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Baroness Wilkins: My Lords, I add my thanks to the Government for bringing forward these regulations, which are, as other noble Lords have said, extremely welcome. They mean that disabled people will have more opportunities for socialising, networking and taking part in political life, and that yet another barrier to disabled people having equal opportunities in taking part in ordinary everyday life has been removed. The Government are to be congratulated.
Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, I too welcome the regulations. It is overdue that the same rights and privileges that have been extended to disabled people from the 1995 Act onwards should extend to their activities in clubs. I have no doubt about that.
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I was going to ask the Minister various questions about "reasonableness" in this particular circumstance, but since the same test will be used as has been used previously in respect of public buildings and so on, I do not think that it is necessary. However, I think it is necessary to follow up a point made in another place by my honourable friend the Member for Wells, which was that Parliament passes legislation and so often expects others to execute it. There is a well trodden path on disability legislation, which we all know aboutat least there has been up to now. The aggrieved person would normally turn to the Disability Rights Commission. In passing, I congratulate the Government on setting that up in the first place. As I say, he would normally turn to the DRC after his complaint to the perpetrator of the alleged offence had been ignored. The commission, if it thought it right, would then take up the case. That was the position when we debated the Bill earlier this year.
However, the DRC is about to disappear into a body called, I believe, the equal opportunity and human rights commission. Clearly, the latter will have the capability to act for the complainant, but will it have the same clout that the DRC has achieved in its short lifetime in sorting out the disabled person's problems, not only as a last resort but in taking cases to court?
Lastly, there is a whole raft of regulations flowing from two Acts. Are there any plans within the department to consolidate both them and the two Acts into a single entity, not necessarily an Act but into plain man's language, so that those affected by them can readily understand what is being demanded of them? I understood the Minister just now to tell us that there would be a plain man's guide to access to clubs following up this order, but that is only a part of the whole general scheme which I believe is required.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I welcome the general support that noble Lords from all sides of the House have given to this regulation and the provisions contained in it. That is very welcome and much appreciated. I also would like to pay tribute to the London clubs and, generally, the private clubs, which have been in communication with my department for their positive response. That is very welcome and should be commended.
I am interested in consolidation. I cannot give the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, a guarantee. All I will say to him is that I shall endeavour to see what can be done because, as someone who was brought up on NHS Acts and who constantly found problems with the lack of consolidation, I very much understand the problem. As ever, one finds that, in prioritisation terms, it is sometimes difficult to get consolidation, but I certainly understand his point.
The noble Lord raised the test of reasonableness with me before the debate. He did not ask me any questions on it because, he is right, it follows existing precedent. I shall undertake to write to him and to the
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noble Lord, Lord Addington, perhaps with an outline of some of the issues, if both noble Lords would find that helpful, and I can place a copy of that correspondence in the Library.
On the DRC and the equalities commission that is to be established, I agree with the noble Lord that the DRC has done an absolutely splendid job. Once again one must pay enormous tribute to the chair of the commission, the commissioners and the staff. How it has conducted its business has been exemplary. One test of that is its relationship with the bodies it regulates, alongside disabled people on whose behalf it works. It seems to me that the DRC has established a very good position in terms of the respect in which it is held by those it is responsible for regulating, but also the support it has received from disabled people. I do not hesitate to pay tribute to it.
We think that there is great advantage in bringing the various agencies together, and that is why we are taking legislation through Parliament. The noble Lord will know that the intention is to set up a special committee, particularly charged with looking at disability matters. We want to add value and bring the best of all three bodies into this new organisation. If that new body follows the example of the DRC, it will be very well placed to take on these duties. I am grateful for the comments.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton rose to move, That the draft Farm Woodland Premium Schemes (Amendment) (England) Scheme 2005 laid before the House on 2 November be approved [8th Report from the Joint Committee].
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, since 1992, farm woodland premium schemes have encouraged woodland creation by providing annual payments for up to 15 years to help compensate farmers for loss of income as a result of converting agricultural land to woodland. They form part of the England Rural Development Programme and so come under Pillar 2 of the common agricultural policy.
The Farm Woodland Premium Scheme 1992 was closed to new applicants in 1997 when it was replaced by the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme 1997. However, payments continue to be made to agreement holders under the 1992 scheme, and both schemes thus remain in force.
This short draft statutory instrument before your Lordships makes two principal amendments. First, it sets out the adjustment that will be made to payments made under the Farm Woodland Premium Schemes 1992 and 1997, in the case of scheme land that is used as set aside in England, following the most recent reforms of the common agricultural policy.
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Most farmers are required to set aside from production a certain proportion of their arable land in order to claim support payments under Pillar 1 of the CAP. Under the new CAP single payment scheme that was introduced with effect from 1 January 2005, farmers can use farm woodland premium scheme land to meet their set-aside obligations in certain circumstances. In England they will receive a set-aside payment under the single payment scheme for farm woodland premium scheme land used in this way. Therefore, where farmers choose to use all or part of their farm woodland premium scheme payment, we propose to reduce their farm woodland premium scheme payment by an amount equivalent to the set-aside payment being received in respect of the land concerned. This is necessary to prevent the same measure being doubled funded under different European Community provisions, since the set-aside payment is partially restoring the income lost as a result of afforestation, for which the FWPS payment is intended to compensate.
The second amendment closes the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme 1997 to new applicants in England. Entry into the farm woodland premium scheme has always been conditional upon the woodland concerned being planted with support under the Forestry Commission's woodland grant scheme.
The woodland grant scheme has been replaced in England with effect from July 2005 by a new Forestry Commission scheme, the English woodland grant scheme. The English woodland grant scheme comprises a range of incentives to encourage the creation of new woodland and the stewardship of existing woodland, including income for payments comparable to those previously available under the farm woodland premium scheme.
Closure of the original woodland grant scheme and its replacement by the English woodland grant scheme means that the farm woodland premium scheme is already, to all intents and purposes, closed to new applicants in England. The order formalises that closure. Some minor additional amendments are also included in the draft instrument to update the interpretation of provisions with the two farm woodland schemes. I beg to move.
Moved, That the draft Farm Woodland Premium Schemes (Amendment) (England) Scheme 2005 laid before the House on 2 November be approved [8th Report from the Joint Committee].(Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton.)
Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, who I think has been troubled with what I have been troubled by all weekenda terrible cold. Perhaps neither of us should have been debating on Friday when I suspect that neither of us were feeling very well. I thank the Minister for explaining the statutory instrument. Obviously, in principle, we support it. However, I should like to ask a couple of questions about it.
The Minister rightly said that the payment will be made from money allocated under Pillar 2. If, for any reason, the Government find themselves having to
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renegotiate the common agricultural policy payments under the reform to which we have already agreed, it is suggested that some money under Pillar 2 may well be squeezed. What guarantee can the Minister give the House tonight that those payments will not be jeopardised?
Secondly, the Minister spoke about the obligation for payments to be made for such land, that can or has been used for set-aside. She also referred to double funding. I understand double funding, but, if a farmer already has set-aside land and is not in the scheme, how much per acreor hectare, I do not mind whichdoes he get for that before the new scheme comes into being?
My last question is very short. The Minister told us tonight that the scheme will be run by the Forestry Commission. I presume that it will continue to be run by the Forestry Commission, even though Natural England will be established. The noble Baroness will remember that on Second Reading of that Bill, there was quite a discussion about what payments would be made by Natural England and about the close working relationship between Natural England and the Forestry Commission, which is not being included in Natural England. I am still not positive whether the Forestry Commission will continue to be the payers, rather than the organisers of it. I would be grateful for clarification of those three points and I hope that the noble Baroness will soon be feeling much better.
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