HC Deb 17 February 1982 vol 18 c279
15. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if, further to his answer of 20 January 1982, Official Report, column 145, he proposes to make additional resources available for the implementation of the Wildlife and Countryside Act; and if he will give the figure.

Mr. King

As I said on 20 January in reply to a question from the hon. Member, the increased level of grant-in-aid to the Nature Conservancy Council for 1982–83 is £11. 27 million and takes account of the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. However, it is for the Nature Conservancy Council to decide exactly how the grant is distributed among its various responsibilities.

Mr. Bennett

Does the Minister accept that the main criticism of the Wildlife and Countryside Act was that it did too little, too late? Does he agree that the money to be made available this year barely covers inflation and does not provide sufficient resources to finance the"too little"?

Mr. King

I do not agree with the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question. I have been encouraged by the increasing recognition of the value that can flow from the Wildlife and Countryside Act. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will abandon the ranks of those who keep knocking this important piece of legislation and try to ensure that it is effective for the objectives that I thought a considerable number of hon. Members shared.

Mr. Farr

Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is one of the most important conservation measures to be put on the statute book for many years? Does he agree also that in the countryside people are not necessarily financially recompensed for keeping the countryside in decent order in accordance with our undertakings and responsibilities to the public at large?

Mr. King

Clearly, it is the only major piece of conservation legislation to have been put on the statute book, and the Government are extremely proud to have carried it through the House to enactment. I very much endorse the second part of my hon. Friend's question, which queried the idea that there must automatically be compensation. During the passage of the Bill, we sought to emphasise the need for co-operation and good will. A tremendous amount can be achieved in the countryside through the co-operation of people who live there, who are not all rampaging around searching for grants. They live there and have a vested interest in preserving the amenity and beauty of their surroundings.

Mr. Dalyell

Is the money sufficient to cover the work that we gave the NCC in relation to sites of special scientific interest during the passage of the Bill?

Mr. King

We hope so. Obviously it is unproven at this stage, because we do not know what will evolve. We have made it clear to the NCC that we shall keep in close touch about this matter, but we believe that the money will be sufficient for the first year of its operation.