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Lord Dixon-Smith: For some time now I have been trying to rise to wind up the debate. I was beginning to think that it must be Halloween because we seem to have raised a number of bogies and boggles tonight.

It would be superfluous to try to run through what once again has been a wide-ranging debate. Such a debate, if it does nothing else, indicates the dangers of the procedures in which we are indulging to get the legislation on the statute book. We are not opposed to getting the consequences of this on the statute book, but we question a number of points of detail, some of which involve fundamental principles.

The Minister, in his second summing up, has gone a long way towards answering many of the concerns, in particular those relating to the transfer of powers and the ways in which conservation boards might be introduced. The problem is that we must deal with what is on the face of the Bill and not with the Government's conscious intention which is not available to us until the Minister has explained it and we can later read it in Hansard. I am confident that we shall need to return to this issue on Report. Perhaps at

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that stage the Minister will bring forward amendments which will satisfy us but, in the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 525AA, as an amendment to Amendment No. 525, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 525B and 525C, as amendments to Amendment No. 525, not moved.]

The Earl of Caithness moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 525, Amendment No. 525CA:

    Line 45, at end of subsection (6) insert--

("( ) In addition to their duties to consult under subsections (5) and (6) above the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales, as the case may be, shall before making an order publish in The London Gazette and in one or more newspapers circulating in the area of the area of outstanding natural beauty, notice that they propose to make the order, indicating the effect of the order and stating the time within which and the manner in which representations with respect to the proposed order may be made to them, and shall consider any representations duly made.").

The noble Earl said: The purpose of Amendment No. 525CA is purely to give the Minister an opportunity to reply to the points that I made. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: The noble Earl's amendment requires the Secretary of State to consult publicly by publishing an announcement in the London Gazette and in other local newspapers. We would expect wide non-statutory consultation to take place before an establishment order is made. That would be more likely to be led by the agency rather than the Secretary of State direct, since the agency would be the statutory adviser and would do the preliminary work. Clearly, this provision would require a very substantial information programme before consultation could take place. Therefore, the objectives of the clause would have to be met by the agency in conducting its consultation, but probably not in quite the terms of the amendment. Although I do not consider it appropriate to add the amendment, I assure the noble Earl that there would be an opportunity for consultation and information on the basis of which that consultation could take place.

The Earl of Caithness: I am grateful for the response of the Minister. We have the same problem as that identified by my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith; namely, we have to read the Bill as opposed to the Minister's mind. What requirement is placed on the Countryside Agency to consult before making a designation for a conservation board? Is this in legislation, or is it assumed good practice?

Lord Whitty: There is good practice in relation to consultation which is currently being updated by the Cabinet Office. We are talking about the pre-proposal period. That consultation is not normally set out in the primary legislation which governs the making of such regulations. Nevertheless, it is fairly standard practice and the requirement to set out the information is part of that.

The Earl of Caithness: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment No. 525CA, as an amendment to Amendment No. 525, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 525D and 525E, as amendments to Amendment No. 525, not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 525, Amendment No. 525F:

    Line 68, leave out ("a person") and insert ("an authority").

The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with what I suspect is a slip of the draftsman's pen. If one looks in line 68 of Amendment No. 525, which deals with what happens to functions relating to an area that ceases to be part of an AONB, one sees,

    "the variation to become functions of a person".

I believe that "person" should be "authority", and this short and simple amendment is designed to give effect to that. I do not believe that functions would ever be transferred back to a person. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: I undertake to look at the matter. My understanding is that in this respect "person" includes a corporate person, and it may well include an authority but not exclusively. I shall write to the noble Lord.

Lord Dixon-Smith: With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 525F, as an amendment to Amendment No. 525, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment No. 525 agreed to.


Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 526:

    After Clause 71, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) It is the duty of a conservation board, in the exercise of their functions, to have regard to--
(a) the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area of outstanding natural beauty, and
(b) the purpose of increasing the understanding and enjoyment by the public of the special qualities of the area of outstanding natural beauty,
but if it appears to the board that there is a conflict between those purposes, they are to attach greater weight to the purpose mentioned in paragraph (a).
(2) A conservation board, while having regard to the purposes mentioned in subsection (1), shall seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the area of outstanding natural beauty, but without incurring significant expenditure in doing so, and shall for that purpose co-operate with local authorities and public bodies whose functions include the promotion of economic or social development within the area of outstanding natural beauty.
(3) Sections 37 and 38 of the Countryside Act 1968 (general duties as to the protection of interests of the countryside and the avoidance of pollution) apply to conservation boards as they apply to local authorities.
(4) The powers of a conservation board include power to do anything which, in the opinion of the board, is calculated to facilitate, or is conducive or incidental to--
(a) the accomplishment of the purposes mentioned in subsection (1), or

16 Oct 2000 : Column 816

(b) the carrying out of any functions conferred on it by virtue of any other provision of this Part or by virtue of any enactment not contained in this Part.
(5) The powers conferred on a conservation board by subsection (4) do not include--
(a) power to do anything in contravention of any restriction imposed by virtue of this Part in relation to any express power of the board, or
(b) power to raise money (whether by borrowing or otherwise) in a manner which is not authorised apart from that subsection,
but the things that may be done in exercise of those powers are not to be treated as excluding anything by reason only that it involves the expenditure, borrowing or lending of money or the acquisition or disposal of any property or rights.
(6) Schedule (Supplemental and incidental powers of conservation boards) (which relates to the supplemental and incidental powers of conservation boards) has effect.
(7) An order under section (Establishment of conservation boards)(1) may--
(a) make further provision with respect to the supplemental and incidental powers of the conservation board to which it relates or the limits on those powers, including provision relating to the borrowing of money, and
(b) provide for any enactment which relates to or limits the supplemental or incidental powers or duties of local authorities or relates to the conduct of, or transactions by, local authorities to apply in relation to the conservation board with such modifications as may be specified in the order.").

The noble Lord said: I formally move the amendment.

Baroness Byford moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 526, Amendment No. 526A:

    Line 4, leave out ("and enhancing").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 526A, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 526B, 526C, 526D, 526E and 526F. I can speak briefly on Amendment No. 526A. The amendment is about enhancing AONBs. On these Benches we support the enhancing of areas of outstanding natural beauty. The question is, who actually pays for that enhancing? Our debate has ranged so widely that the Minister may say he has covered the topic already. I shall be happy if he does.

Amendment No. 526B seeks to leave out the words "seeks to foster" and to insert "support". The word "support" is stronger than "seeks to foster". It is much more direct. I hope the Government will consider that.

Amendment No. 526C seeks to leave out the words "beauty" to "and so". That removes the expression,

    "without incurring significant expenditure".

That is really a value judgment. I wonder if the Government intend it so to be. Who decides what is or is not a significant expense? Perhaps the Minister will clarify that.

Amendment No. 526D seeks to leave out subsection (4). As other Members of the Committee have said, if that subsection is kept in the Bill, it gives the conservation board the power to do anything. I should like greater clarification on that. After our discussions about the powers of local authorities and their responsibilities, those are huge powers to give the board.

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Amendment No. 526F is a probing amendment. I beg to move.

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