HL Deb 17 July 1985 vol 466 cc825-6

8.30 p.m.

Lord Melchett

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

More than anything else, this Bill is distinguished by the fact that it is the second Private Member's Bill amending the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 that my honourable friend Dr. David Clark has introduced and successfully piloted through another place. I am not sure whether it is a record for a private Member to get two Bills on the statute book in the same Session of Parliament, but I suspect that it is extremely unusual.

This Bill amends the 1981 Act to ensure that the Nature Conservancy Council can successfully serve notices on owners and occupiers of land which is to be notified as a site of special scientific interest. The need for the amendment to the 1981 Act became clear after, in recent months, the Nature Conservancy Council lost two court cases where owners or occupiers claimed not to have received the notification which the Nature Conservancy Council said they had been sent.

The wording in the Bill follows, as is clear from the way it is drafted, the wording used in the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, and I think the wording is common to other legislation on the statute book. It simply ensures that the posting by due means of a communication to an owner or occupier will be taken as proof that it was received. This is a minor point in the complex law now affecting wildlife and the countryside, but it is nevertheless an important one and I hope that the Bill will receive support from your Lordships' House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Melchett.)

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, I should like to congratulate my noble friend on presenting this second small amendment to the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and my honourable friend in the other place for having the good fortune to be able to bring it forward in time to get it through this Session. I am sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, is not here tonight because I know that he would be pleased to see that the wording of this Bill is very much the same as an amendment that he tried to move at Committee. I know that he, too, would welcome this Bill. I hope that it will go through as quickly as possible because we need the protection that it provides.

May I add a small, sour note, in that I am extremely sorry that either this could not have been included in the original Private Member's Bill or that the Government could not have found some way of bringing it through earlier. A lot of trouble might have been saved for a number of people, and some other sites, too, might have been saved. With that said, I wish the Bill a safe passage.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I, too, should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, and his honourable friend Dr. Clark for bringing this little Bill before us. Its subject was, as the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, said, covered in your Lordships' House at the Committee stage of what is now the Wildlife and Countryside (Amendment) Act 1985 by means of an amendment put down by my noble friend Lord Onslow. I, too, am sorry that he is not in his place this evening.

After a full discussion your Lordships agreed that my noble friend was quite right in both his assertions and his proposed solution. However, in the peculiar circumstances surrounding the various stages of the No. 1 Bill in your Lordships' House I gave an assurance then that the problems as to the serving of notices would be dealt with by administrative means, and your Lordships agreed that the subject would not be pursued at that time.

My Lords, the moving finger writes, and, having writ, moves on. We have a Bill before us today which will make the serving of notices by the NCC more effective than it has been in the past. The Government welcome this Bill, which will undoubtedly relieve the Nature Conservancy Council of a substantial administrative burden.

Lord Melchett

My Lords, I do not think there is anything left for me to say except to thank my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, for the welcome they have given to the Bill. I hope, with my noble friend, that it will reach the statute book in the very near future.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.