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("(2A) Each candidate shall declare that he is either--
(a) the candidate of a party (and shall name that party); or
(b) an independent candidate.
(2B) There shall be added together the number of votes given for each party's candidates in each electoral region.
(2C) The number arrived at under subsection (2B) shall be the number of votes for the party for the purposes of this Act.").
The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

Because it would result in a voting system which is undesirable.



That this House do insist on their Amendment No. 2, to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 2A.


Page 2, line 15, at end insert--

("(5A) After the allocation of seats to the parties, the order of candidates in each list shall be such that the candidates are ranked in terms of the votes each received, with the candidate with the highest number of votes appearing first.
(5B) If two or more candidates have the same number of votes, their order on the list shall be determined by lot.").
The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

Because it would result in a voting system which is undesirable.



That this House do insist on their Amendment No. 3, to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 3A.


Page 2, line 18, at end insert (", following the rearrangement required under subsections (5A) and (5B)").

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

Because it would result in a voting system which is undesirable.



That this House do insist on their Amendment No. 4, to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 4A.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish rose to move, That this House do insist on their Amendments Nos. 2 to 4 en bloc to which the Commons have disagreed for the reasons numbered 2A, 3A and 4A.

Moved, That the House do insist on their Amendments Nos. 2 to 4 to which the Commons have disagreed for the reasons numbered 2A, 3A and 4A.--(Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Bill returned to the Commons with reasons.

4 Nov 1998 : Column 292

Regional Development Agencies Bill

4.24 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 2 [Constitution]:

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 23, at end insert--
("( ) the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a very simple amendment that would require the Secretary of State to consult the Minister of Agriculture before he appoints members to a regional development agency. There are a number of reasons why the Secretary of State should do this. First, the Bill states that an RDA's purposes:

    "apply as much in relation to the rural parts of its area as in relation to its non-rural parts".
As the Minister of Agriculture has joint responsibility with the Secretary of State over rural regeneration and the rural economy, it must make sense for him to be involved in the appointments of members to the RDAs. Secondly, farming and related businesses have a pivotal role in helping RDAs to meet their defined purposes both in rural and urban parts of their areas.

Here I so agree with the remarks made by my noble friend Lady Anelay of St. Johns at Committee stage, that it is always--I repeat always--appropriate to consult MAFF in metropolitan areas. I firmly believe, and so I thought did the Government, that the town relies as much on the country as the country relies on the town. However, although the national importance of direct on-farm agricultural employment may have decreased over time--and indeed it has--in many regions agriculture still provides a major source of employment. When upstream and downstream dependent jobs are included and the value of produce is taken into account, farming's importance in both the regional and the national economy is far in excess of what might be deduced from a straight analysis of direct employment in agriculture alone.

Thirdly, as a primary land user in the countryside, agriculture also plays a vital role in the Government's sustainable development strategy--something that your Lordships and the Government are always so keen about--a fact acknowledged in the recent Department of the Environment consultation on the Government's proposals for a revised United Kingdom strategy for sustainable development.

In its role both as a consumer and user of natural resources and also as a source of alternative energy, the agricultural dimension of sustainable development is crucial in our regions. I suspect that the noble Lord will tell me that of course the Secretary of State would always consult with his colleague, the Minister of Agriculture, and no doubt he will point out that Clause 2(3)(d) makes my amendment otiose.

I would say that sometimes--just sometimes--Cabinet colleagues do not always agree on everything all the time. As the Bill is written, the Secretary of State would be legally correct if he considered that his

4 Nov 1998 : Column 293

colleague, the Minister of Agriculture, was not a person he considered appropriate, as described in that subsection. I beg to move.

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if I speak to the amendment which is in my name, which is grouped with that of my noble friend, at this stage. I understand from the Minister that it will be convenient for him to speak to the Government's amendments after other noble Lords have participated in the debate.

Perhaps I may begin by congratulating my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley on his amendment and remarking on the importance of the part it would play in making sure that appointments to RDAs take proper account of the needs of rural areas. At this stage it is perhaps a somewhat unusual pleasure for me to be able to welcome also government Amendment No. 2. I should make it clear immediately that I shall not be moving Amendment No. 3 which stands in my name and which is grouped with Amendment No. 1.

It is right that there should be on the face of the Bill a requirement that the Secretary of State should consult people who represent the interests of those who know best the needs of rural areas--the people who live there, work there and who run businesses there for the enhancement of the economy of rural areas and elsewhere. I raised this matter in Committee, together with a rather more ambitious amendment which would have put on the face of the Bill the requirement that at least one member of each board should have direct experience of rural matters. At that stage there was considerable support for my amendments from noble Lords of all parties.

The Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton, offered a meeting to discuss the amendments further. I know that it is traditional on these occasions to thank Ministers for holding such meetings, but I do so not only as a matter of courtesy but also because of my personal gratitude. The meeting was held with dispatch and there was a constructive approach from the ministerial team. I also thank all noble Lords who attended that meeting. Because of the need to keep the meeting relatively small, we could not invite all those who took such an important part in the discussions in Committee. However, I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and my noble friend Lord Bowness for attending. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, would have attended had not other commitments in the House prevented her from doing so. I thank her for the comments that she was able to make outwith the Chamber, which I am sure had some impact on the Government's decisions.

At that meeting, the Government repeated their arguments against both of my amendments in much the same vein as in Committee. However, the Government took some further steps which were helpful. They presented copies of draft documents on rural policy which would act as guidance to the RDAs. They are working documents and all who attended the meeting have respected the Government's request that they

4 Nov 1998 : Column 294

should not be circulated outwith that group without the Government's express consent. I am, however, grateful to Ministers for giving me permission for the documents to be shown to the political adviser of the Country Landowners Association who assisted me, in the first instance, with the drafting of my amendment which is before your Lordships today. We all found it helpful that the Government provided us with those papers in which we found some promising material. That makes me sound rather like a headmistress, so I apologise; that was not intended.

All noble Lords who attended that meeting accepted the Government's good will--that when appointments are made to boards in the first instance, the Government expect that at least one person who is appointed will have direct experience of rural matters. Indeed, the White Paper states that that should be the case. All who attended that meeting expressed their great concern about what may happen in the future when substitute or repeat appointments are made. In its present form, the Bill gives no reassurance that those who are appointed with experience of rural matters will continue to be appointed on that basis in the future. There was a concern that, albeit unintentionally, there may be a drift away from appointing persons with such expertise.

As a result of that meeting with Ministers, I invited interested Peers to attend a meeting last Wednesday with a representative of the CLA to discuss noble Lords' views on how best to proceed on Report. On that same day, I was pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, made it clear to me that the Government had considered my amendments further. On the first matter, the more ambitious matter, the Government retained their opposition and made it clear that there was no way in which they could accede to that. However, on the second matter, the subject of today's debate, the Government made it clear that the amendment was acceptable, but needed more felicitous drafting. Having seen the wording of the Minister's amendment, I quite agree. The Government's amendment is not only more felicitous, but will achieve my objective more effectively than would my amendment.

The response of noble Lords who participated in our debates in Committee and at various meetings since has been that the Government's moves should be welcomed. As a measure of good will, I then immediately withdrew my first, more ambitious, amendment from consideration on Report. I welcome the fact that the Minister has tabled his amendment today and I hope that the House will accept it.

When the Minister responds, I wonder whether he will give some indication of the nature of the organisations which the Government would expect to be consulted as a result of the application of the amendment to the working of the Bill. Obviously, because of my personal views, I have it in mind that one should seek consultation with the CLA, the National Farmers Union and the Council for the Protection of Rural England and other such organisations. I am sure that noble Lords with more experience of these matters than I will be able to come up with a wider but more effective list.

4 Nov 1998 : Column 295

In welcoming the Government's moves on this, I end, as one might expect, by commenting that your Lordships have given the Government the opportunity to think again on this matter and, on this occasion, I feel sure that they have come to a better decision.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, during our previous business, I had occasion to draw attention to the fact that a number of northern cities are ruled, and have been for some time--that is changing--by rather Stalinist means and by heavy Whipping on the part of the ruling Labour Party. It is because of that and because such people often do not have much sympathy with the countryside and its real interests that I thought it important to put on the face of the Bill a provision to ensure that there is proper understanding of rural matters and consultation with those involved.

I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St. Johns, for her work in getting the various bodies together to discuss the matter. I pay great tribute also to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, for his amendment. I suspected that the Government would not meet us on this matter, but they have managed to do so handsomely in their Amendment No. 2. We on these Benches fully support it.

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