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Clause 25 - Directions

Part of 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 Roger Williams Roger Williams Opposition Whip (Commons) 1:45 pm, 23rd June 2005

We have had much debate about the directions that the Secretary of State could give Natural England, and the clause replicates the directions for the Commission for Rural Communities. However, one difference between Natural England and the CRC is that Natural England could actually do things. For instance, it could enter into management agreements and take much more explicit action in the countryside. The CRC, however, is a body for advocacy and advice. Subsection (4) states:

The Commission must comply with any directions given under this section.”

However, that is less appropriate for the commission than it is for Natural England.

I understand that the Secretary of State might wish to stop a body from becoming actively involved in an activity that was contrary to Government policy or that stood in contradiction to the work of another Department. However, if we do not give the commission the absolute right to decide what do—   which elements of rural activity to make reports on or take evidence on, or what recommendations to make on Government policy—we will do away with the very independence that the Minister has advocated. I ask him to reflect on that. Although I can understand that he might believe such arrangements to be suitable for Natural England, are they really appropriate for the Commission for Rural Communities?