Extension of Powers to Lease Duchy Land

Part of Duchy of Lancaster Bill – in the House of Commons at 11:45 pm on 21st January 1988.

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Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Chair, House of Commons (Services): Computer Sub-Committee, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 11:45 pm, 21st January 1988

I beg to move amendment No. 6, in page 1, line 14, at end insert— '(2D) Before any new lease shall be granted for any land or property forming part of a National Park, or area of outstanding natural beauty or of special scientific interest, the Chancellor and Council of the Duchy of Lancaster shall consult (a) the appropriate National Park Board, (b) the Nature Conservancy Council, and (c) the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; and in the event of any of these bodies objecting to the terms of the new lease the Chancellor and Council of the Duchy of Lancaster shall only proceed following an affirmative resolution by both Houses of Parliament.'. This amendment is intended to provide additional protection for land owned by the Duchy of Lancaster in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and areas of special scientific interest.

It is particularly appropriate that we should be trying to provide additional protection now because we understand that the Secretary of State for the Environment is considering privatising property owned by the Nature Conservancy Council. If the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is a reluctant deregulator at times, his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is an absolutely fanatical deregulator. After all, his family made its money out of deregulated coal mines a long time ago. There is every reason for him to be in favour of deregulation to try to get them back as quickly as possible.

The Government are in the process of introducing a great deal of deregulation in rural areas. I have mentioned the idea of selling land belonging to the Nature Conservancy Council. There are also substantial proposals in the Department of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for change in the approach to the control of development in rural areas. We have the opportunity tonight to provide additional protection for some of the property which lies within the public sector at the moment, if I can describe the Duchy of Lancaster in that way.

It would be right to place restrictions now on the granting of new leases in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty or areas of special scientific interest, as the Bill proposes to lift all other restrictions. We need some compensatory protection. If there is to be no limit to the period for which leases can be entered into for such sensitive areas as national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and areas of special scientific interest, it is only proper to introduce some restraints to ensure that the purposes of the national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and areas of special scientific interest are protected. It would be a failure on our part to allow the Duchy to have utterly free play over the land in those areas, as is envisaged in the Bill.

The amendment proposes that, before the Duchy enters into any new leases, with its new unbounded powers under what will be the Duchy of Lancaster Act 1988, where the lease is granted for any land or property forming part of a national park, area of outstanding natural beauty or special scientific interest, it shall consult the appropriate national park board, the Nature Conservancy Council or the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. If any of those bodies objects to the terms of these new, utterly unfettered, leases, the Duchy of Lancaster will be able to proceed only following the affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament. The Chancellor may say that that is going a bit far and that it might not be the best way of providing the protection that we are seeking.

I have no great brief for the amendments that I have drafted. They may be faulty in their detail, but they are not faulty in their intention. It is right and proper to add this compensatory protection. I hope that the Chancellor will accept the wording as it stands or promise that some protection will be introduced when the Bill goes to the House of Lords.