Development Projects or Schemes

Orders of the Day — Natural Heritage (Scotland) Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 10:20 pm on 24th June 1991.

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The Lords disagree to the Amendment made by the Commons in page 3 to leave out lines I to 8 but propose the following amendment in lieu thereof:

Lords amendment No. 1 , in page 3, leave out lines 1 to 8 and insert:("(4) Where SNH has prepared a proposal for a development project or scheme for any area which involves the compulsory acquisition of land under subsection (6)(a) below, a compulsory purchase order for that purpose shall be subject to special parliamentary procedure in any case where an objection has been duly made by the owner of the land and has not been withdrawn.(5) In subsection (4) above "owner" shall have the same meaning as in the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) (Scotland) Act 1947.")

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West 10:22 pm, 24th June 1991

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment proposed in lieu of the Commons amendment.

The original Commons amendment was, in my view, acceptable in so far as it removed the right of appeal against development schemes or projects. For the reasons that I gave in Committee, such a right of appeal is unnecessary, because a development cannot be affected without the owner's approval. However, after much careful reflection, we considered that, in addition to removing this right of appeal, it was appropriate to take steps to meet the several concerns that have been expressed about the scope of Scottish Natural Heritage's compulsory purchase power under clause 5.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

I wish to develop my point first, but I will give way to the hon. Gentleman later.

As I have stressed throughout the passage of the Bill, it is of the utmost importance that Scottish Natural Heritage should be able to develop positive and co-operative relations with all those involved in land use, and this extra safeguard, which we are applying to the compulsory purchase powers in the clause, will be most helpful in that regard.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

As the Minister has said that much careful thought has been given to these matters, are we to believe Mr. Charles Clover, the well-respected correspondent of The Daily Telegraph? He writes in this morning's edition of that newspaper, among other things, that Professor Sir Fred Holliday, chairman of the standards committee for the United Kingdom, was not consulted. Was Sir Fred consulted or was he not?

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

I cannot confirm that he was. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that compulsory purchase order powers exist for a range of issues—for example, where SNH is satisfied that it is in the national interest that land should be managed as a nature reserve but is unable to conclude an agreement on reasonable terms. There are various other grounds that I can specify if the hon. Gentleman so wishes.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

All right, I shall spell them out. If the hon. Gentleman is anxious to have all the details, I shall give them to him.

Compulsory purchase would be possible where agreement for management of a nature reserve is breached in a way which prevents or impairs the satisfactory management of the land. The other compulsory purchase order that is available to SNH is in relation to public access to open country if it is impracticable to obtain such access by agreement or order.

The amendment provides that compulsory purchase orders made by the Secretary of State under clause 5 should be subject to special parliamentary procedure. Hon. Members may know that, under that procedure, a CPO does not come into effect until it has been laid before Parliament and has been brought into operation in accordance with the special procedure Acts. Petitions may be presented against the CPO and either House may resolve that the order should be annulled.

The most notable use of the procedure at present is to safeguard National Trust land. The definition of "owner" which we have used includes tenants under a lease with more than three years to run. This means that, where such a tenant objects to the compulsory purchase, special parliamentary procedure would come into operation. Hon. Members will appreciate that this provides the same safeguard for a small tenant farmer as for a large landowner. I am sure that the House will be rightly pleased about that.

Overall, the practical effect of the amendment would be that even if the Secretary of State agreed with SNH that a CPO should be made, Parliament's approval would be required via these procedures. I remind those who feel that we may have gone too far with the amendment, and effectively neutralised the compulsory purchase power, of the nature and scope of clause 5. That clause is essentially a re-enactment of a provision that exists in the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967. In most instances where the Countryside Commission for Scotland has used the power, the agreement of the landowner has been very easy to obtain. That is because the land concerned has generally been of little value and not in gainful use. We expect that pattern to continue. It is unlikely that SNH would wish to pursue a project where the landowner did not consent. It is therefore unlikely that SNH would ever wish to use its compulsory purchase powers, and the Countryside Commission for Scotland has made no use of them for 20 years. Resort to compulsory purchase in such instances would go against the entire basis of co-operation and partnership that we wish to see SNH establish.

The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) asked me earlier whether Professor Sir Fred Holliday was consulted on CPOs. The answer is no. That is because the Joint Committee of the Councils for Mature Conservation has no statutory responsibility for the powers that are set out in clause 5. I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to an amendment that will be dealt with later. I know that he will be especially interested in that amendment.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

The Minister said that compulsory purchase powers rest with the Countryside Commission for Scotland. It would seem that the existence of those powers did not prevent a constructive dialogue between the commission and landowners in the community generally. The existence of the powers, although they are never used, surely puts the commission in a position of some strength when discussions take place. Does he not accept that, by weakening the relevant provisions, he is undermining Scottish Natural Heritage?

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

I have never before heard criticism of the involvement of Parliament in such matters. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that the powers have been of assistance to the Countryside Commission for Scotland. Let me give an obvious example. Suppose that nobody knows who is the owner of a piece of land. That person may have emigrated 50 years ago. He may not have any descendants, and he may be impossible to trace. I can envisage a compulsory purchase order being entirely reasonable in such circumstances. But the involvement of Parliament is a safeguard in contentious cases.

10.30 pm

Hon. Members will recall that we had a debate in Committee on the availability of compulsory purchase orders, in response to an amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro). As I explained on that occasion, I feel that, in many ways, the fact that the equivalent existing power has never been used by the Countryside Commission for Scotland is rather a good reason for retaining the power for Scottish Natural Heritage, as it shows that it is very much a power of last resort, the exercise of which would not be entered into lightly.

Given the concerns of all involved in land use as to the scope of compulsory purchase powers, I am confident that the amendment will allow the clause to strike a proper balance between their interests and the powers of Scottish Natural Heritage in relation to development projects. With that in mind, I trust that the House will support the amendment.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

We want to get on to the new clause 11, but I ask the Minister one question. He referred to the land being "of little value". In whose judgment is it of little value? Who has made the value judgment that it is of little value in this instance?

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

All land is of particular value to the person who owns it; that goes without saying. What I meant was that, in monetary terms, it was of relatively little value. Perhaps I should have been more specific in the language that I used.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

My final comment is that I wonder how well thought out the provision is, and why we did not hear much about this in Committee. Frankly, the Government and their advisers might have thought of it a good deal earlier.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not recall that the criticisms that were made in Committee related to the notion of having compulsory purchase orders in the first place. Those criticisms were made from a very different angle from those being made by the hon. Gentleman tonight. But the involvement of Parliament is a safeguard in contentious cases, and I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman, who is a great parliamentarian, should criticise the fact that we are seeking to involve Parliament in such matters.

Question put and agreed to.

The Lords agree to the following amendment made by the Commons: After clause 5, insert the following new clause—

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

On the consequences of designation, there is a detailed procedure, and I should be happy to send the hon. Gentleman a summary of what it would mean. The management of an area would be set out in a management statement and that would eventually have to go to the Secretary of State for approval at the time of designation. He could approve it in whole or in part or not approve it, depending on how good the case was. One of the effects of designation would be that priority would be given by Scottish Natural Heritage with regard to management and access agreements. Certainly, priority would be given to the areas of research and of course the flow country, in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, might be a prime candidate for consideration in this category. I shall be happy to send the hon. Gentleman further information should he wish me to do so.

Question put and agreed to.

The Lords disagree to the Amendment made by the Commons to leave out clause 11, but propose the following amendment in lieu thereof:

Lords amendment: No. 3, to leave out clause 11 and insert the following new clause—

(7) SNH shall not confirm a notification to which subsection (5) above applies or come to a decision on representations to which subsection (6) above applies without having received and considered the advice of the Committee on the matter; and in any case where a matter has been referred to the Committee SNH shall send a copy of the Committee's advice to any owner or occupier who has made objections or representations at the time when it notifies the owner or occupier of the confirmation of a notification or, as the case may be, its decision on the matter.

(8) Where representations are made to SNH in respect of a notification relating to any land in circumstances other than those mentioned in subsection (5) or (6) above, SNH shall refer the representations to the Committee where not less than 10 years have elapsed from whichever is the later of the date of the notification or the date of any earlier representations made in respect of the notification."

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

With this we may take the following amendments: (d), in line 3, at end insert—

  1. '(a) giving advice to SNH in relation to objections or representations made in respect of an application for a sea bed lease for aquaculture within or affecting an SSSI as specified in subsections (4A) and (4B) below; and
  2. (b)'.
(e), in line 17, at end insert—

'(4A) Where an application has been made to lease part of the sea bed (including the bed of a sea loch) within or affecting an SSSI for the purposes of establishing a fin-fish or shell-fish farm, or extending an existing fish farm, and objections and representations have been made to the leasing authority and, within six months of such representations having been made, they have not been withdrawn, the matter shall be referred to the Committee.

(4B) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (4A) above where any objections or representations made in respect to a sea bed lease granted for the purposes of aquaculture, and where—

  1. (a) not less than 10 years have elapsed since the date of granting such a lease, or
  2. (b) a sea bed lease was granted prior to October 1986, or
  3. (c) a sea bed lease was granted prior to the coming into effect of the Environmental Assessment (Salmon Farming in Marine Waters) Regulations 1988,
the matter shall be referred to the Committee.'.

  1. (a), in line 27, to leave out subsection (6).
  2. (b), in line 45, to leave out from 'applies' to 'without' in line 46.
  3. (c), in line 53, to leave out subsection (8).
I should inform the House that the amendment involves privilege.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment proposed in lieu of the Commons amendment.

I think that it will be for the convenience of the House if I take account of the amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald).

As the House will know, the former clause 11 of the Bill has had a somewhat turbulent history. There were a number of reasons why we considered it unacceptable. In the first place, it would have placed an onerous burden on SNH. It would also have involved so much time and effort that it is doubtful whether SNH could have devoted much effort to any of its other duties during its first five years of existence. Apart from these practical objections, there was, of course, a matter of principle at stake. That led us to oppose both the former clause 11 and the amendments moved in Committee.

The clause and the amendments established a right of appeal to the Secretary of State. That would have been a fundamental departure from the provisions of sections 28 and 29 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and could have resulted in the erosion of the scientific basis of the designation. As that legislation not only embodies the SSSI procedures, but gives effect to our commitment to nature conservation under both international treaties and EC directives, any departure from that legislation on a purely Scottish basis would have called into question our commitment to those obligations and could have led to the risk of challenge in, for example, the European Court of Justice.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

Has the Minister seen what was said by Charles Clover in The Daily Telegraph this morning? Was Sir Fred Holliday consulted? Is it or is it not true that the Department of the Environment has said that the procedure will not be imposed in England? What has the Secretary of State for the Environment to say about that?

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

I cannot say whether my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has been consulted, although I have little doubt that he will be aware of the matter because of public reporting of it. As for the other matter, the criteria for SSSIs will remain exactly the same throughout Britain. It is for the Department of the Environment and the Welsh Office to decide about structures in specific parts of the United Kingdom.

Let me remind the House about the way in which SSSI procedures have been operated. The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) was so concerned about the issue that she raised it in her maiden speech. She said: We must seek a proper balance between nature conservation and the interests of the people who live and work in the area. To that end, I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will urgently consider the establishment of a Scottish nature conservancy council. … The people of Islay are deeply upset and angry. They fear that in the end 65 per cent. of the land area of Islay will become eligible for designation, and, if that happens, depopulation could occur on a scale not seen since the infamous clearances.—[Official Report, 13 July 1987; Vol. 119, c. 717.] During the passage of the Environmental Protection Bill, the hon. Member for Western Isles made strong representations over the way in which the Nature Conservancy Council had operated the SSSI system in his constituency. He stated: Too often, I am sorry to say, the southern-based environmental lobby, including the NCC, has been seen by ordinary highlanders as alien, aloof, insensitive, remote, and sadly devoid of any appreciation of the special history and culture of the Highlands and Islands."—[Official Report, 15 January 1990; Vol. 165, c. 81.] I have a high regard for NCC members and for the work that they do, but both hon. Members have a point in believing that the NCC needed to become more responsive to local circumstances.

The Scottish Crofters Union, in its representations for the paper, "Scotland's Natural Heritage", stated: Crofters in general are very dissatisfied with the way these SSSIs are designated, and especially with the wording of the statutes that regulate them. The NCC has done little to address this problem. Similarly, the Borders Farming and Forestry and Wildlife Advisory Group stated: In many cases, the way in which the Special Interest of SSSIs have been communicated to farmers and land owners leaves much to be desired. A less abrasive procedure would achieve better co-operation. We produced the new clause to balance the legitimate concerns expressed by owners, crofters, and occupiers of land about the role of Scottish Natural Heritage in SSSI notification with our fundamental commitment to the SSSI system, as set out in sections 28 and 19 of the 1981 Act.

The new clause was approved by an overwhelming majority in another place, where it had the general support of Opposition peers. The Opposition's Front-Bench spokesman for Scotland in another place had a briefing meeting with my noble Friend Lord Strathclyde and with officials on the morning of the debate on our new clause. I am sure that, as a result, he fully understood its purpose and effect—contrary to reports that appeared in the media.

The new clause places a duty on the Secretary of State to appoint a committee of people of relevant scientific qualifications and expertise, whose independence from SNH is guaranteed by the provision in subsection (2), which excludes the appointment to the committee of any member of SNH, or a member of any committee appointed by SNH.

The committee's remit covers only the scientific validity of the notification of new and existing SSSIs. In relation to new SSSIs, subsection (5) provides in effect that if any owner or occupier objects to notification and SNH cannot persuade him to withdraw his objection, SNH has a duty to refer the matter to the committee for advice.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland

I read subsection (2) with considerable care, but it is highly ambiguous. I take it that the Minister intends that members of the advisory committee should have scientific experience, but the clause could equally well be interpreted as excluding those who have scientific qualifications and experience. As a matter of statutory construction, I am far from convinced that the Government have got that subsection right. It seems possible that scientists would be excluded from membership of the committee.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

The hon. Member asks a question that I asked a short time ago. Advisory committee members must have scientific qualifications, but it is important that they should not also serve as members of boards of Scottish Natural Heritage. However, if a person came off one of those boards, there is no reason why his or her eligibility for the advisory committee should not be considered. However, a person could not serve on both simultaneously.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

It is proper that the Minister, as a lawyer, should have asked that question. May I ask him in turn of whom he asked that question, and what was the reply?

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we have what I regard as extremely good legal advice in the Scottish Office, whose officials act as a team. I assure the House that they would not make proposals unless they had been carefully checked by Scottish Office lawyers—and, as the hon. Gentleman knows, Bills are drafted by lawyers.

10.45 pm

Subsection (6) deals with existing SSSIs, which in general are subject to a somewhat different procedure. Scottish Natural Heritage is given six months to try to persuade the owner or occupier to withdraw his objection. If the representations have not been withdrawn within six months, SNH must refer the matter to the advisory committee. The subsection distinguishes two different categories of existing SSSI. In cases where objections or representations were made at the time of the original notification, the owner or occupier can ask SNH to refer the case to the committee as soon as the Bill comes into operation. For other cases—that is, where no objections were expressed in the first place—SNH does not need to refer the matter to the committee unless 10 years have elapsed from the date of notification. In relation to both new and existing SSSIs, the objections must relate to the scientific interest of the site.

Subsection (7) makes it clear that SNH cannot reach a decision until it has received and considered the committee's advice. A copy of that advice must also be sent to the objector when SNH notifies its final decision on the case. Subsection (8) introduces a 10-year cycle for objections for all SSSIs, once they have been dealt with under the provisions of subsection (5) or (6).

That is an essential feature of the new clause, as SNH could otherwise be asked to refer the same SSSI to the committee almost continuously. Ten years seems a reasonable period, especially when it is borne in mind that SNH will constantly monitor the scientific interest of the site during that period under the general workings of the 1981 Act.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

Before the Minister leaves the review procedure, can he explain why that socialist newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, quoted Mr. Magnus Magnusson—the chairman-designate of Scottish Natural Heritage—as saying that he was 'deeply unhappy' about the review procedure which he believes could overburden his new-born quango and lead to the reconsideration of any of Scotland's 1,300 SSSIs"?If it is all such plain sailing, why has SNH's own chairman not been carried with it?

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

Answer the question.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

I intend to answer the question; the hon. Gentleman must give me the opportunity to do so.

When I saw Mr. Magnus Magnusson, he made it clear that he would approach the subject in a very positive frame of mind. I have nothing but confidence in his chairmanship. I think that he is outstanding. The hon. Gentleman asks a valid question. He wants to know how much pressure could be put on SNH in, for example, the number of cases that could be generated—

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

I want to know why Mr. Magnusson is not happy.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

The hon. Gentleman has asked a question and I shall answer him. There is concern about how many cases would be generated. The hon. Gentleman may not be interested in that, but Mr. Magnusson certainly is. I shall set out what I believe to be the position. The number of cases going to the advisory committee will depend on a number of factors. First, it is for owners, crofters and occupiers to decide whether they wish to make representations on scientific grounds. Secondly, SNH and the crofters, owners and occupiers will have an opportunity to resolve any differences over a six-month period. Any figures that may be put forward are, therefore, purely guesswork. It is impossible to estimate the figure.

Photo of Mr Calum MacDonald Mr Calum MacDonald , Na h-Eileanan an Iar

Is the Minister disputing Magnus Magnusson's estimate that the new procedure will cost about £1 million or £1·5 million per year to operate?

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

Mr. Magnusson has never mentioned those figures to me. I expect the figure to be relatively small, but we shall take full account of it in the annual public expenditure survey round and ensure that adequate resources are made available.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

The Minister started with a flurry of confidence, saying that he would give us the latest up-to-date position on the impact of the new arrangements on Scottish Natural Heritage. I expected him to say something about the number of appeals that the Scottish Office estimates there will be. Rumours are going around among the various environmental bodies that several hundred cases are already in the queue. The Minister signally failed to live up to the beginning of his speech, because he ended up saying that he had no idea what the answer was. Is the Scottish Office setting up the new procedure without any idea of the impact that appeals will have on the workload?

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

I can give the hon. Gentleman some information, from which he may be able to make an estimate. Of the 541 SSSIs approved for confirmation by the Nature Conservancy Council committee under the new procedure since 1985, 153 were the subject of objections. That is some 28 per cent. of the total.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

No. The hon. Gentleman can make his own speech. I have answered the point that he made in his earlier intervention.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

I do so reluctantly, because I want to get on.

Photo of Mr Calum MacDonald Mr Calum MacDonald , Na h-Eileanan an Iar

The Minister said that he had seen no estimate by Magnus Magnusson of the magnitude that I described. In today's edition of The Daily Telegraph Mr. Charles Clover states: Mr. Magnus Magnusson … has told Mr. Lang, Scottish Secretary, in a letter seen by conservancy council staff, that the new scientific appeals committee could cost Scottish Natural Heritage … up to £1·5 million a year. Has the Minister seen the letter that Magnus Magnusson wrote to the Secretary of State? If he has not seen it, why not? If he has seen it, can he deny that Magnus Magnusson gave that estimate of £1·5 million?

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

I will check up on that and make absolutely certain that, if any such letter has been sent, I will see it as quickly as possible. I can only repeat what I have already said on the subject of resources —that this will be considered with the greatest of care in the autumn, during the public expenditure round, to make certain that the resources awarded are adequate for the purpose.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

No. I have answered the hon. Gentleman's question.

This would be a convenient place—

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The House of Commons is turning into a fiasco. May we not, through you, appeal to the duty Whip to ask either the Lord President of the Council or the Government Whip to come to the House to see what is happening and then, for the sake of Scotland and the heritage in general, to return and clarify the Government's understanding of their own Bill?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

That is not a point of order for the Chair. I suggest that we get on with the debate, which may well produce clarification.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

This will be a convenient place to deal with the amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Western Isles. As the House will appreciate, the SSSI system does not and cannot extend below the low water mark and, therefore, does not directly have an impact on marine fish farming. The amendment can therefore only refer to leases for marine fish farms affecting SSSIs. There can be no sea bed leases within a site of special scientific interest.

The hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, be aware of the existing arrangements for dealing with applications to the Crown Estate for sea bed leases where there is an objection to the proposals from one of the statutory bodies—local authorities, river purification authorities, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Nature Conservancy Council, the Countryside Commission for Scotland and, in due course, Scottish Natural Heritage. Where there is an objection that cannot be resolved, the case is referred by the Crown Estate to an advisory committee appointed by the Secretary of State. The committee is purely advisory and deals only with individual cases. The Crown Estate should take account of the committee's advice in determining the location for a lease.

The advisory committee on SSSIs, as proposed in the Government amendment, has the same relationship to Scottish Natural Heritage as the fish farming advisory committee to the Crown Estate. The amendment moved by the hon. Member for Western Isles would, therefore, result in a bureaucratic procedure. There would be a four-tier chain from the SSSI advisory committee to Scottish Natural Heritage, from Scottish Natural Heritage to the fish farming advisory committee, and from that committee to the Crown Estate. I am sure that the hon. Member will recognise that that would be an administratively inefficient and cumbersome procedure.

Photo of Mr Calum MacDonald Mr Calum MacDonald , Na h-Eileanan an Iar

I do not want to create extra bureaucracy. Why not get rid of the advisory committee to the Crown Estate and have a single advisory committee, if one is necessary, comprising scientists from both quangos, to advise on disputes?

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

The advisory committee on fish farming has an important role to fulfil and will do so with great efficiency; many of its members are experts.

The hon. Member for Western Isles wishes to modify the clause by exempting existing SSSIs from its provisions. That is unacceptable. It is regrettable but true that much of the criticism of the SSSI system in recent years has stemmed from the way in which notification was handled by the former Nature Conservancy Council, as the hon. Member said in debates on the Environmental Protection Bill.

Subsection (6) of the new clause 11 is a response to that criticism. It gives Scottish Natural Heritage a chance to ask the advisory committee to reconsider a matter where an owner or occupier can make a case on scientific grounds for having a particular SSSI referred to the committee.

I note that the hon. Member for Western Isles would like to remove subsection (8). In relation to new SSSIs, that would mean that, once the committee had considered a case referred to it under subsection (5) there would be no requirement on Scottish Natural Heritage to refer further representations to the committee.

I should make it clear that subsection (8) fulfils a dual function. For new SSSIs, it gives owners and occupiers a chance every 10 years to make further representations to SNH, on which the committee's advice must be obtained. For existing SSSIs, it prevents an owner or occupier from constantly challenging the scientific validity of the site. That seems to be essential protection for Scottish Natural Heritage.

The purpose of subsection (8) is to establish a 10-year cycle for reference to the committee in respect of all SSSIs. In our view, it is only right and proper that owners and occupiers should be able to activate the advisory committee procedure again, as in the course of 10 years there could be considerable changes in the scientific interest of the site. In every case, the owner or occupier would need to make a case on scientific grounds for having the matter referred to the committee. A 10-year cycle would not be unduly burdensome.

I suspect that the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) may be concerned about subsection (8) because he believes that it allows for representations on matters other than the scientific justification for notification. I can assure him that it allows no such thing. Taken on its own, it is possible to interpret it as referring to representations of any kind made in any circumstances, but the subsection must be interpreted in the context of the clause as a whole and what it is intended to achieve. The clause is designed to provide the opportunity for owners or occupiers to ask for reassessment of the scientific basis and the scientific basis alone, of the SSSI notification. To that end, it provides for referral of representations to a committee of persons with scientific qualifications.

Subsection (8) is not free-standing and does not allow representations on other matters to be considered, first, because it starts by referring back to subsections (5) and (6) and, secondly, because to read the subsection on its own would be to deny the closing words on the 10-year time scale much of their meaning. Those words fix the starting point of the 10-year period by reference to the date on which representations about the scientific basis of the site were last made. There seems no point in using this formula if the intention was to allow representations on non-scientific matters to be referred to the committee.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

In response to a question from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), the Minister said what he expected the work load to be as a result of the earlier clauses. Has the Scottish Office or Scottish Natural Heritage made an estimate of how many representations they expect to receive under what might be described as the retrospective provisions of the Lords amendment? How many officials and paid staff will be required to deal with them? In the light of the representations that have been received, within what time scale do they expect the matter to be resolved, and what will be the cost to the public purse and Scottish Natural Heritage as a result?

11 pm

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

As I said earlier, about 28 per cent. objected. I imagine that virtually all those who did not object will not wish to object in future, because the circumstances will not have changed.

The figures quoted by the hon. Member for Western Isles from The Daily Telegraph today are merely mooted in the letter from Mr. Magnusson to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The whole thrust of the clause is to enable owners and occupiers to ask SNH to think again about the scientific reasons justifying the notification of an SSSI and to have the opportunity of a second opinion. That is clearly the purpose behind subsections (5) and (6), which are the main operative provisions of the clause. Subsection (8) is ancillary to those provisions. Subsections (5) and (6) provide, in appropriate cases, the first opportunity after the coming into operation of the Bill for owners and occupiers to implement the new procedure. Subsection (8) deals with all cases thereafter, by placing them on a 10-year cycle.

There is the further point that, if subsection (8) has as wide a meaning as may be inferred, what would be the point of referring representations about matters of a non-scientific nature to a committee composed entirely of people with specific scientific qualifications?

There has been some speculation as to what would happen if SNH chose to ignore the advisory committee's advice. Would the committee have any recourse to the Secretary of State? The answer is that the committee will have no statutory recourse to the Secretary of State. That would be quite contrary to our commitment to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, under which the final say on SSSI notification remains with SNH as successor to the Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland. The committee could not be stopped from making representations to the Secretary of State, but in relation to an individual case there would be no action that the Secretary of State could take. His power of direction under the clause is limited to procedural matters, and his power of direction under clause 11 is disapplied to SNH's conservation functions under the 1981 Act.

The final decision, as I said, is for SNH. It is not accurate to speak of SNH ignoring the committee's advice. It is perfectly clear from subsection (7) that, where a case is referred to the committee, SNH cannot take a decision unless it has received and considered the committee's advice. That point is of considerable importance in relation to the question whether objectors would have any right to make a legal appeal against SNH's decision. There is no such right in the new clause, nor does the new clause affect the position regarding judicial review. There has always been a right of judicial review of the decisions of the former NCC or of the present NCCS. SNH will be in the same position.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland

What happens if an application for judicial review is made and the advisory committee has given advice that is contrary to the advice leading to the disputed decision? Is there not a much greater prospect of success for the appellant than would otherwise exist? Normally, judges would be unlikely to substitute their discretion for that of the body whose decision is challenged. If there is a counter-opinion by an expert body, the issue is much more open.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

The only statutory obligation on SNH is to consider the committee's advice. It is not under an obligation to follow that advice. If it is shown that a person has considered the advisory committee's advice and has not acted unreasonably, the decision is safe from legal challenge.

Questions have also been asked about the situation in which SNH's acceptance of the advisory committee's advice leads to the denotification of an SSSI. Would the owner or occupier be able to claim compensation? There can therefore be no basis for a claim for compensation simply because land has been denotified. This is the case at present and will continue to be the case once the advisory committee has been established. If an SSSI is denotified or the area of a site is reduced in a case where a management agreement is in force, the question whether any sums paid under the agreement would be recoverable by SNH or whether any further sums would still be payable to the owner or occupier would be determined by the agreement itself.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

The hon. Gentleman can make his own speech in a moment. I wish to get on.

Some concern has been expressed as to how, in the case of new SSSIs, the deliberations of the advisory committee will fit into the nine-month period from notification laid down in section 28(4)(a) of the 1981 Act. That is a matter of legitimate concern, especially because, if SNH did not receive the committee's advice within the nine-month period, it would need to withdraw the notification, which would then fall.

I assure the House that we were aware of that problem when drafting the clause. That is the main reason why we included subsection (4). In the case of new SSSIs, it may well be necessary and desirable for the matter to be referred to the advisory committee at the same time as it is being considered by the relevant regional board of SNH and the Scientific Research and Development Board. There is nothing in the clause to suggest that the advisory committee's deliberations should be fitted in at the end of the process. In fact, the clause requires SNH to receive and consider the committee's advice before reaching its own decision. We believe that the flexibility gained by leaving those details out of the clause will be of great benefit to the committee on procedural matters. We envisage that there will be a core of about five members, but we would expect them to be supplemented by experts.

As for the committee's procedures, we would expect them to be kept as simple as possible, especially given the time constraints that I have discussed. I could say a lot about the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and resources, but I should prefer to hear what hon. Members have to say first. The opportunity for independent appraisal and the scientific case for notification meets many requests for action on that point.

I should also make it clear that nothing in the new clause would override the statutory duty of SNH to notify sites under section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Photo of Sam Galbraith Sam Galbraith , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

Having listened to the Minister, I and my colleagues are no clearer about the general reason for and thrust of clause 11 or about the specific detail, and nor do we think that the Minister is clear about them. For the Minister to allow the reintroduction of the clause was to act in a fairly despicable manner and to betray pledges made to the House. We shall remain opposed to clause 11. The case against the clause is basically a scientific one, and I shall develop that point later; but first there are two other serious issues that I shall consider.

In supporting the reintroduction of the clause, the Government have bowed unashamedly to the vested interests of the landowners. This is once again an example of the fact that, in forming legislation to suit vested interests, this Government are second to none. It is much to their discredit that they have allowed themselves to be bulldozed by the landowning community.

A more serious charge against the Government is that, by allowing the reintroduction of clause 11, they have broken pledges given in the House and in another place. By breaking those pledges, the Government have broken the all-party consensus on the Bill, which is not in the interests of Scottish Natural Heritage or of the Scottish environment.

In Committee in another place, Lord Strathclyde said on 5 December: The Government have repeatedly stated, especially during the course of debates in this House and during the progress of the Environmental Protection Act, that they are not prepared to contemplate any change to the statutory procedures for site notification. Yet that is what the reintroduction of clause 11 specifically does and it also breaks that pledge.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds had predicted that the reorganisation of the Nature Conservancy Council would lead to differing standards of conservation in Great Britain. Ministers had assured Parliament that that would not be the case. I again cite Lord Strathclyde: the Government cannot change the provisions for SSSIs laid down in the 1981 Act in a Scottish Bill as these are Great Britain measures. However, the reintroduction of clause 11 does just that, because, by referring objections to an independent committee, the Government are seeking to overrule SNH's statutory duty to notify SSSIs.

Lord Strathclyde also said in Committee in December: The Secretary of State cannot overrule the statutory duty of SNH to notify an SSSI under section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981."—[Official Report, House of Lords; 3 December 1990; Vol. 524, c. 55–56.] In February this year, The Secretary of State said in a Scottish Office press release: This decision underlines the Government's continued commitment to the SSSI system, as the essential mechanism for ensuring the protection of areas that are unique of representative sites of scientific interest for plants, animals and earth science features.It follows that I do not intend to support the case for a statutory right of appeal. Yet that is what the Government are doing by accepting the reintroduction of clause 11.

The Government will deal in semantics and say that it is not a right of appeal but merely a second guess, but that is not the case. By reintroducing clause 11, we are establishing an appeals procedure for the system of notification which breaks all the pledges that the Government have given the House and the country. Why have the Government done that? As I have said, they have bowed to the landowning fraternity, but not to all of it.

The main protagonist behind clause 11 is Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who is no friend of the SNH, which he seems to see as a communist plot. Writing in The Field of May 1991, which is my natural reading, he showed a mixture of paranoia and ignorance about SNH, stating that the Bill was being driven through the Commons by an ambitious and interventionist Department of the Environment. That must come as a surprise to the Scottish Office. I know that it is rarely in charge of its own briefs, but to suggest that the Bill comes from the Department of the Environment, not the Scottish Office, is nonsense.

Lord Pearson went on: Ministers who do not understand the countryside are executing briefs written by a new brand of civil servant … based largely in Bristol. Again, that must come as a surprise to the Scottish Office and, indeed, to the many civil servants there who have been working on this Bill. Can someone please tell Lord Pearson that this is, indeed, a Scottish Office Bill?

Lord Pearson continued—he is the main protagonist—

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I think that he is quoting a noble Lord who is not a Minister, in which case he should paraphrase.

Photo of Sam Galbraith Sam Galbraith , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

The noble Lord continued—I paraphrase, Mr. Deputy Speaker—that the provisions reflected the worst instincts of the component parts of the new constitution, which were socialist control—from the Countryside Commission—and narrow-minded science—from the Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland.

Those seem to be the words of a bigot. The suggestion that the Countryside Commission for Scotland is under socialist control is ridiculous, and must come as some surprise to the chairman, Roger Carr, and his staff.

I shall finish with another paraphrased quote from the noble Lord, who said that, when the British Communist party disbanded at the end of last year, it advised its members to continue the fight from within the green movement, adding that the Natural Heritage (Scotland) Bill is an important test case. Green can be quite red.

I have dealt at some length with his Lordship, to explain the background of the opinions and personality of the main protagonist of the reintroduction of clause 11. The supporters of clause 11 are opposed not just to the SSSIs, but to the whole concept of Scottish Natural Heritage. Clause 11 is a wrecking clause that has been inserted to kill off SNH before it gets off the ground. Why, oh why, have the Government responded to the likes of Lord Pearson, who does not speak for all the landowners?

Patrick Gordon-Duff-Pennington, the convener of the Scottish Landowners' Federation, is a man for whom I am developing increasing respect, especially since I have read some of what he has written. When writing in The Field, which I read every month, he felt moved to rebuke Lord Pearson. He said that Lord Pearson was his friend and he understood his view of past happenings. He said, however, that if private ownership was to survive in Scotland, his patrician attitude, reminiscent of the 19th century, was not helpful.

Gordon-Duff-Pennington went on to say that the setting up of the well balanced regional boards would do much to defuse the past criticisms of NCCs, and that it was suicidal to condemn them at that stage. He said: We asked for the repatriation of the NCC to Scotland. Now that we have it, it is up to us to make it work without the unifying force of antipathy of anything English! We have won the war. It is now up to the people of Scotland to win the peace, and that includes Lord Pearson‡ Long may he survive in Rannoch, but if his attitudes persist it will make the job of my successor that much more difficult". I agree with Patrick Gordon-Duff-Pennington. Let the noble Lord Pearson not just survive in Rannoch but also look after his SSSIs there too. Let us do away with that patrician attitude reminiscent of the 19th century.

11.15 pm

Clause 11 will have a serious detrimental effect on conservation in this country. Scottish Natural Heritage will take the best possible advice on whether a site is of special scientific interest. Why, therefore, set up another committee to second-guess the Nature Conservancy Council? It is impractical, unworkable, divisive and inflammatory.

As a result of clause 11, which was originally inserted in the House of Lords, Magnus Magnusson, chairman of the NCC in Scotland, reviewed its internal procedures and announced new arrangements for notifying SSSIs in Scotland. The revised procedure will enable disputes over SSSIs to be referred to the NCC's regional board. If the dispute remains unresolved, it will then go before the full NCC council, who would seek the advice of its new scientific committee. That was welcomed by the Government and all those involved and was considered to be an excellent way forward.

Suddenly, however, that has all been thrown aside, and, without consultation with the NCC or Magnus Magnusson, clause 11 has been reintroduced. No wonder he is furious. Why threaten his attempt to base the SSSI system on trust and co-operation by reintroducing the clause? There is no need for an appeals system because, unlike a planning application, SSSIs is simply a notification.

On that matter, I agree once again with the noble Lord Strathclyde, who said, on Report stage of the Bill in another place: Those who would argue that the SSSI procedures are unfair and undemocratic seem to me to be missing the point; that is, that notification of a SSSI in itself places no restriction on the use to which the owner or occupier put the land. All that is required is for any changes to the use of that land to be agreed with SNH. The system is a voluntary one. SNH will not be able to impose a particular land use on an unwilling owner."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 18 December 1990; Vol. 524, c. 776.] I accept that the designation of an SSSI is a matter of opinion and not a scientific fact. There will be scientific facts about the site, but whether they are sufficient to make them of special scientific interest is a matter of opinion, and that is what the dispute is all about. However, we must agree that it is not like a planning application, which can prohibit certain actions. SSSIs are simply a scientific designation.

A list of potentially damaging operations is given to the owners of sites, and if they wish to undertake any of them they are under a duty to inform Scottish Natural Heritage. However, in the last resort they can ignore them and proceed to do whatever they wish with their land. That is why we do not need an appeals procedure.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland

I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman's general remarks. He must also be aware, however, that the designation can have a pecuniary impact if a grant for afforestation is withheld because the ground has been designated.

Photo of Sam Galbraith Sam Galbraith , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

I remember the hon. Gentleman making that point before. I accept his point, but I do not see why, if a site is of scientific interest, we should give taxpayers' money for it to be developed. If people wish to develop it through their own resources, that is open to them, but we should not make taxpayers' money available to them to do so.

Subsection (5) is bad enough, in that it concerns objections to new SSSI notifications which challenge the scientific case, but subsection (6) goes even further and requires any scientific objections to existing SSSIs to be referred to the new committee. I know that the Minister was reticent about what impact that would have, but a strong rumour is going round conservation circles and bodies that there are already 200 objections lined up for the committee to take on. That will paralyse Scottish Natural Heritage from the outset. Surely the Government cannot stand that.

The proposal invites appeals on a 10-year cycle, and acts as a focus for growing anti-SSSI campaigns among the landowners. That cannot be in the interests of the SSSI system or of Scottish Natural Heritage. The position is now ridiculous. SNH designates a site of special scientific interest, an objection is raised and goes to an appeal committee, which then second-guesses SNH—and it may have its own internal appeals procedure. It goes on through the regional committees and the scientific committee. There is nothing factual; we should simply have another opinion and be no further forward. For those reasons, we should not accept the amendment.

What of the cost? The Minister was again reluctant to say what it would be. Will it cost £1·5 million to set up the new system? The committee will have only a skeleton staff. It will have to use SNH's scientific advice, officers and information. What will the cost be? Is the Minister saying that the new committee has been set up by the Government without their having any idea of the cost implications with regard to SSSIs? Can we have a straight answer from the Minister? He says that £1·5 million is a speculative assessment. By whom? Have the Government made any speculative assessment? Does the Minister deny that it will cost that much?

The proposal will also undermine the basis on which SSSIs are identified, whatever the Minister may say. We were given assurances under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 that there would be strict equality among the countries of this kingdom in the notification of SSSIs. That has gone with the reintroduction of clause 11. The idea is not accepted by any relevant body in any of the countries. The proposal will also lead to a breach of international obligations under the Berne convention, the Ramsar convention and the EC directive on the conservation of wild birds. Are we willing to accept that?

SNH is a bold new step in conservation in this country. It merges the body mostly concerned with access and recreation, the Countryside Commission, with the environmental protection board, the Nature Conservancy Council. I, my party and other Opposition Members think that SNH should be given a fair wind. Instead, by accepting the reintroduction of clause 11, the Government have thrown a ball and chain round both feet of SNH. It will have to drag its way through a decade. The Government should move the impediment. I trust that we shall gain support in opposing the amendment.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister and the noble Lord Pearson, who introduced the clause in the Lords. They probably listened to fairly lengthy speeches—and I will not make a lengthy speech tonight, such as I made in Committee. We are moving into areas of fundamental importance. It is all very well to get involved in the legal niceties; the important point is that, if people are affected by decisions, it is only right that Parliament should recognise that the experts giving the advice to the new body are not the only experts. I congratulate the Government on accepting the view that I put in Committee that there are other experts.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

I am not an expert in these matters; I know little about them. However, I know that I ran into the same problems in aviation matters. It is nonsense to say that because someone is not a member of an august body at some given time that he is not an expert. As the Minister said, someone who has been a member of Scottish Natural Heritage could leave it and retain his expertise, which would be available to the advisory committee.

It is wise to have second opinions in matters as sensitive as these. Within the past few weeks, one of my landowners was visited by a person who wanted to set about producing an SSSI. That visit was much more conciliatory than some previous visits in my constituency. Our debates are obviously having an impact, because the report that I received from the landowner was favourable. The new body could be much more willing to listen and to care for the interests of those who live on and work the land.

I am astonished that Opposition Members think that an appeal against a decision by a quango is wrong. The Secretary of State is accountable to the House and has to answer our questions. He will set up the committee and while he cannot intervene we will be able to question him. Without new clause 11 that will not be the case. I congratulate the Government on listening to the will of Parliament.

Photo of Mr Calum MacDonald Mr Calum MacDonald , Na h-Eileanan an Iar

In view of what the hon. Gentleman has said, will he support my amendments, which are designed to raise the Crown Estate commissioners advisory committee to the level of the Government's proposed advisory committee? Does he agree that it would be desirable to be able to ask questions about sea bed leases as well as the type of question that the hon. Gentleman mentions?

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

As a matter of principle, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. However, on matters of principle, I rarely deviate. The only time that I deviate is when my children are involved, at which time I face conflicting interests. I understand what lies behind the hon. Gentleman's amendments. However, his hon. Friends on the Front Bench argued against his amendments by saying that he wants to extend the area of influence in the same way as the new clause. His hon. Friends know little about the countryside, unlike the hon. Gentleman. We all acknowledge the hon. Gentleman's extensive knowledge of crofting, and he carries the House with him when he speaks about such matters.

I am very happy to support the new clause.

Photo of Mr Calum MacDonald Mr Calum MacDonald , Na h-Eileanan an Iar

I hope to see yet another somersault by the Minister and the Government on this issue, as that would be a fitting end to the acrobatics that we have witnessed during the passage of the Bill. I hope that even at this late stage the Minister will adopt a wise course and withdraw the new clause. I do not think that he will do that, so I have tabled fallback amendments which would limit the damage that the new clause will wreak upon Scottish Natural Heritage. The Minister should seriously consider the options that I have suggested, especially in amendments (a) and (c).

The amendments are designed to prevent the new advisory committee having to dig up stuff that has already been thoroughly worked over by the Nature Conservancy Council which carried out a comprehensive review of SSSIs over 10 years at a cost of £50 million. In view of all that, we surely do not want to see the advisory committee getting bogged down in going over the designations again. That would be a waste of taxpayers' money. If the Minister is determined to set up the advisory committee, he should at least give it a clean slate, rather than having it go over the innumerable SSSIs that have already been investigated.

11.30 pm

I ask the Minister to think carefully about this. If my request is too much for him, I suggest that he uses the powers available to him in subsection (3), which says: The chairman and members of the Committee shall be appointed upon such terms and for such periods as the Secretary of State may … determine". Therefore, he has the power to forbear from setting up the advisory committee immediately. He can give the successor to the NCC, Scottish Natural Heritage, the opportunity to work itself into its responsibilities and to get its organisation up and running before it is landed with having to go over the notifications. One or two years' pause would be advisable. Perhaps the Minister will say whether the Government feel that the setting up of the advisory committee should be the first priority. I hope that he will see the case for letting the matter rest for a while, allowing Scottish Natural Heritage to work itself in.

The importance of the amendments is such that we need to discuss them in some detail. Labour Members are disappointed that the Government and the Minister have, at the very end, after the many debates on the Floor of the House and in Committee, when we thought that we had come to a cross-party consensus on the matter, turned somersaults and gone back on their commitment. It is not good enough for the Minister to use the comments that I made in debates on the Environmental Protection Act or during passage of this Bill about my dissatisfaction with the state of the NCC.

Yes, I thought that the NCC was aloof, and that it should work more closely with crofters in the highlands and islands, but the advisory committee has nothing to do with that. It will not make Scottish Natural Heritage any less aloof. It is no answer to the problem, and it does hot begin to tackle such issues as integrating environmental needs with the many kinds of land use that are appropriate to the highlands and islands.

The new clause goes against common sense, the rules of administration and what the Government have repeatedly assured us that they would do. It was not five years ago, not a year ago, but in recent months, during consideration of the Bill in this place, that the Government assured us that they would not be taking such an amendment on board.

First, as my hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) said, SSSIs do not prohibit or prevent anything taking place, so the amendment is unnecessary from that point of view. Secondly, it would lead to inefficiency. It would mean a duplication of work and an increase in bureaucracy and procedure. Thirdly, it would lead to a gross waste of taxpayers' money. I am amazed that the Minister was not aware of the estimate made by Magnus Magnusson, who said that it would cost £1·5 million to set up the new advisory committee. That estimate was contained in a letter to the Secretary of State. I do not know the system that operates in the Scottish Office, but surely the letter should have crossed the desk of the Under-Secretary of State.

As I have said, SSSIs do not prohibit or prevent anything from taking place. In theory, they are designed to trigger discussion and lead to agreement between SNH or the NCC and the land manager or occupier. The procedure is well enough known, but it is worth setting it out once again. Although it is well known, it is clear that it is too little understood.

Before a designation of an SSSI is made, owners or occupiers of land are given notice of the designation that is about to be made. They have nine months to make submissions in objecting to, or trying to modify, the designation. If there have been instances where owners or occupiers have not been so notified, that is a problem which comes within the bureaucracy of the NCC and one that can be resolved administratively. It is not a problem that could be solved by the advisory committee. It is worth emphasising yet again, even after my hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden has set this out, that even after the notification is made the only restriction is a requirement to consult SNH before certain listed damaging operations take place.

The outcome of the consultation can be either a management agreement—that is, an agreement between SNH and the owner or occupier about what can be done with the land—or the owner or occupier ignoring the strictures of the SNH and doing whatever he wishes with the land. There is no prohibition on the owner or occupier—if there were a final prohibition, as there should be, the NCC would not need to make payments of £500,000 to persuade individuals not to act as they propose to do. Such payments are not the subject of tales of old or of legend and Lord Thurso. There are disturbing instances of such gross payments being made recently. For example, £568,000 was paid to Mr. John Cameron, a farmer, who did not plant trees that he had some putative plans to plant. Surely such payments are a gross waste of taxpayers' money.

I would draw the Minister's attention to a story in The Scotsman of 11 June, which describes the test case. The writer of the article in question makes a point very relevant to the debate: Technically"— even after being offered £568,000 not to participate— Mr. Cameron can decide to ignore this and the restrictions it imposes, refuse the money, give the NCC four months notice and go ahead and farm the area in the way he wants to. There is no prohibition. There is nothing to prevent him from acting in the way that he wishes with his land. Why do we need an elaborate advisory committee to second-guess something that is not prohibited in the first place?

I said that the advisory committee would lead to an inefficient duplication of bureaucracy and procedures. Scottish Natural Heritage and the NCC for Scotland already have a scientific committee in the form of the Science Research and Development Board, whose members are already appointed directly by the Secretary of State. Perhaps the Minister will tell us what will be the difference between the criteria used by the Secretary of State to appoint the scientists who sit on the Science Research and Development Board—advising the practising scientists in SNH as to the general criteria for designating SSSIs—and those used to appoint scientists to the new advisory committee? There must be some kind of difference, or we should not need two different committees.

Of course, as well as already having the science committee, SNH will have a whole structure of regional boards designed specifically to address the problem of aloofness—to get SNH close to the ground and to allow local input of objections, problems, worries and concerns into the decision-making procedures of SNH. That network of regional boards will cost SNH £500,000 a year to operate. Surely with that extensive network of regional committees, with the existing science committee and with the on-going review of notifications that SNH carries out in any case, there is no need whatever for the new committees, which would simply duplicate the work already done and lead to further bureaucracy.

In a statement issued on the day when the amendment was moved in the other place, Sir Magnus Magnusson said: It betokens a sad lack of Government faith in its own legislation"— the setting up of the advisory boards and the science committee and my own repeated assurances about the manner in which NCCS (and later SNH) will operate its statutory duties regarding the notification of SSIs. It is also a vote of no confidence in the Science Research and Development Board which NCCS has appointed. Part if its remit was to provide, if required, an independent review of the scientific criteria on which SSSIs were being selected by NCCS. That is a damning indictment of the Government's concession to the other place by the person whom the Government themselves have chosen to lead the new Scottish Natural Heritage agency.

I have already made the point about the cost of the new advisory committee.

The Minister referred to speculation about the £1·5 million figure. Yet again, he showed little faith in the person appointed by the Government to head Scottish Natural Heritage, who suggested that that was what the operation of the new advisory committee would cost per year. What better information has the Minister to allow him to second-guess Sir Magnus Magnusson? Has he any other facts or statistics? If not, why does he not accept Sir Magnus's estimate? If he does accept that estimate, does he really think that taxpayers will get good value for money? Is he willing to allow that amount to be spent on the committee?

11.45 pm

The Minister has said that the committee will have about five members. Has he any idea of the administrative costs—the basic costs, regardless of the number of reviews undertaken? What staff will be provided—or will the committee be wholly reliant on SNH for staff purposes?

My other amendments deal with such matters as sea-bed leases. If the Government insist that an advisory committee be set up, why did they first tackle the supposed problem of complaints and objections to the operations of the new SNH, rather than considering the many serious objections to the decisions of the Crown Estate commissioners? The alacrity with which the Government have responded to the complaints expressed by Lord Pearson contrasts starkly with the deaf ear that they have repeatedly turned to crofters, fish farmers and shellfish farmers who have protested about the commissioners' lack of accountability.

The Minister suggested that the new committee was on a par with the advisory committee for the Crown Estate commissioners. Surely nothing could be further from the truth. First, the commissioners' advisory committee is not independent. Its members are not appointed directly by the Secretary of State; the committee is set up by the commissioners, albeit with a little gentle arm-twisting from the Secretary of State behind the scenes. Secondly, the commissioners' committee has no statutory basis: it is included in no legislation. Thirdly, it has no scientific resources on which to draw. Finally, it has no financial resources either.

The contrast between the two committees could not be starker, and could not demonstrate more clearly the Government's attitude of favouritism towards the pleas of the land-owning lobby and the deaf ear that they turn to the ordinary people of the highlands and islands.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

It is a pity that we must hold such an important debate so late at night. Many of us are interested in the subject, but, given the time, we must all try to be brief.

Over the past couple of weeks I have felt disappointed about the Lords amendment, but I feel a bit less disappointed after listening to what the Minister said. It seemed that the new committee would be so anodyne and inconsequential that its existence might not be very important. As was said by the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith), we were assured that there would be no changes to the notification procedure under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, or to the ground rules affecting conservation. That is why all members of the Committee welcomed the Government's removal at high speed of the then clause 11, whose demise was unanimously agreed upon in a good-natured debate.

Implicit in our debate was that the new procedures offered a welcome new way forward that would be responsive to local needs, and that the new regional committees would offer a catalyst for a different type of consultation from that offered by the Nature Conservancy Council in the past. I was hopeful that the close liaison between the regional chairmen and the site owners would be harmonious and would help to remove friction, and, more importantly, would allow from the start proper explanation of what potentially damaging operations meant-—so that they would not be nearly as fearsome as many people believed.

I have always firmly believed that a decision on an SSSI should be taken strictly on scientific values, and should not take into account broader issues—as the landowner might wish. However, having heard my hon. Friend the Minister tonight, I am not sure that there is any change in that respect, for it seems that the committee will be strictly limited to an alternative scientific view. That is nothing that one could criticise, except in terms of cost.

In Committee on the Wildlife and Countryside Bill. I explained, in replying to an excellent debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), that the owner of an SSSI had a right of appeal in respect of planning, conservation orders and compulsory purchase orders and that it was not all one-way traffic against landowners who, in many cases, were fortunate to own an SSSI.

As the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) will remember, we took enormous trouble to ensure the correctness of the scientific procedures set out in sections 28 and 29 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It was not the legislation that was wrong but its application. That must be a criticism of the Nature Conservancy Council—for which I, as a member of it for many years, must take a share of the blame.

I frequently told the council that I found it hard to believe that SSSIs of 1,000, 2,000 or 3,000 acres or larger were justified, and argued that at the end of the day that practice would rebound—as it has in the flow country and at Killin, at a cost of £560,000, and at Inverlochlarig near Balquhidder, where an SSSI of such enormity has been created that the landowner will inevitably seek a management agreement, which may cost another £500,000.

Will any future awards come out of the SNH's annual funding, or will they be funded additionally by the Treasury? If there are half a dozen or more awards, that will deplete the money that has been put aside for conservation. It will be a serious loss to Scottish Natural Heritage.

We must consider the size of future, present and past SSSIs—the advisory committee will deal with that under retrospective legislation—and bear in mind the thrust of sections 28 and 29 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It was intended that, in general, SSSIs would be relatively small, with tremendous emphasis placed on the high quality of the scientific area recommended for notification. Some large areas of the Pennines have been designated as SSSIs. Those blanket areas lie at the heart of the controversy. If we had stuck to the original concept, we would not now be introducing new legislation or paying out huge sums of money either on management agreements or to prevent an owner from carrying out what he believes to be his rights on his land.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

The right hon. Gentleman has experience both of the Scottish position and of the Department of the Environment, in which he served as a Minister. Is he surprised that the Department of the Environment is taking a very different view of these matters? Now that we are approaching midnight, and in the light of what has been said, would not it be sensible for the Government: to report progress and give further consideration to the matter? If they did that, we could then deal with the Bill in a much shorter time than I fear might be the case tonight. If the Government will not give way, some of us might be tempted to say a great deal, and it will be light before we finish.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

That is a rather difficult question. I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not carry out his threat of a long sitting. On the first point, obviously there will now be different standards for SSSIs in England, without any form of appeals system similar to that for Scotland. In some ways, such a difference is unfortunate.

I do not want to add time to the debate. I have expressed my concern that we have over-reacted to what another place viewed essentially as the rights of an owner of an SSSI. We could have got away with allowing the new system to percolate through Scotland and ensuring that SNH had a new, harmonious approach to the whole issue of SSSIs. That could have been achieved without additional legislation.

I shall listen with interest to what my hon. Friend the Minister has to say. I simply feel that we have gone a step further than is necessary.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland

The hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), in a measured way, has traced the history of the debate. I have no doubt that he is right in his judgment that the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, for which he had such an important responsibility, developed in its application by the Nature Conservancy Council very differently from the way in which its progenitors imagined. If it had been used in the way he would have had it used, we should not be debating the new clause. Alas, the language of the law is of importance. That is why this debate is important.

Whatever the Minister may have said in his opening remarks—it was very interesting, though delivered with a brio and at a speed that was untypical of him—when it comes to construing the Act the words that he used tonight will not be quoted in court. That is why I asked, in an intervention, about the composition of the committee. I remain unconvinced that the language provides for a committee of scientists. As I read it, the language provides for a committee from which scientists are excluded. Whatever the Minister's intention may be, the matter will have to be decided in the courts, if the Bill is passed as drafted.

12 midnight

Having inquired about the meaning of the Bill, the Minister perhaps recognises that there is an ambiguity, which is testimony to the speed with which the new clause was drafted to take account of considerations in another place and in a Committee of this House. I do not believe that that is the right way to legislate on a matter of such importance. There was widespread dissatisfaction—which was not confined to the landowning classes, as the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) seems to think—about the fact that designations of vast tracts of Scotland could lead to changes in land use being inhibited and about the community interest being perceived by those centrally empowered to take decisions about the heritage in a way very different from those who will be affected by such decisions.

I acknowledge what has been said about section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 being simply a requirement to notify—that it is a requirement that has no binding legal force—but in practice, as it affected farmers and small farmers who wanted to engage in a small afforestation scheme, or just to plant a shelter belt for the benefit of their livestock, it had a practical impact not only on the economy of the individuals affected but on the economy of highland communities in particular.

That is why there was such an outcry over the way in which the powers were exercised by the English-based body in Peterborough. That is why, in her maiden speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) spoke so passionately about what had been done in Argyll and why I felt moved to speak about the preposterous language used by the former chairman, Sir William Wilkinson, who described the flow country of Caithness as a wonder of the world, comparable with the great buildings of the Moguls in India.

The reality is that the Government had to move to satisfy Scottish opinion that what was being done in the national United Kingdom Bill was suitable for Scotland. That is why my right hon. and hon. Friends and I welcomed the decision to establish the new Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland—to become Scottish Natural Heritage. However, the Minister has played ducks and drakes with the reputation of the new organisation because of the way in which he has handled the appeals issue.

The case for an appeal rested not on the need to second-guess the scientific judgment of the newly appointed body, but on considering whether the scientific judgment should be displaced by economic, social and development considerations and, if it were to be displaced, whether it should be displaced by someone with democratic authority so to do. That was why my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute moved an important new clause in Committee that would have required the Secretary of State for Scotland to confirm a designation.

Before that new clause was tabled, I took the trouble to speak to Mr. Magnus Magnusson about the approach to a demand for an appeal. He made it quite plain to my colleagues and I that he had no objection in principle to what I was suggesting. He saw, as I saw, that that power would rarely be exercised, and only in a clear-cut case where the community interest in not designating was so strong as to displace the scientific judgment of those whose job it was to designate. He said that he would not campaign against it and would not raise his voice against it. He has, however, raised his voice against the Government's proposal—and not surprisingly. It is proposed that the experts who have been employed by the Nature Conservancy Council to judge whether land is of scientific importance have got it right, yet not only are they to be second-guessed and therefore, in a sense, downgraded as experts, but their whole procedural operation is to be implemented by the creation of a new committee of scientists.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

Is it not legitimate to speculate that, had Mr. Magnusson known that the Government would behave like this on clause 11, he would not have taken the job in the first place? No self-respecting busy man in his position would have undertaken the task that was offered to him on those conditions. It is clear that Lord Cranbrook would have nothing to do with it whatsoever.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland

I believe that Mr. Magnusson is a public-spirited citizen and that he will balance considerations such as those that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) mentioned with the possibility of continuing to play an effective role in the preservation of our natural heritage in Scotland. His reservations about this new lateral committee, to which the hon. Gentleman alluded, were justified. The committee has the power of delay and of second-guessing, but ultimately it is not an appellate committee that can directly strike down the judgment of the Nature Conservancy Council.

I take issue with the Minister if he does not accept that the proposal will strengthen the possibility of judicial review being successfully pursued by someone whose land has been designated and who does not accept that designation. It will be much easier to obtain judicial review and successfully to challenge the discretion of the Nature Conservancy Council.

I do not wholly go along with the view of the hon. Member for Dumfries that the committee could be so anodyne that its incorporation in the structure would be of no importance. That remains to be seen, and some aggrieved landowners—we have seen some of them in another place—will be ready to put it to the test of judicial review fairly promptly if they receive some support from the lateral committee.

I do not think that the Minister has done justice to the issue, to the men and women whom he has asked to carry out this difficult and sensitive job or to the purpose of separating the Scottish administration of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 from that being exercised in Peterborough.

The House has been called upon to deal with an amendment which, on the face of it, is designed to tackle a legitimate worry. Its purpose is to provide a stop—the Minister spoke of a "second opinion". In so far as it provides for a second opinion, it may indeed offer some stop for the benefit of those who are worried.

For the benefit of the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith), I repeat that crofters have been concerned. Mrs. Julia Crowe, a Caithness constituent who speaks for the crofting interests within the National Famers Union for Scotland, made a powerful plea on behalf of the crofters for some form of appeal, a form of second-guessing, an opportunity to slow the designation process so that the legitimate concerns of those affected by designation could be taken on a board before a final decision was made. That was a reasonable action to take, and I understand and support the reasons behind it.

I understand also why the Government wanted to go some way towards meeting those grievances. Unfortunately, they have not chosen the right way—the way that we advocated in Standing Committee, the way that my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute recommended that we should go and the way that we shall have to go when we review the operations of the Wildlife and Countryside Act if we find that disputes continually arise from the designation process.

I hope that disputes will not arise from the process. I take great comfort from the fact that Mr. Magnus Magnusson has established in Scotland a new organisation which is close to the ground, with committees comprising people who are drawn from the affected communities and are knowledgeable about their interests. That will make it less likely that the conflicts of the past will recur.

The scientific basis upon which these judgments are made is another important point. The scientists who are to be employed by the NCC must be of the highest quality and must be seen to be independent. When the decision was made to split the NCC, the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and others were afraid that that scientific base of authority would be dispersed. It has been said—although I do not know on what authority—that the NCC intends to scatter parts of the scientific base around different academic institutions in Scotland. I must warn against that, for it would run the risk of leading to precisely the sort of dispersal, loss of identity and loss of a clear voice to which the hon. Member for Linlithgow rightly drew attention.

There must be a coherent, constructive group that works together and is identifiable and separate from the interests of any other academic institution. That is the reason for the move to have the organisation established not under the umbrella of a university but in an area of great scientific interest, in the highlands. But I would stray beyond the ambit of the amendment if I went further down that route.

It is important to recognise that the amendment could damage the scientific standing of the people upon whose advice the NCC must act. Who are the others who are to second-guess them? If they are drawn from the same university to which the NCC teams are attached, there will not be much evidence of separation or of different points of view, and the procedure could be ludicrously bureaucratic, satisfying no one. Although I understand what the Minister has done, I cannot approve of or support it and nor can my right hon. and hon. Friends. We think that he has tried to improve the Bill, but failed in the attempt.

Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh , Angus East 12:15 pm, 24th June 1991

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) has set out clearly some of the difficulties posed for the chairman and members of Scottish Natural Heritage, and I hope that the Government will heed his words.

We all wish SNH to succeed, but the clause would hamper rather help the new organisation as it settles to its operations and tries to do its important work for the environment of Scotland. The Government are on shaky ground. They support the proposal, which is different from their earlier attitude, but they have not yet justified the enormous somersault in attitude. I should like an explanation of why they have performed such a somersault in opinion. I opposed clause 11 at the start of the proceedings on the Bill and I remain opposed to this variation of it.

The other place has forced a replay of the debate for all the wrong reasons. The proposal will undermine the relationship between SNH and the landowners. We have heard from Mr. Magnus Magnusson how he wishes to build bridges between the SNH and the landowners, to create trust and to overcome some of the previous problems and ill feeling. Mr. Magnusson should be encouraged in that task, but the proposal would have the opposite effect. It would undermine his efforts and might well set landowners against SNH and cause disputes between it and the landowners with whom Mr. Magnusson wishes to engage in dialogue and to create trust. The Government are mistaken to support the proposal because it will undermine the important work to be undertaken by SNH.

I also believe that the proposal will duplicate the SNH's work, for example, through the Science Research and Development Board by second-guessing decisions already taken and by second-guessing arguments and analyses already made. The Government will merely add to bureaucracy and overload the system instead of streamlining it.

The new organisation must be given time to settle down, to establish its modus vivendi and to show what it can contribute to the Scottish environment. The proposal will hamper rather than help that process. An extra appeals system added to what is a purely voluntary system is merely a recipe for delay and conflict. The Government seem to be inviting conflict and dispute and encouraging people to tackle SNH rather than encouraging it to build bridges and confidence with its clientele, which is what the landowners are.

The proposal will turn SNH in on itself and tie it in knots because of the extra workload. Have the Government any estimate of the case load that the amendment will produce for SNH? The number of potential appeals is open-ended. The greater the number of SSSI appeals, the greater the financial and bureaucratic burden on SNH resources. We have still not received an answer. We deserve something better than what we have heard so far. I am concerned that the clause could merely siphon off scarce and valuable resources from the main work of SNH.

What are the Minister's estimates of the effects of the new committee on SNH resources? When asked how many cases he estimated that the new appeals committee would handle, he said that it depended on a number of factors. That is scarcely enlightening. He said that it would be guess work and that he expected the figure to be small, but on what estimation is that based? If I heard him correctly, he said that of the 541 SSSIs established since 1985, 153 were subject to objections—that is 28 per cent. I imagine that 28 per cent. would be the minimum that we could expect to go to appeal, but if nearly 30 per cent. of cases went to appeal that would be an enormous burden on the new committee and, more importantly, on SNH.

Will there be 10, 50 or 100 such cases? We must ask the Minister to put a figure on it as until we have that estimate we can have no idea about the costs or the extra staff that will be required by the new committee, which will have to be met by SNH's existing budget. That is not a good or a fair way to treat the new organisation as it settles into its important work.

The Government's role has been disgraceful. Earlier in the passage of the Bill, the Minister gave clear undertakings against this, but there has since been a somersault. The Minister should have some reason to justify such a fundamental change, but I have not yet heard one. When the Minister replies, perhaps he will tell us why the Government have totally changed their opinions and are now backing this idea. All that we now have is a version of the original rejected clause. What the Minister has said so far has been inadequate, but he now has the chance to tell us what has changed to bring about such a fundamental change of opinion.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

The hon. Gentleman, like me, sat through the Committee stage. Did he have any inkling then that this was in the Government's mind or does he agree that during all the hours that we spent upstairs in Committee Room 11 or 12 we had no idea that the Government thought this?

Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh , Angus East

It was amazingly well disguised. The Minister owes those hon. Members who served on the Committee and, indeed, the whole House an explanation for this immense somersault. Is it really a Government capitulation to a small group of landowners in another place? I knew that the Government were out of touch, but I did not realise that they were so out of touch. The provisions are a landowners' mini-charter to meddle and prevaricate in the important work of the new SNH, amounting to a power to delay, to stall and to detract from SNH's real work. I appeal to the Minister to give SNH every opportunity to settle in and to achieve its own style and not to lay this massive potential burden on its shoulders, which could only deflect it from the real and important work that I hope it will undertake for Scotland.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

I start by appealing to the Minister where the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) left off. If House of Commons debates are conducted on a party basis of yah-boo on the central issues, that is all well and good, and we understand that Governments should not give way. However, in different circumstances, and where the objections that have been made are not on traditional party lines, and especially where one of the Minister's right hon. Friends, a former Minister and a member of the Nature Conservancy Council for a number of years takes a very different attitude to that of the Government, should not we at least have the opportunity to pause and think?

If a Whip were present, I would offer a bargain. If the Government were to report progress, I should make only a short speech when we returned to the issue after a week or 10 days, because we would at least know that there had been a chance to consider the matter, to take it back and to talk to the civil servants. Heaven knows, anybody can be wrong, but it is ridiculous to get into a fixed position simply because there has been a hijack in the House of Lords.

I am not in the business of trying to keep hon. Members out of their beds late at night for the hell of it. However, they should understand that this problem was not apparent during all those hours in Committee. Quite bluntly—if this is a parliamentary word—many of us feel that we have been double-crossed. It may not have been deceit on the part of the Minister, but that is the effect of what has happened. No Opposition Member would dissent from the fact that we have been double crossed. That is how many interested people in Scotland, including some Conservative Members, feel.

In those circumstances, I wish that the Leader of the House or the Government Chief Whip were here— incidentally, it is strange that they are not—to make a decision. They should be rung up and told of the prospect that I may continue speaking for a long time. The problem could be simply solved by saying, "Let's pause and think about this. We have a problem. Things have gone wrong." Things went wrong for the Government in the House of Lords, where there were probably misunderstandings. Some Labour peers must have been out of their minds to vote as they did. Would it not be better for the Government Whips to send their colleagues home to think about the matter?

I am a man of my word, and if that happened I would not delay the proceedings but would make a short speech. I cannot speak for my colleagues, but I do not think that they would delay the proceedings either. If the Government Whips do not accept my offer, so be it. Our proceedings will be longer than necessary.

There are currently some 1,300 sites of special scientific interest in Scotland, covering 750,000 hectares. The Scottish SSSIs are among the best places for wildlife.

The Government's new clause 11 will create an independent committee to advise SNH on SSSIs. The amendment will allow SSSI owners to make retrospective appeals against existing SSSIs and to appeal every 10 years. Subsection (8) of the new clause is constructed in a way that enables owners to make objections on non-scientific grounds. That is the background to the position, and no one will contradict it.

Do I detect movement from the Government Whips? If so, it will be good news for those who want to go to their beds, but if they decline my offer and hon. Members are kept out of their beds, the Whips will be to blame.

Hon. Members could easily go home if the Government Whips would see sense. All I ask is that they agree with the Daily Telegraph. Its well-respected environmental correspondent, Mr. Charles Clover, put the matter in a nutshell in today's edition of that newspaper: Mr. Magnus Magnusson, the chairman designate of SNH has said he is 'deeply unhappy'". That is the Government's own man who is deeply unhappy about the review procedure, which he believes could overburden his newborn quango and lead to the reconsideration of any of Scotland's 1,300 SSSIs. Their own guy is complaining and saying that he is deeply unhappy; it is not some opponent.

12.30 am

The article continues: Professor Sir Fred Holliday, the chairman of the committee responsible for co-ordinating standards of nature conservation throughout Britain said he was never consulted. Will the Minister tell me whether that is true? Is it true that Sir Fred Holliday was not consulted? It is either true or not.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) asked a parliamentary question? The answer stated: the advisory committee can deal only with individual cases within the site guidelines overseen by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and there will be no overlap in membership, it was not necessary to consult the JNCC chairman.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

That reveals the lack of good will. The Minister says that it was not necessary to consult the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. If that is the attitude, why should a man who has been vice-chancellor of Durham and many other things stay on in that position? The Government are fundamentally changing the legislation. To say that it is not necessary to consult someone whom they have appointed as chairman of the JNCC is not only extremely unwise, but exceedingly bad manners. Do the Government wonder that he is deeply insulted? It is appalling bad manners for the Government not to consult their own chairman of the JNCC. If the Government do not think it worth consulting him when they fundamentally alter the terms of reference on which he is to operate that is not a mature, adult way in which to go about things. It is not how British Governments normally went about things.

Does the Minister not understand the enormity of his bad manners? He sits there silently. The truth is that he did not understand the brief. He read out the brief, but who thinks that he understood much of it? He gabbled through it. That is preposterous. I am sorry to say that we will go on long into the night. [Interruption.] if the hon. Member for Wycomb (Mr. Whitney) is wondering what this is all about, he should read page 12 of The Daily Telegraph. If he missed it, I will read it for him.

Charles Clover explains how a Scottish crusade against restrictions on land usage could have nationwide repercussions. A dispute on whether cows may safely graze on Rannoch Moor in the Highlands of Scotland has brought the House of Commons today a measure which many conservationists fear could wreck Britain's system of nature protection enshrined in the 10-year-old Wildlife and Countryside Act. Many of us care about that. Like the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), I spent 100 hours in Committee on the Act. Much thought and care went into the Act and we do not want to see it wrecked. The Daily Telegraph is saying that it is wrecked. [Interruption.] If the Minister of State for Defence Procurement wonders what this is all about, I will tell him that, in alliance with The Daily Telegraph, I am explaining, in the words of its well-known correspondent, Mr. Charles Clover, why we are so angry. As a senior member of the Government, he should know.

The article continues: The government amendment to the Natural Heritage (Scotland) Bill which comes to the Commons for approval today generates strong feelings on both sides. Conservationists believe that it could open the door to the de-notification of hundreds of the most important nature conservation sites in Britain, protected over the past 10 years, such as the great wild bog-landscape of the Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland, or parts of the Cairngorms or the Western Isles. This week we had an Adjournment debate on the Cairngorms and the issue of Mar Lodge is becoming increasingly known to many hon. Members.

The article goes on: Many landowners in Scotland, from absentee landlords of sporting estates to smaller farmers and crofters, believe that the measure provides a democratic appeal mechanism for the first time against an intensive bureaucracy—the Nature Conservancy Council (the devolved version of which north of the Border, now carries the tag 'for Scotland'.Who is right? The truth lies, as ever, somewhere in the middle. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, piloted through Parliament by Michael Heseltine in 1981". Any designation of world heritage sites, which Mar Lodge should be, is a matter for the Secretary of State for the Environment. He has distanced himself from all this legislation, and the chairman of the 1922 Committee knows from experience that it is the Government as a whole rather than the Scottish Office going off at a tangent who make such policy.

Photo of Mr Calum MacDonald Mr Calum MacDonald , Na h-Eileanan an Iar

Does my hon. Friend regard it as odd that he is addressing himself to the Minister of State for Defence Procurement and not to a Minister from the Department of the Environment? As the Scottish Office did not consult the chairman of the joint committee, perhaps it did not consult the Department of the Environment. The legislation has implications for SSSIs not just in Scotland but in England and goes against the assurances that such designations would be common throughout the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

The Minister has heard my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald). Was the Department of the Environment consulted?

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

What did it say?

The Daily Telegraph continues: So far Mr. Heseltine, Environment Secretary, one of the architects of the 1981 Act and therefore of the SSSI system, has not become involved. He never did become involved in anything that he did not want to become involved in. The Department of the Environment has said the procedure will not be imposed on England. If it is such a good procedure, why is it not being imposed on England? There may be differences. Could we be told the difference? I am waiting. There is a long way to go. I have a substantial speech to make, and if hon. Members wish to go to their beds, all they have to do is put pressure on their Whips.

I give a public undertaking that, if we adjourn the debate now, the next time round I will not talk for more than 10 minutes. I am dead serious about this, because there are large issues at stake. Once before, I have kept the House of Commons up, all night, and that was over retrospective sanctions on Iran. It was the first U-turn that the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) ever agreed to.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

I am sure that my hon. Friend does. After 1 have finished, other hon. Members will speak.

The Daily Telegraph goes on: The system has never been particularly popular with landowners. Notable flare-ups took place in the Somerset Levels in 1984, when effigies of Patrick Jenkin, then Environment Secretary, and the head of the NCC were burnt, and Orkney where similar events occurred. I am not sure that we want effigies of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) burnt, but that is what it is coming to.

The article continues: The disadvantage of the SSSI system is that it imposes upon the landowner a list of 90-odd 'potentially damaging operations' which he must not carry out. The Nature Conservancy Council and its successors pay compensation to the landowner for the earnings forgone. Imposed upon the landowner of a small fragment of English ancient woodland, this does not cause much hardship. The designation of large areas of the Highlands of Scotland—which constitute much of Europe's remaining unspoilt land—potentially threatens livings on a politically explosive scale. The Opposition Chief Whip has now arrived. I will have to explain to him what has occurred. Without any sign in the Committee that this would happen, the Government have totally changed the basis on which the Bill operates. It is not a minor change. It is a geological change in the nature of the Bill. That is no exaggeration. An offer has been made three times. Although the Opposition Chief Whip is in the House, I do not know where the Government Chief Whip is.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

If he is in the House, it would be in the interests of hon. Members if they asked him to come to the Chamber with the Leader of the House.

I will repeat my offer. I will not speak for more than 10 minutes if a motion to report progress is moved, with the advantage that the Government can go back, reflect on what has happened in the House of Lords, on what has been said by Opposition Members and, above all, on the speech of the hon. Member for Dumfries, who is a member of the NCC and the Minister who did most of the work on the 1981 Act, and we may then come to a compromise.

It is no good the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick) looking sour about this. He may be chewing a Smartie, but he does not look very pleased. I am not asking for an apology. I am merely saying that some concern should be expressed about the muck-up that surrounds the heritage bodies that have been set up by the Government. If the hon. Members who have recently entered the Chamber are unconvinced, I repeat yet again that the chairman who has been chosen by the Government, Magnus Magnusson, is deeply unhappy.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

Given the hon. Gentleman's interest in scientific matters, does he dispute that it is possible to obtain different views on scientific priorities and that it is therefore important that the scientific priorities that are listed by anyone should be questioned?

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow 12:45 pm, 24th June 1991

It is important that we understand that the system can work perfectly well by means of negotiations. If those in the heritage organisations and the NCC officials become more flexible and a bit softer in the negotiations after designation, that is one thing. If, however, we are to have provisions built into the system that undermine the legislation that has been devised, that is an entirely different thing.

The hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) was a conscientious attender of the sittings of the Committee that considered the Bill. Even in the light of the amendments that he introduced, did he have any inkling that the structure that we are presented with this evening would be introduced? If so, he did not let the Committee know that that would happen. He did not tell the members of the Committee that the structure would go anything like as far as that which is before us. The truth is that the structure was spatchcocked into the Bill in another place.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

In a sense, the issue goes even further than that. When the announcement was made that foreshadowed the Bill, when we were told that the NCC would be split and that there would be an amalgamation with the Countryside Commission for Scotland, there were many who suspected that that reflected a strategic change in the Government's approach and that the landowners' views and interests would prevail much more frequently over the views and wishes of the environmentalists and, dare I say, the wider community.

There are many who find it disturbing that the amendment is a confirmation of the suspicions that followed the Government's announcement. I am not certain wherther my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) articulated precisely suspicions about a strategic change, but I know that he was uneasy about the decision to split the NCC, given his knowledge of the body. It is fair to say that the general body of opinion in Scotland, including the Opposition, was that the Government should be given the benefit of the doubt. How on earth can we do that, however, when they show themselves so willing to give way to the lobby of the Scottish lairds in the other place?

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

I take my hon. Friend's point entirely. Those concerned knew what they were up to, and they acted to further their own interests. I cannot put the issue more succinctly or eloquently than my hon. Friend. I should like to know what the Minister has to say about my hon. Friend's intervention. I am not playing games. My hon. Friend is an agricultural scientist and he has advanced a valid argument. What is the Minister's comment on his comment? There is no point in becoming bad-tempered, because it so happens that, when we start lifting stones in this place, we find that all sorts of creepy-crawly things come out from under them.

The more we examine it, the more flawed the scheme appears. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) is absolutely right that the present proposal was not in the prospectus. It is something very different from what was agreed on Second Reading and in Committee. Had we known about it in the first place, it is doubtful whether the Government could have got their proposals through as easily as they have, and with all the good will that accrued to them—from most of my colleagues, although not necessarily from me. I was against the break-up of Peterborough but had become reconciled to the proposal—as John Francis and Magnus Magnusson know—after our meeting at Hope terrace. The present proposal, however, is totally different from that which was agreed.

Clover goes on to say: Dissatisfaction with SSIs in Scotland, and mistrust of the Peterborough-based NCC led Mr. Rifkind, then Scottish Secretary, and Mr. Ridley, then Environment Secretary, to devolve the latter in 1989 into three country agencies. Then the row began. That was the beginning of the matter. Clover continues: The latest flare-up has come out of the Bill setting up the successor body to the NCC in Scotland, Scottish Natural HeritageLord Pearson of Rannoch and other Scottish peers such as Lord Grimond, have pressed the Government into a last-minute amendment to establishing a new independent scientific committee which will second guess all SSSIs set up by SNH. I ask the Minister a direct question: does he agree with The Daily Telegraph that what is involved is second-guessing? I do not call the Minister a dumb Minister; I would merely say that he is a Minister who has been struck dumb. It would be very much easier if some answers were given to these questions.

We are talking not just about a few Members of Parliament—let alone a few difficult Opposition Members —but about The Daily Telegraph, representing the views of many people in Scotland who have been outraged at what has happened. In order to truncate my speech, I shall leave out the quotations from Magnus Magnusson and Sir Fred Holliday. Thereafter, the article continues: There is clearly a problem to be solved, though whether this procedure is the best way to do so remains to be seen. Lord Pearson, himself an absentee landowner"— that is not my description, but that of The Daily Telegraph—told the Lords of his unresolved dispute with the NCC over a 250-acre SSSI on his estate. He says he was told categorically by the local NCC officer that he was not allowed to graze cattle on rough molinia grass on his SSSI, he could only use sheep or deer. Like many other landowners who believe they have done nothing wrong, for Lord Pearson, a point of principle had become a crusade. So the proposed change in the Bill is all about a row over 250 acres owned by a pretty new peer—described by one of his colleagues as an upstart peer—who suddenly appeared in the House of Lords with the amendment and took with him a number of people who did not fully understand what is at stake. The laws of the country, as discussed by this House, are being changed by the personal circumstances of one peer.

The House of Commons gives short shrift to those who go on and on about their personal circumstances. The only Member of Parliament who did that with aplomb was Robert Maxwell. The House has little time for any hon. Member who makes great public statements, and tries to alter law, on the basis of his own circumstances. Clearly, however, that has been done on this occasion: this debate is all about the personal gripes of some very well-off people. On that basis, should the Government really change their mind? Should they alter what was considered opinion when the Bill went into Committee?

The trouble is that the Government secured the Bill's Second Reading on pretty false pretences. It is an open question whether they would have done so had the full display been made. I do not know how the hon. Member for Dumfries could have voted in favour of Second Reading had he known that all this was in the shop window. The hon. Member can, of course, speak for himself; but he does not dissent from what I have said, and I suspect that I am right.

Lord Pearson said: If they treat me like this, just think what they do to the crofters in Orkney". He added: I cannot see why the establishment of a scientific committee which will second guess the scientific reasons for choosing a site as an SSSI would weaken the legislation. Surely it will strengthen it.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I have not the scientific knowledge to substantiate what I am going to say. May I present a hypothetical example? Let us assume that an SSSI is designated because it is the habitat of a certain type of frog, and that tree felling is not allowed there. There may also be a need to enhance the area's salmon production, and tree felling may be beneficial in that regard. In such circumstances, is it not advisable to obtain a second opinion?

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

That can be dealt with by means of negotiation. Given the rows and the alleged tactlessness, Sir William Wilkinson may well have a different side of the story to tell. I admit that what happened in regard to the flow country was unfortunate; but the answer is not to undermine the whole system as it is now proposed, but to employ a rather gentler form of negotiation. Given that the flow country is at the centre of all this, the lion. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) may be able to tell us whether the new style of the Scottish Nature Conservancy Council would deal with the various doubts that he felt.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland

I think that I made my views clear earlier. In previous debates the hon. Gentleman and I were not entirely on the same wavelength; I felt that, on some occasions, the scientific judgment should not be the ruling judgment. In such instances, the economic and community judgment should, in my view, be final, and that can be exercised democratically only by a Minister of the Crown —the Secretary of State. I still firmly believe that such a genuine appeal would have been an appropriate way in which to deal with the problem. The article refers to it very fairly, although it may give slightly the wrong impression by implying that this is all about landowning.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

Look at what the Government have done: they have put the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland and me on to the same wavelength. That really is an historic achievement.

I am glad to see in the Chamber the Environment Whip, the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell), because he knows a lot about the issues. I say to the hon. Gentleman that if there is progress, and if there is a chance that the Government will reconsider in the cold light of day, his colleagues could be spared a great deal of inconvenience. As the Environment Whip has only just arrived, he must be told that this could be a very long speech.

Photo of Mr Jimmy Dunnachie Mr Jimmy Dunnachie , Glasgow Pollok

Tell him the whole story.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

My hon. Friend says that I should tell the Environment Whip the whole story, and who am I to do otherwise?

1 am

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

The hon. Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) would be better in her bed. [Laughter.] I will tell her how she can go to her bed. She can use the same tactics that she employed with such strength, Friday after Friday, on a subject that I will not mention, and tell her Whips that they can stop all this—there is a great deal more to come—if they will only take time to reflect, and to consider the monstrosity that has been perpetrated in the other place. They would be sensible to listen. Even if they get rid of me at 4 o'clock in the morning, there are others to come. The sun will be shining. All this could be avoided.

The Daily Telegraph article continues: It is not only major absentee landowners such as Lord Pearson who have complaints, however. Dr. Neil Duncan, a zoologist by training, has had problems with the NCC on his 4,500 acres on the north of West Loch Tarbert, Argyll. The NCC designated an SSSI on his land in 1985 without telling about it, he claims.The SSSI in question is a 600-acre birch and oak wood, a number of non-indigenous beech, sycamore and Scots pine planted last century. The NCC opposed his plans to replant parts of the wood with native species and to start a deer farm on his land. He prevailed, by the unusual procedure of writing to all the members of the NCC Scottish committee and asking them personally to come to see his land.`They could have stopped me from making a living. It was all rather silly. I'm an ecologist by training, so I know it was silly,' he says. 'If someone else has an opinion, the NCC do not know how to handle it.'Conservationists such as Simon Pepper of the World Wide Fund for Nature in Scotland are the first to say that there must be a mechanism to settle cases of potential hardship. I spoke to Mr. Pepper in Aberfeldy by telephone tonight, to make sure that he stuck by the opinions that The Daily Telegraph reported him as having, when it reported him as saying: the Lords and the Government have gone for the wrong target, the SSSI designation itself, when what is needed is a fairer way for a farmer to negotiate over what he is allowed to do on his land once it has been established as of importance in nature conservation. What is the Minister's view of Pepper's statement? Does he have a view? Does he think that Pepper has offered him a way out? Mr. Pepper has many members in his organisation.

The article continued: This, he and others had assumed, would be brought about through the new landowner-friendly regional bodies of SNH.'The Government simply hasn't thought through the implications of what it has created', Pepper said. 'This review system provides an opportunity for mass dissent. It could form the basis for a campaign against the SSSI system which could lead to mass de-notification of sites like the Flow Country. You can see the whole system haemorrhaging and falling apart.— The Minister is making notes. Would he do us the courtesy of telling us what they are? I am trying to extract his thoughts.

I note that we have just been joined by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. He is a man of great force in the Government. He should tell the Whips that all this could be easily brought to an end if the Government would just take a breathing space and go back to the drawing board. In this case, the drawing board is the Bill that went through Committee with a great deal of good will; the other place should not have been allowed to alter it at the last moment. If the hon. Gentleman told the Government that, he could quickly get to his bed.

The Daily Telegraph continued: Frantic letters have been flowing to and fro between Magnus Magnusson and Scottish Office ministers trying to set out exactly how the new review panel will operate and what powers they will have. I could be wrong, but I do not think that the Minister made any reference to those letters in his speech. Why was the House told not about that correspondence? It is incredible that the Government's own man should create such dissatisfaction. If the Government appoint a chairman of an organisation, and then have correspondence about his dissent, do they not feel that they are under an obligation to tell the House about the gist of that correspondence?

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland

I wish to ask the hon. Gentleman a question about an important point, to which I referred in my speech. I genuinely want to hear his opinion—he has told us of the opinions of others—on whether the independence of the scientific advisers in Scotland is an issue for our debate tonight.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

It is an issue. In Committee and previously, I had a great deal of contact with Dr. Derek Ratcliffe, who for many years was senior scientific adviser to the Nature Conservancy Council. The Government can contact him at 43 Thornton close, Cambridge, to find out his opinion. His successor, a man called Peter Bridgewater, was also a friend of mine. He returned from Australia to take the job, but then found that it was not what he thought it would be, and he returned to Australia, where he has an important job with the federal Government. It was their opinion that the science base was threatened. That was the basis of my objection to what happened in the first place, but I had had to become reconciled to it until clause 11 came along.

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Falkirk East

The House is in a difficulty that I hope my hon. Friend will consider. As he knows, I am a great protector of the occupant of the Chair. I understand that there are no other Deputy Speakers in the House. All hon. Members can come and go as they wish, but poor Mr. Deputy Speaker is trapped in the Chair. Does my hon. Friend agree, while he is having his drink of water, that it would not be a bad idea for Mr. Deputy Speaker, from his own point of view, to adjourn the sitting for half an hour?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I can assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that Deputy Speakers appear rapidly from nowhere.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

If Deputy Speakers can appear rapidly from nowhere, can Speakers appear rapidly from nowhere —or at least rapidly from upstairs? It would be a very good plan if Mr. Speaker were to acquaint himself with the fiasco with which the House of Commons is now faced. [Interruption.] Government Whips and Leaders of the House can, presumably, be telephoned, or contacted. They are able to be asked for a decision.

Frantic letters have been written. It would be helpful if we could be told of their contents. The article also said: So far Mr. Heseltine, Environment Secretary, one of the architects of the 1981 Act and therefore of the SSSI system, has not become involved. The Department of the Environment has said the procedure will not be imposed in England.Others believe that it can be only a matter of time before there is pressure for a review of disputed SSSIs south of the border. Conservationists say MPs who doubt that a measure created in Scotland is likely to affect England and Wales should remember"— remember what?— the poll tax. That is just the first part of my speech. There is a great deal of substance to come. It would be greatly to the advantage of the Whips if they were to call close of play for the day, go back—

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Leeds North West

The hon. Gentleman knows that I served with him on the Committee that created the SSSIs. I recall that at that time he was not at all happy with the format for England, in that it left too much to the political process and the Secretary of State. He referred at great length to the need for scientific suport and back-up, and he cited in particular Edinburgh university. The hon. Gentleman seems to have changed his position somewhat.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

No. I have been more consistent than anybody else. It was precisely the case for scientific back-up and the break-up of scientific unity that led me to say what I did. Whatever one thought of it, Peterborough was a coherent whole and owed very much to the expert opinion of Dr. Derek Ratcliffe, Mr. Peter Bridgewater and others—those in the midst of it. The break-up had very few friends among those who worked for the Nature Conservancy Council, not least among those who worked for the NCC in Scotland in the scientific departments. It did not want that either, for the simple reason that, apart from the cost, which is considerable, many of the tasks that it fulfilled will not be fulfilled when it is divided into three.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

The hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson) may not have been present for our earlier deliberations. The hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) mentioned scientific advice and seemed to imply that there can be a range of scientific opinion on an issue—people may make a scientific judgment, but that is not an experiment where something can be tested and proved—but that does not devalue the importance of scientific advice and does not mean that one can ignore economic and commercial considerations.

That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)—he will correct me if I do him an injustice—keeps referring to negotiation. In a sense, there is informal negotation, whether it be with a land user, a tenant or a crofter. That does not detract from the importance of objective independent scientific advice on environmental issues.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow 1:15 am, 24th June 1991

There is no answer. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East has made a valid point of substance. The comment must be made by the Minister.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

I endorse what the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) said. A second body of scientific opinion could evaluate the different approaches. A second opinion may not be necessary if we achieve the flexibility that we hope for, but the existence of that second opinion will make it easier to reach agreement.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

There is some confusion about these opinions. The first opinion is on the scientific fact and the second is on the interpretation of policy on a site, which are wholly different. There can be little argument about the first, but there can be much argument about the second. However, bluntly, it is a matter not of scientific opinion but of general landowners' interests. I do not dismiss the landowners' interest as of no consequence, but, whatever else it is, it is not just the guts of scientific opinion as such.

I hope that the hon. Member for Tayside, North is not getting into too much trouble for having intervened because he made an important point. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Sackville) is telling his colleague to be quiet, he is misguided. He should be telephoning the Chief Whip and telling him that he could easily bring this to an end. He should discuss the matter with the Department of the Environment, where he has contacts, and ask why it is not following the example of the Scottish Office.

Photo of Mr Alexander Eadie Mr Alexander Eadie , Midlothian

My hon. Friend is being a bit too generous in appealing for proceedings to be brought abruptly to an end. Having listened to his speech, I observe that the longer the debate goes on, the more political damage it is doing the Conservative party in Scotland. I therefore appeal to him to continue, because, when reports of this appear tomorrow, it will cause tremendous political embarrassment in Scotland. It is to our advantage that he keeps going.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

I am not concerned about the politics of this matter. The central issue is not politics but what is likely to happen in Scotland. I eschew any idea of party politics. The most powerful case against the Government has come from the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), the Conservative Member who knows most about this subject, having been a member of the Nature Conservancy Council. The Government should have said, "We should listen to the words of the former Minister who piloted the Bill through the House. We should reflect and go back to the House."

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow

I am pleased that my hon. Friend has acknowledged that this is not a dispute between environmentalists and landowners. As the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) suggested, it may be a dispute between environmentalists' interests and economic interests.

As the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) will remember, about four years ago, the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) was deeply aggrieved because the environmentalists in his constituency were arguing against setting up a fish farm on a small loch there. The environmentalists argued that a valuable area of oligotrophic mosses 150 ft below the loch's surface should be protected and that the mosses would be destroyed if a fish farm were established. I had great sympathy for the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross, because 50 or 60 new jobs were involved.

My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) is right to stress that it is not just a conflict between environmentalists and landowners.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

Let us encapsulate that by saying that the Minister must address the oligotrophic moss question. We want an answer.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the World Wide Fund for Nature and others are deeply concerned that the proposed measure will radically change the way in which sites are designated in Scotland and present a serious threat to the conservation of some of Britain's best wildlife sites. Many recent conservation successes, including the opposition to peat extraction at Duich Moss and the refusal to allow skiing facilities at Lurchers Gully, would not have been possible if the sites in question were stripped of their SSSI status.

Photo of Mr Calum MacDonald Mr Calum MacDonald , Na h-Eileanan an Iar

Is my my hon. Friend aware that the Government, in their embarrassment, are thinking of moving a closure motion? If that happens, our many questions to the Minister will remain unanswered. As the Government have turned somersault after somersault on the Bill and have gone back innumerable times on their commitments, does my hon. Friend agree that, if they terminate the debate, it will be a disgrace which will embarrass them in in tomorrow's newspapers?

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

If the Government decide to move a closure we shall, of course, oppose it. Instead of suffering the embarrassment of a closure, it would be much simpler if the Government listened to all parties—and it is all parties that are involved because, apart from the hon. Member for Tayside, North, the Government have been friendless tonight. Only the hon. Member for Tayside, North was their friend, and he was a qualified friend. When that happens on what is not strictly a party issue —it should be a Commons versus Lords issue in the light of what has happened—it is no disgrace for the Government to say that perchance they should think again.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

My hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) has raised an enormously important issue. The Government should respond properly to the arguments that have been deployed so cogently by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and others, but the problem goes deeper. there was a Scottish consensus behind this legislation. It was supported by the House as a whole, despite the fact that the initial decision was controversial, for reasons that we have already mentioned. If the Government move the closure to halt debate on major Scottish legislation, that will devalue the legislation in the eyes of many Scottish people, and it will be enacted against the votes of the Labour Members who constitute the majority of Scottish Members of Parliament.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

If the consensus had not been shattered in this way, I should not have had the brass neck to speak for more than 10 minutes. The Whips and my colleagues would have told me to shut up. They are not saying that, because we believe that we have been deceived and double-crossed.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to mislead the House. There is no question but that the issue of appeals was raised in Committee not only by me but by others. It is wrong to tell the House that we were happy with the decisions in Committee. If the hon. Gentleman cares to re-read the record of the Committee's proceedings, he will see that I withdrew my amendment on the basis that we could return to it.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

There is a difference between appeals and the whole system that is now being built in, which is organised second-guessing. The organisation set up by the Government has been undermined. Who says that, but the chairman, Magnus Magnusson, and Frank Holliday, who was not consulted. That is part of the trouble. When the people who are supposed to be in charge are among the most dissatisfied, there is time to think again.

There is a danger that the amendment will cause many battles over SSSI designation and land use to be reopened. Will the Minister explain how planners and developers will know whether a site is sensitive to development or change in use if the SSSI label is removed? That is an important question—how will planners and developers now whether a site is sensitive to development or change in use if the SSSI label is removed?

Designation—[Interruption.] Let me explain to the Government Chief Whip what has happened. This would never have occurred if there had not been a complete and dramatic change in that which we thought had been agreed. The truth is that, because of Lord Pearson and his 250 acres, that relatively new peer persuaded the Lords not only to change the Bill but to do so fundamentally so that the very nature of the creature is altered. I repeat that I should not have been allowed, or had the brass neck, to raise—

Photo of Mr Richard Ryder Mr Richard Ryder , Mid Norfolk 1:30 am, 24th June 1991

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put—

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House proceeded to a Division—

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

I shall take it after the Division, when I can hear it properly.

The House having divided: Ayes 118, Noes 41.

Division No. 187][1.30 am
AYES
Alexander, RichardKirkhope, Timothy
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelKnight, Greg (Derby North)
Amess, DavidLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Arbuthnot, JamesLester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Maclean, David
Arnold, Sir ThomasMcLoughlin, Patrick
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Meyer, Sir Anthony
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Mills, Iain
Benyon, W.Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Bevan, David GilroyMitchell, Sir David
Blackburn, Dr John G.Monro, Sir Hector
Boscawen, Hon RobertMorrison, Sir Charles
Boswell, TimMorrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Bottomley, PeterMoynihan, Hon Colin
Bowis, JohnNeale, Sir Gerrard
Brazier, JulianNelson, Anthony
Bright, GrahamNeubert, Sir Michael
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Nicholls, Patrick
Burt, AlistairNicholson, David (Taunton)
Carrington, MatthewNorris, Steve
Chapman, SydneyOnslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth)Oppenheim, Phillip
Clark, Rt Hon Sir WilliamPage, Richard
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Paice, James
Cope, Rt Hon Sir JohnRaffan, Keith
Cran, JamesRoberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Davis, David (Boothferry)Sackville, Hon Tom
Day, StephenShaw, David (Dover)
Dorrell, StephenShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Dover, DenShersby, Michael
Dunn, BobSkeet, Sir Trevor
Durant, Sir AnthonySmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Fallon, MichaelSpicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Fishburn, John DudleyStern, Michael
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Stevens, Lewis
Franks, CecilStewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Freeman, RogerSumberg, David
Gale, RogerTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Gill, ChristopherTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Goodlad, AlastairThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Greenway, John (Ryedale)Thurnham, Peter
Gregory, ConalTownend, John (Bridlington)
Hague, WilliamTrotter, Neville
Hamilton, Rt Hon ArchieTwinn, Dr Ian
Hampson, Dr KeithWalker, Bill (T'side North)
Hannam, JohnWaller, Gary
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Harris, DavidWatts, John
Hayward, RobertWells, Bowen
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidWhitney, Ray
Hind, KennethWiddecombe, Ann
Irvine, MichaelWilshire, David
Jack, MichaelWood, Timothy
Jackson, RobertYeo, Tim
Janman, Tim
Jessel, TobyTellers for the Ayes:
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Mr. Irvine Patnick and
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Mr. Neil Hamilton.
NOES
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.)McKelvey, William
Canavan, DennisMaclennan, Robert
Cryer, BobMcMaster, Gordon
Dalyell, TamMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Darling, AlistairMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Dewar, DonaldNellist, Dave
Dixon, DonPike, Peter L.
Dunnachie, JimmyQuin, Ms Joyce
Eadie, AlexanderSkinner, Dennis
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Spearing, Nigel
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Strang, Gavin
Foster, DerekTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Foulkes, GeorgeWallace, James
Fyfe, MariaWatson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Galbraith, SamWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Galloway, GeorgeWelsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Godman, Dr Norman A.Worthington, Tony
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Tellers for the Noes:
Kennedy, CharlesMr. Thomas McAvoy and
Macdonald, Calum A.Mr. Frank Doran.
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House proceeded to a Division

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

As I said earlier, I will take the hon. Gentleman's point of order immediately after the Division, and he will not then need to be covered.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not the case that the black hat is to enable one to raise a point of order in the middle of a Division?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

I have told the hon. Gentleman that I will take his point of order as soon as the Division is complete. [Interruption.]

The House having divided: Ayes 115, Noes 36.

Division No. 188][1.42 am
AYES
Alexander, RichardDover, Den
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelDunn, Bob
Amess, DavidDurant, Sir Anthony
Arbuthnot, JamesFallon, Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Fishburn, John Dudley
Arnold, Sir ThomasForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Franks, Cecil
Benyon, W.Freeman, Roger
Blackburn, Dr John G.Gale, Roger
Boscawen, Hon RobertGill, Christopher
Boswell, TimGoodlad, Alastair
Bottomley, PeterGoodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bowis, JohnGreenway, John (Ryedale)
Brazier, JulianGregory, Conal
Bright, GrahamHague, William
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie
Burt, AlistairHamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Carrington, MatthewHampson, Dr Keith
Chapman, SydneyHannam, John
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth)Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Clark, Rt Hon Sir WilliamHarris, David
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Hayward, Robert
Cope, Rt Hon Sir JohnHeathcoat-Amory, David
Cran, JamesHind, Kenneth
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Irvine, Michael
Davis, David (Boothferry)Jack, Michael
Day, StephenJackson, Robert
Dorrell, StephenJanman, Tim
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesJessel, Toby
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Shersby, Michael
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Skeet, Sir Trevor
Kirkhope, TimothySmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Knight, Greg (Derby North)Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkStern, Michael
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Stevens, Lewis
Maclean, DavidStewart, Andy (Sherwood)
McLoughlin, PatrickSumberg, David
Meyer, Sir AnthonyTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Mills, IainTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Mitchell, Sir DavidThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Morrison, Sir CharlesThurnham, Peter
Morrison, Rt Hon Sir PeterTownend, John (Bridlington)
Moynihan, Hon ColinTrotter, Neville
Neale, Sir GerrardTwinn, Dr Ian
Nelson, AnthonyWalker, Bill (T'side North)
Neubert, Sir MichaelWaller, Gary
Nicholls, PatrickWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Nicholson, David (Taunton)Watts, John
Norris, SteveWells, Bowen
Oppenheim, PhillipWhitney, Ray
Page, RichardWiddecombe, Ann
Paice, JamesWilshire, David
Raffan, KeithWood, Timothy
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir WynYeo, Tim
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Sackville, Hon TomTellers for the Ayes:
Shaw, David (Dover)Mr. Nicholas Baker and
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Mr. Irvine Patnick.
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
NOES
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.)Macdonald, Calum A.
Canavan, DennisMcKelvey, William
Cryer, BobMcMaster, Gordon
Dalyell, TamMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Darling, AlistairMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)Nellist, Dave
Dewar, DonaldPike, Peter L.
Dixon, DonQuin, Ms Joyce
Doran, FrankSkinner, Dennis
Dunnachie, JimmySpearing, Nigel
Eadie, AlexanderStrang, Gavin
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Foster, DerekWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Foulkes, GeorgeWelsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Fyfe, MariaWorthington, Tony
Galbraith, Sam
Galloway, GeorgeTellers for the Noes:
Godman, Dr Norman A.Mr. Allan McKay and
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Mr. Thomas McAvoy.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. What is—[HON. MEMBERS: "Take your hat off."] What is the point of the hat, Mr. Deputy Speaker?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

I think that the hon. Member is asking me why I did not take his point of order during the Division. That must be a matter of judgment for the Chair. I put it to the House as a matter of common sense that it is extremely difficult when hon. Members are moving about the Chamber, including moving between the Chair and the hon. Member who is trying to put the point of order, for the point of order to be made in a satisfactory manner or for the Chair to hear it properly. I decided that, in the circumstances, it would be better for the hon. Member, for the occupant of the Chair and for the House as a whole if the point of order was made when the House was quiet. I now invite the hon. Gentleman to put his point of order to me.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

Further to my point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Following the Division on the closure, this is the second Division. I do not think that many hon. Members in the Chamber are unaware that during the previous Division a Member was seated and covered and his point of order was not taken. That should be put on record. If we are to use the hat for the purpose of raising points of order during Divisions, surely they should be taken by the Chair, especially when they relate to closures. Surely Divisions on closure motions are the most important Divisions. Only recently a closure motion was carried—I shall come to my point of order in a minute, but perhaps—

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. If a closure motion is carried on a Division, that instructs the occupant of the Chair to put the Question immediately. The two Questions are really part of the same Question. That is the answer to the hon. Member's point of order. That having been said, I shall now gladly listen to his point of order.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

Clearly, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should have preferred to raise my point of order before the closure was voted on and carried. Nevertheless, I maintain that there is an important issue at stake. Fundamentally, we are talking about a disagreement between this House and the other place. Clause 11 was removed from the Bill last time it was considered by the House of Commons. A variant of that clause was then reinserted in the Bill by the other place —and we are all very conscious of the way in which the debate in the other place was conducted.

We have found tonight that, although the House of Lords has clearly sought to contradict a decision of the House of Commons, we have not been allowed to deploy our case. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) will agree with me that there are many powerful and important points which have not been raised—

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that he cannot continue the debate, but I shall certainly hear his point of order for the Chair.

2 am

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek clarification. I think that hon. Members are aware of what is at stake here. Only two weeks ago, almost £500,000 was granted to a landlord on the basis of the issues arising out of the Bill. Without wishing to make the speech that the size of the Government's majority prevented me from making, as an hon. Member representing a Scottish constituency—from making—and I may say that a few other hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies were also denied the opportunity to put their case-1 ask you, Sir, whether the size of the Government's majority has now prevented all further discussion of a decision by the House of Lords to contradict—indeed, overrule—the House of Commons decision.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

I can only deal with the point of order addressed to the Chair. It is obviously a matter of judgment for the occupant of the Chair whether to accept a closure motion. It is a difficult judgment. A balance has to be struck after the occupant of the Chair has listened to the debate. Nevertheless, it is, of course, for the House to decide whether to accept the closure. I exercised my judgment in this case to the best of my ability.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not a fact that precedent on these matters is passed from one occupant of the Chair to the next? Is it not also a fact that, in this case, the factors relating to the debate—an apparent reversal by the House of Lords of an earlier view taken by the House of Commons—places the occupant of the Chair in a different sort of position, if a closure is claimed, than that which one might expect in a normal debate? If that is so, Sir, cannot this matter either be referred to the Select Committee on Procedure or be considered in some other way? Are you not faced with a different set of factors than would normally be the case?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

I do not think that different sets of factors are involved. The fact is that the occupant of the Chair has to exercise a judgment in the individual circumstances—and circumstances almost always vary to some degree. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to refer the matter to the Select Committee on Procedure, he is, of course, free to do so.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where's Cryer?"] He's gone with the hat. In the 21 years that I have been a Member of Parliament, the occupant of the Chair has always heard points of order raised during a Division. I am told that in this quaint little place one puts on the hat so that one can be distinguished from all those milling around during a Division. At least, that is one argument—there have been others as well.

Only a few years ago the House debated a set of rules. We decided, among other things, to keep the hat. Some hon. Members wanted to get rid of this strange custom but, following a Division, it was agreed that it should be kept—for the very good reason that it was important for it to be worn during Divisions.

I should like to know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether the precedent that you have set tonight will be perpetuated by future Speakers and Deputy Speakers. The Clerks who sit at the Table are supposed to advise on Standing Orders and so forth; I am surprised that they did not tell you, that a point of order during a Division is automatically granted. I have never known this to happen before, so I should like to know the circumstances in which you have reached your decision. We do not want it to be repeated; if we have to troop through the Lobbies to keep the hat, the Chair should observe the custom when hon. Members put the hat on their heads.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

No precedent has been created. I dealt with the point in what I hope was a reasonable manner; there is nothing more that I can add.

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have never been one of those hon. Members who are enthusiastic about the hat; it may make my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) look a bit like Frankie Vaughan, but it does not do the same for me.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has said, however, the hat is there for the distinct purpose of differentiating between those who wish to raise a point of order during a Division and those who wish to vote. Can you give us a fuller ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker —later, if not now—on whether the Chair's entitlement to decide whether to take a point of order during a Division hearing that point of order has created a precedent? I understood that the Chair could rule that a point of order was valid, or bogus, once it had been made, but surely if the point of order has not even been accepted, there is no way in which the Chair can judge whether it is valid.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

As I have said, no precedent has been created. If hon. Members read what I said when Hansard appears, they will realise that mine was a common-sense judgment.

Question put, That amendment (a) to the Lords amendment be made:—

The House proceeded to a Division.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. There appears to be a delay in the Division Lobbies. Will the Serjeant at Arms please investigate?

The House having divided: Ayes 36, Noes 109.

Division No. 189][2.7 am
AYES
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.)Macdonald, Calum A.
Canavan, DennisMcKelvey, William
Cryer, BobMcMaster, Gordon
Dalyell, TamMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Darling, AlistairMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)Nellist, Dave
Dewar, DonaldPike, Peter L.
Dixon, DonRuddock, Joan
Doran, FrankSkinner, Dennis
Dunnachie, JimmySpearing, Nigel
Eadie, AlexanderStrang, Gavin
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Foster, DerekWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Foulkes, GeorgeWelsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Fyfe, MariaWorthington, Tony
Galbraith, Sam
Galloway, GeorgeTellers for the Ayes:
Godman, Dr Norman A.Mr. Thomas McAvoy and
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Mr. Allen McKay.
NOES
Alexander, RichardFreeman, Roger
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelGale, Roger
Amess, DavidGill, Christopher
Arbuthnot, JamesGoodlad, Alastair
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Arnold, Sir ThomasGreenway, John (Ryedale)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Gregory, Conal
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Hague, William
Blackburn, Dr John G.Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie
Boscawen, Hon RobertHampson, Dr Keith
Boswell, TimHannam, John
Bottomley, PeterHargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Bowis, JohnHarris, David
Brazier, JulianHayward, Robert
Bright, GrahamHeathcoat-Amory, David
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Hind, Kenneth
Burt, AiistairIrvine, Michael
Carrington, MatthewJack, Michael
Chapman, SydneyJackson, Robert
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth)Janman, Tim
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Jessel, Toby
Cope, Rt Hon Sir JohnJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Cran, JamesKing, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Kirkhope, Timothy
Davis, David (Boothferry)Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Day, StephenLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Dorrell, StephenLester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesMaclean, David
Dover, DenMcLoughlin, Patrick
Dunn, BobMeyer, Sir Anthony
Durant, Sir AnthonyMills, Iain
Fallon, MichaelMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Mitchell, Sir David
Franks, CecilMonro, Sir Hector
Morrison, Sir CharlesStern, Michael
Morrison, Rt Hon Sir PeterStevens, Lewis
Moynihan, Hon ColinStewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Neale, Sir GerrardSumberg, David
Nelson, AnthonyTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Neubert, Sir MichaelTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Nicholls, PatrickThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Nicholson, David (Taunton)Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Norris, SteveThurnham, Peter
Oppenheim, PhillipTownend, John (Bridlington)
Page, RichardTwinn, Dr Ian
Paice, JamesWalker, Bill (T'side North)
Patnick, IrvineWaller, Gary
Raffan, KeithWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir WynWells, Bowen
Ryder, Rt Hon RichardWiddecombe, Ann
Shaw, David (Dover)Wilshire, David
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Yeo, Tim
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Shersby, MichaelTellers for the Noes:
Skeet, Sir TrevorMr. Tom Sackville and
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)Mr. Neil Hamilton.
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I simply wish to register the fact that this will be the final vote on a clause that was rejected by the House but has been inserted by the Lords. There will be no further opportunity to vote on it. Therefore, sadly, Parliament is enacting a Bill that is fundamentally flawed.

Question put, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the amendment in lieu.

The House divided: Ayes 108, Noes 36.

Division No. 190][2.28 am
AYES
Alexander, RichardHamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelHampson, Dr Keith
Amess, DavidHannam, John
Arbuthnot, JamesHargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Harris, David
Arnold, Sir ThomasHayward, Robert
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Heathcoat-Amory, David
Blackburn, Dr John G.Hind, Kenneth
Boswell, TimIrvine, Michael
Bottomley, PeterJack, Michael
Bowis, JohnJackson, Robert
Brazier, JulianJanman, Tim
Bright, GrahamJessel, Toby
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Burt, AlistairKing, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Carrington, MatthewKirkhope, Timothy
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth)Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Cope, Rt Hon Sir JohnLester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Cran, JamesMaclean, David
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)McLoughlin, Patrick
Davis, David (Boothferry)Meyer, Sir Anthony
Day, StephenMills, Iain
Dorrell, StephenMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesMitchell, Sir David
Dover, DenMorrison, Sir Charles
Dunn, BobMorrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Durant, Sir AnthonyMoynihan, Hon Colin
Fallon, MichaelNeale, Sir Gerrard
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Nelson, Anthony
Franks, CecilNeubert, Sir Michael
Freeman, RogerNicholls, Patrick
Gale, RogerNicholson, David (Taunton)
Gill, ChristopherNorris, Steve
Goodlad, AlastairOppenheim, Phillip
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesPage, Richard
Greenway, John (Ryedale)Paice, James
Gregory, ConalPatnick, Irvine
Hague, WilliamRaffan, Keith
Hamilton, Rt Hon ArchieRoberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Ryder, Rt Hon RichardThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Sackville, Hon TomThurnham, Peter
Shaw, David (Dover)Townend, John (Bridlington)
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Twinn, Dr Ian
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Shersby, MichaelWaller, Gary
Skeet, Sir TrevorWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)Wells, Bowen
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)Widdecombe, Ann
Stern, MichaelWilshire, David
Stevens, LewisWood, Timothy
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)Yeo, Tim
Sumberg, David
Taylor, Ian (Esher)Tellers for the Ayes:
Taylor, John M (Solihull)Mr. Sydney Chapman and
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)Mr. Nicholas Baker.
NOES
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.)Macdonald, Calum A.
Canavan, DennisMcKelvey, William
Cryer, BobMcMaster, Gordon
Dalyell, TarnMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Darling, AlistairMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)Nellist, Dave
Dewar, DonaldPike, Peter L.
Dixon, DonRuddock, Joan
Doran, FrankSkinner, Dennis
Dunnachie, JimmySpearing, Nigel
Eadie, AlexanderStrang, Gavin
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Foster, DerekWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Foulkes, GeorgeWelsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Fyfe, MariaWorthington, Tony
Galbraith, Sam
Galloway, GeorgeTellers for the Noes:
Godman, Dr Norman A.Mr. Allen McKay and
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Mr. Thomas McAvoy.

Question accordingly agreed to. [Special entry.]

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment to the Commons amendment.

The amendment provides for a longer period for the receipt of representations in dealing with the establishment of a natural heritage area. Six weeks is a standard period for representations in planning legislation, but the longer period is perfectly reasonable here, as allowing a substantial time for commenting on a NHA proposal is, of course, entirely in keeping with the Government's view of NHAs as promoting a co-operative approach between all relevant interests. Such an approach is in tune with the fundamental philosophy of Scottish Natural Heritage.

The extension of the period to three months should ensure that anyone who is absent on holiday or the like at the time of the proposal being published is properly able to be involved in the process. I trust that the House will share that view of what is a simple, but important, amendment.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland

Can the Minister give us any information about the

" .—(1) The Secretary of State shall appoint a committee (in this section referred to as "the Committee") which shall have the function of giving advice to SNH on such matters concerning areas of special scientific interest as are specified in this section.

(2) The chairman and members of the Committee shall be appointed by the Secretary of State from among persons who are not members of SNH or of any committee appointed by it having scientific qualifications and experience in relation to flora or fauna or the geological or physiographical features of land.

(3) The chairman and members of the Committee shall be appointed upon such terms and for such periods as the Secretary of State may determine and they shall be paid by SNH such remuneration and allowances as the Secretary of State may, with the consent of the Treasury, determine.

(4) The Secretary of State may, from time to time, give directions to the Committee as to its procedure.

(5) Where SNH has given notification to the owner or occupier of any land under subsection (1) of section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (areas of special scientific interest) that the land is or forms part of an area of special interest and has received from the owner or occupier of the land, within the time specified in subsection (2) of that section, representations or objections relating to any reason specified in the notification in pursuance of subsection (4)(a) of that section and the owner or occupier does not agree to withdraw such representations or objections, it shall refer the matter to the Committee.

(6) Where, as regards any land in respect of which a notification has been given under subsection (1) of the said section 28 before the commencement of this section of this section, SNH receives representations from the owner or occupier of the land that any reason specified in the notification in pursuance of the said subsection (4)(a) has ceased to be valid and, within six months of such representations having been made, they have not been withdrawn—

  1. (a) in the case of a notification given since the commencement of section 2 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1985 or in the case of a notice of proposed notification given before such commencement, where objections or representations were duly made in pursuance of subsection (2) of the said section 28 at the time the notification or, as the case may be, notice was given; and
  2. (b) in any other case, where not less than 10 years have elapsed since the date the notification or, as the case may be, notice was given,
it shall refer the matter to he Committee.