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Clause 3 - Review and research

Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 21st June 2005.

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

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)

The clause places Natural England under a duty to keep up to date in all matters relating to its purpose, and gives it powers to carry out and assist others to carry out research. The clause is relatively straightforward and, I hope, uncontentious.

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

I am sure that the Minister is only too well aware of the necessity for research into bovine tuberculosis. Is that a responsibility that the new integrated agency might pursue almost from its day of inception?

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)

I am, perhaps, grateful for that intervention. I shall have to reflect on that question. My instinct is that that responsibility lies principally elsewhere, but I shall write to the hon. Gentleman and other Committee members when I get some clarification on that point.

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

I suggest that research into TB and wildlife would fall under Natural England’s remit.

I should probably have tabled an amendment to extract this information, but perhaps the Minister can answer my question. When the body carries out research, will its conclusions automatically become public knowledge? I ask because, as we have discussed, it will be a corporate body, so it is not obvious that such information will automatically be made public. Any such research will be paid for with taxpayers’ money, so I hope that the Minister will confirm that any findings will automatically be made public and not subject to some fee.

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)

There will be no obligation on Natural England to publish research results. Such an obligation is not necessary because under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, with which I am sure he is familiar, all results from Natural England’s research will generally be disclosable—so disclosure would be the norm—unless they fall into certain narrow exceptions within the regulations, such as that the research is incomplete. I hope that that helps the hon. Gentleman.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.