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Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 1:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, having listened to a serious debate on what should happen to legislation, we now return to the detail of the wording of this—

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I wonder whether noble Lords who wish to speak to one another could do so outside. We are unable to hear the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I shall move a little closer to the microphone, which might help.

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.

Part 1 of the Bill is entitled:

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,

is certainly very unclear and not an appropriate title to appear in legislation. I beg to move.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I support my noble friend in his comments. I did so in Committee and do so again on Report.

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 Committee—these are true stories—I 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 about—conserving 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 organisations—namely, the Countryside Agency, English Nature, and the Rural Development Service—following 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 organisations—English Heritage and Sport England. On that pragmatic basis, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, am I correct that the Minister said that the name was consulted on only within the department and the predecessor organisations, and that there was no outside consultation?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I said that the consultation was with the staff of the organisations and their partners—those 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.

5.39 pm

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 76; Not-Contents, 215.

Division No. 2


Anelay of St Johns, B.
Arran, E.
Ashcroft, L.
Bowness, L.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Buscombe, B.
Byford, B.
Caithness, E.
Cameron of Dillington, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carrington, L.
Chadlington, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Chorley, L.
Courtown, E.
Crickhowell, L.
De Mauley, L.
Dearing, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. [Teller]
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Erroll, E.
Feldman, L.
Forsyth of Drumlean, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Garel-Jones, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Goodlad, L.
Hanham, B.
Henley, L.
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Home, E.
Hooper, B.
Howard of Rising, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Inglewood, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Kingsland, L.
Kirkham, L.
Lawson of Blaby, L.
Lindsay, E.
Liverpool, E.
Luke, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Maginnis of Drumglass, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Montrose, D.
Morris of Bolton, B.
Moynihan, L.
Noakes, B.
Norton of Louth, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Palmer, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Peel, E.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Rawlings, B.
Renton of Mount Harry, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Selsdon, L.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Shephard of Northwold, B.
Skidelsky, L.
Stewartby, L.
Swinfen, L.
Thatcher, B.
Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Waddington, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Waldegrave of North Hill, L.
Wilcox, B.
Windlesham, L.


Acton, L.
Adams of Craigielea, B.
Addington, L.
Adonis, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alderdice, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B. [Lord President.]
Anderson of Swansea, L.
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Avebury, L.
Bach, L.
Barker, B.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Billingham, B.
Bilston, L.
Blackstone, B.
Bledisloe, V.
Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, B.
Borrie, L.
Brett, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter of Coles, L.
Chandos, V.
Chidgey, L.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Corston, B.
Crawley, B.
Cunningham of Felling, L.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
Dahrendorf, L.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon, L.
D'Souza, B.
Dubs, L.
Dykes, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Falkender, B.
Falkner of Margravine, B.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Foulkes of Cumnock, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Garden, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Glasgow, E.
Goldsmith, L.
Goodhart, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Brookwood, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grantchester, L.
Greaves, L.
Greenway, L.
Griffiths of Burry Port, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Harrison, L.
Hart of Chilton, L.
Haskel, L.
Haworth, L.
Hayman, B.
Henig, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Howarth of Breckland, B.
Howarth of Newport, L.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jones, L.
Jones of Cheltenham, L.
Judd, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kinnock, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Levy, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Listowel, E.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
McDonagh, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
McKenzie of Luton, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Maclennan of Rogart, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Maxton, L.
Methuen, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Mitchell, L.
Moonie, L.
Morgan of Drefelin, B.
Morgan of Huyton, B.
Newby, L.
Northover, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Parekh, L.
Patel, L.
Patel of Blackburn, L.
Pendry, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prosser, B.
Puttnam, L.
Radice, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Razzall, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Rennard, L.
Rix, L.
Roberts of Llandudno, L.
Robertson of Port Ellen, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Rooker, L.
Roper, L.
Rowlands, L.
Royall of Blaisdon, B.
Russell-Johnston, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
St. John of Bletso, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Sewel, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Sheldon, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Simon, V.
Slim, V.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Snape, L.
Soley, L.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Bolton, B.
Temple-Morris, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Tonge, B.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Triesman, L.
Truscott, L.
Tunnicliffe, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Tyler, L.
Wall of New Barnet, B.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Warner, L.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Young of Norwood Green, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

15 Mar 2006 : Column 1255
5.49 pm

[Amendments Nos. 2 to 4 not moved.]

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