|Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill - continued||House of Commons|
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Clause 91: Abolition of certain agricultural etc. committees
190. The first three paragraphs of this clause abolish three redundant hill farming advisory committees that have operated under section 32 of the Hill Farming Act 1946 in the various parts of the United Kingdom. The other two paragraphs abolish various consumer and investigation committees that were originally set up under section 19 of the Agricultural Marketing Act 1958 and a related Northern Ireland Order and have not been in operation for several years.
Part 10: Final Provisions
Clause 92: Crown land
191. This clause provides that "the appropriate authority" (as defined by subsection (5)) may enter into clause 7 management agreements in relation to the Crown's interests in Crown land. It also provides that the power to acquire land compulsorily under clause 8(4) for experimental schemes can be exercised in relation to non-Crown interests in Crown land, but only with the appropriate authority's consent. "Crown land" is defined widely to include land in which Her Majesty in right of the Crown, either of the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall, or a government department holds an interest. "The appropriate authorities" are variously (depending on the type of land involved) the Crown Estate Commissioners, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the appointee of the Duke of Cornwall (or of any other possessor of the Duchy), or the government department that owns, manages or has the benefit of the land.
Clause 93: Wales
192. This clause ensures that the amendments made by this Bill to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 are captured by Welsh Assembly Transfer of Functions Order of 1999, and that any allocation of functions to the Welsh Assembly under the 1981 Act and the 1999 Order is altered accordingly.
Clause 94: Power to make further provision
193. This clause gives the Secretary of State power to give effect to the Bill by making supplementary, incidental, consequential, transitory, transitional or saving provisions by order. Secondary legislation will need to be amended under this power to reflect the fact that Natural England is taking over the roles (for example as statutory consultee) of English Nature and the Countryside Agency. Orders under this clause containing provisions that amend primary legislation requires the approval of both Houses of Parliament. The negative procedure (annulment) applies to a statutory instrument containing any other order under this clause.
Clause 95: Minor and consequential amendments etc.
194. This introduces the Schedules 11 (minor and consequential amendments) and (12 (repeals and revocations).
195. Paragraph 96 of Schedule 11 introduces a new section 71(2) into the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This section makes it clear, for the avoidance of doubt, that the term "plants" in the 1981 Act does include fungi and algae species.
196. Despite the inclusion of certain fungi species in Schedule 8 to the 1981 Act, from the standard scientific point of view fungi are not plants. Similarly, although certain algae species are listed in the Schedules to the Act, algae species are not usually considered, from a scientific perspective, to be plants. The paragraph 96 amendment is intended to ensure that people know that fungi and algae species are covered by the Act.
Clause 98: Extent
197. Most of this Bill extends to England and Wales only. However, under Part 2 the Joint Nature Conservation Committee is a body that has a UK remit. The Inland Waterways Advisory Council's functions extend to Scotland and therefore Part 7 extends to Scotland. Chapter 2 of Part 8, which deals with the agricultural levy boards, has UK-wide extent. Chapter 3 of that same Part (dealing with financial assistance) extends to Northern Ireland as well as England and Wales. Various clauses in Parts 9 (miscellaneous) and 10 (final provisions) and Schedules 11 (minor and consequential amendments) and 12 (repeals and revocations) extend to Scotland and/or Northern Ireland.
198. The Bill will entail some additional public expenditure by Defra during the transitional phase of dissolving existing bodies and establishing Natural England and the Commission for Rural Communities. These changes, which fall within Defra's Modernising Rural Delivery (MRD) change programme, will cost approximately £40m. They are included in the budget for that programme and thus will be met from existing resources. They include a contribution by the Treasury from the Efficiency Challenge Fund, to cover exit costs, subject to Defra providing match funding.
199. In the long term, the organisational changes in this Bill are designed to simplify and integrate structures. It is estimated that by 2009/10 the MRD programme should yield efficiency savings of at least £21m per year. Other costs and savings associated with restructuring funding streams and improving the IT support to the rationalised funding streams are being identified separately.
200. Additional costs that will fall on other bodies due to the provisions in this Bill will be very minor. The flexible delivery powers set out in Part 8 are designed to simplify delivery and reduce the complexity of services, and as such offer opportunities to make significant cost savings over time.
EFFECTS ON PUBLIC SERVICE MANPOWER
201. In the short term the Bill will not result in any significant increases in public service manpower. In the longer term it is expected that the measures and powers set out in this Bill will contribute to reducing public service manpower by about 600.
SUMMARY OF THE REGULATORY IMPACT ASSESSMENT
202. The Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA), published in parallel with the Bill and these explanatory notes, analyses the impact of the Bill's measures. It concludes that the measures put forward should impose no additional cost or regulatory burden, other than some minimal costs for conservation bodies. The RIA is available online at: www.defra.gov.uk/rural/ruraldelivery/bill.
TERRITORIAL APPLICATION: WALES
203. Natural England and the Commission for Rural Communities are both created under Part 1 of the Bill, and given functions in relation to England but not Wales. The Countryside Council for Wales continues in existence, and where it is dealt with in legislative provisions that also mention the (abolished) English Nature or Countryside Agency, consequential amendments preserve its functions. However, the preserved functions are not exactly the same as those of the new Natural England and Commission for Rural Communities.
204. Clause 33 in Part 2 of the Bill adjusts slightly the role of the Countryside Council for Wales, by requiring it to have regard to the desirability of contributing to sustainable development. The same obligation is placed on Natural England in relation to England. Under clause 55, read with paragraph 77 of Schedule 11, the Countryside Council for Wales is given the same power as Natural England to put up and maintain notices or signs on sites of special scientific interest is given instead to the Countryside Council for Wales in relation to Welsh sites. And Natural England's clause 59 power to receive notification of agricultural operations on moor and heath in National Parks is exercised by the Countryside Council for Wales in relation to Welsh National Parks (see paragraph 88 of Schedule 11).
205. The Bill affects the National Assembly for Wales. Under clauses 44(2)(b) (enforcement powers in connection with pesticides - definition of "inspector") and 51 (enforcement powers in connection with wildlife) the Assembly is given a new power to authorise inspectors. Clauses 49 and 50 both amend the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 in a way that indirectly confers on the National Assembly for Wales the new functions of prescribing invasive non-native species whose sale etc. may be an offence, and approving and publicising codes of practice regarding invasive non-native species. (This is by virtue of clause 93, which ensures that certain new functions inserted in the 1981 Act by the Bill are exercisable by the National Assembly in relation to Wales.)
206. Wales is treated differently for the purposes of flexible administrative arrangements under Chapter 1 of Part 8. That Chapter enables Ministers and designated bodies to enter into agreements with other bodies for the carrying out of eligible Defra and other functions, applies to English functions but not Welsh ones. Clause 78 allows the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales to set up separate boards in relation to agriculture and related industries, and clause 91(b) abolishes a defunct Welsh agricultural sub-committee.
207. The National Assembly for Wales has a role in determining commencement dates of the Bill's provisions. By virtue of clause 97, the Assembly determines the commencement date of Part 6 (rights of way) in relation to Wales, and the Secretary of State must consult the Assembly before commencing various other provisions.
EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
208. Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1918 requires the Minister in charge of a Bill in either House of Parliament to make a statement about the compatibility of the provisions of the Bill with the Convention rights (as defined by section 1 of the Act). The statement has to be made before Second Reading.
209. Secretary Margaret Beckett has made the following statement under section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998:
210. All substantive provisions of the Bill are to come into force by commencement orders. These orders will be made by the Secretary of State, except that the National Assembly for Wales will make the order for commencement of Part 6 (rights of way) in relation to Wales.
211. Part 2 (nature conservation in the UK), Chapter 2 of Part 8 (flexible administrative arrangements: power to dissolve existing levy bodies and boards) and section 91 (abolition of certain agricultural etc. committees) extend to Scotland and Northern Ireland, so the Secretary of State must consult with the Scottish Ministers and the relevant Northern Ireland Department before commencing their provisions.
212. Part 7 (inland waterways) also extends to Scotland, so the Secretary of State must consult the Scottish Ministers before commencing its provisions. The same is true of clause 95 and Schedules 11 and 12 (minor and consequential amendments etc.) so far as they relate to an Act of the Scottish Parliament.
213. So far as clause 95 and Schedules 11 and 12 relate to a provision which extends to Northern Ireland only, the Secretary of State must consult with the relevant Northern Ireland Department before commencing their provisions.
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