ASHDOWN FOREST BILL [Lords]
Mr Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire West)
Well, it should not be in a Private Bill. I am glad that my hon. Friend is helping me. I ask him to turn to Clause 20(3). If it is something that does not matter, if the lord of the manor has always had a right to veto any issue within the curtilage of his house, irrespective of what the hon. Member for Tiverton pointed out a short time ago, I ask my hon. Friend what he makes of the subsection. Although the hon. Member for Hove says that it is all right and that it is a matter of exchange, the subsection says that, provided the Secretary of State consents,
the lord of the manor may enter into and carry into effect agreements with the owners of land outside the forest for the exchange of lands of equal area (including the payment of money for equality of exchange), and on such exchange being completed the land so acquired by the lord of the manor shall be part of the forest and the land so transferred by the lord of the manor shall be released from all rights and obligations affecting the same in so far as such rights and obligations arise from the land having been part of the forest".
Therefore, we are saying in the Bill "It is all right. We have conservators. The people in the county council area are paying rates. The ratepayers can pay, and the lord of the manor can act according to the provisions of the Bill". I am not saying what he would or would not do, but Parliament must ensure that Bills.
We are saying that in practice the ratepayers shall pay for the privilege of maintaining an amenity area but, as I read the subsection, the lord of the manor will be given powers to decide what part of the amenity area will reside within the power of the conservators and what part will reside outside.
I know what small communities are. It is true that the Secretary of State has to give consent, but I would not trust a Tory Secretary of State as far as I could throw him when it came to the question of land. To determine my attitude to the consent of the Secretary of State I have only to consider the vast fortunes made in land speculation while the Tories have sat on their bottoms during the past three years.
If we go through the whole of Clause 20, irrespective of the special pleading of my hon. Friend, we see that we are doing two things in the Bill. We are giving our consent to a Bill which will set up a body which is obviously antidemocratic. It is not as if it has defects in its democracy. It is the negation of all that the House has stood for for a long time. Further, we are giving powers to the lord of the manor which no one has a right to have. If we give those powers to him we cannot, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. Carol Johnson) suggests, ensure that the forest will remain as an amenity area.