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Lord Williams of Elvel: The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas has raised a most important point. Perhaps I may declare my own interest, yet again, as President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales. I believe that we need a clear answer from the Government on the matters raised by the noble Lord. It is said in the Welsh press that the Secretary of State for Wales is about to dismember the Countryside Council for Wales. It is said that there is a serious personality conflict between the Secretary of State and the chairman of that body; and it is said that, certainly, the budget for CCW has been reduced. Moreover, I believe that I am right to mention what the Secretary of State for Wales said; namely, that many of the things that the Countryside Council for Wales does at present could be done in the private sector.

We need a clear statement from the Government. I suggest that the Government should make a clear statement this evening on exactly what are the Government's intentions over CCW; and, indeed, on the other matters to which the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, referred.

Viscount Ullswater: I am afraid to say that when I read the amendment I had to scratch my head quite hard in an attempt to understand what the noble Lord is seeking to achieve. The functions and duties of the national park authorities are clearly set out in Clause 61. We do not think that the noble Lord's amendment adds to it in any way. As I read it, the effect of the amendment—and I listened carefully to what the noble Lord said—would be to place a duty on the nature conservation bodies, as mentioned in the wording, to manage land within national nature reserves and sites of special scientific interest not subject to a specific management agreement under Section 15 of the Countryside Act 1968. This would be contrary to the voluntary principle which underpins all government policy for the conservation of wildlife habitat, which is based on co-operation of the landowners and reflects government policy not to extend bureaucracy unnecessarily. Provisions for voluntary management agreements are in place. There are long stops, including compulsory purchase to protect nationally and internationally important sites, but the voluntary principle is the keystone to holding up the Government's habitat conservation policies.

From the press, certainly, I understand that the intentions of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales were misrepresented. Within the overall requirements to maintain the management of nature reserves and SSSIs, it may be possible for a greater number to be managed by elected local authorities, as I believe many are already. I understand that the noble Lord is concerned about the deterioration of some of these sites, but I believe that this measure would be a very bureaucratic way of addressing that concern. As I said, it is very much

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against the voluntary principle which I sought to press upon the noble Lord. In that case I hope he will be prepared to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Elis-Thomas: I am grateful for the partial reassurance that we have had from the Government this evening. I would, however, request that the Minister look again at my remarks and those of the official spokesman for the Labour Opposition, the noble Lord, Lord Williams, on this matter, because there has been concern that there were proposals to transfer activity away from the Countryside Council, possibly to the private sector, and that this would involve the transfer of the management of specific sites. The voluntary principle is certainly one which I approve as part of the conservation activity. What I do not approve of is a commercial principle in this whole area. If the Minister is telling us this evening that it is not the intention of his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales to transfer any conservation sites within Wales to any form of commercial management, that would be a satisfactory reassurance.

I am not entirely reassured by the proposal about transfer to local authorities for the simple reason that we are at the moment in the middle of a local government reorganisation. It may well be that local authorities may be able to take on additional responsibilities at some date, but no function currently carried out or site supervised or any activity grant aided by the Countryside Council for Wales should be handed over to any other body, public or private, unless that organisation is able to carry out the work more effectively; or to manage it more effectively, or is able to take on the responsibility and has sufficient staff to do so. It seems to me that that is not the case now with local authorities.

We have just been debating the position of access through bridleways and footpaths, and the network of access—precisely an issue where local authorities in many areas have not been able to carry out their responsibilities. As vice-president of the Ramblers in Wales I am well aware of the deficiencies in that whole area. How can we possibly think, and how can the Minister's right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales think, that a transfer of conservation, and habitat conservation particularly, at this moment to other bodies, particularly local authorities, can be more effective? I believe there is a real danger that the Countryside Council for Wales may not be able to carry out its statutory duties in habitat conservation under European and UK legislation if the cuts proposed by his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales are implemented. I ask him to send the message to his colleagues, as strongly as possible, that that must not happen.

We shall want to return to the issue at a later stage of the Bill. However, on the basis of the partial assurances we have received this evening and the messages we are trying to send from this Chamber to the other department concerned, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.45 p.m.

Clause 70 [Powers to make orders]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 261:

Page 75, line 12, leave out from ("instrument") to end of line 13 and insert ("and no order contained in any such instrument shall be made unless a draft of the order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.").

The noble Baroness said: The amendment was put down following the recommendation of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. I shall move the amendment, but only in order to ask the Minister to confirm that the answer that he gave to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, during the debate on the Motion that Clause 60 should stand part of the Bill also applies to Clause 63, which was also the subject of the committee's comments.

The Minister spoke of the powers meaning "incidental, supplemental" and other provisions. Clause 70(3) states that the powers will "include" powers to make such provisions. It seemed to me as I listened to the Minister that he may not have taken account of the word "include", which suggests to me that there are other powers in addition to those which are listed. I shall understand if the Minister finds it difficult to respond to that particular point at this hour. I beg to move.

Viscount Ullswater: I can understand the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in the light of the report of the Select Committee on the scrutiny of delegated powers, which advised that this Chamber may wish to consider whether the affirmative procedure would be more appropriate in relation to the powers under Clauses 60 and 63. I hope that I can satisfy the Committee that those clauses are inherently sufficiently restrictive to make the negative procedure acceptable. I shall do so by reference to points which enabled the committee to conclude when it considered the same provisions in the National Parks Bill, introduced by my noble friend Lord Norrie, that,

    "as the Bill's provisions will have effect only within or for the purposes of National Parks, and are very narrowly prescribed, it is not unreasonable for those powers to be subject to the negative resolution procedure".

We consider that to enable the Secretary of State to provide for the establishment of national park authorities by order is the most practicable way of proceeding, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Williams. It is unlikely that all the national park authorities will be established at the same time. Therefore, as the timing may differ the circumstances of each park will need individual consideration to identify the provisions required in connection with the winding up of the existing body. Thus, we believe that in order to facilitate a smooth transition from the existing authorities to new authorities, powers to make incidental, supplemental, consequential and transitional provisions are essential.

The provisions in Clauses 60 and 63 will have effect only within or for the purposes of national parks and are very narrowly prescribed. The noble Lord, Lord Williams, will be aware that we accepted the positive resolution procedure under Amendment No. 241A, but

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the situation under Clause 70 is quite different from that under the new Section 78H of the Environmental Protection Act. That new section gives the Secretary of State the power to increase by order the maximum level of fine payable under subsection (1) of that section, and we have accepted that that should be subject to the positive resolution procedure. However, the purpose of Clause 70 is quite different. It provides for those incidental, supplemental, consequential and transitional purposes to be used only in connection with the primary power.

I believe that most of the words that I said regarding Clause 60 apply equally here. I hope, therefore, that the noble Baroness will allow Clause 70 to stand part of the Bill.

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