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Lord Elis-Thomas: I am very grateful to the Minister for his reassurance which, together with his earlier reassurance in the context of this debate, enables me to signal quite clearly that the Welsh Development Agency will have a key role in carrying out these objectives. On those grounds, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 128 agreed to.

Schedule 10 [Welsh Development Agency: land provisions]:

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns moved Amendment No. 260B:

Page 104, line 14, after ("is") insert ("a public right of way, or is").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 260B and speak also to Amendment No. 260C which is grouped with it. The issues raised by these amendments, and by Amendments Nos. 261A and 262ZA to which I shall refer later, were drawn to my attention by the Open Spaces Society. A week or so ago that body was preparing amendments for the Regional Development Agencies Bill. It was as a result of its research in relation to that Bill that the society recognised certain deficiencies in this Bill. I am grateful to that society for bringing these matters to my attention so that I am able to raise them today.

The Open Spaces Society is concerned with the protection and enhancement of commons, public spaces and public rights of way in both town and countryside. These amendments reflect that concern. They intend to clarify or safeguard points of doubt. I accept that more expert drafting than mine may be desirable, but at this stage these are intended to be probing amendments. I hope that at Report stage the Government will be prepared to use them as a basis for their own amendments. I am also aware that the Government have had good prior notice of these amendments. The Open Spaces Society very properly sent on 1st June a copy of the amendments and its arguments to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn.

Amendment No. 260B attempts to remove an ambiguity in the Bill. Neither the Welsh Development Agency Act 1975 nor this Bill appears to contain special provisions for the extinguishment or diversion of highways or public rights of way. It is assumed that the agency must rely on the normal provisions of the Highways Act 1980 or the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. If that is the case it is desirable that it should be made unambiguous, because the standard procedures ensure that certain voluntary bodies are, in the appropriate regulations, given the right to be notified

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of any such proposals to enable them to make representations. I understand that the relevant bodies covering Wales are: the Auto-Cycle Union, British Horse Society, Byways and Bridleways Trust, Cyclists' Touring Club, Open Spaces Society, Ramblers' Association and Welsh Trail Riders' Association.

I speak now to Amendment No. 260C which is grouped with this amendment. This amendment also refers to the operation of Schedule 10. Schedule 10 inserts a new Section 21A into the 1975 Act and subsection (2)(b) of that enables the Welsh Development Agency to acquire land to be given in exchange for land forming part of a common, open space or fuel or field garden allotment, but it does not compel such an exchange. Section 19(1) of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 requires the Secretary of State to certify, for compulsory purchases, that except in minor cases he is satisfied that there will be given in exchange for such land other land not less in area and equally advantageous to the public and commoners, or that the land is being acquired to secure its preservation or improve its management. If the Secretary of State is unable so to certify, the order must be subject to special parliamentary procedure and approved by both Houses of Parliament. It is important that these provisions apply if the agency is able to acquire open space and other such land by agreement. I hope that these will be viewed in the manner in which they are intended--as helpful amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I appreciate the spirit in which these amendments are offered. The amendments seek to ascertain the position in relation to public rights of way and open spaces. I do not believe that either amendment is necessary. I deal first with Amendment No. 260B. That amendment is intended to protect public rights of way. The protection sought by the noble Baroness is already provided by other legislation, in particular the Highways Acts.

The provisions of the new Schedule 4 to the Welsh Development Agency Act 1975 are intended to provide the agency with the identical powers which for the past two decades have been enjoyed by the Land Authority for Wales without any question of abuse arising from the use of such powers. It is entirely consistent with the Government's intention to create the "new" WDA that the agency inherit these powers. I would reassure the noble Baroness that the agency would not seek to make use of its compulsory purchase powers were an alternative solution available. Indeed, the Act provides that any parties suffering loss as a result of the extinguishment of a public right of way will be entitled to compensation by the agency.

I hope that in the light of those assurances, the noble Baroness will feel satisfied in relation to the issue of public rights of way to which Amendment No. 260B relates.

Amendment No. 260C relates to the provision that land acquired by the agency must be used in accordance with planning permission where that land forms part of a common, open space or a fuel or field garden allotment. For perhaps understandable reasons, the noble Baroness is seeking to single out the Welsh

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Development Agency for particularly stringent treatment here, since her amendment would require the agency to comply with Section 19 of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 whether or not the land in question had been acquired compulsorily. As matters stand presently, only land acquired compulsorily is subject to Section 19 of the 1981 Act. Where common land is acquired compulsorily by the agency, the provisions of Section 19 will automatically apply, and will continue to apply.

To extend Section 19, as is proposed in the noble Baroness's amendment, to land acquired by agreement would inhibit the freedom of a landowner to sell land for development which would accord with the needs identified in the adopted local plan. It would be inappropriate to extend to land sold by agreement the legislation which applies only to compulsory purchase. This is no disrespect to the noble Baroness, but she has given no reasons why this extension of the law should be applied. In view of that explanation, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Before the noble Baroness replies, perhaps I may speak to a government amendment in this group, Amendment No. 261. It is of a technical nature relating to the Welsh Development Agency's compulsory acquisition powers.

As currently drafted, paragraph 16 of Schedule 10 provides that the security of tenure provisions in the Rent Act 1977 shall not prevent the agency from acquiring a house under the Acquisition of Land Act 1981. The Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976 and the Housing Act 1988 also provide for security of tenure and the amendment proposes that that security should not prevent the agency from obtaining possession of the property. However, the amendment does not affect rights to compensation which exist under the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965. Finally, the amendment ensures consistency with the Regional Development Agencies Bill. At an appropriate moment I shall formally move the amendment.

6 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns: I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for the assurances he gave on public rights of way. On first hearing, I believe that they meet my objection. I shall read Hansard carefully on the matter. With regard to acquisition of land by agreement and the points he puts regarding Amendment No. 260C, I shall not move that amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 260C not moved.]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 261:

Page 110, line 38, leave out ("Act 1977") and insert (" (Agriculture) Act 1976, the Rent Act 1977 or the Housing Act 1988").

The noble and learned Lord said: I have just spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Schedule 10, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 129 agreed to.

Schedule 11 [Welsh Development Agency: other amendments]:

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns moved Amendment No. 261A:

Page 113, line 10, at end insert--
("(1A) In subsection (4) (duty of Agency to have regard to requirements of agriculture and efficient land management), after "regard to" insert--
"(a) the conservation and enhancement of natural beauty and the conservation of flora, fauna, and geological or physiological features of special interest;
(b) the desirability of protecting and conserving buildings, sites and objects of archaeological or historic interest and enabling the public to visit and inspect them;
(c) any effect proposals would have on the beauty or amenity of any urban or rural area or on any such flora, fauna, features, buildings, sites or objects; and

The noble Baroness said: With the permission of the Committee, I speak also to Amendment No. 262ZA which is grouped with it. These are in the nature of probing amendments.

Amendment No. 261A inserts a new subsection into Schedule 11 in order to strengthen the recognition of the importance of the environment. In a number of Acts in recent years, bodies which have been given statutory powers have also been required to think positively about conservation. The Open Spaces Society tells me it appreciates that Sections 1(2)(d) and (3)(h) and (i) of the Welsh Development Agency Act 1975 already recognise the importance of the environment, but it is considered that they need strengthening. The proposed amendment is a simplified version of Section 3 of the Water Industry Act 1991. It has been put in Section 1(4) before the existing reference to agriculture for ease of drafting, not to imply an order of importance. As the Committee will appreciate, I would not undertake to table amendments which undermine the importance of agriculture. I believe that the amendment would not do so.

Amendment No. 262ZA amends the list of definitions of those activities which may be included within the definition of "business" in Schedule 11, paragraph 10(2). It adds the term "recreational" to the list in order to make it clear that the word "business" may include a recreational activity, perhaps that organised by a charity. I beg to move.

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