HC Deb 17 July 2003 vol 409 cc437-8
15. Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire)

What plans she has to bring forward legislative proposals relating to common land; and if she will make a statement. [126291]

The Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality (Alun Michael)

We will legislate as soon as parliamentary time allows. In July 2002, we published the common land policy statement, which set out a comprehensive package of proposals relating to the registration and protection of common land and village greens. A working group has developed proposals for agricultural management of common land, and we will consult on those before the end of September.

Mr. Williams

Common land is not only an important agricultural resource, but provides opportunities for wildlife conservation and recreation. Given that a report produced by stakeholders in the spring of this year was unanimous in its support for further legislation, and given that the mid-term review will give more opportunities for common land to be used in innovative ways, is it not time for the Government to bring this forward as a matter of priority?

Alun Michael

I have just indicated the way in which we will bring it forward. We recently had the report of the working group that we established, and we intend to consult on that by the end of September. I have not read the detail of the report yet because we have only just received it. The hon. Gentleman, with his constituency interest, will know that although the problems of common land and the biodiversity reasons for treating it with great care are understood, it is an enormously complex area of the law. I should be happy to discuss the issues with him once we have published the document, as I know of his constituency interest and the complexities in his part of the world.

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