HL Deb 23 May 1988 vol 497 cc636-7

2.42 p.m.

Lord Nathan asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend to introduce legislation relating to common land and in particular to prevent deregistration.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (The Earl of Caithness)

Yes, my Lords.

Lord Nathan

My Lords, I thank the Minister. Could he give us some indication as to when the Government have it in mind to legislate and whether, pending such legislation, they will take steps to ensure that development does not take place on common land which has been, or is about to be, deregistered?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, we still intend to introduce a Bill at a suitable opportunity when parliamentary time permits. I take on board the second point which the noble Lord made.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, while I hesitate to say anything, particularly this afternoon, which might antagonise those noble Lords on the Government Benches whose natural habitat is more the grouse moor than this Chamber, is it not the case t hat there is more pressure for deregistration of common land from those owners of grouse moors than there is from development?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, there are some instances of deregistration occurring throughout the country. Each case is of course looked at on its merits.

Lord Craigton

My Lords, is the Minister aware that common land is almost our last uncommitted area of land in this country? It should be preserved in the common interest, as it will be when the Government get round to legislating on the Mendoza Report. Will the Minister in the meantime please call in any applications for building on recently deregistered common land?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, my noble friend is right to infer from this Question that planning permission will be required, and of course that matter must go for decision to the local authority concerned.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, before the Government table a Bill in either of the two Houses, will the Minister say what consultation the Government are likely to carry out? Are they proposing to consult the local authorities in England and Wales before they produce such an important measure?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, we have already consulted very widely, as the Leader of the Opposition will know. That consultation resulted from the Common Land Forum Report, which was published by the Countryside Commission in September 1986. However, that was not agreed unanimously and we are furthering those consultations on the points that are still in dispute.

Lord Rugby

My Lords, does this matter in any way come under residuary bodies—to look after the public interest in these matters pending legislation?

The Earl of Caithness

No, my Lords. It comes under the Department of the Environment. The Countryside Commission is taking a special interest in this matter at the moment.