Schedule 2 - Modification or discharge of affordable housing requirements: related amendments

Growth and Infrastructure Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 27 November 2012.

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Amendment made: 46, in schedule 2, page 36, line 15 , at end insert—

‘(2A) After subsection (1) insert—

(1A) If no period is prescribed under section 106BA(9), the period of 6 weeks referred to in subsection (1)(b) that applies in relation to proceedings for failure to give notice as mentioned in subsection (9) of section 106BA begins with the expiry of the period mentioned in that subsection that applies in the applicant’s case.”’.—(Nick Boles.)

Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford Labour, Greenwich and Woolwich

I beg to move amendment 60, in schedule 2, page 36, line 19, leave out sub-paragraph (4).

This is a probing amendment, tabled to find out why the Government were inserting paragraph 6(4), which effectively sets restrictions on actions for judicial review, prompted by a decision of the Secretary of State. The revelation about the Secretary of State’s giving himself retrospective powers to change the definition of “affordable housing”, which we debated recently, gives me reason for suspicion that behind this definition there might be some ulterior motive of a not entirely reputable purpose.

I should like to give the Minister the opportunity to explain why the Government are giving themselves the power to restrict the availability of judicial review in such cases. Whether it has anything to do with the Government’s unhappy experience of judicial review in  housing matters—I think particularly of the Cala Homes case of two years ago—is entirely a matter for conjecture, but I welcome the Government’s expressing the reason for inserting this paragraph into schedule 2.

Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 5:30, 27 November 2012

The provision is simply a reflection of the fact that the Government are generally frustrated by the extent to which judicial review is being used and sometimes abused. While we entirely accept that there must always be the possibility of judicial review of decisions made by Secretaries of State, and not just in regard to planning matters, the normal time frame of three months is excessive, and we would prefer to have a judicial review lodged within six weeks of determination of the applications.

The matter returns to a phrase that we have used before, which we believe is important: justice delayed is justice denied. The whole intent of the Bill is to make processes streamlined and more efficient so that we can get development going. The interested parties to any of the cases are likely to be able to form their view about the potential for judicial review within six weeks, so it seems eminently reasonable to restrict the time frame to that, rather than the three months that would usually apply.

Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford Labour, Greenwich and Woolwich

There we have it: another move by the Government to try to limit their embarrassment on the issue. I am afraid that that is a pretty unimpressive amendment, which is, as we have heard, designed simply to make it less easy for people to challenge Government decisions. We have come to expect that kind of amendment to the legislation. I do not like it, but rather than delay the Committee, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: 47, in schedule 2, page 36, line 34, at end insert—

7A (1) Section 333 (regulations and orders) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (4) (power to make orders under Act exercisable by statutory instrument), after “87,” insert “106BA(12A),”.

(3) After subsection (5) insert—

(5ZA) No order may be made under section 106BA(12A) unless a draft of the instrument containing the order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”’.

Amendment 48, in schedule 2, page 36, line 37, leave out ‘1(1)’ and insert ‘1—

(a) in sub-paragraph (1)’.

Amendment 49, in schedule 2, page 36, line 39, at end insert ‘, and

(b) after that sub-paragraph insert—

“(1A) If no classes of appeals under section 106BB are prescribed by regulations under sub-paragraph (1), all appeals under that section are to be determined by a person appointed by the Secretary of State for the purpose instead of by the Secretary of State.”’.—(Nick Boles.)

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered,That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Karen Bradley.)

Adjourned till Thursday 29 November at half-past Eleven o’clock.