Clause 26 — Establishment

Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 3:00 pm on 29th June 2006.

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Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 18 to 22, 24 to 75, 81, 82, 84 to 91 and 109.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Biodiversity, Landscape and Rural Affairs)

I trust that I shall be able to dispatch this group of amendments in even less time than it took you to read them, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The amendments change the name of commons associations to commons councils. There is cross-party support for such a change, and support from stakeholders. The proposed changes are numerous. We have weighed up their impact at such a late stage of the Bill's proceedings, but the changes are purely presentational and do not in any way alter the functions of the bodies or the way in which they will operate, so I commend them to the House.

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I welcome this group of amendments unreservedly. As the Minister knows, I proposed them in Committee so I am delighted that the Government have come round to that way of thinking, especially because, as the hon. Gentleman rightly says, it is also the view of the stakeholders. The purpose was to get rid of the confusion that would have occurred between statutory and voluntary associations, and although a variety of terminology was bandied about, the obvious word was councils. A commoners council already works successfully on Dartmoor, so I welcome the proposal.

One of the Government's reservations about my proposal was that it would require the large number of amendments to which you referred, Madam Deputy Speaker, and that the Opposition might at a later date use that to accuse the Government of not getting their legislation in order. I hope that my hon. Friend Andrew Rosindell, the Opposition Whip, will record that on this occasion I promise not to chide the Government for tabling such a large number of amendments, because they concur entirely with those I tabled in Committee and I welcome them.

Photo of Roger Williams Roger Williams Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I, too, welcome the amendments. As Mr. Paice said, they get rid of the confusion that could arise between the statutory bodies to be set up under the Bill and the voluntary associations that the Minister's predecessor anticipated would continue to have purposes and functions in the future. The amendments will be an excellent resolution of that problem; they will give people greater clarity about what is a statutory and what is a voluntary body, which can be only to the good and will simplify the management of commons.

Photo of Peter Atkinson Peter Atkinson Conservative, Hexham

I join the welcome for the change, but will the Minister give a little more explanation of amendment No. 23? It is slightly different, in the sense that it inserts the words

"and in particular persons exercising rights of common".

I should be interested to know—

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman. There are many amendments in the group, but Government amendment No. 23 is not one of them.

Photo of Peter Atkinson Peter Atkinson Conservative, Hexham

I beg your pardon, Madam Deputy Speaker. I shall come back to it later.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 18, in page 15, line 16, leave out 'association' and insert 'council'.

No. 19, in page 15, line 17, leave out 'association' and insert 'council'.

No. 20, in page 15, line 18, leave out 'association' and insert 'council'.

No. 21, in page 15, line 19, leave out 'association' and insert 'council'.

—[Jonathan Shaw.]