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Mr. Morley: I should like the Minister to clarify one point, although it may be difficult at this stage. If there is a dispute between a landowner and the local authority over any economic impact, the landowner presumably has recourse to the courts. If so, will guidelines be issued to give local authorities some idea of the limits to which they can go in their definitions?

Mr. Clappison: There is a right of appeal under the regulations, and we shall, of course, be giving guidance to local authorities. I hope that I have made clear the background against which we approach the matter and the principles that we think are important.

Mr. Marlow: What proportion of hedgerows does my hon. Friend estimate can be defined as important? If a farm that has been inefficiently farmed changes hands, it might be good in agricultural terms to remove some hedgerows to make it more efficient. What proportion of hedgerows are potentially blighted by the regulations?

Mr. Clappison: I hesitate to disagree with my hon. Friend, but I would perhaps take issue with his use of the word "blighted". However, perhaps I can assist him. We have tried to define important hedgerows. The research carried out by ADAS, which necessarily took a broad-brush approach, as it was trying to project the situation across the whole country, found that, according to the criteria in the regulations, about 20 per cent. of hedgerows would be defined as important and thus protected.

The register of retention notices held by the local authority would inform potential buyers of any existing restrictions; or, if none had been issued, the criteria are

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so framed as to enable owners to undertake their own evaluations and reach broadly the same conclusion as the experts. It will be a case of caveat emptor, or buyer beware. As I said, the guidance that will be issued to local authorities before the regulations come into effect will provide the opportunity to clarify such points.

I join those who have already paid tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth), who is in his usual silent mode. The tributes he has received are well deserved as a result of the private Member's Bill that he promoted. I must also pay tribute to the Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons, my right hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (Mr. Newton), who takes a great interest in the environment, and is anxious to do what is necessary to protect important hedgerows.

The regulations deserve a broad welcome.

Mr. Garnier: I asked my hon. Friend whether there would be a cost to the applicant. If he cannot reply now, will he do so in writing?

Mr. Clappison: I can tell my hon. and learned Friend that the answer is no--no fees will be payable.

Opposition Members talked about the priority that they would accord to the protection of hedgerows. I must gently remind them, without being too partisan, that Labour's recent draft manifesto contained no mention of biodiversity, despite all the boasts from Opposition Members about the extent to which it would be a priority--[Interruption.] There was a mention of a free vote on fox hunting, but that is not my idea of biodiversity. When it comes to the crunch, biodiversity does not seem to have been given very great priority in Labour's literature; nor does the environment as a whole. We give priority to the environment, and the regulations are a practical example of our commitment to it.

Question put and agreed to.


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Public Entertainment Licences

(Drug Misuse) Bill

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes): I have to acquaint the House that a message has been brought from the Lords as follows. The Lords have agreed to the Public Entertainment Licences (Drug Misuse) Bill with amendments, to which the Lords desire the concurrence of the House. Copies of the Lords amendments are available. Under the Order of the House of 19 March, no debate is possible.

Motion made, and Question put,

Question agreed to.

Lords amendments accordingly considered.

Lords amendments Nos. 1 to 34 agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Order [19 March],

(1) Standing Order (Tax simplification bills) below be made;
(2) Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of bills) be amended, in line 2, after 'Bill', by inserting 'or a tax simplification bill'; and
(3) Standing Order No. 64 (Committee of whole House on bill) be amended, in line 7, at the end, by adding 'or unless the committee is discharged in pursuance of paragraph (8) of Standing Order (Tax simplification bills)'.

Tax Simplification Bills

(1) In this order 'a tax simplification bill' means a bill which has been presented, or brought in upon an order of the House, by a Minister of the Crown and which has been ordered to be proceeded with as such a bill.
(2) A motion may be made by a Minister of the Crown at the commencement of public business, that a specified bill be so proceeded with, and the question thereon shall be put forthwith.

20 Mar 1997 : Column 1100

(3) A tax simplification bill shall, upon the making of an order under paragraph (2) above, stand referred to a second reading committee unless the House otherwise orders.
(4) A motion may be made by a Minister of the Crown at the commencement of public business, that a tax simplification bill shall no longer stand referred to a second reading committee, and the question thereon shall be put forthwith.
(5) The provisions of paragraphs (3) to (6) of Standing Order No. 90 (Second reading committees) shall apply to any bill referred to a second reading committee under paragraph (3) above.
(6) A tax simplification bill shall, upon its being read a second time, stand committed to the Joint Committee on Tax Simplification Bills.
(7) A bill which has been reported from the said Joint Committee shall stand re-committed to a committee of the whole House unless the House otherwise orders.
(8) If a motion that the committee of the whole House be discharged from considering a tax simplification bill is made by a Minister of the Crown immediately after the order of the day has been read for the House to resolve itself into a committee on the bill, the motion shall not require notice and the question thereon shall be put forthwith and may be decided at any hour, though opposed; and if such question is agreed to the bill shall be ordered to be read the third time.--[Mr. Newton.]

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Order [19 March],

'(i) the group's membership is open to all Members of the House, and its aim and constitution are parliamentary in character; with the exception of those groups receiving funding from Her Majesty's Government, all groups cease to exist two calendar months after the first meeting of the new Parliament after a General Election unless re-registered within that period.'.--[Mr. Newton.]

Question agreed to.

20 Mar 1997 : Column 1101

Standing Orders (Revision)

5 pm

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker, on the next motion. Before I go into my point of order, I draw the House's attention to the fact that your constituency is disappearing at the next election, and that it is therefore possible that you will not be with us in the next Parliament. I think that all hon. Members will wish to pay tribute to the wise guidance and excellent service that you have given the House. I should like that recorded so that we can all agree, even if it is on a point of order.

Turning to my point of order. As Deputy Speaker, you will know from Madam Speaker's provisional selection was that she might be minded not to call the amendment in my name and those of leading members of all parties on the Select Committee on Procedure. The argument was that it might be necessary to have a debate on the subject. We are passing the more important aspects of the Select Committee's recommendations without a debate, but not this minor matter, which had unanimous support on the Committee, including the support of a member of the Chairmen's Panel. It is a simple matter of whether a name should be changed.

As the original selection was only provisional, would you consider, in view of the good nature of the House as we come to the end of this Parliament, that it might be worth allowing a Division on the matter--there can be no debate--so that the House can be seen to be willing to modernise itself and not stay in subfusc, with names that have no relevance to what Committees are doing? If you decided that it would be right to make that alteration to the provisional selection, I should be most grateful.

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