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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I would like the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, to know that not only is it my birthday but my Chinese horoscope sign is a metal dragon! So he hit home more accurately than I suspect he realised. I appreciate that I am giving the noble Lord a very difficult time in advising him that there are many areas in which the Government would like or prefer to see options left open. Therefore, I try with brevity, where I feel that brevity will suffice, to indicate those areas where we would not wish silence to be interpreted as support.

Lord Chorley: I wonder if it would help the noble Baroness if, instead of using the words,

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, is shortly to be followed by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, who is about to talk to me about people's juries.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I have been tempted. I mentioned on Second Reading that I did not much see the point of the advisory council. I am sure that many people will advise the board and so they should, but I do not see that the establishment of yet another body has any advantage. Whatever we call it--"advisory council", "focus group"--the board will call for advice from those appropriate when appropriate.

Lord Rotherwick: Since birthdays have been mentioned twice now and all my amendments have not been accepted by the Minister, I wonder whether, if I were to wish her a happy birthday, she might be able to accept some of the amendments in the future?

I am grateful that she is indicating some of the Government's thinking on this. It probably goes back to Amendment No. 12 where, at some later stage, whether it be in this Bill or in a government Bill, we shall take we will take some considerable time looking at what the balance of a conservation board would be and what national dimension it would have. These are important subjects and ones on which we will spend a considerable time later on, but perhaps not at this time. Therefore I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 19 not moved.]

29 Jun 1999 : Column CWH34

Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 20:

Page 3, line 33, at end insert--
("( ) The area of outstanding natural beauty management plan shall be published in draft form for consultation purposes.
( ) Written submissions will be accepted for a period of six weeks beginning on the date of publication.
( ) Submissions will be taken into account by the local planning authority and the conservation board in producing the final management plan.")

The noble Lord said: This group of amendments is vital if consultation is to become a firm part of this legislation. It will ensure a local voice for the management plan, and that is important if we are to have an harmonious approach to land management. It is the diversity and the regional character of the areas that make them beautiful, and this sort of management is not one that benefits from best practice. The tendency to overcentralise and homogenise can be overcome by consultation. The time limit will allow the orderly production of a final plan. I beg to move.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: I should like to speak to Amendment No. 21, which has been grouped with Amendment No. 20, and sets out to serve very much the same purpose. My amendment is somewhat less prescriptive. It is more general in its effect, but I do not know that that makes it any better an amendment than that of my noble friend.

The principle of wider consultation is an extremely good one. A lot of people will be affected by the management plan for the AONB. It is clearly necessary that it should be published in draft form; that written submissions should be accepted for a reasonable period; and that the submissions should then be taken into account. If it is the wish of the Committee I shall very gladly withdraw my amendment in the hope that the amendment of my noble friend Lord Rotherwick wins the support of the Committee.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: It may assist the Committee if on this occasion I give the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, the answer he is seeking. The Government can accept this amendment in principle. It would be highly desirable for AONB management plans to be open for comment before adoption. Of course we would need to look at the precise timetable and framing in greater depth, but I can assure the noble Lord that his good wishes did not bring this about, otherwise we will be littered with "Happy Birthdays" for the rest of this Grand Committee.

The Government also feel that Amendment No. 21 contains a sensible suggestion which they can accept, extending as it does the list of organisations which a conservation board must consult in relation to new or amended plans, to include any other such bodies, organisations and members of the public as the board thought fit.

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Lord Rotherwick: I am grateful, especially to my noble friend Lord Renton for withdrawing his amendment in favour of mine.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: Thanks to the spirit of generosity of the Minister, she is prepared to accept both our amendments. They cover slightly different ground.

Lord Rotherwick: In that case I need not say anything more.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry moved Amendment No. 21:

Page 4, line 3, at end insert ("and
(c) such other bodies, organisations and members of the public with an interest in the area as they think fit.")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 22 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 22 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 3, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

5.45 p.m.

Lord Jopling: The discussion we have had so far with regard to the noble Baroness and her birthday reminds me of an occasion once in the other place when a great friend of mine had failed to catch the Speaker's eye. We asked him whether he had done anything for the Speaker for Christmas. We had great difficulty in persuading this hapless Member to put a brace of pheasants in the Bag and stick them behind the Speaker's chair. We nearly succeeded in doing this.

I have been pondering on the comments which my noble friend Lord Renton made when we discussed Clause 1. I come back to the remarks I made at that time because they are very appropriate to Clause 3 stand part. He told us, as I said, that these boards should be set up only if that were the wish of the local people. I think Hansard will show that he said that on two occasions. I did ask, when I spoke on Clause 1 stand part, where those remarks were enshrined in the Bill, and I said I had not been able to find them. I was referred to the part of Clause 3 at the bottom of page 2, where it refers to Section 88B. That is the relevant part of the Bill which refers to the process of setting up these boards.

I think that I was correct in saying there is nothing on the face of the Bill which reflects the very firm view of the noble Lord that these boards should be set up only if that were the will of the local people. Therefore, if he would agree to what I am about to suggest, I should feel infinitely happier about this whole Bill. I wonder if he and I might get together between now and the Report stage to see whether we could find some words to insert in the Bill at the very bottom of page 2 after subsection (2) which refers to whom the Secretary of State shall consult.

I am drafting aloud here, and I hope I shall not be stuck with it. But after it says whom he shall consult perhaps we should add words to the effect, "and shall only make the order if there is the broad consent of those he has consulted". It seems to me that if we could

29 Jun 1999 : Column CWH36

transfer that very clear aim as regards this Bill on to the face of the Bill, it would make it a great deal more attractive to many of us.

When my noble friend responds to the debate on the question that Clause 3 stand part, I plead with him to agree that we should include words to make it quite clear that these boards would be set up only if there was broad local agreement. I am not suggesting for a moment that there should be 100 per cent agreement, but broad agreement. Then it would make this Bill much more digestible for very many of us.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I know that the contents of Clause 3 bear considerable resemblance to the advice on future management of the AONBs received by Ministers from the former Countryside Commission, and which the Government are still studying. I am not, therefore, in a position to take any definitive line today in respect of the Government's intentions.

Clause 3 would place a duty on local authorities in relation to the conservation and management of AONBs and provide for the creation of statutory AONB conservation boards in suitable places. We are looking carefully at these questions. It would also require the compilation of AONB management plans. We are in favour of those but we are still considering their possible statutory status and how they might fit with the statutory system of development plans.

Clause 3 also provides for conservation boards to be levying bodies. This question will need to be settled as one of the core questions about funding of conservation boards if they come into being. The Government have not reached a conclusion in their considerations. It may be helpful if I say that I listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, and will wait before commenting on the outcome of any discussions he may have between now and Report stage.

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