As far as I am aware, there is not a council covering the south-east of England. The hon. Gentleman will hear later about some of the concerns that are being expressed in the south-east of England about what might happen if the Government do not hear the evidence and act to strengthen proposals to ensure that there is effective sub-regional planning in the south of England.
We are determined to hear the voice of those who have come before us, even if the Government parties are not. Jessica Bauly, head of sectoral affairs at the CBI, told us:
“At the moment, as the Bill is currently drafted, it is not clear how that duty to co-operate could be strong enough and enforced.”—[Official Report, Localism Public Bill Committee, 27 January 2011; c. 118, Q201.]
Indeed, the CBI urged members of the Committee to strengthen the duty in terms who should be engaged, the activities upon which they should be engaged, and the engagement that is required. It has said that the duty to co-operate is not strong enough to ensure that sub-national infrastructure is delivered.
Are all those who have said those things suffering from a delusion? Are they failing to see something that the Government have seen? If that is the case, we shall wait for what will no doubt be a gripping account of why they all have it wrong and the Government have got it right.
Adequate infrastructure provision is under threat by the removal of the RSSs and, crucially, the weak duty to co-operate contained in the Bill. Again and again, fears have been expressed—not just by all those to whom I have referred, but by local councillors, developers and authorities—about how to co-ordinate infrastructure projects at the sub-national level. With the abolition of the RSSs, which played an important role in co-ordinating between the national and local level for infrastructure provision, how are local authorities to assess larger-than-local needs and provide adequate infrastructural access? It is clear that the duty to co-operate in the Bill as it stands is a poor and insufficient replacement to the co-ordination offered to councils by the regional spatial strategies.