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New Clause 8 — Parliamentary requirements

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 8:00 pm on 2nd June 2008.

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Photo of Jacqui Lait Jacqui Lait Shadow Minister, Communities and Local Government 8:00 pm, 2nd June 2008

I am grateful to the Minister for being so clear on all the amendments tabled by the Government, by Labour Back Benchers and by the Opposition parties. As he said, national policy statements are one of the core aspects of the Bill. In principle, the official Opposition have no difficulty with the policy on national policy statements. We think it is a positive way forward to try to deal with the crumbling infrastructure that we will probably face when we get into government, and we will get on with it a lot more quickly than the present Government have.

There is agreement across the House that we never want to see again lengthy planning inquiries such as Sizewell and terminal 5—examples that have been given throughout our discussion of the Bill. That is a given. The difficulty arises from the status of national policy statements. The Minister clearly said that he saw them as Government statements. He agreed that they were the equivalent of planning policy guidance. We see them as being so important that they need to be voted on substantively by the House.

That is crucial, because the British public believe in the primacy of Parliament. If Parliament has agreed to a policy, there will be fewer challenges in principle as the statements come into use. The problem with national policy statements being Government statements is that that opens the possibility of extensive judicial review, based on all aspects of the policy statements. Hence, the objective on which we are all agreed—the speeding up decisions on infrastructure—will be frustrated by continual judicial review. That is the core reason why we tabled amendments Nos. 53 and 52 and why I will press them to a Division, if that is appropriate, in due course.

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