Oral Answers to Questions

Paul Scully Excerpts
Monday 17th October 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
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6. What proportion of eligible households have received the £150 council tax energy rebate in (a) north Northamptonshire and (b) England.

Paul Scully Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Paul Scully)
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As of 31 July 2022, the proportion of estimated eligible households to have received the £150 council tax rebate in north Northamptonshire was 87%, with the figure for England being 86%. However, I am sure that my hon. Friend will be pleased to see the progress his local authority and others have made when the most recent figures are released shortly.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Hollobone
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Putting £150 into the pockets of eligible households has provided valuable help to tackle rising energy bills, but 13% of people have still not claimed this money. As the Government now look for more targeted help for people with their energy bills after April 2023, if this scheme is revised and reintroduced, what improvements will be made?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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It is always a struggle to get the money out as quickly as possible, especially to those who are not paying by direct debit. Over the summer, I have been working with my officials and have directly spoken to a number of councils that have been a little slower than expected. We have issued guidance on the variety of payment methods and given short extensions to the deadline dates where councils have requested that, including in respect of any uncashed voucher-based payments with the Post Office until 30 November. We will always look to improve, to make sure that the money goes as quickly as possible to those who need it.

Sarah Champion Portrait Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab)
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This morning, the Chancellor said that his support for business energy costs will focus on efficiencies. Beatson Clark and Liberty Steel in my constituency are high energy users and they have already made every energy efficiency they can. What will the Minister do to protect businesses such as those in my constituency with this shift in policy?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I thank the hon. Lady for that comment. When I was in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my colleagues there were always working with those energy-intensive industries such as the steel industry and with companies such as Liberty Steel, in her area. It is important that we continue to understand the position and develop the technologies that are needed for the long term, but in the medium term we will work with these industries to make sure we can offer support for those crucial supplies.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con)
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8. What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on the potential merits of a mayoral devolution deal for the east midlands.

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Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall (Totnes) (Con)
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13. What steps the Government are taking with (a) local authorities and (b) housing associations to provide guidance to homeowners on energy efficiency.

Paul Scully Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Paul Scully)
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The Government have launched help for households on gov.uk, outlining the full range of support available to help with the cost of living. That includes a tool to help homeowners understand how to improve their home’s energy efficiency and the grants available to them.

Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall
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Across Totnes and south Devon, small and medium-sized enterprises and local start-ups such as Oh4 are finding new ways to help to reduce household bills and energy costs. What steps is the Minister taking to co-operate with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and his colleagues to ensure that local authorities and housing agencies are using such organisations?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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It is great to hear stories of SMEs such as Oh4 in my hon. Friend’s constituency finding those innovative solutions. The building regulations are set in performance terms and do not prescribe technologies, so local authorities and SMEs have flexibility. That encourages industry and SMEs such as Oh4 to continue pushing the boundaries, so that today’s trailblazing examples of green innovation become the industry standards of tomorrow.

Peter Gibson Portrait Peter Gibson (Darlington) (Con)
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14. What steps the Government are taking to support home ownership.

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David Johnston Portrait David Johnston (Wantage) (Con)
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T9. My hon. Friend will know that I have been campaigning for new homes to be built to the latest environmental standards, about which I have met previous Ministers in his Department. I very much welcome what the Government have done on recent building regulations, but will he meet me to ensure that houses are not just started but completed to the latest environmental standards?

Paul Scully Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Paul Scully)
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I thank my hon. Friend, who does amazing work in tackling this issue in his area. In June, an uplift in energy efficiency standards for new homes came into force. There is a transitional period of one year to minimise disruption to projects that are already under way. To stop developers sitting on this, however, it will be about not just each project but each house, because homes must be built to the new standards.

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab)
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T8. Local councils such as Hounslow have a statutory duty to assess and care for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children placed in local hotels by the Home Office. Many of these children are clearly 13 or 14 years old, and on one day alone 72 arrived in hotels in the borough. What discussion has the Department had with affected boroughs about the additional support they need to provide their statutory duty to these hugely vulnerable children?

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Paul Blomfield Portrait Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab)
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T10. Contrary to last week’s pledge by the Prime Minister, the latest Chancellor has said he will cut public spending. Sheffield Council has seen its Government grant halved in real terms over the last 12 years, as Conservative Chancellors have boasted about shifting money to wealthier areas. We have lost £2.1 billion, the annual grant is worth £288 million less and local services have been decimated, so will the Secretary of State press the new Chancellor not to make any further cuts to council funding and to redress the damage already done?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be awaiting the local government finance settlement, but in the meantime Sheffield high street has received nearly £16 million from the future high streets fund and £8.2 million for three projects through the community renewal fund. There is also £20,000 for the gateway to Sheffield bid, and £46,000 across South Yorkshire, including Sheffield, so I hope he will include those funds in his assessment.

Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)
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In the Harrogate district, a local council has asked for three sites to be considered as investment zones. All are existing commercial operations earmarked for future investment. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the understandable concerns about special protection landscape areas are not borne out by the reality now that the sites are being identified? Will he take the opportunity to reconfirm that targets on biodiversity and net zero remain central to his Department?

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill (Twenty First sitting)

Paul Scully Excerpts
Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab)
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I beg to move amendment 173, in clause 116, page 133, leave out lines 13 to 20 and insert—

“(a) protection of the natural environment, cultural heritage and the landscape from the effects of human activity;

(b) maintenance, restoration or enhancement of the natural environment, cultural heritage or the landscape;

(c) protection of people and their long-term health, safety and wellbeing from the effects of human activity on the natural environment, cultural heritage and the landscape;

(d) protection of the climate from the effects of human activity;

(e) monitoring, assessing, considering, advising or reporting on anything in paragraphs (a) to (d).”

This amendment would broaden the definition of environmental protection to allow the Secretary of State to specify outcomes relating to climate change obligations and public health objectives.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. Part 5 of the Bill concerns the Government’s proposed new approach to assessing the potential environmental effects of relevant plans and major projects —namely, environmental outcomes reports. The reports are intended to replace the partly European Union-derived systems of strategic environmental assessment, including sustainability appraisals, and environmental impact assessments.

The Government’s rationale for the change in approach—this is gleaned not only from reading the Bill and its accompanying documents, but from the 2020 White Paper—is that the SEA and EIA systems can lead to duplication of effort and overly long reports, which inhibit transparency and add unnecessary delays to the planning process, and that the EOR framework will provide for clearer, simpler and presumably shorter assessments, with designated environmental outcomes that are easier to understand and monitor, and therefore to mitigate, remedy and compensate for, and will ensure that strategic and project scale assessments are properly joined up.

The Government’s critique significantly overstates the weaknesses of the SEA and EIA systems. That is not to suggest that they are perfect; for example, they can rightly be criticised for too often producing assessments that are too complex and cumbersome to be used effectively. However, the Government already have the necessary powers to improve many aspects of the SEA and EIA systems, if they chose to exercise them. Overall, the existing systems have made an enormous difference to how the environmental impact of development is considered. They are well established and understood, and when used correctly, they provide for rigorous, evidence-based, comprehensive assessments of the direct and indirect effects of projects and their mitigation in a way that involves the public.

As things stand, we really have no idea whether the proposed system of environmental outcomes reports provided for by part 5 will ultimately improve the process of assessing the potential environmental effects of relevant plans and major consents, because, as with so much of the Bill, the detail required to understand how EORs will operate in practice is simply not available. For example, we have no idea what range of factors the EORs can consider, or when EORs will be mandated. These and a wide range of other questions will be answered only when the regulations that set outcomes emerge in due course. Given the wide-ranging powers provided for in this part of the Bill, that is a cause of real concern.

When it comes to the basic EOR framework provided for by clauses 116 to 130, we take the view that an outcomes-based system could be an improvement on the present systems, given that they assess on the basis of the significance of effects on all relevant environmental receptors—although, again, it is impossible to arrive at a considered judgment on how much practical difference the EOR system will make when we have no idea how detailed or ambitious those outcomes will ultimately be, or what timeframe they will involve.

However, while we recognise the potential for an outcomes-based approach to establish an improved system of environmental protection, we are extremely concerned that part 5 is likely to lead to an approach that is too limited in scope, is insufficiently aligned with important obligations and requirements in environmental and climate legislation, and—for all the assurances to the contrary—provides an opportunity for environmental regression in the future.

It is essential that we have confidence that the new environmental outcomes report system will maintain the robustness and scope of the strategic environmental assessment and environmental impact assessment frameworks, and will lead to tangible improvements in our natural environment, as well as helping to fight climate change. If we are to build that confidence and provide reassurance that the new system will deliver improved outcomes, the EOR framework provided for in clauses 116 to 130 needs strengthening in a number of important respects. Amendment 173, and others that will be debated later, are designed to achieve that aim.

Clause 116 gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations that set out specific environmental protection outcomes against which relevant plans and consents will be assessed, and sets out what the Secretary of State must have regard to when making those regulations. Subsection (2) sets out the definition of environmental protection for the purposes of the Bill. The Committee will note that it includes

“protection of the natural environment, cultural heritage and the landscape from the effects of human activity”,

as well as protection of people from the effects of human activity on each of those, and their maintenance, restoration or enhancement.

We take no issue whatsoever with any of the definitions in subsection (2). Indeed, the Government’s decision to explicitly include references to cultural heritage and the landscape in what is meant by “environmental protection” is welcome; but we still believe that the definition is too limited. Specifically, protection of the climate, and protection of people’s long-term health, safety and wellbeing from the effects of human activity, should be explicitly included in the Bill’s definition of environmental protection. Amendment 173 provides for that broader definition, and would enable the Secretary of State, when making regulations under part 5 of the Bill, to specify environmental outcomes relating to both climate change obligations and public health objectives.

In short, the amendment would expand the range of possible environmental outcomes that Ministers could, if they chose, specify by regulation in the future, and therefore expand the range of things that assessments under the EOR regime could encompass. It would allow the Secretary of State to, for example, specify as a desired outcome the long-term flood-proofing of key infrastructure, so that it is climate resilient; or measures to promote walkability and urban cooling, so that development promotes key public health objectives. This is a sensible and proportionate amendment, and I hope that the Minister will consider accepting it.

Paul Scully Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Paul Scully)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. As we have heard, the amendment seeks to expand the definition of “environmental protection” in clause 116 to include explicit reference to public health and climate change. Before I turn to the detail of the clause and the introduction of the new environmental outcomes reports, I should say that the Government have been clear that the new system is intended to improve the assessment of projects’ environmental impacts, and to place environmental matters—including climate change and public health—at the centre of decision making.

In line with that ambition and the commitment to non-regression, the definitions in clause 116 reflect and build on the definitions in the Environment Act 2021. Many of the terms used in the EU system of strategic environmental assessment and environmental impact assessment duplicate existing processes, or are poorly understood. Our broader approach to defining what outcomes may be covered will allow the Secretary of State greater flexibility to consider all relevant matters, including those that form part of the current assessment regime, such as human health and climate change.

As set out in subsection (2)(b) of the clause, the definition of environmental protection includes the protection of people, which would allow the Secretary of State to consider matters relating to health when setting outcomes. Subsections (2)(a) and (b) refer to protection from the effects of human activity, which would include protection from the impacts of climate change. Further, the definition of environmental protection is covered by the definition of the natural environment in subsection (3). This definition includes natural systems, cycles and processes, to ensure that matters such as climate change are properly built into consideration of outcomes under the new system.

While climate change and human health will undoubtedly be important considerations in setting outcomes, it is not necessary to make more explicit reference to them in primary legislation; doing so would risk limiting the range of outcomes that can be set, and risk our suggesting that climate change and health will be considered above other environmental topics that may, in individual cases, be equally important.

It is right that environmental outcomes reports focus on the full range of environmental issues. Developing the detail of what outcomes will be covered in secondary legislation will allow us to consult stakeholders, so that we can ensure that climate change and public health commitments, as well as other environmental matters, are captured. Outcomes will also draw on the extensive commitments made across Government, including the requirement in subsection (5) for the Secretary of State to have regard to the latest environmental improvement plan when setting outcomes. Setting out details around climate change and public health in secondary legislation will also enable us to minimise the risk of duplication and ensure alignment, as these are important considerations across other policy areas in the planning and consenting systems. In the light of these assurances, I hope that the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich is able to withdraw his amendment.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
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I appreciate that response, but I do not think it addresses the concern raised by the amendment. I very much welcome what the Minister said about the Government’s intention to put public health and climate at the centre of decision making. The concern, though, is that although the clause gives a comprehensive list of what “environmental protection” means, it does not explicitly reference public health—human health—or climate, and I cannot for the life of me understand how inserting those things in the Bill explicitly would in any way limit the outcomes that could be set. We would merely be specifying and clarifying that outcomes relating to those two objectives were caught under the powers in the Bill.

I note what the Minister says about forthcoming secondary legislation capturing those objectives, but this issue speaks to our concern that there is a real gap in how the Bill addresses climate and public health. We feel that while opportunities to reinforce the Government’s commitments are woven through the fabric of the Bill, those issues are often neglected or left out.

I will not press the amendment, but we shall come back to the issue of public health and climate, because they need to have a much more central role in this legislation, and to be written into the Bill in many important respects, including in clause 116. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
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It absolutely is. The amendment seeks to ensure that the obligations we have made, and the way that they are written into domestic legislation, is accounted for in the framework that part 5 provides for. After all, we are talking about how to assess the environmental impact of development. It stands to reason that requirements and obligations that flow from things such as the Climate Act 2008 should be written into the Bill explicitly. Leaving them out is problematic because it would lead to important EOR regulations being made without there being sufficient regard to significant relevant targets, duties, strategies and obligations, which, we should remember, the Government themselves legislated for.

Amendment 174 seeks to replace subsection (5) of clause 116 with a subsection containing a more comprehensive list of requirements that the Secretary of State should have regard to—it is only “should have regard to”—before making any EOR regulations that make provision about specified environmental outcomes. In addition to the environmental improvement plan, the Secretary of State would have to have regard to: biodiversity targets, including those under sections 1 and 3 of the Environment Act 2021; the duty to conserve biodiversity, as is required under section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006; local nature recovery strategies, as is required under section 104 of the Environment Act 2021; and lowering the net UK carbon account, as is required under section 1 of the Climate Change Act 2008.

Putting that expanded list of requirements in the Bill would strengthen the EOR framework by making it perfectly clear that the Secretary of State has to take into account those important legislative commitments when making EOR regulations.

In addition to expanding the list of requirements that the Secretary of State must have regard to before making any EOR regulations relating to specified environmental outcomes, we also believe there is a compelling case for greater parliamentary oversight of any such regulations that are proposed. The explanatory notes to the Bill make it clear that set outcomes will be subject only to public consultation and the affirmative parliamentary procedure. I will not detain the Committee with a digression on the limitations of the affirmative procedure as a means of effective parliamentary scrutiny—we are all familiar with them, and have discussed them in the context of the Bill previously.

Clause 116 and the other clauses in part 5 provide the Secretary of State with expansive powers allowing them to pass, by regulation, as yet unspecified, and potentially far-reaching, measures affecting the environment and environmental law, so we strongly believe that any such regulations should be subject to the super-affirmative procedure. New clause 52 would provide for use of that procedure for regulations made under part 5. I hope the Minister will give the new clause consideration, along with amendment 174.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I understand the hon. Member’s concerns, but I hope to explain why the approach that we have taken in the Bill is sufficient. Amendment 174 would require environmental outcomes to be set in accordance with the environmental improvement plan, biodiversity targets, local nature recovery strategies and the Climate Change Act 2008. The environmental improvement plan, the current iteration of which is the 25-year environment plan, is where the Government set out how we aim to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. The Government have made it clear that an outcomes-based approach will be developed to support our environmental ambitions. For the purposes of this legislation, the environmental improvement plan is the most relevant document in informing the setting of outcomes. It is where the breadth of the ambitions are captured, and it is itself informed by a wide range of commitments and matters from other sources.

The Environment Act 2021 created a duty on the Government to prepare annual reports on the implementation of the environmental improvement plan, and to review and, if necessary, reissue the plan every five years. As such, it is a dynamic document that will evolve over time and reflect the most up-to-date position on the Government’s efforts to support the environment.

The environmental improvement plan also sets interim targets in respect of each of the key matters for which the Government have applied legally binding environmental targets, which will be reviewed regularly. That includes the biodiversity target mentioned in the amendment. Other more general duties and local strategies will also be informed by this overarching plan.

The amendment would also introduce a duty to act in accordance with a range of existing legislative provisions, and therefore risks creating potential conflict and unnecessary confusion. It is unclear how, for example, a national outcome could be set in accordance with a local nature recovery strategy, which is by definition spatial and site-specific.

Outcomes will cover a broad range of topics. The intention is not to create an exhaustive list of everything that will be considered when they are being set; rather, it is to recognise that the environmental improvement plan is at the heart of the Government’s agenda. Other duties will of course be reflected in outcomes at the moment they are set, but the duty to have regard to the current environmental improvement plan is the clearest way of ensuring that outcomes reflect the Government’s environmental ambitions.

With that in mind, it is important to note that the environmental improvement plan and commitments such as those under the Climate Change Act 2008 were not conceived as a way of informing outcomes for the EOR. As such, it would not be appropriate to set a hard requirement that EOR outcomes be set in accordance with those commitments.

The purpose of environmental outcome reporting, as is true of the existing system, will be to ensure that the right information is gathered to inform the right decisions, not to prioritise any one particular policy over another. Not everything in the environmental improvement plan will be relevant to development and environmental assessment, and there will be ambiguity as to how the plan should best be translated into outcomes for individual plans and developments. Equally, we will want to set outcomes in respect of landscape and cultural heritage, which are not in the scope of the plan.

When making EOR regulations that specify outcomes, we will have regard to the environmental improvement plan and other relevant considerations. Just as importantly, we will use the process of public consultation to ensure that we are capturing the outcomes that will best support the delivery of our environmental priorities. The amendment therefore risks both confusing and limiting the process by which outcomes are set. Given that explanation, I hope that the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich will be able to withdraw the amendment.

New clause 52 seeks to make the EOR regulations subject to the super-affirmative procedure—something comparatively new to me. We have sought to take a proportionate approach to parliamentary scrutiny and consultation, placing the strongest requirements on the core elements of the new system. Clearly, we want to ensure that we have the best debates, consultations and discussion on such incredibly important issues. The use of powers in this particular part of the Bill, however, is tightly constrained with broad use of the affirmative procedure to ensure that Parliament gets the opportunity to scrutinise regulations properly in detail.

In addition to requiring the affirmative procedure, clause 125 ensures that EOR regulations that cover the most significant aspects of the new regime—for example, those that specify outcomes—will also require public consultation or consultation with stakeholders. That will provide stakeholders and parliamentarians with the opportunity to consider the details of the proposed regulations in advance of their being laid. Regulations requiring public consultation will be followed up by an official Government response on how those views have been taken into account in setting the detailed policy.

Before engaging formally on the detailed regulations, after the Bill achieves Royal Assent we plan to launch a high-level consultation on the core elements of the new system—for example, on the outcomes-based approach to assessment and the use of the mitigation hierarchy in assessing reasonable alternatives. That will be combined with conceptual roundtables and expert policy forums to inform the design of the new regulations and wider implementation.

As such, the super-affirmative procedure would duplicate the consultation and the approval requirements, so we do not deem it necessary. It would only serve to slow down the process of bringing forward necessary reforms that we believe will help to improve the environment in the long run. Given that explanation, I hope that the hon. Member will agree not to press new clause 52.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
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I am somewhat reassured by that response from the Minister. However, I take issue with it in a number of respects. I appreciate fully that the 25-year environment plan is the current environmental improvement plan. It may be the most relevant document, but it is limited. I note the point about biodiversity targets, but the document does not contain all the other requirements in the legislation listed in the amendment. The environment plan may be informed by those other requirements, but it does not contain them and does not operate in the same way.

If I am honest, I struggle to understand the issue with the insertion of language relating to legislation the Government have passed, which one would hope has been aligned and made compliant with other bits of legislation that could create potential conflicts during the process of passing it. We remain concerned that the reference in subsection (5) is too limited and we would like to see a wider set of requirements written into the Bill, but I do not intend to press amendment 174 to a vote.

On new clause 52, I welcome the Minister’s comments on the processes that the Government intend to follow when it comes to designing EOR regulations. That measure of public involvement is welcome and will be an important part of the process, but we are still concerned that, overall, the safeguards are insufficient—I will come on to talk about the other safeguards provided in part 5. We do not believe that they tightly constrain the use of the powers; in fact, we think they do the opposite, and there are a number of loopholes that need to be closed.

I cannot for the life of me understand how a public consultation would duplicate the parliamentary oversight that would be afforded to this place by the super-affirmative procedure. I go back to the point I made on a previous amendment. These are broad, expansive powers, which are as yet unspecified. There is a need for greater parliamentary oversight, as well as other stronger safeguards. I am not going to press the new clause to a vote at this point, but we will come back to this and other matters on this part. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I have said already that we are committed to delivering a modern system of environmental assessment that properly reflects the nation’s environmental priorities. The Bill allows us to introduce a new framework to replace the EU’s systems, while recognising the important role that environmental assessment plays. The previous regime could be overly bureaucratic and disproportionate. Expanding case law has led to a situation where unnecessary elements are being assessed for fear of legal challenges. The costs for big projects run into hundreds of thousands of pounds on occasions; yet, despite the lengthy reports, they often prove ineffective at securing better environmental outcomes or encouraging development to support the country’s most important environmental priorities.

The 25-year environment plan acknowledges that the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries of Europe. The 2019 “State of Nature” report led by conservation research organisations found that 41% of UK species are declining and one in 10 is threatened with extinction. Given the urgency with which we need to restore the environment to leave it in a better place for future generations, we desperately need a new approach.

The powers in the Bill will extend to all regimes currently covered by the EU system, to ensure the best approach for the interoperability between regimes, particularly for projects that are often in the scope of more than one regime, such as planning and marine. The new approach will be centred around the creation of environmental outcomes reports, which will directly set out how consents and plans should support the delivery of environmental priorities by assessing the extent to which they support the delivery of better environmental outcomes. That moves us away from the uncertainty of assessing likely significant effects to a more tangible framework that provides more clarity on what should be assessed and when.

Assessing consents and plans directly against those outcomes will ensure that reporting is focused on those matters that will make a real difference to environmental protection. In turn, that will support more effective decision making and make reports more accessible to the public.

The outcomes will be fairly high level and user-friendly, simply setting out environmental priorities. It will be the job of indicators underpinning those outcomes to measure the delivery towards the outcomes. Indicators will be created and outlined in guidance for the different types of plans and projects and for different spatial scales. For example, indicators could set out which air pollutants should be measured and against which limits to measure the contribution towards an air-quality outcome seeking to reduce emissions.

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Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
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I beg to move amendment 175, clause 117, page 134, line 26, at end insert

“relative to the current status of the environment as assessed in a prepared baseline study”.

This amendment would ensure that the preparation of a baseline study which sets the context for assessing the environmental effects of a proposed project remains a core requirement of producing an EOR.

This amendment relates to a technical matter, but still an important one. Clause 117 gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations requiring the preparation of an environmental outcomes report for relevant plans and relevant consents, the criteria for which will be set out in due course in regulation. It is this provision that establishes the outcomes-based approach to assessment, which the Minister has just described, wherein anticipated environmental effects are to be measured against the specified environmental outcomes, which clause 116 provides the power for the Secretary of State to specify.

Clause 117 ensures that where an EOR is required, it must be taken into account when considering whether to grant planning consent and the terms on which it is given, or to bring a plan into effect. The core requirements of what an EOR should contain are set out in subsection (4). It specifies that an EOR

“means a written report which assesses—

(a) the extent to which the proposed relevant consent or proposed relevant plan would, or is likely to, impact on the delivery of specified environmental outcomes”.

Paragraph (b) specifies any steps that may be proposed in terms of mitigation, remediation or compensation, and paragraph (c) discusses any proposals about how paragraphs (a) or (b) should be monitored or secured.

It would therefore appear that, when it comes to EORs, the Government have in mind, essentially, a simplified environmental assessment report—one, as the explanatory notes make clear, based on the mandatory information required in the reporting stages of the environmental impact assessment directive and the strategic environmental assessment directive. However, in setting out the core requirements of what an EOR should contain, subsection (4) contains no reference to the need for an environmental baseline assessment to have been prepared. We believe that oversight needs to be addressed.

A baseline study is an essential part of preparing an EIA because it is necessary to assess the current status of any given environment prior to development taking place. It covers, for example, what habitats exist within the environment and how they are changing, or the type and number of species present, in order to accurately judge the expected impact of development on the outcomes previously specified. Indeed, because baseline studies are an integral part of the existing SEA and EIA systems, we believe their removal could well contravene the non-regression safeguard provided for by clause 120, which we will debate in due course.

When it comes to EORs, it is difficult to conceive of how they will operate in practice without some kind of baseline study taking place, because quantifying the impact of development on any given outcome requires that the precise characteristics of the locality in question are known.

By amending subsection (4)(a) of clause 117, amendment 175 simply seeks to ensure that the preparation of a baseline study, which would set the context for assessing the environmental effects of a proposed plan or consent, remains a core requirement of producing an EOR. I look forward to hearing from the Minister that the Government are content to accept the amendment or, if not, an explanation as to why the Government believe that baseline studies are no longer required when it comes to assessing the environmental impact of any given development.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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As we have discussed, amendment 175 would give an explicit requirement for the impact of a consent or plan to be set up relative to a baseline study on the current environmental state. Subsection (4)(a) of clause 117 explains that an environmental outcomes report must demonstrate how the plan or consent would affect the delivery of specified environmental outcomes. The environmental baseline is a reference point against which the assessment is carried out. It will remain part of the process of demonstrating how a plan or project supports the delivery of environmental outcomes.

While outcomes will reflect national priorities, it is important that they can be translated to the regional or local level, given that that is the level at which the plans and projects, which will require EORs, will normally take place. As such, outcomes will be underpinned by a set of specific indicators, which will measure the contribution of a plan or project towards outcomes. Those indicators will be relevant to the geography of an area and will change over time to reflect the latest scientific understanding. Indicators will outline how a plan or project shows whether they are contributing to outcomes, and will be tailored to the needs and characteristics of different outcomes.

The details of outcomes and indicators will be developed, as I have said, through consultation with relevant stakeholders, and we will work with experts to gain insights on how best to utilise baseline data to inform them and ensure that overall environmental protections are maintained. Following that, clear guidance will be provided setting out how a plan or project should use indicators to demonstrate that they are supporting outcomes.

I do not think that we are that far apart in this, and I hope that the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich will accept my explanation that although the baseline data is clearly important in measuring those outcomes and using those indicators, we do not need the duplicative nature of having it in the Bill. I therefore hope the hon. Member will withdraw his amendment.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I appreciate that response from the Minister. I think we would still like something to be written into the Bill regarding baseline studies. However, I very much welcome the clarification that he has just provided—that they will “remain part of the process” , and that they will be translated and tailored to the regional and the local level. I think that is very important and, on that basis, I am happy to beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

The outcomes-based approach to assessment will ensure that the Government’s environmental commitments and priorities are placed right at the centre of the consenting process, in a system that is streamlined, transparent, accessible and clear. As outlined in the previous clause, we would want to make reports user-friendly and concise, enabling communities to understand what forms part of the assessment and how impacts are measured via indicators. We also want to improve the accessibility of reports and the data that underpins them by improving their format and avoiding multiple PDFs of tens of thousands of pages, for example.

In order to introduce the new outcomes-based approach to environmental assessment, the Government need the power to require the production of an environmental outcomes report for relevant proposed contents and plans. In taking that power, the Government are able to ensure that, where a report is required for a relevant consent or plan, the report must be completed before consent is granted or a plan is adopted.

Furthermore, the clause ensures that where an environmental outcomes report is produced, it must be considered by the relevant decision maker, which means that decisions are informed by quality information that fully considers the environmental effect of the plan or consent. It also sets out what the content of the reports should be. They will primarily assess how the proposed consent or plan would impact on specified environmental outcomes, supporting our ambition to move towards an outcomes-based system.

In structuring the clause, we recognised the need to provide powers to support the reform of a wide range of environmental assessment regimes across Government, but we have sought to ensure that core requirements are brought to the fore. For example, reports must consider reasonable alternatives to the proposed consent or plan and assess any steps taken in line with the mitigation hierarchy. This is the first time that explicit consideration of the mitigation hierarchy has been included in environmental legislation. Importantly, that hierarchy recognises that prevention is better than cure. In every consideration, plans and projects should first seek to avoid the impact happening in the first place, before considering mitigation and finally compensation, which should be absolutely the last resort. That sequential approach will finally be enshrined in law.

Having the powers to set out specifics in regulations rather than on the face of the Bill will ensure that the new system is more dynamic, allowing for updates to our approach to be considered and consulted on as our understanding of the environment deepens. It will also allow the differences between regimes to be accommodated. The clause sets out crucial provisions required to implement environmental outcomes reports and ensures that reports have sufficient weight and status in the decision-making process. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 117 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 118

Power to define “relevant consent” and “relevant plan” etc

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss clause 119 stand part.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

Clause 118 gives the Government a constrained power to set what plans and consents require an environmental outcomes report. The Government want to be clear about which consents and plans require assessment, and we will use subsequent regulations—bounded by the commitment to non-regression—to provide clarity on when an EOR is required. By clearly setting out the different categories for consent and the types of plan that require assessment, we will be able to address the key issue with the current system, where debate about whether assessment is required acts as a block to moving forward with meaningful assessment.

We want to avoid unnecessary screening work, so it is more likely that more plans and projects will automatically be subject to a proportionate report and only in borderline cases must a criteria approach be followed. Developers will know where they stand up front, and local planning authorities can save the time and resources that are usually taken on screening of opinions.

Let me reassure the Committee that the clause will be used to reduce uncertainty, not assessment. The Government remain committed to ensuring that all plans and projects assessed in the current system will continue to be assessed, while removing troublesome uncertainty. The Government will also consult on which projects and plans should be subject to EORs. Parliament will have the opportunity to debate and approve the regulations that set that out. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Moving on to clause 119, the Government have made it clear that the protection and enhancement of the natural environment is a policy priority, and the measures designed to achieve that should be consistent and long term. The existing system does little to follow through on the commitments made during the assessment process—for example, whether the mitigation measures actually work or are implemented in the first place. Environmental statements are often created at great length, only for the follow-up monitoring and reporting of the impacts on the ground to be inconsistent at best.

Our proposed reforms to environmental assessment therefore provide a renewed and stronger emphasis on monitoring, to ensure that stated outcomes are delivered and that remedial action is taken where required throughout all stages of the development process. That means that achieving environmental outcomes does not stop once a consent is granted or a plan adopted. Importantly, clause 119 enables the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring action to be taken when monitoring or assessment processes have highlighted that a given outcome is not being delivered.

Those actions align with the mitigation hierarchy and the principles of avoidance, mitigation and compensation being built into that process to ensure accountability and to address fully any unanticipated or cumulative adverse effects on the environment.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have been listening carefully to the Minister. My concern about what he has been saying is that the process does not have sufficient teeth in the event that the EOR is not delivered. Can he clarify whether planning permission would be granted if the EOR requirement is not adhered to? Should that not be a condition for planning?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

The point is that some of that is to be looked at now. At the moment, an environmental assessment is effectively prose that may or may not be adhered to, whereas an environmental outcome is far more data driven, so it can be measured and mitigated, as I have said. That will happen in the lead-up to planning, but a lot will clearly be about how it is followed up after planning permission is given. As we have just been discussing, that effectively sets a baseline, saying, “That is the report; that is what you said you are going to do. You must now adhere to that, and we can follow up afterwards.” This is clearly a framework, and the teeth that the hon. Lady describes will need to be set out through enforcement teams and so on, but the measures provide a far more evidence-based approach to be able to follow up afterwards.

That is the point, because we will then have a dynamic monitoring process, which will account for any changes in conditions and available data to inform mitigation strategies. That is a significant benefit of the new system: it ensures that we take an ongoing approach to environmental protection rather than having just a snapshot in time. Monitoring the impacts over a longer period will allow for the collection of more high-quality data that can be used to drive better decision making and improve environmental outcomes.

We do not want an EOR to be an extra burden; we see it more as a rebalancing of resource and effort. We want a streamlined pre-consent process that provides up-front requirements and guidance, allowing more time to be spent on post-consent monitoring, which will be of far more value to the system in terms of both securing positive outcomes and making better use of the data produced so that we can learn from it.

Capturing that data also links to the digital powers in the Bill, and will ensure that the rich source of environmental data is put to use to inform future interventions and give a deeper and far wider understanding of the environment. It will be easier to form best practice and avoid making the same mistake twice. The clause is integral to ensuring that the environmental assessment process considers potential long-term environmental impacts, ensuring accountability and the delivery of outcomes, and ensuring that mitigation is working as it should. For all the reasons I have mentioned, I commend the clause to the Committee.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome the detail provided by the Minister, but I will push him a little further on both clauses. Again, in the circumstances, I am more than happy for him to write to me to elaborate on his answers if he feels he needs to.

As the Minister said, clause 118(2) enables the Secretary of State to make regulations setting out those consents that should be considered category 2. Although category 1 consents will always require an EOR, category 2 consents will be required to produce one only where they meet criteria set through regulations made under the provision. I would be grateful if the Minister gave the Committee an idea of the criteria likely to be set through regulations under this provision that will require a category 2 consent, and of the rationale behind those criteria.

Clause 118(4) allows the Secretary of State to make regulations imposing a requirement for a consent in relation to a project. The requirement will be used, as in the current environmental impact assessment agriculture regime, where no other consenting mechanism exists. The Bill simply states that

“EOR regulations may impose a requirement for a consent in relation to project, which is to be a category 1 consent or a category 2 consent”.

Can the Minister explain the rationale for not specifying that the Secretary of State may impose a requirement for a consent in relation to a project only where no other consenting mechanism exists?

Clause 119(1) enables the Secretary of State to make regulations setting out how the delivery of specified environmental outcomes should be assessed or monitored. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government have a general sense of how outcomes will be assessed and monitored under this new framework and, if so, will he share it with the Committee?

Finally, clause 119(3) states that EOR regulations may make provision requiring action to be taken, if an assessment or monitoring under subsection (1) or (2) determines that is appropriate for the purposes of compensating for a specified environmental outcome not being delivered to any extent. Will the Minister explain the thinking behind the penalties and remedies available in the new EOR system when it comes to environmental outcomes not being delivered, and will he tell us whether the Department has undertaken any work to research the impact of introducing an outcomes-based approach on rates of delivery and non-delivery of environmental targets in development projects?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

Let me try to answer some of those points, and I will happily write with extra detail should I fail in my objective. We will clearly be consulting on which developments require an EOR when certain criteria are met, and we will publish those following Royal Assent. In line with our commitment to non-regression, we will ensure that any plan or project requiring assessment under the current regime because of its potential impact on the environment will continue to do so under the new framework. We want to avoid unnecessary screening work, so it is likely that more plans and projects will automatically be subject to a proportionate report, but only in borderline cases. As I said, we will work towards that through a consultation process on the criteria approach.

The regulations will determine the process for considering whether the plans or projects meet the criteria for a full environmental outcomes report, and clearly we will work with stakeholders to inform our approach to the criteria, and the processes for determining whether those criteria have been met. We want to ensure that the development management system continues to determine projects. We want the EOR to reform the process, but we do not want to replace it. The majority of consenting regimes base the consenting decision on a range of different factors. They will need to make a subsequent decision following assessment, but we want to ensure that the Secretary of State effectively has a light touch on this because, having done the consultation with stakeholders, this should be done at a local level as best we can.

The hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich talked about monitoring. The detail of monitoring regimes, including how long monitoring should be carried out for, will be set out in regulations to reflect the different approaches required for each assessment regime. It is not a one-size-fits-all system, because that is unlikely to be optimal, but the intention is that, with a more streamlined pre-consent process, more time and resource can be put into post-consent monitoring, which will likely be of far more value both in terms of securing positive outcomes and gathering useful environmental data to feed back into the system.

One thing that I am not sure I brought out enough in my speech is that the data that the exercise provides, being more data driven rather than the prose that I was talking about, will not only be useful for permissions and monitoring but have a far wider effect on our understanding of the environment in general, because some really interesting data will be brought out that cannot be captured in the analogue system that we have at the moment. I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman’s question about the research to date, so I will write to him on that, and other points that I have not covered.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 118 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 119 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 120

Safeguards: non-regression, international obligations and public engagement

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 176, in clause 120, page 137, line 21, leave out subsection (1) and insert—

“(1) The Secretary of State may only make EOR regulations if doing so will result in no diminution of environmental protection as provided for by environmental law at the time this Act is passed.”

This amendment would ensure that the new system of environmental assessment would not reduce existing environmental protections in any way rather than merely maintaining overall existing levels of environmental protection.

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Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

The new system that we have been discussing is all about improving environmental assessment, not weakening environmental protection. Moving to the outcomes-based approach that I have outlined will allow the Government to set ambitious outcomes, building on the Environment Act 2021 and other environmental commitments.

I understand the spirit and reasoning behind amendment 176, which proposes to amend the wording of the non-regression provision in clause 120 so that regulations must “result in no diminution of environmental protection”.

However, in drafting the Bill, we recognised the need to provide assurance that the new system will continue to support the protection of the environment, and the clause was drafted specifically to mirror the provisions of the EU-UK trade and co-operation agreement. That ensures that these reforms live up to our commitment to non-regression with our partners in that area. If we are to meet the complex environmental challenges that we face, we need to take a holistic approach and focus on how well the system delivers for the environment overall. We will concentrate on the aspects of the system that deliver real, positive outcomes for the environment, rather than on bureaucracy.

Where needed, we will seek to streamline the system, for example in areas where there is duplication of other existing processes, thereby allowing resources to be better focused elsewhere. However, along with the commitment to non-regression, we have also included significant duties to consult with the public and relevant stakeholders. We are also giving Parliament the opportunity to scrutinise subsequent regulations through the affirmative procedure, which is entirely appropriate. In the light of those reassurances on our commitment to maintaining environmental protections, I hope that the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich will withdraw amendment 176.

Amendment 177 provides that EOR regulations must not be inconsistent with any international obligations, rather than specifying consistency with international obligations relating to environmental assessment. The inclusion of clause 120(2) demonstrates the Government’s commitment to legislating in a manner that is consistent with our international obligations. The clause seeks to provide explicit assurance of the importance of international obligations in respect of environmental assessments, and those commitments will be at the foundation of the new process of environmental outcomes reports, which builds on the core principles at the heart of the current practice.

Ultimately, the focus of EORs is the assessment of the environmental impact of relevant plans and relevant consents, which is why clause 120 refers to our international obligations relating to the assessment of the environmental impact of relevant plans and relevant consents. That ensures that relevant international obligations, such as those under the Espoo and Aarhus conventions, are properly reflected. To make the provision broader would sacrifice clarity and risk introducing confusion as to which areas of international law are particularly relevant and pertinent in such cases. With that explanation, I hope that the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich will also consider withdrawing amendment 177.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome the Minister’s clarification. Particularly on amendment 176, it is extremely useful to hear that the wording was chosen specifically to mirror that in the EU-UK trade and co-operation agreement. I do not want to digress into that agreement in any way—no one on the Committee would thank me for doing so—but it is a useful clarification.

I take what the Minister said about amendment 177; I do not intend to press it to a vote. However, we strongly feel that, international obligations aside, when it comes to safeguards the Bill still contains too many loopholes, many of which I mentioned when I was speaking to the amendment. In particular, what concerns us about the non-regression provision in clause 120 is the reference to only

“providing an overall level of environmental protection”.

We are extremely concerned that that might mean that environmental harm could take place at a local level because the Government could say, “Overall, we are satisfied that the level of protection has been maintained.” For that reason, and to make very clear how strongly we feel about the point, I am minded to push amendment 176 to a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

As I have said, we are committed to ensuring that the new system of environmental assessment will provide at least the same level of overall environmental protection as the existing system. The clause enshrines that commitment, building on the landmark Environment Act 2021, and is in line with our commitments in the EU-UK trade and co-operation agreement.

It is a vital commitment, and it will ensure that EORs support the Government’s objective to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. We want to make it clear that, in introducing these reports, we are not trying to lower standards or bypass important environmental protections, and so it is important that we enshrine in legislation this commitment to non-regression.

We have also ensured that the Secretary of State’s powers are tightly constrained when considering whether overall levels of protection have been maintained. We have provided significant commitments to consultation and secondary regulations, which will be laid under the affirmative procedure and will thereby enable parliamentary scrutiny on this issue.

This clause also sets out that regulations made may not be inconsistent with the implementation of the relevant international obligations of the UK. As in other parts of the planning system, public engagement is a crucial feature of environmental assessment, and the clause sets out our commitment to maintaining opportunities for public engagement to take place. This will ensure that the public can be involved in the process of preparing an environmental outcomes report, in line with the requirements of the Aarhus convention, which includes provision on public participation in decision making on environmental matters. The clause provides a strong commitment to non-regression and to maintaining opportunities for public engagement, as we move to that new system, and so I commend the clause to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 120 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 121

Requirements to consult devolved administrations

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 178, in clause 121, page 138, line 3, leave out “after consulting” and insert “with the consent of”.

This amendment, along with Amendments 179 and 180, would ensure that EOR regulations which contain provision within devolved competence can only be made with the consent of the relevant devolved administration.

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None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

It really is “The Matthew Pennycook Show” this afternoon, is it not?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

It is a delight to hear the one-man show. In bringing forward the EOR system, we are absolutely committed to respecting the devolution settlements. We are currently in active discussions with the devolved Administrations as to how the powers should operate across the UK, including whether there is any scope to extend them to provide a shared framework of powers across the UK.

The provisions in the Bill are focused on the environmental assessment regimes in areas reserved to the UK Government, but there are limited circumstances in which the UK Government have historically legislated in areas of devolved competence, such as between the inshore and offshore regimes for marine works. As such, to maintain the current position, the clauses as introduced include a limited power for the UK Government to legislate in areas of devolved competence where the relevant devolved Administration has been consulted. A failure to include that power risks introducing a legislative gap that could undermine the delivery of certain types of development, which is clearly not something we want to happen.

When the discussions with the devolved Administrations have concluded, the Government will bring forward any necessary amendments to implement what is agreed with them. Rather than doing that here and now in Westminster, we want to do it in full consultation with the devolved Administrations: we want them to be absolutely at the heart of those discussions. I hope that on the basis of that explanation, the hon. Gentleman will agree to withdraw his amendment.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I accept those assurances, and on that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

I will be brief, because I think my previous remarks addressed the point about transposition of the EU directive leading to the creation of a range of environmental assessment regimes that have different territorial extents and applications. As I have already explained, discussions are ongoing with the devolved Governments regarding how best to work together to ensure a consistent and coherent approach to environmental assessment across the UK. We are hopeful that we can work closely with devolved Governments to extend the powers in the Bill to place all the nations on an even footing. For those reasons, I commend the clause to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 121 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 122

Exemptions for national defence and civil emergency etc

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 123 to 126 stand part.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

In some rare cases, particularly those relating to national defence or responding to a civil emergency, it may be necessary for the Secretary of State to direct a project to progress without an environmental outcomes report when the production of one would usually be required. The provisions in clause 122 enable that. The clause does not aim to bypass environmental protections, which are important for all the reasons I have set out; it simply accounts for those rare instances in which there is an urgent need to progress with development. Clause 122 replicates a similar provision in the existing regulations, and would only be used in the most extreme circumstances.

In addition to the civil and defence needs, the clause also provides powers via regulations for the Secretary of State to be able to direct that no environmental outcomes report is required in other circumstances. Such directions will, of course, be presented in regulations subject to the affirmative procedure, and will be consulted on and constrained accordingly.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I appreciate the Minister highlighting that there could be extenuating circumstances in which the measures could be suspended, but he has not set out what mitigations will be put in to address that, either in close proximity to that or elsewhere. Could he say a bit more about that?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

Good question! As well as the non-regression clause that I talked about earlier, we have a built-in power under these clauses that allows aspects of the regulation to apply even if a project can initially progress without an EOR. That is a good way to manage those high-risk needs with environmental protection and get that balance right. It allows a project to progress without a report, but still requires certain aspects of the regulations to be adhered to, such as monitoring and remediating effects once the plan or project is in operation. I again highlight the fact that that would only relate to the plans and projects in greatest need, relating to matters of national importance.

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Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

Exactly. This is why you get paid the big bucks, Mr Hollobone. Thank you very much.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister touched on a number of the issues that I wanted to raise. This is a series of important clauses and therefore I have a couple of questions for him. I hope that I can draw out a little more detail, but as ever, he is more than welcome to write to me if he requires to do so.

Clause 122(1) states:

“The Secretary of State may direct that no environmental outcomes report is required to be prepared in relation to a proposed relevant consent which is solely for the purposes of national defence or preventing or responding to civil emergency.”

Subsection (2) of that clause further states:

“EOR regulations may provide for further circumstances in which the Secretary of State is to be able to direct that no environmental outcomes report is required to be prepared.”

Can the Minister give the Committee some examples of the “further circumstances” in which no environmental outcomes report may be required as per subsection (2), given that civil emergencies and national defence, as he said, are already covered by subsection (1)?

Clause 123 is a new provision that sets out the enforcement provisions that can be made in respect of EORs. The Minister touched on a few, I believe, but I would be grateful if he could provide any further detail as to how enforcement of EORs will operate and how they will operate compared with the current SEA and EIA systems.

Clause 125(2) specifies that the Secretary of State, as the Minister has also said, may consult only

“such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate”

before making certain EOR regulations, or issuing, modifying or withdrawing certain guidance. Can the Minister give us some idea of which persons or bodies the Secretary of State would be likely to approach before making or modifying regulations and guidance? Specifically when it comes to statutory consultees, which he spoke about, is there any rationale for not specifying statutory consultees in the Bill?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that contribution. On the formal consultation, I cannot yet give him details as to whom specifically we will speak to, barring the fact that, as I said earlier, we will clearly seek to speak to all the key stakeholders that we work with really closely. Indeed, we have worked with a number of those in the lead-up to the Bill. We want to ensure that we get the expert advice of people not only who can contribute to our knowledge, but who will be using the system, so that we can get the benefit of that on-the-ground experience, because what we do not want to have is unintended consequences.

On enforcement, the Bill amends and strengthens the powers and sanctions available to decision makers. We want to ensure that the new system is effective at delivering on the outcomes, so it will be necessary for the regime to have enforcement mechanisms. The exact details of the new system are in the process of being developed. We will be working with the same stakeholders on the design of the new system, in terms of enforcement as well as exemptions, and we want to ensure that we have a full consultation.

In addition to consultation, there will be parliamentary debate. I hope that reassures the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich that we are prepared to work collaboratively to ensure that this regime—the framework that we are talking about now—works well in practice, and that that coherent approach makes it easier to understand and enforce. Enforcement is no good if we just have a bit of prose that means nothing; we need to make sure we enforce that as well.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 122 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 123 to 126 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 127

Interaction with existing environmental assessment legislation and the

Habitats Regulations

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 181, in clause 127, page 141, line 32, leave out “in particular” and insert “not”.

This amendment would ensure that any specified environmental outcomes arising from EOR regulations made would augment not substitute those arising from existing environmental assessment legislation and the Habitats Regulations.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clause 127 enables the Secretary of State to make regulations on how the EOR framework provided for by part 5 interacts with existing environmental assessment legislation and the habitats regulations. The explanatory notes accompanying the Bill state:

“This is necessary to ensure that where an Environmental Outcomes Report is prepared, where appropriate, this is capable of meeting the requirements of existing environmental assessment so as to avoid duplication.”

It would be recognised as meeting both.

Our serious concern is that by providing for requirements undertaken in relation to an EOR to satisfy the requirements under the habitats regulations, this clause could allow the Secretary of State to substitute the protections afforded by those regulations with weaker requirements that had undergone only limited parliamentary scrutiny under the affirmative procedure. In our view, this is deeply problematic because the habitats regulations provide for an extremely high level of environmental protection for our most precious and vulnerable habitats and species, indeed for greater protection than the SEA and EIA systems, requiring as they do applications proposing a development that will affect a site to first prove that mitigation is in place to avoid significant harm, or that there is an overriding public interest reason to proceed and compensatory measures are necessary. In revising subsection (2) of the clause, amendment 181 would address that concern by ensuring that any specified environmental outcomes arising from EOR regulations made would augment, not substitute, those arising from existing environmental assessment legislation and the habitats regulations.

An additional concern with this clause comes in the form of subsection (3), on page 142 of the Bill, which provides for EOR regulations under the clause to

“amend, repeal or revoke existing environmental assessment legislation”.

Even with the list of what constitutes “existing environmental assessment legislation” set out on the face of the Bill in clause 130(1), we believe this provision is unnecessarily broad. Amendment 182 therefore seeks to remove clause 127(3) to ensure that EOR regulations cannot be used to amend, repeal or revoke existing environmental assessment legislation.

It is essential, as the Minister himself accepted during debate about an earlier clause, that we recover nature and that we do so quickly, or we risk irreparable damage to the natural world upon which life depends. To that end, proven, effective laws should be maintained and strengthened rather than undermined in any way. For that reason, I hope the Minister will appreciate the concerns we raise and give both of these amendments serious consideration.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

Given the scale of the underpinning legislation, as we transition from the current complex system of environmental assessment to the new framework of EORs, the Government require powers to manage the interaction between the old and new systems.

The interaction provisions in clause 127 are designed to ensure that when an EOR is prepared, it is capable of meeting the requirements of existing environmental assessment legislation where appropriate. That allows the Government to guard against duplication while the various assessment regime owners bring forward regulations to introduce environmental outcomes for their regimes. It also allows existing environmental assessment legislation to meet the requirements of an EOR, which is to avoid duplication and manage co-ordination across the different assessment regimes. We all know that it takes time to consolidate the complex legislation covering a number of Departments and agencies, and we want to make sure there are no gaps in the process.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

As we have already heard concerns about clause 127, let me use this opportunity to clarify its intention and to provide the reassurance that it is does not allow any amendments to the habitats regulations.

The clause serves two purposes. First, it enables us to make sure that assessments under the new EOR system will be interoperable with those required by existing environmental assessment and habitats legislation. Secondly, it gives the Government the power to repeal, revoke or amend the current SEA and EIA regulations in each of the relevant regimes once the new framework for an environmental outcomes report is in place.

The provision is about providing powers in relation to the interaction between the new system and existing environmental assessment legislation and the habitats regulations. It does not remove the need to comply with the habitats regulations. It is an ancillary power. Any regulations must relate to the purpose of the clause, which is about interaction between processes. Regulations can set out how an EOR report can meet the requirements of existing environmental assessment legislation or the habitats regulations, but only in so far as the processes interact.

There has been some misinterpretation, or a difference in opinion, about subsection (3), which allows regulations to

“amend, repeal or revoke existing environmental assessment legislation.”

The habitats regulations are specifically excluded from that power, meaning that it is not possible to make any changes to the habitats regulations under it. This is simply about streamlining within the constraints of the legislation. We want to avoid overlaps, such as, for example, repetitions in evidence, while optimising the synergies—for example, the effects identified in the habitats regulations assessment that could help to inform the contribution to outcomes in the EOR. This is about how the two are co-ordinated and how they work together. The clause must also accord with our commitments to non-regression under clause 120, so any interaction between assessments must maintain overall environmental protections.

In parallel, the Government have indicated our intention to improve the habitats regulations regime, while maintaining or enhancing the level of protection it provides. DEFRA has recently consulted on that via the consultation on the “Nature Recovery” Green Paper, which the Government will respond to in due course. There are real opportunities to improve processes across the piece, and the clause allows for that interaction between processes and for the benefits of efficiencies and streamlining. I hope the Committee is reassured on the purpose of the clause, which is heavily constrained and seeks no powers to make any changes to the habitats regulations. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 127 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 128

Consequential repeal of power to make provision for environmental

assessment

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 129 and 130 stand part.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

Clause 128 is a straightforward provision to remove what will become an obsolete regulation-making power, along with references to that power, after the powers contained in the Bill come into effect. It was a broad power, allowing the Secretary of State to make regulations for consideration to be given to environmental effects. It will no longer be required, as the new powers will cover the consideration of the environmental effects of development. The provision simply aims to clear it from the statute book.

Clause 129 gives power to make regulations on a variety of procedural and technical matters relating to environmental outcomes reports. Those include, for example, setting out who should prepare reports, to whom completed reports should be given and how information should be collected and provided. It also makes provision for regulations to state the level of assistance required from local authorities in the production of those reports, when reports that fail to meet various requirements can be declined, and how appeals and reviews of decisions should work. The clause also makes provision for the collection of fees. We intend to keep fees to a minimum, but we will seek views from stakeholders in future consultations.

While those matters are generally procedural or technical in nature, they are all important and necessary for the successful implementation of environmental outcomes reports. Setting those out in regulations allows for those matters to be decided following consultation, and allows for flexibility in the system. That means that the specific technical ways that the system works can be more easily updated in the future, and it will allow the difference between regimes to be accommodated.

Finally, clause 30(1) is a straightforward provision that simply lists all the current regulations that implement the EIA and SEA regimes. As such, those are the regulations that the powers in this part will allow the Secretary of State to replace with EOR regulations. They implement the assessment regime in a similar way across a broad range of sectors, from transport to energy production to town and country planning. It is our intention that this remains the case for the regulations implementing the new system.

Subsection (2) is primarily a reference list, bringing together the various definitions used in this part. It also introduces some straightforward definitions such as “public authority” and “relevant document”.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 128 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 129 and 130 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Gareth Johnson.)

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill (Twentieth sitting)

Paul Scully Excerpts
Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for that well-made point. We had, as she will know, an extensive discussion on viability in the last sitting. The system is flawed in many respects, but there are ways in which it has been improved in recent years, and it could be improved further. The Mayor’s threshold approach in London is a good example of how that can be done; it draws in relevant expertise to ensure that contentious sites undergo a full viability assessment.

Our issue with the proposed system is that it is premised on removing the viability issue from the process entirely, but the point here is that the system certainly does not do that; at the rate-setting stage, viability is very much an issue. That needs to be addressed through the amendments. Amendment 162 would ensure that IL rate-setting testing and examination cannot be unfairly manipulated by developers seeking to drive down levy rates, because the amendment would clarify that charging authorities will not be expected to test every development site in their area. It would mitigate the risk that the infrastructure necessary to support development will not come forward, and that amounts of affordable housing will be reduced.

Amendments 163 and 164 are necessary to give full effect to the Government’s commitment that the new system will be, to quote the policy paper, a “locally determined Infrastructure Levy”, with Il rates set locally by charging authorities. The amendments do that by altering the provisions that give the Secretary of State the power to impose specific IL rates, nil rates or minimum thresholds that have not emerged as a result of an examination, or been justified with reference to local evidence. By preventing the Secretary of State from overriding a charging authority in those respects, the two amendments seek to avoid a scenario in which a charging authority is either prevented from developing its own IL rates or, after the lengthy and resource-intensive process of determining the IL rates and thresholds appropriate for its area, and after having them verified by an independent examiner, has them overridden by the Secretary of State.

There is nothing in the Bill to ensure that IL rates imposed by the Secretary of State in the way that the Bill allows would be based on local evidence or subject to independent assessment. There is therefore an obvious risk that the Secretary of State may, on occasion, be persuaded to bypass the IL rate-setting process on spurious grounds. We feel strongly that the process should be genuinely local, and that charging authorities should be confident, if they develop a rate or rates that are approved in examination, that they will be able to apply those without interference from the Department. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s thoughts on each of these important amendments.

Paul Scully Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Paul Scully)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Murray, and to address the Committee and answer the questions raised. The hon. Gentleman talked about attrition rates, which are important for all of us as constituency MPs, and we all want to make sure that we get this right. I, too, thank the former Minister for Housing, my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones), for the work that he has done over the summer.

I begin by acknowledging the work of the Committee so far. The planning reforms will clearly be important in supporting our growth agenda, so I look forward to the next few days. I understand why the hon. Gentleman seeks to introduce the amendments. I will try to clarify some of the points, and to explain why we do not believe that the amendments are necessary. I will start with amendment 162.

Local planning authorities will be responsible for setting infrastructure levy rates, and for charging and collecting the levy, and they can spend the levy revenues on local priorities. When setting rates, they must have regard to the economic viability of the development of the area. I reassure the hon. Gentleman and the Committee that proposed new section 204A(2) of the Planning Act 2008 already ensures that that is the case. It states that the overall purpose of the levy,

“is to ensure that costs incurred in supporting the development of an area and in achieving any purpose specified under section 204N(5) can be funded (wholly or partly) by owners or developers of land in a way that does not make development of the area economically unviable.”

The overall purpose of the levy applies to all levy regulations, including those made under proposed new section 204G(4)(a), to which the hon. Gentleman has proposed additional text. This means that when charging authorities set rates or other criteria, they must have regard to matters specified in levy regulations relating to the economic viability of development. Although I understand his point, I hope that with that explanation, he will agree that amendment 162 is unnecessary.

Amendments 163 and 164 would prevent the Secretary of State from requiring, through regulations, that differential rates of the levy be set. They would also prevent the Secretary of State from specifying in regulations the basis on which a threshold for such rates may be determined. Again, I recognise that the aim of the amendments is to ensure that the rates are set solely by the charging authority, but I reassure the Committee that local rate-setting is indeed essential to the levy design. However, the levy must be charged in a coherent and consistent way, so that it meets its objectives of capturing more value and raising more revenue for local planning authorities, while maintaining the viability of developments across an area.

How the levy is charged should reflect the different amounts of additional value that might be generated across different kinds of development. In some circumstances, it might be necessary to require in the levy regulations that rates be set at higher or lower levels. For example, the additional value created by new floor space might be a lot greater than that created when existing floor space undergoes change of use. Similarly, the additional value generated by a residential development might be a lot higher than the amount generated by some types of commercial development, and it is right that the difference in value is reflected in levy rates.

There might be types of development on which it is simply not appropriate to charge the levy, or on which it would be appropriate to charge a reduced rate. Providing for that in the levy regulations will ensure the coherence of the regime that I talked about.

How much additional value is generated by a development depends in part on how much it cost to build, and on the value of the land before development takes place. The minimum threshold will broadly account for the costs of development in an area by charging the levy on the final gross development value. Above the minimum threshold, the levy is charged only on the additional value of a development. Without a minimum threshold, the levy would not be able to reliably capture more of the value uplift in different development types and land uses, while maintaining viability. The ability for levy regulations to require that thresholds for nil or reduced rates be determined in a specified way, including the ability to adjust them with reference to the cost of development in a charging authority’s area, is key to ensuring that this aspect of the levy function works in a coherent and consistent way.

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Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I appreciate that comprehensive answer from the Minister, but I am afraid to tell him that I am not reassured. I am not sure—I will happily go back and check the record—that he addressed my specific points. As I said, our concern is that the language in proposed new section 204G(4)(a), when it comes to specifying how viability is handled within the rate-setting process, refers simply to “development”. It is not consistent with the language in proposed new section 204A(2), which specifically refers to “development of an area”.

The Minister spoke in general terms about the local rate-setting process. I take no issue with that. It is absolutely right that the local charging authority looks at viability as part of that process, but the specific concern that we have, as I said, is that it may be forced to assess the viability of every site in the area that it oversees, rather than being able to undertake a general assessment of viability in that area and not have specific sites skew the results. This could potentially have very serious implications for the levy rates that are set and the ability of developers to try to drive down those rates as part of the process. We are not satisfied on that score.

On amendments 163 and 164, we do not take issue with the fact that there needs to be a minimum threshold or the need for specified ways of setting or adjusting the levy rates. Our issue is with the powers that the Bill provides for the Secretary of State to intervene and overturn a locally determined rate that has gone through an examination process. The Minister has not convinced me that there is a good reason for those powers. On that basis, I am keen to make the point that we think this is one of the many weaknesses in the Government’s proposed infrastructure levy, so I am minded to press amendment 162 to a vote.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

Let me just answer a couple of points as the hon. Member considers whether to press the amendment to a vote. I assure him that charging the levies is very much for the local authorities. The intention is to not have a system that is different for every single development, because that becomes incredibly unwieldy—that is the point of introducing this system rather than the existing, technically complex system, where developers, who have deeper pockets than many local authorities, and more expertise, get round section 106 and CIL and so on. If they so choose, local authorities should be able to have different levies in different areas within their remit, but that should not be just from development to development. That is the intention of the measures here.

The powers of the Secretary of State reflect the current system. As I mentioned, the Secretary of State has powers under the existing system and we are reserving that same right, which is to be used only very sparingly.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for that useful further clarification of the Government’s intention, but in many ways he made my point for me. No one is taking issue with the fact that the Bill specifies that local charging authorities set the rate. That is absolutely right. It is an advantage of the proposed system vis-à-vis that outlined in the 2020 “Planning for the Future” White Paper, which envisaged a nationally set rate or rates. The issue we have—the Minister spoke directly to this point—is the inequality of arms between developers and local planning authorities. Our concern is that the language in the Bill will allow developers, not in the way they do with the current section 106 system but under the new system, to use their extra resources, skills and expertise to drive down levy rates at the point at which they are set, due to the way that viability is dealt with in proposed new section 204G(4)(a). I am not satisfied by the Minister’s comments, and I will press amendment 162 to a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

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Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for York Central on amendment 168. She rightly speaks about the importance of green space in urban areas and about how we can increase the rate of it, if anything, when it comes to individual planning applications.

I will speak primarily to amendment 59, because I think it is worth putting the following on the record. I understand the point that the hon. Member for Buckingham is making, but my reading of the Bill is that the framework established in part 4 already allows charging authorities to set different IL rates according to existing and proposed uses, and those could include different rates for greenfield and brownfield sites. So the means to resolve the issue he is driving are already in the Bill, and Buckinghamshire Council will be able to set different rates on brownfield and greenfield sites if the Bill is given Royal Assent.

Our concern is that, by seeking to make mandatory a sliding scale of charges relating to land type or existing typologies by site, amendment 59 could result in reduced infrastructure contributions and lower levels of affordable housing in areas where development mainly or exclusively takes place on brownfield land, because it would prevent charging authorities from setting rates that are effective and suitable for their area and that consider local circumstances. For example, a mandatory sliding scale of charges, as proposed in the amendment, could result in the expectation that a charging authority whose development sites are entirely or mainly on brownfield land would set low IL rates to incentivise development in that area and disincentivise development in other areas with fewer brownfield sites.

Furthermore, brownfield development in higher-value areas will almost certainly generate sufficient values to support higher levels of contributions than would be possible on greenfield sites. As such, a mandatory sliding scale of charges would mean the loss of developer contributions that could viably have been delivered on brownfield sites, with no assurance that this would be offset by a higher level of contributions on greenfield land. Labour firmly believes in the principle of brownfield first, as do the Government, and that is absolutely right. However, we feel strongly that the setting of different IL rates for different land types should ultimately be determined by individual charging authorities taking account of local circumstances, rather than by the method proposed in amendment 59.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

The Government are already providing strong encouragement for the take-up of brownfield sites—we are all agreed on that—and are prioritising suitable brownfield land for development wherever possible. There is significant investment through the £550 million brownfield housing fund and the £75 million brownfield land release fund to unlock brownfield land across different communities across the country. Our national planning policy framework makes it clear that local authorities should give substantial weight to the value of using suitable brownfield land in settlements for homes and other identified planning need.

We recognise the importance of delivery on brownfield sites, as has been raised by the hon. Member for York Central and my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham. However, we believe that that is better achieved through planning policy rather than through a fixed algorithm that automatically increases levy charges on the basis of the proportion of greenfield to brownfield. This further amendment would add a new element to the levy formula, which would still allow for greater greenfield development in certain circumstances, but would remain a formulaic approach rather than a policy-driven one.

The proportion of greenfield development within the local authority should continue to be policy driven at that local level, as we have heard. I agree with the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich that it should be the local authority—the charging authority—driving that, based on their local circumstances. In any case, proposed new section 204G(5) and (8) in schedule 11 already contains powers for the levy regulations to permit or require local planning authorities to set different levy rates for different kinds of development, and proposed new section 204G(4) makes it clear that the local authority must have regard to the increases in land value that result from planning permission. That provides a framework where, if increases in land values are higher, as we have heard is often the case with greenfield development, higher rates can be set. On that, we agree in terms of policy.

In answer to the hon. Member for York Central, I totally understand her drive when she talks about buildings going up to five storeys, and it is important that it is the local area that determines exactly these things. Whether it is the view of the Minister or the affordability of properties, that should not be determined centrally with an artificial algorithm. It very much needs to be locally driven, so that local families and communities benefit from housing themselves and from the economic value of bringing in new people and new investment. It is about getting that balance right, and that will change for different areas. It was interesting to hear the hon. Member’s tour de force—that tour of York, and I suspect I will get a bit more about green spaces later this morning.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

A lot more, the hon. Gentleman says from a sedentary position.

Clearly, we do need those green lungs, as my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham said. Those of us who have an urban, suburban or semi-urban area need to get that balance right, and I would much rather that that was done through a policy framework than by an algorithm, which can be game-played by developers. It is important to get this right at a local level, so it is important to get for local authorities to get the local plan in, so that they can shape their place. They have the determination to do so. For those reasons, amendments 168 and 59 are not necessary.

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My final proposed new paragraph, (n), focuses on older and disabled people and ensuring there is proper provision around that social care. Again, we are talking, as Homes England would, not about just building but place making. That is essential to meet the needs of our communities. I would be encouraged to hear that the Government want a wider perspective on how we build our communities to be sustainable, connected, energised by their new energy sources and able to work as a community, as opposed to just building volumes of houses that have no soul.
Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

It has been interesting moving around some of the areas where the infrastructure levy can be used, whether for cycles, footpaths or micro-transport. The hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich mentioned from a sedentary position that we are going to get the good experience of York. I did not realise that we were going to have the experience of Trieste in Italy as well. It is interesting to hear about that, although I understand that in Trieste they do not have mental health provision in hospitals either because they tend to keep to people suffering with their mental health in their homes. It is a different cultural situation, but the point was taken.

The hon. Member for York Central talked about allotments. I do not want to see the community levy contributing to a dulling of good developers who want to provide community facilities as part of their place-shaping. Allotments are comparatively low cost to design and implement, but have massive social and community value. I very much understand that point. Having been the Hospitality Minister for two years, and now the Minister for Faith, I find the hon. Lady’s proposal to combine those roles in the church/pub really interesting—we will see how that goes.

This is the problem with putting lists in Bills. The list is not supposed to be exhaustive and comprehensive—there are plenty of things that charging authorities can, should and will be looking at, such as those the hon. Lady has outlined. The Bill gives a starting point, but I do not think we need to go further at this stage, because the rest of the Bill gives the local authorities wide powers, allowing them to spend the levy on the infrastructure that their communities need, rather than it being imposed by us in the detail proposed by the amendment.

I reassure the hon. Lady that, should a local authority wish to spend the levy on items of infrastructure that are not expressly stated in the list in proposed new section 204N, as long as it is infrastructure in the common sense and natural meaning of the word, it will indeed be able to do that. The levy can be spent on any infrastructure that supports the development of an area, including funding the provision, improvement and replacement, operation or maintenance of infrastructure, providing that it is in accordance with the original aim of the levy as set out in proposed new section 204A.

The Bill also allows for regulations to add, remove or vary the content of the list to support infrastructure delivery through the levy if it is necessary and if any clarification is needed.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Energy should get particular mention in a redrafting of the Bill. Other countries are further advanced; we are behind. That is a specific point, and we should see that change. Does the Minister conclude that all the other issues in the amendment would be facilitated by proposed new section 204A, as set out in that broader definition of the Bill? If that is the case, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

I do not see the need to put energy generation in the list because, absolutely, that and the other areas she raises are included. I am happy to give her that reassurance. As long as the local authority thinks something is needed, and it fits within the definition of infrastructure—I think we can agree that all the points she raises fit within that definition of infrastructure—the answer is yes.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way again. Just for clarity: if the authority were to bring forward a proposal for microgeneration of energy or an energy facility in order to support a local town, conurbation or whatever, that would be included, too. I made the point about energy having a separate mention in the Bill because it is such a big issue and much broader than some other areas, but would that also be covered?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

Yes. If the local authority thinks it is needed, then absolutely. The discourse around housing is often just about the supply of housing, but clearly energy, and energy generation of all sorts, needs to be brought into it. We need to bring in schools, hospitals and medical facilities of all types, and indeed allotments, as she said. Yes, I can give her that assurance, and ask her to withdraw the amendment.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have heard what the Minister has said. I will take his words as authoritative—they will be in the Hansard record of today’s debate—and, as a result, I will withdraw my amendment. The point about energy is significant, not least if I look at the Derwenthorpe development by the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust in York, which has put energy and a community centre at the heart of that social/private development. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 165, in schedule 11, page 306, leave out from line 38 to line 2 on page 307.

This amendment would limit the circumstances under which the Secretary of State could direct a charging authority to review its charging schedule.

This amendment, much like amendments 162, 163 and 164, which we debated earlier in relation to the IL rate-setting process, is concerned with ensuring that the new levy system is genuinely local and that charging authorities are fully in control of developing its discretionary elements at a local level. It would remove proposed new section 204Y(1)(b), which provides the Secretary of State with the power to direct a charging authority to alter its charging schedule in a range of circumstances, including

“in any other circumstances that IL regulations may specify”.

That is of particular concern.

Given that the Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to revise individual charging schedules at their sole discretion, with no need to justify that intervention by means of any objective evidence-based criteria, we are concerned that, as drafted, it could have significant implications. For example, it could allow a future Secretary of State to require a charging authority to amend its locally developed charging schedule as a result of lobbying by a developer, without having to provide any evidence that the levy as implemented in the area in question is impairing viability and frustrating development.

We believe that this amendment is necessary to ensure that the Secretary of State cannot direct a charging authority to alter its charging schedule merely due to the passage of time or any other circumstances they see fit, given that the only justified rationale for an intervention from Ministers in relation to a charging schedule—namely, its impact on viability—is already covered by subsection (1). I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

Proposed new section 204Y(1)(b) enables the Government to require an authority to review—not necessarily alter—its levy charging schedule if a significant amount of time has passed since its last issuing, review, revision or replacement. Proposed new section 204Y(1)(c) enables the Government to require a review in any other circumstances as may be specified through regulations. It is important to have a power to direct a review to be undertaken after a significant period has elapsed since the schedule was put in place or revised. That is because there may be occasions when a schedule has been in place for many years without a proper review, and so is not up to date.

The levy will be a mandatory charge, and for many local authorities operating a levy on new developments it will be a novel means to capture land value. Monitoring and reviewing charging schedules will therefore be important, especially for authorities that are unaccustomed to charging a levy. That is why we want levy charging rates to be reviewed on a timely basis. We will issue guidance on what that might reasonably mean in terms of time and circumstances. I hope that provides reassurance, including for communities and developers, that the rates remain appropriate. We want to make sure the approach is balanced.

Historically, local planning authorities have not always reviewed and updated key documents, such as local plans, in a timely fashion, which is why it is appropriate to take this power to direct a charging authority to issue, review, revise or replace. Furthermore, it is entirely consistent for the Bill to secure timely reviews of charging schedules and to require that local authorities introduce a charging schedule in the first place. Levy charging schedules are underpinned by evidence on local economic circumstances and viability. Reviews either provide confidence that the charging schedule remains appropriate or starts a process of revision if they are considered not to be.

We also consider it important to have the power to regulate for any other circumstances in which the Government may want to direct that a review be undertaken, such as if a new local plan is issued soon after the publication of a charging schedule. Any further circumstances identified will be introduced through affirmative regulations, and so will be laid before this House and debated and approved here. With that clarification, I hope the hon. Gentleman will agree to withdraw the amendment.

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Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 166, in schedule 11, page 308, leave out line 25.

This amendment would prevent IL regulations making unspecified provision about how powers under section 106 of TCPA 1990 (planning obligations) are used.

The Committee will be relieved to hear that this is the last of our amendments on the infrastructure levy. It relates to the interaction of the infrastructure levy with other existing powers. As drafted, proposed new section 204Z1(1) in schedule 11 provides for future IL regulations to make unspecified provisions about how a range of existing powers, including CIL and section 106 planning obligations, are to be used or not used.

Our specific concern relates to the application of those broad powers to the use of section 106 agreements. While we appreciate fully that there are circumstances where the use of section 106 will have to be limited—for example, to avoid double charging a development for the same infrastructure item—we feel strongly, for reasons that I went into in exhaustive detail on Tuesday in relation to that part of the Bill in the round, that section 106 agreements have a crucial role to play in ensuring we secure sufficient levels of affordable housing. We are concerned that proposed new subsection (1) could be used to unduly restrict their use.

By deleting line 25 from page 208, amendment 166 simply seeks to ensure that future IL regulations cannot make unspecified provisions about how section 106 agreements are used once the levy system is operational. I hope the Minster will seriously consider accepting the amendment. If not, I feel that we need, at a minimum, far greater clarity about the precise circumstances in which the Government expect to have to restrict section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

Proposed new section 204Z1 in schedule 11 enables the Secretary of State to prescribe how certain powers are to be used or not. As we have heard, proposed new subsection (1)(c) enables the Secretary of State to prescribe how section 106 applications may or may not be used alongside the levy. That power has been used previously to make provision under the community infrastructure levy regulations to ensure that section 106 obligations are necessary in planning terms, directly related to the development, and fair and reasonably related to the scale and kind of development.

We need to be able to continue to ensure, under the new system, that section 106 obligations are used in ways that are appropriate, necessary and fair. We need to be able to delineate between matters that should be funded by the levy, and contributions to infrastructure or mitigation that should be secured by the more narrowly focused section 106 agreement. That means that developers will know that they will receive consistent treatment across different local authorities.

Removing section 106 from the list of powers will mean that the Secretary of State is unable to provide clear, coherent and consistent boundaries between what the levy should be used for, and what section 106 agreements can and cannot be used for. That would remove a key provision that will provide for coherence across the levy and the planning obligations regime. It is important to remember that the levy will take most of that. It will be more complicated, niche or bespoke schemes for which section 106 will remain. That coherence is why we want to keep that power and consistency. For that reason, I hope the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich will withdraw the amendment.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is a welcome additional clarification from the Minister, and I do not want to rehearse the previous debates that we have had. As I set out at length, we believe that the infrastructure levy should be discretionary and that, if it is not discretionary, affordable housing should not be within scope, so we remain concerned about the ability of this power to restrict how section 106 agreements are used. However, I will not press the amendment to a vote. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 11, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 114

Power to designate Homes and Communities Agency as a charging authority

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have a question relating to clause stand part. The Homes and Communities Agency, which operates under the trading name of Homes England, can already be designated as a local planning authority under the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008. The clause amends section 14 of the Act to provide that, if a designation order is made under section 13 to designate the HCA as a local planning authority for all or part of a designated area, the designation order may also make provision for the HCA to be the IL charging authority for all or part of the designated area.

The current situation with CIL is that the Homes and Communities Agency, urban development corporations and enterprise zone authorities can also be collecting authorities for development where they grant permission, but only if the relevant charging authority agrees. It would appear that the new provision in the clause allows Homes England to be a charging authority for the area where it acts as the planning authority, without the need for agreement from the local planning authority, as is currently the case with CIL.

Given the circumstances, I am more than happy for the Minister or his successor to respond to me in writing at a later date, but I would be grateful if he could explain the rationale behind the change of approach, what engagement and consultation Homes England will be required to carry out with other relevant local bodies in the absence of an explicit agreement to exercise the relevant powers, and what processes Homes England will use to decide how IL should be spent in that area.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

I will write to the hon. Gentleman with further details. As he rightly says, the clause is designed purely to act as a framework for having Homes England become a charging authority as well as a local planning authority. That power has not be exercised to date, but if it were, Homes England could become a charging authority. It is important to have the power in order to allow the Homes and Communities Agency to become the charging authority as well as the local planning authority, and to specify the purpose and kinds of development. Without the clause, the levy may not be able to function effectively in areas where the Homes and Communities Agency may be designated as the local planning authority. I commend the clause to the Committee, and I am happy to write to the hon. Gentleman with further details, should he require them.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 114 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned.—(Gareth Johnson.)

Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre

Paul Scully Excerpts
Thursday 21st July 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities if he will make a statement on the future of the proposed holocaust memorial and learning centre in Victoria Tower Gardens.

Paul Scully Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Paul Scully)
- Hansard - -

The Government remain committed to the creation of a new national memorial commemorating the victims of the holocaust. The new holocaust memorial will be the national focal point for honouring the 6 million Jewish men, women and children who were murdered in the holocaust, and other victims of Nazi persecution, including the Roma, and gay and disabled people. We must build this new national holocaust memorial and the learning centre, so that future generations can never doubt what happened. That is the only way that we can be certain that it will never happen again.

The commitment to creating a holocaust memorial was first made by the then Prime Minister, with cross-party support, in January 2015. I am pleased that the project has continued to enjoy support across a very broad range of people from all political parties, different faith communities, and all parts of society. The current Prime Minister is also very keen on and supportive of the project.

Following an extensive search for suitable sites, in which around 50 possible locations were considered, Victoria Tower Gardens was chosen as the best possible location for the memorial. Constructing the memorial next to Parliament, at the heart of our democracy, provides a powerful signal of the importance we attach to remembering the holocaust and seeking to learn its lessons. Following a lengthy public inquiry, planning consent for the memorial and learning centre was granted in July 2021. Sadly, though, a challenge was brought by the London Historic Parks and Garden Trust, which led to the High Court quashing the consent in April this year.

The loss of that consent was a disappointment, especially to those holocaust survivors who place such high value on sharing their testimony and who want to be confident that their message will continue to be heard. It was a further disappointment that the Court of Appeal decided yesterday that an appeal against the High Court decision would not be heard.

We will of course study those decisions carefully as we consider our next steps, but in addition to the Prime Minister’s personal support, our commitment to holocaust survivors remains strong. The lessons of the holocaust must be remembered and told with honesty and clarity. As the number of survivors sadly dwindles, we face an urgent task to ensure that their work in sharing those lessons continues.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for coming to answer the urgent question at short notice. Joshua Rozenberg observed today:

“If the government had chosen in 2015 to build the memorial and learning centre at the Imperial War Museum, it would have been open by now”

alongside the powerful Holocaust Galleries. I mention that because the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation’s research and education has led my family to learn that over 100 of my grandfather’s cousins died in the death camps and concentration camps.

The Minister knows that Jewish opinion is divided. Will he take this opportunity to read the National Audit Office report of two weeks ago? Will he also read the Holocaust Memorial Foundation’s September 2015 specification, which said that most of the money should be spent on education, rather than on construction? All the money spent over the past seven years has gone on proposals for construction, with nothing for education, which matters most.

Will he also look at the page suggesting possible central London locations, which include the whole of Regent’s Park, most of Hyde Park, and the Imperial War Museum?

Will he say to fellow Ministers that, as well coming to answer questions here, it is time to look again at how to fulfil the aims of the Holocaust Commission and the specifications of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation and actually to talk to those of us who have been trying to say to the Government for quite some time that Victoria Tower Gardens—I played there and have studied, lived and worked nearby for two thirds of my life—is not the place to put a mound and a hole in the ground? The area is insecure and of doubtful value in meeting the purposes, as well as being only one third of the size specified by the foundation only seven years ago.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

I thank the Father of the House for asking the question in the first place and for his thoughts. Victoria Tower Gardens was identified as a site uniquely capable of meeting the Government’s aspirations for the national memorial. There cannot be a more powerful symbol of our commitment than to place the memorial in the gardens next to the centre of our democracy in Parliament. The learning centre exhibition serves a different, although complementary, purpose from the Imperial War Museum’s new Holocaust Galleries, which are now largely completed, making it far more difficult to place the memorial there.

On terrorism, it would clearly be absolutely unacceptable to build a memorial in a less prominent location simply because of the risk of terrorism, because that would be to allow terrorists to dictate how we commemorate the holocaust. However, we will clearly work with security experts, Government agencies and the Metropolitan police to ensure that the site has the necessary level of security.

My hon. Friend also mentioned the NAO report and, as I am new in post, I will get into it in some more detail, but I am reassured that the investigation confirms our assessment of the risks and challenges associated with such an important, complex project. It recognised the challenges we face in managing the cost pressures in the context of inflation across the construction sector and the delays arising from opposition to the planning application. He said that money should be spent on education rather than on building, but many of the costs have related to the consultations and legal challenges that we have faced. We want to get on and build the memorial while holocaust survivors are still here to look at it.

--- Later in debate ---
Alex Norris Portrait Alex Norris (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is an issue that has generated a range of very strong views, but there should be a common sadness that such an important memorial is set back yet again. Remembering the holocaust and what it says about humanity’s past, present and future is an intergenerational necessity— 6 million Jewish people, Roma and Gypsy people, Slavic people, LGBT people, disabled people all savagely murdered. Antisemitism remains a scourge today that we all must fight together.

I am proud that Nottinghamshire is home to the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, and I urge right hon. and hon. Members and anyone watching proceedings today to visit it. They would not accept credit readily, but the work of the Smith family is a model of how memorials can be very thoughtfully done by bringing people together. We lost Marina Smith last month and I know that all colleagues will want to pass on their best wishes to the Smiths.

We are now faced with the question of what to do next. The Leader of the Opposition made very clear last week our commitment to a national memorial and his very strong belief that it should be sited next to Parliament. Does the Minister intend to bring forward legislation to make sure that this memorial happens? Will he commit to a cross-party, all-community effort to revitalise the project? I know that he is by instinct a consensus builder, and I suggest that he leans on that now, because this is a project of huge national importance and it is a source of sadness that we cannot make something of such universal significance happen. We now must come together to ensure that it does.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his words. Yes, indeed, we will continue to work. I think that the fact that the commission is chaired by Ed Balls and Lord Pickles shows the cross-party nature of the approach. We all want to have the best sign—the best memorial—to remember, and to teach and bring in a whole other generation of witnesses, as described by one holocaust survivor. In terms of legislation, it will clearly be for the next Prime Minister to direct that, but we will look at the court case and consider all options available to us.

Stephen Crabb Portrait Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for coming here to respond to the urgent question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley). I am encouraged by the continuing strong measure of cross-party consensus on the importance of delivering the holocaust memorial and learning centre in Victoria Tower Gardens.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the story of the holocaust is, in part, a British story, too, with the taking in of Kindertransport refugees, the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen camp and the taking in of child camp survivors? It is important that we tell that story from the heart of Government here in Westminster, and delivering the memorial and learning centre would be a powerful way of doing that. Will he consider strongly the suggestion of the need to legislate in order to get through and break the deadlock?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

I agree with my right hon. Friend on all those points. It is, indeed, a British, international and global story, and we need to reflect Britain’s place in the global response and make sure that it can never happen again. We will look at what happened in the court case, but also at what measures we now need to take. As I have said, it will be for the next Prime Minister to take those final decisions, but we will certainly be considering it in the weeks to come.

John Cryer Portrait John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the Minister indicated earlier, the holocaust is now slipping from memory into history. I am convinced that that at least partly explains the rise in antisemitism and holocaust denial that we have seen across Britain and Europe. Is it not even more important now that the holocaust memorial centre should, as a number of hon. Members and the Minister have indicated, be right by the epicentre of democracy? I find it absolutely extraordinary that the argument is being advanced that we should not have it in Victoria Tower Gardens because it would become a target. On that basis, why do we not close this place down, because this place is a target? Will the Minister give a commitment, as the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) asked, to bring forward legislation in September to enable the construction of the centre?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

I agree that we need a response and a sign and memorial right at the heart of our democracy. I cannot personally commit to legislation, but certainly we will look at that. It will be a decision for the next Prime Minister, but we will have a robust response as best we can.

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick (Newark) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The building of the national holocaust memorial was a manifesto commitment by this Government. It has cross-party support and it also has the support of every living Prime Minister and all the faith leaders of this country. It is a cause of great sadness to me that a small number of individuals, many of whom are local residents, are causing this great national project to be delayed. They will not succeed. All they will succeed in doing is ensuring that fewer survivors of the holocaust live to see the memorial open, and that is a national disgrace. Will the Minister bring forward the simple three-clause Bill that is now required? If he will not, I put him on notice that I will amend the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to do just that, and I am sure that colleagues across this House will support me in ensuring that this project proceeds.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. As I have said, any legislation will be the decision for the next Prime Minister. It remains a manifesto commitment to build the holocaust memorial so that we remember. On the location, 90% of the gardens will remain unchanged and open. Less than 10% will be used by the memorial, which will be open to the public. That is why Government believe that it fitted within the existing legislation. That is also why we will be reviewing the court case to see what it says, and our response will be in place accordingly.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The proof is in the pudding.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I say to the Minister that this is not a party political matter—it goes across the parties? We want this centre to be built and we want it to be built sooner rather than later. My father fought in the last war and was one of the Royal Engineers who went to Germany for the clear-up. He never recovered from what he saw there at the end of the war. I have this plea to the Minister. People will be disturbed by this. I was sorry to see that, under the contract that had been let, all the materials will be brought in and the waste taken away by road, but it would be much better for the residents and for the people in London if it were all carried on the river. Will the Minister consider that?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

As Minister for London, I will happily look at that last request, because we are significantly underusing our river. I agree with the hon. Gentleman when he talks about the cross-party nature of this project. We do need to get on and build this memorial, for this generation of holocaust survivors and for future generations.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I declare my interest as co-chairman of the all-party group for the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre. It is absolutely crucial that we get the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre alongside Parliament as quickly as possible. I know that, in answering this urgent question, my hon. Friend cannot bind the hands of his successor, but can he not do the sensible thing and, having got the support of the current Prime Minister, consult both candidates, one of whom will be Prime Minister in September? If they both agree that we should bring forward the legislation, will the Minister bring it forward to us on 5 September?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

I will be speaking to both candidates about a number of things, including this matter. I was supposed to be getting a briefing on this from my team today, as I am new in post. Clearly, there is a lot to bring to this issue, and we need to make sure that our candidates understand the feeling of the House.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

A report from the Community Security Trust was released last week on antisemitism in the pandemic. It outlined a very disturbing case in Manchester, my home town, of Jewish people being targeted for spreading covid. Fortunately, the perpetrator was arrested and jailed for six months, but does that not just demonstrate that this does not go away and that there is always an excuse? That is why it is absolutely crucial that we have the national centre to educate future generations on this issue.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The reason that we are talking about Victoria Tower Gardens is that it is next to Parliament. This is not a London memorial. We are talking about a national memorial, sitting next to the centre of our democracy. He is absolutely right: antisemitism does not start and stop within the M25.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Of course we should have a holocaust memorial and of course we should have a proper holocaust museum. It is not surprising that Westminster City Council turned this application down, or, indeed, that the Government have lost the case in the High Court and then in the Court of Appeal. Based on questions that I and others asked, the Act of Parliament dating from the beginning of the 20th century is very clear that the park was laid down as a park. May I suggest a compromise? Given that the debate is carrying on and on, the obvious solution is to have a holocaust memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens, next to Parliament as everybody wants, and similar to the other memorials such as the Buxton and Pankhurst memorials. It could be a potent symbol, it could blend in with the park and the surroundings and there would be no controversy about it.

The controversy has been about the underground learning centre and all the disruption it would cause. The difficulty with the underground learning centre in that very constrained site is that it would be nothing like the proper memorials and museums in Washington and Berlin. Have the memorial in the gardens and a proper museum at the Imperial War museum.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

As I have said, the education centre would be complementary to the Imperial War Museum. We believe that the plans are consistent with the provisions of the London County Council (Improvements) Act 1900, and that is why we are disappointed by the result of the court case. The design is sensitive to the existing gardens and would allow residents and visitors alike to continue to benefit from the green space, but we will clearly reflect on the court decision.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The memorial has to be near Parliament. At a time when antisemitism was commonplace, in the 1930s in British society, Victor Cazalet MP was the first person in the House to warn of the coming holocaust. Jack Macnamara MP visited Dachau and when he came back he said that we had to fight Hitler. Rob Bernays MP was called “a filthy Jew” by Hitler’s friends in Germany. All three of them lost their lives and have shields on the walls of the Chamber. This is intimately about Parliament, democracy and antisemitism, and we have to put those things together.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his usual erudite approach. There is not a lot I can add, but he is right about the need to site the memorial next to the centre of our democracy.

Nicola Richards Portrait Nicola Richards (West Bromwich East) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

One hundred and seventeen holocaust survivors were interviewed about the memorial, and it is upsetting that, because of the delays, many will not have the opportunity to see the opening. The holocaust is a part of British history, from the Kindertransport and the liberation of Bergen-Belsen to welcoming survivors. It is not always a good story, so the memorial has to be built beside Parliament to remind every future Government of the history. Can the Minister confirm that the Government will do all they can to build the memorial as soon as possible?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

The memorial for the holocaust remains a manifesto commitment of the Government and we will clearly look at the court decision and work out where to go next. It will be a decision for the next Prime Minister, but my hon. Friend has fought for this and spoken out about the holocaust on several occasions, and I know that she will continue to do so.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I get the impression that the Minister greatly understands the concerns of everybody in the Chamber, but can he outline what discussions have taken place with members of the Jewish community to underline the fact that this discouraging news will not deter the Government from taking appropriate steps to facilitate a central permanent holocaust memorial centre to show that this great nation—the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—is united in ensuring that future generations understand the importance of remembering the holocaust as a horrifically sad and bloody lesson for everyone?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

I always commend the hon. Gentleman for his work on religious freedom and tackling religious hatred, including antisemitism. With the court’s decision being so fresh, it is early to have had those conversations with the Jewish community, but this is the first signal of our intention to stick to our manifesto commitment of building a holocaust memorial. As the newly installed Minister for faith, I will have talks with the Jewish community across the summer.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In case anyone thinks that I did not declare that I have studied here in Westminster, worked here and lived here for two thirds of my life, I repeat that. I also say that it is not a minority who have blocked the proposal: it is two judges. We should not refer to a High Court judge and an Appeal Court judge as “a small minority” when they are actually getting the Government to obey the law.

Mole Valley Local Plan

Paul Scully Excerpts
Friday 15th July 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Paul Scully Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Paul Scully)
- Hansard - -

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford) on securing a debate on a topic that is important not just to him and his area—I know he has campaigned vociferously on it—but to the country as a whole. I can think of few better things to do on a Friday afternoon than to talk specifically about Mole Valley’s local plan. As he says, I am a near neighbour and know Dorking and Leatherhead well. Obviously, however, he rightly says that I am unable to go into the specifics, but I will try to deal with some of the general points, which may shed some light on the matter and complement his campaign.

The whole House will share a mutual appreciation of the parks and green spaces that add vibrancy to our communities and lift the spirits of the people within them. My hon. Friend was right to talk about the circular nature of shops needing shoppers and shoppers needing homes. The whole point of a local plan is to have a holistic view of the local area, rather than just chasing targets.

I mentioned green spaces and, after the NHS, they were what people turned to most during the pandemic, as a source of solace and space. It is that kind of holistic view that allows communities to breathe and expand. As we get past the covid pandemic, it is right that we reflect on what will keep our green spaces looking beautiful and brilliant in the months and years ahead.

My main message is that the Government share my hon. Friend’s determination to ensure that there are adequate green spaces for communities to enjoy right across the country. As he said, I cannot comment on the specific case, because the Secretary of State and my Department have a quasi-judicial role in the planning system, but I can speak to our unwavering commitment to keeping the country green and beautiful, and to what exactly we are doing as a Government to protect green spaces while encouraging development in the places it is needed most.

My ministerial role in the planning system means that I cannot drill down into the specifics of local plans, including the evidence base, the handling of the planning process, or any proposal for a new policy, but I can share some facts about the plan and how it is submitted. Mole Valley put forward its emerging local plan for the Secretary of State to consider in February. As is normally the case, the then Secretary of State appointed an independent planning inspector to assess the emerging plan, and hearing sessions at the examination in public started in June. The independent inspector’s role is to look at whether the plan is legally compliant before considering whether it is sound.

For a plan to be found legally compliant, the local planning authority must demonstrate that all the procedural checks and balances have been followed. Effective co-operation early in the plan making process is essential to ensure that the homes and infrastructure needed are planned for. It is expected that authorities collaborate with stakeholders to identify the relevant strategic matters to be addressed. For a plan to be considered sound, it should be positively prepared, justified, effective, and consistent with national policy. Ultimately, the inspector may report that the plan is unsound and cannot be adopted by the local council, but that is not for me to decide.

For the plan then to be adopted, it will require a full council vote, where all elected councillors are able to have their say. Mole Valley’s last local plan was adopted in 2009, and it stands to reason that having an effective, up-to-date plan in place is essential to identify the very latest development needed in any given area, deciding where it should go and dealing with planning applications. In this case, we would expect the local plan to set out the vision for Mole Valley and a framework for addressing housing needs and any other economic, social and environmental priorities, many of which my hon. Friend mentioned.

I hope that my hon. Friend will appreciate that due to my role, I cannot comment on specific planning applications, but he will know that local planning authorities are required to undertake a formal period of public consultation prior to deciding any application. Relevant concerns or considerations raised by local residents may be taken into account by the local authority. Applications are determined in accordance with the development plan for the area, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Each application is judged on its own individual merit, and the weight given to those considerations is a matter for the local planning authority as the decision taker in the first instance.

Let me touch on what we are doing not only to protect but to enhance our green belt. I am proud to say that our national planning policy delivers on the promises we made in the 2019 manifesto, with strong protections that safeguard this important land for future generations—promises that I hope will remain in place, irrespective of the outcome of the leadership competition. The national planning policy framework sets two tests to protect the green belt and the openness of land within it: first, that a local authority should not propose to alter a green belt boundary unless there are truly exceptional circumstances; and secondly, that it can show during the examination of a local plan that it has explored every other reasonable option, such as using brownfield land, optimising the density of development, and discussing whether neighbouring authorities could take some of the development required. The long and short of it is that our current framework is clear that inappropriate development—a designation that includes most forms of new building—should not be approved on a green belt except in very special circumstances, as determined by the local authority.

Paul Beresford Portrait Sir Paul Beresford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My memory, having been in the Minister’s position, is that “exceptional circumstances” does not mean housing merely to fill the statistical numbers required or requested.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

Indeed. My hon. Friend is right. Exceptional circumstances means exactly that. It does not mean just jumping into targets because of a lack of preparation elsewhere. That is key to understanding the issue. He talks about the local plan and the robust steps that any local authority has to engage in to get a sound judgment by the inspector and get a local plan adopted in the first place. It is about not just chasing targets, but the holistic view that I was talking about earlier.

The logical counterweight to building on green belt is to make far, far better use of suitable brownfield land, especially to meet housing needs and to regenerate our high streets and town centres. It is a principle at the heart of our levelling up agenda and our mission to drive forward bold, Kings Cross-inspired regeneration projects in cities and towns across the country. My hon. Friend was very modest, as a former leader of Wandsworth Council, when he talked about that progressive council and the inspiration we can draw from it. For years, derelict sites across the country have been not only unloved but underutilised. In many cases, they happen to be the most sustainable locations for the kind of new homes and new developments we need, but too often that potential goes unrealised.

To help councils and support the re-use of suitable brownfield land, we have done a number of things, including updating the national planning policy framework so it sets out that planning policies and decisions must give substantial weight to the value of using suitable brownfield sites; increasing housing need by 35% in our 20 most populated urban areas in the UK, so we can make the best use of existing infrastructure, including schools, shops, GP practices, train stations and bus stations, as my hon. Friend alluded to; and requiring that every local authority collates and publishes a register of local brownfield land suitable for housing in their area. We have already seen the dividends of those kinds of forward-thinking policies. For example, the registers tell us that nationally we have more than 28,000 hectares of developable land, which is enough land for 1 million homes.

We are, of course, committed to building the homes the country needs and to ensuring they are built in the places they are needed most. Over recent years, housebuilding has defied all expectations. Thanks to the steps the Government took with the industry at the height of the pandemic, we kept the conveyor belt of house building going, with over 216,00 new homes built in 2020-21—just a small dip on the previous year. There is every indication that in 2022, even with the challenging economic backdrop, the numbers will climb back up in the coming months and years.

Thanks to measures such as the one we introduced in 2018 to assess local housing need—a measure that makes less opaque and more efficient the process of identifying how many homes any place needs—local areas are in a much better position. To help us reach our housing targets we changed the formula in December 2020 to grow the numbers of homes and meet demand in our 20 most populated urban areas. That will not just help us to deliver homes that help people get on to the housing ladder; it will also make sure we are developing in a way that makes the most use possible of existing infrastructure and helps us minimise the cost to the climate of long-distance commutes.

When we look to the future and what that future looks like for our planning process, the Government set out their vision through the reforms we proposed in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, which was introduced on 11 May and is going through its parliamentary process now. The Bill will place a duty on local authorities to engage with their communities on proposed plans, giving communities far more say in planning applications and empowering them to have their say in the first place. The increased weight given to plans and national policy by the Bill will give more assurance that areas of environmental importance, such as national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and areas at high risk of flooding, will be respected in decisions on planning applications and appeals. The same is true of the green belt, which will continue to be safeguarded.

Meanwhile, measures to digitise the planning system will help radically transform the way that information about plans, planning applications and the information underpinning them is made available. That transparency will make the process smoother for all parties while putting the power back where it belongs: in the hands of local communities.

I thank my hon. Friend once again for securing the debate. With so much focus on other events, it is more important than ever that we keep discussing and debating the issues that really make a difference to people’s day-to-day lives. Again, I can only apologise that we cannot go beyond generalities into the specifics of his constituency. What I will say, however, is that we have both faced Lib Dem councils, but it is so important that local councils of any colour engage with the residents they represent. Councillors are there to reflect the desires of the people who put them in power in the first place. They have an incredible power to shape their community for decades to come through local plans. It is incredibly important that all areas get it right, but they can only do so by bringing people with them and going through the correct process.

When I look at the lie of the land with levelling up and regeneration and think about the direction of travel, I am reminded of a quotation from the American poet Randall Jarrell:

“The people who live in a golden age usually go around complaining how yellow everything looks.”

Don’t get me wrong—I know how much further we have to go to get the balance right between protecting green land and ensuring that the homes the country needs get built—but the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill and the interest from parliamentarians on both sides of the House will help us to get there.

Question put and agreed to.

The Insolvency Service Performance Targets 2021-22

Paul Scully Excerpts
Friday 10th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Written Statements
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Paul Scully Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Paul Scully)
- Hansard - -

My right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Corporate Responsibility (Lord Callanan) has today made the following statement:

I have set performance targets for the Insolvency Service for the financial year 2021-22. The Insolvency Service is the Government agency that delivers public services to those affected by financial distress or failure by providing frameworks to deal with insolvency and the financial misconduct that sometimes accompanies or leads to it.

The Insolvency Service aims to deliver economic confidence through a fair corporate and personal insolvency regime which gives investors and lenders confidence to take the commercial risks necessary to support economic growth. It has a crucial role to play in supporting businesses and individuals in financial difficulty or facing redundancy owing to their employer’s insolvency.

This year, the Insolvency Service has reinforced its commitment to putting customer satisfaction and real-life impacts at the heart of its services, and a new approach has been taken to measuring the quality of customer contact.

I have set measures and targets at a level which will drive the Insolvency Service to deliver its essential services effectively for its stakeholders. These measures include:

Measure

2020-22 target

Make bankruptcy orders sought by individuals within 2 working days

95% or greater

Determine debt relief order applications within 48 hours

95% or greater

Average time taken to process redundancy payment claims

14 days or less

Issue reports to creditors within fifteen days of interviewing

92% or greater

Deliver against the agency apprentice target for 2021-22 as a percentage of new staff

2.3% or more

Pay supplier invoices within 5 working days

80%

Pay supplier invoices within 30 calendar days

100%

Customer satisfaction score

84% or greater



The Insolvency Service’s Annual Plan for 2021-22 is published in full on gov.uk.

[HCWS279]

Co-operative Purchase of Companies

Paul Scully Excerpts
Wednesday 8th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Paul Scully Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Paul Scully)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. It is a privilege to respond to the hon. Member for Neath (Christina Rees) and I congratulate her on securing the debate. She asked about a Minister for the co-operative movement. That is indeed the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (John Glen). I believe he is the longest-serving Economic Secretary to the Treasury. The reason for that is partly because he is magnanimous and looks at the economy as a whole, beyond the macro down to the human level. That includes the value that he and the Government place on the co-operative movement. Co-operatives bring something different from other forms of businesses to the landscape and communities of the country. They have a clear focus on serving their communities’ needs. As I speak, Members will hear about the work that he and the Government are doing.

To answer the specific question about an assessment, we have not done one and do not plan to do so, but we do value co-operatives and have done much to support them. I will cover that in my speech, so that the hon. Member for Neath can hear of the work that we have been doing. She has raised the issue a number of times with the Economic Secretary, and it is right that we are here today to listen to her points about the movement that she supports. There are clearly staunch advocates of workers’ co-operatives across the House.

We want to see the co-operative sector grow. We see co-operatives in the employee-ownership model as being good for workers, local communities and businesses. That is why we have introduced a series of measures in recent years to support and promote the sector. One example is the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, which cut the legal complexity involved in running a co-operative. Alongside that legislation, we increased the amount of withdrawable share capital a member can invest in a co-operative from £20,000 to £100,000, which has given a number of societies greater flexibility to raise capital from individual members.

The hon. Lady asked about reviewing the legislation. We do not plan to undertake a review of the 2014 Act, but the Government are open to receiving credible proposals for its reform. I encourage the sector to ensure that it continues to engage with officials from Her Majesty’s Treasury on suggestions in that area. We have also rolled out a variety of tax reliefs to support organisations that choose an employee-ownership structure. Like any other business, co-operatives have been able to benefit from the Government’s support during the pandemic, including the furlough scheme and business loans.

I turn now to the hon. Lady’s proposal that we introduce a policy similar to Italy’s Marcora law. Although there are currently no plans to introduce legislation of that type, we are always open to receiving proposals that support co-operatives and employee-owned firms. The Economic Secretary and community representatives, along with the hon. Members for Harrow West (Gareth Thomas) and for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin), are looking to discover what more can be done to boost the sector’s ability to raise capital, following the green shares Bill last year.

In June, the Economic Secretary spoke about a wide range of issues relating to co-operatives and mutuals with the hon. Member for Neath and other members of the all-party parliamentary group for mutuals. As I understand it, the Marcora law was mentioned during those discussions. It is only right, however, that we acknowledge the need to take a pragmatic approach to the issue. First, there are clear differences between the Italian and UK economies, which could mean that the positive impacts of a Marcora law might not be as strongly felt in this country. The unemployment rate is one of those differences. The most recent UK unemployment figure from the OECD was 4.7%; by contrast, the Italian unemployment level stood at 9.3%. There is clear disparity between those numbers.

That is not all. In addition to the UK’s comparatively low unemployment rate, we are rolling out unprecedented levels of job support to get even more people into work. The upshot, according to the latest OECD data, is that UK workers are less likely than Italian workers to be unemployed for sustained periods of time, so it is far from clear that a Marcora-style policy here would deliver the same levels of welfare savings for the taxpayer as it does in Italy. As Members may be aware, those savings are sometimes cited as a reason to introduce the policy in this country, as we have heard.

Secondly, we need to learn more about the productivity implications of such a policy. In short, we have to be sure that employee-led buyouts under the Marcora law really are long-term solutions. That means gaining a deeper understanding of what is causing the companies to fail in the first place and of whether transforming them into worker co-operatives would really resolve those structural issues. That knowledge is really important, because providing funding to businesses that are unsustainable is a poor use of taxpayer money.

It is clear from this debate, however, that we are united in our desire to protect jobs and employers from the impact of the pandemic long into the future, so I will briefly touch on our work in this area. First of all, let me remind Members that the Government are providing extraordinary levels of financial support to individuals and businesses affected by covid-19. In fact, by the end of this month, the furlough scheme will have helped to pay workers’ wages for a year and a half, supporting over 1 million employers and more than 11 million jobs. In addition, at last year’s spending review, the Government built on the Chancellor’s plan for jobs by giving the Department for Work and Pensions an extra £3.6 billion to deliver labour market support. That includes funding for the Government’s new three-year restart programme, which will provide intensive and tailored assistance to over 1 million unemployed people to help them find work.

Last year, the Government launched the £2 billion kickstart scheme, which is rolling out hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for young people across the country. Over 50,000 positions have already been created, and the number of young people supported by the scheme will continue to rise as we approve more bids and as more employers recruit kickstart participants. We also recognise that large-scale layoffs can pose enormous challenges to affected communities, which is why in such circumstances we deploy the rapid response service of the Department for Work and Pensions, which provides immediate and personalised support to mitigate the impact of redundances.

Undoubtedly, the failure of large businesses can have very significant consequences for local economies. However, it is equally true that the closure of a much-loved pub or long-established village shop can be a major blow to areas, with the loss of jobs and vital community assets. For that reason, at the Budget, the Government announced the £150 million community ownership fund. The scheme operates in a similar way to the Marcora law. It allows community groups to bid for up to £250,000 of match funding from the Government, enabling them to take over valuable and viable local assets at risk of closure. We are currently assessing first-round bids, and we believe that this money will save jobs, protect services and help to keep the spirit of co-operative entrepreneurship alive around the country. Successful bids will be announced later this autumn.

I will end by reiterating my thanks to the hon. Member for Neath for her thoughtful contributions today and to the co-operative movement as a whole for its work. I hope that I have illustrated that the Government are both committed to supporting worker co-operatives and determined to protect those at risk of unemployment as a result of company failure. My ministerial colleagues and I are keen to continue the conversation with co-operative representatives as we work together to secure these vibrant and innovative organisations’ future success.

Question put and agreed to.

Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (Coronavirus) (Extension of the Relevant Period) (No. 2) Regulations 2021

Paul Scully Excerpts
Monday 6th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

General Committees
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None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Before we begin, may I encourage Members to wear masks when they are not speaking, in line with current Government guidance and that of the House of Commons Commission? Please also give each other and members of staff space when seated and when entering and leaving the room. Members should send their speaking notes by email to hansardnotes@ parliament.uk. Similarly, any officials in the Gallery should communicate electronically with Ministers—not that they will need your help, of course.

Paul Scully Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Paul Scully)
- Hansard - -

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (Coronavirus) (Extension of the Relevant Period) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 (S.I. 2021, No. 718).

The regulations were laid before the House on 21 June 2021. Sir Gary, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship to tackle this snappily titled SI, which will probably take me longer to read than to cover.

The past 18 months have been a huge challenge for all of us. We have started to lift the restrictions, and I am sure that everyone here shares my optimism that the early signs of a strong recovery signal a return to normality, but clearly many businesses are not out of the woods just yet. We have listened to the concerns of the business community and have been swift to act, providing affected businesses with the help and support that they need to survive. Many businesses have benefited from the economic package of support totalling £352 billion through furlough, the self-employment income support scheme, and support for businesses through grants, loans, and business rate and VAT relief. However, although we have now gone through the road map, many businesses continue to feel the longer-term effects of the pandemic.

The instrument before us has continued to help companies by extending one measure first introduced by the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020: specifically, the temporary suspension of issuing statutory demands and a restriction on company winding-up petitions until 30 September 2021. This measure has been extended several times by regulation, most recently from the end of March to 30 June. This instrument seeks to extend it one further time, providing confidence to businesses that they will be able to continue to trade as the economy gets back to normal. Since its introduction in June last year, the measure has protected many viable companies from aggressive creditor enforcement during really difficult trading times, and the temporary restriction on company winding-up petitions has meant that anyone who wants to wind up a company that has not paid its debts must satisfy a court that those debts are not covid-19 related.

As of today’s date, all businesses are able to reopen and trade without restriction. This extension aims to give the many companies that would be viable, were it not for the pandemic, much-needed time to get back on their feet as the economy begins to return to normal. The measure is intended to help companies that may be subject to aggressive creditor enforcement, but the Government have always been clear that it is not to be seen as a payment holiday. Where companies can pay their debts, they should do so. The added protection that this measure gives also allows those companies with unavoidable accrued arrears caused by the pandemic time to take advice from restructuring professionals and to negotiate and reach agreements with their creditors wherever possible, without facing the threat of being compulsorily liquidated while they do so.

I know that many businesses and their representatives will welcome the continued support that these regulations will give them. I also recognise that this measure will mean a further period of uncertainty for creditors, during which their rights to enforce recovery of debts will be temporarily restricted. However, as I have said, the measure is intended to help those in financial difficulty as a result of the pandemic, and should not be used as an excuse to avoid payment. Where a company can pay its debts, it should do so. We do not take this action lightly; we are aware of its impact on creditors, and we are continuing to monitor the situation carefully and consult with stakeholders and the business community to determine what further action may be necessary when these regulations expire at the end of September. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

--- Later in debate ---
Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

I appreciate the hon. Lady’s support, her party’s support and the support of her predecessor, the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), who was patient in returning to this Committee Room and others to talk about these statutory instruments and regulations. I beg the hon. Lady’s patience to do likewise over the next few weeks.

We do not want to keep any measures in place for a day longer than we need to, so that we can return to the free market. However, I talked about the £352 billion-worth of support that the Government have given to businesses. That gives us 352 billion reasons why we need to shape the next bit, to ensure that we can avoid the cliff edges that the hon. Lady talked about and viable businesses can start to work through their recovery, so that we do not lose the implicit gains that we have made by being able to support jobs, businesses and livelihoods.

We know that these measures have had a significant impact on the normal work of insolvency legislation and the rights of creditors, which is why it is important that we get the balance right between allowing recovery and allowing the market and creditors to return to normal. We will keep the measures under review and continue to work with colleagues across the House to keep them abreast of our thinking and our stakeholder reviews, as they develop.

Many landlords are demonstrating best practice by working closely with tenants to find solutions that work for both parties, and we are grateful to see those discussions taking place. As the hon. Lady said, the Government have extended the commercial rents moratorium to March 2022. We will introduce legislation to support the orderly resolution of commercial rent arrears for tenants that were affected by restrictions during the pandemic. That legislation will ring-fence the rent debt accrued and set out a process of finding arbitration between landlords and tenants.

We recognised the potential for cliff-edge scenarios, including the role of the accumulation of unpaid debts becoming due when restrictions and Government fiscal support expire. Work is ongoing to develop solutions to enable a viable exit from these measures. We hope to make an announcement soon.

The points raised today have highlighted the importance of the measures in the legislation. This regulation will provide much-needed continuing support for businesses to concentrate their best efforts on continuing to trade and build on the foundations of our economic recovery un-impinged by that threat to their viability.

I sincerely hope that companies and their creditors will come together in good faith to maintain their future trading relationships and secure the benefits to both themselves and the economy as a whole. I thank hon. Members for their valuable contributions to the debate and I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Industrial Development Act : Coronavirus-related Assistance

Paul Scully Excerpts
Wednesday 21st July 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Written Statements
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Paul Scully Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Paul Scully)
- Hansard - -

I am tabling this statement for the benefit of hon. Members to bring to their attention spend under the Industrial Development Act 1982. In addition to the obligation to report on spend under the Industrial Development Act annually, the Coronavirus Act 2020 created a new quarterly reporting requirement for spend which has been designated as coronavirus-related under the Coronavirus Act. This statement fulfils that purpose.



The statement also includes a report of the movement in contingent liability during the quarter. Hon. Members will wish to note that measures such as local authority grants, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, and tax measures such as the suspension of business rates are not provided under the Industrial Development Act 1982 and hence are not included below.



This report covers the first quarter of 2021, from 1 January to 31 March 2021, in accordance with the Coronavirus Act.



The written ministerial statement covering the fourth quarter of 2020 was published on 17 May 2021.

Spend under the Coronavirus Act 2020



Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, there is a requirement to lay before Parliament details of the amount of assistance designated as coronavirus related provided in each relevant quarter. In the period from 1 January to 31 March 2021, the following expenditures were incurred:

Actual expenditure of assistance provided by Her Majesty’s Government from 1 January to 31 March 2021

£1,058,687,252

All expenditure of assistance provided by Her Majesty’s Government from 25 March 2020

£2,699,037,690



Expenditure by Department

Actual expenditure of assistance from 1 January to 31 March 2021 provided by:

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

£968,013,744

Department for Transport

£86,925,000

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

£3,748,507



Contingent liability under the Coronavirus Act 2020

Contingent liability of assistance provided by the Secretary of State from 1 January to 31 March 2021

£5,666,529,651

All contingent liability of assistance provided by the Secretary of State from 25March 2020

£66,855,181,895



[HCWS222]

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Paul Scully Excerpts
Tuesday 20th July 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Ministerial Corrections
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The following is an extract from Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Oral Questions on 6 July 2021.
Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I and my officials have regular conversations with the Competition and Markets Authority on a wide range of issues, although open banking is normally handled by the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Kemi Badenoch). We support independence as a key criterion for the future open banking governance model.

[Official Report, 6 July 2021, Vol. 698, c. 745.]

Letter of correction from the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully).

An error has been identified in my response to the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (John Penrose).

The correct response should have been:

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - -

I and my officials have regular conversations with the Competition and Markets Authority on a wide range of issues, although open banking is normally handled by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (John Glen). We support independence as a key criterion for the future open banking governance model.