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Having dealt with high principles, the future of the House and a few other things in a debate that descended somewhat from my perspective, we now return to the detail of a Bill. In this group of amendments, we come to what we should be doing when we draft legislation. I am talking about the use of the English language and precision in the meaning of Bills.
That could be read all sorts of ways. It is very imprecise and it could be positively misleading. It could perfectly properly be saying that Natural England is a function of the Commission for Rural Communities, but that is not what the Bill is about at all. One has to read the script following on from that title to find out what this is about. I therefore have a problem with the use of this brand-name title for Natural England.
I know that the Minister will say that the predecessor organisations have chosen the name. They are perfectly entitled to have their say, but we are not dictating what they should call themselves but, in effect, we are writing their birth certificate. I have a birth certificate and, from time to time, I am called on to produce it to prove who I am, say, in a legal matter or sometimes in matters concerned with the Government. Nothing that appears on my birth certificate includes anything that I am normally called. That may seem to be a mystery, but it is no less a fact. I am called "Bill" by most of my close colleagues and that name does not appear on my birth certificate, and I am called "Lord Dixon-Smith" on more formal occasions and that does not appear on my birth certificate, but everyone knows perfectly well who I am.
The title "Natural England" is not a natural title; Natural England is not a natural body. It is a wholly artificial creation; it is a government agency. For the life of me, I cannot see why we do not call it that. Of course, if subsequently it decides that it wants to be
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called by some abbreviated name, that is perfectly all right and it can do that. Here we are dealing with legislation which should be both precise and clear. That is precisely what Part 1 of the Bill is not. I am sorry that it takes a group of 90 amendments to rectify the situation. Once again, I give my thanks to the Public Bill Office for its help in deciding all the places the Bill has to be amended so that it should appear before us in proper English, in a manner that can be understood.
When we discussed this matter in Committee, I put forward two different titles. This time I have put forward only one title. We should be consistent in what we are doing. I think Natural England should be called "Commission for Natural England". That would precisely describe what it is, an entirely human organisation, an entirely human creation, a government agency, or whatever one chooses to call it. "Commission for Natural England and the Commission for Rural Communities" would be a consistent and understandable title for Part 1 of the Bill. In my view,
Lord Carter: My Lords, we debated this matter in Committee. It would be a shame, when the Bill becomes an Act, if we sent this extremely important body into the world with a risible title. As I said in Committeethese are true storiesI mentioned this name to someone, who said that it sounded like a brand of yoghurt. The other day, I tried it on someone else, who said that it sounded like a health farm. The letter that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, read out said it all; if we have the Commission for Rural Communities, why on earth can we not have the commission for natural England?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Bach): My Lords, we thought long about the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and by other noble Lords in Committee, about the name of the new body, but we still believe that the name Natural England and its strapline, "For people, places and nature", best sum up what this agency is to be aboutconserving and enhancing for us all to enjoy, now and in the future, the national treasure that is England's natural environment.
I remind the House that the name was proposed by the chairman of the three predecessor organisationsnamely, the Countryside Agency, English Nature, and the Rural Development Servicefollowing consultation with the staff of these organisations and their partners, and it has their support. That final point may be of some importance at a time of what will be substantial change for all those working in those organisations. It is the
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name they are now used to. There are no established rules about whether the names of non-departmental public bodies should include the word commission, agency, council or executive. Although there is a tendency for commissions to be mainly advisory bodies rather than executive bodies, even this simple distinction has not been applied consistently.
We favour the simplicity of Natural England for two reasons. First, the many customers and organisations with which it deals will shorten its title to Natural England. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, conceded that. Whatever formal name it is given in statute, there is a good argument for aligning its legal title with the name by which it is known. Secondly, it will help people to position it in relation to two important sister organisationsEnglish Heritage and Sport England. On that pragmatic basis, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Bach: My Lords, I said that the consultation was with the staff of the organisations and their partnersthose organisations being the Countryside Agency, English Nature and the Rural Development Service. I went on to say that it had the support of the staff as well as the chairman.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, it seems that we have a difficulty. The Minister has said that there are two case precedents where people have used this sort of abbreviated title, but I still rather fancy that it is bad use of the English language and bad use of legislation, and I would prefer not to see it there. I am not sure that we can take the argument any further. There is only one way of resolving the matter; either I withdraw my amendment or I press it to a vote. If I withdraw it, I might feel inclined to bring it back at Third Reading after further discussions. I think perhaps that I will do that. The noble Baroness is looking concerned, so maybe I could not do that. If I cannot do that, perhaps the best thing to do would be to get it out of the way. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
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