HL Deb 21 March 1967 vol 281 cc683-716

3.46 p.m.

Report stage resumed.

Clause 38:

Recovery of possession of farmhouse vacated on amalgamation and let on regulated tenancy


the court shall, in proceedings commenced by the landlord at any time during the period of five years beginning with the date on which the proposals for the amalgamation were approved by the appropriate Minister, make an order for the possession of the dwelling-house, whether or not it would have power to do so under section 3 of the Act of 1933, and section 5(2) of the Act of 1920 shall not apply in relation to the order.

LORD WALSTON moved to leave out subsection (1) and to substitute: (1A) This section shall have effect where, after the carrying out of any proposals for amalgamation approved for the purpose of a scheme under section 26 of this Act, a dwelling-house which, at the time when the proposals were submitted, was occupied by a person responsible (whether as `owner, tenant, or, servant or agent of another) for the control of the farming of any of the land comprised in the amalgamation is let on a regulated tenancy otherwise than to—

  1. (a) a person who ceased to be so responsible as part of the amalgamation, or
  2. (b) a person who is, or at any time was, employed by the landlord in agriculture, or
  3. (c) the widow of any such person as is mentioned in either of the preceding paragraphs."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it may be convenient for the House if we discuss this Amendment and Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 at the same time, as they are all closely connected. Your Lordships will probably remember that during the Committee stage we had a certain amount of discussion on the question of farmhouses which belonged to holdings to be amalgamated or which had been amalgamated. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, and his friends raised some points which seemed to ma valid, and I undertook to look further into the matter. The essence of this was that we considered it reasonable that a farmer who in the process of amalgamation took over another holding should not have to make up his mind immediately whether he wanted the second farmhouse, the vacated farmhouse, for his own use. Clearly, he would need to make his plans for the future development of the amalgamated holding on a larger scale, and would need to consider the financial side of the business and whether he would be able to lay his hands on sufficient capital to enlarge his operations—possible to start a pig unit or increase the number of his livestock. As a result, he would not be in a position to know immediately whether or not he would require that extra house for a farmworker. We should not want to have a house left vacant pending this decision, so we have made provision for him to let it and to be able to regain possession of it at any time up to five years after the amalgamation took place.

There then arose the second point. If the outgoing farmer from the amalgamated holding had exercised his right to remain in his farmhouse, when he eventually left the house (or when his widow, who1 also has the same right, left—perhaps because she decided to go and live in a nearby town, or with her daughter-in-law) there would be a period in which it would be reasonable to allow the new farmer of the amalgamated holdings to make up his mind whether to enlarge his holding and make use of this house which had become vacant. This would avoid his having to let it, so establishing a tenancy which it would then be hard for him to break, or leaving the house empty, with unfortunate results on the present housing shortage and on his own or his landlord's pocket.

In order to meet this legitimate point—and I am grateful to the noble Lord for drawing my attention to it—I am introducing this Amendment, which will allow the farmer of the amalgamated holdings, when the second farmhouse becomes vacant because the farmer or his widow moves out of it, a period of three years under terms similar to the five years allowed under the original Bill. I believe this to be a practical and reasonable Amendment, which will add to the value of the Bill, prevent houses from remaining unnecessarily empty and also give the farmer sufficient protection by giving him adequate time to make up his mind about the additional type of farming he wishes to go in for once the house does become vacant. I commend the Amendment to your Lordships, and hope that you will agree to it.

Amendment moved— Page 45, line 8, leave out subsection (1) and insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Walston.)


My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Walston, for the explanation he has given of the clause as now amended, and may I thank him in particular for the concession he has made in giving the extra three years after the second farmhouse has been vacated by the retiring farmer or his widow. I am sure that this will be a valuable additional convenience for the farmer.

As the noble Lord knows, the National Fanners' Union would have much preferred not to have a five-year limitation at all, and the original form in which I put down this new provision did not include limitation. However, I recognise that the Government attach a good deal of importance to this limitation and to the option, and I think that we should accept the Government's view that a limitation of some kind is needed. I hope that the five years which the Government allow will be enough, in normal circumstances, for the amalgamating fanner to make up his mind about what he wishes to do on the new holding and whether or not he wishes to have the farmhouse. I would advise my noble friends to accept the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 4.

Amendment moved— Page 45. line 32, leave out from ("landlord") to ("make") in line 35 and insert ("during the period specified in subsection (2A) below").—(Lord Walston.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 5.

Amendment moved—

Page 45, line 38, at end insert— ("(2A) The period referred to in subsection (2) above is one of five years beginning with the date on which the proposals for the amalgamation were approved or, if occupation of the dwelling-house after the amalgamation continued in, or was first taken by, a person falling within subsection (1A)(a) above or his widow, a period expiring three years after the date on which the dwelling-house next became unoccupied").—(Lord Walston.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 45:

Rural Development Boards

45.—(1) With a view to applying the provisions of this Part of this Act for meeting the special problems of the development as rural areas of hills and uplands, and the special needs of such areas, the appropriate Minister may, in accordance with this Part of this Act, establish a Board, to be known as a Rural Development Board, for any area appearing to be one where those problems or needs exist.

(2) Those special problems and needs include the special difficulties in the formation of commercial units of agricultural land in such areas, the need for an overall programme for guidance in making decisions as to the use of land in such areas for agriculture and forestry, so that those two uses are complementary, the need for improved public services in such areas in step with their development for agricultural and forestry purposes. and the need for preserving and taking full advantage of the amenities and scenery in those areas in the course of their development for those purposes.

3.56 p.m.

LORD INGLEWOOD moved, in subsection (1), after "uplands" to insert "lying outside areas designated as National Parks". The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment draws attention to a point which I believe is of substance. It was raised during Second Reading, but I do not think that there has yet been any serious reply from the Government. So I venture to raise it again. It concerns the overlapping of authorities which can arise under the Bill as drafted. I am sure that all noble Lords will agree that this is something that we should guard against, because it is a danger which can lead to inefficiency and rivalry, rather than to smooth progress. It is not difficult to see clashes occurring in an area that has the character of a National Park and also has a character which might be deemed suitable for the area to be designated as an area where a Rural Development Board might be brought into existence.

I should like to ask the Minister how what we should call, in general terms, planning powers work out in practice in these circumstances. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, replying to an Amendment during Committee stage, referred to the duty of a Rural Development Board as: … to see that the land in its area is put to the best use". That sounds very like a planning power, ominously like a planning duty. One would suppose that in a National Park planning powers would be vested under Statute in the National Park authority. It is a curious situation. They may be vested in the National Park authority, yet the Rural Development Board would have a firmer hand on the purse strings of a much bigger and fuller purse.

Let us look closer at this matter. The existing National Parks legislation must soon be due for review and some amendment in the light of 20 years of experience, mainly successful. If I may cite the Lake District, there the National Parks Board is the planning authority, yet the three counties concerned remain the highways authorities. It must be admitted that a good deal of rivalry is revealed. No one could happily see yet another authority placed on top of these, especially one that is not answerable to the electorate. I am moving this Amendment because I feel that it is better to avoid the chance of such overlapping, and I commend it to your Lordships this afternoon as a simple and practical way of doing this. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 50, line 32, after ("uplands") insert ("lying outside areas designated as National Parks").—(Lord Inglewood.)


My Lords, I appreciate the motives of the noble Lord in moving this Amendment, and I have a great deal of sympathy with them; but I hope that when he has listened to me he will appreciate my motives for asking him do withdraw it. Boards when they are set up—and we do not yet know when or where they will be set up—will pre- sumably be set up in areas of hills and uplands where there are considered to be special problems and special needs. It is quite possible that a Board's area might overlap that of an existing National Park, but I do not think that that is any cause for worry.

As the clause says, these problems and needs are to include those of farm structure and the co-ordinated use of land as between forestry and agriculture: also, the need for improved public services in line with this development, and, of course (and I think we shall be talking a little about this later), the need for preserving and taking advantage of the amenities and scenery in their areas. I do not see any conflict arising here between the functions of a National Park planning authority, which has the general duty to preserve and enhance the natural beauty of its area and to make provision for the public enjoyment of the countryside, and the duties of the Rural Development Boards.

Your Lordships will know that an obligation is laid on Boards to consult all interested bodies when drawing up their general programme. A National Park planning authority, as one of those, will of course be consulted in all cases where a Board's boundary adjoins or overlaps that of a National Park. Assurances have been given on this point before—I gave them myself on Committee stage—and I readily confirm them once again.

Acceptance of the noble Lord's Amendment might well entail the exclusion of many people engaged in agriculture and forestry from the benefits that a Board will bring to their area. That, I think, would be unfortunate. We want to extend the benefits of these Boards to wide areas, whether they overlap National Parks areas or not, especially as the areas of National Parks in England and Wales are almost entirely in the hill areas and the type of country where the Rural Development Boards might well be expected to operate. I feel it would be unreasonable and unfair to these people to exclude them from the benefits that these Boards would bring to them. I hope the noble Lord may feel that he can withdraw his Amendment after my assurances that the legitimate points which he has raised have been covered.


My Lords, with permission, I should like to say that I have listened with interest to the noble Lord. I thought he would rest his case on the argument that acceptance of my Amendment would mean that certain people were going to be denied financial assistance, which they cannot obtain from their elected local authority and can obtain only through this appointed Board. I do not think, on the whole, that the noble Lord made as convincing a case as I did. However, I have shown the red light and voiced the dangers and difficulties that can easily arise from any situation where overlapping authorities of this sort are set up. Having said that, I do not wish this afternoon to press this Amendment. But I shall look forward to a time in the future when the noble Lord, if he is still in office, will be producing amending legislation in order to meet the case which I have described this afternoon. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved, after subsection (2), to insert ( ) The overall programme referred to in the preceding subsection shall have regard to the special economic considerations and the long-term nature of forestry.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, much regret that my noble friend Lord Dundee cannot be with us to-day. He is temporarily laid low in hospital, and therefore these important forestry clauses will have to receive very second-class treatment from me. This Amendment would, we believe, have a valuable influence on Clause 45. Clause 45 is broadly descriptive of what the Rural Development Boards will do, and what sort of considerations should guide them, and our new subsection is really no more than an amplification of subsection (2) of Clause 45, in order to make quite sure that the economic interests of forestry are fully kept in mind by the Rural Development Boards when deciding on a scheme.

It may be that if the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, is going to reply to this Amendment he will say that the Amendment is not really needed because it is already implied. I hope he does say that, because if he does, then at least we are agreed in principle. He will then be saying that it is already implicit in the Bill, and all I want is that it should be explicit, in order to make quite sure that Rural Development Boards pay full attention to this matter.

We attach particular importance to this point, because I must confess that we are seriously concerned that the Government were unable to agree to our request that the Rural Development Boards should give compensation to a landowner who is obliged by one of their schemes under Clause 52 to refrain from planting when he wishes to plant, or has to plant something different from his intended planting. We feel strongly that if a Government agency gives such a direction which is against the economic interests of a landowner, then it should compensate. But we have to recognise the limitation of our powers here, and an Amendment which introduced compensation provisions into the Bill would be outside the Financial Resolution, and therefore would be likely to be ignored in another place. In these circumstances, we are falling back on to this position to make sure that the Rural Development Board will always pay full regard to the economic interests of forestry. If it does this, then no landowner can really complain.

In this connection, I should say that I listened with attention to the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, on Committee stage with regard to the similarity between this implied decision of the Government, which will have the effect of reducing the landowner's rights of property in regard to forestry planting schemes, and the Town Planning Acts, which the noble Lord gave as a precedent. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, argued with his customary cogency that this was a perfectly good analogy, and that my insistence that it was not was wrongly based, But I am bound to say that, perhaps because the noble Lord is so persuasive, the further he went the more alarmed I became.

I feel that, if it is the Government's intention to reduce the rights of private property in this respect, by preventing a landowner whose land comes within the scope of a Rural Development Board from planting as he wishes, then this is a major matter of principle. If the Government wish to alter the rights of property in that respect, then in my judgment they ought not to do it by a side wind, by a subsidiary order in a miscellaneous Agriculture Bill of this kind. Of course, the Government of the day are constitutionally entitled to change the law in any way they wish, and they have been doing so substantially on matters like the Land Commission Act, which substantially alters the rights of property. But I feel strongly here that, if this is the intention of the Government, they should have put it in a substantial Bill and brought it before the House, so that the whole country could know that this was their intention.

It is true that these landowners concerned are perhaps few in number and politically unimportant, but they are still entitled to the full rights of the citizen. If their own rights of property are to be reduced in some way, then I am sure I am right in saying that this ought to be done openly by substantive legislation. I think it is objectionable to take away part of their rights of property in this manner.

As I have said, I regret that it is not possible to correct that by putting compensation terms into this Bill, but if noble Lords are agreeable to this Amendment I think that property owners who have forestry interests should have a substantial consolation in this, combined with the valuable concession which the noble Lord gave with regard to dedicated forest land, and they would know that when a Rural Development Board were deciding on a scheme full regard would be paid to the economic interests of forestry. In my judgment that would ensure that no scheme they proposed, either to stop planting or to require particular planting, would be wildly uneconomic and therefore owners would accept it. I hope this will be agreeable in principle to the noble Lord. He said that it is implicit, and therefore I hope that he will not find it objectionable if we make it explicit, I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 51, line 3, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, while it may be correct to say that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, does not bring to these debates the particular expertise in forestry which the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, has, he certainly brings no less skill in Parliamentary experience, so it is no loss to the House that there has been a change of spokesman. However, I think the noble Lord went a little far in stating that i said that it is the intention of the Government to change the rights of property in this matter. I made no such statement, and I do not make it now. I said that if Parliament did what is proposed in this case, they would be changing the right of the property owner and taking away the right which he has at the present time. That is not the object. The object is to get the co-ordinated use of land which is referred to in Clause 35(2), and the Board are charged with this responsibility If in so doing the rights of property are altered, this is no different from what is done repeatedly by Parliament in legislation.

Legislation frequently alters both property rights and individual rights, and this Bill is no exception. I was pointing out that it followed the parallel when in other legislation, where Parliament has deprived owners of property of a right which they have hitherto exercised, there were some circumstances in which Parliament accepted it as reasonable that compensation should be paid and other circumstances in which Parliament decided that there should not be compensation.

The noble Lord—not from choice, but because of the necessity of keeping clear of the privilege position—has not pressed the full compensation proposals, but I should like to point out that we still cannot accept this Amendment, for a variety of reasons. The first is the point which the noble Lord expected me to make, that it is implicit. I cannot accept that we are making that point. I do so because the first thing we have to keep in mind is that when the Board are considering—and I hesitate to repeat these words in view of what the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said previously—the question of the best land use in their areas they will do all in their power to arrive at the right decision.

Having repeated that, I must remind the Committee that it is the obligation of the Board to consider the best land use in relation to the powers which have been conferred on the Board. One of their functions, as listed in Clause 46, is to keep under review all means of meeting the problems and needs in their area. They must also consult all interested bodies when drawing up their programme. They will bear in mind all relevant considerations, and I have no doubt that they will have before them not only the advice of the Forestry Commission, but also that of private forestry organisations.

No one who has listened to our discussions on Second Reading or in Committee on this Bill, or who may subsequently read the report of these deliberations, can be unaware of the economics of forestry or its long-term nature. The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, made reference during these discussions to the Report of the Land Use Study Group, which both he and I have read. I am confident that it will also be studied by Boards when they are considering their problems of rural development.

As the noble Lord anticipated, it is the view of the Government that the aim of this Amendment is already fully covered by the provisions of the Bill, and if we were to include a reference to this kind of forestry almost inevitably we should then have to bring in a subsequent series of Amendments relating to the special interests of every other section of agriculture—amenity interests—which we should be charging the Board to look after. We should then be coming back to the situation whereby, if we put in a number of specific points of this kind, we should be in danger of destroying the general construction of the Board, and this is just as likely to work to the disadvantage of particular interests as to their advantage. What we would be doing is to charge them to look particularly to the interests of certain people, and by inadvertence, in not specifying some interests, it could be taken that this was not an interest to which any special regard had to be paid. Therefore there is the danger to the other interests which the Board have to look after in seeking to make, in addition to the general powers of the Board, this special provision for forestry interests.

However, I am prepared to go perhaps a little further than the noble Lord anticipated. Although I am not advising the House to accept the Amendment, I am prepared to say that if the noble Lord agrees to withdraw it, for the reasons which I have stated, I am prepared to give an assurance that the appropriate Minister will draw the attention of Rural Development Boards to this point so that there is the general requirement in the Bill that they should do all these things; and administratively we can make certain that this point is brought specially to their notice. That can be done without causing any complications in relation to any special interests.


My Lords, may I at least thank the noble Lord for going so far, though I think it is a pity he has not met my noble friend's Amendment in full. Any one of us who has ever been a Parliamentary Secretary knows well the argument which the noble Lord has just so vehemently used. It is in nearly every official brief for nearly every Parliamentary Secretary speaking on nearly every Bill. We all know the point, and it is frequently a valid one. But I do not think that on this occasion it has quite the validity he was perhaps asking us to accept. We are not pretending that Parliament has not the right to make inroads into people's interests such as this Bill now does; because all Bills do that. But I would ask him to bear in mind the fact that the powers of the Rural Development Boards are very wide indeed. Furthermore, those who exercise those powers, unlike local authorities, unlike Members of Parliament, unlike Ministers, are not answerable to the electorate; they are an appointed Board. Therefore people affected by the exercise of such powers are denied the ordinary remedy which we in this country have come to take for granted.

I would ask the noble Lord to look at this point again, because I should have thought that to accept the words proposed by my noble friend, and to include them in the Bill, would be a better way of achieving this purpose than by attempting to do something of the same sort administratively, a method which, in practice, can never be quite so effective. Surely it is fairer to accept these words.

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, we have listened with interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, had to say; indeed, our ears pricked up a little as he came towards the latter part of his speech when for one wonderful moment we thought that he might accept the Amendment. I am bound to say that, on looking at this Amendment, I wondered how the noble Lord could possibly not accept it, because I thought it was such an innocuous Amendment.

He said that he would instruct the Boards to bear all these relevant considerations in mind, but I do not think that is going far enough. Moreover, I also, with respect, treat with a certain degree of scepticism the argument that if we include forestry in this particular reference in the Bill then ipso facto this means that all other matters not included by references are less important than the one which is. After all, the Rural Development Boards have been given pretty wide powers in this Bill, and they will operate mainly in some of the less developed parts of the country; and it is, of course, in those less developed parts of the country where the interests of forestry have their greatest impact.

I am no forester myself, but it is common knowledge that those who do indulge in forestry have to take a very long-term view and have to think in terms of not 20 years but 60 or 70 years. Anyone who is going to tie himself up, financially, or in any other way, in schemes going on for 60 or 70 years is going to take a fairly shrewd appreciation of the situation and probably, on the whole, will know better than a Board the circumstances which would require him to take a certain action. Therefore I think it is essential that we should bear in mind that these people who are currently engaged in forestry probably have a pretty shrewd appreciation of the scale of operations which will be required of them.

All we are saying in this Amendment is that if the Minister or the Rural Development Board is going to make an Order, due regard should be had to the economic circumstances of forestry. We are not saying that such an order should consider the economic aspect. I do not think this is going too far. What we are really saying is that if an owner wishes, and thinks, having taken all the facts of the matter into consideration, that he should plant, for instance, an area of pine trees, the Rural Development Board should not come along and say, "No, you should plant oak trees". This, after all, is a perfectly normal and natural provision. It is not condemning the Boards to take certain action. It is merely say- ing that they should have due regard to the economic circumstances which are peculiar to forestry. I very much hope that the noble Lord will think a little harder, rather than say that the Minister will give a direction to the Boards. I think it would be very much better if this particular point were written into the Bill, and I do not see that it would have any restrictive effect on the Rural Development Boards.


My Lords, I must thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for answering the debate so pleasantly, and for going so far to acknowledge that the point is implicit in subsection (2) of Clause 45. I am sure he will understand our wish to see k actually stated in the Bill. I am equally sure that if the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, were going to be in charge of the Department ad infinitum the matter would be very safe. He speaks, of course, not only with cogency but with most disarming innocence, because he has no intention of having any Rural Development Boards in Scotland. But what may happen South of the Border is quite another thing. We must give some thought to what Rural Development Boards might do.

The fact is that the noble Lord's argument, as my noble friend Lord Ferrers just said, about reducing the effectiveness of the generality is not a good one, because here the forestry interests are at risk. They are at risk in a special way that does not apply to any other interests. No agricultural interests are at risk in any way: a Rural Development Board cannot direct a farmer to grow or not to grow any particular crop on his fields. It is only the forestry interests that can be given these special conditions under an improvement scheme.

If we are to take the analogy with the town planning laws, I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that under the 1962 Town Planning Act if a tree preservation order is put on any particular trees, compensation has to be paid. But in this case there is no compensation, and therefore I do think it is right to include in the Bill a clear provision that the Rural Development Board must have regard to the economic interests of forestry. Whilst I thank the noble Lord for his offer that the Minister concerned will call particular attention to this point, I believe that it would be in the long-term interest if it were in the Bill. If, therefore, the noble Lord cannot give way, I ask noble Lords to vote on this Amendment.


My Lords, I have no right to speak again, unless it is the House's wish that I should do so, and I should have preferred to rise before the noble Lord spoke again. If noble Lords opposite feel so strongly on this matter that they wish to divide, I would strongly advise them to withdraw at this stage, even if they wish to bring this Amendment forward again at Third Reading. My remark about the dangers to the other interests of including this special provision for forestry was not lightly made. Although noble Lords will undoubtedly not be hindering the interests of forestry if they press this Amendment, so making explicit what I have admitted is implicit, the fact is that by putting it in in this way, and so qualifying the general powers and the general instructions to the Rural Development Board, they may be importing dangers to other interests which the Board have to take into consideration.

I shall be making the point in detail on a later Amendment, where an attempt is being made to give specific instructions in relation to a definition which will help agriculture; and in that case, because I had more time to consider the point, I can give an example of an interest which would definitely be at peril if the Government were to accept the proposal put forward. I have not the slightest doubt that, while noble Lords are anxious to help forestry interests, they would rather that help should be given implicitly, if that can be done without hindrance to other sections with which the Rural Development Board are dealing, than by making the matter explicit, with the consequence that other interests are put in danger. All I am asking is that between now and Third Reading they should consider this position. I am willing to discuss the possibilities and the dangers with the noble Lord, if he so wishes. I am not making a debating point; it is a danger which really exists.


My Lords, with the permission of the House, may I thank the noble Lord for the further point he has made. It is of course not our wish to throw the Bill out of balance, and if the noble Lord can give us the prospect of including some words which will secure the interest which we feel is really vital here, and secure it more effectively without throwing the rest of the Bill out of gear, then on those terms I would advise my noble friends to agree to the withdrawal of the Amendment now, with a view to looking at some different construction on Third Reading. But I must make plain to the noble Lord that we want to see something in the Bill which will meet this point. If he will agree to these terms, then I will withdraw the Amendment.


My Lords, I do not wish to mislead the noble Lord. I did not say that I could find a form of words. What I said was that, if I could persuade the noble Lord of the dangers of the course of action he is contemplating, he would be losing nothing, because he could still bring forward his own form of words on Third Reading, accepting the risks if he felt so inclined.


My Lords, if, with the permission of the House I may speak again, I would thank the noble Lord for his reply. But we have given a great deal of thought to this, and we feel that something specific should be said, because the interests of forestry are so seriously endangered by Rural Development Boards, and for that reason they deserve special treatment. I see the noble Lord's difficulty, in that he cannot give me an undertaking that some words will be inserted. In the circumstances, I think I should advise noble Lords to vote on this Amendment.

4.33 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 7) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 66; Not-Contents, 37.

Ailwyn, L. Amherst, E. Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.
Airedale, L. Ampthill, L. Buckton, L.
Albemarle, E. Auckland, L. Carrington, L.
Allerton, L. Blackford, L. Clinton, L.
Colgrain, L. Henley, L. Oakshott, L.
Coutanche, L. Hereford, V. Rea, L.
Crathorne, L. Howard of Glossop, L. Reay, L.
Daventry, V. Ilford, L. Redmayne, L.
Derwent, L. Inglewood, L. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]
Drumalbyn, L. Jellicoe, E. St. Helens, L.
Dudley, L. Jessel, L. St. Oswald, L.
Effingham, E. Kilmany, L. Sandford, L.
Emmet of Amberley, Bs. Lambert, V. Sinha, L.
Exeter, M. Lothian, M. Somers, L.
Ferrers, E. McCorquodale of Newton, L. Strathcarron, L.
Fortescue, E. Mar, E. Strathclyde, L.
Gladwyn, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Thurlow, L.
Goschen, V. [Teller.] Mersey, V. Vivian, L.
Gridley, L. Meston, L. Windlesham, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Milverton, L. Wolverton. L.
Haddington, E. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Woolton, E.
Hawke, L. Nugent of Guildford, L. Ypres, E.
Addison, V. Henderson, L. Rowley, L.
Archibald, L. Hilton of Upton, L. [Teller.] Rusholme, L.
Blyton, L. Hughes, L. St. Davids, V.
Bowles, L. Kirkwood, L. Shackleton, L.
Boyd-Orr, L. Latham, L. Silkin, L.
Brockway, L. Maelor, L. Sorensen, L. [Teller.]
Brown, L. Morris of Kenwood, L. Stocks, Bs.
Burden, L. Phillips, Bs. Stonham, L.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Plummer, Bs. Summerskill, Bs.
Faringdon, L. Raglan, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Gaitskell, Bs. Rhodes, L. Walston, L.
Granville-West, L. Ritchie-Calder, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Hall, V.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

Clause 52:

Control of afforestation

52.—(1) Subject to this section, no person shall plant land in the area of a Rural Development Board with trees except under the authority of a licence granted by the Board.

(2) Subsection (1) above shall not apply—

  1. (a) to planting by the Forestry Commission,
  2. (b) so long as the covenant, agreement or scheme in question continues in force, to land which is subject to a forestry dedication covenant or agreement as defined in the Forestry Act 1947. or the subject of an approved woodlands scheme made under the powers contained in the Forestry Act 1919,

4.40 p.m.

LORD HUGHES moved, in subsection (2)(b), after "force" to insert: but without prejudice to the enforceability of any condition contained in a licence granted before it was entered into, or as the case may be, took effect ".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, when I accepted on Committee stage the Amendment about dedication, which enabled noble Lords opposite to withdraw a considerable number of consequential Amendments, I indicated that it might be necessary to move an Amendment at this stage after we had looked at the full effects of the "dedication Amendment", if I might so describe it. I am glad to say that very little amendment of the clause will be necessary. In accordance with the requirement laid on them by Clause 46(3), the Board and the Commission will be in day-to-day contact on the implementation of their programme and any dispute between them will be settled by the Minister. This means that if the Board and the Commission are agreed that land should be planted, with no more than the normal conditions imposed by the Commission in their dedication agreements to ensure good woodland management, the landowner can be given his reply by the Commission without more ado. On the other hand, if the programme of the two bodies does not provide for the land to be planted in that way, the Commission can tell him.

There is, however, one point only which we should like to have put right about the clause as it now stands. It could be read as meaning that if the Board had already issued a licence when the landowner offers his land for dedication, the conclusion of a covenant would invalidate the licence and any conditions attached to it. This was not intended at all by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, when he put forward his Amendment. Noble Lords will remember that one of the arguments advanced by the noble Earl was that a landowner who might be prepared to dedicate his land and who, after some hesitation, finally decides to do so, could perhaps be put off if he had to face what he regarded as the unknown perils and hazards of applying for a licence. This does not apply in regard to this condition because this refers to a man who has in fact applied for and obtained a licence to which conditions are attached. We must, therefore, make it quite clear that there is no risk that this interpretation could be included in the Amendment as moved, and it is to prevent the risk of that interpretation that I move this Amendment to include the words now on the Order Paper. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, will feel able to accept this very slight alteration to the broad principle which the Government accepted on Committee stage. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 62, line 2, after ('force") insert the said words.—(Lord Hughes.)


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for explaining the meaning of this Amendment. It is within the spirit of the concession that he made. I take the point which he made, and I consider that it is quite fair. I advise my noble friends to accept the Amendment.


My Lords, in Committee my noble friend undertook to have another look at the penalty imposed for planting without a licence or for contravening a condition of a planting licence. We have borne in mind the criticisms made both in this House and in another place and also our discussions in Committee on Clause 68. As a result we have come to the view that, in the interests of consistency, a figure of £100 would be appropriate. Although this does not go as far as some noble Lords opposite asked, it rather more than splits, the difference in their favour, and I hope it will be acceptable to them. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 64, line 7, leave out ("two") and insert ("one").—(Lord Walston.)


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for the "horse deal".

LORD HURCOMB moved, after Clause 53, to insert the following new clause:

Conditions for exercise of functions of Rural Development Board

". In formulating or considering any proposals relating to its functions, a Rural Development Board and the appropriate Minister shall take into account any effect which the proposals would have on the flora, fauna, physiographical features, buildings, antiquities and natural beauty of the countryside."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I move this Amendment because the noble Lord, Lord Molson, who during Committee stage gave notice of his intention to move it again on Report stage, cannot be here this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Walston, undertook to consider the matter further, and I hope that he will now be prepared to accept this Amendment at least in substance. The existing Clause 45 does not adequately meet our point. As Lord Molson pointed out, any direction which it contains appears to be governed by reference to the development of agriculture and forestry in the course of which advantage is to be taken of any scientific interest in the area concerned.

I have admitted that the somewhat curious wording of the clause is interesting and indeed apt if one is thinking of the treatment of the scenery and of taking advantage of it on the lines followed by the great landscape architects. But I ask again what a Rural Development Board may think or do when told to take advantage of any feature of scientific interest in the area in the course of its development for agriculture and forestry. The standard clause which has now been incorporated in many Acts on the advice of the Government's scientific advisers in these matters, and which has worked satisfactorily in practice, does not really conflict with Clause 45. Apart from that, in my submission it has the great advantage of being clear, comprehensive and positive in its direction. Above all, it makes the important point that regard is to be had to the possible effects of every proposal upon the flora, fauna and natural beauty of the countryside at the earliest possible stage.

There is nothing vague or negative about it. The Amendment says: In formulating or considering any proposals relating to its functions, a Rural Development Board and"— which is another important point— the appropriate Minister shall take into account any effect which the proposals may have upon the interests in question. These considerations must therefore enter into the Board's thinking from the very start, and I find it difficult to understand on what grounds the noble Lord, or the Departments advising him, should desire to resist a clause which was acceptable to the noble Viscount, Lord Mills, in one of the Electricity Acts some years ago, and which has been acceptable to every other Minister who has had to consider the problem since. Moreover, it is completely in line with the countryside policy which Her Majesty's Government have announced their intention of pursuing.

Apart from those points, I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said in Committee, that it is advantageous to have this provision in one separate clause. I should have thought that as a matter of drafting this would be a better course to adopt than to attempt some amendment of Clause 45. But I must await the precise suggestions which I understand the noble Lord, Lord Walston, is to make, and of which he has very courteously given me some general indication. After hearing what those suggestions are, I may or may not beg leave to withdraw this Amendment. Meanwhile, my Lords, I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 53, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Hurcomb.)

4.53 p.m.


My Lords, this particular point has been a great education to me, and I admit freely that there are many gaps in my Parliamentary education. It is really remarkable that a matter on which all of us—the movers of the Amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, and his friends, and Her Majesty's Government and I—are all in agreement, should give rise to such very grave problems as to drafting and the achieving of our desired ends. I had hoped that it would have been possible to devise an Amendment which was agreeable both to the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, and to the noble Lord, Lord Molson, before the Report stage. Unfortunately, through no fault of anybody concerned, that has not yet been possible, but as the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, has indicated, I have put to him a suggestion which he is now considering.

I would say once more to the noble Lord and to other noble Lords who are interested in this matter, that we are as desirous as they are of ensuring, not only in these particular areas under discussion, but throughout the whole countryside, that we preserve our national heritage in so far as that is consistent with other needs. This should play its due part—not overriding, although it should in no way be pushed to one side—in the way of beauty, amenities, historic interest, scientific interest or anything else, and we are as eager as anybody—more eager than many people—that this should be done.

But we have very grave misgivings about this clause, for two reasons. In the first place, as has been said by my noble friend Lord Hughes earlier this afternoon, the spelling out of any particular group of activities or subjects is inclined to weaken those which, possibly inadvertently, have been left out, and that we certainly do not want to do. Secondly, this conservation clause, as one may call it, is altogether more negative than the existing wording of Clause 45. The conservation clause, as originally drafted for other Bills which are now Acts, was designed to give pause to statutory bodies who might otherwise go ahead with their statutory duties and destroy such features of historic interest, of beauty or of scientific interest without thought. It was simply to make them stop and think before they entered upon this act of destruction or vandalism. We want to go much further than that, and Clause 45(2) ensures not simply that the Board will give pause before it destroys these things, but that these matters will always be in the forefront of their mind as something actively to be fostered in planning their programme. I think there is a difference there. I do not want to labour this point, except to make it perfectly clear that our objectives are the same.

What I suggest to the noble Lord, even at this somewhat late stage, is that he should withdraw this Amendment now and that he and I will consult together before the Third Reading. I hope that we shall then be able to arrive at a form of words which will implement the objectives of both of us. If we are unable to do so, he is, of course, always free to re-introduce this Amendment on Third Reading, but I hope that that will not be necessary. I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his Amendment, at least for the time being.


I do not want to prolong the argument with the noble Lord, who has been most courteous in his treatment of my Amendment, and who I know has at heart the same objects as I and my friends. But I do not understand why he thinks that the Amendment is in any way negative. On the contrary, as I have emphasised, it says that in formulating their proposals the authority concerned is to take all these matters into proper account. In many cases that has had a very beneficial effect. It has suited the electricity authorities, such as the Central Electricity Generating Board, and many other authorities who have given effect both to the wording of the clause and to its spirit. Therefore, I think that the Department concerned with this Bill, which is taking the contrary view, is really not fully appraised of the circumstances. Nor, I think, in view of the wording of the clause, is there any risk, or any ground for grave misgivings, that anything material has been left out.

On the assurance of the noble Lord that he will either agree an acceptable wording in the form of some amendment to the existing Clause 45, or leave me and the noble Lord, Lord Molson, quite free to move this Amendment again at the final stages of the Bill, I am glad to beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.59 p.m.


My Lords, this is not strictly speaking an Amendment of substance, but it is rather technical. The intention is that the scheme of grants to be made under this clause shall provide for the Minister of Agriculture alone to pay to the Central Council money for them to pay out in grants. That being so, the Ministers—that is, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the Secretary of State for Scotland—when recovering grant under Clause 61(4), could not be said to be doing so in respect of grant paid "by them". I am sure that the House will agree, therefore, that these words should be removed. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 72, line 36, leave out ("by them").—(Lord Walston.)

5.1 p.m.

EARL FERRERS moved, after Clause 67, to insert the following new clause:

Application of capital money in payment of improvement rentcharges

". Section 73(1)(xiii) of the Settled Land Act 1925 (under which capital money arising under that Act may be applied in the redemption of improvement rentcharges) shall, in its application to any charge created under the Improvement of Land Act 1864 in respect of an improvement benefiting agricultural land, and its application by virtue of section 3(3) of the Agricultural Credits Act 1932 to the repayment secured by any mortgage, have effect as if the reference to redemption included a reference to discharging as it falls due so much of any periodical payment as represents repayment of capital."

The noble Earl said: My Lords, during the Committee stage of this Bill I moved an Amendment similar in nature to this one, and endeavoured to explain the purpose of it. I was a trifle dismayed when afterwards I met two or three noble Lords who told me that they had not the slightest idea what I was talking about, I having been sufficiently misguided to suggest it was a simple Amendment. But the noble Lord, Lord Walston, got the idea of what the Amendment was about, and accepted it in principle. He suggested that if we discussed how the Amendment of substance could be put in and the wording that should be used, the Government would see their way to incorporating this Amendment. So the Amendment which is now before us is, so to speak, the revised edition.

It is somewhat more complicated, but in view of my unhappy experience last time I do not propose to explain again to your Lordships what it is about, unless your Lordships so desire, other than to say that its basic object is to ensure that where a farm or land is to be improved by a mortgage from the Agricultural Mortgages Corporation or the Land Improvements Council, and where that land is settled land, a settled trust, then the annual charges and repayments due to the A.M.C. or the Land Improvements Council can in fact be recovered from the capital of the settled trust, whereas heretofore they were unable to be recovered. This is the object of the Amendment, and I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 67, insert the said new clause.—(Earl Ferrers.)


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, for having explained his revised Amendment with such clarity. I am sure that there is no noble Lord present who, having listened to him, is now in any doubt as to exactly what it is intended to do, and how it will achieve its purpose. But I am grateful to him for more than that. That is because I think he has drawn attention to something which was very definitely in need of improvement, as a result of which this Bill has now, I believe, been strengthened. I certainly support his Amendment, and am very glad to recommend to your Lordships that it be accepted.

Clause 68 [False statements to obtain grants]:


My Lords, this is a purely technical drafting Amendment, as in Clause 14, to achieve conformity with similar provisions in other Acts relating to agriculture. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 80, line 35, leave out from ("Act") to ("or") in line 36 and insert ("knowingly").—(Lord Walston.)

Clause 74:

Short title, interpretation, repeals and commencement.


"agriculture", "agricultural land", "agricultural unit" and cognate expressions and references to farming shall be construed except in relation to Scotland in accordance with section 109 of the Agriculture Act 1947, and in relation to Scotland, in accordance with section 86 of the Agriculture (Scotland) Act 1948;

LORD INGLEWOOD moved, in subsection (2), in the definition of "agriculture" and cognate expressions, to leave out all words after the first word "section" and to insert instead: 17 of the Agricultural Wages Act 1948, and in relation to Scotland, in accordance with section 17 of the Agricultural Wages (Scotland) Act 1949;".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 15, standing in my name on the Order Paper. Noble Lords may wonder what lies behind my putting down this Amendment, and I can explain it very easily. First, I wish to draw attention to what I believe to be a shortcoming in the definition of "agriculture" used in Bills and Acts which are also concerned with forestry. Forestry may be a side issue in this Bill—it has been described as a side issue, I think—but it is none the less a very important one and deserves fuller consideration.

The definition employed in the Bill includes, under the definition of "agriculture", these words: … the use of land for woodlands where that use is ancillary to the farming of land for other agricultural purposes …"— which is rather a mouthful. I think most of us can envisage very large areas of woodland in some of the areas which will come under review by a Rural Development Board. Some of that woodland will presumably rank as "agriculture" under this definition, and some will not.

The definition which I am suggesting as one to be preferred leaves us with no such confusion of mind, because there the definition of "agriculture" includes the words, "the use of land as … woodland …", and nothing could be simpler than that. If the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, is going to reply, I am sure he will give me a clear explanation, because he is so very able at explaining these things; and I am sure he will agree, too, that the wording of the two definitions is very different. The one that has been chosen is difficult to understand: the one that I am suggesting is very simple.

Later, when I was turning this point over in my mind, I came on another difficulty, and I wondered whether the areas owned and controlled by the Nature Conservancy do or do not rank as "agriculture" under the definition in the 1947 Agriculture Act. The noble Lord will perhaps tell me that this does not matter. Perhaps none of this matters; but I think that at this stage it would be nice to know. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 83, line 16, leave out from ("section") to end of line 18 and insert the said new words.—(Lord Inglewood.)


My Lords, I must congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood. on his ingenuity in finding that there is a reference to this in Clause 38, in finding that it included a definition of "agriculture" which suited the purpose of forestry better than the one that was used, and on seizing on the opportunity to put it in here. If he had, in fact, discovered everything, instead of just discovering that this was in Clause 38, I should indeed be on difficult ground in seeking to rebut him. But, unfortunately for him, he was unable, simply because he does not have at his back all the resources that are available to me, in this short time to find out all the consequences of his Amendment. I hope I shall be as successful in convincing him to withdraw this Amendment as he was in persuading the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, to press the previous one. It was to this one that I was referring when I said that I would give an indication of the dangers to other interests that could be imported in seeking to press forestry interests. This is the Amendment to which I was then referring.

The definitions of "agriculture", "agricultural land", "agricultural unit" and related expressions included in Clause 74(2) are those used in Section 109 of the Agriculture Act 1947 and in the comparable Scottish legislation. References to farming throughout agricultural Bills have been governed by these definitions, and we have used them throughout this Bill except where a distinction is deliberately made. The noble Lord suggests that we should use the definition contained in the Agricultural Wages Act, but this differs in several respects from that in the 1947 Act. For instance, it makes no specific reference to the keeping of livestock for food production, and it refers —and this is the point which commended it to the noble Lord—to all woodland instead of to woodlands ancillary to agriculture.

I am advised that if we were to accept the definition which the noble Lord prefers, it is likely that intensive livestock enterprises not dependent on the land—such as certain types of poultry and egg production—would not be able to qualify for investment grant under Clause 31. That is definite. These are, however, one of the most important classes of agricultural business that we might expect to benefit from these grants. There may well be other adverse effects—I have not had time to go into all the possibilities. I could have used this argument before, when I was warning of the consequences; but it did not seem to be fair to the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood that I should argue his Amendment before we came to it. But I thought it important that I should be able to advise the House of a specific consequence, and an adverse consequence, to a type of agriculture which would flow from attempting to do something of this kind. I think that is better than just giving a vague, general warning of things which might happen.

What I want to make certain is that I am not in a position to say that this is the only consequence which could flow from the adoption of this Amendment. This is one which has been picked up in the time available. As I understand it, the 1948 Act to which the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, wishes to refer, was a consolidating measure and drew on a definition of agriculture going back to 1924. It therefore has its history in the legislation governing relationships between employee and employer. Where we are dealing with labour relationships, as in the new Clause 38, we do, in fact, bring in the traditional definition already in use for that purpose. It is not that we have been picking and choosing. Where there is a regular definition of agriculture for the general purpose we have used that one. Where there has been a definition which, over the years, has been used in a particular relationship, such as in the employee—employer relationship we have continued to use that.

The definition included in the Agriculture Act 1947 was worked out to give expression to the post-war view of the scope of the agricultural industry, including, of course, the horticultural industry but excluding forestry, for which separate provision was made. This is the definition which was subsequently used in the Agricultural Holdings Act 1948, the Agriculture Act 1957, and the Agriculture (Small Farmers) Act 1959. We need this definition in the Act to express accurately what we have in mind for farm amalgamations, farm improvements and agricultural businesses in various parts of the Act. In short, the effect of the Amendment would be to bring in a definition of agriculture which would be less appropriate to farms and farming but which would include forestry. As was made clear in the course of the Committee stage of the Bill, when we were considering a series of Amendments to Part II and IV by the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, and the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, we do not consider it either necessary or appropriate to extend the scope of the Bill to include forestry, except in so far as forestry is brought in naturally in such matters as the operation of the Rural Development Boards.

My Lords, the Bill is an Agriculture Bill, and I think we should retain the definition in the 1947 Agriculture Act and its equivalent for Scotland, since these are the definitions most appropriate to farms and farming. I hope, therefore, while I still feel that the noble Lord has worked very hard to try to achieve his aim, that he will accept that there would be a definite price to be paid for the adoption of this Amendment. I do not know how many people would pay for it; but the intensive poultry farmer would be included among them.


My Lords. I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Inglewood on his ingenuity in finding this definition, which would appear on the surface to be more beneficial to forestry. I thought he made out his case very well; but the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has come back with equal ingenuity in describing what would be the specific adverse consequences. While I would not ask my noble friend to put too much weight on them, or to declare that there is a certain interest on the Front Bench in intensive livestock activities—I should not like him to be unduly influenced by this in the conclu- sion he reaches—I should be glad if he will keep it in mind.

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for that very full reply. I had looked carefully at the two definitions before I put this Amendment on the Paper. The last thing I wanted to do was to rob Peter in order to pay Paul; on the other hand, I do not think that this traditional definition of "agriculture", which I think first appeared in the 1947 Act—and some of us in this Chamber were probably present at the Committee stage of that Bill—is necessarily so perfect that it never needs amendment of any kind. I should think that the Bill we are now considering affords the sort of occasion when a modest Amendment might be appropriate, so that it is fair to forestry without asking anybody else to pay.

I do not want to enter into a long argument with the noble Lord, but I do not think he was quite fair in saying that livestock was going to be treated so badly under the definition which I suggested. May I say I am not bound to the exact words. I quote from the Agricultural Wages Act, 1948: 'agriculture' includes dairy farming, the production of any consumable produce"— I should have thought that might include battery-produced chicken— which is grown for sale or for consumption or other use for the purposes of a trade or business … None the less, if the noble Lord is advised that my Amendment has such wide shortcomings, I would beg leave to withdraw it. But I should like the noble Lord to look at it again to see whether an addition of a word or two to what he calls the traditional definition of "agriculture" might not be a good thing in this Bill and a good thing in Bills in the future.


My Lords, is that an invitation for me to speak again? If so, with your Lordships' permission, I would say that one thing I did not mention—an added difficulty which would need a great deal of work to get over—is that the noble Lord seeks to substitute a definition in another Act and he asks that Act to define "agriculture". But, in fact, the Act to which he refers does not include any definition of some of the things he seeks to define. The 1948 Act does not include a definition of "agricultural land". It defines "agriculture"; it does not define "agricultural land". It does not define an "agricultural unit". These are two of the things his Amendment seeks to do. In fact, if he were going to do this he must alter not only this Bill but also the 1948 Act.


My Lords, I have already begged leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 5 [Rural Development Boards.]:

LORD INGLEWOOD moved, in paragraph 3(1) of Part II, after "functions" to insert: including the appointment of sub-committees and the co-option of suitable persons to serve thereon,".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to move the Amendment standing in my name. As I read this Schedule there does not appear to be power with the Board to appoint sub-committees and to co-opt appropriate people to them. Although in general I am not in favour of proliferation, the subjects which the Rural Development Boards are being asked to study constitute a wide range: tourism, amenities, communications. I have more than forestry in mind, I would assure the noble Lord. I should have thought it was a waste of the time of all the members of the Boards—I believe they are going to have only a relatively small membership—if they have to go into all the details of all the subjects which come under review. Furthermore, I think those who are going to be affected by the decisions of the Board would feel happier if they knew their circumstances were considered, at least at one stage, by a body which had recognised experience of that particular subject.

I would imagine that agriculture will be the interest principally represented on Rural Development Boards, and that the other subjects such as I have mentioned will be definitely minority interests. None the less, those concerned deserve the same consideration, and I should like them to feel not only that justice is being done but that justice is seen to be done. It would be a valuable addition to the constitution of the Rural Development Boards if they could appoint sub-committees and co-opt suitable members.

Furthermore, this power to co-opt suitable people would be extremely useful in helping to link up with elected local authorities. I am surprised that we have not heard more about them from noble Lords on the Government Front Bench. Generally one hears a great deal about local authorities. But these Boards are not subject to election, they are subject to appointment by the Minister, and I assume that their status and position in country districts would be greatly enhanced if it were felt that there was a link up somewhere between them and members of the elected local authorities. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 104, line 6, after ("functions") insert ("including the appointment of sub-committees and the co-option of suitable persons to serve thereon,").—(Lord Inglewood.)

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, I think I can finish on an extremely amicable note on this Bill. Although I am not accepting the Amendment, I think I can satisfy the noble Lord that he has served a useful purpose in putting it forward. My reason for not accepting the Amendment is because the power exists, although I could forgive the noble Lord for not having noticed it. I had not noticed it myself until my attention was drawn to it. In paragraph 8(2) of the Schedule, on page 105, there are these words: … and subject to the foregoing provisions of this Schedule a Board may determine their own procedure, and the procedure of their committees. This is the only reference in the Schedule to the appointment of committees. Nowhere is there any instruction 'to a Board as to the form its committees may take. They are not told that a committee shall consist of so many members, or that it shall consist of certain members. They have complete freedom to appoint their committees, and it is implicit in that that the freedom includes the freedom to co-opt such members as they may desire. In fact we should expect that this would be the normal procedure. Therefore the power which the noble Lord seeks is already in paragraph 8(2). Having moved his Amendment, I hope he will feel that it was worthwhile, in that it has provided an opportunity to point out publicly that the power to appoint committees and to co-opt people to membership of committees is within the power of the Board. With that information, I hope that the noble Lord will feel that he has achieved his purpose, even though he withdraws his Amendment.


My Lords, if I may butt in on this argument, speaking as a complete layman, as the noble Lord has said it is quite right that there is mention of committees in the paragraph, but there is no power, so far as I can see, to pay anything towards the expenses or remuneration of those committees. Under the general part of Part 11 salaries may be paid to members of a Board, but there is no suggestion that we can pay salaries to members of committees.


My Lords, I would go a little further and say that I am by no means convinced by the explanation of the noble Lard, Lord Hughes, that the paragraph constitutes the power to appoint committees. You may easily read it to mean that it is committees of the body itself, a breaking-up into small groups consisting of committees, whereas my noble friend obviously wants to bring in outside people, which is quite right.


My Lords, this is very difficult. In fact the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, is wrong in this. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, that the power is there. If I may draw attention to paragraph 3 on page 104, that says: It shall be within the capacity of a Board as a statutory corporation to do such things and to enter into such transactions as are incidental or conducive to the performance of any of its functions, but they shall not borrow money without the appropriate Minister's written consent. This gives them all the power necessary to appoint committees, whether from within their own membership or outwith their membership, or jointly with their own membership and co-opted membership. It is not contemplated, and I do not think that such committees as this necessarily would include, that there should be a paid membership. This would be far from the normal purpose of these things. What it does—


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question? If the noble Lord had given that information at the very beginning, probably I should have been perfectly satisfied. But on which paragraph is he now relying to rebut the argument of my noble friend—the paragraph at the top of page 104 or the one towards the bottom of page 105?


My Lords, I am not relying on any paragraph to rebut the argument. I am accepting the points put forward by the noble Lord that the principle which he is seeking is a good one, and this Schedule makes provision for it. I pointed out 8(2) as the paragraph in which there was a specific reference to committees. There is no point in referring to committees in the Schedule unless a Board has power to appoint them. Two points were raised. While this may give a Board power to appoint committees, there did not seem to be any power to pay any expenses in which the committees might be involved. The power to meet expenditure is covered within the very wide powers given to the Board in paragraph 3 of the Schedule.

If I had been clairvoyant, I should have known that the noble Lord was going to say this before he said it, and I should have answered him before he made the point. But I suffer from the same defect as other people, in that I do not always know what people are going to say until in fact they say it. I am happy to be able to answer it when it is said, and that is something for a Minister to be able to do—or for a member of the Opposition for that matter.


My Lords, I am very pleased to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that the matter is covered by other paragraphs of the Schedule. It is extraordinary what one finds in a Bill if one digs deeply enough, but until the noble Lord explained it all to us no ordinary man glancing through this Schedule would have realised that it was possible for the Rural Development Boards to operate in this way. I think that my Amendment has served a certain purpose, and on the happy note that we have now been able to strike may I conclude and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.