb 2023

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, we have been over this issue almost ad infinitum in Committee. We are not in Committee anymore; we are at Lords consideration of Commons amendments. I hope the noble Lord would agree that we are past the stage of arguing the niceties in the way he invites me to do.

Finally, in his Motion ZE1, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, seeks to insist on his original amendment. I can only reiterate the points in my opening that PCC powers would transfer to an elected mayor only after that individual has become democratically accountable at a local level. The example he sought to cite as a fait accompli is nothing of the kind, for the simple reason that there needs to be an election before the Mayor of the West Midlands could hope to become a PCC. If the transfer is to happen in the West Midlands, the mayor could exercise the PCC functions only if elected to do so at the next election, so there is no compromise of the democratic mandate of the elected mayor to exercise the functions. The choice of who would exercise the PCC functions in the West Midlands would remain in the hands of the people of the West Midlands if the transfer were to happen.

Commencement at Royal Assent enables the Government to adhere as closely as they can to the Gould principle of electoral management, whereby any changes to elections should aim to be made with at least six months’ notice. As the noble Lord knows, the Government wish these provisions to have legal effect in time for the local elections in May next year. His amendment would frustrate that policy intention. I hope he will forgive my pointing it out, but doubtless he will have noticed that the Government’s majority on this issue in the other place was very substantial: 153. I hope that on reflection he will be content to accept the assurances I have given and will not move his amendment in lieu.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble Lords, Lord Shipley and Lord Lansley, highlighted the confusion at the heart of the Government’s position relating to district councils on combined county authorities. The Minister’s contention is that there is local discretion to give districts a vote, while his statement was that only upper-tier authorities should be full members. I am not satisfied that the Government continuing to repeat this assertion that CCAs should be made up of upper-tier authorities only when their core business is not housing, planning or economic development but social care, children’s services and highways makes it right or advisable, and neither does it meet the key principles of democracy or devolution. Therefore, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

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Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, first, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the building safety parts of this Bill, which have been complex, but it was all done in the interests of the leaseholders who are at the end of this process. The noble Lords, Lord Stunell and Lord Young, have outlined the reasons for their amendments. I hope that the Minister will carefully consider these outstanding matters. We are all mindful in your Lordships’ House that behind all the technicalities and complexities of the Building Safety Act and attempts to right its deficiencies in this Bill is a group of leaseholders, many of whom were or are first-time buyers, who have had the start of their home-owning journey blighted by the worry and concern of remediation and uncertainty over service charges. They have been let down by errors in the original Bill, which meant that the status of their leasehold determined what charges they would have to pay.

The Minister reassures us that further review of these matters will be undertaken. I hope that will be the case, and that further thought will be given by the Government, if there is to be no compensation to those who have already had significant costs, to how that might be dealt with in future.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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I am grateful to noble Lords for their comments on this group. I thank my noble friend Lord Young for his kind words on government Amendments 288A, 288B, 288C and 288D. He asked about his Motion in relation to leaseholders who have paid remediation costs since losing the protections. Like my noble friend, the Government are concerned about leaseholders who have paid a significant service charge where they have lost the protections upon extending their leases. Those who have paid out remediation costs while outside the protections may be able to bring a claim for unjust enrichment.

I should point out to your Lordships that we are not aware of this issue being raised with us by any affected leaseholders, so it may well be theoretical in nature—my noble friend may contradict me on that. That said, if we do come across any cases where remediation charges have been paid and are not returned, the Building Safety Act contains a power to make secondary legislation that we believe enables us to provide a bespoke remedy to this issue. If cases do come to light, we will consider carefully whether that is the right thing to do.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage
Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, the percentage of second homes in so many parts of the country has had such a devastating impact on communities. We heard about that in great detail in Committee and had many examples from all sides of the House. We noted that it particularly impacts on rural and coastal communities. I am also concerned about the tax loophole and that so many second home owners avoid paying either council tax or business rates. This is clearly an anomaly and needs to be resolved.

The amendments in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Foster and Lord Shipley, would be an important next step in tackling this. We too welcome the licensing steps already taken but, if we are going to tackle this, we need to go one step further. We look forward to hearing the Minister’s response to the amendments proposed.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, Amendments 247YYE and 288B, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Foster, and spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, bring us to the often sensitive issue of second homes. We recognise that large volumes of second homes or short-term lets can become an issue when they are concentrated in particular areas. That is why the Government have taken decisive action. We committed to introduce a registration scheme for short-term lets in England through this Bill and consulted on the design of the scheme earlier this year. At the same time, we also consulted on proposals for a new short-term let use class with associated permitted development rights. Further announcements on both consultations will be provided in due course.

We introduced higher rates of stamp duty for second properties in 2016 and a new stamp duty surcharge for non-UK residents in 2021, and new measures to strengthen the criteria for holiday lets to be eligible for business rates came into effect in April. Furthermore, this Bill will give councils the discretionary power to apply a council tax premium of up to 100% on second homes.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, asked why we are not making further changes in respect of second homes. Through the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill and other measures, the approach we are taking is to boost housing delivery more broadly to make more homes available, including in those areas where there are high concentrations of second homes. Second homes that are additionally let out may fall within the short-term let use class that I mentioned where they meet the definition.

It might be helpful if I say a little more about the Government’s approach to first-time buyers in particular. We recognise the hardship people face when they cannot find a home of their own. Our £11.5 billion affordable homes programme will deliver thousands of affordable homes to rent and buy right across the country. The Government are committed to helping first-time buyers to get on to the housing ladder. We operate a range of other government schemes, including shared ownership and the lifetime ISA and we continually keep options to support first-time buyers under consideration. We are also committed to ensuring that enough homes are built in the places where people and communities need them and our first homes scheme is providing new discounted homes prioritised for local first-time buyers.

The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, referred to the common perception that some second homeowners may pretend to let out their property in order to benefit from small business rate relief. That is why the Government introduced, from April this year, new criteria for holiday lets to show that they have been let for at least 70 days and have been available for at least 140 days in the previous year. If they are entitled to receive small business rate relief as a holiday let operator, that is perfectly appropriate. If a property cannot demonstrate those criteria, it will be liable for council tax.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage
Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, the discussions and continuing concerns in relation to the proposals in the Bill on street votes once again make the strong case for pre-legislation scrutiny. As the noble Lord, Lord Young, outlined, these proposals seem to have been fast-tracked straight into the Bill without any consultation with the sector that might have avoided some of the many concerns we now have. We note that the government amendments are already starting to recognise some of the complexities inherent in the proposals for street votes, which were explored in great detail in Committee. Considerable questions remain to be answered about the process, finances and other resources, and the relationship with other elements of the planning system.

First, let me be clear that we understand and support the idea behind the proposal of greater public engagement in planning matters, on which I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill. Our concerns are about the detail. Why could that engagement not be advisory to planning, rather than a formal planning process in its own right? There does not appear to have been any assessment of the cost and resource implications of street votes, which could be considerable—for example, additional cost to the local planning authority under new Section 61QD relating to support for the process of street votes. New Section 61QE is the provision for organising the prescribed referenda, and we all know how expensive it is to hold a referendum. New Section 61QK allocates financial assistance for street votes and could, for example, result in hefty consultancy fees, particularly bearing in mind that it is likely that many street vote processes will rely on external consultancy support if they are to prepare papers to a standard that will meet the test of an inquiry in public. The provision for loans, guarantees and indemnities in relation to street votes projects is in the Bill; how and by whom will the due diligence be done on these? That in itself could present a major burden to local authorities.

Lastly, Clause 101 of the Bill makes provision for developments that come forward from the street vote process to be subject to community infrastructure levy. As it has taken local authorities some years since the implementation of CIL to become proficient in negotiating these agreements, and they could take considerable time and expertise, just who is going to undertake that work? Secondly, there is the potential for this to place even further burdens on the Planning Inspectorate, where there does not seem to be, at the current time, enough capacity to deal with current workloads.

We were very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for his letter addressing the concerns we expressed in Committee—concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, on the relationship with neighbourhood plans, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, on the definition of a street. I think the noble Lord, Lord Young, clearly outlined how that may get complicated, and I have my own concerns about the finance. In relation to the considerable concerns on the financial and resource aspects, we feel it would have been far more helpful for those who have been promoting street votes to have carefully assessed the impact before the proposals came forward. The letter of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, stated:

“The Government is aware street votes will require local planning authorities and the Planning Inspectorate to perform functions in the process, and that these will result in new burdens and associated costs. The extent of these costs will be clearer as we develop the detail of new regulations. New burdens on local planning authorities will be assessed and addressed in accordance with well-established convention, and costs incurred by the Inspectorate will be taken into account as we determine future budget allocations”.


We have to ask: is the considerable additional funding that may be needed to meet these costs really a priority in a time of such considerable budget and funding pressures, both for the Government and for local government? I note that the Local Government Association continues to oppose these proposals.

I add my thanks to those on the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, who have looked at this in great detail and at least undertaken some of the scrutiny that might have been useful before the proposals went into the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Young, outlined that there are many questions still remaining on this. He ably set out a very clear example of how the flaws in the thinking behind the proposal might impact on local people. The noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, spoke about the relationship between these orders and other neighbourhood and local plans which will be made.

I note that the noble Lord, Lord Young, wishes to strike the clauses out of the Bill. He made a very cogent case for doing so. I think his term was “heroically unready for legislation”, which I will not comment on, but it was a good term. If the Minister does not take the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Young—and that may be so, as I understand that the Secretary of State has been convinced of the merits of street votes—can I make a strong plea that there is some engagement with the sector about the detail of how street votes will work before we go any further with this?

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I am naturally sorry that I have not been able to persuade my noble friend to give his support to the clauses in the Bill that would allow for the introduction of street vote development orders. We firmly believe that this policy has the potential to boost housing supply by helping to overcome resistance in communities to new housebuilding, which can be a major barrier preventing us from building the homes we need. I was most grateful for the support expressed for the policy by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill. She was quite right in her remarks. Local people often feel that development is imposed on them and that they have little say on what gets built and how it is designed. That can lead to local opposition to new housebuilding and can discourage people from bringing development forward. Street vote development orders will help to address that issue.

As a country, we build very few new homes in our existing suburbs. Research by the Centre for Cities in 2020 found that over one-fifth of neighbourhoods outside city centres have built no new houses since 2011, while half of these suburban neighbourhoods have built less than one home each year. There is, therefore, a huge opportunity to make better use of our existing urban land to develop the homes we need, particularly in low density suburban areas. We can more effectively take advantage of this opportunity if we incentivise residents to support additional development in these areas. This is where street votes can really help.

This policy will provide the means for residents to work together and decide what development is acceptable to them, and to shape that development so that it fits with the character of their street. After a street vote development order has been made, it will mean that home owners can develop their properties with much greater confidence that their neighbours will be supportive of what they are doing, providing the development complies with the terms of the order. The value of property may increase as a result of a street vote development order, so there is a strong incentive for home owners to work with their neighbours to prepare one. There may also be benefits for those who do not own their property, including environmental improvements in their street and a greater choice of accommodation in the area. Prescribed requirements, including on what type of development is allowed, as well as detailed design requirements such as floor limits, ceiling heights and plot use limits, will help to ensure that we have the right level of safeguards in place and that impacts on the wider community are managed appropriately.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, but I think several factors have impacted on the use of buses and the ability of local authorities to run satisfactory services. I shall certainly ensure that the point he has made is registered in the Department for Transport, and I am grateful to him.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in this debate and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, for co-signing the amendment. She referred to the link between bus services and people’s economic activity, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, referred to the link with education and skills training; both are very important points. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for her support in this. She also said that the Bill gives us the opportunity to reverse the decline in bus services, and I genuinely believe that this is the quickest way to go forward with that.

It requires a deal of trust between the Government and local authorities, and on many occasions in the debates on the Bill we have had evidence to suggest that we need to demonstrate the new relationship needed between the Government and local government before we can go forward and make real progress on devolution. To me, good public transport is axiomatic with levelling up. We have to have it to make levelling up work at all.

I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for his usual thorough reply, but there is clearly a disconnect between what powers the Government think they have given to local government and what local government is experiencing. The councillor I referred to was the transport portfolio holder for Hertfordshire County Council. He clearly does not think it has the powers to deal with transport in the way that he would want to. Something is clearly not right somewhere with all this. I understand the points about BSIPs and statutory enhanced partnerships, but it seems that the powers are conditional on approval from the Government, and we would like a relationship of trust in which these powers are given to any council transport authority that wishes to have them.

The noble Lord mentioned the important issue of fares. Funding comes into this, of course. The cuts to rural services bus grants, for example, make the provision of bus services in those areas very difficult.

For all those reasons, I am not convinced that we have a clear link to local authorities setting up their own bus companies or franchising services themselves, so I would like to test the opinion of the House.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage
Lord Davies of Stamford Portrait Lord Davies of Stamford (Lab) (Valedictory Speech)
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My Lords, for the last two years a very nasty, cruel war has been waged only two or three thousand kilometres to the east of here by the Russians who attacked Ukraine quite gratuitously under the orders of Mr Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation. He is a man who, I think everybody knows, identifies with the most imperialistic Russian traditions of former tsars such as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great.

We could have flinched from our responsibilities when this invasion took place but we did not, and I congratulate the Government on the strong line that they have taken in support of Ukraine and the good example they have set, which has been followed by many other members of NATO, in supplying vital arms to the Ukrainian forces. It is very important to respond to aggression because, if one does not, one will quite clearly have more of it.

My reason for speaking today is that there has been a very important meeting in Vilnius over the past few days in which the leaders of NATO have set out the kind of policy we should adopt in relation to Ukraine over the coming months and possibly longer. I am glad to say there has been a large measure of consensus and some important developments—very important is the fact that Sweden has now joined NATO. Sweden is an influential country, much respected throughout the world, and a great asset to us in this difficult situation.

The other countries—most recently France and Germany, in the last few days—have also agreed to supply new weapons, which is very important. The West generally has shown that it will not be ignored in a matter of this kind, which threatens the fundamental sovereignty of the peoples of Europe and the peace of our continent. We must always remember—we learned it in the 1930s, of course—that aggressors invariably come back for more, and what one must never do is give in to them. What is very important is that we do not conduct ourselves in such a way as to send a signal to Mr Putin that he can get away with invasion with impunity and that he can alter the frontiers of Europe quite deliberately at his own behest. That must never happen.

There is something personal that I should mention. If I am alive today, it is thanks in large part to the remarkable work of the medical profession. I pay tribute to all those who work in it, most particularly in the NHS. My father was a GP all his working life and was devoted to the founding principles of the NHS. My eldest son has volunteered for years with St John Ambulance, and he gives me graphic and often disturbing accounts of what life is like on the medical front line. The emergency intensive care and trauma teams at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre defied the odds when they saved my life after my near-fatal car crash three years ago. I am eternally grateful to them, together with the wonderful rehabilitation team in London, who got me back on my feet.

I am gravely concerned at reports of insufficient numbers of staff and hospital beds, plummeting staff morale, crumbling buildings and other problems which beset the NHS. The Government owe it to the country to do whatever is necessary for the health of the nation, and the time for taking urgent action on this matter is now.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, it is a great honour and privilege to follow a characteristically eloquent speech from my noble friend Lord Davies of Stamford. After so many years’ service in both Houses since 1987, we owe him a great debt of thanks for the work he has done for the people of this country and for our country. It is my great sadness that I have known him for only such a short time. I was appointed as his Whip just a few months ago. It is a great regret that we have not been able to get to know each other better during that time but, as my noble friend sets off on what I hope will be a long and peaceful retirement, I hope we can keep in touch. I thank him greatly for all the things he has done during his time serving the people of the country.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I listened with much regret and enormous respect to the valedictory speech of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford. He served as Member of Parliament for Grantham and Stamford for 23 years—for the vast bulk of that time on behalf of the Conservative Party. It did not take long for him to make his mark in the other place, as was evidenced by the Guardian naming him parliamentarian of the year in 1996. The BBC named him Back-Bencher of the year in the same year.

The noble Lord served in the shadow Cabinet in the early years of the last Labour Government and demonstrated there his very considerable political and personal abilities. I remember how shocked and saddened his Conservative colleagues were at his decision to leave our ranks, but then how proud we were on his behalf and that of his family that his manifest abilities were recognised by his appointment in the Labour Government as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Equipment, a position he held for two years and one which I know he greatly enjoyed.

In your Lordships’ House, the noble Lord has been a doughty and persuasive debater, an assiduous support to his party and a most congenial parliamentary colleague. We wish him well in his retirement.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage
Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise to speak to my Amendments 28 and 29 in this group and will make some brief comments on the other amendments. We completely understand the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, in Amendment 26 that the current way that combined authorities are brought together means that they could very well not be subject to any political balance mechanisms and the power structures could be centralised, as the noble Lord outlined.

The Local Government and Housing Act 1989 provisions are designed to deal with, for example, political proportionality on council committees. Of course, the political balance of combined authorities will vary across the country depending on the make-up of the constituent members, who will have been selected by dint of local elections. Although it is not impossible to put a balancing mechanism in place, it is difficult to see how that could be addressed without introducing a considerable level of complexity. It may result in some areas being represented by members who were not leaders in their own council, for example, which might bring its own difficulties. We need to think about how we get a sense of political proportionality in these combined authorities.

My Amendments 28 and 29 and Amendment 30, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, seek similar objectives. In Committee, as far back as March, we had long discussions about the composition of combined authorities and the role of the respective councils on them in two-tier areas. I will not repeat all the points I made then but will focus on the key issues. First, the presumption in the Bill that only county councils deal with strategic issues is based on an outdated idea of district councils and is entirely wrong. As a brief example, the workstreams on the Hertfordshire growth board planning for the future of the whole county consist of town centre development, growing our economy, housing growth, tackling climate change, et cetera, and are all led by district leaders. It is hard to see how willing they would be to do that if they did not then play a full part in the work of the full growth board and were not allowed voting rights at its meetings.

In response to the point I made on this in Committee on 15 March, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, responded that district councils

“cannot be a constituent member of a co-operative local government grouping whose membership is determined by reference to strategic functions and powers which are the primary province of upper-tier and unitary authorities. That is the logic”. —[Official Report, 15/3/23; col. 1342.]

I do not see the logic of excluding the strategic leaders of 183 councils that not only run services but are responsible for the planning, housing and economic development of 68% of the land in the UK from taking part in strategic functions and powers.

My noble friend Lord Hunt has set out his concerns about the proposals relating to boundaries. He rightly points to the dangers of these being used for gerrymandering. It is simply not acceptable to use primary legislation for that purpose; it is the very opposite of devolution. My noble friend used the example of Wiltshire the other day and Shropshire today. I think also of Hertfordshire, right on the borders of London, and the idea of it being scooped into a huge authority without leaders in those areas having a say is unthinkable.

The Government’s proposal in the Bill that combined authorities may give their associate members a vote but do not have to give that same ability to district council members or leaders leaves combined authorities in the unprecedented and very unwelcome situation of having democratically elected representatives on their body who cannot vote and appointed members who can. That is surely not tenable. The amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, recognises this issue and would restrict associate members from voting. We urge the Government to consider that, if other amendments in this group are not successful. If the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, is minded to test the opinion of the House then he will certainly have our support on that.

My Amendment 28 would automatically confer voting rights on non-constituent members, but we would prefer that that was in the hands of the combined authorities themselves. Amendment 29 would establish a process for the Minister to introduce a mechanism that could allow combined authorities to give non-constituent members full member status. We feel strongly that this decision should absolutely rest with the combined authorities themselves. It is the opposite of devolution for the Government to determine which locally elected representatives should be permitted to take part in local decision-making and which should not. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, has outlined clearly that weighted voting systems are perfectly possible. Therefore, unless we hear from the Minister that there has been a change to the Government’s view on this issue, we would like to test the opinion of the House.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 26, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, would prevent the executive of a combined county authority being able to represent the political make-up of its members. As I made clear in Committee, that is not something that the Government can agree to. A CCA will be made up of members from each constituent council on a basis agreed by those councils through their consent to the establishing regulations, which will provide for the make-up of the CCA’s executive. It is essential that the CCA’s executive properly reflects the local political membership of that CCA, which this amendment would prohibit. It would also place the CCA’s executive in a different position from those of a local and combined authority, which do not require political balance under existing legislation. I do not believe I can say any more but I hope the noble Lord will see why I cannot accept his amendment and that, on reflection, he will agree to withdraw it.

Amendments 28 and 29 from the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, seek to allow a combined county authority’s non-constituent members to be able to be made full constituent members and to give non-constituent members the same voting rights as full constituent members. Conversely, Amendment 30 from the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, would prevent associate members being given any voting rights, and his Amendment 31 would make planning authorities constituent members.

A key underlying factor of the CCA model is that only upper-tier local authorities can be constituent members and have the associated responsibilities. That is the key difference between it and the existing combined authority model, which, I remind the House, remains available to areas. A non-constituent member of a CCA is a representative of a local organisation; it will not necessarily represent a local authority. I make that point because, since a CCA is a local government institution, it would be inappropriate for any organisation other than an upper-tier local authority to be a constituent member. Constituent members are those who collectively take the decisions of the CCA and are responsible for funding it.

It would also be inappropriate for the same voting rights to be conferred on all non-constituent members, given the range of potential bodies. The CCA should have flexibility to vary voting rights to reflect its membership. We want there to be genuine localism in this area, as in others. Depending on the decision of the combined county authority, its non-constituent members can be given voting rights on the majority of matters.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 24, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, asks the Government to define levelling up. I can simply say that it is already very clearly defined. When launching the levelling up White Paper, the Government clearly defined levelling up as

“a moral, social and economic programme for the whole of government”

to

“spread opportunity more equally across the”

country.

As stated expressly in the very first pages of the White Paper and thereafter, levelling up is about, first, boosting pay and productivity, especially in places where they are lacking; secondly, spreading opportunities and improving public services, especially where they are weakest; thirdly, restoring local pride; and, fourthly, empowering local leaders. Those are the principal four headings—not so different from those articulated by the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, actually—and in the very first clause of the Bill, levelling-up missions are defined as

“objectives which His Majesty’s Government intends to pursue to reduce geographical disparities in the United Kingdom”.

Furthermore, the Bill will already place a statutory duty on the Government to confirm their missions through laying and publishing a statement of levelling-up missions. There is no need, therefore, to have regulations on top of that.

The Government are putting the framework for the missions into statute, and that arrangement is designed to ensure that what we mean by levelling up and how well we are doing to make progress are transparent and the Government can be held properly to account. As the Government have consistently set out, the first levelling-up statement will be based on the White Paper, but missions, as we have said a number of times, need to evolve over time. The Bill requires the Government to notify Parliament formally of any proposed changes to the missions or metrics set out in the statement of levelling-up missions, and we fully expect that Parliament, expert stakeholders and, indeed, the wider public will use these provisions to hold the Government to account—which, I take it, is in fact the main point behind the amendment.

I hope that my explaining this on the record will have reassured the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, and that, in the light of what I have said, she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, once again, I am grateful to the noble Earl for his response, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, for agreeing that we need this definition, but I am still puzzled why, unlike with most Bills that we consider in your Lordships House, there is no clear definition in the Bill of what is intended for it overall. If we go back to the missions and metrics, the content of the missions is not in the Bill, either. Levelling-up missions may be defined in the Bill, but only in a conceptual way, not saying what those missions are; whereas, for example, if we take one of the introductory chapters of the Bill about the setting up of combined authorities, there is a clear definition of a combined authority. It says:

“‘combined authority’ means a combined authority established under Section 103 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009”.

There is a definition of what an economic prosperity board and an integrated transport authority is, yet we do not have that kind of definition of what levelling up means in the Bill. For example, there would be nothing to stop the Government, having set out the missions, to consider them separately as well.

That is part of the problem: there may be a definition which the Secretary of State is working to, but, because it is not in the Bill, it is not being communicated to the people charged with delivering the vast majority of what is in it. We feel it would have been much more helpful to have this definition of what levelling up actually is right there in the Bill. However, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, this has been a full debate on the numerous issues bearing on pavement licences. I shall begin by addressing Amendments 449 and 450 in the name of my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond, to whom I listened with great care and respect. These two amendments relate to the definition of “relevant highway”. The Government support making it as easy as possible for businesses and local authorities to facilitate outdoor eating and drinking through the use of the streamlined pavement licence process. We believe that local authorities should maintain the flexibility to control pavement licences on highways which are both publicly and privately maintainable. The Business and Planning Act 2020 does not currently distinguish between those two types of highway, and as such any enforcement powers available to local authorities would apply equally, ensuring that local authorities can take appropriate action where there are issues with licences.

There are already a number of ways a local authority can consider the pedestrianisation of a street, including to facilitate the placement of furniture on the highway for alfresco dining. They include consideration of important issues such as whether vehicular access is required. Pavement licences can then be granted to highways that have been considered under those processes. We have seen the success of this in practice across the country, including in Soho in London and in the Northern Quarter in Manchester.

Turning to Amendments 451 and 452, which relate to fees and are also in the name of my noble friend, I can say to him that in developing proposals to make the streamlined pavement licensing process permanent, we have worked closely with local authorities, businesses and leaders from the hospitality sector and communities, and many of the points made in this debate have been raised during that process, including the issue of fees. We are increasing the fee cap from £100 to £500 for first-time applications and to £350 for renewals, having undertaken a detailed analysis of actual costs, to create a sustainable process which will cover the costs to local authorities in processing, monitoring and enforcing the process, while remaining affordable and consistent for businesses around the country, which were seeing inflated fees reaching thousands of pounds per application under the previous process. Local authorities maintain flexibility to set fees at any level under the fee cap to respond to local circumstances. For example, we have seen some areas making licences free to support their local high streets. At a time of rising costs, we are not seeking to impose additional charges on businesses, particularly given that the hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.

My noble friend asked specifically whether we could include maintenance and schemes for profit-sharing in the licence. The fee cap, on which we have consulted extensively as I have mentioned, is set at a level which will cover the costs to local authorities for the administrative burden that they undertake in issuing licences. As I have emphasised, we are not looking to impose additional costs at this time.

On Amendments 453, 454, 456 and 457, also in the name of my noble friend, the pavement licence process that we are seeking to make permanent has been successful in the past few years because it provides a simpler, more streamlined process to gain a licence. Amendment 453 would introduce an unnecessary new administrative process for local authorities in requiring that receipts are sent to all applicants. It also has the potential to create a delay in the process, meaning that licences could take longer to be determined should receipts not be processed in reasonable timescales. However, we are seeking to double the consultation and determination periods compared to the temporary process to ensure that communities have sufficient opportunity to comment on applications. The total period allowed for consultation and determination will change to 28 days.

We have worked closely with stakeholders, including groups representing disabled people, local community groups, businesses and local authorities, in considering the consultation period when making the streamlined pavement licence process permanent. In working with these groups, we have sought to achieve a balance between a quick and streamlined process and ensuring that the process is sustainable for the long term and gives communities an opportunity to comment on applications. That is why we are setting the consultation and determination periods at 14 days each—double that of the temporary process. Amendments 454 and 456 would create a slower process than that which it would replace.

Regarding Amendment 457, the deemed consent provision would encourage local authorities to make determinations within the 28-day window from submission. In the rare circumstances where local authorities do not make a determination and the application is deemed to be granted, this will be subject to all national and locally published conditions, including the “no obstruction” condition, which seeks to ensure that the pavement remains accessible for all. Where this condition is not met, local authorities can revoke licences.

I turn to Amendments 455, 458 and 460, also in the name of my noble friend Lord Holmes. Free flow of pedestrians and other users of the highway is important, which is why the Business and Planning Act 2020 already requires that local authorities take this into consideration when determining applications through Section 3(5) and (6)(a), and prevents licences from being granted where they would prevent pedestrians or other non-vehicular traffic from entering or passing along the highway, or having normal access to premises adjoining the highway.

With respect to Amendment 458, we are aware anecdotally of conditions which would, for example, require that licensed furniture be removed when not in use, and conditions which go further than our national smoke-free condition. We consider that local authorities have local knowledge and appropriate powers to impose such conditions should they consider it necessary. We do not think it is necessary or appropriate to create national conditions for these issues, as there are circumstances where it may not be necessary or appropriate.

With regard to Amendment 460, I thank my noble friend Lord Holmes for raising the very important issue of accessibility and impact of pavement licensing on disabled users of the highway. I listened carefully to the powerful speeches of my noble friend Lord Blencathra and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, among others. The existing legislative framework requires local authorities to take these matters into account and they cannot grant a licence if pedestrians are prevented from using the highway as they usually would.

We have taken this issue very seriously in the light of experience since the pandemic. The Business and Planning Act 2020 sets out that all licences are subject to the “no obstruction” condition, which protects pavement users to ensure that they are not prevented from using the highway. In particular, it states that local authorities must have particular regard for disabled people when considering applications, and must have regard to the guidance published by the Secretary of State. This guidance, developed in close collaboration with Guide Dogs and the RNIB, sets out considerations that local authorities should take into account, including whether they should require barriers separating furniture from the rest of the highway—such as colour contrast and tap rails—or more rigid physical barriers. I hope that, taken together, these comments are helpful to my noble friend Lord Holmes and, indeed, to the Committee.

I turn next to Amendment 459 tabled by my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham. The streamlined pavement licence provisions under debate may be granted, as he will know, subject to any condition that the local authority considers reasonable, as set out in Section 5(1) of the Business and Planning Act 2020. As he rightly mentioned, we are aware that a number of councils across the country, including Manchester and Newcastle, have put in place local conditions that ban smoking in pavement licence areas. We believe it is important to allow local areas to make the decisions that are right for them, using local knowledge and the powers that they already have to impose conditions.

But that is not all. Any licences granted under temporary pavement licence provisions will be subject to a smoke-free condition whereby the premises will need to make reasonable provision for seating outdoors where smoking is not permitted. This condition ensures that customers have greater choice so that smokers and non-smokers are able to sit outside. As I have indicated, local authorities are also able to consider setting their own local conditions where appropriate and where local decision-makers believe that it is reasonable to do so.

I turn next to Amendments 462 and 463 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage. The Government recognise the importance of having a system that can be properly enforced to both deter and tackle the unauthorised placement of furniture. Powers introduced in the Bill enable local authorities to serve notice requiring that businesses remove furniture that has been placed on the pavement without a licence. If this notice is contravened, local authorities can remove the furniture themselves or instruct to have the furniture removed, and can then recover the costs of this and sell the furniture and retain the profits.

It is the Government’s position that the introduction of the powers proposed will lead to appropriate protection of our communities by giving local authorities powers that both work as a deterrent and directly tackle where notices are ignored, ensuring that the licensing system operates appropriately. Highways authorities already have powers in the Highways Act 1980 to tackle obstructions on the highway, including Section 148, which creates an offence of depositing, without lawful authority or excuse, things on the highway that cause interruption to users of the highway.

I turn finally to Amendment 448, 464 and 465 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage. These amendments seek to introduce requirements for assessments of impacts relating to various aspects to be taken by local authorities, by businesses or by government in advance of the measures being made permanent through the Bill. The Government agree that accessibility is incredibly important, and that our towns and city centres should continue to be accessible for all residents. As I set out earlier, we have made it a requirement—set out in Section 3(5) of the Business and Planning Act 2020—that the local authority must consider the impact of the proposed licence on accessibility of the highway to non-vehicular traffic before granting a pavement licence. As I also mentioned a second ago, we worked closely with the RNIB and Guide Dogs on the guidance that supports this.

We also recognise the importance that these measures will have on the vitality and vibrancy of high streets across the country, and encourage businesses and local authorities to embrace the opportunities that this regime offers while considering the impact of new licences on the community. We do not think it necessary or appropriate to require, through legislation, local authorities to consider to what extent a licence will increase high street footfall for the purpose of regeneration, because this would introduce additional burdens on both businesses—in the form of likely needing to undertake analysis and provide evidence of this—and local authorities in assessing this.

Finally, on Amendment 465, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising these important issues, which reflect previously tabled amendments that we have discussed on consultation periods, the introduction of tactile markings and the removal of deemed consent. We do not think it appropriate to require a report to be published on these matters as they have already been actively considered, as I have made clear. I hope these comments are helpful to her as regards the amendments in her name and that, specifically, she will feel able to withdraw her Amendment 448.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for, as ever, a thorough response to the issues that have been raised during this interesting debate. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have participated.

I appreciate the frustrations of Government Whips, but the purpose of your Lordships’ House is to give proper scrutiny to legislation that comes before us. This is a long and complex Bill with diverse issues, many of which go right to the heart of our communities’ concerns, and it is only right and proper that we raise the issues that we know they would want us to probe and explore in this House.

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Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, for setting out the case for his amendment. However, I am afraid it still looks to me as if he is trying to fix something that is not broken and in doing so is going in the opposite direction of travel to a Bill for devolution.

Taxi licensing in two-tier areas is operated efficiently and effectively and enables local authorities to meet local needs. It also enables local taxi businesses to call into their local authority and have direct contact with it. The enforcement is also done very effectively. The proposal in the levelling up White Paper to transfer taxi licensing powers might be relevant to mayoral combined authorities, but I cannot see the case to justify it for shire counties. Current arrangements for licensing in shire counties work well and do not need to be disturbed. There are more important issues that would benefit shire counties than taking up time on such a consultation; for example, allowing councils to set licensing and planning fees or reforming funding for regeneration so that bidding is not necessary. I could go on, but it is late so I will not.

Even in London, it is not possible to buy an integrated ticket covering tubes, trains, buses and taxis. There will never be an integration of ticketing for obvious reasons of affordability; the cost of taxis and private hire vehicles make them the most expensive form of transport per mile. The White Paper presents no evidence that decisions on licensing prevent the integration of those transport modes into local transport plans. County councils as highways authorities are competent at providing taxi ranks at transport hubs and other appropriate locations in town centres; they do not need taxi licensing powers to achieve that integration.

District councils are not likely to ban taxis from operating half an hour either side of a train arrival, to try to stop private hire vehicles from picking up at or near bus stops, or to say that taxis cannot run at 2 am on Saturday or Sunday mornings to pick up people leaving nightclubs. So could we have more clarity on why Whitehall thinks that there is an integration problem?

A government Minister in the other place has talked of the inconsistency between licensing authorities because there are so many of them. Reducing the number of licensing authorities to 80, as that Minister mentioned, shows the fallacy of the suggestion. One could argue that inconsistencies are local authorities meeting the needs of their communities in relation to taxi operation. However, even if there are problems of inconsistency in policy or practice, the way to address them is by legislating for consistency.

In shire counties, it is likely that the review would be unwelcome and unnecessary. It would remove local decision-making that is sensitive to local requirements and policies and based on local knowledge. It is the opposite of devolution; it would not be an improvement to see decisions on licensing being taken remotely, with no guarantee that they will be people elected by the districts concerned or that they would have any knowledge of the district.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Moylan would require the Secretary of State to consult on the proposal in the levelling up White Paper

“to explore transferring control of taxi and private hire vehicle licensing to both combined authorities and upper-tier authorities”.

I reassure my noble friend that the Department for Transport plans to engage stakeholders on the proposal set out in the levelling up White Paper to explore transferring the responsibility for licensing taxis and private hire vehicles to upper-tier and combined authorities. The aim is to do so during the course of this year. Clearly, as my noble friend will understand, it is essential that the proposal is considered in detail before any decisions are taken about whether to proceed with the change. I am sure that the issues highlighted by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, can be picked up in that engagement process. My colleagues at the Department for Transport reassure me that they are currently working on this, so I hope that that, in turn, reassures my noble friend Lord Moylan sufficiently to enable him to withdraw his amendment.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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The extent to which those financial benefits can be taken into account will be set out, as I mentioned, in regulations. My noble friend makes a fair point, but parameters will be set around this. On the issue of prior consultation, which the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, also raised, one can take two views: one is to go through the process that my noble friend advocated, and the other is to say that the integrity and workability of the scheme is such that we can afford to come to this House and the other place first before launching a pilot. Our view is that it will be perfectly satisfactory to take that course.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, this has been a very interesting discussion. This is probably one of the cases where there is less clarity at the end of the debate than there was at the beginning. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Young, for once again giving a very forensic and detailed analysis of the subject and for raising all the key issues that sit within it. As the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, said, it was a very clear description of community land auctions.

On the issue of consultation, I remind the Committee that the noble Lord, Lord Benyon, in answer to an Oral Question earlier today, said that we are in danger of doing too much consultation. In this case, it would have been helpful if councils had been consulted before this proposal was put forward in primary legislation, because some of the issues raised in the debate would have come up immediately—they are quite obvious to those of us engaged in local government.

I have great sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Young, said. There is a queue of things that many of us feel should be in this Bill, including renters reform, leasehold reform, repealing the Vagrancy Act and so on. They did not get across the line and put into this primary legislation; yet here we have a fairly unformed idea, which has not been tested, which is in the legislation. That process is a bit mysterious to some of us.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage
Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, regarding Clause 123, we believe that this provision was added to the Bill subsequent to consideration in the other place, so it has perhaps not had the same scrutiny as other parts of the Bill.

Amendment 285AA, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, seeks to have the status of combined mayoral authority with planning powers added to the list of exemptions. A distinction was drawn previously in your Lordships’ House between the devolution powers conferred on mayors and the legislative powers devolved to Administrations, but what meetings and discussions have been held with devolved Administrations in this respect?

I express our concern, alongside that of the noble Lords, Lord Stunell and Lord Carrington, about the implications of this clause in any case. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, argues that the clause should not be part of the Bill at all. I can understand this view as in this part of the Bill, as in others, there are very significant powers being taken by the Secretary of State to amend these long lists of 25 pieces of primary legislation, with limited scrutiny or consultation and without reversion to either House. That would give us great cause for concern. I hope that the Minister can respond to this, but we support the clause stand part notice.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I have listened carefully to the concerns expressed by the noble Lords, Lord Stunell and Lord Carrington, and hope and believe that I can fully reassure them both. I will respond to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in a second, but will begin by addressing Amendment 285AA, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Stunell.

This amendment would restrict the nature of amendments that can be made under the power contained in Clause 123 so that the Secretary of State could not use it in relation to matters within a devolved competence or where a mayor has planning powers. Noble Lords will be aware that under Clause 123(6) any changes made by regulations under this section do not come into effect except where Parliament enacts a relevant consolidation Act and that Act comes into effect. In practice, these regulations will smooth the transition of the law from its current unconsolidated state to its future consolidated state. To do this, they have legal effect for only a moment, immediately before the relevant consolidation Act comes into effect.

Noble Lords will know that consolidation is a highly technical exercise restricted to the clarification and restatement of the existing law. This power is likewise restricted. It cannot be used to change the terms of devolution, nor to interfere in policy matters which are devolved. The power to make incidental provision in relation to a devolved competence is included here to reflect that much of planning and compulsory purchase law pre-dates devolution. Without this power allowing the Secretary of State to disentangle the law in England, we would be unable to ensure that in substance the legal position within devolved competence would be unchanged when the law applying in England was disentangled. In relation to the second—

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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I thank the noble Earl for giving way. The provision in Clause 123(4) says:

“For the purposes of this section, ‘amend’ includes repeal and revoke”.


That sounds like a sledgehammer being used to crack a nut if it is a matter of consolidation.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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Consolidation in this area of the law is immensely complex. Frankly, we do not know the full extent of the relevant planning provisions that must be considered in any common consolidation exercise because the exercise has not been commenced.

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Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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I am sorry to hear that. The point I was seeking to make is that the general public need to trust the law and know what the law is, as does anyone dealing with the planning system. That is why the Government’s ambition is to put in train a consolidation exercise, which may take a considerable time. I have been quite frank with the Committee that there are not only 50 Acts that we know about which deal with planning and compulsory purchase, but—as my notes say—innumerable other Acts which cross-reference those 50 Acts. It will require a major legal exercise to bring all the threads together.

I cannot commit to a timescale for consolidation from the Dispatch Box today. There is a large amount of work to do before we can get to that stage and that will naturally have to be balanced against the wider legislative programme. It is for that reason that we are asking for this power to prepare the way—I think that is the best way of putting it—to make the ultimate consolidation a more achievable exercise.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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I am sorry to keep pursuing this point but it is really very important indeed. Any of us who has worked on this Bill knows the difficulty of how many crossovers there are with other Bills. On the previous group of amendments, from my perspective and I am sure from those of colleagues on these Benches, we ended up referencing back through various Bills to get to the point that the amendments referred to. That does not make life easy, and I am sure it makes it very opaque for professionals and the public trying to deal with the system. That simply underlines yet again, as we have done many times through this process, that a planning Bill might have been a better option to get to the rationalisation of the planning system, but we are where we are with that.

We remain concerned about just how this exercise will be done. Will a whole series of statutory instruments come through? Will it just be for the Secretary of State to make the decisions and then change the legislation—I am not entirely sure how that works in process terms—or will we have a whole other Bill that will be the “consolidation of planning Bill 2025” or something? I am interested as to what the process will be for this, because we have 25 Acts here at least—there are probably more than that, in truth—that need amending.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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As I said, the exercise is an enormous one. It requires legal brains to get their heads around the statutes before we can even think about putting a consolidation Bill together. I am afraid I cannot be precise in answer to the noble Baroness but I will see whether I can clarify and distil what I have tried to say—obviously not very adequately—by writing to her. I will of course copy my letter to the noble Lords, Lord Stunell and Lord Carrington. In doing so, I hope I can provide complete reassurance about the intent behind these regulation-making powers.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, a range of questions have been asked on this group of amendments. It might be helpful if I begin with the question posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, and set out why the Government are bringing forward this measure in the Bill.

Local people can, quite understandably, be resistant to new development in their area if they have little say over what gets built and it does not reflect their preferences. However, many of us know that residents are often more supportive when they can play a direct role in shaping that development, including what it looks like. The Government are looking to deliver more good quality homes in the right places. To help achieve that, we want to encourage some intensification of development in existing residential areas, particularly areas of low density in towns and cities where this has the support of residents.

Clause 99 introduces street vote development orders, which will provide residents with a new opportunity to take a proactive role in the planning process and bring forward the development that they want to see on their streets. This new route to planning permission will support wider local efforts in bringing forward developments of new or more spacious homes in places where they are needed most. Amendments 248, 251, 253A, 254 and 257 all deal with how street votes will fit with the wider planning system and related requirements, and I propose to address them as a group.

In moving Amendment 248, my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham emphasised the desirability of achieving maximum certainty in the planning system. The first thing for me to say is that we want to create a predictable system where residents have a high degree of certainty on what development is likely to be permissible before they prepare a street vote development order proposal and that we want to make the system accessible and easy to use. To achieve that, we propose to do things a bit differently with this new tool. We want to depart from existing practice, which relies heavily on the interpretation of local policies to determine whether a development is appropriate, and move to an approach where proposals are assessed against more precise requirements which will be prescribed in regulations. These prescribed regulations will include what type of development and what type of uses are allowed, as well as detailed design requirements such as floor limits, ceiling heights and the extent to which a plot can be used.

We want to test this through consultation ahead of drafting the secondary legislation. These requirements will provide residents with that certainty and ease of use and be designed to ensure that street votes development is high quality and that any local impacts are managed. While I understand the intentions behind my noble friend’s amendment, it would, if agreed, prevent us applying this new approach and therefore I am unable to support it. I emphasise that this is an issue that we intend to consult on as part of a wider consultation on the detail of the measure to ensure that a wide spectrum of views is considered and that the policy delivers for communities.

I turn next to Amendment 251 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, which was spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor. Where there is a street vote development order, we of course wish to see the resultant impacts of construction on residents and the local environment minimised. The powers we are seeking would allow the Secretary of State to prescribe in regulations the documents that must accompany a street vote proposal. They could potentially include a code of construction practice. We intend to consult on what these requirements should be as part of the wider consultation on the detail of the measure. Setting out the documentary requirements in the Bill would prevent us considering this, alongside other detailed matters, through consultation.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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Does the Minister accept that as part of that consultation we should speak to the Local Government Association or other representatives of local government? The drawing up of such codes and so on would almost certainly involve professionals in the planning departments of local authorities. They are at breaking point already—they are greatly stretched—and these street votes can presumably pop up at any time. They will not necessarily be part of a planned workload for local authorities. One of our concerns is that if some of these codes and other things that might be needed to support street votes are not very clear in secondary legislation or the SI that brings it in, it will put an incredible burden on those hard-pressed local authority planning departments. That is probably why the LGA has spoken out so strongly against this proposal, or one of the reasons. If we are going to do some extensive consultation on this before we see secondary legislation on it—which begs the question of why it could not have come in secondary legislation in the first place—that issue needs to be considered.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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We want to engage in extensive consultation. I have every confidence that the Government will want to garner opinion from sources that have expertise of the kind that the noble Baroness mentions, and I see no reason why the LGA will not be included in that. If I can provide her with greater certainty, I will certainly do so by letter. I will be talking more about the broader consultation process in a minute or two.

The effect of Amendment 253A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, would be to exclude development in any area with a designated neighbourhood forum from the scope of street vote development orders. This would mean that, as he explained, street vote development orders could not be used in areas where, I suggest, they would be of most benefit, for example, where local people want more homes, or where greenfield land is under particular pressure from housing development. I reassure the noble Lord that neighbourhood planning will continue to play an important role in the planning system. Indeed, other measures in the Bill reinforce this. Where street vote development orders operate, communities will continue to be able to participate in neighbourhood planning. Indeed, our intended consultation will give neighbourhood planning forums and other interested parties an opportunity to shape the policy and ensure that it delivers for communities.

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Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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The noble Earl has mentioned, a couple of times now, independent examination of street voting. Does that mean the idea is that we will have a whole new round of public inquiry processes for every street vote that is introduced?

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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No, it most certainly does not. Our intention is to appoint the Planning Inspectorate to examine proposals and make the street vote development orders on behalf of the Secretary of State.

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Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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Yes, and consultation.

Before I speak to the government amendments, I will turn to Amendments 255 and 256, also in the name of the noble Baroness, which deal broadly with issues of propriety. I recognise the valuable expertise that organisations like the Association of Electoral Administrators can bring, but I do not agree with the noble Baroness that it is necessary to place a statutory duty on the Secretary of State to engage with them. As part of our work to develop the detail of the street votes policy for regulations, we will seek a wide range of views, as I mentioned earlier, from organisations such as the Association of Electoral Administrators and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives to help us to get the secondary legislation right and to ensure that the policy operates effectively. However, it is right that the Secretary of State will be required to consult the Electoral Commission, given its important statutory role to ensure free and fair elections and polls.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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I hear what the noble Earl is saying. In that respect, our amendment was more to seek the views of the Association of Electoral Administrators about the level of pressure that might be put on those groups—I made this point on planning teams earlier—if they were involved in a number of different referenda in their areas at the same time, for example. These can come out of the blue—we would not know when—so there are issues around how they are resourced to deal with that kind of uncertainty in their workloads.

Two big questions have come out what the noble Earl has said. First, as the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, said, it seems that we are going to have a whole new inspectorate. We had a light-hearted suggestion that it might be called “Ofstreet”, but that is for later determination. Who is going to pay for that inspectorate? Secondly, there is the issue of referendums. Referendums can be quite expensive—we have done them on parking issues in my borough. It costs quite a lot of money because you have to be very careful about how they are done to make sure they are fair. Who pays for those?

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, if I may say so, that is a very helpful intervention from the noble Baroness. She raises a number of key points, some of which will no doubt be covered in the consultation, but if I can expand on that I will be happy to write to her.

On Amendment 256, I would like to make it clear that the Government take the potential for conflicts of interest seriously. I am however confident that local authorities and the Planning Inspectorate, both of which we envisage having an important role in the street vote process, have appropriate safeguards in place to minimise conflicts of interest. It is a matter for local authorities to determine their own conflict of interest policies. I have every confidence that all local authorities treat conflicts of interest seriously and have robust procedures in place for both their members and officers. It would not be proportionate to legislate that local authorities publish guidance on managing conflicts of interest specifically on street votes, although no local authority would be prohibited from doing so if they so wished.

Our intention is to appoint the Planning Inspectorate to examine proposals and make street vote development orders on behalf of the Secretary of State. As the independent examiner, the Planning Inspectorate has its own conflicts of interest policy to support the proper and efficient allocation of work. In addition, chartered town planners, who may support residents in preparing proposals, are bound by the Royal Town Planning Institute’s code of professional conduct. This includes provisions to declare and avoid conflicts of interest.

I turn briefly to the government amendments in this group. The Government are committed to ensuring that street vote development is subject to the same principles in relation to environmental impact assessment as development enabled by other routes to planning permission. This is consistent with the Government’s commitment on non-regression of environmental protections. Without amending the Bill, it would be unclear for qualifying groups and relevant bodies how the EIA requirements would apply to street vote development. Amendments 257A, 504H, 504I, 504J and 509A allow for the Secretary of State to make regulations modifying the existing process under the EIA regulations so they operate effectively for street vote development orders. Where development that is consented under a street vote development order is EIA development, it will continue to be prohibited unless an assessment has been carried out and the environmental impacts are considered when making the order. Amendments 248A, 256A and 258A make technical and consequential provision to the Town and Country Planning Act, the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and the Elections Act 2022. These minor changes to these Acts—

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Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Berkeley for once again using his very detailed, particular knowledge and expertise of issues around the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall. As ever, we are grateful to him for speaking up for those communities. The question he asks is an important one: why should anybody be exempt from proposals in this Bill, never mind the Duchy of Cornwall?

I will start with Amendment 504GJI on leasehold. We have had long and protracted discussions around leasehold in the course of discussions on this Bill previously. My noble friend Lord Berkeley referred to the Law Commission report on leasehold and the recommendations that people should be able to buy out freehold. I cannot see any reason that Law Commission report has not been acted on, and I hope the Minister will be able to enlighten us about that.

Certainly, it does not seem to us that there should be exemptions that sit outside of that for any reason. If the Law Commission has looked closely at the rationale for the exemptions that were put forward by the Duchy and not found those to be reasonable, it seems that the Government should treat the Duchy of Cornwall in the same way as they treat everybody else. As we have heard the Secretary of State say number of times now, if the Government intend to end the feudal leasehold system, will the Duchy of Cornwall be exempt from that, too, or will the Duchy of Cornwall’s properties be included in that legislation? If the Minister cannot provide the answer today, I am happy to take an answer in writing to that question.

My noble friend Lord Berkeley was kind enough to provide information about the issue related to the Isles of Scilly steamship company to us in advance of today’s session, and the point that he makes is a very valid one. For the communities on the Isles of Scilly, this really is an issue of levelling up. He has given us information on the very steep fare increases on that steamship company, and I understand the fare is now some £89. People on the Isles of Scilly will need to use that service. Their choice is either to travel by air, which we do not want to encourage, or to use this steamship company. A strange situation has developed here; it is a situation that I wish I had had in my borough, where when you find you have to go into competition to deliver something if you use government funding, you suddenly find, after 10 years of asking for government money, that the money has appeared miraculously. That does seem a very strange situation. There needs to be close attention to the way these issues are treated. They are issues of levelling up, because communities on the Isles of Scilly want to know they are being treated in the same way as other communities in the United Kingdom. I support my noble friend Lord Berkeley’s amendment.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I will start by addressing Amendment 258 and then move on to Amendment 504GJI, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. Amendment 258 would remove land in the Duchy of Cornwall from the definition of “Crown land”, as part of planning law. The noble Lord asked what the definition of “Crown land” was, and I apologise for not answering him in the previous debate. It is set out in Section 293 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, as my noble friend Lord Lansley rightly indicated in the last debate. It is, broadly, land in which there is a Crown or a Duchy interest—I shall expand on that in a second. I appreciate that the noble Lord tabled a number of Private Member’s Bills concerning the treatment of the Crown and the Duchy of Cornwall, and I admire his tenacity in this regard.

For the benefit of the Committee, I will set out some factual and historical background. For a long time, the Crown was not subject to planning control, but, in 2006, provisions within the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 made it subject to planning permission, subject to special modifications. These recognise not only the unique nature of operational Crown land—prisons and military bases, for example—but the uniqueness and importance of the royal estates.

It is important first to understand the complex status of the Duchy of Cornwall. The title “Duke of Cornwall” and the inheritance of the Duchy were created in 1337 by a charter that carries the authority of an Act of Parliament. By virtue of that charter, the Duchy vests in the eldest son of the sovereign, also being heir apparent. Where there is no son and heir, the estate reverts to the Crown. Craies on Legislation notes:

“That is why … the Crown’s prerogative attaches to the lands of the Duchy of Cornwall, for the reason that they never entirely cease to be Crown lands”.


In short, there is always the possibility of the Duchy reverting to the sovereign, as his or her property. For this reason, the Duchy never entirely ceases to be Crown lands. For example, in recent times, King George VI had no son, so, on his accession, there was no Duke of Cornwall and the Duchy remained with King George VI.

Removing the Duchy of Cornwall from the definition of “Crown land” within Section 293 of the Town and Country Planning Act risks disrupting this well-established constitutional arrangement. This could open widespread implications for not just planning but how the Duchy is treated in law more widely. I have enormous respect for the noble Lord, but I am not sure that it is appropriate to open up this debate as part of the Bill. From his previous experience, he will appreciate that it would not be right for a single individual or party to seek to change the law on the way the Duchy of Cornwall is treated. If that is done at all, it has to be done with cross-party support. In addition, a Bill affecting the Duchy requires the King’s consent and sometimes also the Prince’s consent. For the reasons I set out, the Government have no intention to change the definitions of “Crown land” at this time, especially where this concerns changes that could affect His Majesty’s hereditary rights.

Amendment 504GJI addresses the impact that recommendations in the Law Commission’s 2020 report on enfranchisement would have on the Government’s levelling-up and regeneration objectives, including for leaseholders on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall. The Government are committed to making it easier and cheaper for leaseholders to purchase their freeholds and extend their leases, and we are grateful to the Law Commission for its detailed report on enfranchisement reform. This report addressed a range of matters relating to the qualifying criteria for enfranchisement and lease extensions, including the applicability of these to leaseholders of the Crown, the Duchy of Cornwall and the Duchy of Lancaster. In January 2022, the Government consulted on Law Commission proposals that would improve access to enfranchisement and the right to manage. I am sure that the noble Lord will appreciate that this is a long-term and complex reform programme with many interdependencies, and it will take time to get the detail right. Once it is enacted, the effect will be felt for generations, so we are determined that this work consider all the implications with care.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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We cannot, at this stage, prescribe particular percentages to particular situations. This is to be worked through in regulations and guidance, which was, as I emphasised, the approach that respondents to the consultation felt was right: we should not be unduly prescriptive in primary legislation, but rather allow for some flexibility at local level depending on the situation under consideration.

I turn to Amendment 175 in the name of the noble Baroness. As I outlined, our view is that local people should have the final say on these matters, particularly, as the noble Baroness’s Amendment 173 demonstrates, when it comes to their local heritage. In this context, I agree with the underlying intent behind this amendment. There should be clear processes for making sure that views from all relevant groups that might be affected by a street name change are taken into account. It is, however, important that we do this in the right way so that the processes are robust but can be adjusted if needed.

The approach in these amendments would be prescriptive and would limit our ability to go further than simply consultation by making local views determinative, as the clauses do at present. But I want to reassure the noble Baroness that we will be setting out clear, transparent and robust arrangements in secondary legislation, as we set out in the consultation I already mentioned. In addition, by setting out the detail for how consultation on street naming will work in regulations and guidance, we can maintain flexibility to update processes in line with different local circumstances and changes such as new technology. I hope these remarks are helpful in explaining the Government’s approach to what is a sensitive issue.

My noble friend Lord Lansley asked whether there were any local Acts of Parliament that might affect this issue. I am advised that the Oxfordshire Act 1985 might be relevant here. I think I had better do further research for my noble friend to find out whether there are others—but that was the advice that I have been able to receive.

On his other question of the power to name new villages, I have no direct experience of this. My understanding is that what normally happens is a conversation between a private developer and the local authority and an accommodation is reached. The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, who clearly has direct experience of this, is shaking her head, so I do bow to her experience. It would seem appropriate that I look into this further and write to my noble friend once again.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part. I thought this would be quite a short debate, but you never know here, do you? I am also grateful to the noble Earl for, as usual, a very thoughtful and considered response to the debate.

Our contention in tabling the amendments in this group was that the Government’s introduction of this clause to the Bill was kind of bizarre in a way. We have looked at some very key strategic issues in the debates already—we are likely to come to more in the days in Committee to come—around local finance, business rates, environmental issues, affordable housing and so on, and found that there is not as much in the Bill as we would like to see on those. However, what seems to be an issue covered by previous legislation and seems for the most part to be managed perfectly well in local areas—there may be some notable exceptions—gets a whole clause in the Bill.

I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, for his careful evisceration of the clause—that is what it was. He used the term “a clause in search of a problem” and asked the clear question: what is the problem here? He also referred to the impact statement having no reference to this clause. I think the idea is that there may be—let us face it, there probably are—some councils around the country which either insist on name changes that have not got public support or resist name changes that have. But the existing powers, as has been consistently referred to through the debate, require a consultation of ratepayers to vote in favour of a name change, so it is difficult to see where the push comes from.

I know that this issue causes a great deal of concern in local areas if there are things that have gone wrong, but surely the pressure on a democratically elected council would be to make sure they had their residents alongside them if they were going to present a change of name, not to push against that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, talked about the LGA supporting getting rid of this clause. I noted that from the LGA’s briefing. The idea that people really want to get tangled up in these issues in Parliament is odd, to say the least, as far as I am concerned.

The noble Lord, Lord Scriven, talked about measuring sufficient local support. Leaving this to regulation seems, again, to be a huge sledgehammer to crack a nut. If we are going to have regulations around the conduct and timing of a referendum and what percentage is going to get us over the line in terms of what we call our road, that kind of centralised direction has no place in a Bill that is supposed to be concentrating on devolution. I do not want to get caught up in the issue around roads in Haringey particularly. It may be in that case that the consultation did not take place; I do not know.

--- Later in debate ---
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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I do not think the noble Baroness has understood the issue. This has everything to do with devolution; that is the whole point of the clause.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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Well, I think that regulating to the extent of telling where signs can be put and whether they should be painted or printed really is against the spirit of devolution.

The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, made good points on what powers local authorities have to name which things. We should not avoid the fact that private developers will of course choose to name things in a way that they think will help them to sell properties in an area. They will choose either road names or settlement names because they think it is in their interest and will help to sell properties. If we are to have this clause—I assume we will, because I doubt the Government will withdraw it—we need to think about this as well. Areas should be named according to some kind of local connection, whether it is history or individuals connected with the area—my second amendment refers to this—and I do not think that this should be entirely in the hands of developers.

I have not changed my view on this clause. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, that it does not have much of a place in the Bill, but if it is going to be in there, when name changes are made we need to think about what the connections are. I am grateful for the comments of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, on this. We also need to think about proper public consultation on matters such as this. If it has to be in the Bill, so be it, but local authorities have managed this perfectly well so far and there is no need for a clause such as this in a broad-ranging, strategic Bill. That said, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage
Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Hunt for tabling the amendment. I take this opportunity to congratulate him on his 50 years in local government and the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, on his many years in local government. I went into local government in 1997. I was leader of my council for nearly 17 years before I joined your Lordships’ House, so I am the baby of the party here. However, I learned a few things along the way, as the noble Lord, Lord Jackson, kindly remarked. I want to cover some comments about my noble friend Lord Hunt’s amendment and to make some general points about the role of district councils in the new world that we are looking at following the Bill.

The big question here was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Mann, which is: where does democracy lie? This is a very important question. We think about it often in local councils. In previous sittings, we have heard set out clearly before your Lordships’ House the incredibly valuable role that district councils play in many of our communities in the UK, and I am grateful that this has been brought before us once again today. That is why it is so disappointing that the Bill, which purports to be all about devolution and bringing decision-making closer to people, seems to ride roughshod over the very tier of local government and the 183 councils that are closest to many people and communities. District councils outstrip county council colleagues and national government by a very long way indeed on issues such as helping people feel proud of their area, tackling social issues in our neighbourhoods, responding to and dealing with emergencies and, importantly, bringing the views of local people into decision-making in their local area. The figures are 62% for the district councils, 32% for county councils and 6%—yes, just 6%—for national government. As my noble friend Lord Hunt said, district councils cover about 40% of the UK’s population but, importantly for the purposes of the Bill, they cover 68% of the land of the UK.

In this country we already have the lowest number of elected representatives per head in Europe; France has 35,000 communes with mayors and Germany has 11,000 municipalities. It is the UK that has abnormal levels of underrepresentation, and our councillors lack the powers and finances of many of our continental counterparts. Across the country we have around 2,000 electors per district councillor, which may account for their approachability, whereas there are 9,000 electors per county councillor.

They also represent communities that people recognise —I think this is key for the Bill. The comments by the noble Lord, Lord Mann, were very important here; people relate to the communities represented by our district councils. Surely the Bill should aim to keep the devolution we already have, not snatch it away to bigger and bigger combined authorities. That does not sound like progress to me.

This is not to set up any false conflict or rivalry between counties and districts. We all have a job to do and county councils are currently doing a valiant job in very trying circumstances. But with the high-cost services at county level, such as adult care services and children’s services, impacting on around just 5% of the population, whereas district council services impact on 100% of the population, it is perhaps not surprising to see how valued district councils are by their communities. As well as environmental services like the ones that my noble friend Lord Hunt commented on—waste collection, fly-tipping, street cleaning, licensing and food safety—districts look after leisure, parks and culture. They often take a role in preventive public health initiatives—in my own borough we have a Young People’s Healthy Hub tackling mental health issues for young people—town centre and high street management, tourism and so on. They also deal with key strategic services. I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Jackson, on this, because without key strategic services such as planning and economic development, there would be no levelling up. Leveraging £1 billion of town centre investment, as we have done in my borough, and £5 billion for a cell and gene therapy park—these are important contributions to the local area.

The noble Lord, Lord Mann, referred to neighbourhood planning, which is a key part of how we drive forward issues around housing. It is well documented that it is neighbourhood planning that has actually delivered housing; it is a very important part of what has been done. The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, referred to issues around the structure and architecture of the national development management policies. Frankly, I do not understand how this is going to work in the way it is currently set out in the Bill.

There are plenty of other contributions that district councils make. It was alarming to hear the Minister contend in our earlier session this week that

“councils do not deliver any of the services required by the PCC.”—[Official Report, 13/3/23; col. 1143.]

That does not take into account the very successful partnership working between district councils and the police. As well as managing CCTV systems and often funding neighbourhood wardens, districts have extensive programs for tackling anti-social behaviour and for drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and are often linked with Housing First provision, domestic abuse, engaging communities in setting local policing priorities and tackling enforcement issues in licensing, fly-tipping and environmental crime, to name but a few. During the pandemic, in two-tier areas it was often district councils that stepped up to either take on the support of those who were shielding or help mobilise hyperlocal resources to do so.

Forgive me for perhaps labouring the point a little, but the premise of the Bill, which seeks to override the very important role that district councils play in our communities, may be based on a misunderstanding or an outdated view of what district councils actually do. Of course, on planning issues, when we are looking at big strategic planning, districts have to work in partnership with other bodies—the health service, local enterprise partnerships and county councils—but I contend that this means they must have a vote and a voice around that table. Therefore, I support my noble friend Lord Hunt’s amendment in this group, as I have with others in earlier sessions that give district councils—and indeed town and parish councils—the voice that they deserve and that their communities expect them to have.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 125A tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, brings us back to a set of issues that we have discussed in a number of our earlier debates: the question of which authorities can prepare a proposal for the establishment of a combined county authority and submit the proposal to the Secretary of State. The amendment seeks to add second-tier district councils within the proposed CCA’s area to this list of authorities. However, as the noble Lord is aware, the Bill provides that only upper-tier local authorities—county councils and unitary councils—can be constituent members of a CCA. District councils cannot be constituent members of a CCA and, as such, cannot prepare and submit a proposal for a CCA.

Let me take the Committee through the rationale for this approach. When CCAs come into being, they will ensure that there is a mechanism for strategic decision-making across a functional economic area or whole-county geography; in other words, co-operation over matters for which upper-tier local authorities already have responsibility.

In the Government’s view, therefore, it makes sense to enable upper-tier local authorities to decide, albeit following appropriate consultation, whether a CCA across a wider geographic area might offer advantages for such whole-county strategic decision-making. That is not to say that district councils should have no voice in the way a CCA comes into being; quite the contrary. While we believe that it is right for district councils not to form part of the constituent membership of a CCA, they are nevertheless key stakeholders in the devolution process. As we stated in the levelling up White Paper, while we will negotiate devolution deals with upper-tier local authorities across a functional economic area or whole-county geography, we expect county councils to work closely with the district councils in their area during the formulation of the proposal and subsequently. This is exactly what has been happening to date, and we have been pleased to see it.

How can we ensure that the voice of district councils is heard as a CCA proposal is being put together? As discussed in Committee previously, authorities proposing a CCA must undertake a public consultation on the proposal. As key local stakeholders, district councils would be consulted. Their views would be reflected in any summary of consultation responses submitted to the Secretary of State for consideration.

The task of the Secretary of State is then to assess whether the consultation has been sufficient. In doing so, the Secretary of State will have regard to whether it reflects the views of a full range of local stakeholders, including district councils should there be any. The Cabinet Office principles for public consultations are very clear that those conducting a public consultation must consult the full range of local stakeholders, not simply local residents but businesses, public authorities, voluntary sector organisations and others with a legitimate interest. If the Secretary of State, mindful of those principles and in the light of the evidence presented, deems the consultation not to be adequate, they themselves must consult on the proposal. Any such consultation would include consulting district councils.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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I thank the noble Earl for giving way. I do not accept the principle that the district councils in an area, which are the democratically elected representatives for their people, are the same as all the other stakeholders that the noble Earl referred to and just another consultee in this process. Fundamentally, that is where the discussions we have had on this so far have given us such a deal of trouble. District councils have an elected mandate from the people they represent. I appreciate that there are very strong rules around Cabinet Office consultations and so on in the principles that the noble Earl has set out, but surely there must be a different approach to district councils because of the elected mandate that their representatives hold.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, this group of amendments relates to the budgets and funding of combined county authorities and the scrutiny of them. Amendment 87, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, seeks to place a requirement on the Secretary of State to publish an assessment of a combined county authority’s funding, including in relation to any new functions.

The Government fully recognise the importance of transparency with regard to allocations of funding and regular reporting on the impact of wider and deeper devolution. That is why we introduced a measure to that effect in the Cities and Local Devolution Act 2016. This provision requires the Government to produce an annual report on progress with devolution that covers the areas suggested by the noble Baroness’s amendment; namely, funding and regular progress reporting on devolution of additional public functions. Combined authorities and local authorities are already covered by this provision. We laid a consequential amendment, government Amendment 152, on 9 February that will bring combined county authorities into its scope. I hope that is helpful to the noble Baroness.

It is also worth noting that combined county authorities will be subject to the same accounting and audit provisions as combined authorities and individual local authorities. Government Amendment 151, laid on 9 February, extends the provisions of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 to combined county authorities. These provisions include the requirement for them to have locally audited annual accounts available for public inspection on request. Taken together, these measures will ensure that combined county authorities operate in a transparent manner and are held to account for successful delivery in the same way that other institutions in England with devolved powers already are. The Government therefore feel that there are effective, proportionate reporting mechanisms already in place for combined county authorities that will cover what the noble Baroness is seeking to achieve.

I read Amendment 123, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, as probing whether Parliament will be able to scrutinise CCA budgets. I agree with what the noble Baroness said: combined county authority mayors and their budgets should be subject to scrutiny. Where I differ from her is that I believe that it should be a local matter. If it is to be worth the name, devolution should combine strong, empowered local leaders with stronger accountability and transparency. A directly elected leader, such as a mayor, with a fixed term and a clear mandate makes it much easier for local communities to make judgments based on local performance and local delivery, rather than the ebb and flow of national politics.

All combined county authorities will be required to have at least one overview and scrutiny committee and an audit committee. These will be instrumental in holding the authority and the mayor to account for their decisions and activities. The Government will be publishing a new devolution accountability framework to ensure that all devolution deals lead to local leaders and institutions that are transparent and accountable, work closely with local businesses, seek the best value for taxpayers’ money and maintain strong ethical standards. Requiring combined county authorities to lay their budgets before Parliament would be excessive and would also place CCAs on a different footing from combined authorities and all other local government institutions.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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I think I said when I moved the amendment that our contention was that local government, including any CCAs, is already subject to extensive scrutiny, so we agree with that. I would be grateful if the noble Earl could clarify that no further layer of scrutiny will be applied to CCA budgets. Was that the content of the his response?

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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In broad terms, yes. But if I can elaborate on that, I will certainly write to the noble Baroness.

Amendment 172, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, and the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, seeks to insert a new clause following Clause 76. This proposed new clause would require the Secretary of State to publish the fair funding review. I take this to mean the most recent government consultation on fairer funding for local government, which is the 2018-19 review of relative needs and resources.

The review of relative needs and resources was undertaken in 2018-19. As the noble Baroness rightly pointed out, this assessment is now out of date. It does not take into account more up-to-date census and demographic data. The events of the past five years, including, notably, the Covid-19 pandemic, mean that the world has moved on. I therefore suggest to the noble Baroness that there would be little benefit to publication in its outdated form.

The Government have already set out, in the local government finance policy statement on 12 December, that we would not be implementing the relative review of needs and resources in this spending review period. Instead, that policy statement sets out details of the funding policy that will be maintained for a second year into 2024-25. In making this decision, the Government were clear that now is the time for stability for the sector, not reform, given the turbulence of the Covid-19 pandemic and the more recent economic issues relating to high inflation.

I emphasise that the Government remain committed to improving the local government finance landscape in the next Parliament and beyond. The department is keen to work closely with local partners and to take stock of the challenges and opportunities that they face to build on the work of the review of relative needs and resources and to ensure that plans for reform are contemporary, robust and informed by local insight. Again, this is set out in the local government finance policy statement, published in December. This is an important issue and one that we should certainly discuss in the coming months.

I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, will understand the Government’s reasoning on this, and that she will not feel the need to press this amendment when it is reached.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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I am very grateful for the responses from the Minister. As was said earlier in the debate, we know that he always listens to the points being put forward, and I thank him for that.

On Amendment 87, which proposes that the CCA can request the publication of fair funding for new functions, I think that it is fair to say that local authorities cannot be expected to undertake bureaucratic burdens such as those. However, we want to see the records of reporting on CCAs, in particular around the cost-benefit analysis of what is being achieved by a CCA.

In response to the comments from the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, I say that there is a significant difference between the funding we see for initiatives and the funding for core services. There has been a great deal of the former and not so much of the latter in recent years. What happens, as we constantly see in local government, is that core services are undermined, and it hollows out the ability of local authorities to deliver the initiatives. I agree with the noble Lord that, whenever we raise these issues, we always get told that there will be new-burdens funding for things. In effect, while we occasionally see some money coming forward, we get things such as the new homes bonus. That is a good example, because the bonus was simply top-sliced from the rest of local government funding, so, in effect, they did not give us any new money at all; they just gave us our own money back. There are also things such as the Government setting rent policy for local authorities, telling us how much rent we can charge our tenants and placing additional burdens on housing authorities, and then saying, “No, you can’t have any new-burdens funding, because you should have been doing all that in the first place”. So there are problems around the whole issue of the new-burdens regime, and we need a genuine increase in funds in local government.

The points from the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, on how local government is financed, by whom, and how the resources are allocated and so on, were very well made. I would like to see the Government be brave enough to get on with this fair funding review. From the Minister’s response, I feel that it has been pushed into the long grass again. It was set up in 2018; we all understand that the pandemic had an impact on it, and perhaps during the pandemic was not the time to go into a full review of local government funding. It was delayed again in October 2022. Hearing that it has now been moved to the next Parliament is a concern, because this is urgent now. In 2023, we really cannot go much further forward with the system we have, which does not respond to local economic needs or local data, is very slow to respond, and, in many cases, is using data that is between 10 and 20 years old—that is not helping at all with the levelling-up agenda.

I spoke earlier about the difference between initiatives funding and core funding. It is all very well putting money into areas for local initiatives—often that is capital, and we have heard that the Secretary of State has now been stopped from signing off any further capital initiatives, so even that might not happen at the moment—but, if you do not keep the core funding going as well, and make sure that it is rising by inflation at the same time, it will be much more difficult to deliver any levelling-up initiatives whatever. So the amendments are important in making the point that we need to ensure that local government finances are duly and properly taken into consideration in the Bill. As I said earlier, it is disappointing that it is not there in a stronger way and we will look at the government amendments on the reporting on CCA funding to satisfy ourselves that they are right.

In the meantime, I am happy not to press the amendments. However, I hope that the Government are taking the point that we take very seriously this issue of local government finance and its rightful place in the levelling-up agenda; we may come back to it later in the debate.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to members of the Committee for such an interesting debate about statements and guidance on combined county authorities. We agree completely with the need for transparency on the wide range of issues in these amendments.

Amendment 66, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, seeks to place a requirement on the Secretary of State to publish an environmental impact assessment 120 days after making regulations that establish a combined county authority. I hope I can reassure the noble Baroness that in making the regulations, government and Parliament will have already considered the environmental impact of doing so. When deciding whether to make regulations to establish a combined county authority or change arrangements for an existing one, the Secretary of State has to consider statutory tests, including whether it would improve the environmental well-being of some or all of those who live and work in the area. Indeed, the regulations cannot be made unless the Secretary of State considers that this test would be met. There is therefore in our view an ample opportunity for Parliament to consider this.

This amendment would also require a combined county authority to publish an annual environmental impact assessment of its ongoing operation. As a form of local government body, CCAs will be subject to the same requirements as other local authorities to publish environmental impact assessments for specific pieces of work and decisions where necessary.

Amendment 74, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, seeks a public statement of the definition and description of a non-constituent member of a combined county authority. I hope I can reassure her that there is already a definition for a non-constituent member in Clause 9. Paragraph 135 of the Explanatory Notes explains that:

“A non-constituent member of a CCA is a representative of a local organisation or body—such as a district council, Local Enterprise Partnership or university—that can attend CCA meetings to input their specific local knowledge into proceedings”.


The Explanatory Notes go on to explain how a non-constituent member would be chosen. First, the combined county authority may designate an organisation or body as a “nominating body” of a combined county authority if that organisation or body consents to the appointment. A nominating body would be a local organisation such as a district council. The nominating body will then suggest the representative to attend for its body—for example, the leader of the council—and that individual is the non-constituent member.

An associate member is an individual person such as a local business leader or an expert in a local issue whom a CCA can appoint. This enables the associate member to be a representative at CCA meetings and to input their specific local knowledge into proceedings.

I hope I can allay the doubts and fears of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, on this issue. This model is designed to allow for genuine localism. It allows the local area to decide which local organisations or bodies will bring the greatest benefit to the combined county authority, and then appoint them. No two areas are the same. Depending on the local area, this will be different stakeholders, but examples of bodies that we expect to see combined county authorities engaging with are, as I mentioned, district councils, local enterprise partnerships, local universities, local health organisations and local registered providers, to name just a few.

The clause provides that district councils can be non-constituent members of a combined county authority. This will facilitate district councils having a formal seat at the table in putting their local expertise and ensuring join-up. Non-constituent members could attend the combined county authority’s cabinet meetings, be on sub-committees, and sit on overview and scrutiny committees and audit committees, giving those organisations that want them a role and voice in the combined county authority.

The model allows for local flexibility to reflect the different situations of different areas. If the combined county authority and all district councils wish to be involved, they can all be non-constituent members. However, if one does not, a devolution deal will not fall, as it would under the current combined authority model.

As stated in the levelling-up White Paper, we expect the upper-tier local authorities that we are agreeing devolution deals with to work with district councils to deliver the powers most effectively being provided. In discussions thus far, we have been pleased to see collaboration between upper- and lower-tier councils on devolution proposals to deliver for their area.

I emphasise that it is down to the combined county authority to decide what voting rights a non-constituent member should have rather than this being imposed by us in Westminster. Depending on the decision of the combined county authority, its non-constituent members can be given voting rights on the majority of matters.

I hope that this provides sufficient clarity on non-constituent members. I shall, of course, read Hansard and pick up any further questions that I feel I have not covered adequately, and I will write to noble Lords on those points.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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As a further point of clarification, if the Minister will allow, is that saying specifically that district councils represented on a CCA will not have a vote, whereas the CCA can decide that other non-constituent members can vote? I am not clear about this at all. Unless what is intended is more clearly set out, we could end up in what I would consider to be an unfortunate situation of elected district councillors who sit on a CCA not being able to have a vote, and the potential for that to be manipulated in a political way would still be there. We need to understand the situation around voting and non-voting for non-constituent members.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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I understand the noble Baroness’s point. I do think that I covered that in my remarks, but I will reread what I said and, to the extent that I was unclear, I will be happy to write to the noble Baroness. The broad point is that it will be up to the CCA what voting rights it allows to whom, including district councils.

Amendment 76, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, seeks to allow a combined county authority to be able to request that the Secretary of State makes regulations in relation to its membership. In agreeing a devolution deal with councils in an area, we will be discussing what governance arrangements would be appropriate, including the institution to operate the devolved powers, and membership and decision-taking arrangements.

The combined county authority would be able to make such a request to the Secretary of State. Such a request would be formalised through submitting a proposal to the Secretary of State, as set out in Clause 43 for establishing a new CCA and Clause 45 for making changes to the arrangements for an existing CCA. The Secretary of State has to consider such a proposal and, if they deem the statutory tests to be met, can decide to make the regulations. Such regulations can be made only with the consent of the local area—including the combined county authority if one is already established—and with parliamentary approval.

I turn to Amendment 86, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage. The Government recognise the importance of transparency with regard to allocations of funding and regular reporting on the impact of wider and deeper devolution. Section 1 of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016 requires the Government to produce an annual report on progress with devolution to combined authorities and local authorities, which covers the areas suggested by the noble Baroness’s amendment; namely, funding and regular progress reporting on devolution of additional public functions.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage
Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I add to what my noble colleagues have said? This goes to the heart of this amendment. We struggle to say how you can have a county with more than one functioning economic area included in that county. To take my county as an example, the south of the county largely relates to London, because some of the boroughs almost are London boroughs, whereas the north of the county relates much more to Cambridge and Bedfordshire. There are definitely two distinct, functioning economic areas within one shire county. The shire counties go back centuries: their economic geographies have changed very considerably since then. If you take the economic geography of my noble friend Lady Hayman’s area, people in Cumbria may even relate to an economic area that includes parts of Scotland. This is not a simple picture around the country.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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Some extremely sensible and logical points have just been made. Perhaps I could address them by pointing out the contrast to what we have seen up to now. Devolution deals, up to now, have typically been put in place in city regions, where they cover the functional geographies in which people travel, commute, work and live.

The Government absolutely recognise that functional economic geographies are far less clear-cut in rural and semi-urban areas, and that the strategic scale and cultural and political resonance of county identities can act as a useful proxy. One can work only on the basis of best endeavours when trying to decide what a sensible area looks like. On a best endeavours basis, deals should be agreed over a sensible geography of a functional economic area, with a single institution in place across that geographic footprint to access more powers. That is the aim.

--- Later in debate ---
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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I take the noble Lord’s point. The experience we have had with combined authorities is that local authorities’ natural tendency is to co-operate with each other. We have seen this all over the place: they do not want to operate in silos and they look outside their boundaries. Yes, there may well be cases where at the beginning there would seem not to be a particularly good fit, but that does not preclude two authorities, such as those he mentioned, getting together and finding a way through, if they possibly can, to address the mismatches of the kind he mentioned.

Amendment 99 seeks to amend Clause 23 to require a public consultation before any proposal to change the area of an existing combined county authority. We agree that those with an interest in the area should be consulted before a combined county authority is changed. As I said, we will have more to say about this in the debate on the next group of amendments.

Clauses 45 and 46 set out a requirement for a public consultation on any proposals from the local area on changes to the area of a CCA. Where a combined county authority has been established and subsequently seeks to change its boundary, Clause 23 enables the Secretary of State to make regulations for areas to achieve that. The Secretary of State may make regulations changing the area of a CCA if that is something the area consents to, the Secretary of State agrees and Parliament approves the necessary secondary legislation.

We fully recognise the crucial importance of residents in the local area having a say; that is common ground between us. That is why any CCA or local authority seeking to submit a proposal to the Secretary of State to change the area of a CCA must carry out a public consultation, as set out in Clause 45(3). This consultation must take place in the area covered by the CCA. This enables local residents, businesses and other interested parties to have a strong input into any such proposals. A summary of consultation responses is then to be submitted to the Secretary of State alongside the proposal.

Clause 46 provides an additional safeguard to ensure that there is sufficient public consultation. This enables the Secretary of State to undertake a consultation prior to making any regulations to enact these changes if they feel that there has been insufficient public involvement in their development.

We completely agree with the sentiment of Amendment 99, but I suggest that we already have provisions later in the Bill to address this; we will debate some of these in a few moments. I therefore hope that the noble Baroness feels able to withdraw Amendment 60 and not to move Amendment 99 when it is reached.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, I am pleased we tabled these probing amendments, because they have brought out some of the discussion we needed to have in these areas. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, for her comments. She said that “combined county authority” is a misnomer, and I think she is absolutely correct.

Previous responses indicate that we could include unitaries and counties all within a two-tier area. It is not clear in the Bill what that might mean. In the example of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, with the overlap of economic areas and travel-to-work areas, et cetera, the geography is far more complicated than back in whatever century it was when the county shire boundaries were devised. The purpose of my amendment was to determine whether parts of a two-tier area would be required to join a CCA if it did not work for them. It is really important that we do some more probing around this and think about it more.

We did not get on to the subject of population, which I will come to in a minute. My concern with this is that we have the phrase that the Secretary of State can determine “by regulation” what a combined county authority will look like. That does not seem to me to be in the spirit of devolution in any way whatever. If it is for the Secretary of State to determine that by regulation, I would be interested to know the noble Earl’s view on how that would be conducted in relation to the partners in the local area.

I am grateful for the noble Earl’s extensive response on this, which is an indication that we are moving the debate forward somewhat. I will come back to the issue of the functional economic area. These are not neatly contained now within county council areas. We have heard a few examples of that. We need to focus on that and think about how we might amend the Bill to recognise that.

The noble Earl spoke about streamlining funding. I was grateful for those comments and I am sure they will be welcomed across local government, but when will we see the detail of how that streamlining of funding will work? If he has any more information on that, it would be helpful.

I have a lot of sympathy with what the noble Earl said about city regions. They make a lot more sense—I spent quite a lot of time with colleagues in the city region in Manchester looking at how that works. However, that does not mean that that model can be lifted and put down in areas that are very different in this country. The difficulties that we have set out underline exactly why there must be flexibility for local areas to consider for themselves what the appropriate geography might be for them.

I return to the issue of population size. In previous iterations of these bids for devolution, we were told that any bid under 600,000 population would not be considered. My county of Hertfordshire has a population of 1.2 billion—sorry, 1.2 million; I am exaggerating—which is a very different issue from a rural county that might have a population of only 300,000. That is why this is much more complicated in shire areas. Will the noble Earl comment on whether population issues will be taken into consideration in relation to the size and constitution of combined county authority areas?

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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It may be helpful to the noble Baroness if I comment on that specific question. We expect upper tier local authorities with a population of less than 500,000 to collaborate with their neighbouring authorities to agree a sensible geography for a devolution deal. Where neighbouring local authorities wish to join a deal which has been negotiated and have the same level of ambition, we will expect other authorities to take this seriously in order to secure devolution and to avoid areas being stranded. Once again, I come back to the point I made earlier that our experience with combined authorities has shown that this kind of co-operation takes place quite readily. That is the position we have taken currently.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the noble Earl for his clarification. It covers one side of the picture with the smaller county areas. However, larger county areas, where the population may not lean towards a single county authority, should still be a subject for discussion.

I agree that we have several amendments relating to consultation processes and that the other amendment in this group probably sits better with those, so I am happy to postpone discussion of that until the future group. However, the principle of consultation, and recognising the importance of local areas having a say, seems to be enshrined for all the other issues around the setting up and dissolution of a CCA. If it is right for those, it must be right for a change of boundaries too. That is the point we were trying to make with Amendment 99. That said, we have had a useful discussion and I am happy to withdraw Amendment 60 at this stage.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Earl Howe and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

My Lords, this group of amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, looks at the role of local government and the National Planning Policy Framework in delivering levelling up.

First, Amendment 39 would mean that county councils, unitary authorities and combined county authorities would publish annual reports on the delivery of levelling-up missions. I hardly need to re-emphasise that local authorities and local leaders have a crucial role to play in levelling up places across the UK. Empowering local leaders, including through agreeing devolution deals and simplifying the funding landscape, is a cornerstone of the levelling-up agenda.

This principle of empowerment is absolutely critical. Noble Lords have tended to criticise the Government for any suggestion of the centre telling local authorities what to do; writing this amendment into the Bill might appear to do just that. Having said that, many organisations outside central government, including All-Party Parliamentary Groups, academics, business bodies, think tanks and local organisations, have been debating and scrutinising the levelling-up agenda and how it could be taken forward in particular areas of the country; I have no doubt that they will continue to do so. The provisions on reporting in the Bill will further enable such independent assessment and thinking but requiring local authorities to report in this way, as I think the noble Baroness herself recognised, would surely be disproportionate and unnecessary.

Amendment 55 would mean that a Minister must publish a report on the impacts of this legislation on local government and a strategy to consider how this part of the Bill will impact local authorities through future legislation. The new burdens doctrine, established and maintained by successive Governments, requires all Whitehall departments to justify why new duties, powers, targets and other bureaucratic burdens should be placed on local authorities, as well as how much such policies and initiatives will cost and where the money will come from to pay for them. It is very clear that anything which issues a new expectation on the sector should be assessed for new burdens. As the Government develop new policies to deliver against their levelling-up missions, they will fully assess the impact on local authorities and properly fund the net additional cost of all new burdens placed on them. Therefore, this provision already ensures that the Government must properly consider the impact of their policies, legislation and programmes on local government and fully fund any new burdens arising.

Amendment 54 would mean that a Minister must publish draft legislation for ensuring that the National Planning Policy Framework has regard to the levelling-up missions. Although it would not be appropriate to legislate to embed the levelling-up missions in planning policy, the levelling-up missions are nevertheless government policy. Planning policy to achieve these will be a relevant consideration when developing local plans and determining planning applications.

The department is currently consulting on updating the National Planning Policy Framework. The consultation document was published in December 2022 and the consultation is due to close in March 2023. It sets out a number of areas where changes to national planning policy might be made to reflect the ambitious agenda set out in the levelling up White Paper, and invites ideas for planning policies which respondents think could be included in a new framework to help achieve the 12 levelling-up missions in the levelling up White Paper. The department will respond to this consultation by the spring of 2023 so that policy changes can take effect as soon as possible.

In summary, I suggest that these amendments, though well intended, are unnecessary. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her Amendment 39 and not move Amendments 54 and 55.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Earl for his thoughtful response. On the first amendment, Amendment 39, I explained that I thought that perhaps the wording was a little confusing. I did not intend to impose a burdensome doctrine on my colleagues in local government; I do not think that they would have forgiven me if I had done that—I want to walk out of here unscathed. I think that is really important. However, it is important that local government understands what its role is going to be in measuring and monitoring the success or otherwise of the levelling-up missions. I will withdraw my amendment, but I hope that Ministers will consider how local government is going to take part in that essential exercise of determining whether the levelling-up missions have been successful and, just as government departments are going to have to pull that together, how local government will be required to do so.

In relation to the second amendment, Amendment 54, I understand that the National Planning Policy Framework is being revised at the moment. I hope that it will be revised with the levelling-up missions embedded in it, because that will help clarify matters for local government. When we get legislation coming forward without the documents to support it, it is difficult to say whether that is going to happen. I hope we will get the opportunity to have good scrutiny of the National Planning Policy Framework when it comes forward so that we can make our decision at the time about whether it actually works in terms of having a countrywide set of levelling-up missions.

On the last of my amendments, Amendment 55, it is always good to hear that financial aspects are being taken into account. I understand all about the new burdens funding—which, I have to say, sometimes works and sometimes does not in practice—but that was not exactly the point that I was making. I was referring to how local government contributes to those missions. We have the Levelling Up Advisory Council, which I presume is going to draw together the work of different departments and how they contribute. My point was about how we make that assessment as legislation is issued and how that legislation contributes to the missions. If this is to be the biggest change we are going to have across local government, then surely it is important that any legislation coming forward talks about the contribution that it is going to make. Of course, it will need funding, and I would welcome new burdens funding for new challenges that it brings with it, but we also need to understand how it works in terms of new legislation that will come forward. I am grateful to the noble Earl for his response.