BUSINESS QUESTION – DIBDEN BAY INQUIRY – 14 November 2002
Dr Julian Lewis: May we have a statement from the Deputy Prime Minister on the Government's attitude to the outcome of major planning inquiries? The Dibden Bay Inquiry is coming to its conclusion after a full year of examining an extremely controversial proposal to build a massive container port on the edge of what is about to become a new national park, so surely it would be invidious if the planning inquiry found against building the port only for the Government to overrule that finding for political reasons. If we can have a statement, that would be most valued; otherwise, any such overruling would make nonsense of the planning inquiry process and all the money spent on such inquiries.
[Robin Cook: I am surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman suggest that the Government have overruled the outcome of the inquiry. Before he waxes too indignant in denouncing the Government for taking a course of action, he at least owes them the courtesy of waiting until they have taken it. The Government have a high respect for the planning inquiry system, but we are of course concerned that the current system involves unnecessary delay for developers and objectors, which is why we will have lots of opportunity during this Session to discuss the planning process.]