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Lord Rotherwick: I, too, support this very important amendment. It is something which we need very badly

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in the countryside. It is vital that we embrace this type of amendment. I can only say that some of my farm buildings--and they include Grade II buildings--are now used as office blocks. That means that not only do we derive the majority of our income from those office blocks but it means also that we are able to take forward the renovation and conservation work to which we are dedicated.

It is interesting also to note that the team that does that work on those office blocks is four times larger than our farming staff; and the office blocks now have approximately 100 people employed in them. The number of people on our estate is now approaching the number which there would have been at the turn of the century. That is particularly important, because the estate is beginning to breathe and live again, as it used to. Perhaps the most important impact, however, stems from the fact that those 100 people are commuting locally. They are not commuting into Oxford and helping to create those long traffic jams. I have seen at first hand how important this type of amendment is and I can only hope that everybody in this Committee, including the Minister, will accept it.

Baroness Byford: I rise to support this amendment, moved so ably by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley. It is indeed a very important amendment, which I hope the Minister will be able to accept. As other Members of the Committee have said, farming has been going through a dreadful time. One important factor which has emerged from that has been the shrinkage of the numbers involved in the farming industry. I believe that this amendment would allow a better use of facilities; the ability to encourage small rural businesses of which we are greatly in need today; and for our young people to look to be able to go to work, in whatever capacity that may be.

It is sad, but is a fact, that we now have fewer farmers and there are increasing problems for tenant farmers and for part-time farmers. I do not live in an area of outstanding natural beauty but many of my farming friends have diversified in many different ways. Perhaps I may take up a comment made by my noble friend Lady Anelay. Our neighbouring farmer farms only about 250-300 acres--so it is a small farm--outside Leicester. It was a great joy to us when, last year, his farm won an award as a tourist attraction in Leicestershire. He had some 33,000 visitors to his farm, which he opens so that people may visit and get to know what goes on on the land.

Therefore, I feel that this is a very important amendment for us and for the future and particularly for young people. We want to be able to offer them the facility to be able to work within the rural environment, as was said previously. It means that they do not have to travel miles to the towns and cities. Therefore, we need this degree of flexibility. This amendment will be welcomed and supported and I am very pleased to support it.

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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I should like to deal with Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 9. The Government are not prepared to accept them in their present form, although we would wish to look very carefully at the possibility of a socio-economic duty. We certainly accept the principle that we need to have regard to social and economic issues, as well as those concerned with natural beauty when planning for and managing AONBs.

The precise way in which this may be expressed in legislation needs further careful consideration. Local authorities already have economic, environmental and social powers and duties in respect of the areas included within AONBs. The Government's agenda, set out in a White Paper last July, said that local authorities should be weighing economic, social and environmental considerations when deciding what actions to take to improve local quality of life.

The Government are committed to providing a legislative framework which allows local authorities to further all these aims. The position regarding AONBs needs to be looked at in terms of our wider agenda. If the Committee will forgive me, I shall continue at a little greater length because it is an important area and it is important for me to express views on the record.

Amendment Nos. 6 and 7 would provide that in pursuance of the new duty to promote the conservation and management of AONBs which the Bill would create, local planning authorities will also have to seek to foster the economic and social wellbeing of local communities. Amendment No. 9 would impose a similar duty on a conservation board in carrying out its duty to promote conservation and management of an AONB and seek to foster social and economic wellbeing.

As for statutory conservation boards, if they proceed towards the statute book we will consider what duties are necessary. Under the 1995 Environment Act national park authorities have a socio-economic duty, but are prevented from spending significant sums in carrying this out. This is to ensure that their focus remains on their primary purposes, which in the case of national parks are conservation and education recreation. We might want to consider a similar legislative constraint for AONB conservation boards. Otherwise there are significant implications for overall funding levels and for the relationship with other bodies, not least the local authorities.

I apologise for speaking at length, but I thought it would be helpful.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Chorley: First of all I should like to thank all Members of the Committee for the wide measure of support for this amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Stanley, rightly said that conservation does not come cheaply. On the other hand, if we do not have conservation we will lose the nice things we have, and it has to be funded.

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To turn to the noble Baroness's reply on behalf of the Government, I am not sure whether she was voting against the amendment--she probably was, being not content with it. I would be happy to take it away if we could have some help from the department.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: If I may put words into the noble Baroness's mouth, she would not accept this on behalf of the Government, but in fact she does not accept the Bill as such. I do not believe that the Minister is voting against these amendments, rather she does not wholeheartedly agree with the Bill.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: We are in danger of getting into difficulty. Perhaps I may go back to my first point. We are not prepared to accept these amendments in their present form, though we would wish to look very carefully at the possibility of socio-economic duty which is raised in Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 9.

Lord Chorley: For my part I would be quite happy to take this away and, perhaps in conjunction with officials, to try and find a form of words which is a bit closer to something with which the Government could agree. My difficulty is that we do not necessarily know that there will be a Report stage of this Bill. I should like to press the amendment as it stands, but I am not sure if I have that right.

The Chairman of Committees: The question is that this amendment be agreed to. Does the Minister want to say "Not Content"?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: No, I abstain. My understanding was that there must be total agreement to amendments. I must seek the guidance of the Chairman. My understanding of the procedure in Grand Committee in the Moses Room is that either all noble Lords speak in support of an amendment or it is not put. That was my understanding and I think I have been in error. Therefore I shall abstain.

The Chairman of Committees: The noble Baroness is correct: we cannot have any Divisions in Committee. Since it has not been possible to agree the amendment I must declare it to be withdrawn, but the matter may be returned to on Report if there is to be a Report stage on the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 7 to 11 not moved.]

Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 12:


Page 3, line 4, leave out from ("of") to end of line 6 and insert ("parish council members")

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 12 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 13. We all agree that these areas of outstanding natural beauty are national assets, but we must also recognise the impact that these management schemes will have on the local people and their livelihoods. The local people have been custodians of these areas for generations. They live and breathe this environment. They are the reason that these

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areas are beautiful. They were, on the whole, the creators. To give them anything but a central role in the preservation of these areas is unreasonable.

Amendment No. 13 is on a slightly different tack and I am not sure that it should be coupled with No. 12. However, I shall speak to it at the same time. These bodies will wield enormous power in their influence. To represent the people most affected, we should allow the widest participation by the local communities. To limit the nomination period would lead to positions being filled by unusual suspects. Public service should seek to include the widest range and highest number of participants. I beg to move.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Amendment No. 15 is tabled with Amendment No. 11. I start by apologising to Members of the Committee if I repeat myself, which I am afraid is inevitable in this Bill because it goes round one or two main points. However, I should like to put on record rather more clearly what I have previously stated.

The amendments deal with who should be on the boards. The object of my amendment is as follows. The Secretary of State is being given a strong steer in terms of ensuring that those persons who are actually managing the landscape (the outstanding quality of which has led the area to be designated in the first place) are represented on the board--a point that I have already raised. In practice, that will invariably mean appointing farmers and landowners after the Secretary of State has consulted organisations which represent them. That may answer one of the questions that the noble Baroness raised on my previous amendment; perhaps that is the way to do it.

Marking the card of the Secretary of State in that way is necessary because his consultations with the Countryside Commission, English Nature and local authorities is likely to produce a list of candidates--dare I say it?--who are strongly committed to conservation but are not necessarily involved with encouraging the economy of these often fragile areas. I speak with feeling. A constructive partnership between those agencies that I have just mentioned and authorities with farmers and landowners is vital if the boards' environmental as well as other objectives are to be achieved.

Amendment No. 15 is really tied up with Amendment No. 11. These amendments do not impose a specific formula or proportion for land manager appointments. I fully understand that it is important to have flexibility, to tailor the boards to the circumstances of the various AONBs. We should remind ourselves that the Bill does not deal only with the AONB about which the noble Lord is rightly concerned. We wish to obviate the absurdity of a board which excludes the only people, such as I have mentioned, who are in a position directly to affect the maintenance and enhancement of the AONB.

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Perhaps it is too easy for a farmer to ruin an AONB--sometimes intentionally, I am sorry to say, and sometimes unintentionally. It is vital that they are heavily involved in the representation on the boards.


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