HL Deb 02 July 1986 vol 477 cc964-1020

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 17, line 19, leave out from ("by") to end of line 21 and insert ("whatever means").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as the Bill is written those tenants who have purchased quota will be entitled to the value of that purchase when they quit. This has never been in dispute and is obviously very fair. This amendment corrects an omission in that, as the Bill is written, if the tenant was given (rather than purchased) any extra quota he would, in effect, have to leave it on the farm. I hope your Lordships and my noble friend Lord Belstead will agree that this is a technical amendment and that the Government can accept it. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I understand that my noble friend Lord Stanley is seeking in this amendment to cover the situation when somebody, other than the tenant himself, bore the cost of acquiring quota through a land transfer. My noble friend feels that if a third party bore the cost on behalf of the tenant, the tenant should receive compensation as if he had borne the cost himself. I agree that this amendment in a sense is technical. I am not sure, however, that it is equitable. We are talking here about money which the landlord will have to pay out. It is fair to ask whether the landlord should make a payment where the tenant has himself incurred a cost as a result of which the landlord will benefit through the presence of quota on the holding. My answer to that is, yes. But if the tenant did not himself bear the cost. why should we require the landlord then to compensate him?

I feel that my noble friend's amendment is directed at a small number of very unusual cases. I do not say that because they are few we need not bother about them, but I suspect that they are so unusual and, indeed, so various in their circumstances that it could be a mistake to change the general rules to apply to them. There is a very real danger that we shall cause inequities rather than remove inequities if we act in this way.

For the basic reason which I tried to put in the middle of what I said—which is that it really does not seem to me to be right to require compensation when somebody has not himself borne the cost—I think that this amendment ought not to be made.

Lord Burton

My Lords, I am not sure which land this quota is attached to.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, it is attached to the land that I am talking about, the tenant's land. Perhaps I may address myself to the remarks of my noble friend Lord Belstead. I was interested in the point he made. I had a slightly different picture in mind in so far as it was possible that the tenant had been given the quota by his father, his aunt or his grandmother, and I should have thought—this could be quite common—that this would fall into the category of the amendment moved earlier by my noble friend, as though the tenant had purchased the quota from outside. I do not know whether my noble friend wishes to think about that and reply to it now, or whether perhaps I should write to him between now and Third Reading so that he can consider the matter. I think that we are all on level keel about this, except that he sees it in a different light to the way I see it.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, if my noble friend feels that he would like either to write or to have a word with me, I should be very ready to consult him on this. As I say, at the moment I think that there is a difficulty of principle which I have enunciated. But if my noble friend cares to contact me in whatever way he thinks best, perhaps we can look at the point again.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I thank my noble friend. With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Northbourne moved Amendment No. 18:

Page 17, line 30 at end insert— (" "tenant" includes those occupiers of land under agreements approved by the Minister within the meaning of section 2 of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 and who produce milk on the land so held;").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this amendment. I understand that it is to be taken with amendments Nos. 38,39 and 40. The purpose and object of this amendment is to ensure that an occupier whose occupation of land under an agreement other than a tenancy is not protected by the Acts because of the agreement of the Minister under Section 2 of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 shall be included in the provisions. Since the Government's Amendments Nos. 39 and 40 seem very satisfactorily to cover the same ground, I should be happy to withdraw this amendment if the Minister is intending to move those amendments.

The Earl of Kinnoull

My Lords, as my noble friend has not withdrawn the amendment, I should like to support the principle behind it and to say that the actual case that it arose out of was a letter from a Mr. Kala who had been a licensee since 1974 of the Central Lancashire New Town Development Corporation. He saw, very wisely, that his case would have been excluded from the provisions of compensation and so he wrote not, as one would have thought, to the NFU or to the CLA, because he knew there were still squabbles among them, and not to the Government, because he knew that they were still battling over the main framework of the quotas; he wrote to the professional bodies with whom he had dealt and in whom he had confidence. I think that they should take credit for drawing the attention of the Government to this amendment. I should also like to thank my noble friend Lord Belstead for accepting the principle and bringing in very swiftly his own Amendments Nos. 39 and 40.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, this amendment has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. It would be my intention when we get to Amendments Nos. 39 and 40 to move the Government's amendments. It is not being done as a matter of habit. I should be delighted to accept this amendment or the amendment of my noble friend Lord Stanley, which is No. 38 on the Marshalled List; but on the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and my noble friend Lord Kinnoull (which is being moved now) although it covers Section 2 lettings I do not think, with respect, that it covers Section 5 lettings; that is, the lettings from two years to five years. I think that we would wish those lettings to be covered. I like to think that the Government's amendments covers those.

In the case of my noble friend Lord Stanley and his Amendment No. 38 I am advised that in his amendment the reference to agricultural holdings is legally faulty because it implies that a holding may be partly an agricultural holding and partly not, and also there is some ambiguity in the meaning of the word "agreement" in the amendment.

I accept the principle following a discussion which I had with my noble friend Lord Kinnoull which persuaded the Government of the lightness of this particular cause, and it is the Government's intention to move Amendments Nos. 39 and 40 on the Marshalled List when we get to them.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Minister for those assurances and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 19:

Page 18, line 17, after ("treated") insert ("for the purposes of any claim in respect of that quota— (i) ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 19 and to speak to Amendments Nos. 20 to 24. Your Lordships may recall that the provisions in Schedule 1 to the Bill provide for the value of "transferred quota" (that is, quota that a tenant has required through a land transfer) to be credited to the tenant. This entitlement exists provided the tenant was either allocated some quota by the Minister or was in occupation of the land as a tenant on 2nd April 1984. Where the original tenant met both these tests, as the great majority have done, there is no problem—the full right to compensation will pass to his successor or assignee.

I have, however, been advised that in those few cases where the original tenant received no allocated quota and his only quota that he acquired through a land transfer there could be a lacuna in the drafting. To put this right we need to state that the successor or assignee is to be treated as if he had been in occupation on 2nd April. This will ensure that he gets the full compensation. A similar point arises with sub-tenancies. To ensure that the head tenant (or sub-landlord) can recover from the landlord the compensation he has to pay the sub-tenant for transfer quota we have to make a similar amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Belstead moved Amendments Nos. 20 to 24:

Page 18, line 20, at end insert ("; and (ii) in a case where the former tenant was in occupation of the land on 2nd April 1984 (or is treated as having been in occupation of the land on that date), as if he had been in occupation of it on that date."). Page 18, line 37, after ("treated") insert ("for the purposes of any claim in respect of that quota— (i)"). Page 18, line 40, at end insert ("; and (ii) in a case where the assignor was in occupation of the land on 2nd April 1984 (or is treated as having been in occupation of the land on that date), as if he had been in occupation of it on that date."). Page 19, line 11, after ("treated") insert ("for the purposes of any claim in respect of that quota— (i)"). Page 19, line 14, at end insert— (ii) in a case where the sub-tenant was in occupation of the land on 2nd April 1984 (or is treated as having been in occupation of the land on that date), as if he had been in occupation of it on that date;").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 25 not moved.]

The Earl of Kinnoull moved Amendment No. 26:

Page 20, line 23, after ("area") insert— ("and the extent and nature of the fixed equipment provided by the landlord and available for the feeding, accommodation and milking of dairy cows on the land").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in my noble friend's absence I should like to move this amendment and to say that it deals with the principle of valuation on the standard quota. My noble friend the Minister will know that the professional bodies are anxious that there should be an additional flexibility when assessing the standard quota, particularly where the circumstances of the holding differ from the norm. What this amendment does is to introduce the element into the valuer's mind not only of considering the quality of the land and the climatic conditions of the area, but also the very important and very relevant circumstances of the actual accommodation and buildings on the farm which are vital to the production of the dairy unit.

As the House will know, the accommodation is an essential part in appraising the basic practical productivity of a farm, and I hope that my noble friend if he does not like the form of words (which of course I would accept) likes the principle which, as I say, is to add flexibility to this quite difficult and possibly slightly inflexible form of standard quota valuation. I beg to move.

Lord Middleton

My Lords, I think it is important that proper account should be taken of the fixed equipment when considering the average number of hectares which could be expected to have been used for the feeding of dairy cows. I believe that this amendment would improve Schedule 1; and I support it. But that support is slightly qualified by my saying that perhaps I would have preferred to have seen these words placed in paragraph 2 on page 20.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I regard this amendment with the deepest suspicion. I really cannot understand what it has to do with hectares of land. I note the amendment refers to, the extent and nature of the fixed equipment provided by the landlord". It says nothing about any fixed equipment provided by the actual milk producer. So it has nothing to do with fixed equipment of that kind and I wonder whether it is intended to apply in a case where the land contains, for example, skyscrapers in which 50 cows can be accommodated on a hundred storeys and fed on in-bought stuff. I wonder whether that should be considered. I should be interested to hear what the Minister has to say.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I think there must be a certain amount of radioactivity between the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, and myself on this matter. I also considered this amendment with suspicion. I believe that in fact it would restrict the arbitrator's latitude and I would put it to my noble friend Lord Belstead that if it is a dairy farm and that is written into the tenancy, there is no need for this amendment. However, if it is not a dairy farm so far as the tenancy is concerned, then it is unfair in assuming, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, pointed out, that the tenant should have farmed it in an intensive dairy manner, whereas he might have used it partly to farm sheep or corn or beef.

In such a case, his dairy buildings might have been half-filled with sheep or beef and he might have been running a mixed farm. That would have been taken care of in the tenancy agreement, as I understand it. All he has to do under the tenancy agreement is to farm in accordance with good husbandry, which he was doing before this wretched quota came in upon us. I shall not continue with that subject. I ask my noble friend to treat this amendment with suspicion.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I can understand the logic of this proposal. I can see that buildings and equipment, especially accommodation (whether in the form of skyscrapers or not) can affect the productive capacity of a holding; and there is of course a serious point here. I would again say to my noble friend Lord Stanley that I listened to eloquently-moved amendments at the last stage of the Bill about looking only at the productive capacity of the land with no concentrates added. Indeed, I believe we have on the Marshalled List another amendment which we shall deal with later.

This is very much the same kind of amendment but it moves in the opposite direction; and in just the same way as I ventured to part company with my noble friend on his amendment and may possibly find myself wishing to do so again, so I think that my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, have a point when they say that this would move in what could be an unfair way in the opposite direction. After all, compensation to the tenant under the schedule has already taken this into account in calculating the tenant's fraction.

Compensation to the tenant is thus already reduced where the landlord has provided valuable buildings and equipment which enhance the productive capacity. It would seem to me to be double counting to say that those facilities should also be taken into account in calculating the standard quota. The effect would certainly be to increase the standard quota in many cases and thereby to reduce the excess quota—and of course the tenant is allowed to claim 100 per cent. of the excess quota. So I think we need to look with care at this.

Also, there is an anomaly here, and I am advised that its effect would be to increase the standard quota where valuable fixed equipment had been provided, regardless of who had provided it. So even if the tenant had himself borne the cost, the effect would be to boost the standard quota, reduce the excess quota and once again penalise the tenant by reducing his compensation. I do not think that can be right, and it is for those two reasons that I join with the noble Lords who have opposed this amendment in saying that I do not think that would be fair.

The Earl of Kinnoull

My Lords, I should be the first to admit that there are a few holes in this amendment. First of all, I think that it is in the wrong section, but to use the word "suspicion" is slightly strong because really all this humble amendment tries to achieve is to ascertain the basis of valuation. When looking at a farm you do not just look at the land: you also look at the buildings.

My noble friend talked about double counting. If that were so, I should not wish to pursue the matter, but I should like to take advice on that before the next stage of the Bill to see whether there is a serious point here and a point which would help both the tenant and the landlord; because we are seeking very much to help tenants as well as landlords. We are looking to try to improve what is a very complicated issue in valuation terms and one which I do not think should be left without giving guidance to the valuers. We are seeking to sharpen up some of the Bill's proposals. However, I do not wish to detain your Lordships at this late hour. If necessary, I shall seek to have a discussion with my noble friend before the next stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 27:

Page 20, line 19, leave out from ("means") to end of line 21 and insert—
  1. "(i) in the case of severely disadvantaged land 4,500 litres per hectare,
  2. (ii) in the case of disadvantaged land 5,250 litres per hectare,
  3. (iii) in all other cases 6,000 litres per hectare,
  1. (i) in the case of severely disadvantaged land 5,000 litres per hectare,
  2. (ii) in the case of disadvantaged land 5,834 litres per hectare,
  3. (iii) in all other cases 6,300 litres per hectare.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 27,28,29 and 32, but not to No. 30 at the moment. The question I pose to the House is once again perfectly simple: what do your Lordships consider is a fair starting point for the division of quota value between tenant and landlord? Your Lordships have, by a narrow majority, aided and abetted by my noble kinsman the Chief Whip, voted (I think incorrectly) not to accept the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, that it should be 50/50; though it is quite apparent to all who listened to the argument that the Government's formula is not liked by your Lordships.

So in the spirit of British compromise I ask your Lordships to accept this compromise of mine, which would raise the average tenant's share from approxi-mately 30 per cent., as proposed by the Government, to approximately 40 per cent. as in this amendment. Any of your Lordships who received the Milk Marketing Board's recent brief will see my figures and the Government's figures roughly in that line.

The method I am using is similar to that which I explained in Committee, so I shall not weary the House by repeating the details except to say that this amendment lays down a set of figures that an efficient tenant might be expected to obtain from grass on the various types of land in the United Kingdom. In fact, it follows the philosophy of my noble friend Lord Belstead and takes into account the difficulties, particularly of those in less favoured areas.

I have to repeat the point that this quota value is a once and for all windfall. I think I called it a windfall from hell. I do not know where it came from but it is a windfall (and it is once and for all) which will revert to the landlord completely in his future tenancies. What he does with it is up to him. Indeed, if today's conditions continue it will be worth a great deal of unexpected money to him and his successors. Therefore, it is only just that those who contributed to its original value should participate in its value. Who can honestly say that the tenant who buys the cows and milks them and stays, day in and day out, week in and week out, without a morning or evening off, is not entitled to something? Indeed, all your Lordships agree that he should get something. It is a question of how much.

In effect, my amendments would give the average tenant a starting point of between 30 and 40 per cent.—a meagre contribution, I would say, and many tenants would say, but I ask your Lordships to consider it sympathetically. I would ask my noble friend Lord Belstead, when he replies, not to concentrate on the details of my amendment. They can be corrected at Third Reading, and that does not worry me. I want his remarks, when he replies, to concentrate on whether he considers that my 40 per cent. starting point is more just and fair than his 25 per cent. or 30 per cent. If he would say that, I am sure we can make some headway. I am not asking for 50 per cent.; I am asking for 40 per cent. If he can persuade your Lordships that the tenant deserves only 30 per cent., I have to say to your Lordships, with the greatest respect, that I do not think you have any idea how hard-working and dedicated the farming community and the tenants in particular are. I beg to move.

9 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I rise to support the amendment and the idea behind it. We are now at the stage when the Government have won the day with regard to the appalling complexity of this appalling Bill, and the appalling circumstances of having to accept quotas. We are now at a stage where they have rejected the noble Lord, Lord Middleton; they have rejected the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr; and they have rejected me—much more naturally, I may say. We are now stuck with this appalling Bill. What we must do now is to look at the fairness of it. All right; we had a great deal of self-interest displayed on all sides, and we have rejected 50/50. We must look at this in the light of the figures I produced in an earlier amendment and see what it is going to do to the harmony of our industry. It is for this reason that we must look at the detail—and that is what we are doing—of this complex and awful Bill. But we are stuck with it, we have to improve it, and I think this would be an improvement.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, I should like to say a few words. I said at earlier stages of our debates today that I liked the noble Lord's amendment and that it helped the smaller man. I think the noble Lord agrees there. At the same time I think that that help runs right through it, which is the kind of thing you cannot help. That is what I meant when I said I thought it went too far. But as my noble kinsman has said, it is our last chance to do something about the results of the Government's schedule, and I would give the amendment unstinted support.

Lord Middleton

My Lords, this amendment takes away the Minister's duty to prescribe the amount of milk to be taken as the average yield per hectare. It seeks to prescribe in statute in 1986 how much the average yield per hectare should be for evermore. That seems to be the basic objection to this amendment.

My noble friend Lord Stanley said that we need not look too closely at the figures, but one has to look closely at the figures in this amendment. The amendment adjusts the prescribed quota and the prescribed average yield per hectare downwards in the case of disadvantaged land, but it lays down a standard which is two-thirds below that which has been set by the Government. The effect of this, I need hardly say, is to raise the amount of compensation payable to a tenant.

The Government's standard, which my noble friend Lord Belstead has announced, seems to be very much more realistic, and indeed is already very generous to tenants. When my noble friend Lord Stanley proposed and then later withdrew an amendment at the Committee stage which had a similar effect, he drew the mild criticism from my noble friend Lord Belstead that he was opening his mouth a little wide on behalf of outgoing tenants. With this amendment, if they will forgive my saying so, he and the noble Lords who put their names down with his are opening the gape very much wider. I cannot support the amendment, and I hope that the Government will not do so either.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I have to say that I agree with every word that my noble friend Lord Middleton has just said. It would not be acceptable to the Government, persuasive though my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley is, to accept altered standard quotas of some two-thirds downwards when the standard quota which has been put forward by the Government is based on an assessment of national yields which have been calculated downwards, because of the imposition of quotas, by some 11 per cent. with of course the interests of tenants in mind, and when I made no secret on the last day of the Committee stage that we had also made our calculations by constantly rounding down in the interests of tenants. In those circumstances, I could not voluntarily agree to accepting my noble friend's amendment.

Perhaps I may add two points. One other effect of Amendments Nos. 27, 28, 29 and 32 would be that the figures for the calculation of standard quota would be enshrined in primary legislation rather than in subordinate legislation as we would intend. This would have serious practical difficulties. First of all, it would not enable the Minister to make separate provision for Channel Island herds, which of course have lower yields and which again can be looked after in the subordinate legislation provided we are not forced to have the figures on the face of the Bill.

Secondly, we need to bear in mind the possibility of across the board cuts in quotas at some point in the future, when again there would need to be a recalculation in the interests of general fairness. The Government would intend, should this situation arise, to adjust the prescribed quota standard figures to take account of any such cuts so that tenants would not be placed at a disadvantage when it came to calculating the standard quota. I am sure that that will strike a chord in the heart of my noble friend Lord Stanley. As I am sure your Lordships will recognise, it is far easier to make such adjustments if the figures are prescribed in subordinate rather than primary legislation.

It is for those reasons that I am extremely concerned about these amendments. Moreover, I have to say that I do not like them for the reasons that my noble friend Lord Middleton very fairly put forward.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I am sorry that my noble friend has given that reply. I make just four points. First, anybody who has milk cows and can obtain 4,500 litres from each is not doing too badly, and I doubt whether there is a single person in this Chamber who would be capable of doing it. Secondly, my noble friend is saying, in effect, that the average tenant who can produce this 4,500 litres per cow—which, as I said, I consider to be high—is only deserving of 30 per cent. of the quota value. I do not think that is just. I know that every tenant in this country, and in Scotland, would think that is too low.

Thirdly, I am not in dispute with my noble friend Lord Middleton when he says that I am trying to get more by lowering the standard quota. I make no bones about that. My whole argument is that I do not think it is fair to get only 30 per cent. I might think it fair—I would think it fair—to get 40 per cent. and I would be happy with that. However, my noble friend thinks the tenant is worth only 30 per cent. I am sorry to say to him that I do not think that will go down very happily in the shires. Fourthly, my noble friend the Minister and my noble friend Lord Middleton do not like my lack of flexibility. All I can say is that they will have to wait for one minute when I shall come to Amendment No. 30 and will deal with that problem.

I would divide the House if it were not so late, because I honestly believe that I am right and if I did not know that at this time of the night I shall not win what I ought to win. Therefore, I shall withdraw the amendment, but I must tell my noble friend that he will see me again on Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 not moved. ]

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 30:

Page 20, line 32, at end insert— ("( ) In prescribing the quota per hectare under sub-paragraph (1)(b) above and the average yield per hectare under sub-paragraph (2) above the Minister shall have regard only to the number of litres of cows' milk which might reasonably be expected to have been produced by cows kept for milk production grazed and fed from crops (other than loose grain) harvested from the land in question.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I feel like Father Christmas, in that I keep producing another amendment as fast as the child does not like the one he is given; but I do not mean to refer to my noble friend on the Front Bench as a child.

This amendment is similar to Amendment No. 27 except that it allows the Minister to decide where the quota level should be—which I think totally destroys the argument put forward by my noble friend Lord Middleton and my noble friend Lord Belstead that my earlier proposal blocked-in the arbitrator. I ask my noble friend to think seriously about the amendment. It is on the same lines and gives great scope for the arbitrator. It is nothing like so rigid as my previous amendment. I suppose my noble friend will say that it is too vague and that the arbitrator will not know which way to go; so I shall have to come back at Third Reading to put in some figures. I shall be interested to hear what my noble friend says.

There is one point that I must put to my noble friend but he may accuse me of having a chip on my shoulder. I notice with the greatest of interest that under the Scottish formula those in Less Favoured Areas have a quota of 5,500 litres. For reasons that I totally fail to understand, and which I am sure my Welsh neighbours certainly will not understand, those who live in just as inhospitable a climate have a quota of 6,000 litres. When my noble friend replies will he please tell me why the Scots are so favoured? I beg to move.

Lord Stodart of Leaston

My Lords, I feel that I am going to be disloyal to my noble friend. I did not know Wales until I had the great joy of visiting it once a year when I was at the Ministry of Agriculture. One aspect that was revealed to me was that there is no comparison between the severity of conditions in Wales and those that exist on some of the uplands of Scotland. I was amazed at the difference. It may be that the Welsh are cleverer and more enterprising with the re-seeding that was done and which I believe cannot be done on the uplands of Scotland, but I am afraid that I part company with my noble friend when he says that the conditions in Wales are equivalent in severity to those in Scotland.

Lord Burton

My Lords, I hope that my noble friend Lord Gray of Contin will take particular note of what my noble friend Lord Belstead is obviously just about to say, because some of us object very strongly to this special quota for Scotland.

I think it has been forgotten that the poorer the ground the lower the rent; and therefore one starts at a lower base level, anyway. It is therefore not necessary to reduce the amount of milk on the standard. It is based on the rent. There is therefore a differential already: the worse the ground, the lower the rent.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, this is an amendment which I have called in shorthand for the past few weeks the "no concentrates amendment". It is Amendment No. 30, I believe. We seem to have travelled across a couple of borders and I have slightly lost track of where we are. This is the "no concentrates amendment", which in essence provides that if the matter goes to arbitration, or indeed if the landlord and tenant are deciding between themselves, the land must not be looked at in a way in which it would be reasonable to suppose it should produce a yield of milk but should be looked at in terms of what the land alone could have produced if no concentrates had been put on it at all.

I think that there are two very difficult problems here. Perhaps your Lordships will forgive me if very briefly I repeat them because I must return to this point. First, is it reasonable to operate on the basis that the land could have produced a particular amount of milk if no concentrates had been used? We all know that virtually all dairy farmers use concentrates. Landlords are entitled to expect that their tenants will have used a certain amount of concentrates and they will have earned a quota which reflects this practice. By ignoring this, I think that the amendment reflects a significant shift in the balance between landlord and tenant which we have spent so many months discussing with the industry.

I do not think that the new balance would be equitable. For those tenants who are on average yields and have a corresponding allocated quota, it would reduce the standard quota per hectare by some 25 per cent. and that would give such tenants 25 per cent. excess quota even though their managerial input, which the excess quota is intended to reflect, had been nothing out of the ordinary. Indeed, many tenants whose performance had been well below par and who were therefore leaving their landlords with less quota than they could reasonably expect, could be considerably rewarded by this amendment. I do not think that is fair. I want to be fair to the tenant and I think that the Government have shown that they wish to move towards the tenant, as we have done, but I do not think that that situation is fair.

The other difficulty is that we do not think it will work. The point here is much more simple. If one looks back, I believe the best example of what I am trying to say was in 1984–85 when all dairy farmers faced with quotas considerably relaxed the amount of concentrates that they were putting on the land and it was not found that yields went down in a ratio. My advice is that this amendment would present to professional valuers an almost impossible task. How could they assess how much milk a holding would have yielded in the absence of concentrates? I suggest that they can only do that by applying very arbitrary rules which would inevitably fail to take into account all the relevant factors and would produce substantial inequalities.

In providing compensation for tenants at the end of their tenancies we have to bear in mind that not only landlords but also incoming tenants are affected by the imposition of quotas. So it is not only the interests of the outgoing tenant that we need to bear in mind. I am convinced that to depart substantially, as this amendment would do, from the balance which we are trying to achieve in Schedule 1, is something which the House needs to consider very seriously.

Perhaps I may finally answer the direct question which my noble friend Lord Stanley put to me about a figure which is set lower for Scottish less favoured areas than in Wales and indeed in England. I know that my noble friend Lord Stodart of Leaston attempted to explain—and after all my noble friend is a Scot and farms north of the Border—how there are very particular factors to take into account so far as Scotland is concerned. I would only add that I think it is important, if I may say so to my noble friend Lord Stanley, to remember that the prescribed quota per hectare is only a starting point in the calculation of the standard quota.

If one imagines two farms of very similar land quality, one in a Scottish LFA and one in Wales or in England, the standard quota will be approximately the same for both. That will be achieved by comparing each with the appropriate average yield for the area in question and then making a proportionate adjustment to the prescribed quota per hectare. The effect of the adjustment is to give similar treatment to similar cases. Although one may be starting from slightly different bases, which is what my noble friend is complaining about, because we have gone to great pains to allow flexibility for arbitrators in the schedule I do not think that there will be inequities at the end of the day when the arbitrator comes out with his final figures.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, let me deal with my noble friend Lord Stodart regarding Wales and Scotland to start with. I should like to know where he went to and when he went there. I expect that he went to the Vale of Clwyd in July. I say to him and to my noble friend Lord Belstead that Less Favoured Areas are Less Favoured Areas, whether they be in Scotland, Cumbria or anywhere else. I cannot see that they would be Less Favoured Areas unless they were made Less Favoured Areas. I am sorry to repeat that. One cannot say that a Less Favoured Area in Cumbria, the Scilly Isles or Scotland is any better or worse than a Less Favoured Area elsewhere. If my noble friend does that, there is every case for saying that there will be different sheep premiums in each Less Favoured Area. That does not hold water.

Both noble Lords are treading on dangerous ground. I cannot accept that in any form whatever. I do not think that my noble friend on the Front Bench would want to accept that either for future debates. I thank my noble friend Lord Burton for his support, even though it was slightly twisted from my line of thought. Anyhow, it was support.

What in effect my noble friend on the Front Bench is saying when he opposes the amendment is that he is not prepared to give even 40 per cent. to the tenant as a starting point. He is prepared to give only 35 per cent. Yet at the same time he says that it does not matter terribly where we start when he talks about Scotland—trying, if I may say so, to get himself off the hook over the Scottish figure being 500 litres below mine. He says that it is only a guide. If it is only a guide and if it is so unimportant, let us start a little lower.

I shall not make progress with my noble friend at this stage. I leave it with him, but I shall be back. I do not think that your Lordships have it quite right yet. My goodness, I have moved a long way from where I started in favour of my noble friend Lord Middleton, even though he may say that I have not come far enough.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, with due respect, my noble friend behind me is rather ignorant about the climate of the Western Highlands. Regarding concentrates on shallow, gravelly land, on my estate the rainfall is heavy, but it varies from area to area on the estate. One part has 20 inches more than the other. How can that be compared with Wales? It cannot be. It is an absurd comparison. It is a far more difficult climate. From the point of view of dairy farming, that is not on. People have cows, but only a few. I was really talking about the extraordinary climate in certain parts of Scotland which they do not have in Wales or in any other part of the British Isles.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, would it not settle the argument if we had the average figures for milk production per cow in Scotland and in England?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, it is not only the climate of the Western Highlands of which my noble friend Lord Stanley seems to be ignorant: with the greatest of respect to him, it is also the practices and procedures of your Lordships' House. He keeps on saying that he will have to come back to the matter on Third Reading. Third Reading is not another Committee or Report stage. It is supposed to be an occasion when the Government can put forward amendments on points to which they have agreed and on areas in which they look forward to making improvements in the Bill. I respectfully suggest that it is not an occasion to re-run the arguments which we have all heard all over again simply because he may happen to have a fuller House then.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I have already spoken. I have no right to reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.25 p.m.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 31:

Page 21, line 6, at end insert ("(other than uncalved heifers)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a purely drafting amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 32 not moved.]

Lord Mackie of Benshie had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 33:

Page 21, line 19, leave out ("the sum of that value and").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, despite what the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said, I should like to think about this amendment. It appears to me that both the climate and the soil are unfavourable at present. I shall think about bringing forward the amendment on Third Reading. I shall not move the amendment.

[Amendment No. 33 not moved.]

Lord Northbourne moved Amendment No. 34:

Page 21, line 20, leave out from beginning to first ("the") in line 21 and insert— ("annual rental value at the end of the relevant period of).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment concerns the calculation of the tenant's fraction. We believe that the clause as drafted does not compare like with like. That view has been expressed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Association of Agricultural Valuers, which question the validity of the proposed wording. If the basis of the numerator is the annual rental value as in paragraph 7(1)(a), surely the basis of calculating the denominator in paragraph 7(1)(b) should also be the annual rental value and not the rent payable.

Rent payable may vary significantly from the annual value. If it does vary, it is likely to be less than the annual value for various reasons. Many landlords do not press their older tenants for a full rent. A lower rent may have been agreed for some special reason. It may relate to something that the tenant has done for the landlord. There is also the problem of the triennial rent review. If we talk about the rent at April 1984, some of those rents will have been set at April 1981.I am told that rents increased on average 10 per cent. per annum during that period. There is a significant injustice. I believe that the present drafting is unfair. I therefore beg to move.

The Earl of Kinnoull

My Lords, I support my noble friend. I think that it is an unfair basis for the calculation. I do not know how many Members of the House understand the equation. As I understand it, we put the numerator on the top line and the numerator plus the denominator equals the fraction. As my noble friend said, there are two calculations at different times. That can throw up an injustice either to the tenant or to the landlord. If the tenant is currently paying too high a rent, which is possible with the rents coming down, he will suffer. If the landlord is receiving too low a rent, he will suffer.

The agricultural valuers association, which carries out the valuations, considers that the system is unjust. What is more, it is unnecessarily complicated. I hope that my noble friend will accept the spirit of the amendment, even if he does not accept its words.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I accept that there is something in the spirit of this amendment. I appreciate that there may be instances where a landlord may have agreed to accept a rent lower than he could have claimed under the Agricultural Holdings Act. I also know that as rent reviews normally take place at three year intervals, the rents which were being charged in 1983 were in many cases lower than they would have been if they had been fixed during the year. But while I can understand the reason for the amendment, I have to say that I think there is some difficulty in ascertaining what rent would have actually been paid in 1983. In essence, we will be talking about a sort of retrospective rent review.

It is true that, in looking at the tenant's contribution, we take the annual rental value. But there is no alternative in that case. The task of assessing that value is considerably lighter than assessing the rental value of the whole holding. By adopting this amendment, we would effectively be resorting to retrospective rent reviews for 1983 in most cases. This would add greatly to the complexity of the compensation process. For that reason, I am very reluctant indeed to go down this path. I should be happy to have a further word with noble Lords who have spoken to the amendment, possibly after this proceeding. At present, I am sorry but I cannot voluntarily accept the amendment.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, I find it hard to accept the objection raised by the Minister that it would be difficult to value the rent retrospectively. This kind of thing is being done quite frequently by valuers. This proposal has been put forward by the very organisation that would have to do the valuation. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that it conceived of it as being reasonable and not too difficult. In the circumstances and having heard the Minister's assurance, it would be wrong at this time of the night to press the matter further. I would ask him, however, to consider seriously the points that have been made. On that note, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 35:

Page 21, line 32, at end insert ("and there shall be disregarded any agreement made with the tenant as to the compensation to be payable by the landlord for such improvements and fixed equipment on the termination of the tenancy under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a technical amendment. I move it to clarify an apparent misunderstanding that occurred in Committee between my noble friend Lord Gray, the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, and myself, on how the tenant's improvements would be assessed in Schedule 1. This amendment makes clear that the tenant's improvements will be assessed at their current rather than their written-down value. If my noble friend tells me that my amendment is unnecessary—I suspect that he will do so, because he has kindly written to me about it—I hope that he will be able to spell out where this is done in the Bill. It has given my advisers and myself some concern. I would suggest that, if necessary, it might be better to spell it out rather more clearly in the Bill by including a further amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I hope that I have the right point here. My understanding, before my noble friend moved the amendment, was that his worry was to ensure that if the landlord and tenant have agreed that a particular tenant's improvement should be written down to £1 by a certain date for the purposes of calculating compensation under the Agricultural Holdings Act, that agreement should not spill over into the calculation of the tenant's fraction for quota compensation. It would clearly be wrong if there was any such spillover effect.

I hope that that is my noble friend's point. I was not quite sure from the way in which my noble friend moved the amendment that I had it right. If indeed I am on the right point, I am advised that it is not necessary to make a specific provision to prevent it as the legal position is clear already. An agreement between the landlord and tenant for valuation for compensation under the holdings Act would not be relevant to the valuation for calculating the tenant's fraction under paragraph 7 of Schedule 1.

When a valuer is asked to assess the rental value of an improvement for the purposes of paragraph 7, the question to which he will have to address himself is what value did that improvement actually have at the end of the relevant period, normally 1983? There is no statutory provision that would justify the valuer taking account of any arbitrary written-down value that might have been agreed for other purposes. I hope that I have got the point right and that, in the light of the assurance that I have given, my noble friend Lord Stanley will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend. He has understood the point correctly. I tried to nod to him but he was looking the other way. I accept the point that he is making. I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 36 not moved.]

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 37:

Page 22, line 32, leave out ("freehold and leasehold").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is simply being tabled with the aim of improving the clarity of our intention. Our intention has always been that the arbitrator should be able to look at the value of the quota taken into account in paragraph 9 of Schedule 1. We referred to freehold and leasehold interests, since they are the most obvious type of transactions which are undertaken. However, on reflection we felt that the reference to freehold and leasehold may be too restrictive. For this reason this amendment would delete the reference to freehold and leasehold. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Airedale)

My Lords, in calling Amendment No. 38 I have to say that if this were agreed to, I could not call Amendments Nos. 39 or 40.

[Amendment No. 38 not moved.]

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendments Nos. 39 and 40;

Page 28, line 6, after second ("year") insert ("(including any arrangement which would have effect as if it were such a tenancy by virtue of section 2 of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 if it had not been approved by the Minister).") Page 28, line 7, leave out ("the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 applies") and insert ("that Act applies (or would apply apart from section 5 of that Act);").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend I beg to move Amendments Nos. 39 and 40 en bloc. They were spoken to with Amendment No. 19.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 41 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 42 not moved.]

Lord Burton moved Amendment No. 42A:

Page 10, line 32, leave out paragraph (d).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I regret that these amendments have been put down inadvertently in the name of my noble friend Lord Astor, which may have surprised some of your Lordships. I am not quite sure of his involvement in crofting.

In moving Amendment No. 42A may I also speak to Amendments Nos. 42B and 42C and Amendments Nos. 43A to 43G. Your Lordships have shown your general displeasure over the whole of these quota proposals, but there is no bigger unfairness in them than the references to crofters. Your Lordships may remember that I raised this matter in Committee, but we had no time to consider it before an amendment was lodged by the Minister. The Minister would not have known the answers and I therefore gave him warning that I would be raising the matter now.

First, I discovered that there appears to be a handful of crofters with milk quotas. I think there are possibly 16, but the exact number is a little uncertain. If this proposed legislation was implemented, there would be a disgraceful injustice placed on the landlords. With regard to the landlord, let me say it is doubtful whether the legislation would stand up in the Court of Human Rights as there is such an injustice here. It is possible that our own courts might not agree to it. I should think that the first case that came up would certainly be taken to law. The situation is that the landlord is not in a position to use the quotas in any way. They are attached to the land and the landlord would almost certainly not be allowed to take the land in hand. He is allowed to do so for specific purposes, but not for the purpose of farming it. Indeed, he is not allowed to choose his tenant.

The Crofters Commission dictates within small bounds who may and who may not be a tenant of the croft. It hardly ever permits the landlord to take the croft in hand. Indeed, according to the legislation, the landlord might well have to produce perhaps £20,000 or even £30,000 for something that he could not use and could not dispose of. A crofter or somebody wanting to be a crofter with £20,000 to £30,000 plus the capital cost of the croft compensation would not be a person that the Crofters Commission considered to be of crofting status. He would, therefore, not be considered eligible to be a tenant of the croft.

Furthermore, crofting rents are about one-seventh or one-eighth only of the open market rent. As a result the compensation that will have to be paid to a crofter under the legislation will be very substantially greater than that paid to normal dairy farm tenants. To apply the same regulations to ordinary farms and crofts would be entirely inequitable. Why has the Crofters Commission failed to draw attention to this, I wonder?

If one looks at this from the position of the crofter, if he wishes to buy his croft—which, of course, he is allowed to do, whether or not the landlord likes it—he will presumably have to pay a share of the value of the quota to the landlord, who will have done nothing to earn it. One can imagine how popular that will be with the crofting tenant. If the crofter wishes to assign his croft, he is liable to have his estate increased in value by the value of the quota, and there seems some doubt about the resulting tax position.

The Crofters Commission is virtually the landlord, except that it does not receive the rent, although it does decide who shall be the tenant. It therefore seems only reasonable that if any compensation is to be paid it should be done by the Crofters Commission, not by the landlord. However, I feel that it would be much better to adopt my proposals and remove anything to do with crofting from the Bill. I beg to move.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Gray of Contin)

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, who tabled the amendments, and my noble friend Lord Burton, who spoke to them, will realise, I am sure, that the effect of the amendments would be to disqualify crofters from receiving compensation for milk quota. I am aware that there are at least 16 crofting tenants who have been allocated milk quotas. To deny them the right to milk compensation which will be available to all other tenant dairy farmers would be wholly wrong and quite unjustifiable. In terms of dairy fanning and milk quotas, they are no different from their colleagues who hold their land under different tenure codes.

The nature of crofting tenure is such that it is fair to say that crofters will be among those who derive greatest benefit from the compensation arrangements. This is only right and proper since all the dairy development and any quota level achieved beyond what might be expected for crofting land will all have been at the tenant's expense and effort. The landlord's contribution in most crofting cases will have been the provision of bare land. If crofting rents are lower than the average, it is merely a reflection of that situation. It is also important to realise that the crofting landlord will be left with a greatly enhanced asset.

Similar considerations, of course, apply in the case of small landholders. I must repeat that to exclude crofters from these provisions would in my view and (I am sorry to use the expression to my noble friend Lord Burton) be monstrously unfair and wholly discriminating. Clearly, quota compensation creates a new situation. This is a matter which we shall have to discuss with the Crofters Commission. The Crofters Commission would not unreasonably withhold consent.

My noble friend Lord Burton also raised the matter of tax. I must tell him that the value of a lease which is being passed on in succession is, of course, not subject to inheritance tax. My noble friend Lord Burton had a fairly reasonable discussion this afternoon with some of my officials and raised a great many queries with them. I have a note of the queries and of the answers which he received. However, as this is a matter which has a rather restricted area of interest, and as my noble friend Lord Burton has already been given the answers, it would perhaps be unnecessary for me to weary the House at this late hour by going through them all. However, I trust that the information which my noble friend was given will be satisfactory to him.

I am sorry that I cannot accept the amendments for reasons which I believe are wholly justified. In those circumstances, I wonder whether my noble friend would consider withdrawing the amendments which have been tabled by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Burton

My Lords, the only crumb of comfort that I have received from that answer is that my noble friend on the Front Bench will discuss the matter with the Crofters Commission. The commission no doubt knows the position.

My noble friend has tried to compare crofting rents which are on a so-called fair rent basis. If my noble friend looks back to when the crofting legislation went through your Lordships' House he will recollect a very clear discussion on what was or was not a fair rent. "Fair rent" is not a fair term for the rent which crofters pay. It is a very different matter from open market rents. The whole system is very different indeed. My noble friend must look at the situation. It is not being unfair to crofters.

If the crofter wishes to buy his croft he will have to pay the landlord for something for which he has not received any cash. He has been given his quota, but part of that quota will be paid to the landlord. This legislation will be no more attractive to the crofter than to the landlord.

If there is to be any compensation paid, the people who ought to be paying it are the Crofters Commission. They are the people who say who is and who is not to be the tenant of a croft. On many occasions they have refused to allow us to have on our property the tenants that we wanted, and on a number of occasions they have given us tenants that we particularly did not want. Therefore, to pay the whole of this sum—perhaps £20,000 or £30,000—of compensation to a crofter, when the croft itself may not be worth anything like that, is unreasonable. I know that there is no point in dividing the House tonight. However, I feel very strongly about the matter. It is with the greatest reluctance that I must beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Gray of Contin

My Lords, before my noble friend withdraws his amendment, and with the leave of the House, perhaps I may make two points to him. First, as regards buying the croft, no compensation would be payable. If the croft were being bought it would rule out the question of compensation. The crofter and his landlord are free to agree between themselves as to what the rent for a croft should be and the period for which it should stand. The figure set will be the rent for so long as the agreement lasts and thereafter until a new agreement is entered into, or alternatively the Scottish Land Court on application by either landlord or tenant fixes a different rent.

Once the court has fixed a fair rent it cannot normally be altered for a period of seven years except by agreement between the crofter and the landlord. When a croft falls vacant and is relet again, the court will not normally alter the rent fixed for a period of seven years or such longer period as may have been agreed between the parties. The basic principle behind fair rents is that the crofter shall not pay rent on buildings or other improvements which have been provided or paid for by himself or by anyone who preceded him in tenancy.

Lord Burton

My Lords, I do not think that I am entitled to speak again on this matter. However, my noble friend must take great care about investigating some of these matters. I am certain that he is wrong, but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 42B and 42C not moved.]

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 43:

After Clause 13, insert the following new clause:—

("Rent arbitrations: milk quotas.

  1. .—(1) Where there is a reference under section 12 of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 (arbitration of rent) in respect of land which comprises or is part of a holding in relation to which quota is registered under the Dairy Produce Quotas Regulations 1986 which was transferred to the tenant by virtue of a transaction the cost of which was borne wholly or partly by him, the arbitrator shall (subject to any agreement between the landlord and tenant to the contrary) disregard—
    1. (a) in a case where the land comprises the holding, any increase in the rental value of the land which is due to that quota (or, as the case may be, the corresponding part of that quota); or
    2. (b)in a case where the land is part of the holding, any increase in that value which is due to so much of that quota (or part) as would fall to be apportioned to the land under those Regulations on a change of occupation of the land.
  2. (2) In determining for the purposes of this section whether quota was transferred to a tenant by virtue of a transaction the cost of which was borne wholly or partly by him—
    1. (a) any payment made by the tenant in consideration for the grant or assignment to him of the tenancy or any previous tenancy of any land comprised in the holding, shall be disregarded;
    2. (b) any person who would be treated under paragraph 2? 3 or 4 of Schedule 1 to this Act as having had quota transferred to him or having paid the whole or part of the cost of any transaction for the purposes of a claim under that Schedule shall be so treated for the purposes of this section; and
    3. (c) any person who would be so treated under paragraph 4 of that Schedule if a sub-tenancy to which his tenancy is subject had terminated, shall be so treated for the purposes of this section.
  3. (3) In this section—
"quota" and "holding" have the same meanings as in the Dairy Produce Quotas Regulations 1986; "tenant" and "tenancy" have the same meanings as in the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment has been spoken to earlier with Amendment No. 11.I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Scotland: tenants' compensation for milk quota]:

[Amendments Nos. 43A to 43H not moved.]

Lord Gray of Contin moved Amendment No. 44:

Page 33, line 6, leave out ("Minister") and insert ("Secretary of State").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps for the convenience of the House I may speak to Amendments 44 and 45. These amendments are merely clarifying amendments. In the absence of a definition of the term "Minister" of general applica-tion throughout the Bill, it is necessary to refer specifically to the "Secretary of State" in the Scottish schedule, Schedule 2. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Gray of Contin moved Amendment No. 45:

Page 33, line 30, leave out ("Minister") and insert ("Secretary of State").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Gray of Contin moved Amendment No. 46:

Page 34, line 24, leave out. ("keeping of dairy cows") and insert ("feeding, accommodation or milking of dairy cows kept").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, for the convenience of the House, perhaps I may speak to Amendments Nos. 46, 47 and 48. These are merely drafting amendments carrying through to the remainder of paragraph 7 in Schedule 2 the more precise definition contained in paragraph 7(1)(b) qualifying the tenants' improvements and fixed equipment and the land to be considered in the calculation of the tenant's fraction. These amendments do not alter the effect of the original wording. I beg to move.

Lord Burton

My Lords, I am afraid that they do alter the situation. The word "accommodation", which is one of the words mentioned here (as I said earlier when I think my noble friend was not in the Chamber), could apply to beef cattle or sheep, or anything else at the same time. I would suggest to him that he looks carefully at this, and that instead of the wording he has put down he should use the words "specifically adapted for dairy cows". This would cover the situation that he is clearly seeking to cover.

Lord Gray of Contin

My Lords, I must say to my noble friend that even if I were persuaded by his argument I should find it impossible to accept it in those terms. The terms of Amendments 46, 47 and 48 are clearly stated on the Marshalled List. They are to, leave out ('keeping of dairy cows') and insert ('feeding, accommodation or milking of dairy cows kept')", in Amendment 46. In Amendment 47, it is proposed to leave out, ('keeping of dairy cows') and insert ('feeding, accommodation or milking of dairy cows kept')". In the case of Amendment 48, "('keeping of dairy cows') is to be left out and, ('feeding, accommodation or milking of dairy cows kept') is to be inserted.

My best information is that these words have been carefully selected and achieve the object that we have in mind. With respect to the noble Lord, while I am grateful for his assistance, I think I must stick to the words on the Marshalled List.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 46A and 46B not moved.]

Lord Gray of Contin moved Amendment No. 47:

Page 35, line 9, leave out ("keeping of dairy cows") and insert ("feeding, accommodation or milking of dairy cows kept").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Gray of Contin moved Amendment No. 48:

Page 35, line 9, leave out ("keeping of dairy cows") and insert ("feeding, accommodation of milking of dairy cows kept").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Gray of Contin moved Amendment No. 49:

Page 36, line 1, leave out ("in the open market").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I believe that arbiters and the Scottish Land Court must be able to make use of all the evidence available in determining the value of quota under paragraph 9 of Schedule 2. This paragraph as it stands confines that evidence to sums paid on the open market for interests in land. It would in this connection be wrong to ignore such evidence as may be to hand relating to private transactions. In the early cases of quota valuation at least there will not be a great deal of evidence of any type available to arbiters, and therefore a restriction which cuts out a significant body of evidence would be unwise. This amendment removes that restriction. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Gray of Contin moved Amendment No. 50:

Page 36, line 20, leave out ("section") and insert ("sections 77 and").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, for the convenience of the House perhaps I may speak to Amendments Nos. 50 and 51. When the Secretary of State is a party to an arbitration the Scottish Land Court appoints the arbiter rather than the Secretary of State. These amendments make it clear that this will also be the case in an arbitration to determine milk quota compensation. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Gray of Contin moved Amendment No. 51:

Page 37, line 6, leave out ("section") and insert ("sections 77 and").

The Deputy Speaker: My Lords, this amendment has already been spoken to.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Gray of Contin moved Amendment No. 52:

Page 37, line 12, at end insert— ("(4A) in the case of an arbitration under this paragraph, section 61 of the 1949 Act (determination of claims for compensation where landlord's interest is divided) shall apply, where the circumstances require, as if compensation payable under paragraph 2 above were compensation payable under that Act.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment applies Section 61 of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1949 to an arbitration under Schedule 2. Section 61 deals with the situation where the subjects of let are divided between several proprietors and the rent has not been apportioned. Section 61 entitles the tenant to require that any compensation payable to him is determined as if the holding had not been so divided and the arbiter shall where necessary apportion the amount awarded between the persons who together constitute the landlord and the holding. The section further provides that any additional expenses of the award covered by the apportionment shall be paid by the proprietors in such proportion as the arbiter shall determine. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 14 [Duty to balance interests in exercise of agricultural functions ]:

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 53:

Page 11, line 14, after ("features") insert ("and of any features of archaeological interest there").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment will put into the Bill a requirement on agriculture Ministers to take account of the need to conserve and enhance any features of archaeological interest in the countryside. Your Lordships debated this point in Committee on an amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. I explained then that it had always been our intention that archaeological features should fall within the scope of this clause but I appreciated that there might be some element of doubt in the present wording. I was then very ready to accept my noble friend's amendment in principle and undertook, having looked more carefully at the precise wording, to bring forward this amendment today. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

10 p.m.

Earl Peel moved Amendment No. 54:

After Clause 14, insert the following new clause:

("Capital grants

  1. .—(1) In section 28 of the Agriculture Act 1970 there shall be added to the definition of "agricultural business" the following words—
    • "and, for the purposes of capital grants, includes such ancillary farm-based businesses as the Ministers may, from time to time by order specify."
  2. (2) Orders made under subsection (1) above shall be exercisable by statutory instrument, subject to annulment in pursuance of a Resolution of either House of Parliament.")

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I put down this amendment purely as a precaution, but I am delighted to say that, as I expected would happen, my noble friend Lord Belstead was as good as his word and Amendment No. 62A is the official Government amendment for the extension of agricultural grants to cover ancillary farm-based businesses. I must say to my noble friend, if I may speak to his amendment at the same time in order to speed up matters, that I should like to thank him for having brought his amendment forward. I know that he has had, if I may say so, a certain battle on his hands, and I am therefore particularly grateful to him for having come forward with an amendment which is really much wider than I, and I feel many other people who spoke to the matter originally, had hoped for.

If I may, I should like to ask him a question directly connected to the amendment which he will be moving; that is, Amendment No. 62A. I am curious to know what the "appropriate authority" refers to. I should like to raise one further point, if I may. In my original amendment I included extending grants to tourism and craft industries outside the less favoured areas. Because of the certainty of objections from the European Commission I withdrew that from this amendment and it does not appear in my noble friend's amendment either. But I would urge him and the Government to put pressure on the European Commission perhaps in future to try to get this extended, because I feel that it would make a difference to farms outside the less favoured areas. We tend to think that all the impoverished farms are within those areas, but this is simply not the case. I beg to move.

Lord Sandford

My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to my noble friend on the Front Bench for what he has done in this field, and to thank him also for no less than three letters to me on the topic, to which I should like to make some brief response. The amendment of my noble friend Lord Peel was, and still is, specifically on the question of grants. The amendment in the name of my noble friend on the Front Bench, No. 62A, is also on the matter of grants.

I wonder whether my noble friend on the Front Bench can make it clear when he responds that, welcome as it always is, except for the grants for tourism and crafts in the less favoured areas—which have been, as it were, available for the last 14 years and which at last were taken up a year ago—every other extension beyond tourism and crafts in the less favoured areas and into tourism and crafts and any other form of diversification outside the less favoured areas will require further negotiations with the Commission. Let us hope that my noble friend will be as successful with them as he has been with our own Treasury.

Turning from grants to planning, I am particularly grateful for what my noble friend had to say about that. I think there is a considerable amount of work still ahead of us in order to modify the background against which all town and country planning has been done since the war—reserving all the best land for agriculture alone and operating as though agriculture was the mainstay of the rural economy, which, alas, it no longer is.

May I also particularly welcome the arrangements which he and I have been able to come to, in my capacity as chairman of the South-East Regional Planning Conference, for setting up a rural issues group and focusing studies and research on these knotty problems in that particular area. My only regret is that we did not start all this about five years ago, in which case we would have been in a much better position to help the farmers than we are today. But at least we have now made a start, and I am grateful to my noble friend.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, before my noble friend Lord Peel withdraws Amendment No. 54, as he referred to Amendment No. 62A may I speak to that amendment so that it does not have to be spoken to again? Amendment No. 62A is supposed to be the Government response to the very cogent case which my noble friend Lord Peel, together with my noble friend Lord Sandford, put forward at Committee stage. My noble friend Lord Peel presented the case for an amendment similar to No. 62A in Committee, and has really played a great part in bringing this issue before the House. I would just say to your Lordships that this issue has been pursued all the way through another place, and it is my two noble friends who have brought it to finality today. In Committee I said we would do what we could, and Amendment No 62A is the response.

I think that for the record I must just say this. We have all the while tried to say that we were very sympathetic to the case for on-farm diversification, but that there were several difficulties. One of them, uppermost in our minds, was really a problem of ministerial powers. How far, for example, was it appropriate for the Ministry of Agriculture to venture into the field of non-agricultural enterprises—a field in which a number of other highly-skilled agencies, notably the Development Commission and the tourist boards, are already doing excellent work?

However, your Lordships will have noticed that the new clause in Amendment No. 62A would restrict the grants to enterprises carried out on the same, or adjacent, land, and by the same person as the relevant agricultural business. The new enterprise would therefore be centred on an existing farm business. Quite clearly, over many years the Ministry of Agricul-ture has developed considerable expertise in helping farmers to identify and mobilise the resources of their businesses into other enterprises. It is that, and the universal support for my noble friend's amendment, that has convinced the Ministry that we would be the appropriate agency for giving grants in the field.

The other thing which, for the record, I must say is that difficulty exists over the availability of funding for new grants of this sort. My noble friend Lord Sandford made the point that grants for crafts and tourism are restricted. Yes, they are restricted to the less favoured areas, because that is what the Commission requires them to be; but, of course, the less favoured areas in this country are now enormously extended, compared to what they were a year and half ago, as a result of a successful negotiation by my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, in Europe for the extension of the LFAs in England and Wales.

We are left, so far as this amendment is concerned, with the question: where is the money going to come from? I have to say to your Lordships that we have not yet been able to resolve that. Therefore, we shall need to give further thought to how any new grants could be financed; but I recognise that your Lordships believe this is to be an appropriate moment for the Ministry of Agriculture to take powers which have been urged on us by my noble friends. When I come to Amendment No. 62A, I shall move that amendment.

Earl Peel

My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships, and in particular to my noble friend Lord Sandford, for having somewhat jumped the gun. I now beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

Lord Melchett moved Amendment No. 55:

After Clause 14, insert the following new clause:—

("Keeping bulls on land crossed by public rights of way.

  1. .—(1) Section 59 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (prohibition on keeping bulls on land crossed by public rights of way) shall have effect subject to the amendments provided for by subsections (2) to (4).
  2. (2)In subsection (2) paragraph (b) shall be omitted.
  3. (3)Subsections (4) and (5) shall be omitted.
  4. (4). After subsection (3) there shall be inserted the following subsections:—
    • "(4) On the application of an occupier who wishes to permit a bull to be at large in a field or enclosure crossed by a right of way to which this Part applies, a council may, subject to subsections (5) (6) and (7) below, order the temporary diversions of the right of way.
  5. (5) A temporary diversion order made under subsection (4) above shall continue in force for a period of not more than 4 months from the coming into operation thereof and no subsequent order shall be made under that subsection as respects any length of right of way to which the previous order relates unless a period of 12 months has expired from the time when the previous order took effect.
  6. (6) In deciding whether to make an order under subsection (4) above the council shall take into account the interests of users of the right of way but shall not unreasonably refuse to consent to the making of an order.
  7. (7) The council may make an order under subsection (4) above either in terms of the application or, after consulting the applicant, in such other terms or subject to such conditions as they think fit.
  8. (8) If, within a period of 6 weeks from the receipt of a written application, the council fails either to determine the application or to notify their decision to the applicant, the application shall (subject to the provisions of subsection (5) above) be deemed to have been granted and the council shall forthwith make the order under subsection (4) above.
  9. (9) On the making of an order under subsection (4) above the council shall forthwith cause a copy of the order, together with a plan at a scale of not less than 1:10,000 illustrating the effect of the order, to be sent—
    1. (a) to any other council or parish or commmunity council, in whose area the right of way is situated;
    2. (b) to any organisation prescribed to receive copies of public path diversion orders for that area; and
    3. (c) any person to whom the council is required to give notice of a public path diversion order under the pro- visions of paragraph 1, (3A) to part 1 of schedule 6 to the Highways Act 1980;
    • and to be displayed, and maintained for the period of the diversion, in a prominent position at the ends of the diversion.
  10. (10) It shall be the duty of the council to be satisfied that the diverted right of way is, throughout the period of the diversion properly signposted throughout its length, and the provision of any necessary signposts may be included in an agreement under subsection (11) below.
  11. (11) An order under this section temporarily diverting a right of way—
    1. (a) shall not affect the line of the right of way on land not occupied by the applicant,
    2. (b) shall not divert any part of the right of way on to land not occupied by the applicant, unless written consent to the making of the order has been given by the occupier of that land, and by any other person whose consent is needed to obtain access to the land,
    3. 992
    4. (c) may require as a condition of the taking effect of the order the provision and maintenance, for the duration of the order, of any necessary facilities for the convenient use of the diversion,
    • and the council may enter into an agreement with the applicant for the provision and maintenance of any such facilities by the council at the expense of the applicant.
  12. (12) In this section "council" has the meaning given to it by section 329(1) of the Highways Act 1980.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with this amendment we return to the subject which we discussed at not very great length at Committee stage—namely, the change in the law made by Section 59 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which allowed farmers to run beef bulls over a certain age on fields crossed by public rights of way as long as they were with cows and heifers.

I return to this point, after withdrawing the amendment at Committee stage, for two reasons. First, at that stage the Government had not received the information they had requested from the Ramblers Association about the number of cases which had been reported to the association where people had encountered bulls in fields crossed by public rights of way and where they had either been chased from the field or frightened or had some other unpleasant experience. The other reason I withdrew the amendment which I tabled at Committee stage was because a number of your Lordships and the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, in particular as well as the Countryside Commission all said that the procedures which I had in that amendment for temporarily diverting rights of way were unnecessarily bureaucratic and complex.

I consulted the Countryside Commission about this. A meeting was held by the Countryside Commission with other interests also present—the National Farmers' Union, the Ramblers Association and others. The Countryside Commission has provided a draft which is now my Amendment No. 55 in which it has, I hope successfully, tried to come up with a much simpler formula where basically a fanner who applied for a diversion would automatically get one and would know that he was going to get one within six weeks unless some fairly exceptional circumstances applied.

I should make it clear first of all that this amendment is not supported by the Ramblers Association. The association feels that the amendment has gone too far in allowing temporary diversions of rights of way. It thinks it would be open to abuse and that farmers would be able to divert rights of way where they do not need to. It opposed the amendment for that reason. I personally would confess to having some worries about it myself. But it seems to me that the problems caused by the change of the law in 1981 are so great that, if we can in Parliament find a compromise which will prevent walkers being injured and possibly in future killed by bulls, we should try to find it. It is for that reason that I tabled the amendment, which, as I say, has the support of the Countryside Commission, although not, I suspect, of the National Farmers' Union and not, certainly, of the Ramblers Association. Whether or not that makes it a reasonable compromise other noble Lords may care to comment on.

The only other point I wanted to make in introducing the amendment is that since the Ramblers Association produced a dossier of cases for the Government I have received a large number of letters—about 20 or 30—from people who have encountered bulls on public rights of way. These were not included in the dossier. I think there was a feeling from some noble Lords at Committee stage that this was not really a very serious problem and did not apply to very many people. I would simply say that every time there is any publicity about this matter when I have been involved or when the name of the Ramblers Association has been mentioned, a large number of letters have arrived, many describing incidents that happened some time ago but all, of course, since 1981.

Very quickly, to give your Lordships some idea of this—and I have no intention of going through all 20 or 30 letters—perhaps I may mention a few of them. Some people wrote to me about an incident in Devon where they were following a signposted public footpath. They were confronted by a bull and got away only by jumping into a ditch full of water. They made the point that at the time they were 20 years old and fit. It would have been a different story had they been elderly or with children or whatever. Another letter from Devon described an incident which occurred when somebody following a path went through a gap in a line of trees. As he went through the gap he came face to face with a large Charolais bull which had been out of sight until that point. I hope that will convince people that it is not always possible when you enter a field to know whether or not there is going to be a bull in it. In that case, the person had to climb out of the side of the field, leaving the right of way.

In a large number of the letters I have received it has been a case, as in previous correspondence, of people walking with young children. In October of last year a mother walking with her daughter on a footpath in Hertfordshire noticed some cows as they walked through the field but some way further on went round a corner in the field and found a bull blocking the path. They had to get out across the hedge.

Someone writing from Essex was on holiday in Somerset and was following a walk with waymarked coloured signs showing them where to go. They were confronted by a large white bull, presumably a Charolais or a Limousin. The children with them were aged 12 and 9. The adults were frightened, not so much for their own safety but for that of the children.

So it goes on. A family from Norfolk who were walking in Norfolk were unable to complete a walk because they met a bull and were frightened that the children would be attacked by it. Finally, there was another incident where a group of children were being taken for a walk in the countryside by two teachers and another adult. They were in a field and suddenly a bull appeared with, as they said, enormous horns. They had to huddle the children together and retreat backwards out of the field to the stile. The teacher who wrote to me said it was an extremely unnerving experience and they felt it was lucky that none of the children was injured.

It is because of what I believe are a large number of incidents of that sort that I am convinced somebody will be injured or killed if the law is not changed. I hope that in replying to this amendment the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will be able to comment on the Countryside Commission's view, put to me in writing, that this amendment as drafted represents a reasonable compromise. I hope the noble Lord can also say whether the Government still believe, now that they have some details of incidents, that the law as it was changed in 1981 makes it safe for people to walk through fields where there are bulls grazing with cows and heifers and whether the Government are still convinced that nobody will be seriously injured, or killed, if the law remains unamended. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Hunt

My Lords, I have great sympathy with this amendment. I must confess that when the subject of bulls was discussed during the passage of the 1981 Bill—it is dealt with in what is now Section 59 of the Act—I was not particularly interested in this subject. I was not turned on; I believe that is the phrase. But since then I have met a bull on a public footpath in an area of outstanding natural beauty and my interest has been sharpened considerably. It was a large Hereford bull confined between two hedgerows. It was not looking at all friendly. It was not turned stern on, or whatever is the expression in farming phraseology, and it was facing me. I turned a corner and there it was. I suspect that the farmer was using that section of the footpath temporarily as a pen. I did not stop to ask the bull its age; I turned tail and fled.

Clause 14 of the Bill lays upon Ministers responsibility for achieving a balance between, among other things, agriculture and enjoyment of the countryside. There can be no doubt that on that occasion the balance was tilted heavily in favour of agriculture. I think it follows, as night follows day, that this amendment should be agreed to.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, unlike my noble friend Lord Hunt I was deeply interested and involved in this matter when it was discussed in the debates on the Wildlife and Countryside Bill away back in 1981. Indeed, at that time I felt very strongly that the arrangements we came to under Section 59 of that Act would not be satisfactory. I think that events which have taken place since then have shown that 1 was entirely right.

The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, brought this matter to our attention at the Committee stage of the Bill and, as he rightly said, his amendment was objected to by many noble Lords in all parts of the Committee on the ground that it laid an unnecessarily onerous burden —an administrative and bureaucratic burden—on farmers and local authorities in working that particu-lar clause. I am bound to say that with the help of the Countryside Commission the new form of words introduced by the noble Lord removes that objection. I do not believe that the arrangements outlined in the amendment are unnecessarily burdensome adminis-tratively, and I think that they are matters which could easily be dealt with by landowners and local authorities.

When this matter was dealt with and discussed at Committee stage, it seemed to me that it was dealt with on the opposite side of the Chamber with a degree of levity which frankly made it appear that many noble Lords did not understand the seriousness of the problem. It was said to us, in particular by the noble Earl, Lord Enniskillen, I think, that people who went to the country ought to learn about it and ought to know all about bulls. Indeed they should, but I would say that those noble Lords who are fortunate enough to own land through which pass public rights of way, and particularly land in national parks—and I happen to be one of them—are very privileged indeed, but they also have certain responsibilities. I think that they have a responsibility to see that the rights of those who use the public footpath are properly protected, and indeed that those rights are properly enjoyed by the people concerned.

I, too, have received the list of cases sent by the Ramblers Association, and it is deeply impressive and very worrying. It shows not only that a very large number of people have been frightened but that some people have been quite seriously injured by bulls being run in bits of land through which pass public rights of way—and it is by bulls who are present under the arrangements under Section 59 that many of these people have been injured.

The allegation made at Committee stage was that townspeople ought to learn a little more about the country. The cases that have been presented by the Ramblers Association, and which I am quite sure have been brought to the notice of the Minister by the Ramblers Association, show that many of the people injured were not townspeople but farmers, farmers' wives, stockmen and herdsmen. Indeed, these cases also show that there were just as many people injured, and indeed killed—because some have been killed—by beef bulls as by dairy bulls.

I think the facts that we have been given from the Ramblers Association show that it is time that we took some steps in this matter. I do not know whether we can take these particular steps, but we really must do something. I have some kind of interest in the public footpaths, particularly the long-distance routes pioneered by the Countryside Commission, and it has been my feeling since the passing of the Act and the new arrangements under Section 59 that there has been an attitude of increasing indifference by certain farmers—not all, certainly—to the rights of those who use the footpaths. In the area where I live in the Lake District, I have spoken with a neighbouring farmer who I know very well and who keeps a bull in a field which has a public footpath. It is the same path that goes through my land. The bull's name, if any of your Lordships are interested, is Cedric. I said to the farmer, "Is he dangerous?" "He is that", he replied. "What about the footpath?" I asked. "Would you walk down it?" "No," he said; "I would go in the tractor".

I really think that where a farmer or landowner knows that a bull may be running in land through which there is a public footpath—quite properly under the present arrangements—and where he knows that it might constitute a danger to people walking along that footpath, then that farmer or landlord has a duty to put up a notice or to draw this fact to the attention of those people using the footpath.

I think that the arrangements in the noble Lord's amendment provide an admirable solution. Certainly some solution must be found, and I hope that we do not have to wait until we have a fatality—we certainly will have such a fatality in due course—involving someone sufficiently famous and distinguished to reach all the headlines in the newspapers. Then we shall take action very rapidly. I hope that we shall take some action before that day, and I am very glad to support the amendment.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I cannot support this amendment, and the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, will know that I cannot. First of all, I am surprised that he has 100 per cent. support from the Countryside Commission. I must say that I have not had a brief to that effect. No doubt when he sums up he will say that he has had 100 per cent. support from the Countryside Commission.

Noble Lords know all my objections, but I shall deal with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, in particular. He thinks, quite misguidedly, that these paths only go across the land of the large landowners that he believes sit on these Benches. I am not a landowner, though my wife might be called a small landowner. These paths go across small farms. What does the small farmer do under the noble Lord's amendment, particularly the small farmer who farms in Anglesey, where there are footpaths all around the coast.? What does he do? He may have to talk to 25 other small farmers, and it is very difficult to get 25 farmers to agree. That is the first point.

Let us forget about the large landowner. I care about him, of course; I have been a tenant of one. But let us just think for one minute about the small farmer and the problem that he will have on his 20-acre holding. How is he to divert a footpath when he is next to the sea? If your Lordships can tell me, I shall do it, but I do not know how.

I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, made his second point. He said that it was not walkers who were killed but me, the farmer, or my wife. With great sadness, I draw attention to a report published today by the Health and Safety Executive. I rang up to find out how many people were killed on farms last year. Out of a tragic figure of 70 or more, I think six were killed by bulls. They were all farm workers or farmers in gangs. I think it was Mr. Boswell, the chief inspector, who said that the reason why those accidents occurred throughout agriculture was, as I know only too well, that we cut corners. Why do we do that? I am speaking under privilege here, thank goodness, but I do a lot of naughty things because I am under pressure. The sun is coming; I have to make the hay. Then along comes the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, saying "You have to move this footpath, put up signs and everything else". I am under stress, as are all my farming neighbours. I make no bones about it. I cut corners.

Both noble Lords talked about balance. It is a question of balance. Seventy-seven or so people were killed on farms last year because we cut corners. The amendment would put another load on to my back and on to the backs of small farmers generally. Somebody may one day get hurt by a bull on a footpath; but somebody may get hurt crossing the street tonight. Putting more stress on the farmer on balance will kill more farmers, their wives and farm workers. That is a point that I have not raised before; I shall not raise the old one again. I object to the amendment.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, I shall not vote for the amendment, but the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has raised a matter which we ought to take slightly more seriously. A problem has arisen. Some people are frightened. If a bull can frighten the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, he must be extraordinarily brave; considering Everest and the Imphal, the bull should be made a Japanese general. There is a recognisable problem and something ought to be done about it.

The Earl of Radnor

My Lords, I wish to speak briefly against the amendment. There is no point in repeating arguments that I put forward at Committee stage, but I should like just to take up cudgels with the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley. While he was speaking, I read carefully page 16 of the Marshalled List. I cannot see that the amendment is anything but a complicated affair both bureaucratically and in practice, with notices being posted and signposts being put up for the length of the right of way. People would have to be consulted, and so on. I do not think the wording is a great deal better than last time in that respect. I have risen to speak to say just that.

If the amendment were enacted there would be rather a mess. There would be such confusion that the walkers, the ramblers and the bulls would all come together by accident. It is easy to leave signposts where they should not be, and little boys run away with notices posted across the countryside. I have been involved in diverting footpaths, and the notices usually disappear within 24 hours somehow or other. I hope that the amendment will be resisted.

10.30 p.m.

Earl Peel

My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with what has been said by noble Lords opposite. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, mentioned some cases where there had nearly been fatal accidents. In the North of England and in the Yorkshire Dales national park I have been inundated with letters from small farmers who would be seriously inconvenienced if this proposal became law.

We have many cases where footpaths go through almost every other field. If farmers had to adhere to what the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, suggests in this amendment, not only would their lives become extremely difficult, but they would incur great expense. They would no doubt have to resort to agricultural buildings as an alternative. It is a question of balance, as several noble Lords have said, but I urge all noble Lords to reject the amendment. It would be unworkable.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I see that there is a difficulty, which the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has spelled out. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in a charming speech, if I may say so, pointed out how he had his wits sharpened. He said that as night follows day the amendment should be accepted. My night does not follow day in quite the same way as the noble Lord's. The noble Lord had an experience with a bull. I had an experience when I went to Devon and went into a field. There was no bull there, but there were a couple of horses. They came towards me. When they were near me they reversed themselves and showed me the back end of their hooves. I found that a disagreeable and frightening experience. Bulls are not the only problem.

If people go into the country, they are bound to come up against country matters and country animals. My noble friend Lord Peel made a pertinent point that with so many small fanners and so many public footways, it would be an intolerable burden if they had to divert their paths.

The amendment is a considerable one. If a person wishes to put a beef bull in a field, which is the only way in which beef cattle are kept, he has to apply to the council. If the council has not agreed to the diversion within six weeks, various action is taken. When the council agrees, it has to send a plan of the change with a map to all the interested parties and local authorities. Signs have to be erected at the beginning and end and all the way down the new diversion. Presumably that all has to be done at somebody's expense. As my noble friend Lord Radnor said, all the signs are susceptible to being removed by people who like to use them as walking sticks and other such things.

This is a bureaucratic and lengthy amendment which would produce great problems if it were put into action. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, will not press it. One accepts the difficulty that exists with animals in fields, whether they are cows, bulls or horses. On the whole, the system has worked reasonably well. The alterations suggested in the amendment would produce more complications than they would resolve.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, we have footpaths; they are rights of way. The public have the right to use them. We have stock on the farms which have the foothpaths. The farmer feels that he has the right to put the animals in the fields, particularly if he is a dairy farmer using a beef bull or has suckler herds with beef bulls.

The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has twice put forward amendments. He has produced this one on behalf of the Countryside Commission, a body which we all respect for what it does. Noble Lords opposite are nearly 100 per cent. against the amendment. They must produce a solution to the problem. Except for the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, noble Lords have merely condemned the amendment out of hand, as far as I can see, without producing a solution to a problem that we all know exists. Before we condemn the amendment of my noble friend Lord Melchett, which does seem slightly—well, actually a little more than slightly— bureaucratic and will cause difficulties, I would invite noble Lords to consider what is the solution to the problem if it is not something similar to what he has produced. I shall be interested to hear what the Government have to say before making any further comment.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

Reverting to what has been said about a sign, I should like to draw attention to an article in the Daily Telegraph in May this year, when under the heading "Horns of a Dilemma", there was reference to a sign spotted by a reader on a footpath near Berwick-upon-Tweed. It said, "Warning. Bull loose in this field. Cross it at your own risk."

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, I should like to reiterate what I said at Committee stage. There is a solution to the problem. It is progressively to divert footpaths on a permanent basis so that that they run along headlands and along routes that are more attractive to walkers and more practical for farmers.

Lord Burton

My Lords, I should like to reply to the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie. It is surely illegal already to have what I believe is called an animal of dangerous propensity out in a place where it is liable to affect the general public. I am worried as to where we draw the line. I have handled bulls, including Jersey bulls, for a long time. But the only animal that flattened me was a cow. The only other that nearly caused a good deal of damage was a roebuck. I happened, however, to be stronger than the roebuck.

Where do we draw the line? My noble friend Lord Ferrers referred to horses in a field. That is absolutely right. There can be some very dangerous stallions. A tame stag or a tame roebuck is extremely dangerous. Even a dog could be dangerous. One has to comply with the law. Another example could be ganders. Indeed, we had a buzzard on the ground that damaged several people. But, being a protected bird, we were not allowed to kill it. We had a cock pheasant that nearly every day put the fear of death into schoolchildren on their way home from school. However, it was out of season, so we could not kill it. Thousands of acres of parts of the country could be sterilised if we were to accept the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, there is a great deal of truth in what my noble friend Lord Burton has said. I was interested to hear my noble friends Lord Stanley and Lord Peel explain the problems for farmers, my noble friend Lord Stanley referring to land near the sea in Wales and my noble friend Lord Peel dealing with the uplands and the national parks of which he has knowledge, if an amendment of this kind were to be made. We are, incidentally, talking about the production of beef, in some cases through suckler herds. The production of high quality beef is what we rather hope farmers will concentrate upon instead of growing too many acres of cereals.

We are also concerned, if I may speak seriously, with the living of farming families. There really could be occasions where we should be talking about driving farming families out of business in regard to beef production if an amendment of this sort were made. Although the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has taken great trounble with the amendment in an effort to make it less bureaucratic, it nonetheless seeks to provide for making temporary path diversion orders for up to four months in a year. If this could not be done, the farmer would have no practical alternative to running his beef bull in a field.

Although this is in many respects simpler and therefore preferable to the previous amendment, the overwhelming objection to the amendment remains. As my noble friend Lord Ferrers said, this is a system that would present a heavy administrative burden at a time when we are striving to reduce the burden of bureaucracy and regulation. My noble friend referred to local councils which would be faced with considerable demands upon their staff and resources. I understand that, as a result of the meeting between the Countryside Commission, the Ramblers Association, and the National Farmers' Union, the local authorities made it quite clear that this amendment would create difficulties for them because of the administrative burden it would place on them.

My noble friend Lord Radnor made the point that this would have a very serious effect for farmers. What worries me is that it would require farmers to plan weeks in advance where their bulls would be on any given day and to deal with yet more paper work. I seriously wonder at the moment, when we are in a period which is approaching a drought, exactly how, if this amendment was agreed, one would organise where to keep beef cattle which had to be moved around quite a bit with the grass starting to dry up.

I am sorry, but I feel that I cannot make a very helpful response to either my noble friend Lord Onslow or the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, with regard to the point that something needs to be done. We have the compromise position which was reached in the 1981 Act. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, gave us wise advice; but the advice which he gave is a difficult matter on which to reach agreement, as all your Lordships will know.

I am very happy to look at this problem, but I am not happy to move away at the moment from the compromise which was reached in the 1981 Act. On balance I think very definitely that if we did so, it would result in a situation which would make life almost impossible for a farmer, be he small or big, who was keeping beef cattle on his farm.

Lord Melchett

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down I wonder whether he would do me the courtesy of answering my specific question. I asked him, in the light of the cases which the Ramblers Association presented to the Government between Committee and Report stage, whether the Government still hold the view that it is safe for members of the public to walk on footpaths through fields where beef bulls are grazing with cows or heifers?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, that point is easily answered. The Ramblers Association has prepared a dossier of incidents where bulls may have presented a hazard to members of the public. The reports include just one incident in which a member of the public has been injured by a bull being kept in accordance with the 1981 Act. Even one incident is one too many. But we have to keep a sense of proportion. In saying that I think the balance of advantage lies very definitely against this amendment.

Lord Melchett

My Lords, I was particularly disturbed to hear the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, begin his remarks by saying that there was a lot of truth in what the noble Lord, Lord Burton, had said, because I think that was rather an insult to the many hundreds of thousands of people who are concerned about this matter. The idea that some silly story about a cock pheasant is treating this problem with the seriousness which most noble Lords—at least on this side of the House—believe that it deserves is a little insulting coming from a Back-Bencher on the other side. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will reconsider that remark. The only danger that the noble Lord, Lord Burton, is likely to meet with a cock pheasant is if he shoots one and it plummets dead on top of his head. I dare say that there will be one or two walkers who, having read his remarks in your Lordships' House tonight, will hope that a cock pheasant will be prepared to commit the ultimate sacrifice on their behalf.

The noble Lord, Lord Burton, suggested that it was already illegal to keep dangerous animals in fields where the public had access. That is right. It is an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act. The Health and Safety Executive has refused to issue advice as the Government said it would following the 1981 Act because the executive agrees with the Ramblers Association that the 1981 Act is wrong and that all beef bulls are dangerous and should not be put in fields crossed by public rights of way. The noble Lord, Lord Burton, is at least right on that.

The noble Lord, Lord Stanley, said that this will involve putting up a lot of extra signs. But it is already a legal requirement—I hope that the noble Lord is aware of this—to put up warning signs if a bull is grazing in the field. That is a legal requirement under the Health and Safety at Work Act, as no doubt the noble Lord knows. It seems to me that it is a question of either putting up warnings signs or putting up signs diverting the footpath. I cannot see in that respect that a great deal of extra work or trouble will be caused.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I did not say necessarily signs; I said extra work and extra stress. As my noble friend Lord Belstead said, we will not know where we are going to put them in two or three years' time.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Melchett

My Lords, as I said, it should not involve extra work because the noble Lord should be putting up warnings signs as it is, and under my amendment he would be having to put up diversion signs. I do not see that that will involve extra work, as he suggests.

The noble Earl, Lord Peel, said that it would cause serious inconvenience to some farmers who had written to him. A number of noble Lords seem to have forgotten that over a great area of the country before 1981 there was a total ban on putting any bull in fields crossed by public rights of way. The suggestion that the 1981 provision was a compromise is ludicrous. Compromise involves some meeting of minds. There was a compromise agreed before 1981—that embodied in the amendment. The compromise between the National Farmers' Union and the Ramblers Association involved temporary diversions of footpaths. The provisions in the 1981 Act were not agreed by anyone representing people who walk in the country or anyone else who uses the countryside for recreation. They have been opposed consistently by all those interests, including now the statutory body responsible for giving advice on these matters.

While I accept that this certainly would cause some inconvenience for some farmers, it would be less than many farmers had to suffer before 1981 when no power of temporary diversions was available to them and there was a total ban on putting bulls in fields crossed by public rights of way.

The noble Lord, Lord Stanley, seemed to suggest that I might be misleading your Lordships' House in saying that the Countryside Commission supported the amendment. I have a letter dated 27th June from the head of the recreational access branch of the commission which says of the text of the amendment that it would, in our view achieve a fair and equitable balance of the various interests (farmers and landowners, users of rights of way and the local authorities) but at the same time ensure that the procedures to be followed in making a temporary diversion order are as simple as possible. It seems to me that this is the last possibility that we have for a compromise on this issue. The compromise goes further, as I said, than the Ramblers Association is prepared to agree and than I should personally. The alternative which a number of noble Lords said should be suggested is to go back to pre-1981 and have a total ban on all bulls in fields crossed by public rights of way. If a compromise of this sort is not acceptable, that seems to me to be the only sensible solution. It is certainly one I will press for if the amendment, as I expect, is not accepted by your Lordships.

There has been a lot of laughing and smiling by noble Lords opposite about bulls and the dangers of other assorted animals with which people frequently no doubt come into contact in the countryside. I think that one noble Lord opposite at least might have had the courage of his convictions and said what a correspondent to Farmers Weekly said a couple of weeks ago about this amendment and the attempt to prevent a walker, probably a child or an elderly person, being seriously injured or killed by a bull. He said what I believe noble Lords opposite also believe. First, young children, invalids, old people, disabled persons and the like have no valid reason to be in fields in the countryside on isolated footpaths, even if accompanied by well-meaning guides". That is what the conflict on this amendment is really about. Noble Lords opposite simply are not prepared to accept that a large number of people in the country have any right to use the public footpaths and the public rights of way granted to them by Parliament across private land. I believe that they have, and I believe that the amendment will make it safe for them to do so.

10.50 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 55) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 12; Not-Contents, 38.

Crawshaw of Aintree, L. Gallacher, L.
[Teller.] Hunt, L.
David, B. John-Mackie, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Melchett, L. [Teller]
Morton of Shuna, L. White, B.
Nicol, B. Winstanley, L.
Stoddart of Swinton, L.
Belstead, L. Hives, L.
Boston, L. Hooper, B.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Long, V. [Teller]
Brougham and Vaux, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Burton, L. Middleton, L.
Caithness, E. Monk Bretton, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Mountgarret, V.
Carnock, L. Northbourne, L.
Cathcart, E. Onslow, E.
Craigton, L. Peel, E.
Davidson, V. Radnor, E.
De La Warr, E. Rankeillour, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Renton, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Sandford, L.
Elton, L. Savile, L.
Ferrers, E. Skelmersdale, L.
Ferrier, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Glenarthur, L. Trumpington, B.
Gray of Contin, L. Ullswater, V.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

10.57 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker (Earl Cathcart)

My Lords, in calling Amendment No. 55 A, I should say that there has been a misprint, and the amendment should read, "County Councils shall have the power to make Landscape Conservation Orders" and not "designate Landscape Conservation Areas".

The Earl of Onslow moved Amendment No. 55A:

After Clause 14, insert the following new Clause—

("Landscape Conservation Orders.

. County Councils shall have the power to make Landscape Conservation Orders.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, first of all I must say that I have no intention of dividing the House, or even hoping that this particular sentence will go into the Bill. I am moving the amendment because when it came up at the end of Committee stage last time I think we were running at least two hours late, my noble friend Lord Denham was looking very flustered and putting pressure on us all to get on, and I have a feeling that we did not air it enough. There is no hint of criticism of my noble friend Lord Denham for getting flustered. He was quite right to get flustered. We were all taking much too long and talking too much, and I might even say having unnecessary Divisions, but be that as it may.

I think that there is a need for the power of local authorities to make landscape conservation orders. Funnily enough I think the need for that power is greater outside national parks and even outside AONBs than within them. We have the precedent of the tree preservation order, which allows a local authority to keep trees but does not allow it, for some extraordinary reason, to keep small trees when they have been cut and laid and formed into a hedge.

We have all had the bits of paper, and I do not think that at this late hour one wants to go into the details of the cases where great damage has been done. There are obviously two dangers to the concept of landscape conservation orders, and one is the exact opposite of the other. One is that local authorities will make one at the first stirring of a minority in a local conservation area which has nothing better to do and will slap them on all over the place, and that will bring them into disrepute. The opposite of that is that they will not put them on enough because they will say, "It is too much 'aggro' and too much difficulty", and so on and so forth.

I think those of us who have even had bits of Laurence Gould second hand have realised that there is an opinion that perhaps the Wildlife and Countryside Act is not functioning as efficiently as it should be. I know that the Government are thinking along the lines of landscape conservation orders. I am hoping that I can get from my noble friend some views of how the Government's thinking is going. I do not want a commitment. All I want is a pre-Green Paperish sort of idea. Then I shall have great pleasure in withdrawing the amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, I want to emphasise that we are talking about landscape conservation orders and not areas. I apologise to your Lordships for the difficulty that has been caused. It was not the fault of the Office. There was a small upset on the way to the Office and that is why the printing has come out as it has.

I support the noble Earl in this amendment and I shall give a few more reasons why we have brought it forward tonight. The Association of County Councils and other bodies would like these reserve powers to preserve valuable features of the countryside; not as a matter of course, but only where voluntary agreement fails, as it does sometimes. If I may, I shall give one example: I do not want to waste too much of your Lordships' time. I shall not talk about national parks and the Broads, for I believe they have a degree of protection already and I know that the Government are considering having discussions with them about extending this kind of power.

I give one example of an area outside national parks, AONBs or anything else that one can mention. This is in Hampshire, near Whitchurch, where a chalk downland, not protected in any other way except by the local council—who declared it a country heritage site, which is its local term for saying that it is a desirable feature—has been badly damaged by motor cyclists. In this case the landowner was not interested in working with the county council to protect it. The council felt that if it had had a power of this kind it could have done something instead of waiting for the local population to be up in arms.

It would perhaps be to the advantage of farmers in the long run if we had this kind of power, because on the whole people do not mind too much what farmers do, but, when there is a special area about which they are concerned and which is dear to them either as an amenity or as a piece of natural beauty and they see it being destroyed, they cry out for planning controls on fanners. It seems to me that it woud be much better to avoid the demand for blanket planning controls by giving the county councils this reasonable power to protect these simple areas where there is a need.

As the noble Earl has said, there is no intention of pressing this to a Division. In view of the fact that dangers to these areas are likely to increase now that farming grants have been changed and there will be less pressure to grow things on the land, such areas will need protection in other ways. We want to know from the Government when their consultation document is likely to come out and whether they envisage legislation, say, in the next Session. I shall not go further than that because, after all, things may have changed after the next Session. Is it their intention to give priority to this legislation?

Lord Hunt

I am happy to be one of the sponsors of this amendment, having missed the opportunity of discussing the prospect of landscape conservation orders when it was discussed in Committee on 19th June. I was naturally glad to hear—indeed I knew already because the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Mrs Angela Rumbold, had told my council (the Council for National Parks) at an anniversary conference—that the Government are considering the possibility of making such orders available in national parks. But I feel that the Government ought to extend their view, their focus, more widely in the course of the consultations than they say they are going to. Indeed, I particularly hope that the Government will reconsider and have not closed their minds to the possibility of extending such orders, making them available in ESAs, in AONBs and in our green belts. I will not take the time of the House now but I could give examples of damage and destruction that has been caused in the green belt areas and in areas which are not in either of the other categories. I hope that the Government will continue their consultations on that comprehensive basis.

I regard it as significant that the Association of County Councils should be pressing for this kind of legislation. Indeed, they are pressing that the Government should come forward with legislation without undue delay. It is a measure which obviously has political connotations and the ACC would not be making such a pressing case if they were not confident of public support for it locally. It is a measure of the way that public interest is growing in the protection of the rural environment.

I think that many of your Lordships know that the availability of LCOs is also the view of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, the Council for National Parks (which I have the honour to preside over) and the Countryside Commission. I do not take the view that reserve powers of this kind and for this purpose threaten the voluntary principle. They exist already in respect of SSSIs under the 1981 Act, as everyone knows, and they have existed for nearly 40 years in regard to access agreements in the form of access orders to the countryside under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.

There has never been any suggestion to my knowledge that their existence constitutes a threat; and I know of only one example where, in the case of access orders, such an order has had to be made. That was in the Peak District. I think you have only to ask any national park authority, particularly a national park officer, and planning officers and you will find that the final power to make such orders has greatly strengthened their hand in negotiating voluntary agreements. We are not asking the Minister, as the noble Earl has said, to commit the Government, as the ACC would have us do, to legislation. We are only asking that he should undertake to give the possible availability of landscape conservation orders countrywide—wider than national parks—due consideration during his consultations.

Lord Sandford

My Lords, I rise not so much to support this particular amendment as to express the hope that in dealing with this and other matters like it to do with the protection of the countryside, we try to improve our track record and our rate of response. The nearest thing to a landscape conservation order on the statute book at the moment is the landscape area special development order. That has been there since 1950; that is to say, for 36 years.

When I came to review the national parks in 1972, they had been on the statute book for 22 years and up to that time they had been adopted in parts only of two national parks. It has taken another 14 years to get to the point where we have at last agreed to adopt them in the whole of the national parks and all efforts to get landscape area special development orders extended to AONBs etc. have so far been resisted.

This rate of response cannot continue. There is enormous public support for the protection of the best of the countryside and it really is building up trouble for the future if we respond as slowly as we have so far. So in giving general support for the idea of landscape conservation orders and for the publication of a consultation document, I would urge both my noble friend from the Ministry of Agriculture and my noble friend from the Department of the Environment to move with more decisiveness and despatch after the consultation process and to get these orders where they are needed in good time.

Lord Craigton

My Lords, I, too, signed the amendment put down at Committee stage, and I support very much the urgent need for something along the lines of conservation orders. I shall be very interested to hear what the Minister is going to say.

Baroness White

My Lords, I would hope that at the very least the Minister will be able to assure us on this occasion that the consultations will not be confined to national parks, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has said (and he and I are both very much concerned with national parks, as officers of the Council for National Parks) we recognise that at least in the parks one does have some measure of protection, and there are examples in parts of the country, which are not in designated areas at all, which require just this sort of protection for which the County Councils Association is now pressing.

It is clear one cannot simply ask the Government to accept this amendment as it now stands, although personally I wish very much that they had been sufficiently enthusiastic about this to have given themselves powers—not more than that, obviously— in this Bill; otherwise, we shall probably have to wait for a very long time before we get enabling legislation through the House. It seems to me that an opportunity has been missed, which is sad. But, I repeat, at the very least we should have an assurance that the consultation which has already been announced by the Minister for the Department of the Environment should cover a wider area than the national parks themselves.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, everyone is, quite rightly, concerned about conservation, and particularly over the last few years an immense amount of work has been done and many steps have been taken to ensure conservation. It seems to me that we have at the moment the national parks, sites of special scientific interest, areas of outstanding natural beauty, environ-mentally sensitive areas and landscape special development orders; and I would ask my noble friend to say when he replies whether he thinks there is some facet which is inadequately covered—because it seems to me that we have so many of these things and if we are not careful we are going to have yet more and nobody will know where they are or whether any part of their land is or is not covered by some order. While the conservation of the land and the countryside is quite correct and quite proper, I think we have to be careful not to cover ourselves with such a multitude of bureaucratic regulations that nobody knows where they are or how they are going to be operated.

Lord John-Mackie

The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has taken the words right out of my mouth, except that I had only four items listed and he had five: I did not know about the landscape development order which he mentioned. I would be worried not so much about this order which might come along, but rather about the question of who is to operate it and who is to decide about the landscaping. Is this going to mean a whole host of extra officials for the councils? I think we would need to know a little more about how it is going to be operated, who is to take the decisions and whether there will be a right of appeal, and so on.

As the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, says, I think we have plenty to be going on with, and as has been stressed by a whole lot of people—environmentalists, conservationists and so on—that they would like to have co-operation with land-owners and farmers. I would say that going ahead with order after order is not the way to get that co-operation.

Lord Melchett

My Lords, both noble Lords who have just spoken are right to say that we have a number of ways of designating the countryside, and there are a number of further designations which they have omitted to mention—Heritage Coast, for example. All these are fancy-sounding names for fancy bits of countryside, but very few of them contain any powers to protect those areas of the countryside. A major study of national parks undertaken a couple of years ago showed that whether you farmed or operated a business or anything else inside or outside a national park made little difference to whether developments went ahead, whether landscape was changed, hedges were lost, woodlands were lost, and so on.

The designation "area of outstanding natural beauty" is notorious for being largely meaningless when it comes to actually affecting the future of the conservation interests in the countryside. The same is true of many other designations. Sites of special scientific interest now have some very limited protection, but as the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, stressed at the Committee stage, the Government's approach, embodied in the 1981 Act, has been a voluntary one. So the protection for sites of special scientific interest, which are the most protected areas of the countryside, still rests on the voluntary agreement of the people who own and manage the land. There is no power of compulsion there which is peculiar to sites of special scientific interest, apart from a modest delaying power of nine or 12 months.

All these fancy titles do not mean much when it comes to affecting what actually happens on the ground. The significant difference, as I am sure both noble Lords recognise, in the proposal for landscape conservation orders is that they would actually give the public the power to say that something should not be destroyed. That is what makes them different from all these other things. For myself, I should prefer to take a simpler course, and one we discussed at Committee stage—namely, to extend the planning control system. Then you cover the whole countryside. You do not need to start parcelling up different areas and calling them fancy names which sound intimidating and mean very little. You control development when it is actually proposed to take place rather than make orders to protect things which people may not want to destroy, or, in the case of sites of special scientific interest and the Wildlife and Countryside Act, sites which they decide to destroy only when you offer them compensation for not doing it.

So there is a simpler system. It is to extend development control to cover agriculture and forestry developments. But in the absence of that, I hope the Government will at least make some rapid progress with landscape conservation orders.

11.15 p.m.

Earl Peel

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, talked about such conservation orders being extended outside of national parks. I agree with him. But I should just like to make one point. Everybody seems to think that things are totally protected in national parks. Yes, of course, we have the prior approval situation, but farmers can go ahead without grants. This point is very often forgotten.

Furthermore, a good many authorities now are rather frightened. They have become diffident about entering into management agreements because of the amount of money that is involved. If we had a power of last resort, if I may call it that, along these lines, it would certainly be an improvement.

Lord Belstead

My noble friend Lord Onslow put down this amendment because we covered the point at a very late hour in Committee and he wanted to probe a little more regarding the Government's announce-ment of a consultation paper on landscape conservation orders. The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, asked what would be the timing. The consultation paper is now in hand within the Department of the Environment. The process of preparing a final text for issue is bound to involve consultation between my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and his colleagues in other departments who have an interest in the scheme. At the moment I cannot give an exact answer about the timing, but I know that this paper will be issued as quickly as possible.

The noble Baroness, Lady White, was particularly anxious that the proposals and consultations should apply outside the national parks; a point which was also made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. But as was indicated by my noble friend Lord Elton, our proposals will relate primarily to land in the national parks. But I would say to the noble Baroness that since this is a consultation exercise interested parties will of course be able to make their views on coverage known to Government.

Several of your Lordships have asked, "Will the Government get on with it?" I was encouraged by the way that my noble friend Lord Sandford, in passing, was good enough to make the point that, whereas when he was at the Department of the Environment he was not able to land the landscape area special development order, we have been able to do so under the present Government. I must therefore assume that my noble friend was congratulating us when he mentioned that topic in his remarks.

What can I add? I think I can add just two things. One thing we will have to think about quite carefully in this LCO area is the question of permanency; that is, should the orders be used to provide a breathing space for further negotiation, or ought they to be something which has permanent effect? That is something which the LCO consultation paper will no doubt advert to. The question of rights of appeal for the owners and occupiers of land affected by orders is again obviously something which will have to be dealt with and will be of interest in the consultation arrangements.

I do not feel that I can give, ahead of the consultation paper, any more information than that. I hope that my noble friend will not feel that I am being deliberately evasive. We are going to bring forward a consultation paper and no doubt we will be referring again to this interesting topic in your Lordships' House.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, I can certainly thank my noble friend for his civility and I can thank him for his effort, but I do not think that I can thank him for much information. I was pleased to hear him say "primarily in national parks". By that I assume he is not excluding non-national park areas.

We have the precedent of the tree preservation order and we have the odd distinction that you can protect one or two good oak trees but cannot protect the only site in north-west Europe where the yellow-legged boll-weevil, or whatever it is, breeds, except by the voluntary principle. That is unfortunate. Further-more, when we originally allowed farmland not to be covered by any form of planning it was when there were still horses on the land and the availability of the JCB and the Hy-Mac was not all that easy and most farm buildings were made of natural material—brick, clapboard or tile, or something like that. We have, of course, advanced technologically very far in those 40 years.

However, all I can do is hope that this little debate may have pushed the Government a little way with their paper. Obviously we will study the paper with great keeness when it is published and will certainly come back to the subject. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15 [Designation and management of environmentally sensitive areas]:

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 56:

Page 11, line 35, after ("may") insert ("with the consent of the Treasury and after consulting the persons mentioned in subsection (3) below as to the inclusion of the area in the order and the features for which conservation enhancement or protection is desirable").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I speak, if I may, to Amendments Nos. 57, 58 and 59.

In our previous debates in Committee on this clause there was some apprehension about the role of the Treasury. There is, I believe, general recognition in your Lordships' House that Ministers of Agriculture cannot designate environmentally sensitive areas without first agreeing with the Treasury that the money is available and will be spent properly. However, several of your Lordships have suggested that the clause seems to say more than that.

Concern was expressed that the clause could give the Treasury a direct veto on the conservation merits of any particular area. That was no part of our intention in drafting the Bill. I have therefore looked at the clause again in view of what was said to see whether it could be changed to reflect our intentions more clearly. This amendment is the result of that process.

I hope it makes clear that we are not proposing anything out of the ordinary. The Treasury role will be no different from that which it has in other spheres, such as capital grants. The procedure will be as follows. My right honourable friend will select environmentally sensitive areas in consultation with the environmental experts. He will present the outcome to the Treasury, which will want to know that our estimates for each area are reasonable, reliable and can be contained within the available budget. As I have said, the present budget is £6 million. If the Treasury is satisfied on those points it will confirm its agreeement by signing the order.

I hope that will satisfy your Lordships, including my noble friend Lord Renton, whose eagle eye is always on the correct drafting of the Bill. I have to admit openly to your Lordships that this amendment does not actually change the intention of the Government, but I hope that it honestly reflects what it is we meant to say and that it is more acceptable to your Lordships than the previous wording. I beg to move.

The Deputy Speaker

My lords, I call Amendment No. 57 as an amendment to Amendment No. 56.

Baroness Nicol moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 56, Amendment No. 57:

Line 2, after ("Treasury") insert ("Which consent shall be granted or refused on financial grounds only)").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the Minister has said a good deal of what I might have said and I do not intend to speak at great length, but he emphasised in his last two sentences that what he is proposing tonight does not in fact change the position that existed before in the Bill. It is perhaps a little neater, but it still leaves the Treasury, if it so desires, with a power of veto which it could exercise.

My amendment to the amendment would limit the Treasury's intervention to financial grounds, be it for refusal of the grant or for giving it. I cannot see why this is not acceptable. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to answer me, and that he will feel able to accept this amendment, because it leaves the Treasury's position beyond all doubt.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I think we should acknowl-edge that my noble friend Lord Belstead has done something which must have resulted from a tremendous struggle behind the scenes, a struggle which the Treasury is known always to win and never deserves to win, least of all on this occasion. But he has done his best, though he has been candid enough to acknowledge, as he was kind enough to say in a letter which he sent to those of us who were concerned, that the substance of the matter is not really changed at all by his amendment.

But the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, is one that he should accept with open arms, because that amendment puts the matter right. If we have to put up with the consent of the Treasury—which is a nonsense anyway—then let Parliament make it clear that that consent can only be granted or refused on financial grounds. I hope that my noble friend will listen to the reason of the noble Baroness.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I wish I could respond to my noble friend Lord Renton, and indeed to the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, but I really cannot, and I shall tell your Lordships why I cannot. There is not a single precedent that I can find—there may be one but I cannot find it—whereby Treasury consent is fettered in the way that the noble Baroness would wish it to be in this Bill. For example, in the Agriculture Act 1947, which was legendary legislation passed during the tenure of the famous Labour Minister of Agriculture, Tom Williams, there is no such limitation; nor is there in the Agriculture Act 1967; nor in the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968 on drainage and other grants; nor in the Countryside Act of 1968, which is often in our minds—all these Acts were passed by Labour governments—nor even in the Agriculture Act of 1970 governing capital grants, which was again an Act passed by a Labour government. There is no precedent for this provision and I cannot accept it in this Bill.

Lord Renton

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, is he saying that he is accepting the logic of the amendment of the noble Baroness, but also saying that he cannot accept the amendment merely because there is no precedent for it?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I am saying that there is no precedent but I am also saying that I think that because there is no precedent there is no case. If I may say so, the case for the Treasury's surveillance is well put in the wording that we have. This evening I have interpreted what the wording means and by tabling the amendment that I have brought forward I have tried to make that wording as clear as possible. I cannot go further than that.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, I am not moved by the fact that there is no Labour administration precedent for this. I did hope that the Minister would have been prepared to establish a precedent himself and perhaps make a little history tonight if he had so wished. But I think the logic of my suggestion is clear. I am extremely sorry that he has not felt able to accept the amendment, but I do not propose to put it to a vote this evening and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment to the amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment No. 56 agreed to.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Craigton moved Amendment No. 5 7A:

Page 11, line 36, after ("sensitive") insert ("fanning")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment would rename "environmentally sensitive areas" "environmentally sensitive fanning areas". There is an apology due to the Minister and to the House for the amendment being put down in this way. I put it down in the Public Bill Office last Wednesday, and it was only this morning, when I came to your Lordships' House, that I found—and the Public Bill Office wishes me to say this—that an error had been made in that office and nobody had seen the amendment before. That puts me in a difficulty, because it is a fairly complicated decision to make: am I right that they should be environmentally sensitive farming areas? Nevertheless, I shall do my best. If my noble friend on the Front Bench says that he has not had an opportunity to consider this, I shall of course withdraw the amendment and, in spite of what my noble friend Lord Ferrers said, I will put it down again on Third Reading.

How did the term "environmentally sensitive area" arise? I am looking at MAFF's consultation paper of April 1985, which asks for comments on the new farm structure regulations for the European Community. One of those structure regulations is Article 19, which, permits the designation of environmentally sensitive areas in which traditional farming practices can be encouraged through financial incentives".

It goes on: the details of each scheme would depend on the nature of fanning practices and conservation features of the area".

Article 19, which includes in the title the term "environmentally sensitive areas", is one of 22 articles, all of which form the basis of farm capital grant policy. In that context, the term is perfectly satisfactory, because it was one of the articles concerning farm capital grant policy. But Article 20, for example, concerns woodland improvement. Woodland improvement would be all right as a farming grant but it is far too general a term to use otherwise, as is the term "environmentally sensitive area". Article 16 is "Tourism and craft". The term came from a very narrow start.

If we think of what the term really means, every SSSI is an environmentally sensitive area, as is every national park. That is far too wide. A complaint was made by another speaker earlier about the number of terms that we have. I believe that the Department of the Environment, the NCC and other non-government organisations would not like to see "environmentally sensitive area" as the name for that narrow farming grant division. If the Minister were to ask that department, he would be told that it would be much better to call them environmentally sensitive farming areas. At another time we can have environ-mentally sensitive water-borne areas and all sorts of different designations.

I believe that I am right. I think that on reflection the conservation world and the Minister will agree. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

My Lords, we all respect the zeal of my noble friend Lord Craigton for conservation. It is a zeal which I share. I am a former president of the Conservation Society. But I am very much afraid of his amendment. What I fear is that by inserting the word "farming" it will limit the effect of the clause, so that it is only farming areas which could be designated in the way that the provision intends. Areas, for example, which are given over to forestry or are merely open spaces with neither forestry nor farming on them—

Lord Craigton

My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me, that is exactly the point. As my noble friend on the Front Bench knows, I tried to widen the area beyond farming areas by using a little equipment from outside farming areas, and he would not let me. This amendment refers solely to farming areas.

Lord Renton

My Lords, it does not appear to me to be so on the wording. I may be wrong. At this late hour one can get things wrong. I am afraid that to insert the one word "farming" would limit the operation of the clause.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Craigton mentioned this subject at an earlier stage of the Bill. He put down the amendment which I had time to see. It is not a name that we should have chosen, but it is a name adopted by the Community. It is rather technical, and long-winded, I know, but by now everyone with an interest in the matter has heard of environmentally sensitive areas. We have all become accustomed to using the tags, and we all know what they mean. That is not a good reason for saying that the name should not be changed, but it means that a new name must be better. I should readily accept a new name that was so compelling and accurate that it displaced ESA from our memory. I am not keen to change the name without an attractive alternative.

My noble friend has found the alternative that he favours—environmentally sensitive farming area. I wonder whether the House feels that that has the right ring. I feel that we should be exchanging three words for four. I am not sure that that is the mouthful that I like. If one were feeling rather tired one might not get one's tongue around it.

More seriously, my noble friend draws attention to the fact that these are farming areas rather than other types of environmental sites. Nonetheless, he is conjuring up a name which I do not think necessary. When my noble friend Lord Renton says that it could be misleading, I think that he is right.

Forestry is difficult with respect to ESAs because technically forestry is not part of agriculture. Nonetheless, forestry areas will fall within ESAs. The Forestry Commission, for instance, has gone out of its way to give special assurances that it will take particular care when it has forestry areas within ESAs. For that reason, I think that the caution of my noble friend Lord Renton is well placed.

Lord Craigton

My Lords, surely "agricultural" is the word that dominates Clause 15. Agricultural forestry is only forestry taken on incidental—I think that is the word in the Bill—to ordinary farming.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, perhaps my noble friend can clear this up before he sits down, but I thought that forestry was specifically excluded from ESAs. If my noble friend says that it is included, I am delighted.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, without going over the ground again, perhaps my noble friend Lord Onslow would like to read what I said. I did not say that it specifically included it. I set out the situation with regard to forestry in a few words.

If I have the leave of the House to speak a second time, I should say that if it were felt, which, with respect to my noble friend Lord Craigton, I do not think it is, that this was a better, slicker and more attractive name, we would go for it. But it is a mouthful. It is not what everyone in Europe is familiar with. For that reason, we should do well to stick with what we have.

Lord Craigton

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 58:

Page 11, line 37, leave out subsection (2)

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is consequential—I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton for his advice—on Amendment No. 56. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 59:

Page 12, line 1, leave out ("(2)") and insert ("(1)"). The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is also consequential. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Peel moved Amendment No. 60:

Page 12, line 33 at end insert— ("( ) Before entering into an agreement with a tenant or other person who is not the owner of the land, the Minister shall ensure that the landowner has been notified of the terms of the proposed agreement and has sufficient time (no longer than six weeks) in which to discuss with the tenant or other person the implications of the proposed agreement.")

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this amendment is similar in intent to one that I moved in Committee. However, in that amendment the responsibility for informing the landlord of any agreement made with the tenant in an ESA lay with the ministry itself. My noble friend the Minister gave an assurance that tenants would have to sign a declaration stating that their landlords had been informed. That went some way to allaying my fears about landlords not having the opportunity of discussing these important matters with their tenants.

Very serious issues concerning the tenant and landlord are involved. It is a matter that could well affect the rental and the capital values of farms. A tenant could find himself in breach of his tenancy agreement and, indeed, might ultimately face some form of dilapidation claim. The new amendment is a compromise in that the responsibility to inform the landlord would still lie, as my noble friend the Minister has assured us would happen, with the tenant. However, in his endeavours to secure fair play on both sides my noble friend, I think I am right in saying, regarded the amendment that I moved, and indeed, the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Radnor, as being landlords' amendments. It is fair to say, I believe, that the amendment that I am now moving has the full support of the NFU and the CLA. We are discussing very important items. I believe that the obligation for the landlord to be involved in these matters must be in the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, this amendment is eminently sensible. I shall be astonished if the Minister manages to make a case against it. It is natural justice, where an agreement of which he does not know has been made concerning a man's land, that both parties should be responsible for informing him. I support the amendment.

11.45 p.m.

The Earl of Radnor

My Lords, I support the amendment very strongly. It is not simply natural justice; it is common sense. The assurance given by my noble friend Lord Belstead that a written declaration would have to be produced and that there would be a standard agreement between the Minister and the people involved with farming is not good enough. It does not take into account that although the agreement between Minister and those indulging in farming on ESAs may be standard, the agreements between the various fanners and their landlords may be very variable. That must be taken into consideration. I believe that noble Lords almost throughout the Chamber felt ESAs to be a good thing. They gave the whole principle a great welcome from the Second Reading onwards.

But it must surely be important that these ESAs work, and work very well. I think matters work well if there is good will and if they are efficient. To take the first one first, if the Bill remains as it is now and becomes an Act, there is scope for friction between landlord and tenant and that would be a misfortune. That is an important point. I cannot see any arguments against putting this in the Bill, as does the noble Lord, Lord Mackie. It seems to make it simpler, more definite, and in all probability makes ESAs much simpler to operate and to get into motion than the Bill as it is now written. I support the amendment very strongly indeed.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, during the course of this Bill the Government have given a number of assurances about the position of landlords. In essence there is not very much between my noble friend Lord Peel, and other noble Lords who have spoken in the same way as my noble friend this evening, and myself. I have therefore looked hard at this amendment. On behalf of the Government I have given my noble friend an undertaking already that if tenants have not notified their landlord and have not shown the agreement to the landlord they will not have their application for inclusion in an ESA accepted. We shall achieve this by asking the tenant to declare that the landlord has been notified and a false declaration will carry legal penalties. My noble friend would like me to go further and ensure that the landlord has been notified. I can see only two ways of doing this. First, we could seek out every landlord in an ESA and ask them whether they have been notified. That would be a huge administrative task, and inevitably I do not think that it would succeed in every case. It would be very expensive indeed. Alternatively, we could require tenants to provide a confirmatory letter from the landlord but I do not think it needs much imagination to see that that also would create some administrative problems.

I repeat that we have made it quite clear that we shall require, through the ESA agreement, that the tenant has notified the landlord before making the agreement. Having listened to your Lordships, may I go this far? I am certainly prepared to consider whether we might write that requirement into the Bill. It does not go quite as far as my noble friend wants me to go but it goes about three-quarters of the way. We have made it quite clear that we shall require, through the ESA agreement, that the tenant has notified the landlord before making the agreement. I would be prepared to look at that urgently with a view to putting it on the face of the Bill.

For the rest, I think the assurances would need to stand, and those assurances I have repeated this evening. I hope that my noble friend may feel that I have shown good will in trying to go at least half-way.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he explain the great difficulty? Does he mean that the tenant would have several landlords? I should have thought it perfectly simple, if you know the tenant, to find the landlord.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, if the House will give me leave, the first and important difficulty is this. In an environmentally sensitive area—which could be a huge area—if the amendment is accepted one has to find every single landlord and to contact him. That is a very formidable administrative task. It means that hard-pressed staff in short supply will be used in pushing pens instead of doing what we want them to do in environmentally sensitive areas; that is, to get on and see that the areas are monitored and managed properly.

Lord Burton

My Lords, I am a little worried about this. I had a case where I received an assurance from the Minister and the land court came out and said that an assurance from the Minister was not what was written into the Bill and therefore it was not adequate. I am very concerned about this. I know that we should all like to accept the assurances of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, but I am not happy that that is adequate.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, perhaps we are getting it the wrong way round. Why not contact the landlords instead of the tenants? After all, the landlords will do their level best to ensure that their tenants' interests are safeguarded.

Earl Peel

My Lords, I have listened with interest to what my noble friend the Minister has said. I do not think that the amendment would in fact result in every landlord having to be informed by the ministry because it would concern only those tenants who were to be involved with agreements. I am encouraged by what my noble friend has said. On the basis of that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 61:

Page 12, line 38 at end insert— ("(7A) Where agreements have been made under subsection (4) above with persons having an interest in land in a designated area the Minister shall arrange for the effect on the area as a whole of the performance of the agreements to be kept under review and shall from time to time publish such information as he considers appropriate about those effects.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, during Committee stage we had a most useful debate on how we plan to monitor the effects of the environmentally sensitive area arrangements. I explained that we were committed to proper monitoring in order to ensure that our schemes are successful. But there was a general view from your Lordships—and I confess that I shared it—that it would be appropriate to reflect our intention to monitor on the face of the Bill.

I am pleased to present the amendment to the House. I believe that it provides appropriate statutory backing to our intentions. It also makes provision for the information gathered to be published. There will be many interested people who will wish to know how the schemes are progressing. As I explained in Committee, I think that formal annual reports would be a rather cumbersome way of achieving this. There is always a risk that such reports will become dry tables of statistics, issued simply because the annual deadline has arrived. The form of words in the amendment is an attempt to overcome this.

I hope that the amendment is acceptable to your Lordships. It certainly represents a move in the Bill towards monitoring environmentally sensitive areas. If your Lordships agree to it, we shall be indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, who first raised the matter, and I shall be indebted to your Lordships' House for making what I believe will be an improvement to the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, I thank the Minister for the amendment, which meets the monitoring point about which we were so concerned. I look forward to the first published information. We can then decide whether what the Minister considers appropriate is what we also consider appropriate.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Melchett moved Amendment No. 62:

Page 12, line 43, at end insert— ("(8A) The Minister shall after consultation with the persons mentioned in subsection (3) above and with such bodies as seem to him representative of the interests concerned prepare and issue a code of practice for the purpose of providing practical guidance to drainage bodies or authorised persons in the exercise of their duties in respect of any land subject to an order made under subsection (1) above. (8B) The Minister may from time to time after consultation with such bodies as seem to him representative of the interests concerned revise the code of practice issued under subsection (8A) above by revoking, varying, amending or adding to the provisions of that code. (8C) In subsection (8A) above "drainage body" and "authorised persons" have the same meanings respectively as in the Land Drainage Act 1976 and the Land Drainage (Scotland) Act 1958.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as your Lordships know, land drainage works, both capital and maintenance, can cause serious damage to wildlife interests. Even routine maintenance works like dredging, removing silt, weed cutting, grass cutting, the use of herbicides, and so on, can all causeproblems for wildlife and do great damage. It is also possible to plan such works in ways that will minimise and maybe even remove any possibility of their causing damage.

At present the Ministry of Agriculture, the Welsh Office Agricultural Department and the Department of the Environment have issued voluntary land drainage and conservation guidance notes to help the various interests—water authorities, IDBs, the NCC, and so on—discharge their duties under Section 22 of the Water Act 1973, which was amended in 1981 by the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Those guidance notes deal with consultation procedures only. As a result of a debate in another place on a similar amendment, I understand that they are going to be amended to cover consultation in environmentally sensitive areas.

There are two problems with that approach. First, because the guidance notes are voluntary, not statutory, some people involved in land drainage and other works have ignored them. We discussed one recent example of that in Committee, an internal drainage board in the Somerset levels, and I will not go over that.

The second problem with the current approach is that, however complete the consultation arrangements and however much goodwill there may be around them, they are never likely to cover the full range of activities that a drainage authority may wish to undertake in an environmentally sensitive area. When a large number of small-scale routine works are undertaken together, they may cause significant damage.

The existing guidance notes deal only with consultation procedures. This amendment would ensure that they were extended to cover practical guidance on the operational aspects of land drainage within ESAs, thereby ensuring, I would hope, that nobody involved in land drainage was likely to damage an ESA in a way that might damage the prospects of individual farmers and landowners continuing to receive money through payments made in relation to the ESA. At the moment there is a risk that a farmer's and landowner's payments may be jeopardised by operations unwittingly carried out by a land drainage authority, such as an IDB.

Finally, there are several precedents for operational guidelines to help implement legislation of the kind which I am proposing in the amendment. The Control of Pollution Act has led to the Ministry of Agriculture producing a code of good agricultural practice. The heather and grass burning code is another example published by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Welsh Office in 1984. The Food and Environment Protection Act makes provision for a number of codes of practice for the purpose of giving practical guidance in respect of the use of pesticides.

I hope that I have explained very briefly the purpose of what is a new and fairly complex amendment. I do not believe that it is controversial: I believe that it is helpful. I feel that it will be particularly helpful in safeguarding the interests of farmers and landowners in ESAs who have a conservation interest because of their water table. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I understand the reasons which have prompted the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, to propose this amendment. However, having listened to the noble Lord, I still think that the amendment is not necessary. Guidelines to water authorities and to internal drainage boards on fulfilling their obligations with regard to conservation while carrying out land drainage operations have been in existence since 1982. However, those guidelines are currently being revised following a review of their initial operation and to take account of the recommendation of the House of Commons environment committee.

The revised guidelines will in general be based on the best practices already adopted by water authorities and internal drainage boards. This work is well advanced, and the revised version will advocate that all drainage authorities should consult annually with the Nature Conservancy Council on maintenance operations and more frequently on specific areas of importance to the council.

The guidelines will also recommend that special consultation should be carried out at the earliest possible stage of planning the construction of new or improvement works, and that environmentally sensitive areas receive special consideration. It is those last words which I should have thought covered the intention of the amendment.

There is already a statutory obligation to consult the NCC where drainage operations might affect SSSIs. In considering applications for grant aid, the Minister insists that the application must provide evidence of the views of the NCC, or other appropriate organisation, on the scheme, unless there is no possible conservation interest. However, it is the ESAs in which the noble Lord is interested in moving the amendment, and I like to think that his intention is covered in the reply which I have given to the amendment.

Lord Melchett

My Lords, I know that it is very late but, no, it is not covered. The noble Lord and I read out almost exactly the same brief, but I went on to say that the problem with the guidance notes, to which the noble Lord referred, is that they cover only consultation procedures, they do not cover the operational requirements and they do not give practical advice on operational requirements. I am afraid that I said exactly what the noble Lord said, and then went on to say that my amendment addresses a completely different point. The noble Lord did not respond to that point at all.

As I have said, it is very late. I wonder whether I may ask the noble Lord to study in Hansard what I have said, and if he feels able to respond to the particular points which I raised on the amendment then—rather than my trying to press it now—he can write to me about it. He just repeated what I said in introducing the amendment and even at this time of night I feel reluctant simply to leave the matter there. If the noble Lord would be able to agree to read what I have said and write to me if he can respond to the particular point, I should be grateful.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for saying that. I have the current guidelines in front of me. It seems to me that they go a great deal wider than just consultation. However, I am very ready to write to the noble Lord, and I shall endeavour to do so before the Third Reading of this Bill.

Lord Melchett

My Lords, I have great pleasure in begging leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 62A:

After Clause 18, insert the following new Clause:—

Farm capital grants: ancillary businesses etc.

  1. (1) In section 28 of the Agriculture Act 1970 (interpretation of provisions relating to capital and other grants) at the end of the definition of "agricultural business" there shall be inserted the words "and includes any other business, of a kind for the time being specified by an order made by the appropriate authority, which is carried on by a person also carrying on a business consisting in or partly in the pursuit of agriculture and is carried on on the same or adjacent land".
  2. (2)The existing provisions of that section shall become subsection (1) of that section and after that subsection there shall be inserted—
"(2) An order under subsection (1) above shall be made by statutory instrument and any statutory instrument containing such an order shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.".")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment on the amendment of my noble friend Lord Peel, Amendment No. 54. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 20 [Short title, commencement, consequential amendments, repeals and extent]:

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 63:

Page 16, line 36, leave out ("section 15(12)") and insert ("sections (Validation of Apple and Pear Development Council Orders) and 1512)")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 63 and 64 are both consequential. I beg to move. On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 64:

Page 16A, line 4, leave out ("and 15(7) and insert ("[Rent arbitrations: milk quotas], 15(7) and 18")

On Question, amendment agreed to.