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Baroness Byford: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I was not trying to be mischievous. The phraseology suggested that the matter should be raised. Indeed, I was merely seeking clarification rather than the inclusion of GMOs under the clause.

Perhaps I may ask one question. First, as regards costings, has his department given thought to the kind of costings likely to be involved now or which are anticipated in the future or is this a little like a ball of string--unquantifiable?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the costings involved in carrying out our duties under the convention, which have now been crystallised under the terms of the Bill, are included within the forward plans of the department under various headings, as well as under MAFF and certain other departments. They have been included in the current CSR figures.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me for rising again. We have no idea of the costs involved here. Surely the Minister can provide an estimate of what kind of figures are being contemplated here.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, perhaps I may consult on the question and write to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his helpful explanation. In the light of that explanation, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

[Amendment No. 199B, as an amendment to Amendment No. 199A, by leave withdrawn.]

[Amendment No. 199C, as an amendment to Amendment No. 199A, not moved.]

On Question, Amendment No. 199A agreed to.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 200:


(" .--(1) English Nature, with respect to England, and the Countryside Council for Wales, with respect to Wales, may make byelaws for the protection of all or part of a site of special scientific interest (and may make different provisions for different parts thereof) under section 20 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 (byelaws for the protection of nature reserves).

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(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), byelaws under that section as it applies by virtue of this section, may--
(a) prohibit or restrict the entry into, or movement within, the site of persons, vehicles, boats and animals;
(b) prohibit or restrict--
(i) the killing, taking, molesting or disturbance of living creatures of any description in the site;
(ii) the taking, destruction or disturbance of eggs of any such creature;
(iii) the taking of, or interference with, vegetation of any description in the site; or
(iv) the doing of anything in the site which will interfere with the soil or damage any object in the site;
(c) prohibit the deposition of rubbish and the leaving of litter in the site; and
(d) prohibit or restrict, or provide for the prohibiting or restricting, the lighting of fires in the site or the doing of anything likely to cause a fire in the site.
(3) Byelaws made under section 20 of the 1949 Act may prohibit or restrict any activity referred to in subsection (2) within such area surrounding or adjoining the site as appears reasonable for the protection of the site.
(4) Byelaws made under section 20 of the 1949 Act may provide for the issue, on such terms and subject to such conditions as may be specified in the byelaws, or permits authorising--
(a) entry into the site or any such surrounding or adjoining areas as mentioned in subsection (3), or
(b) the doing of anything within the site, or any such surrounding or adjoining area, where such entry, or doing that thing, would otherwise be unlawful under the byelaws.
(5) Byelaws made under section 20 of the 1949 Act as it applies by virtue of subsection (1) shall not interfere with--
(a) the exercise by any person of a right vested in him as owner, lessee or occupier of land within the site of special scientific interest, or in any such surrounding or adjoining area as is mentioned in subsection (3);
(b) the exercise of any public right or way; or
(c) the exercise of any functions of a section 28G authority.
(6) Where the exercise of any right vested in a person, whether by reason of his being entitled to any interest in land or by virtue of a licence or agreement, is prevented or hindered by the coming into operation byelaws made under section 20 of the 1949 Act as it applies by virtue of subsection (1), he shall be entitled to receive from English Nature, with respect to England, or the Countryside Council for Wales, with respect to Wales, compensation thereof.
(7) If any person without reasonable excuse (proof whereof shall lie on him) contravenes any byelaw made under section 20 of the 1949 Act as it applies by virtue of subsection (1), he shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding, in the case of a first offence, level 1 on the standard scale; in the case of a second offence, level 2 on the standard scale and in the case of a third and subsequent offence, level 3 on the standard scale.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, at the moment there is nothing on the face of the Bill to replace the Section 29 orders that the Bill removes. Therefore SSSIs which are not part of a national nature reserve nor part of internationally important sites are left without any effective protection against a particular threat. That is why we have brought forward Amendment No. 200. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, has sent me a note to say that I may speak strongly on his behalf--although I would never presume to speak as strongly as the noble Lord.

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Since I tabled the amendment, the Government have brought forward Amendments Nos. 210 and 211. I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about those. Contrary to the previous group of amendments, the government amendments--which cover the same issue--are much shorter than ours. I welcome that. I hope that the government amendments will cover the gap left in the Bill, which would make the less important SSSIs--if one can call them that--vulnerable and without protection in case of need. I beg to move.

Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, I was interested in what the noble Baroness said about SSSIs. However, I wonder whether she is not going far too far with her amendment, bearing in mind the powers already available in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Some of us who sat on the committee--including the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath--remember 26 sittings in another place dealing with the Wildlife and Countryside Bill, with particular reference to SSSIs from Section 28 onwards which gave immense powers to English Nature and the Scottish Nature Conservancy Council, subsequently SNH. I am fortunate to have been on both sides because, after being involved in taking the Act through another place, I was for nine years a member of the council implementing it.

One can see the great value of the SSSI system. One's only worry is that English Nature already has immense powers, and, of course, conversely in Wales and Scotland. I often feel that we are going rather further than the Act, particularly in regard to the extension of the SSSIs and the action that could be taken against a potentially damaging operation.

There was a very good article in The Times on 4th November by Magnus Linklater--whose wife, the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, is not in her place--who writes extremely well. The article refers to Scotland but the same impact could occur here with English Nature. The article states:

    "Later this month five vast areas of rural Scotland, totalling some 200,000 acres of hill and moor, are to be designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The aim is to preserve not people, but wild birds; or, to be precise, one particular species of wild bird--the hen harrier",

and so on.

When we drew up the 1981 Act, we did not anticipate SSSIs of such enormous size. Even in my day on the NCC, there were moves to make large tracts of the Pennines into SSSIs. I do not think that that was the original intention; it was for much smaller, concentrated areas which could be managed more simply. When one sees SSSIs of 200,000 acres, one begins to wonder whether one is not merely nationalising land and preventing hard-pressed farmers from carrying out a great many operations that they would like to carry out and which would cause no harm at all.

When one has an SSSI, there are probably 15 or 20 matters on which one has to obtain permission before any action can be taken in terms of agricultural

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operation. Therefore, we must be very careful about giving greater powers to English Nature as regards its control of SSSIs, as the new clause seeks to do. We should move forward with great caution. The vast majority of people who are responsible for SSSIs, whether owners or tenants, look after them extremely well. They will not welcome further draconian powers being given to English Nature which will make it even more difficult for them to fulfil their duties. When people are hard-pressed financially, it is particularly difficult for them to enhance SSSIs or indeed the habitat of a farm, which can only come out of the profits, which at present are minimal or not there.

So, while I appreciate the wish behind the amendment, we should be very careful about increasing the powers that relate to SSSIs through English Nature and ultimately through the Minister responsible for rural affairs. I merely suggest a note of caution. We should not rush into this without careful thought. The powers are there, and we do not want to see them extended.

9.30 p.m

Baroness Young of Old Scone: My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of English Nature. Perhaps I may take issue with a couple of points made by the noble Lord, Lord Monro. My experience, based on conversations that I have had with upland farmers, is that they are absolutely delighted if their land is designated an SSSI, because it is one of the few ways in which they can get additional income into their pockets as a result of management agreements on SSSI land at a time when they are indeed hard-pressed for funds. I am delighted to see that many farmers, both in the uplands and the lowlands, see conservation money as a useful adjunct to their income in these difficult times.

I also wish that it were possible to designate great tracts of the uplands of England for hen harriers. Alas, owing to illegal persecution in a quite shameful way, we are now down to fewer than 20 pairs of hen harriers in England. I support government Amendments Nos. 210, 211, 219 and 220. Bylaws can already be enacted on European sites and on national nature reserves. The amendments simply extend the provision to all SSSIs. It is much easier to prove infringement of by-laws than it is to prove damage to SSSIs. It adds a means of prevention rather than shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. I strongly support these amendments.

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