May I first offer my congratulations to Mrs. Spelman on her new portfolio?
As part of our agenda to deliver sustainable communities we are reforming the planning system, through the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill, to make it fairer, faster and more predictable. The new approach will give developers the choice of either negotiating a traditional section 106 agreement or—if they want greater speed and certainty—to pay a fixed charge, thus avoiding lengthy negotiations. That will give the local authority greater resources to spend on new community facilities, infrastructure improvements and affordable homes.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be aware that last year Tesco made profits of £69,000 a minute. May I draw his attention to planning issues involving Tesco in the Hamilton area of my constituency, where it has put up a megastore but given only a paltry sum as part of the planning gain? Tesco also appears to be blocking the establishment of an independent chemist in the area and cannot even collect its own trolleys. Will my right hon. Friend look at that case to ensure that the rules governing planning gain are fair to local communities and local authorities?
I assure my hon. Friend that I have no power to collect trolleys. The issue that he mentions was not called in and is therefore a matter for the local authority and Tesco. However, I congratulate Tesco on providing more in-town retail shopping. In 1979, there were 150 out-of-town shopping areas, but that increased under the Conservatives to 1,100. We have changed the trend, and last year, for the first time, in-town shopping increased, with the consequent reduction in poverty and improvement in jobs.
Given that many people think that section 106 agreements challenge the integrity of the planning system, because they involve the granting of planning permission in exchange for money, will the Deputy Prime Minister assure the House that any alternative to that system in the planning Bill will earmark any money collected for specific projects, which should begin as soon as practically possible?
The hon. Gentleman makes a sound point, and it is one that we have made in debates in this House and in the other place. It will be written into the Bill. Planning gain can be in money or in kind, such as in affordable housing or other facilities that might benefit the community. We have provided advice on the issue, but the hon. Gentleman makes a sound point and we intend to follow it up.