HL Deb 08 May 1973 vol 342 cc267-317

3.24 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [The Nature Conservancy Council]:

THE EARL OF CRANBROOK moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 19, after ("the") insert ("carrying out")

The noble Earl said: This Amendment, which stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Inglewood and myself—Lord Inglewood has asked me to apologise to your Lordships because important public business keeps him in the North of England—is fundamental to our whole modern conception of conservation, and the decision which your Lordships will reach this afternoon will probably condition the way in which the Nature Conservancy Council will work for the next half generation or so. I hope, indeed, that it will, because the Conservancy has been pushed about from pillar to post for far too long and it is essential that it shall now have some continuity. The Conservancy was set up in 1949 with the three fold function of acquiring and managing nature reserves, giving advice on conservation and organising and developing the associated research, and it was obvious from the beginning that the third is a prerequisite to the first two. You cannot choose a site of scientific importance by eye for its amenity value, as you would a National Park. It has to be chosen after full investigation, on the advice of an investigating team, for its scientific value. Research into the ecology of that reserve is essential if you are to produce a good management scheme, and the credibility of any advice which you give must depend upon its being seen to be dependent upon research.

Now the reserves themselves are field laboratories usually chosen as representative of some habitat, like mountains or moorland, which is common throughout the country and of which the reserve is a typical example, and field work in them must be reinforced by work in the laboratory. For example, a study of the inter-action of grazing animals with the vegetation is as essential in managing a reserve as it is on a farm, but with wild animals it is much more difficult and must involve analysis of their droppings in order to be able to recognise the remains of the various plants found there and see what relationship the quantity of that bears to the quantity of the same plant in the fields. So, as well as nature reserves, the conservancy had to set up research stations of which typical examples are Monkswood in Huntingdonshire, dealing with woodland and lowland grass research, Bangor in North Wales, dealing with upland pasture, and Banchory in Scotland, dealing with mountains and moorland.

The Conservancy therefore has been a science-based unit from the beginning, and the conservation staff and the research staff have been virtually interchangeable, moving from one to the other, from the very beginning. It is that close contact between the conservation and research branches, at least those in the research branches engaged in tactical research, that has made the Conservancy what it is to-day, and my Amendment is intended to retain that position. In 1971 the Lucas Committee, which was investigtting the relationships between the Conservancy and NERC, said the following: The strength of feeling concerning the worthwhileness of conservation was most impressive. The word 'evangelical' was used by one witness to emphasise it. To it can be attributed the enthusiasm for conservation work that runs through all levels of the Conservancy. We do not doubt that this enthusiasm is evident to the people who are given advice. We were also most impressed with the conviction held throughout the entire Nature Conservancy that research and conservation were inseparable. That was said of evidence given before it at the latter end of 1971 and the early part of 1972, and in case I should be accused of suppressio veri I should add that the Lucas Committee was in favour of keeping the Conservancy within NERC. This teamwork has been wonderfully successful. The Conservancy's advice has been increasingly sought by local authorities, by naturalist trusts, by farmers, foresters, landowners, and of course by Government Departments; and I would include foreign Governments, who have looked upon the Conservancy as a sort of model conservation body and have asked for advice as to how to set up such a body in their own countries.

Later this evening your Lordships will, I hope, give a Third Reading to a Bill on the conservation of badgers under which the Conservancy will have to give advice to the Minister on those animals. It is already engaged in investigating the effect of pesticides on badgers, but if it is to give all the advice that the Minister may need it will have to undertake much more research into the habits, behaviour, distribution and the like of those animals—because the Conservancy must always be looking ahead. It has to be ready to give advice on such matters as the effects on the countryside of a Barrage in the Wash or at Morecambe Bay, or on such less spectacular matters as the apparent decrease in the numbers of some species of butterfly or peregrine falcon. In all those investigations both the conservation branch and the research branch—and, indeed, amateur naturalists as well—work closely together, because it has been found that much which was previously looked upon as being mere natural history can produce vital evidence in the study of the effects of pesticides provided that the evidence given is collated and analysed by scientists.

That is how the Conservancy developed, and your Lordships will well understand how in 1935, when it was suggested that the Conservancy should be merged with NERC, there was a tremendous outcry in case that contact between the conservation bodies and the Conservancy, and that close co-operation between research and the conservation side, should be lost. In the event, the Conservancy went into NERC With its functions exactly the same; with the same duties as it had had before, the acquisition of reserves, the provision of advice and—I quote from the Charter of NERC: carrying out and supporting such research as the Conservancy considers appropriate.

However, by 1971, for reasons into which we need not enter, the machine was not working smoothly, and it was suggested that the Conservancy should be taken out of NERC. As the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said on Second Reading, the Government received two entirely opposing pieces of advice: that the Conservancy should stay within NERC, and that the Conservancy should once again become independent. But the one point on which almost everybody was agreed at that time was that conservation and research should not be separated; and I have just quoted the Lucas Committee who found exactly the same.

The Government, rightly I think, decided that the Conservancy should again become independent, and within the Department of the Environment. That is a good move. It is in line of what happens in a good many Continental countries where there are close official contacts between bodies concerned with recreation and amenity in the field and those concerned with conservation and research. But, having taken that first step, Government seem to have faltered at the second and, without the appreciation of the situation which Solomon showed, they chopped the baby in half. That has been proposed once before. The Slater Committee suggested when NERC was about to be set up that only the research part should go in and that the conservation side should stay out. At that time the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, was a member of that Committee and produced a Minority recommendation to the other effect. Indeed, it was his evidence I think before the Trend Committee which finally decided that the Conservancy should go into NERC with conservation as well.

The proposal of the Government was apparently not made in order to ensure that the new Nature Conservancy Council would be a better body than the Nature Conservancy had been. The only reasons given to us on Second Reading were, first, that it fell in line with the customer/contractor principle laid down by the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild; and secondly, it was suggested that NERC would be unable to carry out its statutory function of carrying out research into ecology if it no longer had the ecological work done by the Nature Conservancy under its own control. That last problem of NERC and some other body having concurrent powers of research was well in the mind of Parliament when the Act setting up NERC was passed. It was known that the Forestry Commission was to retain its research stations; that the fisheries laboratories of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries were to be retained. Nevertheless, NERC was given the duty of carrying out research into both forestry and fisheries. Indeed, it has not prevented NERC from setting up the Institute of Tree Biology which, as NERC says in its annual report, is complementary to the tactical and strategic research carried out by the Commission; and it has not prevented NERC from doing some admirable research work on fisheries, including a rather interesting survey on the food of herrings in the North Sea.

Your Lordships will therefore see that if the Conservancy Council was to retain the capacity for tactical research, and possibly for strategic research as well, that would not in any way preclude NERC from carrying out basic research in ecology as it does in fisheries and forestry. Indeed, this is much to be encouraged because the Conservancy is I think carrying a certain amount of dead wood, from the conservation point of view, in the shape of too much basic research carried out at some of its stations; and much would be gained if NERC were to retain control of those stations and of the research carried on in them. Indeed, I should add that in 1971 NERC felt that it should be responsible for both basic and strategic research in all of it. I would not myself squabble very much with that view, although I think that possibly the new Nature Conservancy Council should have the power of commissioning strategic research as well.

The noble Lord also spoke of implementing, as I have said, the customer/contractor principle; but he did not say that that was going to make the new Council any better than the Nature Conservancy had been in the past, and unless it does so I think we must reject it. Because surely the object of this Bill must be just that: to make the new Nature Conservancy Council at least as good as the Nature Conservancy has been, and preferably better. If this new body has the same functions of conservation, of the giving of advice and of the carrying out of the appropriate research as the Nature Conservancy has had in the past, it will be at least as good. If to that is added an association, within the Department of the Environment, with other bodies concerned with the preservation of the countryside it should, I think, be better. For that reason I welcome the major provision of this Bill.

In conclusion, I should like to stress the point which I made at the beginning: that any decision reached now must last at least half a generation for the sake of the staff of both and for the sake of the members of the Conservancy and of NERC, none of whom have known where they were since the separation of the Conservancy from NERC was first suggested in the middle of 1971. Therefore it is essential that the decision which we take to-night should be such that no pressure to reverse it is likely to arise for some considerable time. I believe that if this Amendment is rejected there is bound to build up strong pressure to give the Nature Conservancy Council at least the power to undertake tactical research, and that that pressure will come not only from outside, from the voluntary conservation movement, but even more strongly from its own staff. It will build up pretty quickly if that staff is good, and it would not be fair to resist it, unless the new Conservancy Council is going to be satisfied with the second grade. We shall not get and hold good staff if we are going to say to them that they are not fit to undertake research. On the other hand, if the Conservancy Council has the power to undertake tactical research, I cannot see any pressure arising to try to remove that from it. In short, I believe that the new Nature Conservancy Council could be an improvement on the old Nature Conservancy if it could carry with it into the Department of Environment at least the power to undertake tactical research. I think that only if it has that power will it be able to continue on an even keel for the next half generation or so. I beg to move.

3.43 p.m.


At the Second Reading of this Bill I said on behalf of my noble friends on this side of the House that we were in broad agreement with what was proposed, not so much because we thought it was necessarily the right solution as because (a) it was a workable solution that the Government had clearly adopted, and (b) the Nature Conservancy had been so much "mucked around" over recent years that any tolerance of this would be better than further change. I did not mean to imply by that statement that we were necessarily committed to every detail of what was proposed in the Bill as it was introduced into the House, and I think the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, has made a powerful case for permitting the new Conservancy Council to do some of its own research.

Let us look for a moment at the extent of the change which would be made by the Amendment. The Bill as it stands at the moment says that the Council may commission research and may stimulate research; it may do everything in favour of research except actually research. The Amendment before us simply says that as well as stimulating, commissioning, promoting and so on it may actually do some research. If I understood the noble Earl aright, he was laying particular emphasis on the doing of tactical research, which I take to be the rather small localised jobs which could be done on one of the Council's own sites and which it would clearly be rather absurd to invite somebody else to come in and do for it, particularly as it has the staff.

So I am slightly torn in two directions: first, a desire that the Government should get what they want in this connection; and, secondly, by the intrinsic reasonableness of the case advanced by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, for his Amendment. At the moment I should be inclined to advise the Committee to vote in favour of this Amendment, unless the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, can tell us that the Government have it in mind to introduce at Report stage some other Amendment, giving the new Conservancy Council the power to conduct some research of its own.


I am going to ask your Lordships to resist this Amendment and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will be convinced, by what I have to say, that my noble friend on the Front Bench is right. I agree with my noble friend Lord Cranbrook that before the Government proposals in this Bill were known last July there were in the Nature Conservancy two factions among those concerned with conservation: one in favour of staying in NERC and the other seeking an independent status outside NERC. But my noble friend said that both sides wished to see research and conservation remain integrated and in the same organisation. In that event, as my noble friend said, the Government decided to attach the Nature Conservancy in its new form, as the Nature Conservancy Council, to the Department of the Environment. This was an important if not a vital step, as I believe that only as part of D. of E. can the new Council give its best and most effective service to the nation.

Here I part company with my noble friend in connection with this Amendment. As compared with being under NERC, the new N.C.C. will indeed be a better body. It will have the money, the power and the advisory powers to achieve what it knows has to be done. But of course the price the conservationists have to pay for this great step forward is the loss of the ability to conduct a considerable amount of research. This is a price that I am prepared to pay—not that I do not appreciate the other side of the case but because (and this is one very good reason) I agree with the Government's grand strategy for research. I appreciate that just as changes in responsibility for research will, for example, be accepted by the water industry—which has duties somewhat similar to conservation—so we who are concerned with conservation are right to accept this change in the national interest.

I go further. Are your Lordships aware that the majority of those employed by, or directly concerned with, the Nature Conservancy Council accept this decision and will genuinely try to make the new arrangements work.


If I may interrupt the noble Lord for a moment, I did not realise that he was speaking for the civil servants who work for the Nature Conservancy. Can he justify his statement? It is very important, and I should have thought that this was probably a matter which we should hear from the Government.


If the noble Lord had waited for a moment I was going to give my noble friend an opportunity to justify it. As I say, the new Nature Conservancy will genuinely try to make the arrangements work. It realises that in the goodwill and determination to succeed there are undoubted advances in the present arrangements. I was about to say that the Minister will be able to tell me whether I am right in saying that since July the Conservancy and its committees have accepted the Government's proposals on the N.C.C. functions, even if regretfully, and that this acceptance was recently reaffirmed.

If this Amendment succeeds it will be the Nature Conservancy and its staff which will suffer. As my noble friend has said, it has experienced two years or more of uncertainty about the future. To plunge it back now into that state would really be unforgivable. Planning on the new basis is well advanced, and is it not now time to stop fighting old battles and to give an opportunity for the new organisation to be created.

I suggest to my noble friend, and I offer a solution to my noble friend and to your Lordships, that there is one step the Government must take to reassure us all about the consequences of the loss of so much direct research. They must undertake to provide more money than they have initially proposed for the commissioning of research on the the customer/contractor principle. As the position now stands, the N.C.C. will be able to commission work only to the value of a mere £300,000 a year. That is a ludicrously small sum. For the new Council to have enough money to spend on research is the one factor that will keep the two bodies to a considerable extent dependent on one another in their relationships, and it is a far better solution than that referred to in my noble friend's Amendment. I beg the Minister to give us his assurance (I know that he cannot go any further than that) that he and his colleagues will look again at the amount available to the Council for commissioning research under the present policy and at the benefits that there will be for the whole field of conservation if that amount was substantially increased. The best way to get the best research for the new Conservancy is to ensure that it has enough money to pay the experts, with all their facilities, to do it for them, and not for the Conservancy to become a separate and perhaps ultimately an isolated research unit doing the job for itself, probably on a shoestring.

3.52 p.m.


Like the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, I speak with some direct, and indeed long, acquaintance with the Nature Conservancy both as a member of the Conservancy and for a time its chairman, and even now a member of its England Committee. I have felt what I think the senior members of the staff and those best qualified scientifically to speak really think, but I am not going to claim to speak for the Civil Service or the Scientific Civil Service because I do not think that is my proper function.

There are really two points here: first of all the reorganisation and, secondly, the future Council's function in regard to research. On the first question, my own view always has been, and remains, the same as that expressed to me in the corridors of this place by the late Lord Howick a fortnight or so before his death. He felt that the right solution was to leave the Conservancy as part of NERC with some adjustment to correct any deficiencies that have shown themselves in the working of the system in recent years and with some redefinition perhaps of its research function. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, himself mentioned that view expressed by Lord Howick, otherwise I should not have felt myself entitled to refer to it. We both had come to the same conclusion after knowing all the arguments and divisions of opinion that have been expressed recently about the precise relationship between the two bodies.

I believe that the able officials and the scientific staff could have worked out a good system within the main structure of NERC, but I am not going to argue that. It has been decided otherwise, for reasons which are not very clear to me. But it has been decided, and I can understand the feeling of the staff that they do not want to be left in uncertainty any longer. They have worked under great difficulties for the last two or more years and they all came to the conclusion that it was time that this ended. So on that main principle I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, that that part of the system should be left undisturbed. Whether it will in fact lead to anything being better conserved or anything being better researched into, I confess I am a little sceptical.

In my time there was no difficulty in dealing with different problems of research whether you labelled them tactical or strategic—they are all basic. It may be that the old Conservancy did not farm out to universities or others as much as it might have done, but if that position were to be made clear to it by the Government, or through NERC, I should have thought that that could have been cured without much difficulty. They ought not to try to do too much themselves. There is always a tendency in every organisation—Government, and, I suspect, non-Government alike—to do as much as possible for yourself. Everything done for a soldier in the war eventually had to be done by a soldier and any frictions that arise from that one cannot really cure.

But the Amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, raises a sharp clear-cut issue: are we to say to the staff who are left with the Conservancy: "You are not to carry out research"?—and I suppose that means, "You are not to waste your time in thinking about it." That seems to me to be an impossible situation. If the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, does not mind, I should like to look a little more closely at what he said. In effect it is that the Conservancy may have people who are labelled "scientists" and they are not to have a research capacity (whatever that means) but they must have a scientific competence, whatever that means. He then goes on to say—and I think the Government scheme implies—that with that distinction drawn you will still get men of high scientific quality to join the Conservancy. Why should a man of high scientific quality take up a post in which he is told almost as an instruction, "You are not regarded as having any research capacity, and, what is more, you are not to spend your time on any form of research. On the other hand, we must be sure that you have the right scientific competence, otherwise we cannot have you at all"? That is going to be a very difficult line to draw and I do not believe that it will attract the right kind of scientist. Surely the good scientist will fight shy of taking up any post of that sort.

There is the risk, which showed signs of developing years ago, of dividing the scientific staff into two groups—the people who really were researchers and those who were only some sort of superior park-keeper for conservation—and then saying that all that is wanted is a good superintendent of a park, with some scientific background. I do not think that that is the right way to tackle this problem, and I cannot believe that it will lead to the right solution. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, seemed to me to be encouraging. He did not pontificate and say, "This is the only way to do it"; he said he would be very willing to hear arguments from both sides. Is that not the best way of making progress: to think again, not necessarily agreeing to adopt Lord Cranbrook's wording that the new nature body is to carry on research, yet not saying specifically, "That is entirely outside your sphere"?

I believe that the eminent geologist who now presides over NERC and his able staff, and the people in the Conservancy, could, if they were given a little more time, find a better, more acceptable and more workable solution than that now proposed. I differ entirely from the noble Lord, Lord Craigton. If the staff now take the view that he says they take, it is merely because they are tired out, worried; they have been pushed about here and there for so long that they say, "Let us accept what is now proposed and make it work." As an old civil servant, I know of course that once Ministers have made up their mind that something has to be made to work, or to seem to work, for a time, the ability of the civil servant is equal to meeting their demands. But whether it will work for long satisfactorily is quite another matter.

I do not think this House ought to be influenced by what the current view of a certain number of civil servants may be. Like the noble Lord, Lord Cranbrook, I have met practically no one who thinks that this divorce between conservation and research is sound. What seems to me to have happened is that the Government, faced with this conflict of view, have jumped on the new principle of the Rothschild solution (as it may be called) of a contractor/customer basis. They have jumped on to that principle as though it were a raft on which they could float safely out of these troubled waters. I do not for a moment dispute that that principle may be a salutary and sound, and probably right, one in dealing with an engineering problem, a defence problem, a mining problem or perhaps anything which is directly a physical problem. I remain quite unconvinced that it is a right principle, for dealing with medical research (and I shall be interested to know what the distinguished physicians of the Medical Research Council really think about it, if it is to be strictly applied to medicine), and I am quite sure that it does not fit and is not applicable to the problems of conserving or studying fauna and flora living in natural conditions.

One can understand the desire of a Government to apply the same principle all over the field of research, but it seems to me that the problems are fundamentally different, the qualities of the people who work on them are often different, and that our administrative machine ought to adapt itself to the real underlying characteristics of the problems and not force on the problems a machinery which does not fit. I would therefore urge the Minister, who has shown an open mind—or, if not an open mind, certainly not one completely wedded to what he has proposed—to think again, perhaps going a little further than he did on the Second Reading in showing how far he was willing to take account of other opinions on this very difficult problem. I believe that if he does that, and talks to the right people, something better can be found than the Bill as it stands. I deplore, as all your Lordships do, the fact that we are deprived at this moment of the statesmanship and love of nature which were found in Lord Howick, who certainly, though I think already feeling tired from his illness, said, "This has been done by the Government; we must make the best of it". He would be willing to fight a little harder, if he were still here, for the point of view which I believe practically the whole of the scientific staff of the Nature Conservancy believes to be right.

May I pass for a moment to a rather difficult point? There are no doubt advantages to be obtained by giving the Nature Conservancy in its new form independence of the Minister, with the power to go to, in my view, the right Minister, the Minister responsible for the environment, without having to explain any problem to the Treasury, or whoever it may be, through NERC, who in turn will pass it on. That has been the only cause of friction that I know of in the past, and the faults, I am sure, have not been all on one side.

But what rather alarmed me was the glee with which those who have changed their view see that they are going to get direct control of the cash. They say that it is too little, and ask, what is the good of£300,000? Of course it is very little, but I think that is a matter which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, will want to think about. He may be quite sure that those who now accept this solution as right are thinking, "We have only to wait a few years and we shall have built up a parallel scientific establishment; whether they have got research capacity, or not. They will say, "We must have our own people. We cannot have these problems worked out and solved by people who are not part of our organisation."

May I conclude by saying that in the early days of the Conservancy I was repeatedly struck by the immense advantages which arose from having scientists of different points of view, and different interests in a way, working side by side, going into the field together and feeling that they were part of one organisation. I remember very well when I joined the Conservancy Sir Arthur Tansley, the inventor of "ecology" as a science and one of the most distinguished ecologists we ever had, saying that to me in the field. He said, "This is going to develop in the way I want and in the way the country needs." You get these people with different training—the academic scientist, the Fellow of the Royal Society, the practical naturalist—and they are not hived off into two separate groups. They feel that they are colleagues, that they are working on the same problems, and that they will be solving them best if they work in close conjunction.

I do not know whether I am entitled to vote. I am a member of a conservancy committee at the moment, and if the noble Lord, Lord Sandford says he would rather I did not vote then I shall not do so. But I cannot disguise my conviction that essentially the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, is right; nor my belief that another look at this difficult problem and consultation with the right people will find a better solution than that which is before your Lordships at the moment.

4.11 p.m.


I hesitate to intervene in this debate, because I am too well aware that most of your Lordships who have spoken, or who are likely to speak, are far more experienced than I am. I am myself a lay person and I have no pretences whatever to scientific knowledge or competence. But it so happens that, through certain activities, I have been in very close touch with some members of both the Nature Conservancy and the NERC, and I am very much worried about the Amendment which the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, has put before us. It appears to me that if we accept it as it stands and at its face value it could completely upset the balance which I believe is the basis of the Bill and which—and my information is the same as that of the noble Lord, Lord Craigton—has been broadly accepted by those most closely concerned.

The difficulty about the Amendment is that if we accepted it it would elevate to one of the main functions of the new Nature Conservancy Council the function of research. That would be regrettable, because the main function of the Nature Conservancy Council is the conservation and management of the nature reserves and areas of scientific interest; and what is sometimes called basic research or strategic research does not seem to me, on balance, to be a major function of this body. I was particularly concerned that, in the course of his remarks, the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, referred, first of all, to practical research and then went on to mention strategic research as well. That seemed to me to be a misconception and made me all the more worried about the noble Earl's proposition. We may be in some danger over semantics and over what precisely we mean by "research", and I hope that when he speaks the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, may help to clear our minds.

While it would be wrong to elevate research to being a major function of the new Nature Conservancy Council, it is also plain to me that there are some activities, which, by certain definitions, might be called "research", which would be inescapable functions of management. If that is what we mean then of course such functions should be part of the Nature Conservancy Council. I should not have thought there was any quarrel about that. But it is not quite clear in the Bill that this is so, and I have very great sympathy with the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, who asked the Government to think again, because even if some of us feel it impossible to accept the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, as it stands, equally it is arguable that the Bill should be plainer, indicating that there are certain functions of monitoring, observation and so on which are absolutely essential to the activities of the Nature Conservancy Council. Therefore, I hope that at the end of our discussion this afternoon we shall not come to a hard and fast decision; in other words, that the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, may feel disposed not to press his Amendment. But he could be expected to do that only if the spokesman for the Government gave a clear indication that the Government themselves were also prepared to go part of the way in clearing up what is at least open to dubiety. There could be difficulties over the interpretation of the Bill as it stands, and there might be limitations on the activities of the new Nature Conservancy Council under which I do not think any of us would wish them to labour.

I have tried to study the arguments both ways and I have sought information from those who are scientifically much better able to judge than I am myself. I think it would be fair to say that there have been quite strong criticisms by people in certain scientific fields of the work of a research nature undertaken hitherto by the Nature Conservancy. I am told, for example, that some of the conservation research which has been undertaken has had an inadequate scientific base. It has been pointed out to me that there is the temptation, which the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, touched upon, if one does not have an adequate scientific complement and wants to go into certain fields—and conservation is becoming a more and more complex field—to set up one's own little research organisation, rather than take a wider view and go outside to those who could probably do the job very much better. I am also told that there are suggestions of a certain imbalance in the spectrum of information taken into account in reaching conclusions at the present time.

If we are to suggest that the new Nature Conservancy Council should undertake a great deal of its research—I am sure that even the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, would not suggest that it should undertake all of it—then it seems to me that these possible deficiencies of working from too narrow a base, of working with too narrow a spectrum of information, will be intensified. There is also a danger of duplication if we accept the suggestion of the noble Earl, and the new Nature Conservancy Council might undertake work which could be far better undertaken by other organisations. I am thinking partly of such studies as geology, marine or freshwater biology and so on. There are other bodies which are particularly fitted for research of that type, and it would not really be in the general interest to encourage what might be—I hate to use the term, but your Lordships know what I mean—second-class research, or less adequate research than that which could be undertaken by some of the other existing scientific organisations.

There is also the very important point which has been touched upon, of whether, if one limits in any way the research functions of the new Nature Conservancy Council, one will then be able to attract adequate staff. It is difficult to predict, but I am told that there is considerable interest in such posts as chief scientific officers; that is to say, persons who need to have quite considerable scientific competence in order to make the necessary Judgments, who are not themselves necessarily primarily interested in research but are more concerned with what in a broad sense might be called scientific management problems rather than academic research. One noble Lord—I believe it was the noble Lord, Lord Craigton—mentioned the Water Resources Board as a case in point. I do not want to discuss that because the Government are determined to kill it. Nevertheless, I, too, at one time had some dealings with the Water Resources Board, and I have made inquiries in that direction on this very point. I am assured that they have found no insuperable difficulty in attracting people of very good scientific attainment although they themselves commission most of the research that they require from other bodies. So that although the question of staff is an important one, it does not appear to me to be by any means insurmountable.

To sum up, it appears to me, as I said, that to accept Lord Cranbrook's Amendment would alter the whole balance of the proposed Bill and would elevate into a major function something which at most, it seems to me, should be a subsidiary function of the Nature Conservancy Council. Equally, I think we are absolutely right to press the Government to indicate ways in which the Bill might be amended in order to show quite clearly that there are activities—such as management trials, surveys, monitoring and so on—which are entirely proper to the staff of the Nature Conservancy itself, and that if they feel that, arising out of these activities, there are subjects which require research in depth, then they should be given adequate funds with which to commission such research.

4.22 p.m.


I wonder whether I might speak for a moment now because I have a Joint Select Committee meeting at half past four. Perhaps I should declare an interest in that I am a member of the Red Deer Commission and I am nominated by the Nature Conservancy. As my noble friend Lord Cranbrook has put down no Amendment to Schedule 1, which at the bottom of page 4 refers to the Deer (Scotland) Act, I do not think that in fact I shall be affected by this Amendment, but I just feel that I ought to make it clear that I might have some slight interest.

I should like to support my noble friend Lord Cranbrook for two reasons which I do not think have been given so far—and I shall be very brief about them. First, I have been extremely impressed by the work which the Nature Conservancy have done, both on the Island of Rhum and in Glen Feshie, on red deer research as well as management, and in my opinion it would be extremely difficult to split these functions particularly on the Island of Rhum. Secondly, a House of Commons Select Committee on Land Use in Scotland recommended that the Nature Conservancy should be strengthened. They also recommended that the Countryside Commission for Scotland should be strengthened; and this was, as they put it, to create constructive tension with the two heavyweights in Scotland, the Department of Agriculture and the Forestry Commission. I think that almost everyone with whom I have spoken agrees that this recommendation was a good one, and I should have thought that if the Government went through with their present plans and split the Nature Conservancy management functions from their research functions the Nature Conservancy would be weakened rather than strengthened, and that to do such a thing would go totally against the recommendations of the Committee which reported to another place about four months ago. So I very much hope that my noble friend Lord Cranbrook will succeed in his Amendment.

4.24 p.m.


It is perfectly plain from everything that has been said that the issue we are debating is as old as the Nature Conservancy itself. The noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, has indicated quite clearly what the basic considerations were when the Conservancy was set up. I, too, happen to have known about the start of the Conservancy. Sir Arthur Tansley was somebody who mattered a great deal in my life; and I was reminded only yesterday—and I have been reminded again to-day—that the particular issue we are discussing at this moment is one about which I expressed a strong view, many years ago. The noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, referred to the work of the Slater Committee. I had forgotten about this when I was talking yesterday about the matter of this debate, but I looked up the Record and was reminded that I was in a minority of one on the Slater Committee, refusing to accede to the view that the functions of the Nature Conservancy should be divided as between management, acquisition and so on, on the one hand, and the conduct of research, on the other.

My view was not accepted by my colleagues on the Slater Committee, a Committee in the genesis of which I had also played a part, because of the peculiar position of biological research in the country at the time. But I see that my view was accepted by the old and now defunct Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, and subsequently by the Trend Committee; and, as we have heard today, the same view was reinforced by the Lucas Committee only a little more than a year ago. I am therefore torn at the present moment between, first, my desire to see this matter settled, because I know many of the people concerned in the Conservancy and have known them over the years, and I believe and agree fully that the state of uncertainty which now prevails is not a good one. I am also very concerned that the Government take the right decision now because, as the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, has said, we want to see this matter settled from the point of view of reason for at least a generation ahead. Yet this is a matter which has come up constantly.

My other problem is that of being consistent with the views I have stated before, which are in print and to which reference has been made. Here, I would take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Craigton. We are not fighting old battles. This is a current battle, and I think the Government are as much concerned as is the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, that the right decision be taken now. The question is whether or not that decision can be made consistent with the wider lines of strategy which have been defined and accepted by the Government for the conduct of such research as is paid for in the public sector. As I say, I consulted the record last night and then I asked myself: has anything changed? Has anything changed that really makes it necessary now to separate the whole function of research from that of management? I am using the word "management" very broadly with respect to all the other functions of the Nature Conservancy.

Frankly, I am somewhat amazed, because I understand (I am open to correction if I am wrong) that until very recently, and practically without exception—and reference has been made to this already this afternoon—the members of the staff and the director of NERC itself and the old Conservancy Council, as the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, has said, all argued for keeping together the functions which it is now intended to separate. What has happened, then, over the past year and a half? What new considerations have really entered the substance of the matter to make it necessary now to suggest this change? Frankly, I do not know, except in so far as we are dealing with definitions. The noble Baroness, Lady White, has asked whether we are not discussing semantic issues. Frankly, so far as I am concerned, there are many semantic issues here. I do not know what strategic research is. I am still doing research, but I do not know whether I am doing strategic research, basic research or applied research. I have not an idea what it is I am doing. I am doing research which is related to the particular interests I have at a given moment; and I do not believe that anybody in management would dream of separating the right of inquiry from the responsibility of execution. I do not believe, therefore, that the new Council could really work if it were precluded from carrying out research itself. But I also believe that the new Nature Conservancy Council could well hand over to NERC a lot of research of a continuing kind—call it what we will, strategic or basic—and let us hope that a few of those who do this research win Nobel Prizes for doing it.

But there will be also research which I am confident will have to be carried out by the new Nature Conservancy Council. Let me say at once that I, for one—and I am here consistent with what I believed before—believe that the Government are right (and perhaps I would here depart from the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb) in transferring the Nature Conservancy to the D.O.E. That is right. But I should like to be certain that the people who work at the bench are not inhibited in the way they might be if the words of the present Bill are interpreted too severely by civil servants. My erstwhile colleagues, I know, are very competent at interpreting words. I should therefore like to be assured (as I am sure would other noble Lords to-day) that the Government are not going to take too rigid a view about the particular words in the Bill. I believe that whatever the shortcomings of Lord Cranbrook's Amendment, it should be accepted by this House.

Here I depart from the noble Baroness, Lady White. I think that you cannot subcontract research. If you are an original person, you do not get an idea and say, "I have a brilliant idea—you work it out." Friends of mine on the Cross-Benches have carried out research and they know that it does not work this way. If the purport of the Bill and the particular section of it which the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, wishes to see amended would be that there would be more paper work, pushing documents around, with, finally, the same chap doing the work he would have done if he had not passed paper around before it came back to his own desk, then I think it would be foolish not to pay attention to this very serious matter which is brought before us to-day.

In the long term I believe that what is suggested, as I said when the whole question of Government research and development was considered in this House, is a step in the right direction. But we must be careful that it is not an immediate step into a pitfall. I am certain that the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, is right and that the people in the new Conservancy—and the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, made the same point—will be doing research. I think there is also a job for NERC and that the Research Council can pursue many inquiries of a kind which do not immediately impact on the responsibilities of the new Natural Environment Research Council; but there is research work that needs to be done by that new Council. In the long term I do not think all this will matter at all. I trust that the long term will not be so long term and that I shall still be alive to hear that the whole of NERC is handed over to the D.O.E. and that the responsibility for research in this field is taken by the Department which has a responsibility to Parliament and to the people of this country for looking after all matters of management of our physical environment.

Therefore I would conclude by asking the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, to consider whether there is some way of interpreting the words, or reconciling the words, of the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, with the words in the Bill so that the Nature Conservancy Council is not debarred from undertaking—whatever is the right description of the research which is immediately relevant to its executive functions—the responsibility which it is discharging on behalf of the D.O.E. Secondly, I should like to be certain that it is the Government's intention to see that the new Council is furnished (and furnished in relation to the other staffing jobs in the Department of the Environment) with a strong chief scientist organisation to make certain that the right questions are asked at the right time in such a way that too much time is not wasted before jobs are done.

4.35 p.m.


It might be convenient for the Committee if I were to intervene, not so much to answer fully at this stage my noble friend's arguments, but to take the opportunity my noble friend's Amendment provides of setting out the Government's intentions as to the ordering of research in the natural environment, explaining in some detail the reasons behind those decisions and outlining the way in which we see them working out in practice. I look forward thereafter to hearing the views and suggestions of other noble Lords before intervening a second time to answer the debate.

I first turn to the basic concept of having D.O.E. and NERC. The creation in November, 1970, of the Department of the Environment, in which I serve and which has wide responsibilities in relation to the conservation of the environment in many fields, has enabled us to take a total approach to the environment to ensure that priorities are regularly reviewed and that problems which interact are not treated in isolation. We are concerned with the conservation of the countryside and the safeguarding of the National Parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty together with all sorts of other aspects of conservation. We are naturally concerned that policies on the conservation of wild life and of areas of scientific value should be developed within the context of our policies in other fields.

But since 1965 we have also had a Natural Environment Research Council—a council which is concerned with research into the whole range of earth sciences and ecology, nature conservation, geology, hydrology, oceanography, forestry, and marine and freshwater biology. Each of these benefits by being conducted within a system which provides a multi-disciplinary approach and by being able to draw on the resources of a widely-based research organisation. Under the present proposals a new Institute of Terrestrial Ecology is to be formed in NERC. Although this will comprise a number of geographically scattered stations and elements, it will be closely knit as regards policy and administration.

It is against this dual background that we have to consider the roles that are to be performed in relation to nature conservation, research into it and how they can best be developed. There is one aspect on which we can all agree. With the intensive and increasing pressures on the land of our small island and the importance of safeguarding its environment, an effective organisation capable of appreciating the significance of developments and of being able to implement sound nature conservation policies is vital.

The carrying out of research is one function. Another function of a different sort is that of judging what research should be commissioned and the application of the results of that research. Whatever the arrangements, the combination of these two separate functions in a single organisation can of itself lead to difficulties. The Government have considered it right that the commissioning of research should be based broadly on the principle of a customer/contractor relationship—a close, intimate working relationship. This approach is being adopted, wherever it is appropriate, throughout the whole range of work of the Research Councils.

There is in our view no reason why the arguments for adopting that principle should not also apply broadly in relation to nature conservation. The Government obtained independent advice on the arrangements which should be made to set up the new Nature Conservancy Council by appointing Mr. Neville Heaton, who was formerly a deputy secretary in the Department of Education and Science, and has latterly been a deputy secretary in my own Department. He visited the Nature Conservancy's establishments and had discussions with the staff concerned. We are indebted to him for producing proposals which have clearly demonstrated the practicability of the Government's decision, and have met with the approval of the bodies directly concerned.

The Government are convinced that under the proposals we have put forward and embodied in the Bill the new Nature Conservancy Council will be able to derive the full benefit both of the research capability of NERC and of a close association with the Department of the Environment. My noble friend Lord Craigton asked about the resources available to the new Council. The amount which has been provided at present enables the existing level of research to be maintained. The future resources that may be made available will need to be considered both in the light of the new Council's proposals for its programme of work and their priority and also within the context of environmental policies generally. The Nature Conservancy Council will, of course, still need to have its own scientific competence, and there will also be a need for close links between the N.C.C. and NERC in order that the full benefits of the new arrangements can be fully realised.

I should like to say a word about that. First, I should like to refer to the announcement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment on April 26 that he proposed to appoint Sir David Serpell to be the Chairman of the new Nature Conservancy Council. Sir David was the first Permanent Secretary of the Department of the Environment when it was formed in November, 1970. Sir David is just as convinced as I am of the vital importance of close co-operation between the new Council and NERC, and I am sure that he will do his utmost to foster it. I hope that noble Lords will join with me in wishing him well in this new venture. A first vital step in establishing close cooperation has already been taken by my other right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who has appointed Sir David as a member of NERC. We regard cross-membership between NERC and the N.C.C. as particularly important; and, of course, there will need to be liaison at all levels, regional as well as central. More thought will be necessary as to the details, but some ideas have already emerged.

One important idea is that NERC have in mind giving one of their members a positive responsibility for keeping the liaison between the two bodies under review. We expect the new Council to consider whether there should be cross-membership on appropriate committees of either body. At officer level it has been suggested that NERC should participate in any advisory committee which the Chief Scientist—for which the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, rightly called—of the new Nature Conservancy Council might set up to help in determining what research the new Council should commission; and that the new Council should be represented at meetings of any NERC group particularly concerned with research of interest to the Council. At the operational level similar formal arrangements for consultation will be needed between the staffs of the two bodies. Joint consultative committees might be set up to consider particular problems where this course was justified, and there could well be movement of staff between the two bodies.

Several noble Lords have already introduced the question of the scientific competence of the N.C.C. While the Government are clear that it would not be right for the Nature Conservancy Council itself to carry out substantial research, they are equally clear that it will need a proper scientific competence. There will be over 100 scientists in the regional staff of the new Council and we propose that there should be a Chief Scientist, as the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, suggested, supported by his own team. The Chief Scientist and his staff will assess and co-ordinate requirements and priorities for commissioned research. They will be responsible for forecasting future trends, assessing their effects on nature conservation and advising generally on the scientific aspect of the new Council's work.

Clause 1(4)(b) expressly gives the new Council power to do all such things…as are incidental or conducive to the discharge of their functions under subsection (1)(a). This would cover, for example, the carrying out of investigation in the context of the Council's management function, though it is not intended that it should go as far as research. But we should certainly expect to see the regional staff and wardens—as the noble Baroness, Lady White, envisaged—continue to carry out surveying and monitoring work in carrying out their management and advisory functions. Many of these scientists in the regions are highly qualified and extremely knowledgeable men in their own right, and it will be important that they do not lose touch with their practical contacts with ecology and natural history. If the new Council were to have an exclusive, separate and substantial research capability, as would be allowed for under my noble friend's Amendment, this would mean that there would be less opportunity for the regional staff to keep themselves closely involved in scientific work. This has been a continuing problem throughout the life of the Conservancy. We are confident that under the Government's proposals the new Council will be able to attract and to retain the right kind of scientists and will have an appropriate scientific standard in relation to other bodies.


I am trying to follow very closely what the noble Lord is saying. Is he saying that these 100 scientists are not going to be able to do research? He said that they can monitor and do ancillary duties. He also said that they must not lose touch with ecology. But nature conservancy is ecology. I do not understand: are they not going to be able to do any research at all?


This, of course, is the main argument that we are having. As I said in my opening remarks, I thought that it would be helpful to set put the broad basis and background against which we are having this debate. I am anxious to hear the views of noble Lords, particularly about the way in which the kind of research they want to see the N.C.C. carry out might be defined. It is not defined at all in my noble friend's Amendment. Perhaps we might come to that later. If I may concentrate at the moment on setting out the background against which we have to conduct this debate—


I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, will appreciate the great importance of this. If he is opposing his noble friend's Amendment it seems to me that he will succeed in carrying the majority of the Committee with him only if he can give more satisfactory assurances about Clause 1(4)(b) than so far he seems to me to have done.


I hope that I shall be able, before I finish, to satisfy both the Committee and also the noble Baroness. But, if I may, I should like to concentrate, as I have been doing, on the background and the outline of the arrangements against which we shall very shortly have to take a decision. The final points I want to make relate to the views of those actually involved in working these arrangements and on whom we rely to make the progress which we all wish to see. Several noble Lords have recognised how very important they are, after all the controversy and uncertainty in this field. There have been differing views and conflicting advice on the form which the organisation should take. But it is true to say now that both NERC and the Nature Conservancy Council have accepted the Government's decision, and this I regard as being of very great importance. Their acceptance of the decision was reiterated at meetings which those bodies held last month. Both bodies have welcomed the Government's detailed proposals for implementing the decision. I would suggest that noble Lords must surely let this fact weigh with them in considering this Amendment.

In response to my noble friend Lord Craigton's request, I shall be glad to confirm the views of the NERC and the Conservancy staff sides, and I will quote from a passage in the comment they have submitted. They say: In general, given the decision to place the Conservancy research and conservation functions in separate organisations (N.C.C. and NERC) the Staff Sides welcome the proposals from DOE and NERC for implementing this decision. These show, at least in principle, that the new arrangements for the Nature Conservancy are being worked out in ways that can benefit conservation and staff interests alike. With goodwill and determination from all concerned both the conservation functions and research associated with these should develop satisfactorily and in harmony. The Staff Sides intend to do all they can to achieve this, since the careers and livelihood of our constituent members are at stake. We look for a firm and positive lead from the two Councils and their Chief Executives in bringing the new arrangements into being successfully and as quickly as possible. In an area where there has been so much controversy, I think it is remarkable that there is now such a widespread feeling that the Government's proposals set out in their consultation papers should be implemented with the minimum of delay and further uncertainty. I cannot stress too strongly the unsettling effect that there would be on the work of the Conservancy and on staff morale if the whole basis on which we have been proceeding so smoothly was now changed.

I have thought it helpful to intervene early in the debate on my noble friend's Amendment to set out broadly the reasons behind the Government's decision to establish the N.C.C., to set forward the arrangements we propose for arranging research into nature conservation in the future, and the way in which we see these arrangements operating in practice. I believe the Committee will recognise them as being practical and well suited to the present structure of Government in which environmental research and environmental policies are now being handled. I should now very much welcome the further views of noble Lords before fully answering all the points of rather greater detail which noble Lords have raised.

4.53 p.m.


This Amendment seeks very simply to enable the N.C.C. to "carry out" its own research in addition to "commissioning and supporting it". This is different from the statement which appears in the Nature Conservancy article of the NERC, which merely refers to "carrying out and supporting", the main difference being whether you do it yourself or sponsor somebody else to do it for you. But I think here we are dealing with words, as many speakers, including the noble Baroness, Lady White, have already said; and, so far as I can see, we are in difficulty about the definition of "research", which means one thing to my noble friend Lord Cranbrook and another to other noble Lords. To me, it means carrying out genuine research, and not such things as management studies. My noble friend Lord Sandford has drawn attention to the way in which the so-called research can be fulfilled by the N.C.C. under the terms of Clause 1(4)(b). I do not pretend to be in any way an environmental scientist, but I have been concerned with research for many years and it seems to me that the functions of the Nature Conservancy Council will not be impaired at all by the terms of Clause 1 as drafted.

The so-called research function has in the past been related primarily to conservation management and advisory work. This is not, strictly speaking, basic research, which in recent years has become so important in the environmental field. Nature Conservancy research teams did undertake basic research where it was necessary in order to resolve underlying ecological problems, but I think that this shows that the Nature Conservancy have never really had these research resources on tap, so to speak. In fact, Nature Conservancy has now become even more strongly concerned with the establishment of management of nature reserves, and basic research has advanced to such an extent, widening in scope and disciplines, that it would be difficult to mount effective programmes, as my noble friend Lord Sandford has said, without calling on special multi-disciplinary teams with considerable resources at their disposal, so that they can work above the threshold level which is likely to assure the successful outcome. Surely, this is where NERC as a whole is able to offer the best solution. The very object of the Research Council is to promote the advance of fundamental knowledge about the environment and to contribute to the training of the scientific manpower of the country. The resources at its disposal will ensure, to my mind, a co-ordinated research programme to back the programmes of the various bodies concerned with the environment, and it will have the ability to command the necessary funds.

With priorities to consider, I cannot see a satisfactory research wing of the N.C.C. developing and attracting the right sort of scientific staff for meeting the advanced research objective, except at the expense of duplication. I think my noble friend Lord Sandford has explained the management and advisory functions of the N.C.C. extremely well, but I should like to digest these later when I read them in Hansard. It is clear that they are by themselves very considerable indeed, without taking into account any research work which might be undertaken or commissioned.

I should like to say a word or two about commissioning research. This is not a lesser way, or a more inefficient way, or a poor man's way of having research carried out; it can be done as effectively, and very often more efficiently and promptly. But more thought has to be given to the reasons for doing it, and more consultation has to take place in order to make a case for the work to be done and to avoid duplication. The results obtained in this way are, from my experience, as valuable as those obtained in-house. Very often, the sponsor saves himself the cost of a large number of specialists and their facilities, all of which constitute a running expense which has to be maintained over the years.

Finally, the Nature Conservancy Council is surely not intended to be a research council. I think this is becoming plainer as the debate progresses. But I do not see that it will be prevented by the Bill from carrying out its functions in terms of trial, monitoring, observation and that sort of thing. I do not think you can call this genuine research. I should be glad to hear what my noble friend Lord Sandford has to say in detail about Clause 1(4)(b) and the powers that the N.C.C. will have under that clause to carry out these functions which my noble friend Lord Cranbrook believes are research.

4.59 p.m.


My Lords, we are taking a very long time over this one Amendment, but it is extremely important and goes to the very heart of a piece of legislation which, although modest in size, is of great national importance; namely, the whole method of conduct into conservation and research which will increasingly play a major role in human planning and human activity. I must confess that the more I have listened to the debate the more depressed I have become by the somewhat mechanistic approach of the Government to an issue of the greatest sensitivity. I have the greatest sympathy for the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, in his task in trying to use appropriate language for a Minister in an area where almost inevitably one goes back into the philosophic realms into which we were launched somewhat dubiously a little while ago by the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild. It is indeed unfortunate that we are having to discuss again the customer/contractor relationship, though I was interested to note the definition given by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford (though of course it may not have been meant as a definition), that a customer/contractor relationship is a close and intimate working relationship. This has not always been the case in customer/contractor relationships. Perhaps the noble Lord is saying that that is what it ought to be—


—and is, in many cases.


—and is in many cases. I do not doubt that the arrangements the Government are making with regard to the working relationships of this rather high-sounding Terrestrial Ecology Institute—and again one would like to know more about that, and to know whether they will be doing straight botany or biology or whether they really will be the ecological or the nature conservancy wing of NERc—are the best arrangements that can be made, given the split in the old Nature Conservancy. If I understand it correctly, the old Nature Conservancy had two wings: a research wing and a wing responsible for the management of nature reserves. I do not know whether co-location is possible. Of course it will not be possible where the research stations are, and I imagine these will form the heart of the Terrestial Ecology Institute.

Incidentally, if I may quarrel with the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, whose memory and vigour is so much greater than is the case with many of us, I think he said it was that very great man, Professor Tansley, who first used the word "ecology". My information is that the word was first used by Thoreau in the middle of the 19th century. If there is one subject with which the Nature Conservancy is concerned, it is ecology. I share the views of my noble friend Lord Kennet, that we do not want to vote against the Government on this Amendment and we are not in any sense approaching it on a Party basis. So far as I am concerned, my noble friends on this side may go whichever way they think the argument has taken them, because this is not a Party issue.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that I am worried, not about the immediate effect but about the long-term effect of this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, specifically refused to say at any point that any of the scientists who will be working for the new Nature Conservancy Council—these hundred scientists—will be able to do research. Again, if I may go back to the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild—and the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, will confirm this—it is absurd to talk about scientists. It may be all right in the electronics field—I am not sure, but I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Ironside, is a physicist—but in this field it is impossible to think that scientists cannot do research. Yet it appears that under this Bill they are forbidden to do so. If they are not forbidden, it must be explicitly stated that they can do research. If we look at the particular provision contained in Clause 1(a)(iii), we see this: (iii) the commissioning and support (whether by financial means or otherwise) of research which in the opinion of the Council is relevant to the matters mentioned in sub-paragraphs (i) and (ii) above… We have been told by the Government that they can do surveys and that they can monitor; but supposing that a particular scientist working in a particular field of research, such as the nature conservationist area in the island of Rhum—it is almost entirely a research project but none the less it is a conservation area where people are concerned with the control of red deer, their breeding, herd management and so on—wants to do some research. As we know from my noble friend Lord Snow and others, there are sometimes conflicts in the corridors of scientific power and it will be possible for the Secretary of State for Education and Science to say, "This is not allowed under the Bill". Noble Lords may say that it would be absolutely absurd to say that. I quite agree, and I should like to ensure that the Bill is explicit enough to allow this.

If I may say so, it was not my intention originally to support the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, but to urge him, in the light of the discussion, to have another look at perhaps a narrower Amendment on Report stage. But even now any danger of destroying the research part of the old Nature Conservancy—the old part which is left behind in NERC—can be prevented because the Secretary of State has absolute powers to give directions in this matter.


My Lords, would not the noble Lord agree that the person he referred to; that is, a person who wants to do research, can apply for a grant from NERC in fact and still carry out the research.


My Lords, I feel very hesitant to say to somebody with as much knowledge as the noble Lord, Lord Ironside, that I really do not believe that it is possible for scientists working in the field to work in this sort of way. I would much rather the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, explained how this might be done. But what is the definition of research? Whether we like it or not, in fact the Nature Conservancy Council will be contributing to research: and I should like to see in this Bill either the form of words proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, or a form of words indicating that this capacity is here.

We have heard a great deal about the desirability of getting a decision from the point of view of the staff. I do not doubt that it has been a very weary time for them. I have also talked to members of the staff of the old Nature Conservancy, and have had the same advice; but in Parliament we have to take the right decision on this matter. I do not think we have it yet. It may well be that the Minister will be able to satisfy us when he comes to speak again. I hope we can be given some explanation. It may well be that we shall not need to vote, but if there is not a proper assurance—and I have great sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, but I doubt whether he can give us the assurance that he will tackle this on Report stage with a different form of words—then my advice to my noble friends will be that they are free to make up their minds and, if they wish, free to support the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, if he decides to take the matter to a Division.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, may I intervene for one short moment? We all ought to be extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Cranbrook for initiating a far better Second Reading debate on this Bill to-day than we had at Second Reading, and a much fuller one. Also, if the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, will forgive me, a most splendid remark fell from his lips this afternoon which I shall long remember—I wrote it down. He said: I am still doing research and I have not an idea what it is I am doing. I know exactly what he meant, but it is an awfully good remark, and we must send it off to Private Eye.


My Lords, if I knew what I was doing, I should not be doing my research.


You would not be doing your research. If you knew what you were doing you would not be doing it. That would have been a different remark. However, my Lords, we must give great attention to what the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, said sometime ago about the difficulty of a scientist taking on a job which is going to fulfil him fully and his skills and knowledge if he is to be specifically divorced from his laboratory or work bench. When we had the debate on the Rothschild Green Paper there was a great split of opinion, and the point came out tremendously strongly that scientists, if they were worth the name of scientists, must go on being scientists. They all feared being diverted into administrators.

I heard an example of that only the other day in a different sphere. A bank official with whom I was connected was being recommended the registrar's department of his bank. Several of his friends said, "I hope he does not get diverted into that because this man is a banker". We were assured that he was a banker, and a skilled banker, and he would conic back into the main stream of banking, and that he was not going to be diverted for life into being a registrar, which, however honourable a profession, was not his. The point the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, made is an extraordinarily important one. I hope that when we are considering Lord Cranbrook's Amendment we shall give it very deep consideration. Shall we get in the future the right staff on this Council who are to be scientifically qualified to have what is called a "scientific capacity" but they are not allowed to practise their art—because that is what it comes to—or science. I have grave doubts about this, and we should bear this in mind.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and also perhaps my noble friend Lord Sandford, spoke as if a wrecking Amendment had been moved by my noble friend Lord Cranbrook, and that the whole of this carefully thought out Bill was going to be destroyed by this Amendment. It was as if Lord Cranbrook's Amendment were a Motion to reject the Bill on Second Reading. If your Lordships read what my noble friend Lord Cranbrook proposes to do now, I do not think it can be considered to be a wrecking Amendment. If you insert the words he asks to be inserted in line 19, the clause will read: the following functions, namely…the carrying out the commissioning and support (whether by financial means or otherwise) of research… All he is doing is adding the fact that they may, they can, they are not precluded from doing or individual scientists are not precluded from doing, direct research as well as the other matters which they must do in commissioning research on the contractor/customer principle. The point we are now being asked to consider, as I take it, by my noble friend Lord Sandford the noble Baroness, Lady White, and presumably my noble friend Lord Sandford, the noble Baroness, Lady White, and presumably my noble friend Lord Craigton, is that these two things cannot be run in double harness, that you cannot have these scientists doing any research themselves if they are part of an organisation which has been set up as a customer to give out with its money contracts to other more qualified contractors. We must consider this carefully: do these destroy each other, or can they run in parallel? I hope they can.

I was slightly surprised, when my noble friend Lord Sandford was speaking, when he said that this principle—may we call it the Rothschild principle?—which I believe in, provided that it is not taken to extremes, had been adopted by Government and therefore there were not going to be any Councils doing research any more; it would all be done by contract. I must be very naÏve and foolish, but I had not realised that both of the research institutes with which I am interested—and I immediately say not as a scientist but as a layman, a poor administrator—which receive all their funds from the Agricultural Research Council are precluded from doing research. Neither the director of the Meat Research Institute, of whose Advisory Committee I am Chairman, nor the Director of the Fruit and Vegetable Institute at Long Ashton, is precluded from going near their benches or from writing up the results of their work in Nature or from maintaining their own laboratories. The argument when we were debating the Rothschild Green Paper was that many scientists had great fears that they were never again going to be allowed to go anywhere near their laboratories, or a piece of apparatus; that the rest of their lives would be spent in an office answering telephones and writing minutes. We hope that that fear has been allayed in practice, that research activities are still going on, and that scientists have not been turned wholly into administrators.

Heaven knows! We all want passionately that the Nature Conservancy shall be allowed to settle down and get on with work which is becoming increasingly important. But must we now see these people—perhaps these people alone—being made the example of the principle right to the end: "No science at all; only administration for you, though all of you must have the correct scientific knowledge so that you can commission the right things"? But who are you going to get to work along those lines if this is being hammered home like that? I hope that we may be able to say that my noble friend Lord Cranbrook has not moved a wrecking Amendment, but that he has moved a sensible Amendment, and one that we can vote for in this House. Perhaps it is not in the right order, perhaps it should be reworded so that it might read that they may carry out research as well as commissioning it. Perhaps it would seem better to my noble friend Lord Sandford that the Amendment should read that the Council should have the power to commission and support research; and he might like to have the relevant words put in brackets or in small type at the end of the sub-paragraph. It might make all the difference if that were how it was put. I hope that this is not too simplistic. I hope that we shall be able to do this.

May I digress for one second on an interesting point? The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said that Thoreau first used the word "ecology". I thought it was Stapleton. But what matters is how you spell it. If you look up the word in the dictionary, in a 19th century dictionary, you will find it spelt with an "œ"—"œcology". It is only the modern word, which perhaps is different from the œcology, spelt with a diphthong, that is in modern dictionaries and is the "ecology" that we are talking about to-day. My Lords, I have spoken for too long, but the clock has stopped.

5.20 p.m.


I have the greatest sympathy with those who worked with the old Nature Conservancy, who had to fight for it in its earlier days and who had to fight for its money to do research. They had to fight to get the absolutely essential research off the ground. But I do not think we should allow that battle of bygone days to dominate our thinking at the present time. I myself am inclined to the view that an established administrative department should not normally do research itself—not that it should necessarily not do it, but that it should not be a normal function of an administrative department to do research. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady White, when she said that if it does research there is a tendency for it to take its eye off its main task. I think that that is a very cogent argument indeed—at least, it is with me.

The noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, questioned whether we should get good staff for the Nature Conservancy if they were not allowed also to do research. I think the Fulton Report and the action that stemmed from the Fulton Report, leading to the interchangeability of scientists in the fields of administration and research, has put a different complexion altogether upon this matter, and the proposal of the Government in this Bill I think facilitates the interchangeability of scientists within NERC. From the scientist's point of view, I think it is far more important that you should get a squad of scientists in the Nature Conservancy, as the Amendment suggests. The ecology scientists themselves will have a much better opportunity if they are in NERC and not under the Conservancy Council.

There is another scientific reason that I think holds good for the Government decision, and it is that we cannot forecast at the present time what are going to be the sciences and fields of knowledge that will have to be brought in to deal with ecological problems. If we put the scientists under the Council at the present time, then there may be a barrier between getting the answers from associated fields which may indeed be fundamental. For that reason I think that the proposals are the right ones. I regard this Bill as the logical evolution of the whole subject in the organisation of matters concerning the environment. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Sandford—and I am speaking only from information, as I might say, on the scientific worker's desk. It seems to confirm what the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has said: that the scientific staff concerned on the whole support the Government proposals. If my information is correct, they are very apprehensive that these proposals as they stand in the Bill before your Lordships just now may not go through. In the words of one scientist, they have been already too much bashed around, and if scientists get bashed around they do not do very good scientific work. I support my noble friend, Lord Craigton, in resisting this Amendment.


I hesitate to add anything to what has been about a two-hour debate on a single Amendment, but I think that there is a psychological point to be considered. If you know that you are the only person who can do something, the chances are that you will not bother to do it. If you know that other people can do it as well, you are much more likely to. As the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, pointed out very correctly, this Amendment is not confining research to the Nature Conservancy; it is merely allowing them to do it, and surely that is a very sensible thing to do. The result will be that it will be much more likely to be done. Therefore I sincerely hope that your Lordships will accept the Amendment.


Having heard the views of all noble Lords who have taken part so far in this very valuable, extensive and thorough debate, perhaps I could now deal rather more fully with my noble friend's Amendment. What is envisaged by my noble friend in proposing his Amendment is that some research should be carried out by the Nature Conservancy Council and some by the Natural Environment Research Council. His Amendment does not seek to show where the dividing line should be. Indeed, one of the difficulties is precisely as the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, has indicated. It would be extremely difficult to mark out this boundary, and the problem is not honestly solved by saying that the division can be dealt with administratively. We should still find that the precise boundaries between the research functions of the two bodies would be extremely difficult to define.

The research which it has been suggested the Nature Conservancy Council should carry out must be carried out from a sound scientific base. If the N.C.C. were to undertake much of this they would need a much larger organisation. That could well result in uneconomic expenditure and there might well be duplication of effort as between the N.C.C. and the NERC, as well as confusion of aim within the N.C.C. itself. So we are convinced that if the main research function in relation to nature conservation is to be performed effectively it is essential that the carrying out of the research should not be divided broadly between the NERC and the N.C.C. A matter that we consider to be really important is for research to be undertaken, at least in the main, by the body concerned with the whole range of earth sciences and ecology. This ensures that research into nature conservation and other environmental research can be properly developed and integrated as a whole, and their interrelationships, which are considerable, fostered and safeguarded.

If the carrying out of research were divided broadly between the NERC and the N.C.C., the sorting out of which research should be done by the new Council and which by NERC, and how the properties and staff should be divided, would be extremely difficult, and any such division would be a continuing fruitful source of friction between the two bodies. To give the new Council a full research capability would inevitably lead to its drawing apart from NERC and to an increasing isolation from the mainstream of environmental research efforts. By contrast, under the Government's proposals there could be a close and working relationship between the two bodies, and the integration of nature and wild life research with other related research in other fields of the environment.

Now perhaps I could just give one example out of many of why it is good sense for applied conservation research as a general rule to be carried out on a scientific base within NERC, and how difficulties would arise if this were to be done by the Nature Conservancy Council. Take just as one example, out of many that could be given, the Toxic Chemicals Section at Monks Wood, which I was looking into myself only two days ago. This is a section that was formed at Monks Wood in 1960, and it is an example of how there may develop a need for a major reorientation of a research effort. The section was originally formed when suspicions first arose of trouble from the organochlorine pesticides. This problem has now largely been dealt with and is broadly under control. But in future the section will need to turn part of its attention to new kinds of pollution and problems arising from the non-agricultural sources, such as heavy metals. These new problems are not confined to terrestrial wildlife in agricultural areas, and research on them will need to be undertaken in conjunction with freshwater and estuarine pollution research undertaken in other NERC institutes and laboratories. To attempt the redeployment and regrouping that is now needed would be impossible if this capability resided exclusively within the Nature Conservancy Council. As I say, there are many other examples I could quote and that is just one.


Why should this redeployment take place as a result of this Amendment? I simply do not understand. As somebody who has followed closely the progress at Monks Wood, it never occurred to me that this would be moved to the new Council. But that is not the argument, as I understand it.


The point I was making was that the N.C.C., if it had a major research capability of its own, might well have tackled a problem of that kind, finished it, and then, if the capability resided in the N.C.C., it would not have the capability of adjusting itself in the broad front which is possible in a body which is based inside an organisation with a broader range of disciplines.


I think this must be made clear to us. I do not understand this at all. I have followed this debate with the greatest interest and it is important. But if the N.C.C. does a piece of research which leads to problems which it is not equipped to deal with, what possible reason is there to stop it from passing them over to NERC? I simply do not understand the argument at all.


Perhaps I could continue rather than dwell too long or, that particular example. It is pertinent—and perhaps this leads on from what the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has just been saying—to mention that, even under the present arrangements, the Nature Conservancy does not carry out research by any means in all the fields in which it gives advice. Perhaps that is the point the noble Lord was making and I am glad to be able to confirm it. For example, much of the Conservancy's advice on the status of bird populations has been based on work commissioned from the British Trust for Ornithology and the Wildfowl Trust. As regards the conservation of geological features, advice by the Conservancy has been based on research carried out by the I.G.S. and by universities. So that demonstrates that the new Council can operate in independence of in-house research. What is important is that the Council has a scientific competence to commission the necessary research work and to interpret the results obtained by others. That is what the Government are aiming to ensure that it will do.

I have already explained at some length the reasons which underlie the Government's proposals, but I recognise the great value of the many expressions of opinion that have been given by noble Lords in this Committee this afternoon. I should like to take time for the Government to think further and carefully about what has been said because it is of such value. We could consider whether we would be able to recommend at Report stage an Amendment in a form of words which might help in bridging the gap which at present divides the Government and my noble friend Lord Cranbrook in the bald Amendment which he has down on the Order Paper to-day, which has enabled us to have this extremely valuable debate. So I should like to follow up the suggestion which has come from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, and maybe the valuable suggestion of my noble friend Lord Waldegrave about using small print in brackets, in order to meet some of the views that have been expressed.

To adopt the Amendment in the bald form which is now before us would pose considerable difficulties in sorting out the respective roles of the NERC and the new N.C.C., and I should have to ask the Committee to resist that if my noble friend were to press it. But I ask my noble friend not to press his Amendment to-day, on the understanding that the Government want the benefit of the views that have been expressed this afternoon, and to take time to do it and look further into the matter. I give my noble friend the assurance that when we have done this I will write to him so that he will have time to consider his position further before the Report stage.


By and large we on this side were not convinced with the noble Lord's reasons for rejecting the Amendment as it stood, because it seems to us that if you give a body freedom to do research you do not thereby automatically incur all the confusion and competition which the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, described. It is not an impossible administrative problem for the NERC and the new Nature Conservancy Council to settle between them a frontier on the kinds of research they might be doing. I repeat that merely to give the new Council the power to research, as opposed to having no power to research whatever, would not by any means be such a receipe for confusion. But, having heard what the noble Lord has to say about the Government's intention of looking at the possibility of introducing later an Amendment which would, as he put it himself, bridge the gap—and one can see many ways in which the gap might be bridged; one can see many research powers which might be given to the new Council under certain limitations, limitations which would ensure a tidy frontier such as the Government wish—let me say that I think many of us on this side, although this is not a Party matter in any sense, would be glad if the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, were to feel it right to withdraw his Amendment at this stage. He can always put down the very same one again later if he does not like the Government Amendment he sees. But if he did not withdraw the Amendment we should not feel able to advise the Committee to reject it; we should not feel able to join with the Government in advising the Committee to reject it.

5.39 p.m.


I feel as if I am now about to reply to a Second Reading debate because this debate has been more like that than a Committee one. If I may deal first with the points of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, I must confess to having been profoundly disappointed in his reply, because by and large he did not answer any of the points which I made in introducing this Amendment. His basic principle seemed to be that NERC and the Conservancy Council, having power to undertake research, could not coexist. I think I showed when I moved this Amendment that many other bodies with exactly the same powers as NERC —I quoted two: the Forestry Commission and the laboratories of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, both of whom have exactly the same remit of research into forestry and fisheries respectively as NERC has had—can and do co-exist, and it has not made the slightest difference to NERc's being able to undertake research. The example the noble Lord chose of being one of the things that ought not to have been done by the Conservancy could scarcely have been a worse one.

Your Lordships may not be aware that when there were first indications that wildlife was being affected by toxic chemicals research into this was started at Monkswood, and one of the remarkably interesting things which turned up was that in the Highlands of Scotland eagles were dying like flies and those which did not die were laying eggs which were not fertile, whereas the ravens were continuing to flourish and breed like rabbits. They both feed on the same food, very largely carrion; and in fact up there it was dead sheep. If this matter had been left to a series of boffins in a research department they would have thought this a most extraordinary thing and started to look for some other reason. In point of fact, the people working there were in close contact with workers in the field. One man in the research department had a man who had worked in the fields for many years and knew that when an eagle eats a dead sheep, like nearly all the other such types of bird, including hawks and owls, it eats a great deal of the wool which had been impregnated with poison, whereas the raven pecks away at the meat and eats very little of the wool. That is exactly the sort of reason why the field worker and the man in the laboratory must be in touch; indeed, one ought to have the same people working side by side in the same organisation.

The time has now come when that work has got beyond tactical or strategic research, or whatever we call it (it is very difficult to define these stages): it has become basic research, and I think it is perfectly correct to say that it is time that work passed to a body responsible for basic and not for tactical research. The noble Baroness, Lady White, had the same sort of difficulty in trying to define where one started and the other finished. If she will look at the Bill she will see that my Amendment would make no greater difficulties than exist already, because the Conservancy Council is going to be able to commission and support undefined research. It might even be the effect of pesticides on the pancreas of a golden eagle, but the research cannot be defined in the Bill and that is the fundamental difficulty I shall have when I come to meet the suggestion of the noble Lord that I should withdraw my Amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, made a point which I also made when I moved this Amendment, and again the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, did not really reply to it. It is that there is bound to be constant pressure to start some form of research going in an organisation where we have (as I hope we shall have) scientists who are really keen on their jobs. Such pressure is just the thing we have to try to avoid. What we want now is stability; that the new Nature Conservancy Council should be established in such a way that there will be no pressure coming from outside or inside to deflect it from the course which has been laid down. I believe there are bound to be pressures if research is introduced; it is bound to set up the sort of "empire building" squabble between NERC and the Conservancy which we are all so anxious to avoid. I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, tried to answer that point at all.

We then come to the point that has been made, of the difficulties under which the staff have worked. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, read a resolution of the staff, the preamble to which was. "Given the decision of the Government"—to do this. That has been the whole trouble, and it is bound to be the trouble that we shall have to face up to when we deal with this problem. What in fact has happened is that the Government have started to take steps to implement legislation which Parliament has never looked at. The result has been that people have been told into which pigeonhole they will be put if certain things happen, and now in fact if something else happens they will get into more distress. The fact that there has been a muddle, the fact that the staff have been muddled up by the Department of Science and by the Department of the Environment does not mean that just for that reason we have to reach the wrong decision to-day. I believe that the right decision is to accept my Amendment.

The noble Lord said—I am afraid with every sort of equivocation that he could, as he went through it; and I do not in any way intend to be rude—that he might be able to find a way of bridging the gap. I do not see how the gap can be bridged unless my Amendment is passed. The only way of bridging the gap is to define the sort of research which the new Conservancy Council is going to undertake. That will be no more difficult if my Amendment is passed than if it is withdrawn. I believe your Lordships should establish the principle that you feel it is

impossible to divorce conservation from research, which I think was the unanimous opinion of the whole of the staff concerned with this a year ago. All that has happened since then is that they have been so "mucked about" that they are saying, "For heaven's sake! leave us alone; we will take second best if we cannot get first best". I believe it is our job to start this new Council off on the right lines, and unless the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, can stand up once more and say, quite unequivocally, that he will find some means of ensuring that the new Nature Conservancy Council has the power to undertake some research I am afraid that I must press my Amendment.

5.49 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?.

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 126; Not-Contents. 47.

Addison, V. Ferrier, L. Raglan, L.
Ailwyn, L. Fiske, L. Redesdale. L.
Albermarle, E. Fulton, L. Rhodes, L.
Allerton, L. Gainford, L. Ridley, V.
Amulree, L. Garner, L. Rowallan, L.
Archibald, L. Garnsworthy, L. Royle, L.
Arran, E. George-Brown, L. Sainsbury, L.
Arwyn, L. Gisborough, L. St. Davids, V.
Atholl, D. [Teller.] Granville of Eye, L. Segal, L.
Bacon, B. Greenway, L. Sempill, Ly.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Scrota, B.
Balogh, L. Hale, L. Shackleton, L.
Berkeley, B. Hanworth, V. Shinwell, L.
Bernstein, L. Henderson, L. Slater, L.
Beswick, L. Henley, L. Snow, L.
BIyton, L. Hood, V. Somers, L.
Brockway, L. Hoy, L. Soper, L.
Burntwood, L. Hughes, L. Stamp, L.
Carnock, L. Hurcomb, L. Stocks, B.
Champion, L. Hylton, L. Stow Hill, L.
Chorley, L. Hylton-Foster, B. Strabolgi, L.
Clwyd, L. Jacques, L. Strang, L.
Coleridge, L. Janner, L. Strange, L.
Colyton, L. Kennet, L. Strange of Knokin, B.
Conesford, L. Killearn, L. Strathclyde, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Kindesley, L, Tanlaw, L.
Cottesloe. L. Kinloss, Ly. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Cowley, E. Landsdowne, M. Vivian, L.
Cranbrook, E. [Teller.] Lauderdale, E. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Crawshaw, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Waldegrave, E,
Crook, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Davidson, V. Long, V. Williamson, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Loudoun, C. Willingdon, M.
de Clifford, L. McLeavy, L. Willis, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Maelor, L. Winterbottom, L.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Masham of Ilton, B. Wise, L.
Douglass of Cleveland, L. Milford, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Dundonald, E. Northchurch, B. Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.
Elliott of Harwood, B. Onslow, E.
Emmet of Amberley, B. Penrhyn, L. Wynford, L.
Energlyn, L. Phillips, B. Wynne-Jones, L.
Faringdon, L. Platt, L. Zuckerman, L.
Aberdare, L. Eccles, V. Milverton, L.
Auckland, L. Ferrers, E. Monck, V.
Balerno, L. Gage, V. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Barnby, L. Gowrie, E. Orr-Ewing, L.
Belstead, L. Haig, E. Polwarth, L.
Blackett, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Rankeillour, L.
Bledisloe, V. St. Aldwyn, E.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Hawke, L. Sandford, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Ironside, L. Shannon, E.
Cork and Orrery, E. Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Courtown, E. Jessel, L. Stuart of Findhorn, V.
Craigavon, V. Kemsley, V. Teviot, L.
Craigton, L. Lothian, M. Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, B.
Daventry, V. Mar, E. Vernon, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Massereene and Ferrard, V. White, B.
Drumalbyn, L. Merrivale, L. Young, B. [Teller.]

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 [Advisory committees of Council]:

5.58 p.m.

LORD CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 2, line 34, at end insert— ("( ) a committee for the purpose of giving them advice about the discharge of their functions in England, and").

The noble Lord said: My noble friend has asked me to move this Amendment very shortly. Clause 2 says: The Council may appoint committees. but that, Without prejudice…it shall be the duty of the Council to appoint committees for Scotland and Wales. When on Second Reading I suggested that there should be a separate committee for England, my noble friend Lord Sandford said in reply that he wanted the. Bill to permit the Council to provide whatever committees for England it considered best for English conditions. But there is nothing in the Bill as it stands to prevent the Council, as it might well wish to do, from appointing a second committee for Scotland though it has not been suggested that Scotland should not have a statutory committee. The Council may, if the Minister suggested, eventually wish to have English provincial committees, but these could not and should not be a substitute for a statutory committee to consider England's problems as a whole. There are many problems which can be considered only in an English committee relationship.

As the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will remember, I spent a decade in this House and in another place fighting on every Parliamentary battlefield for a square deal for Scotland. It is a refreshing change to be fighting for a square deal for England; and this Amendment is no less than that. I do not think we run the risk of the Council deciding at some time not to have any committee at all for England, but without this specific reference the Bill does create unnecessary misunderstanding. I beg to move.


My noble friend is perfectly right. The Bill continues in effect the requirement for separate committees in relation to Scotland and Wales but makes no provision at the moment as regards England, and the reason for that is exactly as he reports me as having said at Second Reading. What more I want to say is that, now that the Chairman-designate of the Nature Conservancy Council, Sir David Serpell, has been appointed, I am sure the best course would be to discuss the matter with him in the light of any views expressed on this Amendment beyond those already expressed by my noble friend. We could then consider this Amendment in the light of his views, and those of his Council about the provincial arrangements, if the Council and the Chairman wish to have any, so that the committee and your Lordships will know precisely what arrangements are being made for England. I hope that, with the assurance that we will consider the Amendment on that basis, and shall be able to return to it with that extra information at Report stage, my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his Amendment now.


In view of that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Administrative and supplementary provisions relating to the Council]:

6.3 p.m.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 3: Page line 15, at end add (" and any other land occupied by them shall be deemed, for the purpose of any rate on property, to be property occupied by on or behalf of the Crown for public purposes.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 3. This Amendment deals with the status of the property of the Nature Conservancy Council, other than nature reserves, for the purposes of rates on the property. Under the Amendment such property will be regarded as being occupied by or on behalf of the Crown for public purposes. The effect of this is that the Nature Conservancy Council will not be under a requirement to pay rates but, as in the case of Crown property, a contribution will be paid in lieu. The Amendment does not apply to the Nature Conservancy Council's nature reserves. Paragraph 15 of Schedule 3 already provides for the Council to be treated as a Government Department in relation to land in which they have an interest and which they manage as a nature reserve. As a result of this, for rating purposes all of the Council's property will be treated in the same way. I beg to move.

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining Schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported, with the Amendments.