My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the reason for the delay in the publication of the information paper setting out the Government's proposals for a Wildlife and Countryside Bill.
My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment delayed publication of revised proposals for a Wildlife and Countryside Bill in order to consider and develop new ideas put forward during consultations. In August, he published the major part of the promised information paper on nature conservation and, also, a paper inviting comments on new proposals concerning public rights of way. These were followed in September by an information paper on the problem of bulls in fields and public paths. Copies of these papers have been placed in the Library of this House. My right honourable friend intends to make a further statement about other countryside matters.
My Lords, may I thank the noble Earl for that reply and take this opportunity to congratulate him on, I think, his first appearance at the Front Bench, and to wish him very well in a job which I know from my own experience is both challenging and interesting. May I also ask him whether he is aware of the gratitude of the many interests which are following the progress of this proposed Bill for the publication of the information papers which he mentioned and which have been published since I first put down this Question? I would also ask him whether he is aware of the very high esteem in which the officials of his department in Bristol, who are responsible for publishing these papers and for the consultations which have preceded them, are held by all the interests which have been involved in those consultations?Finally, may I ask the noble Earl whether he can give an assurance that the delay in publishing the information paper will not lead to any delay in the introduction of the Bill, and whether he can give us an assurance, given that the Bill has to become law by, I think, next April to meet certain international obligations, that Parliament will have an adequate opportunity for considering and, if necessary, amending the legislation?
My Lords, first may I thank the noble Lord for three "thank yous": first to myself; secondly, to the people who produce the Bill; and, thirdly, to the department down at Bristol. To answer the supplementary questions, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment intends to introduce the Wildlife and Countryside Bill as soon as parliamentary time permits. We are well aware of the closing date for April next year. I cannot promise anything more than that.
My Lords, may I add my agreement to what the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, said? We on this side are equally grateful to him and his department. Is it proposed to introduce the Bill in this House?
I thank the noble Lord for his kind words. My Lords, I cannot at the moment speculate in which House the Bill will commence.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that it is a tricky Bill which would be far better dealt with if introduced in this House?
My Lords, we certainly take note of what the noble Lord said.