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Clause 19 - Representation, advice and monitoring

Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:45 pm on 23rd June 2005.

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Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 1:45 pm, 23rd June 2005

I beg to move amendment No. 113, in clause 19, page 7, line 31, after ‘meeting’, insert ‘, or not meeting,’.

This is another brief amendment, and it is equally self-explanatory. We are talking about the commission representing rural needs, giving advice and monitoring and making reports about the way in which policies are adopted. I suspect that here, too, we shall be arguing about what is implicit and what is explicit, but I would like it made explicit in the Bill that the commission’s reports can also address the ways in which the policies of a Government, a local authority or an organisation do not meet rural needs. If we are to ensure that the commission is given the credibility that we all want it to have, everyone should understand its role. I rest my case. If we are going to ensure that it takes heed of rural communities and rural needs, we must also fully and explicitly understand that its function is to point out the problems as well as the positive things.

Saying that something is beginning to meet rural needs or is meeting 50 per cent. of rural needs is the reverse of the half full, half empty argument, but it would be better if the Bill clearly stated that the commission’s reports should address failures as well as positive things. I hope that the Minister will accede to this minor proposal to make something explicit in 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)

Paragraph (c) establishes the monitoring function of the commission. It places a duty on the commission to monitor and report on the implementation of policies—that is, to assess the way in which policies are adopted by the Government and others are implemented—and the extent to which those policies meet rural needs.

The amendment is relatively harmless, and relatively unnecessary. By implication, when the commission reports on the way in which policies have been adopted by relevant persons, such a report would highlight the good and the bad. The use of the word “extent” would also render the extra words “or not meeting” superfluous. Policies could meet need to a greater or a lesser extent.

The amendment is therefore unnecessary. I trust that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw it on that basis.

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

I had hoped that the Minister would at least have attempted to humour me on an amendment as minor as this. It is usual, during the passage of a Bill, for the Minister to accede to some completely minor amendment, just so that the Opposition have a feeling of success, even though it is purely token. This could have been the Minister’s opportunity to do that, and I   could have left the Committee Room, issued all my press releases and really made a great deal of this, but he is flatly refusing to accede to two minor words—

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

The devil is in the third word, but there we are. I am hopeful that, as the Minister is not going to humour me by accepting this amendment, he will accept a more significant amendment later. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Roger Williams Roger Williams Opposition Whip (Commons)

On a point of order, Mrs. Anderson. I have just noticed that my hon. Friends have tabled an amendment that withdraws the whole of clause 19, but it does not appear on the amendment paper, so do we take it with the clause stand part debate?

Clause 19 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson Labour, Rossendale and Darwen

With the leave of the Committee, I propose to take clauses 20 to 28 together.

Photo of Paddy Tipping Paddy Tipping Labour, Sherwood

On a point of order, Mrs. Anderson. I wished to make a point about clause 26.

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson Labour, Rossendale and Darwen

It might benefit the Committee if we take the clauses separately.

Clauses 20 to 24 ordered to stand part of the Bill.