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Lord Renton of Mount Harry: In brief reply to my noble friend, I know that he made this point in the Second Reading debate and past experience clearly sits bitterly with him. The Association of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty made it plain to us that it supports this Bill because it is clear that it is not prescriptive as such. It is simply setting up a mechanism--and I quote the words again for the noble Lord--for local people to use. I refer my noble friend to new Section 88B, subsection (2),

An amendment adds to that, "any relevant body", which we will be discussing later. Apart from consulting the appropriate countryside body or bodies, local authorities are democratically elected; they are locally accountable. The board which I chair has 24 members of local authorities on it. It would never have come into being if it had not been the wish of the local authorities with the Countryside Agency, supported by their own electorates. I feel, therefore, that my noble friend's fears, which are based on unhappy past experience, are unjustified.

I was at a meeting for AONBs yesterday: Cotswolds, Chilterns, High Weald in Sussex and West Sussex. All four are, I think it is fair to say, strong supporters of this Bill, though it is only likely that the Chilterns will make use of it.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Duty of certain bodies and persons to have regard to conservation and enhancement of areas of outstanding natural beauty]:

4.15 p.m.

Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 1, line 23, after ("authority") insert ("and any land occupier or manager")

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 4 I wish at the same time to speak to Amendment No. 22. One of the great weaknesses of this Bill as it currently stands is in its general and, I hope unintentional, failure to take due notice of rural communities and the rights

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of landowners, occupiers and managers. A Bill that does not give adequate weight to human dimensions of an AONB will not only be bound to fail but also will be deeply resented by country people.

It is surely not unreasonable that those individuals and communities who will be most affected by this legislation, and indeed may even bear some of the indirect costs, should be adequately represented and consulted. This amendment ensures that that will be the case. It plugs an unfortunate oversight in the Bill as drafted, and recognises that at the day to day level it is the owners and occupiers who will be the most significant factor in caring for and developing AONBs, and as such it is they who must address this Bill.

Amendment No. 22 again attempts to address the major weakness of the Bill: the indifference of its effect on the stakeholders. The people most directly affected by the management plan are the only parties ignored in consultation. I assume that the management changes will place new responsibilities, liabilities and restrictions on the stakeholders, and that they would be informed of them. It seems reasonable that the stakeholders should be made aware of the proposals and the new responsibilities and restrictions before they are adopted. That is the argument underlying the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: I follow the remarks of my noble friend Lord Renton on Clause 1 stand part. He referred to the representation on his particular AONB by local councillors and bodies, to which I am not objecting. In many areas of outstanding natural beauty the local authority, indeed the parish council representation, is increasingly from immigrant populations who commute out, or are retired. (I know that it will be said, "I would say that, wouldn't I".) They are in the countryside but they are not part of it. They are not, therefore, representative of those who work there. Those people are more articulate than we are as farmers, and they also have more time to express their views.

Perhaps I could add one point, and perhaps the noble Lord will explain the position to me. At the end of the day the membership of the boards will be will be similar to that for national parks. As I understand it--and I am sure I shall be corrected if I am wrong--at the moment the Secretary of State appoints one half minus one, and one half plus one are representatives of the wider national interest; the remainder are parish representatives. Therefore, it is argued that that is local representation of people who live and work within the park or, in this case, the AONB. As I pointed out, I do not believe that that is so.

I am sure that the Countryside Commission will put this forward as a reason as to why we should not adopt my noble friend's argument about those who work and live in the countryside. As I said, they are not necessarily representative--in fact, far from it--of those who work and live there.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I speak first to Amendment No. 4. The Government cannot accept the amendment. We see the attraction of the principle but it

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is not a practical suggestion to bestow a legal duty of this nature on private citizens. That was not done in the 1995 Act for national parks and we should need to look at that point very carefully indeed.

The Government also cannot accept Amendment No. 22, which requires copies of AONB management plans or proposed amendments to be copied to every property manager, owner or occupier. That would be a very wide group and difficult to define. There are many thousands of such people in many AONBs.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: With the greatest respect, I believe that we were debating Amendments Nos. 4 and 20.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Amendment No. 22.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: But Amendment No. 22 refers to,

    "every affected property manager, owner or occupier". I thought that the noble Baroness was talking about the consultation process.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: No, Amendment No. 22.

Lord Rotherwick: I am grateful once again to Members of the Committee. I am slightly sad that the Government have difficulty in accepting the first amendment in this group. The aim of both the amendments is to make certain that the people who are at the sharp end have an ability to put forward their views. Likewise, Amendment No. 22 tries to make sure that everyone knows what those conservation boards are doing. We must return to that matter at a later stage. We are very worried that conservation boards may embark upon a course of action which the land occupiers and managers know nothing about and have no opportunity to put right.

However, since I cannot achieve a general acceptance of the amendment, I must therefore beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Management and conservation of areas of outstanding natural beauty]:

Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 2, line 22, after ("promote") insert ("and ensure")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 5 and I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 8. It may be important to find new ways to promote wildlife, habitat and landscape. But it seems even more important to seek traditional solutions to conservation problems. The steps that have been taken to create those areas of outstanding natural beauty are likely to be needed in future to enable them to continue to be beautiful.

The word "ensure" supports the notion of sustainability. We must take a long-term view when considering these matters. The structures which we put in place will have a profound impact on our countryside for many years. If we run from one promotion to the

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next without an eye on sustainability, we shall be left with the ruins of conservation rather than the living, working countryside which we desire. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I speak first to Amendments Nos. 5 and 8. The Government cannot accept them. We do not believe that they are a practical suggestion. These amendments would place a duty on local planning authorities and conservation boards to ensure, as well as promote, the conservation and enhancement of the AONBs. We are not sure it is practical to give these bodies a duty towards outcomes in this way. Many things which might affect the AONBs could be beyond their control. They should certainly try their best, which would support a duty to promote conservation and management.

Turning to Amendments Nos. 10 and 11, these too we cannot accept. We would wish to look very carefully at the precise groups which should be consulted. We think that the requirement for the Secretary of State to consult "any relevant body" (Amendment No. 10) would be far too imprecise. Those who wish to add to the list of bodies to be consulted should come up with a researched list. The bodies and persons introduced by Amendment No. 11 might be difficult to define, but we would want to look further at who should be consulted.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: I should have risen before but, in relation to Amendment No. 11, I can see us getting into a muddle over this Bill. It probably goes better with my Amendment No. 15, and I am grateful for what the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, said on that, but I would wish to speak to that again later.

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