Public Bodies Bill [HL] — Committee (7th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 28th February 2011.

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Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Conservative 5:15 pm, 28th February 2011

My Lords, it might be helpful if I answer some of the points raised before the noble Lord, Lord Clark of Windermere, speaks to his amendment, for which the Government have said that they have sympathy and which I understand the House is likely to accept.

There are a number of points, but the first and probably the most important is to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, that the Forestry Commission will not appear in any other schedule. It is not in Schedule 7-that schedule is coming out; it is not in Schedule 1, which we are coming to the end of; and it is not in Schedules 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. It is dead. It is out of the Bill. We have not dealt with the amendments relating to Wales but no doubt these can be discussed, preferably by someone other than me, when we reach that stage of the Bill. I make it clear to the noble Baroness that forestry policy in Wales is a devolved matter. She will know that Wales has just gone through a referendum on extending its powers, so these matters are even more important. The House will consider in due course the clauses relating specifically to Welsh bodies. There are references to forestry in those clauses but the policy aim is linked to the Welsh Assembly Government's proposals on restructuring the activities of the Environment Agency Wales, the Countryside Council for Wales and the Forestry Commission Wales to enable them to take a more integrated and sustainable view of environmental management based on an ecosystems approach. We can discuss that in greater detail when we get to it in the Bill.

The next point that I want to deal with is the advisory panel. I am not sure that I can say much more to noble Lords who have spoken about this. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, as always, wanted a much larger panel that included everyone possible. I happen to feel-and most people would agree-that a small manageable panel would be better, particularly as it will be given the remit to consult whomever it wishes and to set up sub-groups to ensure that all others are included. As I said, we have already received a large number of applications to join that panel and I think that everyone would agree that to take on everyone would be a mistake. We need a proper panel that is appropriately balanced and one that consults people properly. I also stress that the panel will be independent and will have an independent chairman, so I think that it is wrong when my noble friend Lord Greaves stresses that it must be for the Government to make sure that it consults people properly and that we get out information about what the panel is doing. It should be for the panel, which is independent, to get out what it is doing and to let people know how it is moving and in what direction it is moving. I am sure that the panel will do that with great expertise.