HC Deb 17 February 1993 vol 219 c449

Queen's Recommendation having been signified

Motion made and Question proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Hedgerows Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of—

  1. (a) any expenses of the Secretary of State incurred in consequence of the Act, and
  2. (b) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable out of money so provided under any other enactment.—[Mr. Maclean.]

12.15 am
Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

I should like to make a short intervention. It is not my intention to be critical of the Bill or the money resolution, which I accept entirely. I want to raise a relevant point that the Minister might care to consider at this and subsequent stages of the Bill.

Some time ago, the Government accepted that the 4,000 pre-1840 Acts of Enclosure still had effect. If not, the possession of very large areas of lowland England might come into question. Many of the 4,000 Acts required that the fields established from the commons, and passing into the possession of landowners, be surrounded by hedgerows, and the hedgerows had to be perpetually maintained. It would be inappropriate for any public money to be spent by the Secretary of State or by local authorities, in fulfilment of the provisions of the Bill, in seeking to protect hedgerows that the law already required to be protected. Such duplication would be unnecessary and perhaps irresponsible.

I have tabled a couple of amendments, which I trust will cover the point when the Bill reaches the Committee stage. The purpose of this intervention is to ensure that the whole question is properly considered.

I ought to emphasise that local authorities should be aware of the provisions not only of this Bill but also of the 4,000 Acts by which the commons of lowland England were largely enclosed. Local authorities should know the conditions of enclosure and of possession that those Acts created. The matter may before very long be illustrated by a case that has been drawn to the Government's attention by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. We await a ministerial reply in that case.

As the matter may be considered briefly in the Standing Committee, it need not be rehearsed here. However, it is appropriate that it be considered, in terms both of the future of this very desirable piece of legislation and of the proper management of public money.

I trust that the Minister will ensure that this matter is taken into consideration, even if not by way of a reply tonight. There ought to be some sort of resuscitation for measures that are still firmly in the statute book but are sometimes forgotten by landowners who may have enjoyed possession for a very long time.

12.17 am
The Minister for the Environment and Countryside (Mr. David Maclean)

I give the hon. Gentleman the assurance he seeks. We shall consider the matter very carefully.

Question put and agreed to.

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