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Mr. Breed: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 3, in clause 19, page 7, line 29, after 'making', insert 'and publishing'.

Mr. Breed: The new clause seeks to readdress the situation that we spent some time considering in Committee. The Commission for Rural Communities is another example of the invasive species known as quango, the numbers of which we would very much like to reduce if not eradicate totally. I do not wish to go through all the arguments that we advanced in Committee, save to say that they all still stand up.

I am grateful to the Commission for Rural Communities for providing us with a very glossy document. One might have assumed that the commission had not yet been set up, given that we are still discussing the Bill, but the front cover of the document neatly states that the commission is currently a division of the Countryside Agency. I am grateful to the person who sent me the document because it demonstrates that there is no necessity for a CRC in the first place.

The document's foreword says:

One could thus conclude that a huge number of responses was received. However, we then find out that only 60 responses by e-mail and post to this major survey were received from all the stakeholders—national and regional organisations, local authorities and interest and consumer groups—who were contacted. Such widespread support for the organisation demonstrates why we do not think that it is entirely necessary. Nearly a third of the responses were from local authorities, which we believe are the most relevant organisations to deal with the roles and responsibilities of the CRC, so only about 35 or 40 other organisations bothered to respond.

What were the commission's astonishing conclusions? It identified several policy initiatives that would benefit from examination—they may astound us all. It said that an important issue was access and service provision—well, we would not have thought that in rural areas. It found that planning and housing were a problem, which I suspect will be a revelation to every council in the country. It concluded that identifying and targeting dispersed rural disadvantage would benefit from examination, but I would be amazed if we did not all accept that. Apparently, funding is a real problem for rural areas.

If the CRC had any relevance at all, it would not have put the document in our hands at this time because it adequately demonstrates that the commission can
11 Oct 2005 : Column 251
undertake no role that could not be performed by local authorities. It is the rump of the Countryside Agency, and Lord Haskins pointed out in his report that the Countryside Agency was not required and could easily be abolished, with its roles and responsibilities divided between DEFRA and local authorities.

Mr. Oliver Letwin (West Dorset) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Breed: I am sorry, but I want to give the Minister at least one minute to respond. [Hon. Members: "Go on."] I shall give way in a moment.

New clause 22 would give the commission five years, but I hope that such a provision will not be needed. I hope that the commission will fail completely and thus not last five years or that, in the unlikely event that it is an astounding success, we will not need to review the situation.

Mr. Letwin: I merely wanted to tell the hon. Gentleman that everything that he said was music to our ears.

Mr. Breed: I hope that hon. Members will support new clause 22.

Jim Knight: I am familiar with disappointing yellow documents, but the CRC is doing a fantastic job as a rural champion. Anyone who has read the state of the countryside report will know that important work is going on in terms of the evidence base. In particular, I pay tribute to the rural advocate, Stuart Burgess, who needs to continue his work. I find it astonishing that parties with reasonable representation in rural areas do not want an independent rural advocate for England.

I ask the House to reject the amendments. They do not add anything. There is a confusion in the mind of the hon. Member for South-East Cornwall (Mr. Breed), who seems to believe that the CRC is a delivery body. It is a watchdog, and it is important that a watchdog looks over rural and semi-rural local authorities to ensure that they act in the best interests of sparsely populated areas, such as the one that he represents.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 144, Noes 278.

Division No. 52
[9 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Alexander, Danny
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brooke, Annette
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, Philip
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Donaldson, Mr. Jeffrey M.
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Farron, Tim
Field, Mr. Mark
Fox, Dr. Liam
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Horwood, Mr. Martin
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Huhne, Chris
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Milton, Anne
Moore, Mr. Michael
Mulholland, Greg
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Price, Adam
Pugh, Dr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Robinson, Mrs. Iris
Robinson, Mr. Peter
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Simpson, David
Smith, Sir Robert
Spink, Bob
Stanley, rh Sir John
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Matthew
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walter, Mr. Robert
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wright, Jeremy
Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Roger Williams and
Richard Younger-Ross


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Mr. Des
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Durkan, Mark
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Mrs. Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hanson, Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Howarth, Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
MacDougall, Mr. John
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, Dr. Alasdair
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh Mr. John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meale, Mr. Alan
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh Mr. David
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Seabeck, Alison
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Short, rh Clare
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, Ms Rosie
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Gillian Merron and
Mr. Frank Roy

Question accordingly negatived.

11 Oct 2005 : Column 254

It being after nine o'clock, Madam Deputy Speaker proceeded to put the Questions necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at that hour, pursuant to Order [6 June].

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