HL Deb 04 July 1990 vol 520 cc2101-63

3.16 p.m.

Baroness White

My Lords, before the House moves into Committee on the Environmental Protection Bill, I feel it only proper that one should make some protest at the conditions under which Members of the House are being asked to carry the weight of legislation that we are being asked to undertake by the Government.

We have before us a groupings paper that was not available until ten minutes to two this afternoon—and then I think not in the Printed Paper Office. I appreciate that the usual channels consist of representatives from all quarters of the House, and that it is not exclusively a responsibility of government to present amendments for groupings. But we are being asked to day to work on a Bill where there are 24 amendments in the second grouping of the Sixth Marshalled List. It was almost impossible to go through it in the time available and to identify the 24 amendments intelligently. The printers have also found life too difficult for them. If one looks at page 10 of the Marshalled List, Amendment No. 353 appears after, instead of before, Amendment No. 354. On page 11, Amendment No. 354 appears after Amendment No. 355.

I am speaking because I believe that the House is being asked to undertake too much legislation at too rapid a speed. It is making it very difficult indeed for ordinary Members of the House—who have minimal secretarial help—to keep pace with the speed at which the Government expect us to get through complicated and very important legislation.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, on behalf of the Government, I must apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady White, for the fact that the groupings are late. I think that I am right in saying that it is the only day this Session that they have come late. It is not for the convenience of your Lordships. The noble Baroness is owed an apology. I unreservedly give her that apology.

However, decisions on groupings are not in the hands of the Government alone. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, chose the groupings on the second group that the noble Baroness has identified. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, will not mind my saying that groupings are for the convenience of the House. If any noble Lord or noble Baroness does not wish a particular amendment to be within that group, that noble Lord or noble Baroness can make the point clear, and can make it clear that he or she wishes to speak—and indeed to vote—separately on that particular amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, in response to what the noble Lord the Leader of the House has just said, it is only fair to say that we received a draft set of groupings from the Government yesterday afternoon. It took us most of this morning to make our own revision as to what we thought was necessary. I am also very pleased to confirm what the noble Lord the Leader of the House has said: that there is an opportunity to speak on any amendment as and when it arises, whatever the grouping may have been. The intention of the work on the groupings this morning was to simplify matters rather than to complicate them. I hope that my noble friend will find that that is in fact the case.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Hesketh)

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

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Hesketh).

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Lord Campbell of Croy

With leave, before we start, perhaps I may call attention to a defect in the Marshalled List. It is one of some importance. I refer to Amendment No. 344ZKA. It is attributed to three names, one of which is mine. It is certainly not our amendment. It seems that a name or names has been omitted from above the amendment. Some of us would like to know whose amendment it is. It is due to come up in the second debate. If the information is not available immediately, perhaps by raising it now I shall give time for the information to be given to us.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I cannot lie; it is my amendment.

The Earl of Onslow moved Amendment No. 343: Before Clause 118, insert the following new clause:

("Countryside Council of the United Kingdom
  1. .—(1) (a) There shall be a body corporate to be known as the Countryside Council of the United Kingdom (in this Part referred to as "the Council") for the purpose of carrying out the functions assigned or transferred to it under this Part.
  2. (b) The Council shall consist of not less than eight nor more than fifteen members, appointed by the Secretary of State.
  3. (c) The Secretary of State shall designate one of the members appointed by him as chairman of the Council and may, if he thinks fit, designate another member of the Council as the deputy chairman of the Council.
  4. (d) In appointing a person to be a member of the Council, the Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability of appointing a person who has experience of, and has shown capacity in, some matter relevant to the functions of the Council, as conferred by subsection (4) below.
(2) It shall be the duty of the Council—
  1. (a) to establish and maintain regional advisory committees, consisting of persons who are not members of the Council, for the different regions of the United Kingdom;
  2. (b) to consult the advisory committee for any region as to any proposals of the Council relating generally to the manner in which the Council carries out its functions in that region; and
  3. (c) to consider any representations made to it by the advisory committee for any region (whether in response to consultation under paragraph (b) above or otherwise) as to the manner in which the Council carries out its functions in that region.
(3) The duty to establish and maintain advisory committees imposed by subsection (2) above is a duty—
  1. (a) to establish and maintain an advisory committee for each region of the United Kingdom, as may be determined by the Council; and
  2. 2103
  3. (b) to ensure that the persons appointed by the Council to each such committee are persons who appear to the Council to have an interest in matters likely to be affected by the manner in which the Council carries out any of its functions in the region in question.
(4) The Council shall be charged with the following functions—
  1. (a) the conservation and enhancement of natural beauty in the United Kingdom:
  2. (b) the provision or improvement of facilities for the enjoyment of the countryside;
  3. (c) the conservation of flora, fauna, geological or physiographical features;
  4. (d) the provision of advice for the Secretary of State or any other Minister on the development and implementation of policies for or affecting countryside and nature conservation in the United Kingdom, and for achieving relevant international obligations;
  5. (e) the provision of advice and dissemination of information about countryside and nature conservation;
  6. (f) the establishment, maintenance and management of National Parks, Nature Reserves, areas of outstanding natural beauty and areas of special scientific interest:
  7. (g) the commissioning or support (whether by financial means or otherwise) or research relevant to the functions of the Council.
(5) In subsection (4) above "countryside and nature conservation" means the conservation of natural beauty and amenity, and of flora, fauna, geological or physiographical features.").

The noble Earl said: I have just returned from a treat. This morning I woke up and looked over the Grand Canal in Venice. As I was preparing my papers for to day's debate one or two thoughts crossed my mind with a certain amount of irony. Had Attila the Hun attended the Ramsar Convention it is probable that Venice would still be a heavily protected wetlands site. Had Theodoric had a regional fund there is not the slightest doubt that he would not have invested it in Venice hoping that it would be the centre of the spice trade between the eastern Mediterranean and the Western world. Had the blind doge Danolo been subject to building regulations there would have been no buildings. I bring that historical perspective to my few words. It indicates that we must be immensely careful when undertaking any concept of planning or control of our surroundings and countryside. Almost invariably we have got it wrong.

The whole of the English, Scottish and Welsh countryside is man-made. There is not a single square inch which remains unaltered by man. Therefore, it requires to be looked after most caefully. The stone walls in Derbyshire are akin to those in Scotland and Wales. The river valleys of the Tweed or the Severn straddling the borders of the kingdoms of Scotland and England and the Principality of Wales should be regarded as such. The idea that the merganser on the north of the Tweed should have a tartan wing and be run by one conservation body while its starboard wing wearing north-country tweed is run by another body, both designed to appease Scottish pride, verges on the unreasonable.

When the Government first came to power in 1979 it was said that a great swathing axe would be cutting through the quangos. The favourites for amalgamation were the Nature Conservancy Council and the Countryside Commission. That did not materialise and I believe that there was a sound reason for keeping them apart. However, I have always believed that there is a more sound reason for joining them together. The countryside should be regarded as a whole and examined for its many facets and uses.

I was taken by a noble friend to see a bird which had not inhabited this country for a long time. I was rightly told to say nothing about where it was or what it was and I have not done so. Until that time its presence was unknown in the United Kingdom. That part of the countryside had to be protected and kept as free from interference as was humanly possible. Large areas of the Pennine Way are being used by too many people and the paths are being eroded. That damage can be seen also in the Welsh mountains and in parts of Scotland. The problems of the British countryside are not the sole concern of the kingdoms of Scotland and England or the Principality of Wales. They are connected with the pressure created by a growing population which is rightly—and thank goodness for it—more conservation minded.

There is a genuine care for our countryside and a desire for access to it under responsible and reasonable conditions. There is a desire that our countryside should not merely be a machine for making food. In other words, we must garden and gamekeep our countryside. The idea that it should be cared for in one way north of the Border, in another way in the principality and in a third way in England is nothing short of nationalist whingeing. It is time to look at the problem on a sensible, natural basis rather than in the light of political borders.

Needless to say, the amendment was drafted for me by someone else because I am much too idle and not nearly clever enough to do so. The new body combines the duties of the Nature Conservancy Council and the Countryside Commission and it is modelled on the National Rivers Authority. The duties set out in subsection (4) sum up the way in which we should treat our countryside, be it Scottish, English or Welsh. We should look at the problem in that non-nationalist way which reflects the needs of the countryside as a whole. I beg to move.

Lord Ross of Newport

This is a probing amendment. As a result of a rumour that the noble Earl might not be able to attend the Committee this afternoon I added my name to it yesterday. I believe strongly that it goes some way towards establishing the kind of structure which might have resulted from the White Paper promised this autumn if only the Government had given it a chance and had not been so quick to dismember the NCC without any discussions with bodies outside this Committee which are anxious about what is happening.

I am sitting on these Benches with a Scottish colleague next to me and another behind me. By derivation I too am Scottish. Any reference to Scotland being a region will be sat on quickly by my colleagues. Therefore, I do not associate myself with the word "region" in this context. It is a nation, as is Wales. However, the amendment goes some way towards what the Government should be achieving if they want to establish an overall UK view of nature conservation, countryside issues, forestry, and so forth. The bodies in Scotland and Wales should have executive functions and should not be purely advisory, but there must be an overall UK view. The body must have some power and it must be advisory and receive finance. I support the amendment if only to hear what the Government have to say about it.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My noble friend is proposing a countryside council but clearly it will cover nature conservation. Indeed, subsections (4) (c) and (d) indicate that. The amendment aims to replace the Government's proposals which are to be added to by their amendments proposing four bodies, including the joint committee. I should prefer to build, on what exists already and on the functions of Ministers and their departments which Parliament has laid down. I entirely understand the spirit in which my noble friend tabled the clause as an alternative. However, I do not believe that its provisions would fit in easily with many statutes which set out the duties of Ministers and their departments. The Government's Bill which we are now considering does not affect those duties. That was confirmed by the Minister when I raised that point on the first day in Committee. This amendment enables us to make a few general comments on Part VII at the beginning of our discussion.

I was invited to serve on the sub-committee of the Select Committee on Science and Technology chaired by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, who presided outstandingly in that capacity. I was glad to have that privilege and I believe that the proposals which the Carver Commitee put forward, most of which the Government have now accepted, lead in the right direction from the point of view of reaching a satisfactory structure which is better than the present one.

The four chairmen designate of the bodies clearly agree. Their letter in The Times on 23rd June supports those proposals. I should like to make it clear that that is the line which I should prefer to follow rather than that put forward by my noble friend.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Renton

My noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy has expressed the thoughts which I had about this amendment and, of course, has done so better than I should have done. I add only that, if we are seriously considering adding this new clause to the Bill, the consequentials involved by way of amending previous legislation, amending this Bill and dovetailing this new clause with what is already in the Bill, will take several parliamentary days of great endeavour.

Therefore, I hope that it does not disappoint my noble friend Lord Onslow and those who support him to say that, although I think his sentiments are admirable and that we should regard most of these matters as one problem, we have a legislative foundation dealing with them separately and in somewhat specialised ways. As my noble friend Lord Campbell said, we should try to build on that.

Baroness David

I was very glad to add my name to the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, as it is the only amendment on this vast list which gives one the opportunity to say how hostile one is to the way in which this organisation has come about. One asks why, when a White Paper is to be published in the autumn, there is such unseemly haste to push forward these proposals, which are ill-thought out, uncosted and give maximum anxiety and uncertainty to those working in the NCC and in all those voluntary bodies which have done so much for conservation in this country; for example, the World Wildlife Fund, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Royal Society for Nature Conservation, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and others which have done such marvellous work. This is the only amendment which positively asks for Part VII to be removed.

No one has attempted to say that there should be no reorganisation of the NCC. In fact, the Government have still not explained why the scheme for devolution of the NCC which had been prepared by the council and was ready on the very day on which the bombshell burst on 11th July—and that is a year next Wednesday—has not been considered. Indeed, it has not even been discussed.

Of course, there are many possibilities for reorganisation. Discussion after a White Paper would be the ideal way to explore them. In this amendment the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, has proposed one possibility based on the National Rivers Authority model, namely a national body with regional arms. That would appear to be a possible way forward and an excellent basis for discussion. I applaud him for his initiative in moving the amendment. I look forward to hearing what the Minister says, although I can guess what will be the tenor of his remarks.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I must say to the noble Baroness who has just spoken that, from the point of view of the people of Scotland, the proposals made in this amendment are breathtakingly inappropriate. I hope that she realises that.

I do not know how serious is my noble friend in moving the amendment. It has been spoken to from the Front Bench of the Liberal Party. The noble Lord, Lord Ross, said that he thought it was a probing amendment. I do not know if that is what it is in the eyes of my noble friend Lord Onslow. I do not know what it is in the eyes of the noble Baroness, Lady David. She is a prominent Front Bench spokesman although she has spoken from the Back Benches today. She is a very prominent member of the Labour Party in this Chamber. A Liberal Front Bench spokesman spoke in favour of the amendment. That demonstrates the problems which both the Labour and Liberal Parties have nowadays on the subject of devolution.

This amendment not only frustrates the Government's intention to devolve nature conservancy to Scotland, it also takes away from Scotland, as I read it, the existing powers which we have as to how we use and enjoy our own countryside.

Members of the Committee may have noticed that this proposal refers to and treats Scotland as a region of the United Kingdom. If the proposed council is gracious enough to designate us as a region, we should be allowed no more than an advisory committee which would say what it thought should happen in Scotland but would have no power to make decisions. That would apply not only to nature conservancy but also to how we use and enjoy our countryside. On countryside matters, that would put the clock back 21 years. Scotland has had its own Countryside Commission since 1968.

We are always being told that the Labour Party, and indeed the Liberal Party, are parties of devolution and are in favour of policies which enable the people of Scotland to decide for themselves. What does this amendment and the other amendments which we shall discuss later tell us? They will attempt to weaken the extent of devolution for Scotland and Wales proposed in the Bill.

I suggest to the noble Baroness, Lady David, the noble Lord, Lord Ross, and any of their noble friends who support them in this matter or in other matters which attempt to weaken the Bill, that they should tune in somewhat more to their Scottish colleagues. Perhaps we shall hear from them when discussing this amendment. In particular Members of the Committee belonging to the Labour Party should tune in to remarks made by their honourable friend in another place which are recorded at col. 81 of Hansard for 15th January. His speech was to the effect that the southern-based environmental lobby, including the Nature Conservancy Council, has been seen by what he described as "ordinary highlanders" as aloof, insensitive, remote and sadly lacking in any appreciation of the special history and culture of the Highlands and Islands.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey


Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I am not quoting, I am paraphrasing. Members of the Committee opposite should tune in to those remarks. The way to persuade the people of Scotland—and I dare say the people of Wales too—to identify with nature conservancy is by devolution of powers to them. That is what the Bill achieves and that is what this amendment to tally frustrates. I hope that the Committee will reject the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

That was a direct challenge to the Labour Front Bench and I must respond. The noble Baroness claimed to be making a passionate defence on behalf of the Scottish people. I always believe it to be unwise for Members of this Chamber especially to be making passionate claims that they are representing the people. It is also unwise for the noble Baroness to run the risk of unwittingly breaching the rules of this Chamber by quoting my honourable friend in another place without naming the Member to whom she was referring. That makes life exceedingly difficult.

There is no concealment on any side of this Chamber that there are different views on this matter. Some noble Lords, particularly those from Scotland and Wales, feel very strongly that the Government's proposals are an improvement on the existing situation. Others, who have a concern for nature conservation and the countryside on an island-wide basis, feel very strongly that there is a great deal to be lost by the arrangements proposed by the Government. Those differing views are held by individuals in all parties. I have not concealed the fact that there are differing views in my party.

The position I took on Second Reading—I do not want to repeat a Second Reading speech—which I believe was accepted by most of my noble friends, was that it would be inappropriate at Committee stage to seek to take out the whole of Part VII of the Bill. Our approach should be to look at the detailed arrangements proposed by the Government for the replacement of the Nature Conservancy Council by country councils and a joint committee; to seek to improve the arrangements as best we can using the procedures of the Committee as available to this Chamber; and then to look at the result at the end of the Committee stage and decide whether we need more radical measures.

That was the view that we took and the view expressed from this Dispatch Box. I adhere to that view and that is the way we have approached this Committee stage. I am bound to say to the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, that, as has been made clear by other noble Lords, his amendment would in effect take out Part VII of the Bill. It would not allow the detailed attempt to scrutinise and amend the Government's proposals which are the subject of today's business. On that basis—I believe I speak on behalf of all my noble friends—having given us a valuable opportunity to discuss the matter, I hope that the noble Earl will see fit to withdraw the amendment.

The Earl of Onslow

It may be helpful if I add to that point now. Of course I will not press the amendment to a Division. It seems to me that this is an intelligent way to approach nature conservancy and countryside matters for the whole of the United Kingdom. As my noble friend, Lady Carnegy, has obviously not grasped, I was trying to apply the new Scottish and Welsh system to England as a whole.

This is not a nationalist matter. It is a question of looking after the countryside, whether in Scotland, Surrey, Caithness, Cumberland or wherever. It is nothing to do with nationalism or such other petty views. It is concerned with looking after the immensely varied and valuable countryside in the whole of the United Kingdom. That is what I hope to discuss.

I agree with the noble Lord. Lord McIntosh, that the amendment would in effect take out Part VII. I am trying to suggest an alternative, which it is not inappropriate to discuss at this moment. However, I accept that it would be inappropriate to insist on it going into the Bill.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I hate to step in before the distinguished noble Lords behind me, but on behalf of the Liberal Party I wish to welcome the conversion of my noble neighbour, Lady Carnegy, to devolution. It is a remarkable conversion and I look forward to her carrying it into other fields.

My noble friend Lord Ross of Newport made a sensible and valuable short contribution. He voiced the disquiet of many people who have been desperately interested in conservation over a long period of time and who view the Government's measures as being rushed and without sufficient consultation. For that reason it is perfectly reasonable to put one's name to an amendment which radically probes the whole approach.

I am grateful for the kind words correcting the normal English attitude towards Scotland as a region. I also agree with the noble Earl that one cannot separate conservation in an island as small as ours If an eagle which normally prefers Scotland strays into Cumbria, it should not encounter a different set of rules. That would be nonsense.

Again as my noble neighbour Lady Carnegy said, the administration of a policy for the United Kingdom is often better carried out by a devolved body. In that respect I am sure that the application to Scotland of conservation measures for the whole of the British Isles will be very much better understood by the people of Scotland if the executive power is in the hands of a Scottish body. I welcome the probing effect of the amendment; I cannot say that I agree with the content.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

The case submitted today by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, is not only inappropriate, as the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, suggested, but I regard it as insulting. There is an implication that the Scots are not concerned about conservation and cannot be trusted to look after their own affairs in that field. I regard that as insulting, and it is to tally wrong.

For some years I was chairman of the Forestry Commission, the biggest landowner in the country. I had to deal daily with problems of conservation; I had to consult the Countryside Commission, local landlords and everyone who was concerned with the countryside. The Countryside Commission for Scotland at that time was devolved and still is devolved. It is a separate Countryside Commission. We worked with them in harmony; we discussed on the ground some of the problems of land management. Those issues cannot be discussed in Peterborough.

There was an article in The Times on Saturday, centre page, in which one of the conservationists suggested that as politicians in this country are under pressure from constituents, they cannot be trusted to manage the countryside, and the whole of our conservation and national parks' policy should be determined in Brussels—not in Scotland, London or Wales, but in Brussels. That is carrying the matter a little too far.

In Scotland at the moment the figures are quite interesting. The number of SSSIs—sites of special scientific interest, designated by the Nature Conservancy Council—total 773,000 hectares. That represents more than 10 per cent. of the entire land area of Scotland. I suggest therefore that there is a special Scottish dimension and that we might just be trusted to be concerned about the nature of Scottish conservation as much as people from Peterborough, London or elsewhere.

Lord Ross of Newport

Or Edinburgh; is not the headquarters of the Forestry Commission in Edinburgh?

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

One of the jewels in my crown is that I moved the Forestry Commission headquarters from 25 Savile Row, where it was when I became chairman, to Edinburgh. The first question I asked was, "Where is the planting taking place?" I found that 95 per cent. of all new planting was taking place in Scotland. I said that that is where the headquarters should be. By the same token, in view of the substantial impact of the activities of the Nature Conservancy Council in Scotland, I suggest that the nearer we get to the ground, the better.

There are problems beyond the conservation of certain flora and fauna. There are problems beyond caring for the birds, important though they are. There are problems of caring for people. Increasingly in the Highlands of Scotland people are becoming the endangered species. The Nature Conservancy Council held a press conference in London, of all places, and decided that no more trees should be planted in the flow country. The flow country has a nice ring about it. I do not know how many Members of the Committee have been there. It is dull marshland and important for protecting certain species of birds. However, it is also important for people to earn their living there, as they have been doing for years. Nevertheless, the Nature Conservancy Council decided that there should be no planting of trees in the flow country because it would affect the habitat of certain birds.

The council did not consult the local authority which has some responsibility for the welfare of the community and whose members are the elected representatives of the people. The council did not consult the Highlands and Islands Development Board to which the Government give grants in order to protect industrial, commercial and environmental interests in the Highlands. The decision was made here, in London. I suggest that there is a case for devolution in this matter. Consideration not only of the rights of people but of birds, forestry and other land use can best be studied and satisfied close to the areas affected.

I deeply resent the suggestion that this is a plea for Scottish nationalism. It is a plea for devolution, and I am a devolutionist in these matters. It has been implied that there is some kind of conspiracy on the part of the Government to reduce the power and the authority of the Nature Conservancy Council. That is not borne out by the facts. In 1984–85 the grant-in-aid to the Nature Conservancy Council in this country was £14.9 million. Last year, after five years, that figure had risen to over £40 million. In view of all the other claims on government funds that is a remarkable figure. It represents surely a certain sensitivity on the part of the Government to the needs of nature conservancy.

With an organisation growing so rapidly there is inevitably a danger of bureaucracy. It happens in all companies. Therefore, to counter the danger of increasing bureaucracy from a central authority I suggest that there is a great deal of sense in decentralising responsibility to people on the ground and having sensible co-operation in Scotland of the Countryside Commission, with its special responsibilities, and the Nature Conservancy Council, with its special responsibilities. In that way, the Government's proposals are certainly welcomed by the various bodies, voluntary organisations and others concerned with environmental protection in Scotland. Therefore, I suggest that the amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, should be heavily rejected.

Lord Buxton of Alsa

I rise briefly to deal with the international aspect, which is almost invariably ignored. We have nothing but inward-looking domestic debates on this whole issue. Perhaps I should say first in view of the fervency of previous speakers, that I have had a second home in the north-west of Scotland for a long time. My daughter is now living there. Although I live in England and am English I find that I know far more about the flow country than do most Scotsmen. It is utterly ridiculous for the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, to imply that only Englishmen can understand conservation in England. The reason I resigned from the Nature Conservancy Council was that it was embarrassing to hear Scotsmen implying that only Scotsmen know about conservation in Scotland.

We live at a time when the Government, led by the Prime Minister, are endeavouring to mobilise third world countries into supporting conservation measures for the whole of the environment. How can we possibly stand up and say that we think we can do that better in three little bits? I know that this is water under the bridge but I want to support the presentation of this amendment, as did the noble Lord, Lord Ross. It has enabled us to make some very important points and to keep the subject on the level at which it should be addressed—not in a parochial manner.

In Africa, experts of all nationalities have contributed for 50 years to the conservation of parks in north, south, east and west Africa. They are still involved in that task. It is welcomed by the nations. The experts are not told, "Go back, you are the wrong colour" or "You come from the wrong country". Conservation is a global, international matter. The Americans are at present helping the King and the Government of Bhutan to work out an environmental conservation scheme for Bhutan in the Himalayas. It does not matter whether they are Americans, Chinese, Dutch, or whatever. Conservation is an international matter; it is not local, parochial or domestic.

The hole in the ozone layer was not discovered by penguins and elephant seals but by English scientists in Cambridge. The penguins are not objecting! It is probably of great assistance to everyone that the hole has been discovered by Englishmen. Perhaps I may express a personal position. For 25 years I assisted in the conservation of the Galapagos Islands. The President of Ecuador, I am proud to announce, has given me a noble award—a sort of Ecuadorian knighthood—for my work in contributing to the conservation of those islands. Therefore, all I ask is that we keep the debate on a proper level.

Unfortunately, as has been said, the Government's proposals were made with no consultation; otherwise many of us could have been of great assistance in avoiding all these pitfalls and in pointing the way forward. We all agree about devolution of administration and management. The Nature Conservancy Council itself agrees and was working on that. All that has happened is that we have got the cart before the horse and the wrong horse behind the wrong cart. Somehow, during the progress of this Bill, we must get it right.

Lord Shackleton

Perhaps I may intervene in this debate. I am comforted to remember that my father was an Irishman. Having seen the fury of the Scots and the beginning of the fury of the English I hope I can lower tempers a little.

The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, made an unfortunate speech in that she brought party politics into the debate. It is apparent, as my noble friend on the Front Bench and others have made clear, that this is not a party political issue. Moreover, the noble Baroness did not give way to my noble friend Lady David. It is the custom of this Chamber—and courtesy demands it save in exceptional circumstances—to give way for interventions. It is a pity that that raised the temper of the debate.

I intervene only briefly because this is a Committee stage and noble Lords will recall that practically every Committee stage begins with a second reading debate. We do not want to have that now. However, I am bound to make one point. The noble Lord who was a co-opted member of the sub-committee of the Select Committee on Science and Technology referred to the very good job done by the committee. However, the committee reserved its position on the merits of the Government's proposals on the various councils. The committee said it was not within its terms of reference and compiled a report which was predicated on the assumption that the Government would continue with their plans.

My noble friend Lady David pointed out that the Government have made an awful nonsense of this matter. My inclination therefore would have been to support the amendment tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, but we are bound to test the Government's intentions on our amendments. I hope the Government will be inclined to accept them, because if not some of us are bound to return at a later stage and seek to take the whole of Part VII out of the Bill.

The Government have made a nonsense of this issue. I shall not go into arguments. The noble Lord, Lord Buxton, made clear that there are powerful arguments. There are split views within the Nature Conservancy Council. Despite what my noble friend Lord Taylor said, the Scottish conservation organisations are critical of the Government's proposals. Therefore, I hope that the Government will pay attention to some of the issues that will be raised later.

4 p.m.

Lord Hunt

I rise to support the intention behind the amendment moved by the noble Earl. I understand that he does not intend to press it to a Division. However, I shall support one of the subsequent amendments to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley. That will have the same effect as regards a joint committee proposed by the Government as is suggested in the noble Earl's amendment.

In effect, I am following the noble Lord, Lord Buxton. I shall be extremely brief. Today there is concern about the environment both globally and, no less important, locally. That concern is widespread. Everyone is concerned, including all the political parties, for this subject is high on the political agenda. It is extraordinary that the Government apparently still do not accept the need for a United Kingdom authority. I am not thinking of it as a national authority any more than the noble Lord, Lord Buxton. No one is thinking of such an authority except the government department concerned. It should have the remit, powers and finance to oversee the environment as a whole.

It is no less extraordinary that the Government apparently do not accept the notion that the countryside, including urban areas, covers and embraces all the scientific sites and the flora and fauna which are the present remit of the Nature Conservancy Council. That became apparent during the passage of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of a decade ago, with which I was involved. These two considerations are far above national considerations such as those voiced on both sides of the Committee this afternoon. These considerations argue for a body or an authority with the kind of remit and powers which the noble Earl has in mind.

Lord Borthwick

I support my noble friend Lady Carnegy and parts of what other Members of the Committee have said. I wish to come down to ground level. People count for a great deal in this matter and a great deal more than paper. One has to consider the people who are selected for particular jobs. Local people know far more than those who live in another county. For example, the postman will call some mornings and make a complaint about something. The person addressed can then walk out and look at what the postman has described. The postman may be wrong or be may be right.

Other people will come along and they will learn a great deal about the area in which they live which they would not have done living down in Peterborough. A complaint came to me the other day to the effect that Peterborough is not very happy and does not appear to get on and deal with matters. I do not blame Peterborough for that because the information required may not be available or the people concerned are not local. They may not know the post man or anyone else in the area.

That is why I am keen to have a body to back up those who are working in the area under discussion. For example, we need some authority in Scotland. It may be a little scouting patrol. There has to be someone bringing in information from Scotland. Scotland depends a great deal on fishing and at the moment there is a considerable amount of farm fishing. The situation is bad there. However, fishing will not be dealt with by the committee. A great deal of what is taking place in Scotland will not be the concern of the committee. It is all right having a committee and calling it that, but there is a need for wisdom, co-operation and knowledge to go with it.

Baroness White

It would be regrettable if there were no voice from Wales. We have heard a good deal from Scotland. The Scots are rather talkative people. There are many of us who are distressed at the manner in which this legislation has been brought forward. It is most unsatisfactory. It would be very nice to start again and in a much more sensible way, but we have to deal with matters as they are.

I could bandy statistics with my noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe. I point out that 25 per cent. of the total land area of Wales is either a national park or an area of outstanding natural beauty. Proportionately, we have as many sites of scientific interest as there are in Scotland. I do not intend to pursue that. I simply make the point that many of us would have been far happier if Part VII had not been included in the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Ross, will appreciate that while the Council for the Protection of Rural Wales has the greatest possible sympathy for its partner, the Council for the Protection of Rural England, it was not included in the list of names in the petition which he presented to the House. The reason is that in Wales we already have an organisation, and a prospective organisation which, with all its faults, will be better than a regional advisory committee as proposed in the amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow.

That would not be a satisfactory pattern for the Principality. We have a Secretary of State for Wales and a Welsh Office. In other words, we have an administrative pattern in Wales which should be used to better advantage than that envisaged in the Bill as it now stands. However, it would not be satisfactory to accept the proposals put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, even though they are supported by my noble friend Lady David. I have the greatest sympathy with her. For those reasons I am glad that the noble Earl does not intend to press this matter to a Division.

Viscount Blakenham

This is neither a party nor a devolutionary issue. We are talking about conservation in the British Isles. If necessary we can move the headquarters of the NCC to Scotland. That would be a perfectly satisfactory solution as far as I am concerned. We are talking about an issue that, unfortunately, raises emotions. There are organisations in Scotland as well as in other parts of the British Isles. They are represented by about 80 organisations in respect of which the noble Lord, Lord Ross, presented the petition. About a dozen of those bodies are Scottish organisations.

This should not be a nationalistic issue. If we support my noble friend's amendment we could probably be accused of running into the same problems as those faced by the Government's proposals; namely, that they were ill thought through. We should put forward the constructive amendments that are before us and, if they are not accepted by the Government, only then should we consider very seriously our scheme for the withdrawal of the whole of Part VII and for it to be dealt with at a later date.

Lord Grimond

I rise to do something which I do not often do and that is to say a word in defence of the Government and another word in defence of the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour. I thought she made a rather good speech, though she does not need any defence from me. I think she stated some of the things that many people in Scotland are thinking. The Government's proposals contained in the Bill are sensible, unlike most of their proposals in most Bills.

There is now a great demand in Scotland for some form of devolution. The Government have sensibly said, "Here is an example. Scotland can look after some of its own affairs in connection with the countryside and the environment". After all, the countryside in Shetland is quite different from the countryside in Surrey. It is absurd to suppose that they can be protected in exactly the same way.

It is certainly necessary to have overall liaison because many of the problems are global. But some of the problems of medicine are also global. That does not prevent us from devolving some control of medical matters to different countries. In Scotland there is a certain sensitivity about absentee landlords. I know that there is no question of ownership in the Bill but there is sensitivity among crofters about being pushed around by faraway people in Peterborough, London or Edinburgh. In my old constituency we were profoundly suspicious of Edinburgh. It was at any rate rather nearer than London or Peterborough. That suspicion goes back to the time when landlords or their factors never came near the place and simply handed down directions about rent and so forth. That lingers on.

It is quite unnecessary to create a great division between those who want overall control and those who want a certain amount of devolution. The proposals before us are perfectly sensible. There will be a combination of similar bodies in Scotland, Wales and England. No doubt they will liaise and no doubt they may want some overall body. But the essential devolution is, I believe, right and will be appreciated in Scotland. I hope therefore that the Government will stick to their guns. Having said that, I believe that it was perfectly fair to raise the matter. This is an admirable probing amendment. It has given us the opportunity to put forward attitudes held not only in Scotland but in Wales and in great parts of England too.

Earl Peel

I do not wish to become involved in devolution arguments. It seems to me that the Government are attempting to sort out for all of Great Britain the most effective and efficient way of running nature conservation. That surely is the key issue. When I spoke at Second Reading I thoroughly endorsed what the Government are trying to do in the Bill. I repeat that now. I am sure that this is the way forward. To use the countries in this way is obvious and sensible. But that is not necessarily the reason behind it. Having said that I want to raise one matter in relation to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, on the flow country. I hope very much that a Scottish council would behave towards the flow country exactly as the Nature Conservancy Council has done to date. We are talking about a site of international importance. The damage that has been done by planting and forestry has to be seen to be believed. I hear what the noble Lord has said, but I believe that the matter cannot be allowed to go unremarked upon.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

Can the noble Earl indicate how much of the flow country is planted and how much remains for the birds?

4.15 p.m.

Earl Peel

I am aware of the point. The bird species in that part of the world require large areas, a fact established by the Nature Conservancy Council on many occasions. I do not wish to get involved in a detailed debate with the noble Lord. I simply make the point.

I wish to move on to one part of my noble friend's amendment which I think is worthy of comment. Subsection (4)(f) refers to the maintenance and management of national parks being the function of the proposed council. I am very much aware that the whole question of national parks is being discussed at the moment, particularly in Scotland. I live in a national park: I have a degree of experience of the way they are working. I am worried—extremely worried—about some aspects of the standard of management within national parks themselves. They are not working efficiently. In many cases there is a higher degree of habitat loss inside the national parks than outside. The lack of consultation between the national parks and landowners and farmers living within the parks is at times pitiful. I do not refer to all national parks. But there is no doubt that one or two are failing in their duty to consult. That leads to bad feeling and to breakdown of communications. I seriously question whether the present structure is the right one. There is a real danger that the national parks may end up destroying the very thing that they were set up to try to conserve.

The merger of the Countryside Commission and the Nature Conservancy Council should be welcomed. I understand the Government's reasons for not bringing the merger forward at this stage; but I believe that it will happen. Leading on from that, that is the correct body to administer the national parks in this country. I question whether the whole idea of designation as such is a good thing. People tend to home in on such areas. We are seeing the designated areas of Great Britain suffering from this huge influx of people. I welcome my noble friend's amendment from that point of view and from that point of view alone. It may enable us to concentrate our mind on that very real problem. Having said that, I am totally committed to the principle of what the Government propose in the Bill.

Lord Burton

We have heard a good deal of opposition to devolution. It is opposition not necessarily to the devolution of powers to Scotland, but to the area concerned. Scotland is a very large part of it—about one-third of the British Isles. There was a good deal of controversy earlier concerning the powers that should or should not be devolved to Europe, We have been told by some people today that conservation should be an international affair. What would have happened had it been only a European affair? Would those same people have been as happy if the Italians and Spaniards were looking after nature conservation in Britain?

We have the same feelings in the north of Scotland. We are not happy about the way things have been looked at from Peterborough. The National Farmers Union in Scotland, the Scottish Landowners Federation in Scotland and the Highlands and Islands Development Board are emphatic on this point. They say that we must have this devolution. My noble friend Lord Onslow said that all the countryside is man-made. I agree with him. By whom has it been made? It has been made by the very bodies which want this transfer to Scotland. Why are English Peers, Welsh Peers, and I think some Peers of Irish extraction, opposing the amendment? It seems for once that the Government really have it right, although I often disagree with them.

The officials of the Nature Conservancy Council and the Countryside Commission in Scotland are in favour of this proposal, so how the noble Baroness, Lady David, can say that it has caused a great deal of worry I do not know. It may have caused worry in Peterborough which is losing some of its influence, but it has not caused worry in Scotland where both those bodies are anxious that the Government legislation should go through.

I do not want to become involved in the controversy over the so-called Flow country which is part of Caithness and Sutherland but the planting of forests was asking for trouble. That having been done, the Nature Conservancy Council also asked for trouble. It went to the other end of the spectrum and slapped a complete blanket on the matter, which was quite unnecessary and caused a good deal of ill-feeling. That is not the only matter on which it has caused ill feeling. As other Members of the Committee have said, the designated areas of SSSIs in Scotland are enormous. It may well be that there are more actual sites in Wales, but the designated area in Scotland is vastly greater than anywhere else and what has been done is stagnating the area. The local authorities are most disturbed by the way matters are proceeding as are, so far as I am aware, all the bodies involved in Scotland except, possibly, a few so-called conservationists—although I often wonder if that is the right word to use—who seem to have other vested interests in keeping things in Peterborough.

Much has been said—and I do not wish to go into the details—of what the Nature Conservancy Council has and has not done in Scotland. However, perhaps I may give just one example. I refer to the case of the deer on Creag Meagaidh. They were being murdered quite indiscriminately to the extent that helicopters were required to carry them off the ground. No such action has ever been required before in connection with that ground and it is still not required. At the other end of the spectrum, on the Isle of Rhum, they were trying not to kill any deer. But that would have resulted in the wretched animals dying of starvation in the winter because they had no teeth left. Therefore, one can go from one end of the spectrum to the other. I really believe that these facts are not widely known in Britain. If this form of control should come to Scotland, with a little luck, people will know what is going on and will be able to get in touch with their representatives on the various councils.

Lord Moran

The noble Lord, Lord Ross of Newport, said that this was a probing amendment as regards the general principle of Part VII of the Bill. Therefore, I should like to ask the Minister one question. Can he tell us at this early stage of the Committee proceedings what the Government's proposals will cost? I believe that two days ago the noble Baroness, Lady David, asked a question in order to elicit that information. However, the Answer seemed to tell us very little. In my view, when this Chamber considers the Government's proposals it is very important that we should know what they will cost. It is an essential part of the matter. At present we have reports and we have heard rumours; but we have had no authoritative statement of what the proposals will cost. I hope that the Minister will cover that point in his reply.

Lord Shackleton

Perhaps the Minister could also give us the figures as regards manpower. Of course, as he knows, there will have been an estimate which will have been put before the legislative committee. Therefore, there must be an estimate in existence. This factor is most crucial in relation to the question of money.

Lord Howie of Troon

I have one worry about this part of the Bill and the amendment with which we are dealing. Do the Government's proposals make the conservation industry stronger or weaker? If they strengthen the conservation industry, I tend to be against them; if they weaken the industry, I tend to be in their favour. I do not know the answer to the question, but it will certainly influence how I vote on the matter.

What I have in mind is an issue which arises from the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe and the noble Lord who has just spoken. I refer to the large number of sites of special scientific interest in various parts of the world. My belief is that there are far too many of these. If we strengthen the conservation industry, there will be more of them. We shall find ourselves in a country which consists largely of sites of special scientific interest and listed buildings with which nothing can be done. The industry is burgeoning and it ought to be curbed. We should watch the situation very carefully. I do not greatly care whether it means control for London, Edinburgh or the Flow country. However, I think that it should rapidly be put into reverse.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Is my noble friend suggesting that we should establish sites of special engineering potential?

Lord Howie of Troon

Most certainly. I should point out that I am speaking for the people.

Earl Peel

I think it is worth pointing out that the area designated to SSSIs is a meagre 7 per cent. I do not think that that is an overlarge area of land for specialised nature conservation.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

It is 10 per cent. of the area of Scotland.

The Earl of Onslow

Perhaps I may intervene for just a moment. It seems to me that I have let several hares out of the bag and they are running all over the place. It may be that they should not be preserved at all. I think that it would be best if the Committee were to hear what the Minister has to say, after which I can withdraw the amendment. That will enable noble Lords to move on to the next issue.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

I rise to speak slightly later than I anticipated with regard to this first amendment. I can answer the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, immediately: further expenditure will be involved. He drew noble Lords' attention to my two favourite subjects; namely, the Committee stage of the Bill which is now being considered by this Chamber and listed buildings for which I hold responsibility when I am not in this place.

This amendment proposes a complete restructuring of all the conservation and countryside agencies, to create a "Countryside Council for the UK" which would presumably combine the functions of the existing Nature Conservancy Council, Countryside Commission and Countryside Commission for Scotland. It would in fact amount to an even more centralised model than we have at present, particularly as the "regional committees" in my noble friend's amendment would have purely advisory powers. I am afraid that the whole thrust of this conflicts with the Government's strategy of creating more sensitive and effective agencies at local level.

When I introduced this part of the Bill on Second Reading in this Chamber I said that the Government believed that the case for this first comprehensive reform of our conservation agencies for 40 years stood undiminished. It would be of benefit to the Committee if I crave noble Lords' indulgence in giving a rather comprehensive outline of the position of the Government at this stage, rather than repeating it in dribs and drabs throughout the proceedings on Part VII of the Bill. As I explained on Second Reading, there are six fundamental objectives which lie at the root of reorganisation. These are, first, clearer accountability to Ministers, secondly, improved sensitivity to local circumstances; thirdly, a reduction in bureaucracy; fourthly, retention of the existing legal framework for wildlife conservation created by the 1981 Act; fifthly, effective coverage of national and global nature conservation issues; and, finally, protection of the Nature Conservancy Council's science base built up over 40 years.

I shall deal first with accountability to Ministers. I want to start by reminding the Committee today that the current arrangements for the Nature Conservancy Council—hallowed though they may be by the passage of time—actually stand comparison with most other executive non-departmental public bodies acting in the environmental field. In almost every other field within my department's ambit—the built heritage, water, rural development, sport, housing associations—there are separate NDPBs for Scotland, and, in some cases, for Wales. They report to the territorial Secretaries of State. This a prosaic but, nevertheless, fundamental aspect of the machinery of government and its relationship with NDPBs, which critics of the proposals continue to overlook—although those who know how government works, like my noble friend Lord Campbell, are well aware that the current arrangements are a recipe for confusion and disputes—to the ultimate detriment of conservation. I accept that the NCC has done its best to try and overcome the effects of this problem.

However, the present arrangements have become even more difficult to defend as NCC's role has changed from the small quasi research council of the old Nature Conservancy of 1949 to its current status as a major executive agency deploying extensive powers under the 1981 Act. Where any NDPB has these kind of powers, I believe that Parliament will want the reporting lines to Ministers to be as clear as possible; for it is Ministers who eventually have to account for the use of those powers, for funding the agencies and for deciding the broad framework of policies and priorities for conservation. It is certainly not a soft option. In fact, my colleagues in the territorial departments are well aware that they will be taking on a deeper responsibility for the well-being of the wildlife and countryside in their areas when the new agencies are established.

I should like to take the next two objectives—improved local sensitivity and less bureaucracy—together as they are inter-related. The existing NCC has many strengths, not the least of which are the skills and dedication of its scientists. However, it has long been an introvert body, both in the sense that it has a tendency to preach only to the converted and in its own internal workings where tiers of officials are geared to inward struggles and arguments rather than to dealing with the outside world, especially its key clients among country dwellers, industry, the wider public and, not least, local and central government. There is no doubt in the minds of most objective observers of the NCC that its long lines of communication—from its UK headquarters in Peterborough through three country headquarters and then to regional offices, area offices and individual nature reserves—have damaged the effectiveness of the organisation.

The effects have varied from area to area. In some parts of Great Britain, the NCC has undoubtedly become highly unpopular, to such an extent that it is counter-productive for conservation. When one reads in the John O' Groat Journal and the Caithness Courier—occasional bedtime reading—of elected local councillors referring to the NCC as indulging in "creeping Stalinism" and comparing its activities with the memories of the Highland clearances, one becomes anxious about the way things have gone in that part of the world. It is all very well for English-based conservationists to encourage the NCC to take up battle lines on this or that issue, but once we reach the point where local support is alienated, the object of the exercise—to conserve our wildlife heritage—is defeated.

Those problems have been recognised by senior figures within the NCC itself. Its former chief scientist, Dr. Peter Bridgewater, who viewed the organisation with the refreshing dispassion that Australians often show in dealing with our great institutions, wrote a most perceptive article in the New Scientist earlier this year, in which he said: The potential for better conservation delivery is inherent in the Government's proposals". In March, Mr. Alexander Trotter, the retiring chairman of the NCC's Scottish Advisory Committee, publicly referred to the NCC as "a paper chain".

Reorganisation will provide the right framework to resolve those problems. An entire tier of the existing command structure will be removed and lines of communication dramatically shortened. In Wales, and later in Scotland, we shall create integrated agencies merging wildlife and countryside responsibilities, which will allow "one stop shopping". In time too we shall see even more of the NCC's work being done from its regional offices, close to the "coal face" of conservation.

The opportunities are there. That is reflected by the quality of the three men who have accepted the Government's invitation to be the first chairmen of the country agencies—my noble friend Lord Cranbrook for England, Michael Griffith for Wales and Magnus Magnusson for Scotland. They are already working hard to prepare for the implementation of the changes next April when this measure becomes law. This is our chance to bring conservation back to the grass roots and, as Magnus Magnusson put it himself: We are at the start of something hugely exhilarating and constructive". The fourth objective is to retain the gains made through the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. Here, more than elsewhere, we come up against a clash between myth and reality. The myth is that the Government are in some way motivated by a desire to destabilise state protection for wildlife. To that is added a dash of the conspiracy theory—that some kind of deal has been done with big landowners and foresters to weaken the NCC. That line has been pushed endlessly in debates in another place. They were, as ever, rather short of factual material to back it up; but I suppose that it all added to the entertainment of the debate.

The reality, as ever, is less exciting but thoroughly reassuring for all serious conservationists. It is that this Bill will pass on every one of the NCC's existing statutory responsibilities to protect wildlife to the new councils. Each will be required to designate and protect sites of special scientific interest, to establish and manage national and marine nature reserves and to advise Ministers and the public. On 1st April next year, every existing SSSI and NNR designated over the last 40 years will become the responsibility of the new council in whose territory it lies.

Lord Shackleton

Perhaps I may interrupt and ask a question about the important statement made by the noble Lord. Under the Bill, who will have the power now possessed under the Wildlife and Countryside Act by the Nature Conservancy Council to draw attention to a major conservation issue? Will that be dealt with by the co-ordinating committee or by the three separate councils? Who will raise an issue of national importance? At present there is a power under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Lord Hesketh

The powers of designation will go to the new country councils and then either the new committee, because it may oversee a site, or the country council itself will draw the matter to the committee's attention. The matter could be dealt with in either way depending on the circumstances of the case.

Lord Buxton of Alsa

Perhaps my noble friend will allow me to follow the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. I point out that only recently there was a great scare about marine shellfish—prawns and so on—in an area which stretched up the east coast from the middle of England to the middle of Scotland. The question of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is important. Who would speak with authority on that subject for the Government?

Lord Hesketh

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee will speak on national issues. I believe that my noble friend refers to the case of the blue crabs which occurred about a month ago.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

Will the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries draw attention to such matters, as it did in that case?

Lord Hesketh

I must correct myself. The ultimate responsibility for the case that my noble friend Lord Buxton drew to my attention would rest with the Department of Health.

While we are discussing designated sites, I should like to refer to two recent developments which will add to their number. First, the Nature Conservancy Council is pressing forward with a renewed programme of designations of National Nature Reserves in England. As a result, the NCC plans to declare about 16 new reserves this year, making a total of 137, which will be a wonderful dowry for the new council for England next April. They include some outstanding sites, such as the Somerset Moors NNR, with its ornithological interest which was designated three weeks ago, the Medway Marshes, Hambledon Hill and Wedholme Flow.

The second development is the announcement by the Secretary of State for Wales that he is to declare Britain's second statutory Marine Nature Reserve to protect the outstanding but fragile waters around the island of Skomer in West Wales. I understand that the public advertisements which will confirm that designation are to be placed in the newspapers by the end of next week.

Finally, I am sure that the Committee will have noted the announcement last week by the Secretary of State for Scotland of his response to the Highland Regional Council structure plan review. In particular, he has proposed that the HRC's policy to develop skiing in Lurcher's Gully in the Cairngorms should be deleted. In reaching that view, the Secretary of State had regard to the national and international value of the area for conservation. I am sure that the Committee will welcome the announcement.

In ensuring that the existing NCC conservation functions and sites are passed on to its successors, we have, I believe correctly, argued that the present Bill is not the right vehicle through which we should attempt any major reform of the 1981 Act, even assuming that such a reform was desirable in itself. Were we to do so, we would muddy the waters hopelessly for the new councils. When I recall the number of amendments to the 1981 Bill which were considered by this place—I believe that there were about 2,300 in all—I think that the Committee will pause for thought. Nevertheless, I have been impressed by the arguments made by my noble friend Lord Cranbrook for some relatively technical reforms which will assist the new agencies to carry out the 1981 Act more effectively. I hope to give a positive response to several of the amendments that he has put down later in the Committee stage.

To return to my six objectives the fifth is an extremely important one—to ensure effective coverage of national and international nature conservation issues. That is where the role of the statutory Joint Committee to be established under Clause 123 of the Bill will be so crucial. It is the object of the majority of the major government amendments that we have put down for consideration by the Committee. We shall be able to look at the structure that we propose more closely when we discuss those amendments.

However, I should like to make two general points at the outset. First, the government amendments stem directly from the commitments that we gave last month when we responded to the report prepared by your Lordships' Select Committee on Science and Technology, under the chairmanship of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. As we said then, the Government recognise the valuable contribution made by the Select Committee Report and have accepted nearly all its recommendations. The constitution and role of the joint committee set out in the Government's amendments follows the prescriptions of the report very closely indeed. When we come to consider some further amendments put down by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver and other noble Lords, I shall be able to give further reassurances to this Committee.

The other general point I want to make is to acknowledge quite freely how the composition and role of the joint committee had evolved since the Secretary of State announced last November that a statutory committee was to be created to deal with British and international matters. This had undoubtedly been the most difficult part of Part VII to get right. I cannot over-emphasise that the Government entirely share the view of the Select Committee that the joint committee must not become an independent quango, while at the same time sharing its view that its role should be set out as strongly and unambiguously as possible in the legislation. This has presented counsel with a considerable challenge. I believe that he has risen to the occasion in the amendments that we have put down.

The result will be a statutory committee, which we now intend to call the joint nature conservation committee, and which will not only perform the joint functions set out in Clause 123, but also, I believe, will be in a position to do so even more effectively than the current NCC. This is because the joint committee will deliberately not be burdened with executive functions, which will be fully dealt with by the councils acting individually. Free from that responsibility, the committee will be able to take a cool and strategic look at some of the key issues affecting wildlife at the national and global level, not the least of which will be the effects of climate change on our natural and semi-natural habitat. A further advantage not present under the current arrangements is that the joint committee will include two representatives from Northern Ireland, who will help to ensure that a United Kingdom view can be formed on key issues.

The joint committee will be guided in its work by a chairman of outstanding calibre in Professor Sir Frederick Holliday, and three independent members of great distinction in their fields: Professor John Harper, emeritus Professor of Botany in the University of Wales; Professor John Knill, Chairman of the Natural Environment Research Council and Professor of Geology at Imperial College; and Professor Robert May, the Royal Society Research Professor of Zoology and Professor of Zoology at the University of Oxford and Imperial College.

The sixth and final objective is also very important: to protect the science base which the NCC has built up over the past 40 years. This point also exercised your Lordships' Select Committee on Science and Technology, and I commend the text of the report to the Committee. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I run through the main measures which the Government have taken to protect the science base during reorganisation. The most important asset of an organisation like the NCC is its staff. The Government took very prompt action to retain the confidence of existing NCC staff after reorganisation was announced last July. On 27th July, I announced to the House that the Government would ensure that all members of the NCC's staff employed by the council at the date of transfer would be offered employment on terms and conditions as a whole no less favourable than those which they have at present.

Lord Shackleton

Perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord. Does he include the large number of contract staff who are essentially part-time? Will they be offered jobs?

Lord Hesketh

I shall come to that later in relation to the first question which the noble Lord asked when he spoke earlier and also in relation to his second question. I shall deal with those points at the end.

The commitment, which was later extended to Countryside Commission staff based in Wales, has been fully delivered by Clause 127 and Schedule 9 of the Bill. Work is progressing well on preparing organisational structures for each of the new councils and the joint committee. When this is complete, each member of staff who wishes to join one of the new bodies will be offered a post, taking account of personal skills and family circumstances. In that way, we should ensure that as many of the skilled staff as possible are available to the new councils.

This brings me to the next point about protecting the science base, which is that each of the new councils—and the joint committee—will have a substantial scientific capacity of its own, ranged under a chief scientist or equivalent who will hold a senior grade in the organisation. This is very much the pattern envisaged by Dr. Bridgewater in his article in the New Scientist to which I referred earlier this afternoon. In addition, the Government have accepted that the joint committee must have its own scientific and secretarial support unit comprising staff on secondment from the country councils. As the report of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver put it, they will form the axis around which experts from the country councils and academic institutions will rotate. The noble and gallant Lord recommended that the unit should contain up to 20 professional scientific staff, with supporting secretarial and technical services. We have looked at this area in detail, and I am pleased to be able to tell the Committee today that the likely final complement for the joint unit will be about 50 staff in all, of whom about half will be in scientific or senior grades. I hope that the noble and gallant Lord will not think me immodest if I say that the Government believe that this will represent a generous interpretation of his report, and one which will be welcome to the conservation world.

I wish to assure the Committee that, having taken some time, I shall make no remarks with regard to devolution as I feel that the subject has been well aired in the Committee this afternoon. I shall however make one remark concerning the interesting point made by my noble friend Lord Burton. He asked, if at some future time this Bill came up in a bigger Europe and if I were standing here proposing a European nature conservancy council based in Turin, what would be its reception in your Lordships' House.

With regard to contract staff to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred, existing contracts will all be honoured in full.

The Earl of Onslow

We have had 86 minutes of full and frank debate—I believe that is the expression used in such circumstances. I totally support the aims of the Government, but I am not to tally convinced that a slightly larger body with greater downward management devolution would not be more appropriate.

The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Grimond, that Surrey and Shetland are different is exactly the one that I made. The corollary is that some of the Perthshire moors and the moors where my noble friend Lord Peel lives, may have much in common. There are rich farmlands in Scotland and rich farmlands in England; there are rich farmlands in Wales and poor uplands and farmlands in Wales and in England. There are conservation problems common to all parts of the United Kingdom. The point made by my noble friend Lord Buxton about the crab crossing the Border by sea across the mouth of the Tweed seems to me valid. The problem now has to be dealt with by the Ministry of Health and not by the Department of the Environment or the Department of Agriculture.

I hope that this will work; I have certain doubts. I hope that the duplication of all these councils will not mean duplication of the science base with four scientific establishments, none of which is strong enough. That worries me somewhat.

However, all I can do is to thank Members of the Committee for their remarks and for such a wide variety of views—some nationalist, some supra-nationalist; some parochial and some global. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.45 p.m.

Clause 118 [Creation and constitution of new Councils]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 343A: Page 123, line 16, leave out ("to be") and insert ("(established for the purposes of nature conservation in their respective countries)").

The noble Lord said: Now that we have had the Second Reading debate on the Nature Conservancy Council abolition Bill and the Nature Conservancy Council abolition (amendment) Bill, I suggest that we turn to the Committee stage of this Bill! In moving Amendment No. 343A, I wish also to speak to my Amendments Nos. 343B, 354, 355, 356, 356B to 356D, 360B and 361. I understand that it will also be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak to Amendment No. 344 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, government Amendments Nos. 344ZB, 344ZC, 344ZD and 344ZJ. The latter gives rise to my Amendments Nos. 344ZJA and Amendments Nos. 344ZKA, 344ZK in the name of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 354A, 355AZA, 355ZAD, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Chorley, and others, and Amendment No. 373ZC in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Norrie. I hope that I have covered that adequately.

It is necessary to put this on record because of the complexity of the debate that we have before us. It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I say something about the way in which I see the debate developing. Some effort has been put into turning something that could otherwise be a total shambles into something that is at any rate marginally comprehensible. The intention of this series of amendments is to deal with the issue of the joint committee, or as the Government propose, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. They seek in particular to deal with the issue which is raised in my Amendment No. 343B which concerns the responsibility of the committee for countryside matters as well as for nature conservation matters.

The Government have rightly decided that their amendments should be debated with my amendment. Therefore we shall deal with a number of matters about the establishment of the statutory committee, including the membership and some of the aspects of staffing, resources and other matters which are expressed in the government amendments. Further amendments on the countryside stand in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. I shall comment on those amendments in a minute or two. The amendments I have referred to constitute a single group of amendments. It may seem complex, but all those amendments have to be discussed together if we are going to look at the establishment of the joint committee, or as the Government would have it, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

There is a second major group of amendments to discuss this afternoon. It starts with Amendment No. 344ZL standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ross. That is followed by an amendment standing in the names of my noble friends Lady David and Lady Nicol. Those amendments are concerned with the resources for the joint committee. They are grouped with Amendment No. 344ZN which is the Government's amendment on the same matter. There is a further large group of amendments on the joint committee starting with the Government's Amendment No. 353C. That is followed by further amendments standing in my name and that of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, which concern the functions of the joint committee.

The first major group of amendments to consider concern the establishment of the joint committee and countryside functions. The second major group concerns resources, and the third group concerns the functions of the joint committee and its areas of responsibility. If that rather drastic summary of the major elements in this afternoon's business helps the Committee, I shall feel that the time I have spent on it has not been entirely wasted.

The objective of our approach to these matters throughout, as we made clear on Second Reading, has been the constructive reform of amendments which we firmly believe were introduced into the nature conservation arrangements in this country without adequate consideration or consultation and, even in the light of the government amendments now proposed, without adequate regard to a number of important functions which should be performed on a national or an international basis. They were certainly introduced without adequate regard to the resources which will be necessary for that. I say that even in the light of the interesting statement which the Minister has just made in response to the previous amendment. We certainly welcome the fact that he provided figures which he was unable to give to my noble friend Lady David only two days ago. We also welcome the fact that the Minister answered—I do not know whether he answered this to his satisfaction—some of the questions posed by my noble friend Lord Shackleton.

However, there are still many matters about which we are not satisfied and where we believe that it is necessary for the Committee to tease out information from the Government and, if necessary, overturn the Government's decision if we are to have a coherent body of nature conservation legislation in this country.

I shall deal briefly with my amendments and say a few words about the other amendments in this group. Amendment No. 343A reflects the recommendation numbered 4.6 in the report of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. The amendment makes it clear that there must be a statutory basis for the joint committee. That is now recognised more fully by the Government than it was when this amendment was first tabled. Therefore I do not propose to seek the opinion of the Committee on Amendment No. 343A, but I shall instead pursue the wider issues raised in Amendment No. 343B. Those issues add to the statutory basis of the joint committee the issue of the protection of the countryside.

There are many Members of the Committee here this afternoon who know much more than I about the work of the Countryside Commission and that of the many statutory and voluntary bodies concerned with the protection of the countryside. They will be able to explain why the extension of the role of the joint committee is essential. In all the concessions that have been made, there has been no concession in that direction. As an amateur or an outsider I shall merely say that I cannot conceive how we can adopt a wider view of nature conservation, which includes the enhancement of our natural environment, unless we take countryside responsibilities into account. I cannot see how the compromise which has been reached in the Government's proposals; that is that there will be a bringing together of countryside and conservation functions in Scotland and Wales but not in England, can be thought to be a coherent response. For that reason, despite the concessions which are proposed on the membership of the joint committee by the Government's amendments, we still believe it is essential to pursue this matter in our amendments. I commend to the Committee in particular the amendments standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and his noble friends. In due course, in favour of those amendments I shall gladly withdraw my Amendments Nos. 355, 356 and 357 which were tabled at an earlier date.

I shall now turn to the issues raised by the Government's amendments, of which the most important is the Government's Amendment No. 344ZJ. That amendment sets out the composition and some of the details of operation of the new Joint Nature Conservation Committee. In many ways these concessions reflect—the Minister has mentioned this—not only what was undertaken in another place and on Second Reading, but also some of the arguments which have been put forward throughout the country. In other words, these amendments are reasonably satisfactory as regards the structure of membership, although we should like to see better representation of voluntary organisations. However, they are still quite unsatisfactory on the budget, staffing and on the provision for an annual report on the issue of grants, on common standards and on the resolution of disputes. A number of amendments in this group cover those points.

Our Amendment No. 344ZJA specifically covers the need for assessors who should be non-voting. Our Amendment No. 344ZKA covers the need for better rules about staff, a budget and resources. Our Amendment No. 359A covers the need for annual reports. That matter is also covered by amendments standing in the names of other Members of the Committee and also in the recommendation numbered 4.19 of the Carver Committee's report. We have tabled amendments which cover the need to pay for the initial expenses of the joint committee and to deal with any dispute on functions which may arise.

There are other amendments on the subject of an annual report, notably Amendment No. 373ZC in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Norrie. I am sorry that this matter continues to be complex, but I think the coherence of this group will be obvious to the Committee. Unless we discuss all these matters together when we consider the establishment of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, we shall not be able to make a successful judgment of the adequacy of the Government's new proposals in their amendments.

I put it to the Committee that if we agree now to Amendment No. 343B, which both establishes the statutory basis of the Joint Committee and the need for its countryside functions, we shall have agreed to the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and his colleagues, to the amendment in the name of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and to one or other of the amendments about the annual report. If the Government then decide, that they wish to withdraw their amendments—and this is important because I do not know what they will do—we shall proceed with the amendments which do the same job as the government amendments but in our view do it better. On the other hand, on the assumption that we win Amendment No. 343B, if the Government decide to proceed with their amendments we shall persist with our amendments to the Government's Amendment No. 344ZJ.

In other words, whatever the Government decide to do with their amendments, we have a coherent programme for the reform and strengthening of the Joint Committee. We can do it with the Government or we can do it without the Government. That does not matter very much to us; but we must have a coherent form of protection for nature conservation as a nationwide activity. That is the purpose of the amendment. I beg to move.

5 p.m.

Lord Chorley

Perhaps I may follow the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, at his invitation, and begin by congratulating him on the exceptionally lucid and masterly way in which he took us through a very complex grouping of more than 20 amendments. As he said, they are all concerned with aspects of the work of the Joint Committee.

I wish to speak primarily to the three amendments to Clause 123 which stand in my name; namely, Amendments Nos. 354A, 355AZA and 355ZAD. I shall explain their purpose. The essence of the amendments is simple: to widen the functions of the Joint Committee so as to include wider countryside conservation considerations. In that respect only do they increase the functions of the Joint Committee as presently set out in the Bill. The need for this was identified by a number of Peers on all sides of the Chamber during the Second Reading and by the report of the sub-committee of the Select Committee on Science and Technology chaired by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver.

I should like to begin by emphasising that these are all-party amendments. I am pleased that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, has added his name to them. The amendments are supported by a number of organisations—the National Trust, the CPRE, the CPRW, the Countryside Commission, the Countryside Commission for Scotland and several other bodies.

For my part, I must start by declaring an interest in that I have the honour to be an elected member of the council of the National Trust and also a member of its executive committee. My views and my reasons for putting down the amendments reflect the experience of the National Trust. The National Trust now has almost 2 million members. It is the leading conservation body in England and Wales. It has therefore a strong, direct and practical interest in the matter. That interest is not just because it is a custodian on behalf of the nation of extensive landholdings—over half a million acres and more than 500 miles of coastline, much of it land of the highest landscape quality. What is more important is that those landholdings include 21 national nature reserves and 8 per cent. by area of all declared SSSIs in England and Wales.

In managing that great estate, we have to balance and co-ordinate nature conservation needs with other needs—what one might loosely call Countryside Commission interests and economic and social factors. That is a very complex matter. I am happy to say that in carrying out that task, not only have we worked very closely with the NCC and the Countryside Commission but we enjoy very good relations with those organisations and receive much help and advice from them. I am equally glad to say that in acquiring properties and running them, we have received considerable help from them in the past.

Having said that, I hope that the Committee will agree that the National Trust's views on the functions of the Joint Committee are relevant. They are, as I have said, derived from very practical considerations of land management, of carrying out a very difficult and sensitive task and in carrying out the statutory responsibilities laid upon us by our own Act of Parliament. It is therefore of the greatest importance to the trust that the administrative arrangements for co-ordinating countryside matters are properly dealt with.

The Carver Committee—if the noble and gallant Lord will forgive me for attaching his name to the Select Committee's report for convenience—was quite clear on the problem. It conducted a most detailed and thorough inquiry and took extensive evidence. Paragraph 3.25 of the report states that: There are compelling arguments for bringing nature conservation closer together with countryside conservation". The report went on to explain and expand on that statement; but I shall leave it to the noble and gallant Lord and others to elaborate the argument. The Committee recommended, in paragraph 4.11, that: The remit of the Joint Committee should extend to countryside and landscape conservation (under the Countryside Acts) as well as to nature conservation. We come to the Government's response, which was produced just before Second Reading. The Government accepted a number of the report's recommendations, but they rejected that particular recommendation on the grounds that it implied: a potentially huge extension of the role of the Joint Committee and that it would lead to a significant change in focus of the Committee's remit. I listened carefully to the Minister's remarks on the previous amendment but I did not detect any advance on that position. If I have misinterpreted him he will no doubt correct me.

I shall make just three observations. First, I believe that the Government's fears are exaggerated. After all, the extension of role relates only to those aspects which need to be dealt with at a Great Britain level. Secondly, the view of all those directly involved in the matter, the experts, do not support the Government. In particular, the Countryside Commission, which might be supposed to suffer some diminution of authority, seeks a wider remit for the Joint Committee. Thirdly, it is the view of the Carver Committee (in paragraph 3.27) that it is: totally illogical to amalgamate nature conservation and countryside conservation in Scotland and Wales and to perpetuate the divide in England". However, the Government went on to accept in their response that there are areas where the 2 interests overlap, and occasionally conflict", and that the wider considerations could be taken into account by Countryside Commission representation on the Joint Committee. That was a further recommendation of the Carver Committee, a recommendation which accordingly was accepted by the Government.

The Government, having accepted that there is overlap and may be conflict do not, astonishingly, go further. This is an area of major interaction between two sets of interests. It is an area in which strategic co-ordination is vital and where, as the Government pointed out, that need and the complexities are growing every year. I find it astonishing that it is not thought necessary in those circumstances to spell out by statute the requirement of a wider function for the Joint Committee.

Representation of the Countryside Commission on the Joint Committee would certainly be useful. We welcome it, but it is not a sufficient condition. How can representation be sufficient when the functions set out in the Bill make no reference to those wider considerations?

So as things stand we have what I can only describe as a rather bizarre situation. The Government accept that there is an overlap of interest. They dealt with the overlap in Wales and propose to deal with it in Scotland but not in England. They now propose to give the Welsh body and presumably in due course the Scottish body the right to bring countryside issues to the joint committee. I take that to be the effect of a new amendment tabled by the Government, Amendment No. 352B. The Government steadfastly refuse to give the same right to England. I am bound to say that the new amendment serves only to emphasise even more strongly the illogicality of the Government's approach.

Perhaps I may give your Lordships just one specific example that has come to my attention. The Government recognise that an integrated approach is appropriate in upland areas. As I understand it that is how they justify the structures in Scotland and Wales. They seem oblivious to the existence of major upland areas in England. What, one is entitled to ask, about the Lake District, the Peak District, the North Yorkshire Moors, Dartmoor and so on? Is an integrated approach not necessary for them?

Finally, by the same token, it beats me how one can argue that there are no strategic considerations for Great Britain as a whole on these matters of the uplands.

If we are to accept the Government's view, we are entitled to a much more cogent development of their case. I hope very much that the Minister, even if he is unable to accept the amendments in the form in which they are tabled, will feel able to accept their general intent. They have been drafted to reflect how we believe that recognition of wider countryside considerations and the work of the joint committee should best be reflected on the statute book. Nevertheless, I accept that there may be better ways to achieve that objective. I am not seeking to be confrontational. I prefer that we should agree the general principle today and then work out how best it can be secured.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Norrie

I shall speak specifically to Amendment No. 343B and then go on to deal with Amendments Nos. 356B, 356C and 356D and, lastly, Amendment No. 373ZC. The purpose of Amendment No. 343B is to establish proper integration of countryside and landscape functions with nature conservation within the remit of the joint committee. The Select Committee chaired by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, recommended such integration. I believe that that is one issue for which—the Government apart—there is almost universal support.

The chairman of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, in a recent letter to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, referred to the Government's failure to integrate countryside and recreational interests with nature conservation as illogical, provisional, incomplete and untenable. The Government's thinking is remarkably muddled. On 14th June the Secretary of State, in his reply to the CPRE, acknowledged that there would be an advantage in the Countryside Commission being represented on the joint committee so that it, can have the benefit of advice on countryside matters to set its deliberations in a wider context". That sounds like an argument for extending the committee's remit to include countryside matters. It is the argument used by the Government in favour of integrating nature and countryside conservation in Wiles and Scotland. However, it is conveniently forgotten when it comes to the joint committee. Representatives from those countries are apparently supposed to abandon all principles of integration when they attend the joint committee and to consider only issues of nature conservation. If the logic of integration is true at the grass roots level, as the Government argue, it is also true at the United Kingdom level. For the joint committee to consider nature conservation in isolation from countryside matters defies the logic of integration at any level. To include the Countryside Committee on the joint committee, welcome though that is, without extending the remit to include countryside matters, compounds the confusion.

Neither do I understand the Government's attitude to integration in England. To say, as the Government have said, that it is more appropriate to keep the NCC and the Countryside Commission separate in England does not hold water. The committee chaired by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, exploded that argument by saying that for precisely those same reasons integration in England was all the more logical.

I hope that when he comes to respond, my noble friend will be able to give a firm commitment that the Government will follow through their own logic and set in motion a proper timetable with adequate consultation to achieve full integration of nature conservation and countryside matters in England at the earliest opportunity.

What is perhaps especially disappointing about the Government's proposals is that such a great opportunity has been missed to overcome the historical (and rather unfortunate) divide between nature conservation and wider countryside interests and the lack of UK or GB advice on countryside and recreational issues in the past. I firmly believe that some of the insensitive delivery of nature conservation in the past, so often quoted by the Government in support of these proposals, could have been avoided if nature conservation had been seen in the wider countryside context.

I hope that by now my noble friend will have seen the importance of proper integration of nature conservation and countryside matters and will understand the value of achieving that in the joint committee and, in turn, in England. If not, I hope that the Committee will have no hesitation in wholeheartedly supporting the amendment.

I turn now to Amendments Nos. 356B, 356C and 356D. These amendments seek in part to achieve what the Government have already accepted; namely, that there will be 11 voting members on the joint committee and an independent chairman of that committee. Both proposals were recommended by the committee of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and accepted by the Government. However, it is important that those voting members of the joint committee who are not members of the country councils should be individuals with expertise in matters relating to the functions of the joint committee. Similarly, any non-voting assessors should also be representative of the interests being considered by the committee and, for instance, might be selected from relevant voluntary organisations.

I believe that many Members of your Lordships' Committee from all sides of the Chamber support the principle that countryside matters should be integrated with nature conservation in the remit of the joint committee. That being the case, voting and non-voting members quite rightly should be individuals who have expertise relevant to the committee's functions, which will include nature conservation and countryside, landscape and recreation interests. These amendments seek to achieve just that.

I turn finally to Amendment No. 373ZC, which is also in the grouping. This amendment is similar to Amendment No. 344ZK and goes beyond a conventional annual report. It will require the joint committee to assess the extent to which the new country councils have carried out their statutory functions and how far international obligations have been met. This will provide for parliamentary scrutiny and accountabilty of the country agencies both individually and collectively. The report will also provide an assessment of the extent to which the respective Secretaries of State in England, Scotland and Wales have complied with international obligations. I urge the Committee to support these amendments.

Lord Carver

There are three matters in the Select Committee's report with which this group of amendments is concerned. The first, on which my noble friend Lord Chorley has already spoken, is that of extending the remit of the joint committee to countryside affairs. The second concerns the composition of the joint committee itself. Amendments Nos. 354A, 355AZA and 355ZAD, to which I put my name, relate to the first issue. The second point—the composition of the committee—is largely covered by the Government's amendment, Amendment No. 344ZJ. There is also the question of a report by the joint committee. I shall speak to my own amendment, Amendment No. 344ZK. Amendment No. 373ZC, which the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, has just mentioned, is relevant to it.

With regard to the matter of extension to the countryside, my noble friend Lord Chorley has already drawn attention to Recommendation 4.11 of the Select Committee. He quoted the first sentence of the paragraph of the report which was relevant. Perhaps the Committee will forgive me if I continue beyond the first sentence.

The report stated that the two interests—countryside conservation and nature conservation—are inter-related. It said: They need some of the same data and expertise, they tend to concentrate attention on the same landscapes. Nature conservation is moving on from interests in individual species of flora and fauna or narrow habitats to a more synoptic interest in groups of species, wider ecosystems and the relationship between wildlife and the whole environment". It has been called the shift from autoecology to synecology. The principle of sustainable development is preferable, in the long term, to a form of nature conservation which is based on fossilising single sites and defending them against all corners. This makes the separation between nature conservation and countryside conservation begin to look dated". All that we have heard from the last three speakers has emphasised that.

In the Government's reply, they state: The Government sees some advantage … in the Committee's being able to take account of considerations of landscape and wider countryside matters". They expect—this was said at Second Reading—that the representation of the Countryside Commission of England on such issues would be sufficient. I do not feel that it is sufficient. I have put my name to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, which will put matters right.

We come now to the composition of the committee. It is set out by the Government in Amendment No. 344ZJ. I certainly recognise the difficulty involved in our recommendation that the joint committee should be strong enough to drive forward the cause of nature conservation at a national level. However, we accepted that it should not be an independent quango and should derive its funds through the country councils.

We are extremely glad to see that the Government have moved so far. They moved some of the way while we were carrying out our study. They have moved further since, and have accepted our recommendations, first, that there should be an independent chairman, and that not only should there be three independent members but that they should have votes. Originally the Government intended that they should not. That move is extremely welcome.

I draw attention to the importance of subsections (1) and (2) of the amendment after Schedule 6 in the Marshalled List, which relates to the importance of the chairman when choosing the independent members. One of the difficulties about the Bill is that when one reads "Secretary of State" it does not necessarily mean the Secretary of State for the Environment in London. It can also mean the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Wales. Our recommendation is that the independent members should be appointed on the recommendation of the chairman. It was made specifically in order to try to avoid the suggestion that one independent member should be nominated by the Secretary of State for the Environment in England, one by the Secretary of State for Scotland, and one by the Secretary of State for Wales. Those members should be chosen for their scientific qualifications. I am glad to see that it is quite clear in the Government's amendment that it will be on the recommendation of the chairman.

Recommendation 4.19 was that the joint committee make its own report. The Government's reply was very weak. It was that the chairman would draft something to be put into each country council report. That seems not only a ridiculous method but one which did not bring enough public notice to the importance of the joint committee's responsibility both for national and international affairs. That is why I have put down the amendment which stands also in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, and the noble Lady, Baroness Nicol. Amendment No. 344ZK would make it necessary for the joint committee to report on its own responsibilities separately from the country councils.

In this group of amendments, those are the three matters which are affected by our Select Committee recommedations. The functions and powers of the council arise in later amendments.

Lord Campbell of Croy

I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, for having grouped so many amendments together and having explained so clearly how they come together. It means that we can deal with the subject of the setting up of this joint committee in one debate. It is necessary that there should be a joint committee. Its purposes broadly are, first, co-ordination within the United Kingdom, and secondly, to handle where necessary international matters.

I support what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, has just been saying about the recommendations which affect the issue of the sub-committee's report. Amendment No. 344ZK stands in my name also. It would require the joint committee to make an annual report which should be concise and to the point. It need not occupy many man-hours but I believe that it is a useful addition.

Mention has been made of devolution in the earlier debate in Committee. I remind noble Lords on considering these amendments that the functions of Ministers and their departments are already devolved. Administrative devolution where England and Scotland are concerned has existed for many years. The noble and gallant Lord pointed out, as I have done before, that when "Secretary of State" appears in the Bill in the singular, in this part of the Bill it applies to three Secretaries of State acting singly or together.

The Department of the Environment and its predecessor of 20 years ago—the Ministry of Housing and Local Government—have not operated in Scotland. Decisions in Scotland in this field have been made the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland by Parliament. There is now a need to bring nomenclature up to date. I may be in a unique position not only in the committee but in this Chamber, as a former Secretary of State for Scotland—I started in that 20 years ago—to speak on Recommendation 4.23 in the report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, which suggests that the name of the Scottish Development Department should be changed. I should like to explain why I believe that it is important and not simply cosmetic.

The Government have replied to that recommendation saying that it is now being considered by the Secretary of State for Scotland. I am therefore speaking before a decision is taken.

The Scottish Development Department (SDD) was created by regrouping subjects, and was named some 30 years ago. Within the Scottish Office it brought together in Scotland what the Ministry of Housing and Local Government did in England and Wales. The Welsh Office was not then in existence. In addition the SDD covered roads, electricity, tourism and sponsoring the Highlands and Islands Development Board and the new town corporations.

Development department was not a felicitous name but the department's many functions could not be conveyed in a short title. About 10 years later the Ministry of Housing and Local Government was renamed the Department of the Environment, still dealing with England and Wales. I remember that the word "environment" seemed very strange to the public at that time. It had not been much used before then. The word is now widely understood and the adjective "environmental' is much used and its meaning is clear.

Soon afterwards, in the early 1970s, a new department in the Scottish Office was formed called the Scottish Economic Planning Department. It was created mainly to deal with the new offshore oil industry and associated subjects. There was no Department of Energy in the UK until 1974. The new department also took some of the functions from the SDD. Later it was succeeded by a department known as the Industry Department, Scotland in which were concentrated industrial and development subjects. As a result a much larger part of the SDD's work is now concerned with environmental subjects. Its name is misleading because it can give the impression that its purpose is to promote development, generate jobs and assist industry at almost any cost.

There is another widespread misunderstanding—that the Department of the Environment operates in Scotland. It has never had functions in Scotland other than the inherited Ministry of Works duties in relation to government-owned property now being privatised. A clearer public understanding of the true situation and where responsibilities lie would be achieved by renaming the SDD. It would also help to dispel the two misconceptions that I have just mentioned.

Members of the Committee may ask what it should be called. I suggest "the Environment Department, Scotland". In these days of initials and acronyms "the Scottish Environment Department" would be confused with the Scottish Education Department SED which has existed for many years. The new name would match the designation already used by one of the junior Ministers in the Scottish Office. He is described as the Minister for Local Government and the Environment, reflecting his duties in two of the roles of the Secretary of State for Scotland. Other Ministers in the Scottish Office are labelled similarly; for example, Ministers for health, agriculture or education. Having urged a change of name it is only right that I should offer a suggestion. It is important that the word "environment" should be included and that a new name should be given to the SDD.

As I said on the first day of the Committee, although the Secretary of State for the Environment deals with England and has no statutory functions in Scotland, I believe that he should be and continue to be the lead Minister on United Kingdom policy and international affairs. That will be more important in the future than it has been in the past.

5.30 p.m.

The Earl of Swinton

I too thank the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, for explaining how the amendments fit together. However, I sometimes felt that he was a skilful spider spinning a web into which a rather fat Tory fly would flop and find himself voting against the Government on a number of issues about which he did not believe the Government were wrong. I give the warning that he is a fly old fly and can struggle his way out of many a web.

I wish to speak in support of Amendments Nos. 354A, 355AZA and 355ZAD which were so eloquently proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and supported by my noble friend Lord Norrie and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. I wish to wear my Countryside Commission hat for one moment. As was mentioned the commission is thoroughly in support of the amendments. The joint committee will be the one piece of co-ordinating machinery which will address conservation issues at the UK level. It would be illogical if its remit were so narrowly drawn as to exclude consideration of conservation and enjoyment of natural beauty which is the Countryside Commission's area of interest.

The Commission is required to co-operate with others at the UK level in a wide range of responsibilities: for example; it must advise government and Parliament on European Community matters; advise Ministers on the designation of environmentally-sensitive areas; formulate policies and advice for the coast, national parks and other special areas of the countryside; monitor landscape change by satellite image and aerial photography; understand the social and economic forces behind recreation pressures on the countryside; and promote knowledge internationally of the British approach to conservation. A more broadly-based joint committee with a wider remit is needed for seven reasons. It is needed to give government and Parliament advice on topics such as the following, in so far as they need to be considered at UK level: agriculture and the countryside; forestry and the countryside; planning as it affects the countryside; the relationship between tourism, recreation and access and conservation; the economic and social needs of rural communities; the link between energy and transport policy and conservation; and pollution impacts on the environment.

The amendments would demonstrate the Government's belief that a new agency in Scotland and Wales should give equal status to nature conservation and the enjoyment and appreciation of the natural beauty of the countryside by the public. However, the present proposals tend to fuel the fear that wider countryside issues will come a poor second best to site-based nature conservation. Even the new title of the committee—the joint nature conservation committee—fuels my worries about that aspect.

I was delighted that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, supported the amendment. He gave the reasons why his Select Committee thought that it was an important matter. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will think long and seriously before turning down at least this small group of amendments.

Lord Ross of Newport

Some of the amendments are tabled in my name and I shall speak only briefly because I do not wish to repeat what has already been said. If the Government cannot accept the additional responsibility of the joint committee to cover countryside and wider issues they should at least give the matter consideration and come back on Report. I hope that they will do so because their answer to the Carver Committee at paragraph 4.22, referring to the amalgamation of the Countryside Commission and the Nature Conservancy Council, indicates that the option for institutional change across the whole range of bodies concerned with the environment is being considered in the context of an environment White Paper and that the Government are considering the question of furthering that context.

We cannot continue to have constant changes and amalgamations during the next few years. Already we have a situation in Scotland in which the NCC will continue for one year before being merged with the Countryside Commission for Scotland. Members on all sides of the Committee have said that they would like to see a wider remit. Surely it would be better for the Government to say that they will consider the proposal, come back on Report and delay the implementation. A later amendment tabled by the Government appears to suggest that implementation will now be in October 1991. I believe that it would be sensible to extend the date for at least six to 12 months in order that we can get it right once and for all. I hope that the Minister will consider the suggestion.

Baroness Nicol

I have added my name to four amendments in the group; three were spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and one was spoken to by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. I shall be brief because all the points have already been made. However, I wish to emphasise two of them. First, the Government's response to the Carver recommendations on countryside issues and the joint committee was that the recommendations imply a potentially huge extension of the role of the joint committee. As was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, that is not so because few countryside issues would have a UK dimension. It is to tally illogical to leave that responsibility outside the role of the joint committee.

Secondly, I wish to stress the need for an annual report to Parliament. At present the NCC reports annually to Parliament and the countryside councils will do so under Schedule 6, paragraph 19. However, the joint committee has important functions other than its co-ordinating duties in relation to the countryside councils. Parliament will be particularly concerned with the working of the UK and international aspects of its responsibilities. Once the Bill has left this House and become an Act we must rely entirely on annual reports from the relevant bodies in order to know how it is working. Therefore, it is quite proper that such a report should be available.

A further point is that if the joint committee is to achieve consistent policies towards nature conservation in Great Britain, it must have some small sanction—perhaps sanction is too strong a word to use but I cannot think of a better one—to influence the country agencies. Therefore, it should have an opportunity to report annually on the activities of the country agencies. Such reports must be objective and capable of being critical if necessary. Therefore, they must come separately from the joint committee. I hope that that amendment can be accepted.

Earl Peel

With regard to Amendment No. 354A, whereas I appreciate that that applies to GB matters and therefore is the responsibility of the joint committee, the implementation of the responsibilities as laid out in Amendment No. 354A will inevitably affect the country councils. That is fine as regards Wales where we shall see an amalgamation of the Countryside Commission and the Nature Conservancy Council. In Scotland that will happen. However, in England that is not proposed at this stage. It seems to me that this amendment may well put responsibilities on the Nature Conservancy Council in England which are presently those of the Countryside Commission. That may lead to confusion. I should be interested to hear the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, on that point.

Lord Chorley

My understanding is that the Countryside Commission accepts that. I tried to indicate that in my speech. Nevertheless, for all sorts of reasons it would prefer to have a proper standing as regards functions on the joint committee.

Earl Peel

The Countryside Commission may well accept that. However, I am wearing my Nature Conservancy Council hat. I should be worried if at this stage new responsibilities with which we were not able to cope were foisted upon us.

Lord Chorley

The joint committee would have the extra responsibilities. The Countryside Commission for England still continues.

Earl Peel

It seems to me that the responsibilities of the joint committee would inevitably seep down to the various country councils. I do not believe that that can be avoided.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

Listening to the debate so far, it is quite obvious that the Committee is of the opinion that nature conservancy and the countryside go together. That is obvious, and I hope that the Government will agree to the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and others.

I disagree very strongly, although politely, with the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol. In the setting up of the joint committee nationalist feeling will want to know whether the joint committee is a creature of the councils in the various countries or whether the councils in the various countries are a creature of the joint committee as proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. That needs to be clear. If the joint committee is to have sanctions on its parent bodies, it is rather illogical that the parent body should set up the joint committee.

Amendment No. 343B states: for the purposes of nature conservation across Great Britain as a whole, exercising functions in relation to countryside and landscape conservation". I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, whether that means that the three councils will have a remit to control the actions of the parent bodies or whether they will exercise, as in the last sentence of the amendment: functions assigned to it under section 123(1)". As regards the position in Scotland, we realise the immense importance of a joint committee for joint work on international obligations. However, we should be rather worried if we obtained a budget from the Government of a reasonable character in order to set up university studies for research purposes and from which we planned conservation for Scotland, only to find that that money had been taken away for ventures approved by a joint committee on which we do not have a majority and would not expect to have one. Without direct government funding of those projects, that is a pitfall. I hope that the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, will look at that problem.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Clause 123(1) is concerned with the provision of advice and the maintenance of common standards and is not concerned with executive action. I believe that the noble Lord's fears are unfounded.

Lord Craigton

With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, my amendment has nothing to do with the joint committee. My Amendment No. 344 requires two members of the Nature Conservancy Council for England to represent the Countryside Commission for England. That deals with the points made by my noble friend Lord Peel. At a later stage it may be right to combine the English Countryside Commission with the English Nature Conservancy Council. I should like that to happen, but it will take time. In the meantime, it must be right to put England on the same footing as regards joint representation as is already the situation in Wales. I ask only that two members of the Nature Conservancy Council for England shall represent the interests of the Countryside Commission for England.

5.45 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, that the Countryside Commission for Scotland supports the idea of adding countryside matters to the remit of the joint committee. I do not agree with it on that from the Scottish point of view or indeed any point of view. Of course, consideration of conservation matters cannot be carried out without considerable reference to countryside matters. That is why the chairman of the Countryside Commission and the other two merged bodies dealing with countryside matters are on the joint committee.

However, if that new area of responsibility is added to the remit of the joint committee, all sorts of matters will need to be discussed in addition to those which would need to be discussed under the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, said that that would not make a great deal of difference because not many countryside matters have a UK or an international dimension. However, the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, read out a long list of examples. My noble friend Lord Peel, from experience of the Nature Conservancy Council, realised that the joint committee would have many extra responsibilities.

It is very important that the joint committee should concentrate on that which is essential in order to get right the international or UK dimension. Broad matters such as how the countryside is used and preserved are better carried out by the bodies in the countries without a lot of extra advice. Such advice might conflict with advice received from local authorities which would complicate the issue. I believe that that would add to the rather unwieldy animal which has been arrived at. I hope that that will not happen.

I should like to ask my noble friend Lord Hesketh one question. Until the two bodies are merged, the chairman of the body with countryside interests in Scotland will not be a member of the joint committee because under the Bill, the chairman of the merged committee is a member. On an interim basis will he consider that the chairman of the Countryside Commission for Scotland should be a member until the merger takes place, if and when it does, in order to ensure that there is countryside input from Scotland when conservation issues are discussed?

Lord Hunt

I take up the point raised by the noble Baroness purely for clarification. She voiced the view that the two broad interests—nature conservancy and the wider countryside—should not be brought under a single umbrella at the level of the joint committee, for all kinds of reasons. I should like to ask, through the Committee, whether the noble Baroness is saying that the intended Countryside Council for Wales, which has exactly that overall function, and the proposed merger between the two bodies in Scotland, will not work either.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I think they will work very well. For Wales and Scotland it would be a mistake to add the countryside element to the joint committee because there might be dual discussion of all kinds of matters. I deliberately did not make the point because we are discussing the joint committee for the whole of the UK. I respect the views of the area where the two bodies may stay separated, but it would be better not to introduce that element. It will inevitably come into the discussion and the relevant people will bring that area of interest, and the experience of England, Wales and Scotland, to bear on the discussions. However, if one adds the remit it will make for very unwieldy business.

Lord Moran

I was a member of the Carver Committee. I should like briefly to support two of its recommendations which are reflected in this group of amendments. The first is that the remit of the joint committee should extend to countryside and landscape conservation. That seems to me to be common sense. It would be absurd if the two representatives from the Countryside Council for Wales, who would be representing under the Government's proposals an integrated organisation, were to have to come to the joint committee, divest themselves of their countryside functions and consider problems only from a nature conservation point of view. It is important, as the committee recommended, that the remit should be extended.

At Second Reading I raised the question of the joint committee making its own report. I felt that the initial response of the Government to this recommendation of the Carver Committee was not very satisfactory. It is important that the joint committee should itself make a report which can be considered in this Chamber. That was what the Carver Committee recommended. In a sense it would be a touchstone of whether the Government take the joint committee seriously that they should allow it to report direct, as the country councils will do.

The Earl of Cranbrook

My name has already been mentioned and my position in this Committee is clear. Since 1st April I have been a member of the Nature Conservancy Council; I am the current chairman of the existing advisory committee for England and my name has been mentioned today as the chairman designate for the new agency for England. In that capacity I am a member of the shadow joint nature conservation committee which has already met once.

My concern in intervening in the debate is to ensure that ultimately what is given to me to operate, should the Bill be enacted, is workable. I therefore have some questions. I entirely appreciate the tone of this series of amendments in requiring the joint committee to be concerned with the preservation, enhancement and enjoyment of natural beauty. I should be glad to learn where the term "natural beauty" came from. It is confusing that Section 52(3) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 states: References in this Part to the conservation of the natural beauty of any land shall be construed as including references to the conservation of its flora, fauna and geological and physiographical features". "Natural beauty" is not defined in the Bill. In the Water Act 1989 "natural beauty" is defined in similar terms to those I have read out. Therefore, if the term is to be used and if I am to end up with a workable Act, the intent must be clarified.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Before the noble Earl continues, perhaps he could refer to Amendment No. 34A in his name and the names of the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Newport, relating to the Countryside Council for Wales. Subsection (3)(b) refers to the "enjoyment of the countryside", and subsection (5) to the "natural beauty" of the countryside. The answers to the noble Earl's question lie in his own amendment.

The Earl of Cranbrook

That amendment simply picks up the Countryside Commission aspect. The amendment, which we have yet to discuss, brings into the Welsh council its Countryside Commission inheritance. There is a conflict which needs to be sorted out.

Lord Campbell of Croy

Perhaps my noble friend will give way. I may be able to help. No doubt the Minister will be able to confirm what I say, but the term, "area of outstanding natural beauty" appears in Scottish legislation. Scotland does not have legislation for national parks. In bringing all the various terms together it is no surprise to me that that term should appear. That may help my noble friend.

The Earl of Cranbrook

It is no surprise to me, but the term needs clarifying. My second point is that, taking on board this series of amendments, I have been discussing with Countryside Commission members exactly what is the main difference in the activities of the joint committee that would be achieved. The joint committee would inherit the overall United Kingdom activities of the Nature Conservancy Council. If we look at a document that is already available, the latest annual report, we can see what the Nature Conservancy Council is already doing. We can consider its publications, Ecological Changes in the Uplands; The Conservation of Cornfield Flowers, the Conservation of Meadows and Pastures; the exhibition, "The Wider Environment" and the many other activities in which the Nature Conservancy Council already plays a major part in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Moran, said that he wished to see incorporated into the activities of the joint committee the duty to pay attention to the conservation of the wider environment. That aspect is already cared for. It is already within the remit of the joint committee as inheritor of the Nature Conservancy Council's activities. I am not sure what more is wanted.

That the joint committee should publish its own annual report, I find, speaking personally, entirely commendable.

Lord Hesketh

I rise to speak for the second time this afternoon. These amendments include the first of a series tabled by the Government which are designed to fulfil the commitments given in our response in May to the report published earlier in the year by your Lordships' Select Committee on Science and Technology under the chairmanship of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver.

Amendment No. 344ZB establishes the committee which is to carry out certain key functions jointly on behalf of the three country agencies. We propose to change its formal name from joint committee to joint nature conservation committee on the recommendation of the noble and gallant Lord. The Government believe that this is a more apt and accurate title for a body whose remit is to deal with nature conservation matters which transcend the country boundaries.

Amendments Nos. 344ZC, 344ZD and 344ZJ are perhaps the most important of all those which the Government are bringing forward today. Their effect will be to add an entirely new schedule to the Bill prescribing arrangements for the composition, financing and functioning of the joint nature conservation committee, and replacing part of the existing Clause 123(2)(a) and 123(3). Paragraph 2 of the schedule sets out the membership of the committee, which is to have 11 voting members, exactly as recommended by paragraph 4.8 of the Carver Report. These will comprise an independent chairman appointed by the Secretary of State; three independent members appointed by the Secretary of State on the recommendation of the chairman for their scientific knowledge or experience in nature conservation; two members of each of the country councils (including the chairmen of each council); and the chairman of the Countryside Commission who will, as the Government explained in their response to Recommendation 4.11 of the report, help the JNCC to take account of landscape and wider countryside considerations.

There will also be two non-voting representatives of Northern Ireland conservation interests to be appointed by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland, as foreshadowed in the Government's original announcement about the decision to create a joint committee last November and endorsed by Recommendation 4.10 of the report. This will help to fulfil the Government's objective that the JNCC should be able to take a UK-wide view where necessary and to act as focus for the exchange of information between all four countries.

The schedule goes on to make standard provision for the personal remuneration and expenses of committee members. Paragraph 7 replaces Clause 123(3) and considerably then strengthens the provisions for the financing and staffing of the committee by placing a duty on the councils to provide the JNCC with appropriate staff, accommodation and other facilities, as well as financial resources and giving the Secretary of State a reserve power to determine such matters if the councils cannot agree. This change needs to be read with Amendment No. 344ZN which will also give the Secretary of State powers to attach specific conditions about the funding of the JNCC to the grants-in-aid received by the country councils. Together, these changes mean that the commitments we have given to guarantee or, as some people put it, "ring-fence" the budget of the joint committee can be securely delivered by Ministers as promised in our response to another of the recommendations in the report.

The remainder of the schedule deals with the proceedings of the JNCC and delegation. The provisions are once again quite standard for this type of legislation. I appreciate that there is some concern on the part of the NCC, and perhaps of some noble Lords, that the power of the JNCC to delegate to a country council could be misused to sidestep the entire concept of the joint committee. That is not so. The delegation powers must be read as subsidiary to the key provisions of Clause 123 which will require certain key nature conservation functions to be exercised jointly by the country councils acting through the JNCC. Blanket delegation to the country councils would not in fact be delegation but an abrogation of the duties under Clause 123. However it is important that the option of delegation should be there to allow the joint committee to carry out certain activities by asking one or other of the country councils with a particular area of specialist knowledge or expertise to carry out work on a "lead agency" basis. A good example of this is likely to be work of national and international importance carried out by the NCC's Seabirds at Sea team in Scotland. We expect the team itself to be transferred to the new Scottish Council which will then contract with the JNCC to provide the necessary work required for national or international purposes.

I now turn to Amendments Nos. 343A and 343B. There are two main objections. The first is that by attempting to delineate too sharply between the country councils and the joint committee they would undermine a key principle of the Bill that the wider British and international functions under Clause 123 are to be exercised jointly by all three country councils but acting through the joint committee. It is very important to stick to this principle which means that the country councils must have wider horizons. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, would not actually argue with that objective.

Amendment No. 343B would conflict with the Government's policy that it would be unwise to extend the remit of the joint committee to cover landscape and other countryside issues, carrying the risk that the joint committee would be transformed into a quango supervising what would then be little more than regional agencies. I do, of course, accept that this was a subject on which we begged to differ from the conclusions reached in the report; though it was in fact the only major recommendation among the 24 which the Government could not accept. I would point out that by accepting the report's recommendation to appoint the chairman of the Countryside Commission to the JNCC the Government recognised the need for the joint committee to have access to broader thinking about the countryside but without muddying the statutory responsibility of the committee. The Government's stance is responsible and reasonable.

6 p.m.

Baroness White

Before the noble Lord moves on to the next amendment I remind the Committee that the Carver Committee was restricted by its terms of reference in the same way as the Select Committee on Science and Technology. The Carver Committee did not consider in any depth the countryside aspects of the work of the joint committee. It was in no position to do so. One cannot therefore rely entirely on the admirable work of the Carver Committee when looking at the wider aspects of landscape and countryside which will be part of the remit of the Scottish and Welsh situation and which will be represented—I fear not entirely adequately—only by the chairman of the Countryside Commission representing the English scene.

Lord Hesketh

I will be returning to that point a little later. Noble Lords suggested that in perpetually seeking satisfactory solutions we could find ourselves in the position of never formulating legislation. I remind the Committee that there is a White Paper coming out in the autumn. The preservation of the countryside is an on-going activity. A part of that activity is covered in this Bill but I would be the first to admit that it is certainly not the last.

Lord Shackleton

Does the noble Lord envisage amendments to this Bill being suggested in the White Paper?

Lord Hesketh

No, but I do visualise a White Paper proposing further primary legislation which will have some interest as regards the countryside.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

But not until the next Session.

Lord Hesketh

I do not know about that.

Amendments Nos. 344ZK, 361 and 373ZC deal with the question of annual reporting arrangements by the joint nature conservation committee. This was also the subject of a recommendation by the report. In responding the Government drew attention to the fact that, as drafted, paragraph 19 of Schedule 6 to the Bill already requires each council to report annually on all its functions, including those carried out under Clause 123 through the JNCC. We had envisaged a common section of each report to be drafted by the chairman of the JNCC which would deal with the activities of his committee.

The Earl of Onslow

Did I understand my noble friend to say that we have to go through all this again in September after the new White Paper? Surely that must be getting things the wrong way round. First, there is a Bill to which an immense amount of amendments are tabled, then there is to be a White Paper and eventually another Bill which changes everything. Swift wrote some very funny stories about such situations about 300 years ago.

Lord Hesketh

My noble friend probably slightly misheard me. I was not a regular attender of this Chamber in 1981 but even I could not avoid newspaper coverage. The subject of this Bill will be perpetually before the government of the day for the foreseeable future.

I come back to the three amendments. We have had further discussions with the noble and gallant Lord about the recommendation in his report following the comments he made in this House at Second Reading. I can accept that he and many other noble Lords attach importance to securing a provision which gives the joint committee an unfettered right and duty to report on its activities direct to Ministers and to Parliament. I am therefore happy to accept Amendment No. 344ZK tabled by the noble and gallant Lord, the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, and my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy.

I hope that this will help to persuade the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Ross, not to press Amendment No. 361 and my noble friend Lord Norrie not to press Amendment No. 373ZC. The amendment I have accepted would achieve their central objective of requiring the JNCC to prepare and publish an annual report. I appreciate that their amendments also contain a list of particular items which they wish to see included in the annual report. Except for the references to a wider role for the committee, to which I have already explained the Government's objections, I can see nothing wrong with most of the items suggested and I am sure that the JNCC would include material of this kind. However, it would be unusual for the contents of the report to be prescribed in such detail by statute. We must leave it to the committee to decide, in the light of changing circumstances and priorities, which material it wishes to include and highlight in its report. I feel sure that a chairman of the calibre and with the integrity of Professor Sir Fred Holliday will give a full and incisive report.

As regards Amendments Nos. 344ZJA and 344ZKA, tabled by the noble Lord. Lord McIntosh, the joint committee will need to take account of the views and specialisms that will not always be provided by the statutorily-appointed members. The committee has powers to regulate its procedure. That will include the power to invite non-voting observers to its meetings for such purposes. I can assure the Committee that the chairman-elect will use this power where necessary. He has already agreed to invite the chairman of the Countryside Commission for Scotland to attend JNCC meetings in an observer capacity until the CCS merges with the NCC in Scotland. I hope that covers the point made earlier by my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Does that mean that he can contribute? It is not much good just listening.

Lord Hesketh

I am sure it means that he can contribute. As regards Amendment No. 344ZKA, we feel that the noble Lord's intentions go a little too far in the direction of turning the joint committee into an independent quango in its own right. That is a course of action which the Government will have to resist. It was also rejected by the Select Committee in its report. For example, paragraph 7.1 would give the JNCC power to act as an employer in its own right, while paragraph 7.2 would virtually remove any discretion whatever from the country councils in deciding what could be afforded in financing the joint committee's activities.

I find the final subparagraph of subsection (3) rather extraordinary. No such provision exists or is sought by the Opposition in relation to existing expenditure by the NCC or its successor country councils. The underlying assumption seems to be that, despite the Government's record in financing the NCC since 1979—I remind the Committee that its budget has increased by over 160 per cent. in real terms—and despite the assurances that we have given about providing adequate funding for all the activities of the new bodies, including those carried out through the JNCC, there is a belief that the country councils will in some way try to do down the joint committee.

Amendments Nos. 354, 354A, 355, 355AZA and 355ZAD, would conflict with the policy that it would be unwise to extend the remit of the joint committee to cover landscape and other countryside issues, carrying the risk that the joint committee will be transformed into a quango supervising what will then be little more than regional agencies. I accept that this is a subject on which we beg to differ from the conclusions reached in the report of the Select Committee. I also remind the Committee that on this matter we differed with only one of the 24 conclusions.

I also remind the Committee of the intervention of my noble friend Lord Peel. He is absolutely right when he says that, as drafted, the amendments would place countryside responsibilities for the GB dimension on to the Nature Conservancy Councils and not on the JNCC itself. Therefore, leaving aside any other consideration, the amendments are defective. That is not a technical point. The fact is that the committee exists as a vehicle for the three country councils to exercise their joint functions and not for the responsibilities that they do not have in their own territories.

Amendment No. 356, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord McIntosh and Lord Ross, I take to be a probing amendment. I hope that the noble Lords will agree that it would be odd to legislate for specific subject areas in which Ministers responsible to Parliament would first have to consult with a body like the joint committee. If that is its purpose I am happy to assure Members of the Committee that, just as the views of the NCC about nature conservation at the GB or international level are already taken into account by Ministers in many different policy areas, so will the views of the joint committee be listened to most carefully on the same subjects. Professor Holliday will also have direct access to Ministers, as will the chairmen of the new country councils. I cannot see that diminishing the influence of nature conservation on government thinking.

Amendment No. 344, in accordance with the current practice, provides that appointments to the Nature Conservancy Council for England will be made on the basis of the appointees' personal qualities and not because they represent any particular interest. As the Government have already said in their response to the proposals contained in the report of your Lordships' committee, we do not believe that this is the appropriate time to consider the merger between the Countryside Commission and the English Nature Conservancy Council. We believe that it would be inappropriate to confuse the roles of the NCC for England and the Countryside Commission. I believe that this amendment does precisely that.

The main thrust of Amendments Nos. 356B, 356C, 356D and 357 has already been accepted by the Government in their new schedule covering the composition of the joint Nature Conservation Committee. I repeat that the joint committee may, through its powers, regulate its own procedures to invite observers or assessors to attend its meetings in a non-voting capacity. I am sure that Members of the Committee would not wish to see the joint committee turned into a conference of delegates mandated by other bodies, however worthy those bodies might be.

My noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy raised a point that I do not think was covered by any of the substantial list of amendments that I have responded to. I can give him an assurance that the Government will look sympathetically at the proposal to rename the Scottish Development Department and that they will react entirely positively in the near future.

6.15 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am grateful to all Members of the Committee who have taken part in this inevitably complex debate and to the Minister for the clarity of his winding-up speech. Perhaps I may in one sentence say what I think we shall be doing as the immediate result of this debate. I take it that we shall be making a decision on Amendment No. 343B, as I made clear. I take that amendment as being a paving amendment for Amendments Nos. 354A, 355AZA and 355ZAD, in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and his colleagues. I think that that is what the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, understands. I understand that he wished to add his name to Amendment No. 343B and thought that he had. That is the immediate issue.

I am saying this for the benefit of the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, who fears that I may be trying to entrap him into further commitments that he does not adhere to. I would not expect anyone who supported this matter to go further than those four amendments.

The Earl of Swinton

I do not think the noble Lord will trap me with that one.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I shall come back to that matter before closing. We can with gratitude thank the Minister for his acceptance of Amendment No. 344ZK. That amendment is primarily in the name of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. I think the Minister is right in saying that, on the basis of the acceptance, I shall not move Amendment No. 361. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, will feel the same about Amendment No. 373ZC. The point is that the principle of an annual report has been accepted. I am sure that, with goodwill, the amendment which is to be accepted will work very well indeed.

There are issues which have been properly debated together with the matters that we have discussed so far; namely, issues about staff, the budget and the resources of the joint committee, whatever name it takes. Though I believe that the discussion has been extremely valuable, I do not suppose for one moment that it has completely closed all further discussion.

I do not expect to move Amendment No. 344ZKA, in response to the government's amendment, without the opportunity of further debate. I certainly would not expect anybody who supported us on Amendment No. 343B necessarily to support us on the other amendment. However, if we are to take the government amendments regardless of the result of this debate, I make it clear that I shall not move my alternative amendments, Amendments Nos. 357 and 359A as they will no longer be necessary. They will be dealt with in amendments to government amendments. I hope that I have cleared up the matters with which we are not concerned. Perhaps I may briefly return to the matter with which we are concerned.

The Government have got themselves into a strange position. They are, as the Minister acknowledged, not accepting one of the 24 recommendations of the Carver Committee—one and only one. The Minister described it as going a little too far. But if one looks at the wording of the amendments, one sees that there is no legal basis for suggesting that what we are doing in the amendments and what the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and his colleagues are doing in their amendments is somehow making the joint committee a quango and turning the other country councils into regional agencies. What we are proposing is no change in the legal basis of the joint committee other than that already proposed by the Government.

What we are proposing, however, is that the inclusion of the chairman of the Countryside Commission and the inclusion of members with countryside interests should be matched by the inclusion of countryside matters in the remit of the joint committee. It astonishes me that the Government do not recognise that this concerns the single most important function of the joint committee. The coherence of our approach to countryside and nature conservation matters depends upon it. It is not a challenge to the legal structure of the joint committee as proposed by the Government. It concerns only the functions and the size of the committee.

As the Government have unfortunately made no movements towards recognising the justice of the argument expressed not just by those who have put their names to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, but by Members of the Committee on all sides, and as the amendments are being opposed on a basis which has no legal foundation, I am afraid that, unless any other Member of the Committee has anything to add, I shall feel it necessary on Amendment No. 343B to seek the opinion of the Committee. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 343A.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 343B: Page 123, line 19, at end insert:

("(1A) The three Councils created under subsection (1) above shall establish a committee to be known as the Joint Committee for the purposes of nature conservation across Great Britain as a whole, exercising functions in relation to countryside and landscape conservation, and carrying out the functions assigned to it under section 123(1) below.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move.

6.23 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 343B) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided Contents, 75; Not-Contents, 99.

Addington, L. Jeger, B.
Ardwick, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Bancroft, L. John-Mackie, L.
Barnett, L. Kennet, L.
Birk, B. Kilbracken, L.
Blackstone, B. Kirkhill, L.
Blease, L. Lockwood, B.
Bonham-Carter, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Bottomley, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Broadbridge, L. Melchett, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Meston, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Carter, L. Moran, L.
Carver, L. Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Chorley, L. Nicol, B.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Norrie, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Peston, L.
David, B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Rea, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Richard, L.
Ennals, L. Rochester, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Ross of Newport, L.
Falkender, B. Seear, B.
Foot, L. Serota, B.
Gallacher, L. Shackleton, L.
Galpern, L. Shannon, E.
Gladwyn, L. Sherfield, L.
Glenamara, L. Stedman, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Grey, E. Thurlow, L.
Hampton, L. Tordoff, L. [Teller.]
Hanworth, V. Turner of Camden, B.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Varley, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Hunt, L. Walpole, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. White, B.
Jay, L.
Abinger, L. Carnegy of Lour, B.
Ailesbury, M. Carnock, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Cavendish of Furness, L.
Alexander of Weedon, L. Coleraine, L.
Ampthill, L. Constantine of Stanmore, L.
Arran, E. Cox, B.
Auckland, L. Craigton, L.
Balfour, E. Cranbrook, E.
Belstead, L. Crickhowell, L.
Blakenham, V. Cross, V.
Blatch, B. Cumberlege, B.
Boardman, L. Davidson. V. [Teller.]
Borthwick, L. Denham. L. [Teller.]
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Elliot of Harwood, B.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Elton, L.
Brentford, V. Flather, B.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Buccleuch and Queensberry, D. Gainsborough, E.
Gisborough, L.
Burton, L. Glenarthur, L.
Buxton of Alsa, L. Grimond, L.
Caccia, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Caldecote, V.
Campbell of Croy, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Henley, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Hesketh, L. Platt of Writtle, B.
Hives, L. Radnor, E.
Holderness, L. Rankeillour, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Reay, L.
Hooper, B. Rees, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Renton, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L. Rochdale, V.
Kimball, L. Rodney, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Sharples, B.
Mancroft, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Margadale, L. Somerset, D.
Massereene and Ferrard, V. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Merrivale, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Munster, E. Strathclyde, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
Napier and Ettrick, L.
Newall, L. Sudeley, L.
Onslow, E. Swinfen, L.
Orkney, E. Swinton, E.
Orr-Ewing, L. Ullswater, V.
Oxfuird, V. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Pearson of Rannoch, L. Vinson, L.
Peel, E. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Pender L. Willoughby de Broke, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

6.30 p.m.

[Amendment No. 344 not moved.]

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 344AZA: Page 123, line 27, at end insert ("who in appointing the members for Wales shall have due regard not only to the conservation functions of the council but also to those functions which encourage and facilitate access to, and recreational use of, the countryside.").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 349A. The basis of Amendment 344AZA is contained in the remarks which I made on Second Reading. The Minister will recall that at that time I had received advice from the Sports Council for Wales on the need for the arrangements for nature conservancy matters to allow for a proper balance to be struck between conservation on the one hand and access to the countryside and recreation on the other. The amendment seeks to introduce an obligation on the Secretary of State to make appointments to the new Countryside Council for Wales in such a way as to give some confidence to the governing bodies of sports, and to those with a particular interest in outdoor recreation, that due regard is being given to the recreational point of view.

I must tell Members of the Committee that a similar amendment was tabled in another place by my honourable friend Mr. Paul Murphy. On that occasion, the Minister explained that if you give sport and recreation a special status you must do the same for such interests as forestry and agriculture. The amendment I move today seeks to avoid that difficulty. We are not asking for the appointment of a representative of the recreation lobby; but we do ask that in the traditional debate between commercial use and conservation—that important third party—access to the countryside for pleasurable recreation should not be downgraded. I am not talking about theme parks or football stadiums; I am talking about walking, canoeing, cycling, caving and climbing and many other excellent outdoor pursuits which we all want to encourage in our schools and, in particular, among our young people.

The Countryside Commission in Wales, which has now been abolished, had plenty to do besides monitoring the recreational use of the countryside. The commission did its best given its numerous duties and created a recreation and access branch at its headquarters. It liaised with increasing effectiveness with the Sports Council for Wales on a series of joint projects. However, because of its amalgamation with the Nature Conservancy Council, there is now a clear worry that recreation and access will become even more peripheral to the main concerns of the new council.

There are many outdoor sports—for example, canoeing or water skiing—which many conservationists find intrusive in terms of enjoyment of the countryside. However, the participants in these sports need to feel that they are being treated fairly and that the interests of informal and passive enjoyment of the countryside such as simple walking, which are perfectly valid interests in themselves, do not dominate the situation unfairly. If there are conflicts in this area—and there are bound to be—a conciliatory approach around the same council table is preferable, in so far as it is practicable, to a noisy public debate between different bodies representing different interests. Therefore, I ask the Minister to look again at the wording of the power to make appointments to see whether he can find a form of words which would provide greater reassurance to the sports bodies in Wales.

I turn now to deal with Amendment No. 349A. This amendment returns to the same theme which I have already raised. Again, I have received advice on the matter from the Sports Council for Wales. It refers to consultation rights. As I said before when I moved the earlier amendment, there is a need to ensure that in our zeal for the protection of conservation rights we do not lose sight of the fact that for many people the key issue is access to the countryside for recreational purposes. That is especially true for young people.

I am sure that we all acknowledge the importance of conservation but, equally, we must all acknowledge the fact that conservation is not about preserving our countryside in aspic; we need to acknowledge that sporting and recreational use is inevitable and that it should be encouraged and not unduly hindered. The legislation recognises that fact as there is specific reference in the Countryside Act 1968 to the need to secure public access to the countryside for the purpose of open air recreation. That will be a duty of the new Countryside Council for Wales, as indeed it was of the old Countryside Commission. There is also a duty to consult with local planning authorities and such bodies as appear to the commission to have an interest in the area in which it is involved.

The view of the sporting bodies in Wales is that the Sports Council for Wales should be specifically named as a consultee. It is the only body which has a direct link with the multifarious sporting endeavours which take place today in the outdoors—that includes everything from mountaineering and caving to ballooning and hang-gliding. Nearly all those organisations have their own representative bodies. However, the appropriate consultee in this connection should be the Sports Council for Wales which contributes to their development and keeps a friendly eye on them. It should also be said that the council often takes the lead in encouraging policies of restraint, codes of conduct and voluntary restrictions.

Finally, I hope that the Minister will note that when the Water Bill went through Parliament a similar amendment was accepted by the, Government—namely, what has now become Section 10(4) of the Water Act 1989—in which the sports councils were specifically mentioned. In my view this is also an appropriate occasion for naming the Sports Council for Wales as a consultee. It may seem a small point to him, but it is a considerable point of principle for Wales. I beg to move.

Baroness White

In some ways I am most grateful to my noble friend on the Front Bench. I have the greatest sympathy with what he said about the Sports Council for Wales and about the natural desire of many people to exercise their preferences. However, I am somewhat concerned about the proposal to name the sports council specifically because there are a number of other bodies which are also very much concerned in various ways about access to the countryside. Some of those organisations come rapidly to my mind; for example, the Ramblers Association, the Youth Hostels Association, the Open Spaces and Footpaths Preservation Society and various aspects of the Council for National Parks of which I am vice-president and so on. They are all very much concerned about access.

There are certainly differences of interest between certain sports and bird watching, which needs peace and quiet and no disturbances, and there are also certain difficulties between anglers and canoeists. However, I feel that it may not serve the best interests of those wishing to secure access to the countryside in the Principality if we name one body to the exclusion of others. Clearly it is highly desirable that there should be reasonably wide consultation in making such appointments. If we were to name one body specifically, it would probably create more problems than it would solve.

Lord Hunt

I rise to express my support for the two amendments tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. Apart from what has already been said, I think that the point should be made about the enormous numbers of what I would call "outsiders" who are now visiting the Principality for the very purposes which the noble Baroness, Lady White, just mentioned. In addition to the concern about potential conflicts of interest which may arise between what one might call the recreation bodies and those concerned with countryside and landscape issues, there is the need to watch over the spread of the use of the facilities—that is, the mountains, the moorlands and the inland and coastal waters—so as to minimise such conflicts.

Although it is not covered in the first amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton—I believe that it comes up in a later amendment to be moved by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton—there is the question of the consideration that must be given by the Countryside Council for Wales to the fact that the vast majority of those who come in for recreational and enjoyment purposes—tourists, walkers, climbers and so on—are outsiders. The interests and sensitivities of the people of Wales must be taken carefully into account in view of what one might call a growing invasion which is at the moment tolerated and brings great advantages to the Principality. Those are all reasons for supporting the proposal in the first of the two amendments to which the noble Lord spoke.

Baroness White

Perhaps I did not make myself clear. I am not against the first amendment. It is the second amendment with which I have difficulty.

Lord Shackleton

I should like to support the amendment. I find it slightly embarrassing to put myself alongside the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, as a mountaineer. The fact that I climbed Snowdon in my seventies, is not equivalent to climbing Everest in one's forties or fifties. I have seen something of the work of the Sports Council in Wales. I admire its professional skill, commitment and its ability to show people how to do things and to stop silly fools like me getting stuck on Tryfan because I do not have the right skills. There are many mountaineering associations who can give advice, but the Sports Council has a particular role to play in Wales, as it has in other parts of the United Kingdom. I took some young people to Wales. One or two of the boys had never seen a mountain and the help given to me by the Sports Council was very professional. That professionalism should be represented in the consideration of such matters.

Lord Renton

I am a little puzzled. I would have thought that, if the amendment is sound in principle, it should not be confined to Wales, but it should apply equally to the Nature Conservancy Councils for England and for Scotland respectively. However, I doubt whether it is necessary because the Secretary of State, when making those appointments, will choose people who are capable and useful at advising on the responsibilities stated in the Bill. It would therefore rather surprise me if my noble friend on the Front Bench were to advise that the amendment should be accepted.

Earl Peel

I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said about these being sensitive issues. He put his finger on the main point. However, bearing in mind the activities that will be represented by the Sports Council, it seems logical to counteract that aspect—if I may put it that way—that we should also have representatives from the owners' side. They must put up with a great deal of increased pressure—much of it perfectly justifiable—but there is the other side. If you insist that the Sports council is represented, there should also be an insistence that the landowning side be represented.

Lord Moran

Although I sympathise with the objectives of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, in moving this amendment, I share the doubts expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady White, about the second of the two amendments.

As I understood the Minister earlier, appointments will be made to the country councils on the basis of the personal qualities of the appointees and not in any sense on the basis of their representative capacity. That principle might be breached if there were to be representatives of the Sports Council. The Countryside Council for Wales will have to have close relations with the Sports Council for Wales in order to deal with all those problems. As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said, they are frequently delicate matters, but I am inclined to think that we should leave them to the good sense of the Secretary of State in making his appointments, and to the good sense of the Countryside Council for Wales, when it is in operation, to deal with those admittedly important problems.

6.45 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (The Earl of Arran)

Perhaps I may give the Government's view of these two amendments. I shall take first Amendment No. 344AZA. As several noble Lords have said, members of the new councils will be appointed for their personal qualities and not to represent any particular interest or body. That is the basis on which appointments to the NCC have always been made. However, in appointing members, the respective Secretaries of State will undoubtedly have due regard for the functions of the council concerned, including, in respect of the new Welsh council, the countryside functions.

Tuning to Amendment No. 349A, Section 2(2) of the Countryside Act 1968, as already amended by this Bill, requires the Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales to keep under review all matters relating to the provision and improvement of facilities for the enjoyment of the countryside, the conservation and enhancement of the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside and the need to secure public access to the countryside for the purpose of open-air recreation. The subsection goes on to require the commission and the council to consult such planning authorities and other bodies as appear to them to have an interest in those matters.

The noble Lord's amendment would insert and in Wales, the Sports Council for Wales after "planning authorities". On a purely technical point, the amendment destroys the structure of that part of the subsection and creates uncertainty. Is it intended that the Sports Council for Wales shall be consulted in all matters concerning Wales, whether or not they are likely to have an interest in the subject at issue, or is it intended that consultation will be subject to the qualifying words at the end of the subsection as appears to the Council to have an interest in those matters"? It is also interesting that there is no proposal that in England the Sports Council should be consulted. Why is there a need for mandatory consultation in Wales but not in England, a point raised by my noble friend Lord Renton?

As to the substance of the amendments, we do not consider that the noble Lord has made a case for singling out the Sports Council for Wales for special mention in this subsection. There are many other organisations which could be included, but it is surely better to use the present umbrella provision, which clearly includes the Sports Council for Wales when it would be appropriate to consult it.

If the intention is only that the Sports Council for Wales should be consulted when appropriate, then that is already provided for in the existing provision and the amendment would achieve nothing. For that reason and bearing in mind the doubt about interpretation and the exclusion of an equivalent provision for England, I hope that the noble Lord will not press his amendment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I am grateful to the Minister. The case had to be made. It has generated a great deal of interest. Those outside this place will be grateful for all the comments; but I know when I am beaten. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 344ZB: Page 123, line 31, at end insert:

("(3A) The Councils shall establish a committee to he called the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (in this Part referred to as "the joint committee" ").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendments Nos. 344ZC and 344ZD: Page 123, line 32, leave out ("Schedule 6") and insert ("Schedules 6 and (The Joint Nature Conservation Committee).

Page 123, line 33, after ("Councils") insert ("and of the joint committee').

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 344ZA had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clause 118, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 6 [The Nature Conservancy Councils for England and Scotland and the Countryside Council for Wales: Constitution]:

Lord Reay moved Amendment No. 344ZE: Page 169, line 8, after ("member") insert ("or former member").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 344ZF and 344ZG. These are simple, straightforward drafting amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendments Nos. 344ZF and 344 ZG: Page 169, line 30, after ("employees") insert ("or former employees").

Page 171, line 20, leave out from ("papers") to ("give") in line 21 and insert ("and").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

The Earl of Arran moved Amendment No. 344ZH: Page 171, line 31, at end insert:

("( ) Without prejudice to the generality of sub-paragraph (1) above, the report of the Countryside Council for Wales for any year shall include a statement of the action taken by the Council to promote the enjoyment of the countryside by members of the public who are disabled.").

The noble Earl said: On behalf of my noble friend, I wish to move Amendment No. 344ZH. The Countryside Commission is at present required to include in its annual report to Parliament a statement of the action taken by the commission to promote the enjoyment of the countryside by members of the public who are disabled. This was inadvertently omitted when the annual report provisions were drawn up for the new countryside council for Wales. This amendment ensures that the commission and the council will have similar responsibilities in this respect. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 6, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 344ZJ: After Schedule 6, insert the following new schedule:

("The Joint Nature Conservation Committee Preliminary 1. In this Schedule— "chairman" means (except in paragraph 2(1) below) the chairman of the committee); "the committee" means the Joint Nature Conservation Committee; and "council" means a council established by section 118(1) of this Act. Membership 2.—(1) The committee shall consist of eleven voting members, namely—
  1. (a) a chairman appointed by the Secretary of State;
  2. (b) three members appointed by the Secretary of State;
  3. (c) the chairman of each council and one other member of each council appointed by that council; and
  4. (d) the chairman of the Countryside Commission;
and two non-voting members appointed by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland.
(2) The committee may appoint any voting member to be deputy chairman. 3. The chairman and the three members appointed by the Secretary of State shall be persons who are not members of any of the councils and shall hold and vacate office in accordance with the terms of their appointments. 4.—(1) The three members appointed by the Secretary of State shall be persons appearing to the Secretary of State to have experience in or scientific knowledge of nature conservation; and the Secretary of State shall, in determining who to appoint, have regard to any recommendations made to him by the Chairman. (2) Before appointing such a member the Secretary of State shall consult the chairman and such persons having scientific knowledge of nature conservation as the Secretary of State considers appropriate. Remuneration and allowances for members 5.—(1) The councils shall—
  1. (a) pay to the chairman such remuneration and allowances; and
  2. (b) pay such pension, allowance or gratuity to or in respect of the chairman or make such payments towards the provision of such pension, allowance or gratuity;
as the Secretary of State may with the approval of the Treasury determine.
(2) If a person ceases to be chairman and it appears to the Secretary of State that there are special circumstances which make it right that he should receive compensation, the Secretary of State may require the councils to pay to that person a sum of such amount as the Secretary of State may with the approval of the Treasury determine. 6. The councils shall pay to the three members appointed by the Secretary of State, and to the non-voting members, such remuneration and allowances as the Secretary of State may with the approval of the Treasury determine. Staff etc. and expenses 7.—(1) The councils shall provide the committee with such staff, accommodation and other facilities, and such financial resources, as the councils, after consultation with the committee, consider appropriate for the proper discharge of the functions conferred by section 123(1) and (2) of this Act. (2) The expenses of the committee shall be defrayed by the councils in such proportions as the councils may agree. (3) In default of agreement between the councils as to any question arising under sub-paragraph (1) or (2) above the Secretary of State shall determine that question. Proceedings 8.—(1) The committee may regulate their own procedure (including making provision in relation to the quorum of voting members). (2) The proceedings of the committee shall not be invalidated by any vacancy amongst their members or defect in the appointment of any member. Delegation of functions 9.—(1) Anything authorised or required to be done by the committee may be done by any member of the committee, by any council or by any employee of a council who is authorised (generally or specially) for the purpose by the committee. (2) Nothing in sub-paragraph (1) above shall prevent the committee from doing anything that another person has been authorised to do.").
Lord Hesketh

I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne)

I call, as an amendment to Amendment No. 344ZJ, Amendment No. 344ZJA.

[Amendment No. 344ZJA, as an amendment to Amendment No. 344ZJ, not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne)

I call as a second amendment to the new Schedule, Amendment No. 344ZKA. The amendments have been wrongly marshalled.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 344ZJ, Amendment No. 344ZKA: Line 52, leave out paragraph 7 and insert:

("7.—(1) The Joint Committee may appoint—
  1. (a) a Director;
  2. (b) persons to such other posts as the Secretary of State may agree;
  3. (c) such other persons on secondment who are employed by a Council as that Council may agree.
(2) The Joint Committee shall notify the Councils and the Secretary of State in respect of each financial year as to the amount which it considers necessary to enable it to fulfil its functions, and the Councils shall make available that amount in such proportions between them as they may agree or in the absence of such agreement as the Secretary of State may determine. (3) The Secretary of State shall in respect of each financial year, having regard to any representations made by the Committee or the Councils, satisfy himself that the resources available to the Councils and the Committee are adequate to enable them to fulfil their functions under this Part.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment has already been debated. It is a matter of major importance that we should get the membership, the staffing, financing and security of financing of the joint committee right. I beg to move Amendment no. 344ZKA.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

Amendment proposed, as an amendment to Amendment No. 344ZJ—there is a marshalling mistake—line 52, leave out paragraph 7 and insert the words as printed on the Marshalled List. This amendment has been debated.

Lord Hesketh

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has moved this amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The matter has been debated by the Committee. I did not propose to prolong the debate. However, I reserve my right to seek the opinion of the Committee on my amendment.

Bareness Nicol

The amendment of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, to which the Government agreed, has not been called. Should it not be called at this stage?

Lord Campbell of Croy

We have already heard from the Chair that the amendments are marshalled in the wrong order. Can the matter be clarified?

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

We shall not take Amendment No. 344ZK yet. I shall put the Question on Amendment No. 344ZKA. The Question is that Amendment No. 344ZKA shall be agreed to?

6.54 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 344ZKA), as an amendment to Amendment No. 344ZJ, shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 45; Not-Contents, 92.

Addington, L. [Teller.] Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Birk, B. Hunt, L.
Blakenham, V. Irvine of Lairg, L.
Blease, L. Jay, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Jeger, B.
John-Mackie, L.
Chorley, L. Kilbracken, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Lockwood, B.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. McGregor of Durris, L.
David, B. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Melchett, L.
Foot, L. Nicol, B.
Gallacher, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Galpern, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Rochester, L.
Ross of Newport, L.
Grey, E. Seear, B.
Hampton, L. Shackleton, L.
Stedman, B. Turner of Camden, B.
Stoddart of Swindon, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Strabolgi, L. White, B.
Tordoff, L.
Abinger, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Kimball, L.
Arran, E. Kinloss, Ly.
Balfour, E. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Mancroft, L.
Belstead, L. Margadale, L.
Blatch, B. Masham of Ilton, B.
Boardman, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Borthwick, L. Merrivale, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Mountevans, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Munster, E.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Buccleuch and Queensberry, D. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Newall, L.
Burton, L. Norrie, L.
Buxton of Alsa, L. Onslow, E.
Caccia, L. Orkney, E.
Campbell of Croy, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Oxfuird, V.
Carnock, L. Peel, E.
Carver, L. Pender, L.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Platt of Writtle, B.
Coleraine, L. Radnor, E.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Rankeillour, L.
Cox, B. Reay, L.
Craigton, L. Rees, L.
Cranbrook, E. Renton, L.
Crickhowell, L. Rochdale, V.
Cross, V. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Cumberlege, B. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Sharples, B.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Sherfield, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Flather, B. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Gainford, L. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
Gainsborough, E.
Gisborough, L. Sudeley, L.
Glenarthur, L. Swinfen, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Swinton, E.
Tranmire, L.
Halsbury, E. Ullswater, V.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Henley, L. Vinson, L.
Hesketh, L. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Hives, L. Walpole, L.
Holderness, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Hooper, B.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment No. 344ZKA, as an amendment to Amendment No. 344ZJ, disagreed to accordingly.

7 P.m.

Lord Carver moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 344ZJ, Amendment No. 344ZK: At end insert:

("10.—(1) The committee shall:—
  1. (a) as soon as possible after 31st March following the date appointed under section 121(3) of this Act make to the Secretary of State a report on their activities down to that date; and
  2. (b) make a similar report to him as to each period of twelve months thereafter as soon as possible after its end:
and a copy of each such report shall be laid before each House of Parliament by the Secretary of State.
(2) The committee shall, at the same time as they make a report under sub-paragraph (1) above, send a copy of it to each of the councils.").

The noble and gallant Lord said: I am most grateful to the Government for having accepted this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment No. 344ZK, as an amendment to Amendment No. 344ZJ, agreed to.

The Earl of Swinton

I am grateful that the chairman of the Countryside Commission was made a member of this body. However, does this literally mean that it must be the chairman alone who fulfils that function and that he cannot send a delegate if he is taken ill or suffers a long illness? I do not expect my noble friend to reply to that straight away; perhaps he can write to me before Report.

Lord Hesketh

I believe I am correct in saying that it is only the chairman of the Countryside Commission who can fulfil that function as the legislation is currently drafted.

Amendment No. 344ZJ, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Reay

I beg to move that the House do now resume. I propose that we return to this business at 8.5 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

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