HL Deb 23 November 1989 vol 513 cc235-6WA
Baroness Blatch

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they have for the reorganisation of the Nature Conservancy Council.

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

My right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for the Environment, Scotland and Wales very much welcome the advice they have received from the Nature Conservancy Council on the arrangements it would be appropriate to make, within the context of three independent councils for England, Scotland and Wales, to ensure the continuation of a strong and consistent science base for their work, and to address issues that have a Great Britain and international dimension. The Government have also taken account of the wide range of advice received from the conservation and scientific communities and the NCC's paperPolicy and Science which was published earlier this month.

We are glad to note that there is no disagreement with the NCC on the main elements of the organisational structure that will be required. The Government intend to place on the successor bodies to the present NCC a statutory duty to form a joint committee comprised of the chairmen and other representatives from those bodies to which they will be required to remit matters calling for collective consideration. They will have joint statutory responsibilities, in addition to those which they will exercise for their respective areas, to:

  1. (a) provide advice (including advice to Government) and disseminate knowledge about nature conservation issues with a Great Britain or international dimension; and
  2. (b) establish common standards for designation, research, monitoring and data analysis and to commission or support research on matters affecting Great Britain and international responsibilities.

The councils will be required to ensure that adequate and appropriate resources are provided to undertake the committee's identified tasks.

These arrangements complement our determination to ensure that each council is adequately provided with scientific advice for its individual responsibilities. They will ensure that effective scientific and co-ordination services are available to enable the councils to meet those responsibilities which can best be discharged collectively and that they are able to tender authoritative advice to Government on Great Britain, UK and international matters.

The Government intend to make appropriate arrangements for particiption by organisations in Northern Ireland to secure full coverage of the UK.

The NCC has suggested that the joint committee should have an independent chairman appointed by the Government. In our view, however, such an arrangement would detract from the concept of the collective responsibility of the successor bodies jointly to ensure a coherent scientific basis for their work and agree the advice to be tendered to Government. The arrangements for chairing the committee will therefore be a matter for the committee to determine. We do intend however that the committee should be assisted by independent assessors appointed by the Government. It is our intention to seek nominations for assessors from leading scientific institutions.

We are sure that these arrangements will secure the advance of nature conservation in all four countries, from a sound scientific foundation, and take forward the work of the present council (to which tribute is due for the splendid work they have done) in a matter that is appropriate to the 1990s.