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Viscount Ullswater: I indicated at a much earlier stage that this would be subject to a great deal of consultation. I indicated to the noble Lord, Lord Wade, that we would be considering whether we should put that consultation in a statutory way on the face of the Bill. I also said that we may even consider whether it should be subject to affirmative resolution. I believe that that dispenses with the fact that it is a known scheme. There is no uncertainty.

Lord Marlesford: I believe that the sense of the Committee overall this evening has been that significant modifications to Clause 79 in the Bill as it stands are needed. There have been certain indications of where those modifications may be made. Obviously, this evening I shall not press the amendment, which puts forward some rather detailed modifications. We shall be able to return to this subject on Report with whatever further amendments seem appropriate. In the meantime, I ask the leave of the Committee to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 79 agreed to.

Clause 80 [Grants for purposes conducive to conservation]:

Baroness Nicol moved Amendment No. 313B:


Page 87, line 5, leave out from ("Treasury") to ("conducive") in line 8 and insert ("shall by regulation ensure that all agriculture and forestry payments are").

The noble Baroness said: At this late hour I do not propose to employ any arguments or illustrations in support of these amendments. I shall simply call them so that the Minister can give us the answer, which we are all very anxious to hear.

I simply wish to say that all these amendments provide in Clauses 80 and 81 an opportunity to improve the level of care for environmental considerations in farming and forestry practices. Too many of the present policies are not designed to include those issues.

Amendment No. 313B would put a duty on MAFF to consider such issues when designing or modifying farming and forestry schemes. Amendments Nos. 314A and 314C highlight the importance of cultural and historical landscape features and buildings in all such schemes. For the benefit of the noble Earl, Lord Peel, and the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, I consider grants to farmers to conserve such important buildings are essential. The changes proposed in those three amendments are echoed in Amendments Nos. 324B, 324C and 324D.

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Amendment No. 314B would ensure that all schemes designed for the public enjoyment of the countryside are consistent with conservation needs.

Amendment No. 314D puts responsibility on the Minister to give due regard to locally important landscapes. I underline the word "locally" in that context. I am sure that the Minister will respond to it.

Amendment No. 315B would require all payments made under this clause to be the subject of environmental assessment.

Finally, Amendment No. 315A addresses the specific problem in national parks and seeks to make the park authorities responsible for the administration of grants for purposes conducive to conservation. I beg to move Amendment No. 313B.

Lord Walpole: Perhaps I may say very briefly, in view of the time, that I obviously support everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, has just said. It widens out the measure to the more cultural, archaeological aspects and so on. I am afraid that that is what the Committee would expect me to say at this hour of the night. I strongly support the amendments.

Earl Peel: Unless I am very much mistaken, Amendment No. 313B, taken in isolation, would remove the ability of the Minister to make any provision for grants under this clause at all. So from that point of view alone, with the greatest respect to the noble Baroness, I feel that the amendment is rather strangely worded.

Equally, as I see it, Amendment No. 315A, as worded, would give the national parks a monopoly of providing grants throughout the countryside. I am sure that even my noble friend Lord Norrie would not want to see that happen.

As to Amendment No 315A, it would be a mistake if we were to pass over to the national park authorities the grant-making ability from the Government organisations and departments that have the expertise and the specialist knowledge to award them. I hope that the Committee will reject at least those two amendments

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: I want to speak briefly to Amendment No. 314, which has been grouped with these amendments but has not yet been mentioned. I shall not go any further with it tonight because to a certain extent it is about organic farming. The noble Lord who is the expert on organic farming on the opposite Benches is not with us this evening, so I shall wait until the next stage to discuss it.

There is a need for a wide ability to give grants, which help move agriculture in the right direction at the same time as preserving the countryside, and which produce the necessary amounts of carrots and sticks. That is the purpose of that amendment, and no doubt we shall come back to it on Report.

Lord Wise: My noble friend Viscount Addison was going to move Amendment No. 315A and he asked me if I would support it, so I shall speak, very briefly, to that Amendment.

I cannot entirely agree with my noble friend Earl Peel regarding this. Grant making to farmers and landowners for conservational and recreational purposes underlies

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the management strategies across the national parks. It also provides positive incentives for land management to achieve the national park purposes of conservation and promotion of enjoyment. There is no distinction to be drawn between the objectives of the schemes described in this clause and much of the work already carried out by the national park authorities.

In some cases this work is carried out through agency agreements relating to national schemes. The noble Lord, Lord Moran, has already referred to the Countryside Council for Wales, Tir Cymen, and its agency agreement with the Snowdonian National Park Authority is highly successful. Agreements are negotiated by the park staff, who provide a valuable local liaison service for the farming community. This amendment will enable that relationship to continue if Tir Cymen is handed over to the Welsh Office in the same way that Countryside Stewardship is to be transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in England.

The amendment would also enable Ministers in England and Wales to adopt national park schemes where appropriate. All the national parks have farm and countryside services, and some operate innovative farm schemes as part of those services. The successful North Yorkshire moors farm scheme, for instance, provides support for environmentally friendly farming practices in an area which does not benefit from having Environmentally Sensitive Area status.

Enabling national funds to be channelled into such schemes, with the park authority acting as agents for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, would only be beneficial.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Howe): These amendments all relate to the powers in Clause 80 under which my right honourable friends the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretaries of State for Wales and Scotland would be empowered to make grants for purposes conducive to conservation. I should declare an interest as the current recipient of a grant under the hedgerow incentive scheme.

Amendment No. 313B, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, and the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, would require these Ministers to regulate to ensure that all payments which they make are conducive to conservation of the countryside. The Government fully recognise the need for conservation implications to be taken into account in all payment schemes, not only those whose principal purpose is environmental. However, we do not consider that this amendment is necessary given the duty which already applies to the relevant Ministers under Section 17 of the Agriculture Act 1986 to achieve a reasonable balance between conservation, public enjoyment of the countryside and other interests in exercising any functions connected with agriculture. We believe that this duty is sufficient to ensure that Ministers must take conservation interests into account in all policy areas, and indeed the wording of Clause 80(1) of the Bill was drawn directly from Section 17 of the 1986 Act.

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My noble friend Lord Peel pointed out something very important about the amendment, which is that it is undesirable. It would leave out the wording in Clause 80 which enables the relevant Ministers to introduce new conservation grant schemes. I am sure that that was not the noble Baroness's intention. Specifically, the clause empowers the Minister of Agriculture, in particular, to operate countryside stewardship. The amendment would thereby undermine the original intention of the clause.

Amendment No. 314, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, will ensure that the conservation grant-making powers provided for in Clause 80 may be used to promote environmentally friendly farming methods. The Government fully support that intention. The countryside has been shaped by agriculture and its future conservation is dependent on farming methods taking full account of the needs of the environment. To this end, we have introduced a range of conservation schemes for farmers and indeed the central purpose of the clause is to enable the Minister of Agriculture to offer incentives to encourage environmentally sensitive farming on key landscape types in England as part of the countryside stewardship scheme.

However, while we endorse the intention of the amendment, we consider that the existing wording of Clause 80 is fully adequate. This enables the relevant Ministers to make grants for anything conducive to,


    "the conservation or enhancement of the natural beauty... of the countryside (including its flora and fauna and geological and physiographical features) or of any features of archaeological interest".

We are satisfied that this will enable Ministers to make a wide range of payments, as they consider appropriate, to promote environmentally sensitive farming.

Amendments Nos. 314A, 314C, 314D, 324B and 324D, in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, and the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, seek to extend the scope of Clauses 80 and 81 to include grants concerned with conservation of cultural or historic features and, specifically, the protection of buildings of cultural or historic interest.

First, with regard to buildings, we do not consider that it is appropriate or necessary to extend the grant-making powers of the relevant Ministers. To do so would extend unnecessarily the overlap with the extensive grant-making powers which English Heritage, Historic Scotland and Cadw/Welsh Historic Monuments already have in relation to historic buildings and monuments.


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