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New Clause 8 — Parliamentary requirements

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 9:30 pm on 2nd June 2008.

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Photo of John Healey John Healey Minister of State (Department of Communities and Local Government) (Local Government) 9:30 pm, 2nd June 2008

I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance and I pay tribute to him and Mr. Hurd, who contributed to the Housing and Regeneration Bill. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend Dr. Iddon, who contributed in the same way to the Energy Bill. The Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend Mr. Wright, is keen to see this concluded, and I will also do my best to ensure that it is.

My hon. Friend Mr. Betts described national policy statements as the basis of the Bill and said that they are right in principle and in process. He rightly said that the Select Committees are reassuring about the fact that they can do a proper job of scrutiny under the provisions that we set out in the Bill. I hope that that is a firm basis for this House to endorse our proposals. I understand him when he says that he has an instinctive attraction to the idea of a binding vote for approval, but he set out, more eloquently than I did, some of the problems and flaws that still exist in that regard.

In response to Dan Rogerson, resolutions of either House are designed to deal with debates that may or may not take place in either House on a national policy statement. In the Bill, we frame that as taking into account those debates or the report of a Committee of this House. We mean both but draft it in that way because there may well be no debate or resolution on a particular national policy statement in either House.

Very few Members on either side of the House have been more consistent or committed as advocates of action on climate change than my hon. Friend Mr. Drew. He is right to say that we should not be debating this in isolation. There are links to the Energy Bill, to the prospective marine Bill and, as I tried to make clear, to the Climate Change Bill. As I said earlier, there will be what he described as due regard to climate change in the appraisals of sustainability. It will then be built into national policy statements based on the sustainable development that he has been so keen to see, which will be the framework that the IPC has to use as a single-principle policy framework for considering and determining any applications for major projects.

My hon. Friend took me to task and pointed out in particular that there is a duty in clause 151 on local planning authorities in relation to climate change. Let me be clear to the House. Clause 151 relates to plan-making only—to development plan documents, which are the equivalent at the local level of our national policy statements. We do not need to put a similar duty on Ministers when drawing up the national policy statements because, first, we have the sustainable development duty; secondly, we have the duty on Ministers to do an appraisal of sustainability and to publish it alongside the draft national policy statement; and, thirdly, we have the Climate Change Bill, which will bear on Ministers in a way that it will not bear on local authorities. I hope that that may be sufficient reassurance to my hon. Friend not to press his amendments.

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