Neighbourhood Planning Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 28th February 2017.

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Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Shadow Spokesperson (Housing), Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 4:00 pm, 28th February 2017

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I am very grateful to them all. I agree very much with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Scriven. His analysis of the problems experienced in Sheffield was very telling and highlighted that action needs to be taken. The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, was right when he spoke about the variety of food and drinks sold in pubs. I live in Lewisham and the pubs there have different offerings depending on their clientele. The amendment simply asks that those who want to convert pubs apply for planning permission, and I am delighted to have the noble Lord’s support.

The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York spoke about the need to protect profitable pubs and I very much concur with what he said. My noble friend Lord Berkeley made an important point about the value of pubs to the community, and he mentioned in particular Cornwall, where he lives. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, highlighted the loss of local pubs by the conversion of an asset through permitted development and not because they are failing businesses. I am also very grateful to have the support of the noble Lord, Swinfen. I thank, too, the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, for his supportive remarks. Like him, I have no shares in pubs, although I have spent quite a lot of money in them over the years.

I return to my earlier remarks about the visit to the House by representatives of the Royal Voluntary Service. They talked about how they would take people to a pub not just to have a drink but to meet their friends and family. They emphasised how that was an important part of getting people involved in their community.

The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, was right: this is a modest proposal which simply allows the community to have a voice. The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, made an important point about the need to show that pubs are treated no less favourably or casually than any other business.

That brings me to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, with whom I did not agree. It was an interesting intervention but it did not address the substance of my amendment in any way. This amendment is not about propping up failing businesses. If a business is failing and cannot pay its way, meet its liabilities and return a modest profit, it will close. Nothing in my amendment seeks to change that, and it would have no effect whatever on the type of issue that the noble Lord raised. Not one word of my amendment would keep open a pub or business that was failing and not meeting its liabilities. It would simply close a loophole and ensure that, specifically on change of use, a planning application would have to be made and the local community would get to have its say. It would do nothing more and nothing less, and really should cause the Government no problems whatever.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, for his remarks. I have great respect for him. He is an effective Minister and an effective operator in this House. He deals with all noble Lords with great skill and courtesy, as has been evident as he has taken the Bill through this House, and I am very grateful to him, as we all are. I have considered all the issues in today’s debate and in Grand Committee very carefully. I do not do anything by halves but clearly we are at the point of calling time on this debate, and I now want to test the opinion of the House.

Ayes 278, Noes 188.