What we mean by “have regard to” or to “take account of” an obligation is first, to give attention to the matter to which the duty applies; secondly, to consider the contents of that matter in relation to the proposal or plans under consideration; and thirdly, to adjust those proposals or plans to take into account the additional information provided or to determine that no such adjustment need be made.
In terms of the Bill allowing the Secretary of State to issue guidance to local authorities on fulfilling the new environmental duty introduced by clause 8, we want to see such guidance cover issues such as air quality, noise and climate change. Local authorities would need to address those in devising and implementing their transport policies and local transport plan and show how their local authorities will take local factors into account. That is a sensible approach and it gives authorities flexibility to reflect local circumstances without undermining the importance of addressing the sorts of environmental issues that I have already mentioned. In contrast, the amendment does not explain what exceptional local circumstances—something that the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire thinks could justify an authority taking a different approach—might be. We believe that it would leave a large loophole so that an authority could bury its head in the sand were it minded to do so, and implement policies that take little or no account of the importance of the environment or of addressing climate change.