HC Deb 30 July 1981 vol 9 cc1250-2
Mr. Monro

I beg to move amendment No. 178, in page 30, line 43, leave out from 'which' to 'is' in line 1 on page 31 and insert 'comprises a limestone pavement'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 315, in page 31, line 1, leave out 'special', and Government amendments Nos. 179 to 186.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

I think that we all appreciate that almost all of this group of amendments relating to limestone pavements are a response from the Government to the debate in the Standing Committee.

One small point has been drawn to my attention since the Committee debate. Amendment No. 315 seeks to deal with it. I think that almost every hon. Member who spoke in the Committee debate regarded all areas of substantial limestone pavement as being of special interest. In other words, we intended to include all limestone pavements in the North of England and in Scotland. It has been brought to my attention that the word "special", which my amendment seeks to delete, leads to uncertainty.

The Bill at present reads: land … substantially of limestone exposed on or lying near the surface of the ground is of special interest by reason of its flora, fauna or geological or physiological features". It has been put to me that the reference to "special interest" rather than simply "interest" suggests that some limestone pavement is of particular interest and will be classified whereas some will not. The intention of the Committee was clearly to regard all limestone pavement as of special interest. I hope that the Minister can confirm that there will not be two categories of limestone pavement, one which is considered to be special and the other to be just the ordinary run of limestone pavement. The Committee clearly wished all remaining limestone pavements in this country to have special protection. I hope that the Minister can give that assurance.

Mr. Monro

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) for his remarks about the other amendments in the group. I believe that we have really sorted out the limestone pavement problem, including—somewhat to my astonishment—the definition, about which people seem to be happy. There should therefore be no further problems. I have received representations that the protection afforded to limestone pavements should not be restricted to those areas which are of special scientific interest, in the terms of clause 28. I accepted that and the Bill has been drafted so that any limestone pavement which is worthy of protection may be protected by an order, regardless of whether the NCC has notified the planning authority under clause 28 or under the 1949 Act, that it is an area of special interest. I am pleased to give the assurance for which the hon. Gentleman asks that local authorities will be notified of all pavements of interest. I believe that we have covered everything and that it is a great plus for the future.

9.30 pm
Mr. Dalyell

Before we leave the subject of limestone pavements, may I say that the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir M. Kimball) told me that he hoped to be taking part in the debate briefly to withdraw some of the remarks that he made about Bristol university about the taking of limestone from pavements in Sutherland. We have not yet got to the bottom of this following the press reports, but I had a word with the vice-chancellor of Bristol university, Sir Alec Merrison, who is making continuing inquiries. I do not think that we should assume necessarily that Bristol university was at fault.

Mr. Denis Howell

I want to add my appreciation to the members of the Committee and the Government, and especially my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) and the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross), who were particularly pressing throughout the debate on the subject. I am advised by such bodies as the Council for the Protection of Rural England and other organisations that all I need say is "Good news". I therefore make the shortest speech that I have made on the Bill and express my appreciation to the Government.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

In view of the helpful assurance that the Minister has given, I do not want to press amendment No. 315 to a vote. I am pleased that the Minister intends that all limestone pavement should be protected.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 179, in page 31, line 11, after 'order', insert '(in this section referred to as a "limestone pavement order")'.

No. 180, in page 31, line 14, leave out 'orders under this section' and insert 'limestone pavement orders'.

No. 181, in page 31, line 16, leave out 'an order under this section' and insert 'a limestone pavement order'.

No. 182, in page 31, line 23, leave out 'an order under this section' and insert 'a limestone pavement order'.

No. 183, in page 31, line 31, after 'granted', insert 'on an application'.

No. 184, in page 31, line 32, leave out from '1972' to end of line 38.

No. 185, in page 31, line 42, at end insert— '"limestone pavement" means an area of limestone which lies wholly or partly exposed on the surface of the ground and has been fissured by natural erosion;'.

No. 186, in page 31, line 43, at beginning insert 'the'.—[Mr. Monro.]

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