Lord Whitty: Amendment No. 455 concerns the compulsory purchase of land, which is always a sensitive subject. I understand why the noble Baroness is questioning the circumstances in which such powers would be used. Let me emphasise that in considering the points the conservation agencies have in practice used their existing powers of compulsory purchase extremely rarely--once in the past 10 years in relation to England.
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We recognise the efforts of many land managers who are committed to conservation. But there are exceptional cases; for example, where the activities of an owner or occupier of land which is not an SSSI are affecting the special interest on an area which is of special interest. We have introduced provisions in Clause 66(2) which will enable the agency to offer a management agreement in order to encourage and support management of the land which will help conserve the special interest features on that land. But where the agency has offered an agreement but the agreement has been rejected or has been accepted and then breached, and where as a result damage to the special interest is continuing to occur, it is appropriate that we should empower the conservation agencies to tackle the problem.
However, compulsory purchase orders should not be made unless there is a compelling case in the public interest and any such order which is made, if there are objections, will need to be subject to confirmation by the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales. There would, of course, be full compensation where land is acquired.
I re-emphasise that the CPO powers would be used only in exceptional circumstances where other avenues had failed. There is no intention of significantly increasing the area of land which the agencies own. An order would only follow extensive discussions with the owner or occupier of the land. Only if that process failed would the CPO come into effect.
If the agency does acquire the land compulsorily, it may take steps to conserve the special features. However, the provisions also enable the agency to dispose of the land provided that it can do so on terms which ensure that the special features of the site--in other words, the reason the land was acquired in the first place--are satisfactorily conserved. This flexible approach will ensure that the agency can find the best solution to the long-term conservation of the land.
The noble Baroness asked about the duplication of the powers. Clause 66 deals primarily with instances in which the agency seeks to acquire the land of a special site. However, Section 28 is different. It is a power which arises only when the agency is unable to serve the management of the land. I may have slightly misinterpreted that piece of advice but I have tried to distinguish between the two cases.
Amendment No. 456A relates to the Countryside Council for Wales and seeks to address what is seen as an anomaly. The council is defined in the Countryside Act as the "Countryside Council for Wales". This interpretation was inserted by the Section 130 and Schedule 8 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. In the context of the 1968 Act, it is therefore appropriate that the provision should refer to "the council as respects land in Wales" in order to ensure that the drafting within that Act is consistent. That is the explanation for the slightly anomalous form of words and I do not believe that Amendment No. 456A is appropriate.
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I hope that with that explanation the noble Baroness will not pursue her amendment.
The Duke of Montrose: I speak not as a lawyer but as a landowner prior to devolution who experienced the 1981 Act. I own two nature reserves and three sites of special scientific interest. When I applied to do something on the outside of an SSSI I was told that the nature conservancy body would oppose it. There are compulsory purchase powers for SSSIs but the Minister is talking about an extension into areas outside them. I believed that that was already covered by any activity which might require planning permission. Presumably, the local authority would not go against the advice that it had been given. Is this merely an extension of powers to cover activities that would not require planning permission? What is the increase in power that is sought?
Lord Whitty: This activity would not necessarily require planning permission, but it would affect the sustainability of the SSSI. The activity might not formally require planning permission but would seriously affect the SSSI if it was allowed to continue and there was no agreement between the conservation agency and the landowner, or, if there was an agreement, there was a breach of it. That situation would arise in those circumstances. If the noble Duke requires any further information, I undertake to write to him.
Lord Bridges: What I say does not arise directly on this amendment but it is perhaps polite to inform those concerned that when the Committee comes to debate Schedule 8, which deals with the exploitation of a fishery inside an SSSI, I propose to raise my concern about the draconian powers in that part of the Bill.
Baroness Byford: I am grateful to both noble Lords for their contributions. The noble Lord, Lord Bridges, perhaps touches on a point that has been raised with us; namely, that English Nature and CCW are allowed to purchase land other than adjoining land. I need to read the response of the Minister. Perhaps we can have discussions before we return to the matter at Report stage. At this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 455A:
Page 42, line 17, leave out ("physiographical") and insert ("geomorphological").
The noble Baroness said: I speak to Amendment No. 455A very briefly. I am informed that the amendment proposes an improvement to the language used in the Bill. I shall try to pronounce the word concerned. All references to physiographical features are strictly incorrect and are becoming obsolete, according to the first edition of the Longman Dictionary of Geography (1985). My goodness! In modern geographical parlance physiography--I am sure that my pronunciation is not correct but it is very late--is known as geomorphology. I shall not struggle
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any further. This amendment is concerned with the correct technical terms. I hope that the Government will agree that there has been a mistake in the wording. I beg to move.
Lord Greaves: I appreciate the concern of the noble Baroness about geographical terms. However, I believe that she is wrong, and I shall explain why. I also do not understand these amendments. In the first four and sixth amendments the noble Baroness seeks to replace "physiographical" with "geomorphological" in a passage that includes "geological" and "physiographical". However, in Amendment No. 476A the noble Baroness wants to replace "geological" with "geomorphological" but leave in "physiographical". There is an inconsistency in the proposed amendments.
However, as I understand it, geology is the science of rocks. That word has also come to mean rock structures generally. Therefore, one can refer to conserving the geology of an area. I do not believe that "geomorphology" has that meaning. That word describes the science of surface land features as they are naturally formed. I believe that "physiography" is the correct technical term to describe land forms as opposed to the science of how they are formed. That is the correct term. The Government have it right. Geomorphology is the science of natural processes of landform formation. There may be physiographical features which need to be conserved which are not technically landforms; for example, there might be Anglo-Saxon strip lynchets in the terraces on the hillside, or there might be burial mounds or whatever. There would be physiographical features but not geomorphological features. I therefore support the Government on this dramatic and vital debate.
Lord Whitty: I agree totally with the noble Lord, Lord Greaves.
Baroness Byford: I have more that I could read out, but perhaps the best thing I can do is write to the Minister. He can ponder upon my letter when it arrives. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 455B not moved.]
Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 456:
Page 42, line 32, leave out ("the Nature Conservancy Council for England") and insert ("English Nature").
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[Amendment No. 456A not moved.]
Clause 66, as amended, agreed to.
[Amendment No. 457 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]
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Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 457A:
Before Schedule 8, insert the following new schedule--
("SCHEDULEAMENDMENTS CONSEQUENTIAL ON CHANGE OF NAME OF NATURE CONSERVANCY COUNCIL FOR ENGLAND
1. In each provision specified in relation to each of the Acts set out below, for "the Nature Conservancy Council for England" or, as the case may be, "Nature Conservancy Council for England" there is substituted "English Nature"--
(a) the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949: section 15A (meaning of "Nature Conservancy Council");
(b) the Sea Fisheries Regulation Act 1966: in section 5A (byelaws under section 5 for marine environmental purposes), subsection (3)(a);
(c) the Countryside Act 1968--
(i) in section 15 (areas of special scientific interest), subsection (6A), and
(ii) section 37 (protection for interests in countryside);
(d) the Conservation of Seals Act 1970: in section 10 (power to grant licences to kill or take seals), subsection (5);
(e) the Import of Live Fish (England and Wales) Act 1980: in section 1 (power to limit the import etc. of fish and fish eggs), subsection (2);
(f) the Highways Act 1980: in section 105B (procedure relating to environmental impact assessments), in subsection (8), paragraph (b) of the definition of "the consultation bodies";
(g) the Animal Health Act 1981: in section 21 (destruction of wild life on infection other than rabies), subsection (9);
(h) the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981--
(i) in section 27 (interpretation of Part I), subsection (3A),
(ii) in section 27A (construction of references to Nature Conservancy Council), paragraph (a), and
(iii) in section 52 (interpretation of Part II), subsection (1);
(i) the Inheritance Tax Act 1984: Schedule 3 (bodies receiving gifts for national purposes etc.);
(j) the Agriculture Act 1986: in section 18 (designation and management of environmentally sensitive areas), subsection (2)(a);
(k) the Channel Tunnel Act 1987--
(i) in Schedule 2, Part II (regulation of scheduled works), paragraph 5(3), and
(ii) in Schedule 3 (planning permission), paragraph 17(4)(a);
(l) the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988--
(i) in section 1 (the Broads Authority), subsection (3)(b),
(ii) in section 4 (conservation of areas of natural beauty), subsections (3)(a) and (5)(a),
(iii) in section 5 (notification of certain operations within the Broads), subsection (4), and
(iv) in Schedule 3 (functions of Broads Authority), paragraph 33(1)(c);
(m) the Electricity Act 1989: in Schedule 9 (preservation of amenities and fisheries), paragraph 2(2)(a);
(n) the Environmental Protection Act 1990--
(i) in section 36 (grant of waste management licences), subsection (7), and
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(ii) in section 128 (creation and constitution of the Nature Conservancy Council for England and the Countryside Council for Wales), subsections (1) and (2)(a);
(o) the Deer Act 1991: in section 8 (licences for exemptions from sections 2 to 4 of the Act), subsections (1) and (4);
(p) the Water Industry Act 1991--
(i) in section 4 (environmental duties with respect to sites of special interest), subsections (1) and (4),
(ii) in section 5 (codes of practice with respect to environmental and recreational duties), subsection (4)(b), and
(iii) in section 156 (restrictions on disposals of land), subsection (4)(c)(i);
(q) the Land Drainage Act 1991--
(i) in section 61C (duties with respect to sites of special scientific interest), subsections (1) and (4), and
(ii) in section 61E (codes of practice), subsection (4)(b);
(r) the Transport and Works Act 1992: in section 6 (applications for orders relating to railways, tramways, inland waterways, etc.), subsection (7)(e);
(s) the Protection of Badgers Act 1992: in section 10 (licences to do otherwise prohibited acts relating to badgers), subsection (4)(a);
(t) the Environment Act 1995--
(i) in section 8 (environmental duties with respect to sites of special interest), subsections (1) and (4),
(ii) in section 9 (codes of practice with respect to environmental and recreational duties), subsection (3)(b),
(iii) in section 66 (national park management plans), subsection (7)(a), and
(iv) in section 99 (consultation required before making or modifying certain subordinate legislation for England), subsection (2)(c);
(u) the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996--
(i) in Schedule 6 (planning conditions), paragraph 27(4), and
(ii) in Schedule 14 (overhead lines: consent), paragraph 7(4); and
(v) the Greater London Authority Act 1999: in section 352 (the Mayor's biodiversity action plan), subsection (3)(a).
2. In the following enactments, the entry for the Nature Conservancy Council for England is omitted, and in the appropriate place there is inserted "English Nature"--
(a) the Public Records Act 1958: in Schedule 1 (definition of public records), Part II of the Table in paragraph 3;
(b) the Superannuation Act 1965: in section 39 (meaning of "public office"), paragraph 7 of subsection (1); and
(c) the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967: Schedule 2 (departments etc. subject to investigation).
3. In Part III of Schedule 1 to the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 (which sets out offices the holders of which are disqualified from membership of the House of Commons), the entry for "Any member of the Nature Conservancy Council for England or the Countryside Council for Wales in receipt of remuneration" is omitted, and in the appropriate places there are inserted the following two entries--
"Any member of the Countryside Council for Wales in receipt of remuneration."
"Any member of English Nature in receipt of remuneration.".").
On Question, amendment agreed to.
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Schedule 8 [Sites of special scientific interest]: