The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): ... The hon. Gentleman [Dr. Liam Fox] will be aware that from 1 March this year, all applications for development consent for electric lines of 132 kV and above will be considered by the new Infrastructure Planning Commission – the IPC – under the Planning Act 2008. Currently, these decisions are taken by my Department ... The IPC's decisions on these applications will be taken on the basis of National Policy Statements designated by Government following public consultation and public scrutiny ... The current system for providing nationally significant infrastructure ... is still too complex and bureaucratic. There are overlapping multiple consent regimes, long and variable inquiry times, and two-stage decisions, and there can be several decision makers for a single project. The 2008 Act addresses these problems and creates a fairer and faster system. The IPC works at arm's length from Government and will consider applications for development consent for all major infrastructure projects ...
Dr Julian Lewis rose –
Mr. Kidney: I need time to answer the hon. Gentleman who secured the debate, but if there is one last point I will give way.
Dr Lewis: I had not intended to intervene; I was here only to support my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox). However, the Minister mentions the IPC and the new regime. In my constituency, a year-long planning inquiry found against the development of a huge container port. We are terribly worried that had the IPC regime existed then, instead of arriving at a quicker decision it would have rammed through this infrastructure project. That is why the Conservative Party says that this system should be abolished because the danger is that it will not give communities sufficient protection against massive projects such as this.
Mr. Kidney: I reject that description of what the IPC will do. It will make decisions on applications based on the evidence, the law and the national planning policy statements that I have described.