Baroness Hanham (Conservative), spokesperson for communities and local government, opened the debate and explained the reasons behind the government’s decision to introduce it. She said: ‘The challenges we face mean that we must constantly keep in mind what more needs to be done to encourage innovation and economic growth, to create more jobs and to tackle anything which acts as a barrier to this happening.’
She concluded: ‘That is why this bill focuses on reforms that will boost Britain’s infrastructure, get rid of unnecessary bureaucracy and ensure that our planning system operates effectively.’
Lord Adonis (Labour), opposition spokesperson for communities and local government, welcomed some aspects of the bill, saying it ‘does a few worthwhile things’, but raised concerns about its potential impact on a local level. He explained: 'the meat of the bill is less appetising. Its unifying theme is not growth but weakening local government.'
He continued: ‘Localism and local government have strong supporters in all parts of the House, and I hope we can work constructively to get a better balance between local democracy and Whitehall control in this bill.’
Lord Tope (Liberal Democrat), declared an interest as a local councillor and focused on the measures within the bill designed to promote affordable housing. He expressed concern that there was little to address the issue of access to mortgage financing, saying: ‘For instance, between 2007 and 2011 gross mortgage lending dropped by 61%, the number of mortgages fell by 50% and the average deposit for a first-time buyer doubled. The bill does little or nothing to address this issue. I hope that we will be able to address that important omission before the bill leaves this House.’
Baroness Valentine (Crossbench), declared an interest as both chief executive of the not-for-profit organisation London First and a board member of the Peabody Housing Trust. She welcomed Clause 8 in particular, which seeks to increase access to superfast broadband, saying: ‘In the 21st century, provision of broadband is as vital as access to water and power for both businesses and homes. It is good to see that such things are recognised as essential infrastructure and that their contribution to growth is acknowledged.’
The bill will continue with line by line scrutiny in committee stage.
Growth and Infrastructure Bill summary
The bill makes provisions to promote investment in infrastructure projects, reduce delays in the planning system and introduce a new employment status of employee shareholder.
What is second reading?
Second reading is the first opportunity for members of the Lords to debate the main principles and purpose of the bill and to flag up concerns and areas where they think changes (amendments) are needed.
Before second reading debate takes place, a list of speakers for the debate is opened and interested members add their names to it.
The government minister, spokesperson or a member of the Lords responsible for the bill opens the debate.
Any member can speak in the debate so this stage can indicate those members particularly interested in the bill - or a particular aspect of it - and those who are most likely to be involved in amending the bill at later stages.
Second reading debates usually last for a few hours but sometimes stretch over a couple of days.