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Viscount Addison: The clause as printed changes the Sandford principle and therefore the need remains for more precision as to what is meant. Instead of "irreconcilable" perhaps I may suggest the words "conflict that cannot be reconciled through management".

However, in view of my noble friend's helpful comments, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 257A not moved.]

Lord Greenway had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 258:

Page 65, line 28, leave out ("a") and insert ("an irreconcilable").

The noble Lord said: I go along with what the noble Viscount said. Perhaps we can consider the issue again. However, I believe that the clause as drafted leaves something to be desired.

[Amendment No. 258 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 258ZZA not moved.]

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 258ZA:

Page 66, line 9, after second ("council") insert ("district council").

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The noble Viscount said: This is of a minor and technical nature. The purpose of the amendment is to add a reference to district councils in Wales in order to complete the definition of local authority in relation to Wales. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 258ZB:

Page 66, line 13, after ("Park") insert ("reconstituted").

The noble Viscount said: In moving Amendment No. 258ZB, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 258B to 258F, 262A, 362A, 362B, 366A, 366B, 397A, 397B, 399E, 399F and 403A. The amendments are all of a minor and technical nature. The purpose of Amendments Nos. 258E and 258F is to delete the references to the 1949 Act national park purposes elsewhere in legislation and insert the revised park purposes provided for in Clause 58 of the Bill.

Another group of amendments, Amendments Nos. 362A, 362B, 366A and 366B, ensures that the term "National Park authority" in legislation covers both the existing and the new national park authorities to be established under Clause 60. Amendments Nos. 258B, 258C and 258D make clear the fact that the appointment of a local authority appointed member of a national park authority may be terminated in order to maintain the political balance of the appointing authority in accordance with Sections 15 to 17 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.

Amendment No. 262A is a point of clarification which makes explicit that the Broads Authority is the relevant authority as respects land within the Broads for the purposes of Section 41 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Amendments Nos. 258ZB, 397A, 397B, 399E, 399F and 403A are miscellaneous and deal with various matters such as insertions and repeals which were inadvertently omitted from the Bill when it was first printed. I beg to move.

Lord Elis-Thomas: I wish to declare my complete support for all the amendments and also to take advantage of the opportunity to ask the Minister when he proposes, or whether the Government propose, to allow for further amendment on the conversion from shadow boards to shadow national park authorities in Wales without a change of legal status. The Minister is aware that we are in a different situation in Wales. Under other legislation the existing structure for local government is already in place. I should like an assurance at some stage of the Bill that the intention is that an amendment will be proposed to the Bill to allow the conversion to take place without a change of legal status and to allow preparatory work in respect of the establishment of the boards to count as if it were carried out in preparation for the national park authorities themselves.

Viscount Ullswater: I am advised that an amendment will be produced at Report stage.

2 Feb 1995 : Column 1662

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 59, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 60 [Establishment of National Park authorities]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 258ZC:

Page 67, line 12, at end insert:
("( ) In respect of any area with special characteristics similar but not identical to those set out in section 5(2) of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, the Secretary of State may, on the advice of the Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council of Wales, and with the agreement of every local authority for that area and of any other persons appearing with him to be interested, by Order establish a special authority, to which the provisions of this Part and Schedules 7 to 10 to this Act shall apply with such variations as may be agreed by those authorities.").

The noble Lord said: I recognise that the text of the amendment may be defective. In the fourth line the word "and" should probably read "or". I am not speaking particularly to the text of the amendment but to it in principle, and the amendment is probing rather than definitive.

The Committee will be aware that there are certain areas of England and Wales, not least the New Forest, which do not easily fall into national parks under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act by definition. All kinds of problems are involved and my amendment is an attempt to offer the Government an opportunity to extend the legislation on national parks in a fairly interesting way; that is, in the sense that if the New Forest cannot become a national park for various reasons, then there is a possibility through the mechanism in my amendment that the New Forest and other areas might be designated by the appropriate mechanism described in the amendment as something similar to a national park without the problems involved in being a national park. For example, in the New Forest that has caused a great many problems, as it has with the Broads in Norfolk. As I understand it, we have not yet found a way round the problems of how to designate an area like the New Forest as a national park. The amendment is an attempt—I accept that it is only an attempt—to try to offer the Government a way of doing that. I hope that the noble Viscount will take it in that spirit and give the amendment a favourable wind. I beg to move.

Lord Norrie: I support the amendment and am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, for providing an opportunity for us to air the issue. It was most disappointing when, after a wide consultation in which there was overwhelming support for national park equivalent status for the New Forest, the Government did not fulfil their commitments. Affording the area such status would bring many benefits, including national funding for the conservation and enjoyment of the forest.

The National Parks Review Panel favoured enabling the future designation of new members of the national park family where areas were considered as possessing the qualities and characteristics which made them worthy of designation. The Government's 1990 White Paper, This Common Inheritance, stated that they would consider,

2 Feb 1995 : Column 1663

    "designating new national parks in suitable areas where landscape conservation and recreation opportunities can be combined, either under the 1949 Act, or by creating further tailor-made bodies like the Broads Authority".

The amendment would enable the Government to fulfil that commitment.

Baroness Nicol: The National Parks Review Panel put forward a strong case for giving the New Forest equivalent national park status. I believe it realised that the forest could not fit into the normal pattern of national parks. However, I remind the Committee that the Broads Authority, which had its own tailor-made Act to make it into roughly an equivalent to a national park, has been very successful in protecting the Broads, while promoting enjoyment, including navigation rights.

The New Forest would also require a tailor-made body because it has very complicated management arrangements. I hope that the Government will not be put off by that. It was disappointing that when they published their plan for the New Forest last year no mention was made of giving it the status which I believe is necessary. I remind the Committee that so far as I am aware there is no national park in southern England at all except in Devon.

Viscount Ullswater: I do not believe that the amendment is necessary. There is already a procedure set out in legislation for designating areas which meet the criteria for special status and protection and putting in place the necessary administrative arrangements for the management of those areas.

I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Williams, is trying to do in his amendment by having a mechanism to approve areas or set aside areas which would not be designated as national parks. A procedure exists which has resulted in 10 per cent. of the area of England and Wales being designated as national parks with special administrative arrangements to ensure their care and protection. The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 sets out the procedures to be followed for designating those areas. It gives responsibility to the Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales for preparing orders designating areas as national parks which are then put to the Secretary of State for confirmation. Before placing an order before the Secretary of State, the Countryside Commission or the Countryside Council for Wales carries out an extensive consultation exercise through which the views of all the local authorities with land in the area proposed for designation are sought, as well as the views of any other persons and organisations which have an interest. Confirmation by the Secretary of State brings with it the appropriate administrative arrangements which we are discussing today.

As far as the New Forest is concerned, our policy statement issued in July 1994 made it clear that the New Forest should be subject to the same planning policies as the national parks. We took the view that it was not necessary to give statutory status to the New Forest Committee, as adequate mechanisms were in place for the management of the area.

2 Feb 1995 : Column 1664

I am not persuaded of the benefits of Amendment 258ZC, nor indeed do I think it would be workable, since it would require the agreement of everybody who had an interest in the matter before the procedures for an order establishing an authority could be put in train. Even for the national parks, which we all agree are special areas, that might be a little difficult.

With reference to the final words of the proposed new provision, I cannot forbear to point out that they sit ill with the noble Lord's express concern about Henry VIII clauses appearing elsewhere in the Bill. Variations of an Act by means of formal agreement—

8.30 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel: Will the noble Viscount now say specifically why the Government do not intend to designate the New Forest as a national park? I understood (and I believe that my understanding is right) that the Government have all sorts of reasons—which the noble Viscount tried, slightly ineffectually, to explain—why it cannot be a national park. All the instruments are in place, but the noble Viscount says that my amendment is irrelevant. If the procedures are in place, will the Government now designate the New Forest as a national park—and if not, why not?

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