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The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. We hope that an independent national infrastructure commission could take information from all the devolved structures, which is why I mentioned the importance of devolution with regard to new clause 3.
Amendment 53 seeks to get further clarification from the Minister on land transfers to the Homes and Communities Agency. In Committee, it was far from clear what was meant by surplus land, and the Minister has given us no clarification about how surplus land would be categorised, or about whether it covers open and common space.
We also heard nothing from the Minister about whether the Government intend to promote best practice in improving the transparency of land transactions by reporting all aspects of the transaction of land to the Land Registry. The lack of publicly available information about land transactions, ownership and options on land markets makes it difficult to understand the extent to which land is controlled by those who intend, or do not intend, to develop it. We need to increase transparency, particularly on options, if we are to ensure that enough land is made available for development. The Minister had absolutely nothing to say about that matter today.
The Minister did not say anything about ensuring that better guidance is given on how we assess viability. Opposition Members are arguing that a clearer way of assessing viability might mean that more land was brought forward for development. One would have thought that that was an objective of an infrastructure Bill, but apparently it is not.
Amendment 52 seeks totally to remove the Government’s proposals regarding the transfer of local land charges to the Land Registry. In England and Wales, two searches are currently undertaken as part of the standard conveyancing process for the purchase of land or property. In short, clauses 30 to 32 will transfer responsibility for one of the searches, the local land charges search, from local authorities to the Land Registry. It is important to note that responsibility for collecting the information necessary for the searches will still be held by local authorities, which will have to pass the information to the Land Registry. Furthermore, local authorities will continue to be responsible for the second of the two searches—the CON29 search.
The Opposition believe that the separation and fragmentation of the service is misguided and poorly evidenced, and that it has next to no hope of achieving the Government’s stated policy objectives. Peeling off part of the service simply does not make sense and is likely to make the service worse, not better. It is telling that even the Government, in their own consultation, have struggled to find anyone in favour of the change. Indeed, they acknowledge that no one supports the proposals.
In the past few days, we have had correspondence from the District Councils Network, the Law Society, the Council of Property Search Organisations, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, the Association of Independent Personal Search Agents, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers, the Public and Commercial Services Union and many others who are all totally against the changes. Even the organisations and companies that the Government suggest will benefit from the changes oppose them. Just last Friday, those organisations signed a letter to the Secretary of State calling for the proposed changes to be dropped. We agree with them, and we will divide the House on that issue at the appropriate time if the Minister does not make another prompt U-turn.
On amendment 67, we had a wide-ranging discussion in Committee on the carbon abatement provision in clause 33, but I have again been very disappointed by the Minister’s speech today. He will know that we made lots of strong arguments in Committee about why it is not sensible to exempt small sites from the allowable solutions requirements on the basis of the number of housing units. It is not exactly clear what the Government will do because the consultation has only just finished and, as far as I am aware, neither its results nor the Government response have been placed in the public domain. This is clearly not a sensible way to make policy, but if the Minister intends to continue to allow the exemption for small sites purely on the basis of the number of units, we would ask him to think again.