The Localism Bill, the government's flagship planning and local government Bill that amends the regime for planning and authorising major infrastructure projects amongst many other measures, starts its committee stage in the House of Commons this evening with a private programming session. This is the stage where the Bill is considered in detail by a smaller group of MPs - 26 to be precise. Here are the MPs who will consider the Bill
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There are to be two Chairs - David Amess (Con, Southend West) and Hugh Bayley (Lab, York Central) (all pictures courtesy of the Parliament website):
Three government ministers are on the committee, and three shadow ministers, all from or shadowing the Department for Communities and Local Government - Greg Clark (Con, Tunbridge Wells), Bob Neill (Con, Bromley and Chislehurst) and Andrew Stunell (LD, Hazel Grove); Jack Dromey (Lab, Birmingham Erdington), Barbara Keeley (Lab, Worsley and Eccles South) and Alison Seabeck (Lab, Plymouth Moor View):
There is a whip for the government and for the opposition - Bill Wiggin (Con, North Herefordshire) and Jonathan Reynolds (Lab, Stalybridge and Hyde) (originally Angela Smith):
There are then nine 'ordinary' Conservative members - Gavin Barwell (Con, Croydon Central), Fiona Bruce (Con, Congleton), Alun Cairns (Con, Vale of Glamorgan) (originally to be Richard Harrington), John Howell (Con, Henley), Brandon Lewis (Con, Great Yarmouth), James Morris (Con, Halesowen and Rowley Regis), Eric Ollerenshaw (Con, Lancaster and Fleetwood), Henry Smith (Con, Crawley), Iain Stewart (Con, Milton Keynes South);
six 'ordinary' Labour members - Heidi Alexandar (Lab, Lewisham East) (originally Simon Danczuk), Nic Dakin (Lab, Scunthorpe), Julie Elliott (Lab, Sunderland Central), Siobhain McDonagh (Lab, Mitcham and Morden), Ian Mearns (Lab, Gateshead) (originally Pat Glass), Nick Raynsford (Lab, Greenwich and Woolwich);
and finally, two Liberal Democrats and a Democratic Unionist - Stephen Gilbert (LD, St Austell and Newquay), David Ward (LD, Bradford East), David Simpson (DU, Upper Bann):
In total, there are 13 Conservative members, 11 Labour members, three Lib Dems and one Democratic Unionist. Thus the coalition has a majority, although no single party does.
The committee will sit in public twice a week for 6 weeks from tomorrow until Thursday 10 March (Parliament is not sitting from from 17 – 28 February), on Tuesdays from 10.30am – 1pm and 4pm – 6pm and on Thursdays from 9am – 10.25am and 1pm – 3pm.
The first two sitting days this week will involve questioning witnesses. There is no official sign of who these will be yet, although I have seen reports that the National Housing Federation's chief executive David Orr is to give evidence tomorrow, and Jessica Bauly of the CBI on Thursday. There is a 'programming' meeting at 6pm today, so perhaps that will lead to an announcement. I'll just mention that I am free on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon...
[Update - the list of witnesses is as follows:
Tuesday 25 January
9.30-11 - Local Government Association; Localis; Centre for Local Economic Strategies; Local Government Information Unit.
11-11.30 - Cllr. Keith Barrow, Leader of Shropshire Council; Cllr. Mike Jones, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council; Civic Voice.
11.30-12.15 - SOLACE; New Local Government Network; Prof. George Jones, Emeritus Professor of Government, London School of Economics; Prof. John Stewart, Emeritus Professor of Local Government and Administration, University of Birmingham.
12.15-1 - Greater London Authority; London Councils; Unison.
4-5 - Chartered Institute for Housing; Shelter; National Housing Federation; Brent Private Tenants Rights Group; Tenant Services Authority.
5-6 - Barratt Developments; Redrow; Taylor Wimpey; Emerson Group.
6-7 - Home Builders Federation; British Property Federation; National Federation of ALMOs; British Land.
Thursday 27 January
9.30-10.25 - Confederation of British Industry; British Chambers of Commerce; Federation of Small Businesses.
12.30-1.15 - Wildlife and Countryside Link; Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; Campaign to Protect Rural England; The Country Land and Business Association; Action with Communities in Rural England.
1.15-2 - Town and Country Planning Association; Planning Officers Society; Royal Town Planning Institute; Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
2-2.45 - National Association of Local Councils; National Council for Voluntary Organisations; Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations; National Association for Voluntary and Community Action; Open Spaces Society.
2.45-3.30 - Department for Communities and Local Government]
Amendments to the Bill
The business of examining the Bill will start next week. That is just as well, since so far only one amendment has been tabled, although at least it affects the Planning Act regime.
At the moment, neighbourhood development plans (NDPs), the new proposed layer of planning policies at neighbourhood level, cannot intrude upon nationally significant infrastructure projects. In other words, they can't say 'we don't want nuclear power stations here', for example - although arguably they could still say 'we only want playing fields here [here being the site of a proposed nuclear power station]'.
The amendment, tabled by Andrea Leadsom MP, would allow NDPs to cover electricity generation between 50MW and 100MW. She is on record during the second reading debate as wanting more local control over onshore windfarms, so that is no doubt the intended effect of the amendment. It won't work, unfortunately (for her) in terms of allowing local people to decide policy on sub-100MW onshore windfarms, as nationally significant infrastructure projects do not need planning permission. An NDP policy would still be a matter relevant to a decision, though.