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Lord Jopling: That is helpful. I thank my noble friend. I become first depressed and then encouraged as the Committee stage goes on. I am deeply depressed to hear the comments of the Minister when she says, as I understood her to say, that she wants compulsory powers left. I thought she said she would not use them very often.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I expressed myself very carefully. The position is that the Government have yet to reach a conclusion. At this stage the Government take the view that compulsory purchase order powers may be desirable, and were that to be the Government's view when they reach a final conclusion in due time, it would be in the context of them being used very occasionally.

Lord Jopling: I have sat in this building now for 35 years, either reading out ministerial briefs like that or listening to them, and if I know anything about ministerial briefs, it is a straw in the wind that the Government would like to see a board of this sort having compulsory powers. That is why when I heard what she said--and I believe I heard it correctly the first time--it made me infinitely depressed. If we are to have such

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boards, the last thing in the world they want are compulsory powers. I applaud my noble friend for seeking to remove the compulsory powers from the Bill.

I understand that there may be occasions when such a board might wish to acquire land, if only to have an office. Therefore I should not go to the wall over subsection (5), but I certainly should go to the wall over compulsory powers.

Baroness Byford: Perhaps I, too, may add a few comments on these amendments. I am personally disappointed but I can perhaps clarify the matter and I hope that the noble Baroness will follow my line of thinking. She is in a slightly difficult position today in that obviously the Government--soon, soon and very soon and maybe soon--will be bringing forward proposals.

These amendments perhaps touch on aspects of their forward thinking on which the noble Baroness is not allowed to disclose her hand. I hope my English is reasonably balanced on that, for the noble Baroness does not know what the final intention of the Government will be, and therefore is being careful in her views on compulsory purchase.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, for giving way. She understood my point. We are not saying that we would require or wish to have compulsory purchase powers. We are saying that at this stage we do not wish to rule it out. That must not be interpreted as ruling it in. We are ruling nothing in and nothing out in this context. We are not even ruling in or out the boards to which they would apply.

Baroness Byford: I thank the noble Baroness for coming back to me. I felt that was the position, but I have to say I sympathise with my noble friend Lord Jopling because I too become more and more disheartened, and even more frightened, by the fact that whatever power they have might be used occasionally. I have been in this Chamber not quite three years and other Members of the Committee have been here for much longer, but one thing I learned very quickly in listening and taking Bills through this Chamber is that, if it is not written in the Bill, one should be aware of it. It can sometimes bring complications.

I support my noble friend and am grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton who obviously listened carefully to the views of people at Second Reading in relation to the use of compulsory powers. I also support the other amendment which is being put forward and hope that I clarified the position for the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington. She is in a difficult position at the moment.

Lord Chorley: As we are having a useful discussion on compulsory purchase, which I hope is of use to the Minister and her officials, I must say that I had not thought about compulsory purchase until it cropped up at Second Reading. I said then, on the hoof, that I was not in favour of it. The more I think about it, the less inclined I feel that it is a good idea to have compulsory purchase powers in the Bill. I therefore support this

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series of Amendments Nos. 32 to 38. It is simply a bridge too far. One needs to be careful about who has the right to compulsorily purchase.

With regard to Amendment No. 17 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, it would be a mistake to circumscribe a conservation board by not being able to acquire or dispose of land. One cannot envisage specific circumstances where it may be important to deal with an issue by buying land or disposing of it and therefore the board should be given those powers. But like the noble Lord, Lord Renton, I assume that they would be rarely used, not least because the board probably would not have the money to do much buying.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: I hope when I leave this Chamber in November that two things will be written on my obituary: one is opposition to compulsory powers at any time and, I am afraid, promoting dog registration. Therefore I strongly support what my noble friend Lord Renton said about not intending to have compulsory purchase powers in this Bill, which was supported strongly by my noble friend Lord Jopling.

I was extremely worried by the remarks of the noble Baroness. She sounded just like the potential bride who says, "No", fully knowing that in the end she is going to give in. I felt all along that that may happen. I sincerely hope that it does not. I presume that the noble Baroness will object to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, as she has to the others. I should like to have some provision in the Bill that we would not have compulsory purchase. I feel strongly about this. If the issue comes up again, I shall press the matter.

Lord Rotherwick: I am grateful to my noble friend, Lord Renton, for having taken on board all we said at Second Reading about compulsory purchase. However, I have difficulty in finding sympathy with anything he said about acquisition and disposal of land. There are some basic problems with this attitude. We are talking about an unelected board. Earlier we talked about the provision being a template and something one could opt into. What happens if we want to opt out of this conservation board? Who then holds the title of the land? These are real problems. I am sure that the conservation board could advise the local authority to purchase the land and dispose of it on its behalf.

I also raise the question of funding. If the conservation boards have continuity of funding year in, year out, I should have thought that the level of that funding would not be able to take in these large purchase prices. What would happen if a large chunk of money came in?

I cannot see a way around this problem. I have to put on record and inform the Minister that time and time again we shall come back to this issue and do all that we can to stop the compulsory purchase acquisition or the ability to dispose of land by an unelected body. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Lord Jopling: May we not have the opportunity to vote on Amendments Nos. 32 to 37 which have been tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Renton?

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount Allenby of Megiddo): I inform the Committee that amendments are taken in order. Those will come later.

Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 18:

Page 3, line 19, after ("order") insert ("including representatives of the land managers affected")

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 18, I wish also to speak to Amendment No. 19. We cannot ignore that most of the land affected by this legislation is private property. The legislation already represents a degrading of the landowner's right. This should not be done without representation. If the management scheme is to succeed it must involve the stakeholders and their unique experience in that landscape. Some argue that this would be like making inmates into wardens, but despite such malicious propaganda, it is the vast majority of the landowners who are the guardians of the land. Their involvement would create a better atmosphere as well as incorporating significant local knowledge. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The Government would not wish to accept the amendment until we have had an opportunity to look carefully at the desirability of having advisory councils and consider their membership in depth. The amendment would require that land managers' representatives would be among the membership of such an advisory council.

We have no doubt that by their very nature, representatives of many groups with an interest in the AONB--including importantly not those that the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, feared he saw as inmates and wardens, but as partners in the many diverse circumstances of AONBs--would not wish to be tied at this stage.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: I am somewhat surprised at the view the Minister has put forward with regard to advisory councils, and the suspicion, almost worry, about them. I should have thought that this was a development that would be widely welcomed by the Government as without dealing with the board's composition as such, it enlarges the area into which people could come on an advisory basis in order to give the benefit of their advice and their experience to a conservation board.

The Government have not yet made their mind up about this matter and therefore the Minister opposes the amendment. I submit that that is true of the whole Bill. The noble Baroness has said that all along and it seems somewhat otiose, therefore, to say it in detail about an advisory council. The Government make a point of believing in people power, consultation with and advice from as many bodies as possible. I went out of my way to include this advisory council without any suggestion, I may say, from the Countryside Commission that I should do so, simply in order to widen the brief, bearing in mind the comments that I expected to hear, so that

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those who would be consulted would have a chance to air their views about the direction in which the conservation boards were going.

I do not agree with the amendment of my noble friend Lord Rotherwick. I find the Minister's response very odd because the Government do not have to reply in depth on every point in the Bill. We know they do not accept it as such; we know that someone will object in the House of Commons when it arrives there. As a result of her brief, rather as with the question of compulsory purchase on which we shall have to vote, she is giving us the impression that she is more of a dragon than she wants to be. Some of the things she is saying she cannot accept are, I suspect, things which she would very much like to see as developments.

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