Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Glenarthur: I have listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael. I am bound to say that I do not find it nearly so easy to accept the suggestion as perhaps he hoped I might from where I sit and from my own experience of this matter. The fact is that those who under the 1959 Act should be appointed to the commission follow a very set pattern of interest specific to the subject matter which is likely to be encompassed.

While I can understand that it may be appropriate to widen the group a little to include, for example, someone who represents a local authority and has an interest, therefore, in the roads or some other issue, it is a point which could be so stretched as to involve many other interests that it would go much wider than any

4 Mar 1996 : Column CWH26

concept that has hitherto been considered in relation to the Red Deer Commission or the Deer Commission for Scotland under its new name.

The other point the noble Lord made was that somehow--I think I quote him correctly--elected people are answerable in some respect. I hope the noble Lord will accept that the Red Deer Commission is indeed answerable. If he looks at Section 3(2) of the 1959 Act he will see that the commission makes an annual report to the Secretary of State. It exercises its functions under the Act and lays a copy of the report before each House of Parliament. The point about answerability is already well covered by the Red Deer Commission under its existing responsibilities.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I should like to support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael. It is certainly true that wild deer range over local authority areas. They affect local people and form part of the local economy. I believe it is very important that the commissioners should have a knowledge of the context in which the future Deer Commission for Scotland will operate.

In some respects I would possibly prefer the phrase "public administration" to "local government" because that probably is a wider definition ensuring that people understand the context in which they will work.

My next point is aimed at the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, who unfortunately is not in his place at the moment. I am sorry to return to this but I feel I must. The point of the Select Committee going to Scotland to take evidence was to demonstrate the relevance of the Westminster Parliament to the people of Scotland and to try to counter the feelings of disaffection. The point I wish to make is that the Select Committee gained credibility in Scotland because it was predominantly made up of Scottish domiciled Members of the House.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: I have one difficulty with this amendment. If you have on the commission one councillor, say perhaps from Invernesshire, then Aberdeenshire, Banffshire, Argyleshire, Perthshire or Angus will say "Why Invernesshire? Why not us?". Unless you have a commission consisting entirely of local councillors, I can foresee nothing but trouble.

As to the comments of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, on the composition of the Select Committee in Edinburgh, I must say to him that I do not think the people of Scotland took a blind bit of notice. I never saw more than two people in the public gallery the whole time we were sitting and mostly there was nobody there.

The Earl of Lindsay: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, for raising what I thought would be a short and simple amendment which could be dealt with in a couple of minutes, although he indulged in some histrionics as regards the other matter. He claims that anything that smacks of a Quango is unacceptable, but he has completely lost sight of the new rules and procedures and codes of practice which are now abided by in the appointment of members to non-departmental public bodies. If the noble Lord says he dislikes

4 Mar 1996 : Column CWH27

Quangos and political appointments, why on earth is he proposing a constitutional future for Scotland when nearly one half of the Scottish parliament would be political appointees? They would be party placements. Why he should be so angry about the way in which the new deer commission might be appointed, and yet is happy to have Scotland governed on a day-to-day basis by a body that is largely composed of political appointments, I cannot understand.

The implication of his remarks is that there was some degree of unacceptability about the deer commission at the moment, and I would take issue with that. I believe the deer commission under its current constitution has earned very high respect from many people. It has had a very good record and is widely admired for that, and we fully intend that it should continue thus.

The noble Lord, though, points up the importance of acceptability generally, and behind much of our Clause 1 amendments to the 1959 Act is the hope that the commission, through its composition, can appeal to a broad church of people and can command respect across many different interests. This is part of the logic behind the amendments that we are making. Indeed, it is not impossible that a councillor or community representative, or indeed as the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, suggested, a public servant of some sort might well be a candidate for appointment to the commission. That is not an unlikely scenario.

More important, perhaps, is that the deer commission has already made great strides towards working with the local community in the areas where deer management is an issue, and I suspect that as the years go by its efforts to work with local people will be redoubled--they certainly will not be lessened.

My noble friend Lord Glenarthur correctly pointed out that there is accountability already written into the 1959 Act, and indeed if the Secretary of State is responsible for any inefficiency or performance that the deer commission achieves which is questionable or controversial, it is something which the Secretary of State must answer for. If for some reason someone wants to take issue with the deer commission, but he is unable to feed the strength of his feelings through deer management groups or through commissioners, he can get directly to the Secretary of State through MPs and ask him to account for the performance of the deer commission.

I have one further point, which is the point raised by the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun. She in a way touched on the red deer counties and areas of Scotland; but the new deer commission will stretch from Berwickshire to Stornoway and from Wigtown way up to Thurso. It will deal with all species of deer in Scotland. The problem is not only as bad as it is painted, but I believe it to be very much worse if one is attempting to address issues which pertain to roe deer in the Borders. I hope the noble Lord is partly reassured by the fact that the deer commission will be picking up a tremendous reputation from the Red Deer Commission for consultation and

4 Mar 1996 : Column CWH28

communication with local people and that what it has done to date is merely a springboard for the yet greater lines of communication that it will build in the future.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: I am grateful to the Minister for his courtesy in replying to me. I wish to raise a number of points. The annual report is a way of people making representations. We know that annual reports come in here regularly, but unless some outisde body is particularly interested or has the time to debate it, it is not a very effective way of communicating with the Secretary of State or any Minister. The Minister will be well aware of that from his own field.

Does the spread of representation--or the spread of the area from Berwick to the Orkneys--mean that there will be any regional selection of the members of the Red Deer Commission or of the subcommittees of the Red Deer Commission? I believe that a councillor--or if CoSLA itself had a representative on the commission--that person would be approachable by anyone in Scotland; whereas, if the Minister is right, the members will be fairly thinly spread and people will not know who to contact in different parts of the country.

An approach to a Member of Parliament falls into the same category as annual reports. It has to be something pretty important, or there will be a day's debate once every two or three years upon an annual report from one quango or another. I did not really expect to get a great deal from the Minister, but I did feel that I should raise the matter. I am not decrying the existing Red Deer Commission. I know it has done a great job and the gentleman who is very involved with it has been extremely helpful to us. (I suggested that he be given a knighthood; he has a very long name which I cannot remember).

I hope that, based on that experience, we can move forward. It gives us another chance to have a break in the existing system and to put at least one local government representative on the commission. I believe that CoSLA would be the perfect body.

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: The noble Lord is absolutely right that the deer commission must keep in close contact with local government when local government issues arise. That is important on the planning side, as well as on the road side, and possibly also environmental health.

When one thinks of how local government will be comprised after 1st April with so many councils, one sees how difficult it will be to have a representative on the commission appointed by the Secretary of State who can speak for local government. The commission will not have representatives appointed. If it were the kind of body which consisted of representatives, one might suggest that one of the representatives could be from local government.

I see that in their submission the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities suggested that a member should be drawn from the local authority sector--perhaps it had in mind a planning officer or councillor. It does not sit very easily with the way the thing is

4 Mar 1996 : Column CWH29

structured. I wonder if my noble friend the Minister could make very sure if this matter is raised again--or perhaps now--that there really is a requirement to consult with local government when local government issues arise, because it will be important and the commission must not get carried away and think that it does not have to pay any attention to planning or whatever it is. I am sure the present Red Deer Commission does that very well. I am not familiar exactly with the way it works, but I do not believe that this should be completely neglected as an issue, although I do not believe this particular approach, in view of the new structure of local government and the way in which the deer commission is going to be appointed, is the right approach.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page