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Lords amendment: No. 25, in page 58, line 8, leave out ("1(2)(b)") and insert ("2(2)")
"vehicle" includes a train.")
Mr. Simon Hughes: Will these amendments have any knock-on effects on the way in which immigration and nationality directorate officers' powers can be applied at ports? I ask that question in ignorance, and if the Minister cannot answer it now, but will let me know later, that will be perfectly satisfactory.
("( ) This paragraph does not confer the power to take--
(a) fingerprints, non-intimate samples or intimate samples (within the meaning given by paragraph 9F below), or
(b) relevant physical data or samples as mentioned in section 18 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 as applied by paragraph 22 below.")
First, I pay tribute to the two people who have done most of the work in creating and drafting the Bill: Mike Harris, the director of West Berkshire council, who has special responsibility for recreation, and Monica Peto, who has acted as our parliamentary agent.
There can be few people in the country who have never heard of Greenham common, made famous internationally by the protests of the 1980s against the stationing of nuclear cruise missiles. Some hon. Members are rather envious of my constituency as it seems to attract protesters--Aldermaston, Greenham common and, more recently, the Newbury bypass. However, that period was but one chapter in the chequered history of a unique piece of land just south of Newbury in west Berkshire.
Before the second world war, both Greenham common and Crookham common, which adjoins it, were areas of heathland common, open to the public at large and over which rights of common were exercisable. Since that time, the people of Newbury and the surrounding area have had to put up with a lot. Most of the land was requisitioned in 1941 from the then Newbury borough council and other landowners for use as an air base. Although de-requisitioned in 1947, it was re-requisitioned in 1951 for defence purposes and the land was subsequently purchased by the Secretary of State and used as an air base, mainly for the United States air force.
The people of Newbury lived with the base and the aircraft disturbance until a new use for the land emerged, as a nuclear cruise missile site. The transformation of the site into a storage facility for nuclear weapons meant that local residents saw their area become the focus of sustained protest on a scale seldom seen in this country.
Nuclear district council--[Laughter.] Newbury district council--sometimes known as Nuclear district council--which has now become West Berkshire district council, owned most of the land surrounding the air base when it was deactivated in 1991. It saw the opportunity to regain the land for the people of Newbury and wider afield and to transform it back into an area of open countryside, to be used for recreational purposes.
1. reaffirms its desire that, on termination of any military requirement for the continued occupation of parts of Greenham and Crookham Commons, this land, as far as possible, should revert to public open space;
2. deplores the purported extinguishment of rights of common; and
3. seeks to discover whether the status of the land as common land and the rights of common may be preserved for posterity in order to preclude any further development of the common.
A charitable trust known as the Greenham Common Community Trust Ltd. was established, in partnership with local business men, led by Sir Peter Michael, to acquire the developed area of the air base in order to develop a business park. Under that imaginative public-private partnership, profits from the business park are to be paid to the council to reimburse its costs incurred in restoring the open area and removing the remnants of the military occupation, including runways, buildings, oil tanks and pipework, as well as the substantial fuel contamination.
The council is spending approximately £2.5 million to restore the land that it has acquired to fitness for public access. Help towards those costs is coming not only from the trust but from various other organisations, such as English Partnerships and English Nature. A small, and more or less symbolic, section of the surrounding fence was removed in September 1997, opening about 20 hectares to the public.
Much more importantly, on 8 April 2000 I was present when the council's dream started to become a reality and the whole of the rest of the fence began to come down. It was an emotional day, as local people who had been excluded from the land for 60 years could at last walk freely over the whole area. It was a time for reconciliation, as former protesters walked side by side with wardens and others who had opposed their presence: a time when it could truly be said that swords were being turned into ploughshares.
A new chapter in the life of the commons is unfolding, and I am proud not only to have been associated with the council's progress to date but to be supporting the Bill today. The Bill completes the picture by providing several main elements. It restores commoners' rights extinguished by the Ministry of Defence under the Defence Lands Acts. It extends commoners' rights across the whole area so that it can be managed as a single entity. It sets up a new register of commoners' rights that can be kept up to date. It grants a right of public access in perpetuity, on foot, horseback and bicycle, over defined paths.
The Bill creates a new, locally accountable body, the Greenham and Crookham Common Commission, to assist in the management of the common. That body will have an equal number of commissioners appointed by public and other bodies and elected by the commoners themselves. The Bill places new general duties on the council and the commission in respect of the management of the common, including a specific duty to prepare and keep under review a management plan for the common.
Finally, the Bill contains measures to regulate public access and the exercise of commoners' rights, to avoid conflict and ensure the conservation of this important area of ecological, cultural and historic significance.
The council conducted extensive consultation before promoting the Bill, with other local authorities in both west Berkshire and Hampshire, with conservation bodies and amenity groups, with the Crookham and Greenham