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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, my Amendment No. 238C only makes sense now that the Minister has explained Amendments Nos. 239 to 243. I am extremely grateful to him for what he said. Under the original draft of the Bill before us in Committee, the fact that parish council members could be appointed by the Secretary of State caused concern because we felt that it gave the Secretary of State too great a power of appointment. That is now removed. It is a very welcome concession and I am grateful to the Government for it.

Amendment No. 238C, which is grouped with these amendments, concerns those members that the Secretary of State can still appoint. It requires the Secretary of State to make those appointments from a list of nominees obtained from local conservation bodies and other relevant organisations. The Secretary of State is bound to do that because there is no point in appointing anyone other than local people to these local bodies.

Again, I should have thought that this was another of those irresistible amendments which the Minister ought at the very least to consider seriously. I do not expect an answer from him now. However, I should have thought that he could accept those words and find the situation satisfactory from the point of view of the conservation boards in the future. I ask the Minister to consider Amendment No. 238C very seriously indeed.

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1.15 a.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, we on these Benches feel that the government move to allow parishes to appoint their own members is very positive. It will send out a good message to parish councils about government trust in their abilities.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps I may respond very briefly. Now I have said that! I hate people saying "very briefly". They never mean it--and I do not mean it.

Let me deal first with the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. It is similar to the one he proposed in Committee and I have already spoken to that. I do not think that it is an improvement on the Government's proposals. I understand the desire to keep the number of members down, but we do not see a need to tie our hands in advance.

Under the noble Lord's proposal there would be a likely maximum of 12 local authority members, which would not allow every local authority to have even one representative in bigger AONBs such as the Chilterns or the Cotswolds where there are some 15 local authorities. I believe that this would be an obstacle to getting local authorities to participate in conservation boards. The noble Lord seems to envisage that local authorities and parish councils will come together by some mechanism to agree on the distribution of their membership. I think that our proposal to have parish councils make their own choice is better.

Amendment No. 238C would require the Secretary of State's members of conservation boards to be appointed,

    "from a list of nominees obtained from local conservation bodies and other relevant organisations".

That is more restrictive than our proposal. The Secretary of State will, of course, expect to make his appointments taking into account the nominations coming from local conservative bodies as well as from other organisations. The process will be based on the Nolan principles for public appointments--appointments on merit following the principles of independent scrutiny, equal opportunities, openness and transparency. But it would be a shame for this body, but not for any other comparable bodies, to have a restriction on who could nominate prospective candidates for membership. No restriction is imposed on the membership of national park authorities. Members of such authorities were not, of course, appointed according to the Nolan procedures. But if we now have those procedures, surely we do not need to have restricted nominating bodies.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, in the light of the government amendments, which I find satisfactory, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 13 [Areas of outstanding natural beauty: conservation boards]:

[Amendment No. 238C not moved.]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendments Nos. 239 to 243:

    Page 138, line 2, at end insert (", and

(c) in the case of an English conservation board, such number of parish members as may be so specified.").
Page 138, line 3, leave out sub-paragraph (2).

    Page 139, line 2, leave out from ("appointed") to end of line 3 and insert (", in accordance with the provisions of the relevant order, by--

(a) the parish councils for parishes the whole or any part of which is comprised in the relevant area of outstanding natural beauty, and
(b) the parish meetings of any of those parishes which do not have separate parish councils.").
Page 139, line 33, leave out sub-paragraph (7).

    Page 140, line 7, leave out sub-paragraph (6).

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 80 [General purposes and powers]:

[Amendments Nos. 244 and 245 not moved.]

Clause 81 [Orders establishing conservation boards]:

[Amendment No. 246 not moved.]

Clause 82 [Management plans]:

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 247:

    Page 57, line 15, after ("prepare") insert (", consult locally on").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps I may follow the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and speak at some considerable length on Amendments Nos. 247 to 249.

Amendments Nos. 247 and 248 are self-explanatory. Amendment No. 247 provides that conservation boards should publish plans, but that they should consult locally on them. As for Amendment No. 248, we believe that management plans should be reviewed within 12 months. This should be a priority, as boards may wish to change their initial plans. The provision in the amendment would add to their flexibility.

Amendment No. 249 provides that the conservation board may review and adopt any plan prepared in the period before the board existed or in the subsequent two years. Under Clause 82(5)(a), the plan could have been prepared by a single authority, which need not cover the whole AONB. In fact, one could assume that it would not cover the whole. If it did, there would be no need for a conservation board. In such a circumstance there should be a statutory duty on the board to consult other local authorities wholly or partly covered by the AONB.

Perhaps I may also speak to Amendment No. 249A, which is tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord Renton of Mount Harry. This requires a published response to every management plan within six months. That seems to me to be an extremely sensible proposition and one that I support. I beg to move.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Glentoran for what he said in support of my amendment. Quite simply, the point of my amendment is to ensure that, once management

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plans have been sent to the Minister and public bodies, a reply is received. Under Clause 83(2), the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales may receive a copy of a management plan, but there is no requirement upon them to reply. So what is likely to happen? What will the Secretary of State do with the plan? Will he put it in a drawer, will he bin it or does he reply to it? The fact is that far too infrequently does the Secretary of State reply. Indeed, I receive comments on this from many people working for national parks. It is a matter of vexation to them and could be so for conservation boards in the future. After spending a great deal of time and effort on producing a management plan, nothing more is heard from the Minister or the department concerned.

The amendment is directed particularly at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. At the heart of this amendment is the acceptance that national parks authorities or conservation boards which prepare management plans have no direct influence upon farming management. The main influence on agricultural land management is concentrated on the activities of MAFF and the Forestry Commission. These government departments and agencies are in charge of delivering all the Government's intervention systems which influence agriculture. However--and this is the crux of the matter--there is no obligation, apart from the general duties clause, for government departments or their agents to take action in the delivery of management plan objectives.

My amendment would not tie other government departments to take particular action. All it would do is require them to say, "We agree with this; we are getting on with it", or, "We don't agree with this, and these are the reasons why". This is a sensible amendment that I very much hope Ministers will be able to adopt. When replying to a similar amendment that I tabled in Committee, the Minister was rather off hand. I think that that is a mistake. What I am suggesting here allows room for disagreement. It would not tie the Minister's hand and oblige him to agree to do things that he does not wish to do. However, it would require him to say something in reply. I very much hope that the amendment will receive support from all sides of the House and, indeed, from the Government Front Bench.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, we on these Benches support Amendment No. 249A. As the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said, there is not much point in producing a plan if the Government make no response whatever to it. Moreover, in terms of plans there are many others to which the Government do respond in one way or another; for example, local transport plans, local development plans and community strategies. Surely this plan will fit in with that pattern of response.

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