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Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, perhaps the noble Earl will allow me to intervene. The local people—a rather dismissive term—have a perfect right to elect their representatives on district councils which, in the original Edwards formula, are part of a national park authority. But it is not a question of parish councils.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the noble Lord states that it is not a question of parish councils; I suggest that it is. We suggest that parish councils should have an involvement in the matter. We believe that those aims are best and most practically achieved by the proposals which are given effect to by Amendments Nos. 203 to 209 which my noble friend Lord Norrie does not care for. I believe that these amendments will enable a proper balance to be achieved between the local authorities with the wider national interest, and the particular concerns of those who actually live and work in the parks.

In making his appointments, the Secretary of State will continue to select individuals for their personal qualities and experience and not as representatives of specific groups or organisations. While he expects his members to have regard to the interests of all who are concerned with a specific park, his primary concern is that they should

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bring to the authorities' deliberations the wider national viewpoint. Candidates already come from a wide range of backgrounds and interests. They are made up of farmers, business people, conservationists and representatives of a wide variety of leisure activities as well as those with a more general interest in the countryside and national parks in particular.

The Secretaries of State will continue to be advised on those national appointments by the Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales which provide an independent input to the selection process and whose advice has always been valuable. We also make clear that parish members are to be appointed to represent the wider park view and not just the interests of their own parish. I do not think that these proposals reduce the importance of local authority members on the new authorities. I can assure your Lordships that these amendments do not change the principles enshrined in the Bill either that every principal council with land in the parks will be entitled to have at least one member on the new authorities, or that they will continue to have a majority of the membership.

I do not think that the role of the Secretary of State's "own" appointees will be diluted. My noble friend Lord Norrie was concerned that familiarity with the purposes of the national parks and the interests of those whom they represent might not be adequate. We would encourage the countryside agencies, in consultation with the national park authorities, to ensure that all new members are familiar with the workings of the national parks and their purposes.

The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, was concerned that there was no limit to the number of parish member appointments. Amendment No. 205 limits the term of parish member appointments to the term of their appointment as parish councillors.

The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, was worried that the consultation exercise was restricted to local authorities. The exercise followed the normal procedure for such exercises. There was no hesitation in the willingness of other bodies to respond. The noble Baroness, Lady David, asked why the amendments had been produced so late. The issue of local representation has been raised at every stage of the Bill. It was the intention, which was announced at Second Reading in another place, to introduce amendments and the arguments were introduced at the first opportunity after the consultation exercise was completed.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, was concerned about the Welsh national park authorities. Because of commitments which have already been made in respect of the membership of the national park boards being established under the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 and the circular letters which had already been issued for consultations about establishing Welsh national park authorities, the Secretary of State for Wales proposes to leave unchanged the provisions for membership of the national park authorities as they apply to Wales.

It is no surprise that the way in which local people influence the management of national parks should have taken up a large proportion of the time which has been spent in discussing Part III of the Bill. We have always

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emphasised the importance of giving local people the opportunity to make their views known and to have a real input into park affairs. I believe that that is best done by the amendments which the Commons has agreed to, and I hope that your Lordships will agree with them.

9 p.m.

Baroness David: My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, he has not answered my question. There were months and months of consultation after the Edwards Report and the membership was not questioned until, as the noble Earl said, it was mentioned at Second Reading in another place. It seems to me that we need an explanation of why there should have been such a big change at this late moment.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I do not think that it was a late moment. Obviously one has consultations, views fluctuate, thoughts are exchanged and eventually one reaches a conclusion. When that happens at Second Reading, I do not believe that it is the latest stage. It happened after due consideration.

Lord Vinson: My Lords, there is a tendency to think that because Edwards said it, it is written in stone. There are many other points of view besides those of Professor Edwards, worthy though his may be. The whole point of this debate is to bring up sensible alternatives. He was a single issue man and this debate has broadened the discussion. As a result, the law will be much better.

Lord Norrie: My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for his reply. I hope that he agrees that this debate has at least been useful to remind ourselves of the three components of the national park authorities' membership. I shall study his reply tomorrow. However, I wonder whether he could clarify one more point. Will the draft guidance covering membership arrangements be produced? Will there be an opportunity to comment on the arrangements before the draft is finalised? I shall wait for the reply, if the Minister is in a position to answer, before saying what I shall do.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, my noble friend need not necessarily wait for my reply. I am always in a position to be able to answer. It is merely a question of whether a reply will be more accurate with further time for consideration. The noble Baroness, Lady David, does not seem to like to give that. I believe that the answer is in the affirmative.

Lord Norrie: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his helpful reply. I do not wish to prolong the proceedings and beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment No. 203A, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 203, by leave, withdrawn.


AMENDMENT TO COMMONS AMENDMENT NO. 203
203BLeave out ("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") and insert ("of").

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 203B which is grouped with my Amendments Nos. 203C, 204B and 205B to 205K. The main amendment in the group is Amendment No. 205B; the others are consequential.

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In moving the amendment, I ask your Lordships to consider the question of democracy. The proposal for the election of parish councillors—that is elections by the electorate from among parish councillors—is not the first choice of myself or these Benches for the appropriate way to appoint or constitute the national park authorities. The amendment is an attempt to inject an element of democracy rather than extending "quangodom" and failing notably to enhance accountability.

The parish councillors will be appointed, as the Government propose, as other members of quangos, even though no doubt they will have their own priorities. The Government's proposals do not improve democratic accountability to any significant extent. The number of elected members—the number of members who can serve with a mandate because they have been elected by the local community—is cut; and the parish councillors will owe their places to the Secretary of State. I accept that this would not be the first choice of approach, but at this late stage my amendment attempts at least to include an element of democracy. I beg to move.

Moved, That Amendment No. 203B, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 203, be agreed to.—(Baroness Hamwee.)

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I can understand the noble Baroness's desire to introduce an element of democracy into all this. I am surprised that she did not try to import a bit of proportional representation, too, while she was about it.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I sometimes recognise defeat before it comes and hits me in the face.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, in that case, there is not much point in my answering the noble Baroness's amendment. However, it would be discourteous of me not to do so. I understand her desire to try to introduce some form of democracy. She wants to introduce a requirement that parishes wholly or partly within the parks should form one voting body for the purposes of electing parish members to the new authorities.

In arriving at our own proposals in Amendments Nos. 203 to 209, we considered the option that parish members for each national park authority should be identified through some form of electoral process rather than be appointed by the Secretary of State. I can understand the noble Baroness's view. We are together in that. However, in the end we felt that it would be impossible to impose on parishes the requirement to hold elections in order to identify the parish members in the absence of any existing mechanisms that could be adapted for the purpose.

We are aware that some parks have parish fora which might be responsible for running elections in their parks. In other parks, however, there may be no agreed organisation which could undertake the task of running an election; nor might the parishes agree on the process to be adopted or on when elections should be held. We therefore concluded that amending the Bill to require parish members to be elected could not be done without also drawing up a complete new set of provisions governing the conduct of those elections. We came to the conclusion that to try to amend the Bill at this stage

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to make such a provision would have been a very complex task. Instead, we opted for the simpler, more practical, route of appointment by the Secretary of State. We have made it perfectly clear, however, that we should be more than content for parishes in each park to decide collectively the nominations to be put before my right honourable friend.

Nor will the Secretary of State have discretion over the terms of their appointments. Amendment No. 205 provides for parish members to hold office from the time of their appointment until they cease to be members of their parish councils. If they are re-elected to their parish councils, they will also be eligible for reappointment to the national park authorities, provided their names are again put before the Secretary of State.

I understand the intention that underlies the noble Baroness's amendment, but I do not believe that at this stage in the Bill's progress it would be suitable. As I have tried to explain, we have done the best we can without proposing a whole new set of regulations to say how elections should be conducted. We decided to use a system that will make sure that parish councillors are appointed but will ensure that people in the parishes have the right and the duty to put before the Secretary of State those whom they believe will be most suitable for appointment.


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