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I wonder whether I might return the compliment by asking whoever is to speak on behalf of the Bill to explain a point in relation to Clause 1. As I understood from the explanation of the Bill which was given on the Motion for leave to introduce the Bill, the purpose of the Bill is to fill a gap.
The gap is that where there is in force a forestry dedication covenant and the covenantor dies, the covenant automatically lapses. There may then be a gap in time before a tree preservation order is made. In the meantime, the successor in title to the covenantor can cut down the trees and destroy them before a tree preservation order has been made. I understand that the purpose is to ensure protection of the trees in such cases by providing that for such land the tree preservation order can be made with the consent of the commissioners.
My concern and fear is that what we are dealing with ex hypothesi is the successor in title to a covenantor who is willing to preserve the trees by covenant who does not want to be bound by that covenant—in other words, who wants to cut down the trees. Obviously, a certain period will elapse before the intention of the successor in title to the original covenantor is ascertained. Time will be required to prepare the tree preservation order and to get the consent of the commissioners to the making of the order. During that time, the trees may be cut down. It seems to me that some kind of transitional provision may be required to continue in force, if only for a short time, the effect of the original forestry dedication covenant after the death of the original covenantor.
I appreciate that I have not put down an Amendment, but presumably this is a matter which could be dealt with in another place. I raise the matter by way of question to ask whether I am right in thinking that there is such a gap and that it could present a practical problem. I appreciate that I have raised this matter without notice, and I see none of the sponsors of the Bill present in the House. It may be that the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson), on the Opposition Front Bench, is not in a position to answer my question. If that is so, I am content for him to say so, in the hope that the sponsors of the Bill pan read the words which I am now speaking and consider whether the problem is a real one.
As the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) has said, none of the sponsors of the Bill is in his place this afternoon to deal with the point which has been raised on Clause 1. I can only say that, having listened to the hon. and learned Gentleman, I should have thought that he was right in his interpretation of the Clause, to which I happily came with a fresh and unclouded mind. Having looked at it, I should have thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman was correct.
I appreciate the difficulty which has been posed by the hon. and learned Gentleman. We have the advantage of the presence of one of the Law Officers of the Crown, who could, perhaps, advise the Committee. I am not necessarily asking him to join in the debate, but perhaps subsequently he can look at the point which has been raised and consider whether there is need for an Amendment in another place.
I cannot give any assistance to the Committee myself. The hon. and learned Gentleman has made the point and I have no doubt that it will be taken into consideration when, as I hope, the Bill, which has the support of both sides of the House is considered by the other place.
In response to that courteous and careful invitation, I shall indeed go into the point and give it my consideration. I will keep in touch with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) and the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) on the subject.