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Lord Beaumont of Whitley: I am extremely grateful to the Minister for what he has said. It appears that the Government have taken this on board, are doing

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something about it and will produce resources with which to put it into action. As I said at the beginning, this is a probing amendment. I doubt whether anything much remains to which we shall need to return on Report. Therefore, I shall consult the noble Lord, Lord Moran, and, in the meantime, beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 70 [Powers of entry]:

[Amendment No. 521B not moved.]

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 521C:


    Page 44, line 33, leave out ("the") and insert ("or in relation to").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 521C, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 521D and 521E. Briefly, Amendments Nos. 521C and 521D attempt to stretch the protection of SSSIs inasmuch as offences can be committed in relation to an SSSI; in other words, that they will affect an SSSI adversely. Such offences are "on or in relation to", for example, the fouling of a watercourse near an SSSI. The offence may have an effect on the water but not take place on the SSSI. I am sure that Members of the Committee will be able to think of many other such offences in the vicinity of an SSSI which over a period of time could seriously damage that SSSI. Therefore, the purpose of the amendments is to protect the SSSI from such an occurrence.

We debated Amendment No. 521E when we discussed Amendments Nos. 491 and 492. We are saying that we feel that there is no consistency of approach throughout this part of the Bill. We believe that an environmental court is clearly needed but that the legislation is skirting that. I could go on but I believe that we have had that discussion. The Minister is well aware of the feeling of the Committee with regard to arbitration. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Amendments Nos. 521C and 521D do not appear to me to be necessary. The offence in Section 34 of the 1981 Act, to which Amendment No. 521C refers, of removing or disturbing limestone pavement is applied "on or in any land". It is difficult to see how an offence outside the land of the type referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, could affect a limestone pavement or therefore be designated by a limestone pavement order. The Section 42 offence in Amendment No. 521D relates to a moorland or heathland order. Again, I find it difficult to understand what offence outside the area would justify the phrase "or in relation to", which would be inserted by the amendment. Therefore, there appears to be no logic in applying the powers of entry for an offence committed in relation to land because there would be no continuity with the offences.

I speculated, although the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, did not refer to it, that he may have been using an analogy from Clause 70(5), which correctly refers to,


    "on or (as the case may be) in relation to",

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that land. The reason for the wording in Clause 70(5) is because some of the offences in Section 28M, to which that subsection refers, are ones committed by a public body. They could include offences committed off the land; for example, abstraction licences wrongly granted upstream away from the site itself but which could damage the site. However, I do not see how that could apply to limestone pavements or to moorland or heathland.

As regards Amendment No. 521E, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, is right. We have been over this ground. I understand that the Land Tribunal would be well qualified to arbitrate on claims of that nature. It could well do so. But the amendment provides only that the Land Tribunal can be involved. That seems too restrictive. We are talking about damage which has occurred in the exercise of the power of entry where there is a dispute about the person's entitlement to compensation or the amount. We believe that the Secretary of State should be allowed to retain his discretion. The arguments are not sufficiently compelling to suggest that the Land Tribunal alone should arbitrate on the issue.

9 p.m.

Lord Glentoran: I thank the noble Lord for those explanations. When I read my notes on Amendments Nos. 521C and 521D, I was thinking of external pollution of one sort or another which might ultimately damage an SSSI. Perhaps I have not dealt with the matter in sufficient detail or followed it through. I accept the Minister's explanation also on Amendment No. 521E which I do not press at this time. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 521D and 521E not moved.]

Clause 70 agreed to.

Clause 71 agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 522:


    After Clause 71, insert the following new clause--

("PART IIIA
AREAS OF OUTSTANDING NATURAL BEAUTY
DESIGNATION OF AREAS

.--(1) Where it appears to the Countryside Agency (in this Part referred to as "the Agency") that an area which is in England but not in a National Park is of such outstanding natural beauty that it is desirable that the provisions of this Part relating to areas designated under this section should apply to it, the Agency may, for the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area, by order designate the area for the purposes of this Part as an area of outstanding natural beauty.
(2) Where it appears to the Countryside Council for Wales (in this Part referred to as "the Council") that an area which is in Wales but not in a National Park is of such outstanding natural beauty that it is desirable that the provisions of this Part relating to areas designated under this section should apply to it, the Council may, for the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area, by order designate the area for the purposes of this Part as an area of outstanding natural beauty.
(3) In this Part "area of outstanding natural beauty" means an area designated under this section as an area of outstanding natural beauty.").

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The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 523, 524, 532, 541, 544, 545, 547, 553 and 566. We now move to that part of the Bill which lays the basis for the Government's promises to introduce into the Bill provisions on AONBs. Amendment No. 522 and the other amendments in the group largely re-enact existing Sections 87 and 88 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 which set out the arrangements for designating AONBs and make reference to various functions of particular bodies in relation to them. The Government propose to consolidate those provisions in order to bring all references to AONBs together in this Bill and to update various references in the text.

We shall come on shortly to the Government's proposed new provisions for AONBs, which provide for a management plan to be prepared for every AONB and for the possibility of creating conservation boards. When these matters were discussed in another place, in response to amendments to the Bill tabled there, both the Conservative and the Liberal Democrat Front Benches indicated their wish to see measures enabling better management of AONBs to be brought forward by the Government. We hope that there will be evidence of that previous cross-party support in our discussions on these three main groups this evening.

I wish to make clear that Ministers will not be commenting during this debate on the question of the possible designation of new national parks in the New Forest and the South Downs. We have asked the Countryside Agency to consider those possible designations, and it is doing so. The role of the Secretary of State is to consider designation orders if and when they are produced by the agency. Therefore, it would be invidious for me to make any substantive comment on those matters this evening. I thought I should make that point clear.

The effect of this consolidation is to continue with the arrangements laid down in the 1949 Act whereby AONBs are designated by the Countryside Agency, and now, in Wales, by the Countryside Council for Wales, and confirmed by the Secretary of State, or by the National Assembly for Wales, with appropriate arrangements for consultation. However there are two particular clarifications in the consolidation which I should mention.

First, subsection (1) of Amendment No. 522 states explicitly that the purpose of designating AONBs is the conservation and enhancement of natural beauty. That has long been the accepted purpose, but the 1949 Act referred to it in a convoluted way. Section 87(1) of the 1949 Act said that the then National Parks Commission, subsequently, the Countryside Commission, and, most recently, the Countryside Agency, could designate areas as AONBs if they were of such outstanding natural beauty that it was desirable that the provisions of the 1949 Act relating to AONBs should apply to them.

Among those provisions was Section 11 which, via Section 88, provided that local planning authorities whose area contained all or part of an AONB had

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powers to take all such action as appeared to them expedient for preserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the AONB. In the 1995 Environment Act "preserving and enhancing" was changed to "conserving and enhancing". So my point is that we are not proposing any real change here.

Secondly, we are proposing to take this opportunity, post-devolution, to make clear on the face of the legislation the fact that the Countryside Council for Wales and the National Assembly exercise in Wales the responsibilities exercised by the Countryside Agency and the Secretary of State in England.

Amendments Nos. 531 and 532 and the consequential amendments represent the various matters of interpretation, consequential and transitional provisions and repeals required as a result of Part IIIA of the Bill. I beg to move.


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