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Baroness Byford: I apologise to my noble friend. He is sitting behind me and perhaps did not quite hear. I understand that my Amendments Nos. 515A to 515G are dealt with before we return to debate Amendment No. 515. I hope that that clarifies the position.
These are probing amendments to clarify the proposed new schedule. Amendment No. 515A simply raises a question. The Minister may well tell me that it is obvious, but I am not sure why the title of Amendment No. 515 refers to "Transitional provisions and savings". I cannot understand why savings are suddenly relevant but it may well be that that term is used in all amendments. Therefore, Amendment No. 515A simply raises that question.
Amendment No. 515B stipulates that a stop notice is handed to an owner or occupier. If I am correct, an owner has only three days' notification before a stop notice takes effect. Our postal system is much improved but not perfect, and therefore it seems right that the authority should be content that the person for whom a stop notice is intended has received it. A turnaround of three days seems a little tight. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that.
Amendment No. 515F seeks to leave out the words "one month" and to insert "four months". I believe that it is clear that the intention of the amendment is to provide a longer time schedule. There are references earlier in the Bill to "four months" rather than "one month". Therefore, I wondered why one month was being applied to this proposed new schedule where four months have been applied in earlier parts of the Bill.
I believe that this is a monster schedule which has been flung at Parliament rather at the last minute. I am willing to sit down at any time if the Minister disagrees with anything that I say; I shall gladly give way.
It seems to me that this schedule has been flung at Parliament with a minimum of consultation. It has been steam-rollered through another place and now we are faced with it here. So far, nobody has said anything to justify it.
It deals primarily with areas of outstanding natural beauty. It seems to treat them as though they were national parks. It sets up conservation boards and places some obligation upon them, which is probably a good thing, to foster the economic and social well-being of the community.
I find this schedule objectionable. There has been very little consultation and I believe that the Minister owes the Committee an explanation for that. The noble Baroness is looking very disturbed. If I am mistaken, perhaps she will explain my error.
I wish to make absolutely clear my own objection to this very long new schedule with which we have been landed. I find it very difficult to believe that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, is happy to ask the Committee to accept this proposed new schedule. It is long and complicated and deals with extremely important powers. There seems to be little concern for those who are owners or otherwise involved in areas of outstanding natural beauty. In particular, I am thinking of those who live in such areas. It may be that the noble Lord can allay my anxieties. I should be grateful to him if he will do so.
Lord Whitty: The noble Lord clearly has deep-seated anxieties about the introduction of this schedule. My noble friend Lady Farrington was looking puzzled because she thought that she had explained it adequately earlier. Schedule 9 introduces no new principle to the Bill. It is a transitional
Lord Whitty: Amendment No. 515 effectively introduces the schedule. I thought it was the content of the schedule to which the noble Lord was referring as daunting, unprecedented and not consulted on. I believe that that summarises what he was saying.
Aspects of the schedule have been consulted on, as my noble friend said earlier; and the principle has definitely been consulted on. The schedule is merely a transitional mechanism for taking us from the present legislative position in relation to SSSIs and AONBs to the situation to which other schedules and clauses of the Bill will apply. Therefore, new principles are not introduced. This provision is merely a mechanism for getting us to principles on which we have consulted and which we have debated or are about to debate. I hope that that goes some way towards allaying the noble Lord's concerns. I do not deny that it is a large and complicated schedule, but I fear that transitional arrangements often are complicated.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: It may be helpful to the Committee, in this particular circumstance, were the noble Lord to describe the schedule to us, as he doubtless will when he moves his amendment. I know that it is the wrong way round, but we do not know what my noble friend is seeking to amend. It may be that we can half understand the matter from a reading of the schedule but we look forward to hearing what it is all about.
There is something wrong with the procedure here. This new proposal is being introduced in the form of an amendment and we must then discuss my noble friend's amendments, which are amending something which we do not yet understand. How can we judge my noble friend's amendments?
Lord Whitty: My noble friend Lady Farrington introduced the debate on Amendment No. 509, with which Amendment No. 515, which introduces the schedule, was grouped. She described it in some considerable detail--and the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, was concerned about her ability to stay awake throughout. It was a fairly lengthy description.
Because of the procedure that we adopt in Committee, the noble Baroness's amendments to Amendment No. 515--the key amendment--are dealt with when we reach Amendment No. 515. We dealt with the totality of the schedule at an earlier stage and
Baroness Byford: I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying a situation which has been extremely confusing. I can understand why Members of the Committee are becoming confused. The Government have spoken to Amendment No. 515 and I am now dealing with my amendments to that amendment.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: I have been confused, but ever since this argument started, I have always said that I should be willing to accept guidance from Ministers. Perhaps I may now advert to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington. At the time I said that it was really somewhat indigestible. Its indigestibility was hardly overcome by the charm and sweetness of the noble Baroness, if I may express the matter in that way. The noble Baroness could not do other than read it out. She could not sing it. It would have been a very cacophonous affair.
Lord Whitty: I accept that. For a moment, I thought that the noble Lord was asking me, or indeed my noble friend, to sing the explanation again. I am sure that when the noble Lord reads Hansard the situation will become clearer Indeed, my noble friend offered to write to the noble Lord on particular issues so that we can clarify matters before we return to this on Report.
In the meantime, there are a number of specific amendments to Amendment No. 515 with which the noble Baroness wants me to deal. Therefore, I must respond to them. Amendment No. 515A seeks to delete the word "savings" from the heading. Apparently, that is a term of art. I remember coming across this in another piece of legislation and being completely baffled by it. However, I know that it refers to those parts of the legislation which are needed to be preserved and, therefore, remain in force with the appropriate existing rights attaching to them. That is why the word "savings" appears in the schedule. Paragraph 14 of the schedule provides an illustration of that.
Amendment No. 515B deals with the issue of the stop notice and whether there should be delivery by hand. The noble Baroness's proposal may be rather impractical in some circumstances; namely, where the owner or occupier is abroad. Sections of the Town and Country Planning Act contain provision for personal service, where necessary. However, I believe that my noble friend indicated that she was grateful for this amendment because it has caused us to have some doubts as to whether the wording properly attracts the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act. Therefore, we agreed to look again at that and, if necessary, to come back to the House on Report.
Amendment No. 515D seeks to address the situation where there have been discussions about a notice of intent to carry out potentially damaging operations and the agency and the land manager have agreed to suspend the normal four-month period allowed for under the old Section 28(5). Paragraph 10(1) ensures that those agreements continue in place, where they are current, when the new provisions for SSSIs come into force. The effect of the amendments of the noble Baroness would appear to extend that to all agreements, including those that have expired before the new provisions come into effect. There seems little point to that as there is no need to make specific provision for agreements that have ended. If the agreement has expired, the operation to which it referred would be covered by paragraph 9 and could be carried out. In those circumstances, the agencies' powers to serve a stop notice may come into play if damage occurs. I hope that some wider application addresses that concern.
Amendment No. 515E addresses the situation where such agreements have been reached, but the landowner or occupier has given notice of his or her intention, before the substitution date, to terminate the agreement. There will be a period of one month from the giving of notice before the works can be carried out. Amendment No. 515E does not appear to achieve any change in that because a notice under the old Section 28(6B) cannot be given after the date when the new provisions come into force. However, it appears to be clearer if the reference is left standing.
I am unsure whether the noble Baroness referred to Amendment No. 515F, but that would relate to paragraph 10(3) of the schedule which retains a power for the land manager to terminate an agreement reached prior to the substitution date. The one-month period referred to in paragraph 10(3) is carried forward from the old Section 28(6B) and is the length of notice that the land manager needs to give to terminate the agreement and to begin work. We believe that it is fairer to owners and occupiers to have that period set at one month rather than four months.
I am not sure that I understand the purpose of Amendment No. 515G, which relates to the expression "relevant person". Those persons are set out in the old Section 28(6C) and they are the owner of the land where the agreement was made by the owner, or the occupier where the occupier made the agreement. The saver in paragraph 10(3) in relation to whether the person was a party to the agreement or not covers any changes in ownership subsequent to that agreement, so I believe it is clear who was the original party. That covers the situation where they have changed.
I appreciate that some of these responses are a little complicated, particularly the latter two. It may be sensible if I write to the noble Baroness explaining the situation in more detail.
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