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COMMONS AMENDMENTS
191Schedule 1, page 124, line 46, leave out sub-paragraph (4).
192Page 125, line 24, leave out 'Water Resources Act 1991' and insert '1991 Act'.
193Page 125, line 28, leave out 'Water Resources Act 1991' and insert '1991 Act'.
194Schedule 3, page 136, line 4, leave out ', with the consent of the Treasury,'.

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195Page 136, line 8, leave out ', with the consent of the Treasury,'.
196Schedule 5, page 142, line 33, leave out 'with the consent of the Treasury'.
197Page 142, line 42, leave out 'with the consent of the Treasury'.
198Page 142, line 45, leave out 'with the consent of the Treasury'.
199Schedule 6, page 146, line 43, leave out ', with the approval of the Treasury,'.
200Page 146, line 47, leave out ', with the approval of the Treasury,'.
201Page 147, line 35, leave out ', with the consent of the Treasury,'.
202Page 149, line 22, leave out paragraph 19.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 191 to 202. They have been spoken to before.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 191 to 202.—(Earl Ferrers.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


COMMONS AMENDMENT
203Schedule 7, page 149, line 44, at end insert:
'(2A) In the case of a National Park authority for a National Park in England, such number as may be specified in the relevant order of the number of members of the authority to be appointed by the Secretary of State shall be parish members.'.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 203. I propose also that Amendments Nos. 204 to 209 be considered en bloc.

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Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 203.—(Earl Ferrers.)


AMENDMENT TO COMMONS AMENDMENT NO. 203
203AThat this House do disagree to Commons Amendment No. 203 but propose the following amendment in lieu thereof:
Schedule 7, page 149, line 44, at end insert:
("to represent the national interest in the statutory purposes of National Parks.").

Lord Norrie: My Lords, I disagree with Commons Amendments Nos. 203 to 209 and I believe that my Amendment No. 203A in lieu would be totally consistent with the Edwards Report and ensure that the Secretary of State appoints members to the national parks authorities in order to represent the national interest. I think the Government got it right the first time, as the Bill closely reflected the report's recommendations. The authorities which run national parks must reflect the broad range of interests in the parks themselves. The Edwards Report recommended that the membership of the park authorities should be split three ways. One-third should represent national interests, one-third the park in its regional context, and one-third local interests. The beauty of this formula is that it achieves a balance.

Local interests are extremely important and I fully appreciate that. In the words of the Government, they are "living and working landscapes", and the people who live in the parks should, quite rightly, have an important say in how they will be run. The Edwards structure also reflects the fact that the parks are of national significance in both environmental terms and for the opportunities that they afford for outdoor recreation. They are national assets, part of the "critical natural capital" of England and Wales. They must therefore be managed in this broader context in order to ensure that they remain a resource for the whole country.

The new proposals for membership of the English park authorities upset this balance. A new category of membership is created—parish representatives—at the expense of both members representing the national interest and those appointed by local authorities. Parish members will be expected to represent all parishes that fall within the park boundaries. In the Peak District there are over 120 parish councils. I remain to be convinced that four or five parish council members, appointed by the Secretary of State, will be able adequately to represent the interests of all those parishes. In fact I suspect that the proposals may lead to new problems, particularly in trying to meet the aspirations of those parishes which do not have members sitting on the new authorities.

I am particularly worried about the whittling away of the proportion of members representing the national interest on the parks. My amendment would make it clear beyond doubt that the Secretary of State should appoint members in order to represent the national interest in the statutory purposes of national parks. This is an extremely important safeguard.

The Edwards panel examined the membership arrangements for the new authorities in detail. It examined the idea of appointing parish representatives to park authorities and rejected this. The panel concluded that the best way to ensure that local interests were taken

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into account by the authorities was through increasing the proportion of district council representatives. As originally drafted, the Bill did this by increasing district council membership from one-seventh to one-third, and requiring that wherever possible local authority members should represent wards within the park. Furthermore, the Bill already requires park authorities formally to liaise with the parish councils in their areas. This will best be done through the parish fora. I believe it is the best way of ensuring that national park authorities are in touch with the views of the local community.

I had hoped that the Government would have been able to stick to the formula recommended by Edwards. That formula was carefully debated in the context of my Private Member's Bill, whose provisions were in turn reflected in the drafting of this Bill. I am therefore most disappointed that the Government have brought forward changes which could diminish the national and regional interest in the parks and which appear to undermine the role of the district councils. I hope that, when responding to my amendments, my noble friend the Minister will, even if he cannot accept them, be able to offer some reassurance on the following points. First, will he assure the House that when any appointments are made by the Secretary of State to a national park authority, the individuals appointed will be carefully selected in order to reflect the best possible mix of interests relevant to a national park?

Secondly, will he confirm that the "non-parish" Secretary of State appointees will be chosen specifically to represent the national interest in the statutory purposes of the national parks, and that they will have the relevant expertise? Thirdly, will he undertake to ensure that all appointees will be fully informed as to the purposes for which the parks were originally designated? I beg to move.

Moved, that the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 203 but do propose Amendment No. 203A in lieu thereof.—(Lord Norrie.)

Baroness Nicol: My Lords, I share the worries of the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, and I wish to add one or two of my own. I understand that these changes were made quite suddenly and with little consultation. Among the few people who were consulted, there was considerable opposition to the Government's proposals.

What worries me most is that there seems to be no limit to the length of time a parish representative appointed by the Secretary of State may serve. It is considered by one or two of those who know about these matters that the Secretary of State may find that he cannot end that appointment, so that the authority will become a quango, but a quango without an end because the Secretary of State cannot end what he has begun. It would be helpful if the Minister could at least clarify that point. At present the Secretary of State's appointees representing the national interest must serve a minimum of one year and a maximum of three. It seems unreasonable to replace them with open-ended appointments.

The noble Lord, Lord Norrie, explained the main anxiety concerning losing sight of the national interest. I hope that the Minister will be able to demonstrate that that has not been lost sight of in all the pressure that has been

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put on the Government to represent local interests perhaps beyond what is reasonable in the context of the national parks.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, the Edwards formula was arrived at after a great deal of consultation. It is well known. It was agreed by all the organisations with an interest in the national parks. It strikes a balance between three different but complementary interests—national, regional and local—and it underlines the national importance of the parks. The new proposals do not. They provide a formula which appears to have been cobbled together at very short notice. It is difficult to understand, and it is questionable whether it will achieve what the Government intend.

The proposals have been opposed totally by organisations with an interest in the parks, with the exception of the parish councils which benefit directly, and even some of those have reservations about them.

This is a retrograde step on the part of the Government. It is certainly not an improvement. I hope that at this late stage at the very least the noble Earl will be able to answer satisfactorily the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol.


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