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Lord Beaumont of Whitley: We on these Benches are sympathetic to the amendments because they involve a greater degree of democracy. Clause 59 lays a duty on the councils to pay attention to the national parks and their objectives. That is absolutely right, but there is room as a result for a reciprocal arrangement whereby the national park should have considerable care for local democracy and should have as much leeway as possible under the national objectives. For that reason we would definitely support Amendments Nos. 258EA and 258EB. I am not certain that Amendment No. 258AA is quite right, but its sentiments are absolutely right. I hope that the Government will see their way to meet those particular points.

Viscount Ullswater: I am aware that there is considerable interest in the manner in which local

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authorities appoint members to the national park authorities, which is reflected in Amendment No. 258AA, moved by my noble friend Lord Derwent. There is a great deal of concern that the local authorities should appoint members who are in touch with the people who live and work in the parks and not include among their appointees those who may live some distance away or who appear to have little interest in park affairs—although they will, of course, represent charge payers contributing to the parks' costs.

I also am firmly of the view that it is in the best interests of local people that local authorities appoint members to the new authorities who represent wards in the parks. However, there may be appointments for which such a requirement would prove impossible. The relevant member may not wish to serve. There may be other members of the local authority with relevant experience. And there are the political balance provisions to be observed, which we believe is a general principle that should govern all local authority appointments.

Therefore, we have included guidance on the matter in the draft circular, which emphasises the importance that we attach to local authorities appointing as their members people who live in the parks or those who represent wards which lie wholly or partly in the parks. Therefore, we have gone a long way towards satisfying the purpose of the amendment.

Amendment No. 258EA would require the national parks to give annual accounts of their stewardship of the parks to the principal councils in the parks. However, under Schedule 7, paragraph 15 of the Bill, the national park authorities will be required to produce reports, as are all local authorities, under Section 230 of the Local Government Act 1972. That Act allows the Secretary of State to determine the frequency of their reports and, as our draft circular makes clear, these reports will be annual.

Regular and comprehensive reports are important as a basis for the continuing dialogue between the national park authorities and their local communities. They are also a means by which the national park authority can publicise its achievements. The national park authorities will be required to produce annual reports of their stewardship of the parks in which they will be expected to include consideration of matters which are of interest to their constituent local authorities, parish councils and other bodies operating within the park.

Amendment No. 258EB emphasises the importance of parish and community councils in the parks. We attach special importance to giving parish councils the fullest opportunity to comment on and contribute to park policies. We also recognise the importance of ensuring that the views of local people and communities in the parks are heard. As we have stated in our draft circular, the national park authorities will be expected to make formal arrangements, where they do not already exist, to ensure that local people, including local voluntary groups and recognised user interests of the parks, have a proper and regular opportunity to make known their views. As the draft circular makes clear, we attach

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special importance to giving parish councils the fullest opportunity to comment on and contribute to park policies.

I hope that my reply reassures and meets the concerns of my noble friend and I therefore ask him to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Derwent: I am grateful to the Minister for some of the comments that he made because we are in agreement with each other. Perhaps he will answer the question that I asked on Amendment No. 258EB. My problem is that parish councils are not mentioned in this part of the Bill, nor are community councils. A reference to them in the Bill would greatly strengthen the permanence of the guidance. It was only when I tried to amend the Bill that I discovered that I had to insert a new clause because parish councils did not appear.

I shall not press the matter at this hour of night. However, perhaps between now and the Report stage the Minister will consider whether there is any objection—indeed, any great advantage—in putting on the face of the Bill a provision in similar terms to Amendment No. 258EB to which the guidance can refer.

Viscount Ullswater: I shall look carefully at what my noble friend said and has now repeated. I give no guarantee that I shall return with any form of amendment but I should like to make certain that what I believe to be the proper way of dealing with the matter—namely, by using the draft guidance—is the best way forward. However, I shall look carefully at what my noble friend said.

Lord Derwent: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 258B:

Page 138, line 40, after second ("authority") insert ("(a)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 258C:

Page 138, line 42, at end insert ("but
(b) his appointment may, before any such cessation, be terminated for the purposes of, and in accordance with, sections 15 to 17 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 258D:

Page 138, line 43, leave out ("(5)") and insert ("(5) (a)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Airedale): Amendment No. 258DA is an amendment to Schedule 7 and not to Clause 7, as stated on the Marshalled List.

The Earl of Cranbrook moved Amendment No. 258DA:

Page 139, line 10, after ("Commission") insert ("and the Nature Conservancy Council for England").

The noble Earl said: I am grateful to the noble Lord the Deputy Chairman of Committees for making that point, which I had been going to make. This grouping brings together amendments which have a common

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theme but which nevertheless are separate, in so far as one amends the schedule and the others amend Clause 62.

We are legislating for the national parks of the future. During the course of our debates today I have been struck by how much the pressure and the sentiments in relation to national parks have been driven by considerations of the national parks of the present. I have been struck by how much my noble friend Lord Norrie and those speaking for the Council of National Parks consider that recreation, access and landscape are the prime purposes of parks.

Those matters are extremely important and have been so, but we are now considering legislation and rules that will govern our parks in the future. As we agreed at the beginning of our discussions today in Committee, they will have as their primary purpose the conservation of natural beauty, which my noble friend has assured me includes also natural landscape and land form elements, and wildlife. Therefore, we are legislating for the governance of national parks in which those matters are of equal and paramount importance alongside the traditional values for which national parks have been so important. That is the sentiment behind this set of amendments.

It seems to me extremely important indeed that those who form the national park authorities and those who are appointed to them by the Secretary of State should include among them those who have genuine experience of nature conservation.

Members of the Committee will recall that at the beginning of the past calendar year, the Secretary of State for the Environment required the Nature Conservancy Council for England, English Nature and the Countryside Commission to look at the possibility of merger. One of the products of that inquiry was to make it clear that there are serious differences in the terms of reference, the remit and the approach which English Nature and the Countryside Commission take; and that really the areas of their expertise and the undoubted skill of their staff, commissioners or council members differ quite considerably. That was the conclusion of the merger inquiry.

It is clear that the two bodies have different competences. So far as concerns statutory bodies, the competence for nature conservation, which will be of paramount importance in the national parks of the future, abides with the statutory nature conservation body, whereas the competence and the skills for other issues—such as landscape preservation and access—lie with the Countryside Commission. They are equals in their skills but they are separate. Those skills are not necessarily shared either by the staff or by council or commission members.

The Secretary of State has urged us to work more closely together, and, indeed, we shall do so. However, close working is best achieved by equal working; in other words, by parity and not by subservience. Therefore, it seems to me to be sensible to suggest that when the Secretary of State considers his list of appointees he should be obliged to consult both the

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statutory nature conservation body as well as the statutory landscape and access body. In effect, that is what my first amendment proposes.

I am aware that we have the capacity and opportunity to put names forward. However, I have inquired and discovered, as far as I can ascertain, that never has the Nature Conservancy Council or English Nature been consulted on nominations to park authorities. I believe that it would be sensible to ensure that such consultation takes place. Nominations should be sought from the two bodies on an equal basis where the skills and expertise are so separate. That is the point of my first amendment.

My second pair of amendments arises from the same basic point: 140,000 hectares of national park land is SSSI and, as I said earlier this afternoon, 16 per cent. of national park surface is SSSI. In addition, there are very many regionally important geological sites, as I also emphasised earlier, and many other important sites of nature conservation. Given the new primary purpose for the parks, there is no doubt that skills and expertise in management of that national nature conservation resource will be tremendously important in preparing plans for the management of the park. Therefore, my second amendments effectively suggest that, when such plans are prepared, English Nature should have a statutory position alongside the Countryside Commission as a consultee.

The situation in Wales is different because it has a combined body. Where national parks are concerned, the Countryside Council for Wales will be able to give that combined advice and expertise, drawing on the combined skills of the staff. One of the great successes of the Countryside Council for Wales has been the fact that it has managed to integrate nature conservation with landscape conservation, access and other issues throughout the organisation in a skilful and appropriate manner. Indeed, the council shares the skills and the staff share the skills.

When we come to consider the English situation, it is clear to me that English Nature and the Countryside Commission together equal the Countryside Council for Wales. Therefore, in order to ensure that the English national parks receive expertise of the same quality as the Welsh ones will receive in both those cases I believe that my amendments are appropriate. As I said, they deal with two different aspects but that is what links them together. I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Chorley: I rise to express my support for the amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook. I do so because in the National Trust we work very closely with all the organisations set out in the schedule under discussion. However, we also work very closely with English Nature. We are most conscious of the increasing importance of nature conservation in the management of national parks; for example, in matters to do with habitat restoration and so on. In the National Trust we did not want to encourage not merging the Countryside Commission and English Nature, so it seems to me that the proper pari passu treatment now is to draw English Nature into the consultative process,

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as has been so ably expressed by the noble Earl. I hope that the Government will treat this amendment with sympathy.

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