|Localism Bill: Equality concerns continue in House of Lords|
|Wednesday, 06 July 2011 08:52|
The Localism Bill, which aims to devolve power to local communities and reform the planning system, has attracted concern from equality campaigners. In a briefing at the House of Commons report stage, the Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF) alerted Parliament to potential adverse consequences of clause 5, which aims to ensure local authorities have a general power of competence. This clause sets out far-reaching powers for the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to ‘amend, repeal, revoke or disapply’ any statutory provision that he thinks ‘prevents or restricts local authorities from exercising the general power’.
The EDF expressed concern over this clause, saying that the power was dangerously broad and could be used to revoke or repeal a number of important statutory provisions, such as the public sector Equality Duty, with minimal parliamentary scrutiny. It proposed a list of primary legislation and secondary regulation which it said should be excluded from this power, including legislation relating to Blue Badge parking and the public sector Equality Duty in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.
The Government has since introduced a further clause, clause 6, which imposes certain conditions intended to ensure that the power outlined in clause 5 would not have the feared adverse effects. However, in a briefing relating to the House of Lords report stage, the EDF stated that this did not go far enough. This briefing also seeks amendments to clauses 5 and 6, modelled on similar wording in other legislation, which would:
• strengthen the consultation requirements on the Secretary of State
• require him to consider if there are other ways of achieving the objective, and
• exclude the Human Rights Act and other Acts of constitutional significance from the power
However, in a debate in the House of Lords on 20 June 2011, Baroness Hanham, speaking for the Government, said that clause 5 was intended to provide ‘the Secretary of State with powers to remove or change statutory provisions that prevent or restrict use of the general power’, rather than being intended to remove duties or ‘legislation which places burdens on local authorities’. She continued that the amendments proposed relating to consultation attempted to ‘gold-plate’ the consultation arrangements.
With regards to the second point, Baroness Hanham said that if there were other ways of achieving the objective, it would be hard to see how they could be statutory restrictions in the first place. Finally she said that the Government wanted to clarify that an order under Clause 5 (1) could not be used to repeal the Human Rights Act.
Baroness Hanham has also rejected calls for the definition of ‘sustainable development’ to appear on the face of the Localism Bill, saying that this would create a ‘lawyer’s paradise’ and was something which was best decided locally.
To view the EDF briefings, visit the EDF website
To view the Localism Bill, visit the Parliament UK website
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 July 2011 08:55|