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Clause 14 - Grants

Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:30 pm on 21st June 2005.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Colin Breed Colin Breed Shadow Minister, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

Briefly, why does the Minister believe that clause 14(1) sits well with the independence of Natural England?

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

Clause 14 gives the Secretary of State powers to fund Natural England and to place conditions on its funding. The agency will be   accountable to Parliament through the Secretary of State, which is why the Secretary of State needs powers to place conditions on the funding. That does not necessarily prejudice the independence of the agency; it simply ensures its accountability. We will be for ever debating how those elements are balanced up.

Throughout the day, I have been discussing the need to grant Natural England its independence. We are now discussing a clause on the powers of the Secretary of State and I will now be saying that we need to ensure that Natural England is accountable to Parliament while others will argue that we need to preserve its independence. Such is life when one is setting up such a new body. In essence, however, the answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is that the clause is about accountability, which is the reason for the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 14 ordered to stand part of the Bill.