Clause 95

Part of Localism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 17th February 2011.

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Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Minister of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Decentralisation and Cities) (also in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) 2:45 pm, 17th February 2011

As ever, the right hon. Gentleman tries to have it both ways. In the previous debate, he castigated us for resisting his amendment, which he said would be a clear improvement to the Bill. In this case, we have received representations, including from Front-Bench and Back-Bench Opposition Members, as to the desirability of including neighbourhoods in a greater and more flexible way than the current legislation provides, but he criticises us for that as well. As I said when I gave evidence to the Committee, I take the process of scrutiny seriously. I believe that there is broad agreement on many of the principles of the proposal, but there is expertise in this Committee and the House, and we have an opportunity during the Bill’s progress through the House to make improvements as we can.

The right hon. Gentleman will know that CIL is available to local authorities. It is not required of them but is an option available to them, so the provision in no way places any burdens or obligations on them. The only question that we are addressing—it would be unreasonable to close our ears to representations—is whether we ought to make the provision more empowering, but what they have is there, and it holds. Determining whether we want to extend the flexibility seems a perfectly reasonable way to proceed.

Reflecting on the debates in Committee and considering that it is only two months since Second Reading, we have made substantial progress. Leaving aside the more knockabout exchanges, we have made improvements and commitments to improve the Bill. We have some way to go before the Bill completes its parliamentary stages. I made a commitment to the Committee when we took evidence that I would be reasonable in considering representations. If the right hon. Gentleman observes his own strictures and makes no further contributions on the basis that we are absolutely certain that the Bill will be amended in no other way, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire—the Whip—will be delighted.

Mr Raynsford rose—