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Lord Renton: My Lords, I shall confine myself to speaking about Amendment No. 234A. It is a very important amendment. Hedgerow protection is now urgently needed in East Anglia and elsewhere. Conditions may be somewhat different in the estate in the West Country of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, but, as I said at Committee stage, nearly 2,000 miles of hedgerows have disappeared from Huntingdonshire over the last 50 years.

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It has become notorious that enabling powers in statues are often long delayed before they are used, and sometimes they are never used at all; and putting them into the Bill is a piece of eyewash. I hope that this will not turn out to be a piece of eyewash: it would be very regrettable if it did.

My noble friend Lord Ullswater, who has shown such wisdom and tolerance during the piloting of the Bill, should be persuaded to accept the amendment or something like it. That does not mean that the matter has to be rushed: there is plenty of time between now and 1st July 1996 for all concerned to get their negotiations completed and for a perfectly simple regulation to be drafted.

I warmly support the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, in this very important matter.

Lord Monk Bretton: My Lords, I should like to say a few words in support of the amendment that was moved by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. I shall begin by declaring an interest, in that I have been involved in farming and have been endeavouring to remove hedges in a sensitive manner for some time. I have done so without too much in the way of protest. I shall not at this stage make a speech about the economic importance of field size, but I should like to mention that matter. I do not have any brief for the creation of the 100 acre-plus prairies that my noble friend Lord Renton mentioned in regard to the eastern counties.

I should like to suggest to noble Lords what my reactions would be if I were faced with taking over a tract of land of perhaps 200 acres. Let us suppose that it is not in the eastern counties. It is pretty dilapidated land. Maybe a dairy herd has just gone and all the quota has been sold off. It has fields of an average size of 10 acres or maybe only seven. The hedges are all too big and gone at the bottom, probably planted originally on banks which are now filled with rabbit-holes. Those rabbit-holes are very difficult to get at and there is probably woodland in the vicinity, also with rabbits—rabbits everywhere. What is to be done? What is this fellow to do when he takes the land over? The land may become unviable in the near future, in which case the hedges will be totally neglected. I do not know whether that is the kind of vision that we want. It is not the sort of thing that I want to see, large areas of totally neglected hedges where nothing is to be done.

The occupant is wondering how he is placed under Clause 79. He has a great fear that there will be a great deal of bureaucracy. He does not know how a historic hedge will be defined, although he may have an idea. He does not know what an important hedge is. He also has fears that local authorities may have different interpretations. He does not know whether or not permission is required for everything that he is going to remove. He hopes that he will be able to do a certain amount with fields of not more than 20 acres, without controls. I do not know what size that should be or what is contemplated. If he cannot do that, how will he maintain more hedges with less labour? That is one of the questions very much at the forefront of his mind. So of course, he wants an appeals procedure. Many people

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would like taken into account their past attitude towards hedge management. Those who have tried to do a good job definitely now need recognition. The implications for the business of the person who is taking over the extra land, or the new young farmer starting, are of great importance.

If my noble friend cannot accept the amendments, I hope that he will indicate that they can be included in regulations. Whatever help is available should be better than that available for listed buildings. Old hedges will not last for ever. Although I understand the views of the proponents of the preservation of old hedges, there comes a time when, like trees, it is not possible to preserve them any longer.

8.30 p.m.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, Amendment No. 234A seeks to impose a requirement on Ministers to bring forward hedgerows regulations by 1st July 1996. A similar amendment, with a deadline of 1st January 1996, was tabled in Committee by the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton. It is our intention that we should have the hedgerows regulations in place by July 1996, but we must ensure that they are the subject of proper consultation outside Parliament. Following the outcome of consultation, we must also secure the approval of both Houses of Parliament to the regulations under the affirmative resolution procedure. Those arrangements are given formal status in the amendments I intend to move later. While I foresee no difficulties in bringing forward regulations within the timescale provided by this amendment, I am afraid that I cannot agree with my noble friends Lord Marlesford and Lord Renton that it is desirable to bind Ministers to what is, in effect, a statutory deadline.

Three amendments in this group tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, seek to ensure that the regulations made under this clause include certain provisions. Amendment No. 239B concerns a right of appeal to Ministers for anyone refused consent to uproot a hedgerow. Under Amendment No. 239C the authority responsible for determining a proposal to uproot a hedgerow would have to take into account any planting, restoration and management of other hedgerows carried out on the land. Amendment No. 239D would require such an authority to consider the business implications of its decision.

When I outlined on Second Reading our proposed framework for a protection scheme, I explained that we would expect to incorporate an appeals mechanism in the regulations. I also made clear that such details should be settled in the light of the consultation exercise which I have already mentioned. However, there appears to be a clear consensus that rights of appeal should be an essential part of the arrangements. In the light of this, I shall reflect further on whether some provision on appeals should be included on the face of the Bill at a later stage.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 239C and 239D. The arguments for and against the proposition that an authority should consider matters other than the quality of the hedgerow are more finely balanced. I have listened carefully to the views expressed by the noble

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Earl, Lord Lytton, and my noble friend Lord Monk Bretton. We shall take those into account when formulating detailed provisions; but on those issues I do not consider it appropriate to pre-empt the outcome of consultation. I hesitate to comment upon the content of the speech of the noble Earl because I believe that the details of his points are those which should be taken into account in consultation; including, of course, the economics of farming or land management spoken to by my noble friend Lord Monk Bretton.

Amendment No. 240A provides a definition of what is meant in Clause 79 by the "protection" of important hedgerows. The amendment limits the activities which will be subject to those controls to "unlawful uprooting or destruction". Again, I do not consider it appropriate to include such a provision at this stage because we must first consult.

For the reasons I have given, I hope that my noble friend will withdraw the amendments.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his unequivocal reassurance of intention with regard to my amendment. I can think of no noble Lord whose word I would be more happy to accept on such a matter, especially as it is buttressed by the firm commitment of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to introduce the legislation. I am therefore happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Nicol moved Amendment No. 235:

Page 87, line 18, after ("hedgerows") insert ("and existing dry stone walls").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving the amendment I support also some of the other amendments in the group such as that tabled by my noble friend Lady Hilton relating to the addition of ponds, and in particular the amendment which refers to other types of boundaries. I am a little puzzled by Amendments Nos. 237 and 238 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Wise, because I am not sure what is the subtle difference between them. No doubt he will enlighten me when the time comes.

My limited amendment is moved in the hope that the minimalist approach might find more favour with the Minister. It differs from my amendment in Committee in that it refers only to "important and existing dry stone walls", rather than the wider approach that I used earlier.

The Countryside Commission describes dry stone walls and ponds as characteristic and valuable features of many parts of the English countryside. I am sure that opinion in Wales supports that view, but of course the Countryside Commission cannot speak for Wales and I have had no representation from Wales other than from those people to whom I have spoken who share our anxieties.

The Countryside Commission gives some alarming statistics. Between 1984 and 1990 England lost 4,000 kilometres of dry stone walls and 10,000 ponds. The figure for remaining walls has to be viewed with

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concern as the amount of deterioration is so great. I should like to quote directly from the briefing that I have had from the Countryside Commission which states:

    "Of the estimated 112,500 km of dry stone walls in England in 1994, only 4,500 km could be categorised as 'in excellent condition', 42,700 km have 'major signs of advancing or potential deterioration'; and 36,700 km are 'derelict or in the early stages of dereliction'."

So there is an urgency about including dry stone walls in the protected legislation. I have had considerable support for the amendment from the Dry Stone Wall Association, the CPRE, the Council for National Parks, and the World Wide Fund for Nature, and others. I beg to move.

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