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Viscount Eccles: I thank the noble Baroness for that clarification and I shall read carefully what she has said. I also apologise for being a bit too quick to withdraw my amendment. If she will allow me, I shall deal with it at the right time.
Baroness Byford: I thank the Minister for her courteous response. I have listened carefully to what she has said. She suggested that the amendment may mean that Natural England could not review certain purposes more often. However, it is clear that the amendment does not say that. It specifies that matters should be kept under review not less than annually. In our short periods of debate on the Bill we have spent a considerable time debating the whole question of the general purpose clause. I have to say that I am very disappointed with the Minister's answer and I wish to test the opinion of the Committee.
The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 135 would apply to Clause 4 which concerns the bodies to which Natural England should give advice. In this clause there are a number of references to public authorities; for example, local authorities and so on.
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One omission that my amendment aims to correct is the Government and Ministers. My amendment, which may be more than a probing amendment, seeks to discover how much teeth Natural England is supposed to have with regard to the Government and whether Ministers should pay due regard to advice given to them by Natural England.
Defra is likely to have a very close relationship with Natural England. I do not expect there to be any particular problem. After all, Defra is its sponsoring body. However, we should look at other government departments, such as the ODPM, the DTI, the Department for Transport and the MoD, which has a particularly good record of paying attention to biodiversity matters. On several occasions I have had the great pleasure of looking at some of the projects which it is undertaking. There is no doubt that government departments and Ministers need to pay attention and should have a statutory obligation, like all other agencies and public authorities in Britain, to take regard of the advice of Natural England. Without that, the hours that we have spent debating the statutory purpose will count for very little. It is the decisions of government departments that often literally change the face of Britain in many ways. For that reason alone, this amendment is very important.
It is also important to hear from the Government the exact demarcationI am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, is not in her placebetween Natural England and the Environment Agency with regard to the advice that is given on things natural. The Environment Agency has a very big part to play, albeit a more regulatory part very often. Natural England's role is to do research, to give advice, and so on. However, when considering estuaries and migrating fish, the role of the Environment Agency moves out of the regulatory and into far more of the research and advice-giving area. It is far from clear to me exactly what the demarcation between the two bodies will be. I believe that there may be in existence a memorandum of agreement between English Nature and the Environment Agency. I would be interested to know whether that will carry over into Natural England. If it is, will it carry over in exactly the form that it is in now or will it be adapted to take account of the much wider remit of Natural England?
We referred to the marine Bill on the second day in Committee. The Government have said that they are preparing a marine Bill. I hope that the provisions of this Bill will be applicable to that Bill and that it will not need redrawing in great detail when we come to it. I do not expect that we will get this Bill perfect, but, as the Government have committed themselves to the marine Bill and know that it is coming in the near future, we should take account of that fact. With that in mind, and as we move into the marine area, the Environment Agency has responsibilities that one might expect to sit with Natural England.
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For those two reasons, I very much want to hear what the Minister has to say on how the Government expect the advice of Natural England to be converted into having some teeth when it comes to the effect on other government departments. I beg to move.
The Duke of Montrose: As we seem to be addressing "advice", two of our amendments are grouped with Amendment No. 135. My amendments are to Clause 4. On Amendment No. 138, I should like to determine whether this really relates to Clause 4. The explanation I have here is that Clause 11 confers on Natural England the right to charge for its services, and specifies things done underI quote from the Bill hereSection 4. This shows my inexperience in things, but I believe that the terms are interchangeable. Can the Minister clarify that? If it is really intended to refer to subsection(4) of Clause 11, that is to do with licences. The word "give" is defined as bestow, impart, yield, grant and gift. The point of this amendment is to discover whether Clause 11 refers to the fact that it applies only in Clause 4(4)(a), or whether the use of the word "give" here is inappropriate. "Provide" or "supply" allow for the making of a charge and would be clearer in this context.
Amendment No. 149 follows quite closely on the previous one about giving advice, but how do the Government imagine that Natural England will charge for advice that has been given unsought? Is this a situation where somebody might receive a bill for being told by Natural England that his plan to grub up a field of 50-year-old apple trees would be acceptable only if he first obtained a quantity of viable root-stock, so that the variety would not be lost; or would he be charged if he had sought its advice on how best to manage the operation? If somebody went ahead and did it without seeking the advice or consent of Natural England, might they then be charged for being told that they should not have done so?
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