Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for his congratulations on my birthday. It seems such a short time since the last birthday! Does the noble Viscount believe that the Anderton Lift is actually a building?

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, it is most probably a structure, in which case it is covered by the words in the Bill.

Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 43:

Page 8, line 39, after ("architectural") insert (", engineering").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 44 not moved.]

Lord Wade of Chorlton moved Amendment No. 45:

Page 8, line 42, at end insert ("and
(iii) to have regard to any effect which the proposals would have on the economic and social well-being of local Communities in rural areas.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak very briefly to Amendment No. 52 which is merely a technical amendment associated with Amendment No. 45. The environment of our rural areas is a managed one. It depends on the people who live there, who create it and those who have businesses there. In an earlier part of the discussion on the new clause my noble friend mentioned the fact that sustainable development is a balance between ensuring the environmental advantage on the one side and how to achieve development within it on the other. Having heard many of the debates during the course of this Bill, I believe that we also need to have a balance on the face of the Bill.

Therefore, this amendment is to add a third item to Clause 7 which states that the Ministers and the agency will also have a duty,

I am sure that all noble Lords will agree with me that it is very important that this Bill pays due recognition to the importance of the people who work and have their well-being within our rural areas.

I am most grateful to my noble friend for meeting me and many other noble Lords for discussions on this issue. As a result he will be aware of the support that this amendment has on all sides of the House. I am also aware that I have the full support of the Country Landowners' Association, the Scottish Landowners' Federation, the National Farmers Union, the Confederation of British Industry and the Rural Development Commission. My noble friend Lord Shuttleworth would have supported this amendment had he been here this evening. Many other organisations which are involved with social and economic matters within our rural areas also support this amendment. I

2 Mar 2002 : Column 1665

hope that my noble friend and many other noble Lords throughout the House will be able to support this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, after that catalogue of support for the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Wade, it may seem somewhat of a work of supererogation that I should add my brief word in support of the amendment as well. There is a point to be made and it is important that it should appear in the Bill. People concerned with a wide range of environmental matters, particularly as regards parts of the countryside which are changing fast under the stresses and developments of modern civilisation, should also be asked to remember that there are people who have to live and work there and go about their daily avocations. They too should be in the minds of those who make policy.

I do not wish to anticipate debates which we may come to next week, but we know that in the national parks, where there has been a more intensive environmental regime, the communities sometimes feel that the authorities responsible for administering those powers do not seem to care as much for the people as they do for the flora and fauna and the other parts of our national heritage. It is important that they do so.

My noble friend has made an extremely good point. Let us have those provisions clearly stated on the face of the Bill so that when there are the inevitable conflicts—and a balance will certainly need to be struck—at least people have something to which they can point and can say, "You have to pay attention to us because the Act says so". I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to respond favourably to the hopes that have been expressed.

Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, the noble Lords, Lord Wade and Lord Jenkin, have made very relevant points which I do not need to repeat, but I should like to emphasise my support for the amendment. To continue the theme that has been set out, a formula such as is envisaged in the amendment already exists in the Bill in relation to the national parks. The national park authorities are charged with taking note of the "economic and social well-being" of the local population. We welcome that. However, that should be a general duty on all environmental agencies and authorities because without a sustainable population one cannot have sustainable development. That seems to me to be the key to the whole argument. I hope, therefore, that either immediately or at a later stage the Government can accept the provisions of the amendment.

Lord Moran: My Lords, a particularly strong case has been made for the amendment, and I very much hope that either this amendment or something along these lines can be incorporated into the Bill.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wade of Chorlton, made a powerful case for his amendment, which I wish to support. As the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, pointed out, there seems a curious anomaly in the Bill as presently drafted, in that the national park authorities are required to,

2 Mar 2002 : Column 1666

    "have regard to the economic and social well-being of local communities within the National Park",

but those outside the national parks do not have the same benefit. That leads to the idiotic result that the national parks are obliged to look after the "economic and social well-being" of people living within their area, but those living in rural areas outside the national parks do not have the same benefit. To add another argument to those adduced by the noble Lord, Lord Wade, that seems an illogicality which the Government might consider.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I would not want to cast any shadow on the welcome which has been given to this amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Wade, except to say that perhaps the Scottish Landowners' Federation—and some of us who will be speaking later with its advice and support—feel that the clause is a little narrowly drawn, in that it is not absolutely clear that,

    "the economic and social well-being of local communities in rural areas",

necessarily includes the interests of those who own and occupy the land. When we come to Clause 30, I and perhaps other noble Lords may be making that point. It would, of course, be of great succour to those of us who are perhaps more interested in Scottish than in English affairs to hear my noble friend confirm that those interests are, indeed, covered by this amendment.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Wade of Chorlton seeks to add to the agency's and Ministers' general environmental and recreational duties a duty in formulating or considering proposals relating to the agency's functions to have regard to any effect which the proposals would have on the economic and social well-being of local communities in rural areas. Amendment No. 52 is consequential upon that.

In responding to a similar amendment from my noble friend in Committee, I made clear that the Government are at one with him in recognising the importance of the agency having proper regard to the wider consequences in exercising its functions. I suggested that it would have to consider the needs of agriculture and forestry—those were the words used by my noble friend in his original amendment—just as it will need to consider the needs of other sectors it would regulate, and that, in doing so, it would need to take account of a number of considerations not specifically included in the legislation, including social ones. I noted that reconciliation of the needs of the environment with the needs of economic development lies at the heart of sustainable development and suggested that the mechanism included within the Bill by which the agency is to have regard to guidance to be provided by Ministers offers the best way of ensuring that Ministers and the agency properly consider the kinds of issue with which noble Lords are concerned. In the generality of cases I still believe this to be true, but, like my noble friend Lord Jenkin and other noble Lords, I also recognise the need to be particularly sensitive to the economic and social well-being of local communities in rural areas.

2 Mar 2002 : Column 1667

I find it difficult to indicate to my noble friend Lord Pearson that the social well-being of local communities in rural areas could somehow exclude landowners if they form part of their local community. I shall need to look closely at what he has said. If he says that there is a separation between being part of a local community and being a landowner, I shall need to think very carefully about it.

The Government believe it important to address the particular problems of rural areas on which the noble Lord and others have spoken so eloquently and forcefully this evening. I accept that in this Bill we have to acknowledge the damage that can be done if their social needs are not properly considered when deciding how best to protect and enhance the environment. Therefore, the Government are willing to accept the noble Lord's amendments. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will consider carefully whether or not to bring forward similar amendments in relation to the Scottish provisions.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page