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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we agree with all those who have spoken about the objectives and shall try to find the right way to achieve them. We agree with the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, that conservation boards are good. We also agree with Ewen Cameron of the Countryside Agency and the Local Government Association that boards should not be foisted on AONBs when they are not wanted. We expect the first moves towards the creation of conservation boards to be initiated locally. Our proposals require consultation with all affected local authorities before an order is produced to establish a conservation board. We shall take into account very seriously the views of local authorities, and the Secretary of State is bound to take reasonable decisions in the light of the consultations.

Of the options that have been offered, we tend towards that of the noble Earl, Lord Peel. The approach based on a broad measure of agreement proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is similar to the way that the Conservative Party used to choose its leaders. That did not work very well. We believe that the all or nothing solution of the Conservative Front Bench goes too far. One may have a perfectly successful conservation board even if one local authority chooses not to take part in it. Although the exact wording of the noble Earl's amendment may not work in the circumstances to which the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, referred, his amendment based on the majority view appears to be the closest. We shall look closely at tabling an amendment at Third Reading which produces the intended effect of Amendment No. 234B.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps he will clarify one important matter. I believe it is inconceivable that a conservation

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board can be created if one of the local authorities is so determined not to have it that it refuses to participate. Perhaps I have misunderstood the situation.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not believe that that is so. It is unlikely that there will be an AONB which involves only two local authorities.

Earl Peel: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for having taken such a rational view of this broad debate. I look forward with interest to how the Government deal with the matter at the next stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 235:

    Page 53, line 41, at end insert--

("(3A) Subsection (3) does not apply to functions of a local authority under Part II, III, VII or XIII of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I explained in Committee that it was not the intention of the Government that conservation boards should be able to be made local planning authorities. A number of noble Lords wanted that to be made clear on the face of the Bill. Amendment No. 235 achieves that by specifically ruling out the transfer or sharing of development plan and development control functions with conservation boards. Those functions will in all cases remain with the appropriate local authorities. I shall respond to Amendment No. 235A when it has been spoken to. I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 235, Amendment No. 235A:

    Line 3, after ("VII") insert (", IX").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 235A and to speak to Amendments Nos. 244 and 245. I welcome Amendment No. 235. We were very concerned in Committee that, as originally drafted, the Bill would permit the considerable transfer of planning powers to a conservation board. The Government's amendment answers that concern. I am grateful to the Government for the manner in which they have responded to what was said on this issue in Committee.

The Minister may think that I am a completely unreasonable person and will now start carping, but it is always as well to look with care at what has been done. Part II of the Bill deals with development plans; Part III deals with control over development; and Part VII deals with enforcement. Those are the planning powers that would cause serious concern had it been possible to transfer them to AONBs.

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I find Part VIII interesting. I should like to ask the Minister whether he feels that part should be barred for transfer. Part VIII is concerned with special controls. It deals specifically with trees: planting, tree preservation orders, compensation--

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, Part VIII is not in the amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I apologise. I have Part VIII down as included on my list.

I welcome the amendments. We have tabled other amendments in the group. One is to remove Part IX because that deals with compulsory purchase. There are two other small amendments. One deals with compulsory purchase of land. The other deals with power to borrow money. There is a feeling, at the very least, that if conservation boards have powers to purchase land, they could cause vexation and antagonism locally.

In any event, they need to raise monies if they are to purchase land. At the moment they have no certain sources of funding. They are not in the position of a local authority which has solid backing and sound financial ratings. These would be new bodies with--at best--a somewhat hesitant revenue stream, either from their participating local authority or from the Government. That would not provide a sound basis for borrowing. We have tabled two amendments to restrict both the power to borrow and the power to purchase land, which we believe are appropriate for this kind of body. Those are the amendments grouped with Amendment No. 235. They are important amendments which adjust the Bill in a small but significant way.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that as the conservation boards will be statutory consultees, and their management plans will carry weight in the development plans, members of the conservation board will have the same rules and conventions on declarations of interest applied to them as apply to other councillors in a similar position, such as parish councillors?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the answer to the noble Baroness is yes. We shall come on to the question of membership in the next group of amendments.

Perhaps I may respond to Amendment No. 235A first. That would rule out all applications of Part IX of the Town & Country Planning Act. Part IX covers powers to acquire land by compulsory purchase. But it also covers powers to acquire land by agreement when the land is suitable for and required to carry out development, redevelopment or improvement. That is quite a wide exclusion. I would not like to rule out all these possibilities now. I would prefer to look at the matter in the establishment order for each conservation board to see what powers actually are appropriate. To take out Part IX now would be a mistake.

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Amendment No. 244 seeks to prevent a conservation board being given powers of compulsory purchase. It is not our intention that conservation boards should be given powers of compulsory purchase. We have proposed in Schedule 14 the powers we consider conservation boards may need to acquire and dispose of land, and those are powers to purchase by agreement. Even those powers are likely to be used sparingly because we do not expect conservation boards to become major landholders. National park authorities are not. I do not believe that conservation boards need to be given compulsory purchase powers.

I do not think that it would be helpful to extend in the Bill the list of functions which cannot be transferred to conservation boards. I have brought forward an amendment excluding the transfer of the main planning powers because there was clearly a measure of concern about that issue in Committee, even though I explained that we did not intend those functions to be transferred. I do not want to add to that. I should like to remind the House that the power this legislation will give to transfer functions is actually quite limited. It applies only to functions which are needed to achieve the purposes or exercise the functions of a conservation board.

I turn to Amendment No. 245. Clause 80(5) of the Bill provides that the general power of a conservation board given by Clause 80(4) to do anything calculated to facilitate or conducive or incidental to accomplishing its purposes or carrying out its functions does not of itself provide a power to raise money. Conservation boards will clearly need to raise money somehow in order to be able to discharge their functions. Clause 84 allows the Secretary of State to make grants to them. The Countryside Agency will also be able to make grants, and between these two routes there is the ability to fund boards to the level affordable by central government. Conservation boards will be able to augment this income from other sources, including voluntary support from the local authorities involved in the boards. But the boards will not have levying powers. There would have to be a specific provision to do so and we have not included one in the Bill. Boards could be granted borrowing powers if that were allowed by the establishment order. There is provision, of course, for them to make charges for services. Clause 80(5)(b) is a correctly drafted provision, which incidentally is identical to Section 65(6)(b) of the Environment Act 1995 as it applies to national park authorities. To remove the words, as suggested in the amendment, might lead to doubts that conservation boards would be able to raise money at all. I hope that the amendment will not be pressed.

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