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Lord Chorley: I wish to speak primarily to Amendment No. 14 which stands in my name, but also to refer to Amendments Nos. 12 and 15. Amendment No. 12 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, is directly contrary to my amendment. Leaving that aside, for the membership of conservation boards to consist of local authority members and parish councillors is too narrow. I disagree with that.
The purpose of my amendment is to draw attention to the fact that our AONB landscapes--in the terms of the 1949 Act being "landscapes of the highest quality"--are of national importance: that there is a national dimension. In appointing members to a conservation board, the Secretary of State needs to strike a balance between national and local community interests.
How the balance should be struck may well--and I suspect usually would--vary from case to case according to local circumstances, and for several reasons. I doubt whether it would be wise to be prescriptive. I hope that my amendment strikes the right note on the basis that there should be a national voice on a conservation board.
I turn briefly to comment on the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, with which, subject to drafting, I should be entirely happy. He makes a valid point. If I understood him correctly, a farmer could wreck a whole landscape in a single season simply by unsuitable, albeit economic, farming and we should end up without an area of outstanding natural beauty. It is important to have farming interests and knowledge on board. I am happy with the amendment.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: There is one point about the nationally appointed members. Generally there should follow some nationally supplied finance. We shall come to that later in the Bill. Apart from trying to widen the expertise, one of the reasons why the Secretary of State would want to appoint people to the board is that the AONBs represent an asset nationally--they are beautiful landscapes. Also it is to be hoped that by that stage the Government will have secured the funding and it will be necessary to ensure that the representatives also have regard to how the funding is spent.
I have looked carefully at the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley. While I find nothing wrong with it I hope that some of those who derive their livelihood from the occupation and management of the land might also be on local authorities and parish councils. Indeed in the AONBs and national parks of which I am aware which have successful consultative committees, frequently the people who own and manage the land are among those who have been very active members of the boards or committees. If local people are to be on the boards I hope that it would be mainly through that route.
Lastly, as I mentioned at Second Reading, the Secretary of State appointees would be people who do not live miles from AONBs. I know a number of national park appointees who, for reasons known to the Secretary of State, live two or three hours' drive away. Although I do not deny that they bring considerable expertise from their previous employment, nevertheless they are not really part of that community and can only visit it for specific meetings and occasions. If the Secretary of State were to trawl thoroughly, he would be likely to find people to appoint who lived more locally and had a day-to-day understanding of the local issues.
Lord Stanley of Alderley: The noble Baroness raises an important point, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley. Unfortunately there is only about one farmer left in Great Britain at the moment, and there will only be half at the rate we are going. Sadly, we now have less and less representation on parish councils and local authorities. My noble friend nods her head. They used perhaps to be packed with farmers and landowners. That is why I want the amendment. As I shamefully said--and the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, caught me out--we can easily ruin an AONB, or might do so by default. I can think of one or two things I have done that I wish I had not done.
Lord Renton of Mount Harry: I very much sympathise with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley. It is very important that the inclusion of persons who derive their livelihoods from the occupation and management of land within the area of outstanding natural beauty should be specifically referred to at this point in the Bill. As others have said, each board will have different characteristics. That is the purpose of having an order brought in by secondary legislation that fits the Board to the particular AONB. I strongly support Amendment No. 15.
I do not wish continually to refer to the example of the Sussex Downs Conservation Board, but it is a paradigm that exists. It was much discussed, I believe, when that board was set up eight years ago. There was a request at that time that a specific number of those from the farming community should be included in the board. It did not end up like that: it is made up of 24 members of local authorities, 12 nominated by the Countryside Commission. However, in my time on the board 12 of those three have always been farmers. It is very important to have them there but some local authority members may also be farmers or concerned with the occupation and management of land. It is an important point. I hope that it goes some way to remove the fears that have been expressed earlier by my noble friend Lord Stanley and others concerning the lack of representation of the farming interest in such conservation boards.
On Amendment No. 12, I agree with others. I do not think that my noble friend Lord Rotherwick means to confine the board only to local authority members and parish councillors. I suspect that something may have
As regards parish council members, I believe I know from whence my noble friend Lord Rotherwick is coming. He is trying to make a clear point that parish level is the first elected level of government. It is important that thought should be given to including on those boards somebody from the very first level of elected government Comments made by other Members of the Committee reflect our hope that the boards would have a broad membership and that they would include people who have work experience, are involved locally and would also have at heart the interests of the board not only as a living, working place but as a place of beauty to which other people outside the area will come.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The Government cannot accept Amendments Nos. 12 and 13, dealing with the conservation boards for the reasons referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer. We feel sure that the Secretary of State would wish to have a certain number of appointments which he may delegate as appointments to, for example, the Countryside Commission.
There may well be a case for parish council representatives as there are on the English but not Welsh national park authorities. We should welcome some clarification on the effect of Amendment No. 13. Is it the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, to set up a new system of parish elections for representatives on conservation boards and, if so, where is that provided for? This sort of proposal would need to be thought through carefully.
On Amendment No. 14, we accept the principle that Secretary of State appointees should reflect among them both national and local interests. We do not accept Amendment No. 15. We wish to look in some detail at
Lord Rotherwick: The contributions by Members of the Committee have unearthed a great deal of useful material certainly in Amendment No. 12. I have great sympathy with what has been said and both the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, have brought up exceedingly good points.
The boards we are talking about should be properly defined as to their composition and balance. In my amendment I mentioned about parish council members and the more diverse the members are, the more chance that the information regarding what these conservation boards are talking about will filter down to all parts of the rural communities.