Discussion began around Clause 8, which covers the electronic communications code and the provision of broadband services. Baroness Parminter (Liberal Democrat) introduced Amendment 36, saying: ‘Clause 8 as it stood would have set an extremely damaging precedent, removing key protections from our most cherished landscapes. My Amendment 36 sought to address that issue, enabling changes in secondary legislation to speed up the delivery of broadband in rural areas but not removing key protections against changing the long-standing duties in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.’
Lord Judd (Labour) supported the amendment, saying: ‘It seems that what we are dealing with here in this whole clause, as we argued in committee, is not only the policy inherent in the clause now but the threat that it offers for the future. Since the Second World War, governments of all persuasions have consistently adhered to the principle that there is something so special in this asset of these unique areas of countryside in our country - which are enjoyed by our people and have this incalculable value as a place for physical and spiritual regeneration - that there must be absolutely no doubt whatever that the protection of what they are about and of their scenic uniqueness takes precedence over everything. The trouble is that, once the door is pushed open and left, after discussion and argument, just a little ajar, there is this danger of still further erosion.’
The amendment was withdrawn after Baroness Hanham (Conservative) responded on behalf of the government, saying: ‘I emphasise that the purpose of our reforms is to ensure that fixed broadband deployment is not held back in the small minority of cases where local planning authorities and communications providers are not able to agree the best siting. The government remain convinced that the natural environment and landscape are of crucial importance, which is why there will be a number of important safeguards.’
Discussion then moved on to the economic development powers of councils, Lord McKenzie of Luton (Labour) moved Amendment 39B, covering the new ‘city deals’ available to councils to help promote growth, he said: ‘We fully support the proposals of the city deals, but must express some concern that other areas risk losing out. We do not want to see two-speed regional growth with city deal areas motoring ahead and other regional cities or towns left behind. While we welcome the stated intent that the government wish to move away from a London-centric approach, we do not want to see that replaced with a "some cities" - centric approach. It is essential that we develop a strategy that works for the whole country, rather than just part of it. ‘
The amendment went to a vote with 176 for and 241 against.
A third day of report stage is scheduled for 20 March.
Previous stages of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill
What is report stage?
Report stage gives all members of the Lords further opportunity to examine and make changes, known as amendments, to a bill.
Report stage usually starts 14 days after committee stage. It can be spread over several days (but usually fewer days than at committee stage).
Before report stage starts, all member's amendments are recorded and published. The day before a report stage discussion the amendments are placed in order - a marshalled list.
During report stage detailed line by line examination of the bill continues. Any member of the Lords can take part and votes can take place.
After report stage the bill is reprinted to include all the agreed amendments.
The bill then moves to third reading for the final chance for the Lords to debate and amend the bill.
Growth and Infrastructure Bill summary
The bill looks at the following areas:
- the use of infrastructure
- the carrying-out of development, and the compulsory acquisition of land
- how rating lists are to be compiled
- the rights of employees of companies who agree to be employee owners.