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Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: I thank the Minister for his detailed response. However, it seemed to me that it was inherently contradictory on certain points. For example, if it is appropriate for agencies to give advice to Ministers, then surely it is appropriate for Ministers to consult agencies, even if they are within their own particular set-up within the Scottish Office. I thought the idea of having agencies was that they would be, to some extent, at arm's length from Secretaries of State or Ministers. Therefore if they are at arm's length to some extent, it must be appropriate to consult them. I imagine that our Scottish and our Welsh colleagues will be most disappointed with the Minister's response. It seems to me that there is a case for reciprocity in consultation and in seeking advice. It is not just a duty on the agency; it should also be a duty on the Secretary of State to seek it.

The Minister argued that consultation would entail delays. That is inevitable. Surely it is important to ensure that the action is right in the end, even if there is some delay. It is possible that consultation will improve the final decision. I believe that the Minister also said that it was appropriate to provide legislation in relation to consultation with statutory bodies. That is exactly what we are seeking by way of Amendment No. 324 which requires consultation with local authorities. It seems to me that some of the Minister's arguments can actually be turned against him as regards some of the amendments that have been tabled. However, we are dealing with a most complex issue. Obviously we shall

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need to study the Minister's response in some detail. Therefore, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.15 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Skelmersdale): I understand that the following raft of amendments on the Marshalled List is not to be moved. I shall, therefore, read out the numbers slowly and if any noble Lord wishes to speak to any of the amendments he is, of course, at liberty to do so.

[Amendments Nos. 316A and 317 not moved.]

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 318:

Page 88, line 9, at end insert:
("( ) The appropriate Minister shall also consult the bodies and persons specified in subsection (2) below as appropriate, and in any case at intervals of not less than three years, regarding the development, establishment of targets, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of any schemes already existing or introduced under any legislation to which this section applies.")

The noble Lord said: I should like to address the amendment. I warned my noble friend the Minister that I should like to move it separately. I listened very carefully to my noble friend's response to Amendment No. 316. I hope that my noble friend will confirm that I have got the message correct.

As I understand it, organisations like Cadw or CCW are automatically consulted by the Secretary of State. Therefore, Amendment No. 318 which suggests that consultation is necessary during the implementation of schemes will presumably receive the same response. I believe that I am right in that respect. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, I am not entirely sure as to whether there is a two-way approach involved. I believe that "reciprocity" is the right word. Perhaps my noble friend will confirm that I have the right message. I beg to move.

Earl Howe: Amendment No. 318 would require the Minister of Agriculture to consult the specified persons and bodies not only when making or significantly modifying legislation designed to encourage countryside conservation but also periodically on the subject of targeting, implementing, monitoring and evaluating schemes introduced under such legislation. The Government do not consider that such a statutory requirement is appropriate.

Clause 81 is designed to build on the type of consultation arrangements laid down under the Agriculture Act 1986 for legislation setting up new environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs). It does so by requiring consultation on statutory instruments modifying existing ESA legislation and on a wide range of other statutory instruments concerned with conservation and public enjoyment of the countryside. That constitutes a major expansion of the statutory consultation procedures.

Quite outside the statutory arrangements there is, as I indicated earlier, a less formal range of contacts and consultations regularly occurring on the sorts of issues referred to in the amendment. The Ministry of

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Agriculture, the Department of the Environment and the countryside agencies are currently considering sympathetically how to develop those contacts further. We shall bear in mind the aspects referred to in the amendment. The Government will make a further statement on the subject during the passage of the Bill. I hope that my remarks will be of help to my noble friend and that he will feel able to study my response between now and Report stage. If my noble friend requires further clarification, I shall be more than happy to talk to him on the matter.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: I am most grateful to my noble friend the Minister. I shall study my noble friend's response with great care. It seemed to me a little more encouraging than I expected. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 319 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendments Nos. 320 and 320A not moved.]

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 321:

Page 88, line 14, at end insert:
("(e) bodies representing the interests of land managers.").

The noble Lord said: As before, I warned my noble friend the Minister that I should like to deal separately with the amendment. Of course, it is possible that I have, again, got the message wrong. I believe that my noble friend gave an assurance in this respect when addressing Amendment No. 316. However, I should be grateful if he would confirm that the Minister will consult bodies representing land managers —they are obviously different to CCW and Cadw—in making any legislation relating to environmental land management schemes or modifying such legislation.

Land managers have ultimate responsibility for delivering environmental land management under government schemes. Taking full account of the views of bodies representing land managers in formulating or modifying such schemes should help to ensure their success. For example, consultations could enable potential problems to be identified and resolved before schemes are launched, rather than subsequently. Equally, land managers have a growing fund of practical experience in delivering environmental land management which I believe could be usefully tapped.

I believe that consulting such bodies as the CLA and the NFU, both of which represent land managers, offers an effective way of drawing on that experience. I hope, therefore, that the Bill will provide for such bodies representing land managers to be consulted. I beg to move.

Earl Howe: I am grateful to my noble friend for speaking to this amendment so clearly. As he has indicated, it would add land managers to the list of consultees in the Bill. The Minister would also be required to consult such other organisations as he considers appropriate. As I indicated in my earlier remarks, I have no difficulty with the principle of the amendment as such, but I would invite my noble friend

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to remember that the environmental schemes we are talking about are all about delivering specific environmental benefits through certain specific types of land management. The consultees laid down in the Bill all have specific technical expertise alongside the expertise of MAFF and the Department of the Environment.

The expertise which land managers have is, I suggest, of a different kind. We believe that it is necessary to include the statutory bodies on the face of the Bill but more general consultation with non-statutory bodies is something that is carried out on an ad hoc arrangement as the need arises. I do not believe it is appropriate to put those bodies on the face of the Bill. I say again to my noble friend that I hope he does not feel that the arrangements as currently practised fall short in any way. I do not think that they do, and I do not believe there is any underlying need, or underlying disquiet, which should give rise to pressing this amendment.

The Earl of Lytton: If I understood the Minister correctly, the view taken by Government is that the best people to determine what happens in the area of land management are the Ministry of Agriculture, the Countryside Commission and so on. If I may say so, I think he seriously underrates the private sector land manager as opposed to what I might describe as the theoretical approach of the established government adviser in these fields. Before the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, decides what to do with the amendment, I must say I have grave misgivings about the quality of consultation and decision making, and about the quality of understanding among many of these agencies about what really happens on the ground when one has to make long-term decisions using one's own money and in the knowledge that the policy may change several times in the course of the period in which one has to see that policy through.

In years gone by it seems to me that policies were almost as durable as the timescale over which they had to be unfolded, but that is no more because everything is on a fundamentally short term arrangement. We have seen environmental schemes that have disappeared after a few years and we have seen forestry schemes that have been wound up and turned into something different. No land manager can take long-term decisions or have a long-term sustainable approach on that basis. I would say in response to what the Minister has just said that that is not satisfactory. I certainly have grave misgivings and, irrespective of what the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, might have to say, I believe my misgivings are shared by a large number of land managers. I would be particularly concerned that, having a university degree in a relevant subject and a certain amount of hands-on experience in difficult country in the Exmoor National Park, my views could somehow be shovelled aside.

We have spent far too much time putting aside the views of competent traditional land managers who may not have had degrees in anything but—my goodness me!—who knew what would grow on a particular site. They knew about the weather and about the soil, and they had an intuitive understanding that was passed down to them from their grandfathers. That may not carry much clout; but in my view it carries a great deal

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more clout than the opinion of someone straight out of university who will be paid £20,000 or whatever a year, and who will then tell people who have worked on the soil and who have to pitch in with their own resources and take risks how they can get on and manage their own affairs. That is wrong and it would be wrong if I did not stand up and tell the Minister that that is what I think.

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