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Baroness Amos: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do adjourn during pleasure until 8.55 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.18 p.m. to 8.55 p.m.]

Countryside and Rights of Way Bill

Further consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 199A:

("Biological diversity

.--(1) It is the duty of--
(a) any Minister of the Crown (within the meaning of the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975),
(b) any Government department, and
(c) the National Assembly for Wales,
in carrying out his or its functions, to have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biological diversity in accordance with the Convention.

(2) The Secretary of State, as respects England, and the National Assembly for Wales, as respects Wales, shall each publish a list of, or lists which together comprise, the living organisms and types of habitat which in the opinion of the Secretary of State or the Assembly (as the case may be) are of principal importance for the purpose mentioned in subsection (1).

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(3) Without prejudice to subsection (1), it is the duty of a listing authority to take, or to promote the taking by others of, such steps as appear to the authority to be reasonably practicable to further the conservation of the living organisms and types of habitat included in any list published by the authority under this section.
(4) Before publishing the list or lists required by subsection (2) the listing authority shall consult the appropriate conservation body as to the living organisms or types of habitat to be included in the list or lists.
(5) Each listing authority shall, in consultation with the appropriate conservation body--
(a) keep under review any list published by the authority under this section,
(b) make such revisions of any such list as appear to the authority to be appropriate, and
(c) publish any list so revised.
(6) A duty under this section to publish a list is a duty to publish it in such manner as the listing authority thinks fit.
(7) In this section--
"appropriate conservation body" means--
(a) as respects England, English Nature,
(b) as respects Wales, the Countryside Council for Wales;
"biological diversity" has the same meaning as in the Convention;
"conservation" in relation to a living organism or type of habitat, includes the restoration or enhancement of a population or habitat;
"the Convention" means the United Nations Environmental Programme Convention on Biological Diversity of 1992;
"habitat" has the same meaning as in the Convention;
"listing authority"--
(a) in relation to a list which the Secretary of State is required to publish under this section, means the Secretary of State;
(b) in relation to a list which the National Assembly for Wales is required to publish under this section, means the National Assembly for Wales.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in Committee I promised to bring forward a government amendment which would respond to the overwhelming support in the Chamber and in the other place for some statutory entrenchment of our biodiversity policy. We have given considerable thought as to how best to achieve that objective and Amendment No. 199A is our conclusion. I believe it to be a more comprehensive reflection of the implementation of biodiversity policy in England and Wales and also, for reasons which I shall explain, more technically satisfactory than Amendment No. 217 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. I therefore hope that I can persuade her to withdraw her amendment in favour of the Government's. I shall deal with the amendments to my amendment once they have been moved.

The debates on this issue made it abundantly clear that there is a widespread concern that the conservation of biodiversity be addressed on a wider scale than solely in protected areas such as SSSIs. The Government totally agree with that. At present, it is undertaken as a matter of policy through the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

That plan is a major expression of our obligations under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. But the convention sets a wide and comprehensive

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framework, of which the Biodiversity Action Plan is only one part. The Government are firmly committed to the conservation of biological diversity and all the obligations which fall to it under the convention. That is why in subsection (1) of the amendment the Government have set their general duties--to have regard to the purpose of conserving biological diversity--in the context of the convention itself. I believe that that provides a firmer basis for the future development of biodiversity policy than the narrower emphasis contained in the alternative Amendment No. 217.

Nevertheless, we also fully recognise the central role that our implementation of the convention must attach to the conservation of those species and types of habitat for which we in this country have special responsibilities. Subsections (2) to (7) of Amendment No. 199A therefore focus on providing a flexible but clear statutory basis to the current process for dealing with species and habitats. While aiming to retain room for manoeuvre in setting future priorities, we are concerned to maintain the course and effectiveness of that current process. We have a very successful partnership approach, drawing in organisations across the statutory and non-statutory sectors. We do not wish this provision to result in the wholesale review of the current Biodiversity Action Plan priorities and processes.

In the light of that, we have framed the duty in subsection (3) to promote the taking by others of steps to further the conservation of the listed species and habitat types. We believe that this duty best reflects and sustains that partnership approach. The partnership of course includes other government departments and a very wide range of public bodies as well as conservation and land management NGOs and in some cases the private sector. Our amendment deliberately goes wider than Amendment No. 217.

Amendment No. 199A also reflects other valuable elements of the current process, such as the advice of the nature conservation agencies. We have also referred to "living organisms" rather than "species" which we understand to be more taxonomically correct because it can include lower plants and fungi and "habitat types" rather than "habitats" to avoid possible confusion with specific sites.

I therefore believe that our amendment is comprehensive and is to be preferred to the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness. I shall listen to the debate on the amendments to my amendment. In the mean time, I beg to move.

9 p.m.

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 199A, Amendment No. 199B:

    Line 8, leave out ("have regard") and insert ("further and enhance").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Judd is attending the Council of Europe and is unable to be in his place this evening. My noble friend

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has asked me on his behalf to move Amendment No. 199B and speak to Amendment No. 199C. We greatly welcome Amendment No. 199A and sincerely thank the Minister for tabling it. The amendment encompasses many of the matters for which we asked when we last debated this issue. We particularly welcome its emphasis on the obligation of the listing authority to ensure the conservation of living organisms and different types of habitat. We also welcome the proposal to consult appropriate bodies accordingly.

However, we believe that in one particular respect the amendment does not go far enough and is rather weak, and for that reason we have tabled Amendment No. 199B. We believe that this amendment strengthens the position and improves the new clause. It emphasises the need for Ministers of the Crown, government departments and the National Assembly for Wales to enhance and further, rather than merely to have regard to, their purpose in relation to conserving biological diversity in accordance with the convention. The amendment demands action and so strengthens the whole clause. I hope that my noble friend will look favourably on these small amendments which are intended to be supportive.

Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, in Committee I spoke briefly to this aspect of the Bill. I also thank the Minister for the very good amendment which has been tabled by the Government. I know that other noble Lords will also be grateful for it. I urge the Minister, however, to consider carefully the amendment moved by the noble Baroness which is intended to beef up the position. One can envisage a situation, perhaps not under this Government, in which a Minister of the Crown may not carry out his functions and is challenged in the courts. If he is asked to say whether he has had regard to these matters nothing can be simpler than for him to escape what we hope will be his obligations. If the clause read "to further and enhance", it might be rather more difficult for the Minister to escape, if he had failed to carry out his obligation. If the Minister cannot accept the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, I hope that he will at least be able to give some guidance to assist someone who may at some stage wish to test the matter in the courts.

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