HC Deb 18 April 1975 vol 890 cc862-7
Mr. Hardy

I beg to move Amendment No. 24, in page 6, line 26, leave out from 'growing' to end of line 28.

The amendment is a further removal of unnecessary words. There is no point in retaining the words which it is proposed to delete because that would involve retaining a degree of complexity which is best avoided. The words appear to be not merely a definition but an addition of a condition to a definition in a way which is probably most undesirable. I am sure that where licence is given to an individual to tag, take, destroy or sell, for whatever purpose, it will be stipulated that the licence is in no way an authorisation to an individual to enter land which belongs to another person or another company. Therefore, in no way, even if the amendment is made, will there be a provision of relief from an act of trespass.

I hope the House will accept that the definition is considerably improved by the amendment and that it will in no way encourage, promote or make easier an unlawful action.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. John Silkin

I beg to move Amendment No. 25, in page 6, line 31, leave out from beginning to end of line 41 and insert: `"local authority' means—

  1. (a) in relation to England and Wales—
    1. (i) a county council, the Greater London Council, a district council, a London borough council, the Common Council of the City of London or a parish or community council:
    2. (ii) a joint planning board (within the meaning of section 1(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971), a special planning board (within the meaning of paragraph 3 of Schedule 17 to the Local Government Act 1972) or a National Park Committee (within the meaning of paragraph 5 of the said Schedule 17) on which any of the authorities mentioned in subparagraph (i) above is represented; or
    3. (iii)the Council of the Isles of Scilly; and
  2. (b) in relation to Scotland, a regional, islands or district council;
    This is a purely drafting amendment. We need to tidy up the definition of "local authority". The precise definition of a joint planning board, a special planning board and a national parks committee will be achieved by reference to the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 and the Local Government Act 1972.

    The term "joint board" in the original clause, I am advised, is imprecise and appears to serve no useful purpose, and should therefore be omitted.

    Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)

    I assume that the amendment will make quite clear that the Peak Park Board and the Lake District Board, which are separate bodies, will now be covered by this wording?

    Mr. Silkin

    I understand so.

    Mr. Hardy

    I am delighted to support the Government's amendment. I am extremely grateful to the Department for providing it. When we considered the matter before the Standing Committee sat, I was horrified to find that we had omitted to include a reference to the Isles of Scilly. An amendment was made to put that right, and we had the opportunity to express apologies to the Isles of Scilly for overlooking their existence.

    Even with that amendment it was clear that the clause which left Standing Committee was not perfect. At that time I looked forward to the Department's providing a clear and proper definition. That is done by the amendment which my right hon. Friend has moved, and I am most grateful to him. I shall be extremely pleased if the House approves the amendment.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Mr. John Silken

    I beg to move Amendment No. 26, in page 7, line 4, after means ', insert:

    'subject to subsection (2) of this section'.
    Mr. Speaker

    With this we shall discuss Government Amendments Nos. 27, 30 and 31. I believe I am right in saying that there is a misprint.

    Mr. Silkin

    Yes, Mr. Speaker. The misprint to which you refer is the word "any" at the end of line 4 of page 7 of the latest print of the Bill. That word should not be there. In moving the amendment I encounter a personal problem. I am never quite certain whether the correct pronounciation is "liken" or "litchen". However, on the basis that we can each please ourselves, I shall use the less usual pronounciation but the euphonious one of "litchen".

    The amendments are intended to make it clear that the definition of "plant" includes lichen but excludes fungus and alga. As it stands, the definition is ambiguous because a lichen is a composite of fungus and alga although readily distinguishable from either.

    I was not present, but I gather that the discussions in Committee were somewhat clouded by this ambiguity. Since then the Nature Conservancy Council has considered the matter further and obtained fresh evidence from the British Lichen Society and elsewhere. As a result, it now recommends that lichens should be protected by the Bill. Their growth rate is slow; they cannot easily be reproduced. Some species are rare, and some are exploited for dye-making and perfumes.

    I understand that it was the original intention that lichens should be included as plants.

    Mr. Blenkinsop

    I am glad to see this series of amendments. I asked in Committee about what I used to call "liken", but what I am prepared to call "litchen", because I wanted to clear up a rather important matter. It seemed to be true that the lichens were plants of great importance scientifically and otherwise. They may be regarded as playing an important part in the protection of our health, because they are valuable indicators or monitors of the state of the atmosphere in different areas, and they are so regarded by health inspectors and others. This is becoming a matter of increasing interest and one is concerned to ensure that there should be proper forms of protection and that the lichen should not be condemned to obscurity

    12 noon.

    I welcome the amendments. There are still problems. Definition is a difficult matter, because one spills into the area of algae. Some of those who have been in touch with me are concerned about whether we are right to exclude algae, as we do by this definition. I gather that the problem of definition is acute and that it is almost impossible to separate algae. That may well be true. Classification and identification are difficult.

    I hope that those concerned, the Nature Conservancy Council and others, will con. tinue their studies of this area, because that may mean that eventually we shall find a more detailed and delicate classification to deal with the problems that still arise.

    Mr. Mather

    When I heard the Minister say that the growth rate was slow, I thought for a moment that perhaps I was in another debate and that he was talking about the present Government's industrial record. But he was talking about lichens—prefer to pronounce the word as though it were spelt "litchens"—hich are important to some parts of the United Kingdom, especially the west coast of Scotland, where they are still used commercially in small amounts for dyeing tweed, particularly crottle, which gives the brown dye. So it is worth discussing lichens. I notice that the Minister had no hesitation about the pronounciation of algae which I usually pronounce as though it were spelt "alji", which has nothing to do with Algy who met a bear— The bear was bulgy and the bulge was Algy". I am sure that these amendments will improve the Bill, and I have no objection to them.

    Mr. Hardy

    I rise to offer my thanks to my right hon. Friend and the Department. In Committee we feared that at this point we had come against an almost insuperable problem, that of definition. We seemed to need a more authoritative resolution of the problems presented by classification of these species. It is almost as difficult to decide on classification as on pronounciation. I am delighted that we have had this resolution of the problem because it may well be of increasing value as the years pass.

    I am pleased that we have found a way out for lichens. My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) spoke of the contribution that lichens can make as an indicator of atmospheric health. They serve the purpose for the atmosphere in some areas that the canary served for the traditional pit. This may become an increasingly useful role as the years pass.

    I was not aware of the importance of lichens in dyeing. I was extremely interested in the comments of the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Mather), who said that certain tweeds were dyed by the use of extracts derived from lichens. That little gem of information may well he noted if anybody ever reads our debate in many years' time. I hope that those who do will see lichens, and the lichens will be revealing a healthy atmosphere and that tweeds will still be dyed by derivatives of these species.

    I am delighted to see these amendments. They will improve the Bill, and I hope that the House will accept them.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendment made: No. 27, in page 7, line 4, leave out from plant ' to growing' in line 5.—[Mr. John Silkin.]

    Mr. Hardy

    I beg to move Amendment No. 28, in page 7, line 7, leave out from 'Act' to end of line 8.

    Mr. Speaker

    I understand that with this it will be convenient to discuss Amendment No. 29.

    Mr. Hardy

    These amendments will result in the definition of a protected plant being a plant specified in Schedule 2 to this Act and the definition of a protected wild creature being a wild creature specified in Schedule 1 to this Act found living wild, and includes the eggs, larvae or pupae of any such wild creature. As hon. Members can see, the definitions remain very clear. The words that it is proposed to delete are quite unnecessary.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendments made: No. 29, in page 7, line 10, leave out from ' Act ' to found in line 11.—[Mr. Hardy.]

    No. 30, in page 7, line 16, at end insert: '(2) Any fungus or alga shall not be treated as a plant for the purposes of this Act unless it is a composite of fungus and alga in the form of lichen.'. No. 31, in page 7, line 17, leave out ' (2) ' and insert (3) '.—[Mr. John Silkin.]

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