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Madam Deputy Speaker, your colleague Mr Deputy Speaker was in the Chair when I introduced my remarks. I assure you that I said very clearly that although this group of amendments raised a whole range of issues, including protection for the European beaver, I was not going to address every single one of them but would stick to the main ones. First, however, I should draw the House’s attention to the fact although it is not in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, I should state as a ministerial interest that the Planning Inspectorate is based in Bristol West.
My right hon. Friend Nick Herbert tabled new clause 12, which proposes that the Planning Inspectorate should be abolished and its functions carried out directly by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Planning law requires the Secretary of State to appoint an independent person to carry out appeals and plan examinations. The Planning Inspectorate carries out this function for the Secretary of State. Consistently, two thirds of all appeals support the council’s decision; only 1% of all planning applications nationally are overturned by appeal. The inspector’s role is to undertake an independent examination or appeal on behalf of the Secretary of State. We believe that, in the vast majority of cases, this role is carried out to the highest standards. We are always happy to discuss informally better ways of ensuring that our planning policy is fully understood by inspectors and councils alike.