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Mr. Goodwill: To help the Minister, the point I made was about legal motor sport in national parks. I referred to uses that would almost invariably be treated sympathetically by national park committees, such as use by farmers, but there are a number of such activities; for example, in my constituency, the Colonial trial—a national motorbike trial event—is held with the landowner's permission and is a valuable source of income for many farmers. It is a family activity and is by no means antisocial. I should like an assurance from the Minister, as some national park committees might take a dim view of that type of legal activity.

Jim Knight: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for clarifying that for me. We are talking about rights of way and unsealed routes in national parks. The national park authority would have to make a judgment about whether it should use the powers for such things, but the Government have proven supportive of responsible use of motorised vehicles in the countryside, especially in our interpretation of the single payment scheme for farmers, to allow that sort of activity on land being claimed for SPS. The hon. Gentleman should take that as an indication that, although we intend to deal robustly with those who abuse the countryside with motorised vehicles, people who choose to be responsible and use vehicles without damaging the environment should be able to continue to do so.
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I commend the new clause to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 12

Agreement between Secretary of State and Designated Body

'(1)   The Secretary of State may enter into an agreement with a designated body authorising that body to perform a DEFRA function—

(a)   either in relation to the whole of England or in relation to specified areas in England;

(b)   subject to paragraph (a), either generally or in specified cases.

"Specified" means specified in the agreement.

(2)   An agreement under this section—

(a)   may be cancelled by the Secretary of State at any time, and

(b)   does not prevent the Secretary of State from performing a function to which the agreement relates.

(3)   This section is subject to sections (Reserved functions) and (Maximum duration of agreement) (reserved functions and maximum duration of agreement).'.—[Jim Knight.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Jim Knight: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government new clause 13—Agreement between designated bodies.

Government new clause 14—Designated bodies.

Government new clause 15—Reserved functions.

Government new clause 16—Maximum duration of agreements.

Government new clause 17—Particular powers.

Government new clause 18—Agreements with local authorities.

Government new clause 19—Supplementary provisions with respect to agreements.

Government new clause 20—Interpretation.

Government amendments Nos. 19 to 28.

Government amendments Nos. 31 to 34.

Jim Knight: I now turn to an important part of the Bill, which is essential to help make the new delivery arrangements work in practice, give us flexibility to respond to further changes in the future, deliver better services to our customers, and provide important efficiencies.

In Committee, the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) proposed a number of amendments to chapter 1 of part 8. They were designed to restrict the power of Ministers and designated bodies to enter into agreements to delegate their functions to another body unconditionally. In response, I said that although I was confident that the Bill contained adequate safeguards to ensure accountability and
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control, the amendments had highlighted legitimate concerns about the breadth of clause 70 in particular. In fact, I ventured to say that I did not think his amendment went far enough. I suggested that the clauses might be better restricted to DEFRA-related functions only, and I undertook to reflect on the balance of the provisions, consult delivery bodies, and come back with a clear line on Report.

Over the summer, we have reviewed carefully the clauses in part 8, chapter 1 and have concluded that some further limitation on those powers would be appropriate. We now propose that the Bill should be amended as in these new clauses and amendments, which stand in the name of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The amendments would delete clauses 70 to 77 and replace them with new clauses 12 to 20. Although that may appear to be a somewhat radical revision to this part of the Bill—indeed, a transplant—in practice the amendments are not extensive. They introduce some further limitations on the clauses while leaving them essentially flexible, to enable DEFRA and its delivery bodies to respond swiftly to the need for changes in delivery arrangements. For ease of understanding, we felt it would be preferable to present the changes to the House as revised clauses rather than as detailed amendments—hence the transplant. It may, however, be helpful if I summarise the changes that we have made in the amendments.

Paddy Tipping (Sherwood) (Lab): I welcome this move; the Minister is acting sensibly. However, I want to make a practical point. He may use the phrase "clear lines", but this bit of the Bill is far from clear. It shows how difficult it is for the various bodies operating in this sector to interrelate. One of the real weaknesses of the Bill—the bit that we need to think through—is how we can co-ordinate activity across the countryside so that the various elements of biodiversity, economics and social access all link together. I am not confident that we have achieved that at the moment.

Jim Knight: As ever, and as I was in Committee, I am grateful for my hon. Friend's wisdom. The new clauses and amendments are essential to allow the delegation of powers between bodies carrying out DEFRA-related functions so that we can achieve exactly the aim that he seeks.

The most important change is that we have limited the types of delegation provided for in old clauses 70 and 71. Previously, clause 70 provided for any Minister of the Crown to enter an agreement with a designated body to perform any eligible function, while clause 71 provided additionally for the Secretary of State to delegate an eligible DEFRA function to an undesignated body. Under new clause 12, the Secretary of State may enter an agreement to perform a DEFRA function with a designated body only, as listed in schedule 7. Like old clause 72, new clause 13 provides for the possibility of agreements between bodies, but only between designated bodies—we have removed the possibility of delegating functions to undesignated bodies—and only of DEFRA-related functions.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con): That is clear then.

Jim Knight: I am glad that it is clear to all right hon. and hon. Members.
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As in the existing clauses, we have retained the possibility in new clause 14 for the Secretary of State to add new designated bodies to the schedule, by negative resolution order, to provide future flexibility. Such additional bodies must exercise functions related to, or connected with, DEFRA functions in line with the general limitation of these powers to the DEFRA area.

Because there is no longer the possibility of making agreements with undesignated bodies, we have taken the opportunity to review the list in schedule 7 to ensure that it covers all those bodies with which DEFRA, or other designated bodies being set up by the Bill such as Natural England, might need to make agreements in the near future. As a result, we are adding to the schedule English Heritage, which is described as the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, and local authorities. The addition of local authorities gives rise to the need for some technical changes to ensure consistency with local government legislation, and these are contained in new clause 18.

New clause 15 deals with the reserved functions, which may not be delegated and which were previously in clause 73(4). This now additionally provides that the Secretary of State may not authorise a designated body to perform functions under the Water Industry Act 1991 or subordinate legislation made under it. This was an important clarification for the industry. The new clause also retains the requirement that functions to be delegated must be compatible with the purposes for which the receiving body was established, together with other limitations to ensure that this power is not used inappropriately.

I believe that these changes significantly improve this part of the Bill. They address the genuine concerns that the Opposition raised about the potentially wide implications of these agreements and they introduce greater certainty and transparency into the types of functions involved, and the bodies that can enter into agreements. But—this is essential, to address the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping)—they also provide us with the tools that we need to continue to deliver a challenging programme of reform in DEFRA now and into the future. They will give DEFRA and its bodies the flexibility that we need to look at the best ways of delivering our strategic outcomes, to assist customers by operating in a joined-up way, to avoid duplication and waste, to devolve delivery to the regional and local level and to respond to changing needs over time. These amendments and new clauses strengthen important provisions in the Bill. I commend them to the House.

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