House Of Lords
Thursday, 12th June, 1986.
The House met at three of the clock ( Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Rochester.): The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.
The Lord Chancellor: Leave Of Absence
My Lords, before the commencement of business, I take the opportunity to inform the House that, with the approval of Her Majesty the Queen, I have accepted an invitation to attend the centenary celebrations of the British School at Athens on 20th June. Accordingly, I trust that the House will agree to grant me leave of absence for Thursday 19th and Friday 20th June this year.
Bbc And Itv: Anti-Competitive Practices
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, further to their Written Answer on 10th February (H.L. Debates cols. 89–91) concerning BBC and ITV: Anti-Competitive Practices, and the five suggestions put forward by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission on the arrangements for providing information about forthcoming programmes on BBC and IBA services, they will write again to the BBC and IBA to ascertain what progress has been made concerning the suggestion that both organisations should give further consideration to the advantages and possibility of introducing a system under which publishers would be licensed to publish (on payment of a reasonable fee) programme details for a week ahead in substantially the same form in which the details are supplied.
My Lords, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission concluded that the practices of the BBC and Independent Publications Limited did not operate against the public interest. In the absence of an adverse finding the Government have no further formal powers which they can use in this matter. We have, however, been in touch with the BBC and ITP in the past week to establish their present position. Both organisations have informed us that they continue to keep their practices under review, but that neither sees a requirement for change at the present time.
My Lords, as I imagine that the Minister's reply is as disappointing to him as it is to me, may I ask him whether what he is really saying is that the Government do not feel that there is anything further they can do on this particular matter?
My Lords, there is nothing further the Government can do. Parliament has laid down what steps the Government may take through the Monopolies and Mergers Commission to investigate trading practices. In the event of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission reaching an adverse finding, the Government have further powers which they can take to remedy the mischief. In the absence of an adverse finding, as in the present case, Parliament has given us no powers and I think it would be oppressive and improper if the Government were to attempt to put pressure on an independent organisation in these circumstances.
My Lords, while I believe the Minister would wish to help, may I ask him whether he is aware that the House never thinks a great deal of the phrase "matters are being kept under review", because that never leads to any action? As it is not advisable to accept defeat when wishing to make progress, does he feel that the occasional Question to him on this matter in future might induce some action on the part of the authorities concerned?
My Lords, I shall certainly do my best to answer any Questions which the noble Baroness asks. I am sure that the broadcasters are aware of public feeling on this issue and I am quite certain that they will take note, as they always do, of what the noble Baroness says.
My Lords, will the noble Lord the Minister say, either now or later, whether this matter has been considered in the context of the EC and in particular of Articles 85 and 86 of the Treaty of Rome?
My Lords, I cannot give the noble Lord that information. I shall find out and let him know.
My Lords, I am very much obliged.
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that large numbers of listeners feel that something should be done about the noble Baroness's suggestion as soon as possible?
My Lords, as I indicated to the noble Baroness, I think both organisations are aware of the concern that has been expressed. It is a matter for them and there is nothing that the Government can do. Nevertheless, I am sure that they will note my noble friend's views as well.
My Lords, is it not somewhat naïve to consult the IBA and the BBC in this matter when they are enjoying all the advantages of the monopoly? Is not an element of public interest involved?
My Lords, of course there is a question of public interest. It goes quite widely, as I think the noble Baroness has indicated. Nevertheless, it was right that we should ask them how they were getting on. That is what we have done.
Heathrow-Gatwick Helicopter Link
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their estimate of the annual loss of revenue to British civil aviation arising directly and indirectly from the decision of the Secretary of State for Transport to revoke the licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority for the operation of a helicopter service between Heathrow and Gatwick Airports.
My Lords, the Civil Aviation Authority estimated that the annual loss to British Caledonian would be about £2 million to £3 million and to British civil aviation as a whole about £8 million. Actual losses depend upon the extent to which interlining passengers avoid London. The alternatives to the helicopter should prove acceptable to most people.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that very interesting reply. Is he aware that the former Secretary of State justified his decision to overrule the Civil Aviation Authority on the grounds that, with the opening of the M.25, there would now be a speedy means of communication between the two airports? Is my noble friend aware, as I sure the Secretary of State for Transport is aware, that that has not turned out to be the case and the M.25 is crowded, congested and full of traffic? In the light of that and of the very large figure of loss which this decision involves to an industry of great importance to this country, will not my noble friend and the new Secretary of State reconsider this matter?
My Lords, I am aware of the traffic on the M.25. Traffic forecasts are being undertaken and a survey is being done which my right honourable friend will consider as soon as it is published.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that I have been given a figure of 80,000 passengers per annum using the helicopter link? Does he not agree that those 80,000 passengers will now be disgorged onto the already crowded motorway leading to the airport? Can he say why at the very least the Government did not allow the helicopter link to continue until the necessary road widening and the road motorway link were completed?
My Lords, the link was terminated under the terms set by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, which were considered right at the time. When the vital section of the M.25 opened four months later it was part of the condition of the licence that the link would be terminated; and so it was.
My Lords, is my noble friend not aware that if this useful service is not re-examined and re-established there will be increasing pressure for more and more operators to operate in and out of Heathrow instead of sharing the bases between Gatwick, Heathrow and a future third airport? Communication between London's airports is of paramount importance if the airlines are to be spread equally among the three.
My Lords, I am very concerned that the links between Gatwick and Heathrow remain open. There is a very good bus service and alternative means of getting from one to the other. I hope that my noble friend will not forget the fact that a great many cancellations of the helicopter service were due to adverse weather conditions. That meant that people had to go by road in any case, and for part of the day, both from Gatwick to Heathrow and vice versa, some 100 commercial flights were arriving when no helicopter service was being provided.
My Lords, does the noble Earl appreciate that, in view what I have been saying on the Airports Bill, I am the last person to dispose easily of environmental considerations? Nevertheless, I appreciate the value of a speedy link between Gatwick and Heathrow. Was it not the case that new routes and higher altitudes were proposed which would have reduced the environmental impact? In addition, did not the Secretary of State say when he made the decision that it might not be possible to maintain a surface route and that he would reconsider the matter if the need arose? How then will be the matter be carefully monitored so that the link could be re-established if necessary?
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, is absolutely right, in that new alternative routes were proposed. It was a very finely balanced judgment. There are very good arguments on both sides, but at the end of the day, as the noble Lord will know from our discussions on the Airports Bill, we take environmental factors very seriously. It was that aspect that tipped the scales in favour of the decision that was taken.
My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that withdrawal of the licence does not entail closure of the helicopter lane that is being used? It only involves reducing the amount of traffic by about one-fifth. That cannot make much difference to the amount of noise disturbance, which I understand was the main reason for the decision.
My Lords, there were reasons other than the noise mentioned by my noble friend that had to be taken into account. The scheduled service has terminated. If the M.25 road link does not prove satisfactory in the future—and we will watch the situation—my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has said that he will examine the matter again.
My Lords, would it not be possible for the Government to make a very refreshing change by admitting that they were wrong and reversing their decision? Everybody would be so excited.
My Lords, as I said before, there were very good arguments on both sides. Having examined the matter very carefully, and having considered all the representations, my right honourable friend came down in favour of the M.25 road link being the one that should be used for the time being.
My Lords, perhaps I may ask a question of my noble friend after declaring an interest as a former helicopter manufacturer and as holding an honorary position in that now well-known company. I support the points that have been made about noise, but is it not a fact that if air traffic control allowed the helicopters to fly higher, the noise problem would not exist? Secondly, I draw my noble friend's attention to this point. Is it not rather curious that a government who invest many millions of pounds in developing two helicopters of suitable commuter size should make it impossible for helicopters to provide commuter services in this country?
My Lords, this Government do not stop helicopters from being used for commuter services, because each application for a commuter service is considered on its merits. I believe that my noble friend is right when he says that there would be less noise if the helicopters were permitted to fly higher, but that would have to take into account the other air traffic movements in the vicinity. As I have said before, there is more than noise to this question.
My Lords, when answering an earlier question my noble friend said that there would be a further review of the forecast of traffic flow on the M.25. In view of the total inaccuracy of forecasts of traffic flow on the M.25, where will that get us? Furthermore, I assume that my noble friend is saying that it is possible that traffic volume on the M.25 will decrease and that therefore there will be no need for a helicopter service. Is my noble friend aware that I live halfway between Gatwick and Heathrow, three miles south of the M.25, and that at certain times it is actually impossible to get onto the M.25? It is intolerable, and therefore we should seriously think again about a helicopter route.
My Lords, I believe that my noble friend misconstrued some of my words. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced last month that he was commissioning a study to determine whether the problems could best be tackled by improving traffic management arrangements at junctions, remodelling junctions, widening parts of the motorway, or a combination of those options. We expect to receive the consultants' report later this month, and it will be considered urgently.
My Lords, in view of the complete unanimity of opinion from knowledgeable quarters throughout the House, among noble Lords of all parties, does the noble Earl not consider it essential that he should discuss this matter in detail with his right honourable friend and seek to explain to him the strength of feeling that exists in this House, and then return here with a statement affirming that the facility in question will be preserved?
My Lords, I have discussed this matter at length with my right honourable friend, particularly in view of Questions that have been asked before, and I know full well the feelings that exist. I can only say that I will again talk to my right honourable friend. The decision was taken on finely balanced arguments both ways. The department received about 16,000 representations. They have all been looked into, and there were more representations opposed to the air link than there were for the air link. My right honourable friend the present Secretary of State is fully aware, as was his predecessor, of the views of this House on the matter.
My Lords, is it not the case that although the decision was taken on the basis of finely balance arguments, it now appears that one of the arguments against continuing the licence—that the M.25 would have an easy traffic flow—has turned out to be unsound? Is not that ground alone, apart from the general opinion of this House, sufficient cause for reconsidering the matter further?
My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that the present situation concerning traffic on the M.25 was fully taken into account when the matter was examined by my right honourable friend.
My Lords, will the noble Earl say a little more about the other reasons that led to the decision that has been taken?
My Lords, one of the other reasons was the visual intrusion of the helicopter. It was rather a large helicopter holding some 25 people, which is rather bigger than the normal helicopter one sees flying around.
My Lords, is it not time that the Department of Transport woke up to the fact that every new motorway creates new traffic and that the forecasts are always wrong?
My Lords, we realise that new motorways cause traffic. However, the planning system in this country leads one to the conclusion that it takes so long from the time that it is decided to construct a motorway or by-pass until it is completed—it takes well over 13 years—that there might be more in the argument my noble friend has produced than just the extra traffic generated by the motorway.
My Lords, is it not a fact, as we have said many times from these Benches, that in the long term the problems will be solved only by the introduction of proper rail links between central London and Heathrow and between Heathrow and Gatwick? The roads solution has been shown to have failed, and the helicopter solution can be only a partial and temporary one. A proper rail link is absolutely essential to the major international airports in question.
My Lords, if British Rail bring forward a proposition for a rail link between the two airports that can be justified on the normal basis, we will consider it with very great care.
Inflation: International Trends
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what has been the movements in the last year in consumer prices in West Germany, Japan, the United States of America, France and the United Kingdom, and what is their response to these movements.
My Lords, in the year to April 1986 the rate of inflation was minus 0·2 per cent. in West Germany, 0·9 per cent. in Japan, 1·6 per cent. in the United States of America, 2·7 per cent. in France, and 3 per cent. in the United Kingdom. The Government are gratified by the fall in inflation in the United Kingdom and are also pleased that inflation has fallen in other countries.
My Lords, why is it that, taking those major industrial countries, inflation in this country is higher than that of any of the other industrial countries mentioned, while at the same time the rate of unemployment is also higher?
My Lords, it is for a whole variety of reasons—though I often suspect that the noble Lord thinks that he knows the answer even before he asks his question on these particular occasions. We are now looking at a number of very complex matters, and relating unemployment directly to the current rate of inflation is something that I have been doing month after month after month, in drawing everyone's attention to the importance of moderating wage claims.
My Lords, is it not a fact that in this country, in the past year or so, wage increases have considerably exceeded the rate of inflation? Do not the trade unions have a constructive part to play in helping to restrain wage increases and therefore limit our costs of production?
My Lords, it is true that if we look at the tax and price index it would be necessary to receive a wage increase of 1·2 per cent. to maintain one's standard of living. Nevertheless, within manufacturing industry the increase was 7½ per cent. and that is probably the largest real increase for decades. That is not good news for employment in the future.
My Lords, does not the Secretary of State agree that probably one of the most hopeful ways of dealing with the problem is a full development of the Chancellor's ideas—which were of course other people's ideas, too—on increasing the profit-sharing element in the return to labour?
My Lords, may I say to the noble Baroness that I completely agree with her. I hope very much that the whole idea of profit sharing will commend itself to both sides of industry so that we can see a more fruitful way forward to bringing back manufacturing profits to this country.
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend, in relation to the reduction in inflation in the manufacturing countries mentioned in the Question, how far that is due to the fall in oil prices and raw materials?
My Lords, it is an interesting position. In 1984, unit labour costs in manufacturing were running at 2½ per cent. increase. Material and fuels purchased by manufacturing industry were running at 8½ per cent. increase and output prices went up by 5½ per cent. This year, materials and fuels purchased by manufacturing industry are running at minus 11 per cent. However, unit labour costs are increasing by 4½ per cent. Putting the two together, output prices are going up by 4 per cent. If unit labour costs could have been contained we might have seen output prices showing little or no growth and be in a similar position to that of our competitors.
My Lords, does not the noble Lord agree with the comments of Mr. Lamfalussy, the chairman of the Bank for International Settlements, that the generalised fall in the inflation rate of the major industrial countries has been largely due to the very sharp fall in commodity prices, including oil? Does he further agree that this fall has had a severe impact on the national income of commodity exporting countries? Does not the noble Lord recognise that Australia falls into the latter catogory and that it is a tax on the Australian Labour Government, who have been a consistent friend of this country over the years? To say otherwise does neither the Secretary of State nor his Government any credit.
My Lords, I think I accept the tenor of the noble Lord's remarks. Of course, in my comments on the Australian Labour Government I did no more than repeat the words of the Finance Minister of that Government.
My Lords, the noble Lord is constantly telling us about the success of the British Government's economic policies, but why is it that compared to all our major industrial and manufacturing competitors inflation has risen faster here and is at a higher rate than that of any of our competitors while—and I have asked him this before—the unemployment rate is also higher than that of any of our competitors? How do the Government's economic policies deal with this issue of competition from our major competitor nations?
My Lords, the noble Lord has brought into one supplementary question inflation, unemployment and competition. Perhaps I may at least answer part of that question by saying that, compared with OECD countries as a whole, today we have a narrow gap of 0.4 per cent. which is narrower than it has been for many years, and particularly during the period 1974–79 when the gap was 6·1 percentage points.So far as unemployment is concerned, on occasion I point out in your Lordships' House that Germany has seen unemployment rise by over 80 per cent. in the past three years; France and the United Kingdom have seen it rise by 35 per cent. and 37 per cent., and other European countries are midway between the two.
My Lords, does not the Secretary of State agree that, since he has now admitted that the problems in Australia are in no small part due to the fall in commodity prices, it is not accurate to say, as he has done on a number of occasions, that those problems arose from the fact that Australia was investing in the infrastructure?
My Lords, I did no more than repeat the words of the Finance Minister, who said that the current economic policy has to stop if Australia is not to turn itself into a banana republic. I do not know how much more I have to say about that except that Australia went in for infrastructure spending and today it has rising unemployment, balance of payments problems, soaring inflation, and a Finance Minister who at least is dissatisfied with the present state of Australia's economy. That is the lesson I wanted to draw from infrastructure investment.
Gruinard Island: Cost Of Decontamination
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the estimated cost of decontaminating the island of Gruinard from the residues of anthrax used in experiments during World War II.
My Lords, the cost of decontaminating Gruinard Island is estimated at up to £500,000.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply. If the island is to become available soon, after more than 40 years, and its future use is to be considered could it not provide the answer to a pressing current problem? Would it not be a perfect permanent site for the hippies who are now having great difficulty in finding one? There are no farmers or neighbours to be upset. Pop concerts could be continuous and the hippies are less likely than other people to be bothered by any remaining germs.
My Lords, it is our intention, once the island is safe, to offer the island back to the original owner from whom it was purchased in 1947. What he would say about the prospect of continuous pop concerts, I am not sure.
My Lords, if the owner agrees, how would they get there—by helicopter?
My Lords, either that or swim.
My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 this afternoon my noble friend Lord Lyell will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on the Northern Ireland Assembly.It may be for the convenience of the House if I announce that the Committee stage of the Agriculture Bill will be adjourned at approximately 7 p.m. for approximately one hour and that during this adjournment the Third Reading of the Drug Trafficking Offences Bill and the Education Support Grants (Amendment) Regulations 1986 will be taken.
Blyth Harbour Bill Hl
Read a third time, and passed, and sent to the Commons.
Horticultural Produce Bill
My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.
Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.—( Lord Stanley of Alderley.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—( Lord Belstead.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]
Clause 1 [ Provision of services and goods connected with agriculture and countryside]:
moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 6, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").
The noble Lord said: This amendment was moved in another place and it took two-and-a-half hours to discuss it and reach a decision. I propose to speak for only a few minutes and to hear what the Minister has to say. We want to see whether we can extract from the Government their actual plans. On Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, made great play of new technologies, new pressures of overproduction, reduced margins, unprecedented change, new demands and changing needs. He then asked a lot of questions, and I admit that there were no instant answers.
Is the Minister going to tell us today that these matters are so difficult that the Government have no plans for dealing with them immediately? Clause 1 states that the Minister "may make provision for" the various proposals. Is there anything that the Government are doubtful about? Surely there are parts of Clause 1 which the Government are ready to put into operation immediately; or are they too busy making arrangements to carry out what is proposed in the last phrase of subsection (3), of which more in due course? I look forward to hearing that the Minister will accept the amendment and will let us have a little less of the enabling legislation that we have had so much of in the past. I beg to move.
I wonder whether it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak to my Amendments Nos. 2 and 7 with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie. They are more or less the same. My amendment, as has been partly stated by the noble Lord, is to ensure a long-term future for ADAS. There is nothing worse or more liable to cause low morale than uncertainty. At the moment, in part due to this Bill being an enabling Bill, there is great uncertainty felt about the future of ADAS by both farmers and ministry staff. Indeed, rumours abound that in future there may be no service at all. My amendment—our amendment, rather—would remove that uncertainty by giving a firm undertaking that some service would be provided.Amendment No. 7 takes into account that in future it may be necessary to change the role of ADAS. For instance, it is already being given duties regarding advice on conservation, and so as not to limit or restrict in any way the free movement of advice, my amendment allows the Minister to accept this. It also allows the Minister the right to refuse to accept duties involving advice that are plainly unnecessary. This was a point that was made forcefully by my noble friend Lord Belstead at Second Reading and I fully accept it.
I should like to support the general principle of these amendments. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, was absolutely right in what he said about the importance of maintaining morale in ADAS, or rather re-establishing it, as one unfortunately has to say, and about ensuring that there is a long-term future for that invaluable organisation. There can be no question but that the people who are at present engaged in giving this service, not only to farmers but to agriculture and the rural community as a whole, are suffering very much from a feeling of uncertainty as to their future. I accept entirely that the present Government intend to maintain ADAS. I hope that we can have an assurance that they will maintain ADAS at least in its present form, which has been considerably attenuated over the past years.Both amendments will go quite a long way toward removing the uncertainty which now exists over the future of ADAS. In no way do they run counter to the intentions of this Bill; in fact they do no more than put into statutory form what I believe is the intention of Her Majesty's Government. I hope therefore that the Minister will be able to accept both amendments.
I, too, support the amendments. I think that it is very important at this stage to inject some certainty into the future of ADAS for the reasons that have already been given. This is needed not only to help morale, which I think everyone now knows is very low, but also, and perhaps even more importantly, because in fact ADAS has a very real future. I myself am quite sure of that, and perhaps it will be brought out later in the proceedings when we are discussing other parts of this Bill. Notwithstanding private consultancy firms and other advisory bodies of that nature, I think that at this stage we ought to put certainty into the future of ADAS, and I very much hope that my noble friend will see the importance of this.
I can feel rather sorry for my noble friend because on the Marshalled List he can see all the old hounds which harass him on agricultural matters when Bills of this sort come before Parliament. Their names always keep appearing—the Onslows, the Melchetts, the Buxtons. We could go on for ever really; and even the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, need not look quite so smug sitting on the Opposition Benches.I should like to support this amendment for the following reasons. First, ADAS now appears to have become more important than it was before simply because, unless we can persuade them otherwise, the Government intend to introduce charges. That is the first reason. The second reason, which it seems to me is very important—and we must congratulate the Government very sincerely on this—is the introduction of Clause 12 which makes the Ministry of Agriculture seriously responsible for running the countryside as a whole rather than just as a food producing machine. Under those circumstances it seems to me that ADAS becomes even more important than it was. If that is allied to the fact that the Government will try—against certain of our better judgments; and we shall come to this matter later—to introduce charges, we shall then push the advice factor back on to the chemical firms, etc. It seems to me that this is why it is very important that the word "shall" should be inserted in place of the word "may".
I hesitate to intervene because by now the Minister must realise the feelings of the Committee from all quarters. I entirely follow the argument of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. How do the Government think that they will carry out the obligations which they are accepting under Clause 12 without the help of a really efficient, well trained, alert, highly motivated and enthusiastic advisory service?I usually listen to the radio in the mornings and I try to listen to the farming programme. I did so only the other day and I am sorry to say that it seems to me that Mr. Jopling has got stuck in a groove of a long playing record. All he can say is that a further 334 staff of ADAS are under notice or will shortly be under notice of dismissal. Yet it was made perfectly clear on Second Reading that agricultural advice is more than ever necessary when agriculture is not on the up-and-up, as it has been for a number of years, but is in a state of considerable anxiety, apprehension and confusion. The NFU, the CLA and all the other organisations, have made it absolutely plain that they believe that even on the agricultural side ADAS is very necessary and desirable. It seems to most of us who have any concern about this matter that with these additional obligations under Clause 12, ADAS is essential. There are other matters concerned with the difficulties over charges which we discussed at Second Reading and no doubt the Minister will enlighten us further as to how the Government propose to deal with that situation. But a positive affirmation now at the beginning of the Bill seems to me to be unavoidable.
I should like to support my noble friend Lord Stanley. This is money well spent. A lot of money gets spent through Acts of Parliament, by ourselves and in other ways and very often we do not get as good a return as we ought. But if ever money is well spent it is spent on preventing disease and illness and improving the conditions under which our cattle, our sheep, and so on, are looked after. It would pay hand over fist to keep this service going. It will not keep going unless the people who work for it are certain that it is to continue and they and the next generation are trained for it. The Government would be most unwise if they did not agree to the amendment which is simply making clear what is a great success and continuing the success under the Bill.
The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, said that the Minister was under attack from all the people who usually attacked him on agricultural measures. But when we come to discuss the future of ADAS there is a significant difference. Concern about its future unites all who are interested in the British countryside. It unites farmers and landowners with environmentalists and conservationists and with many other interests. For instance, the water authorities (which I want to raise specifically on a later amendment) are extremely concerned about the dangers of the present state of ADAS and the contemplated cuts.I wish to make two points. First, whatever the Government say today, whatever they have said in another place and whatever these Ministers say over the next few months, the Bill gives absolutely no commitment to ADAS continuing in any shape or form. Once the Bill is passed, ADAS could be brought to an end by any future Minister of Agriculture and any future Government. We all admire the commitment of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, to many of these issues, but nothing that he can say today can change that one jot. That is the legal effect of the changes that the Bill introduces. It inevitably presages sooner or later the end of a state advisory service for agriculture. That is why I believe the Government are making the change that the Bill introduces. It is hard to see any other reason. There have been massive cuts in ADAS over recent years. Four hundred clerical posts are to be lost by April 1987 and I think 334 scientific and specialist jobs are to go by April 1987. Over 1,000 scientific and research jobs will be lost as a result of cuts in agricultural research. They are to go by April 1987. This is my second point. There is no doubt that that has already had an absolutely catastrophic effect on the people who work for ADAS. It is a service that depends on the quality of its staff. Any advisory service is bound to depend on the quality of its staff, and the scientific back-up that it has, for example, by research funded by the AFRC. Both have been decimated. The Institute of Professional Civil Servants, which represents the staff of ADAS, makes no bones about that. It says that the morale of those working in ADAS is such that many now wish to leave as quickly as possible. On a purely anecdotal basis, having met a number of young, well-qualified and enthusiastic people over the past 12 months who work for ADAS, I find that the universal story they tell me is that they are getting out. They are either getting out next month to go into private consultancy or in the next few months. They believe that there is no future for them in ADAS. That is the effect that the Bill has already had. The idea that ADAS will be in a position to take on new responsibilities, functions and wider remits to do with conservation is nonsense. It is disappearing down a tube of spiralling low morale, with cuts in services. The introduction of charges will simply hasten that spiralling decline. Nobody who works in ADAS—and I suspect that this applies even to Professor Bell, who is allegedly in charge, although the Treasury clearly is actually in charge—believes anything different. The service is going down the tube rapidly. Unless we have an amendment to the Bill such as that proposed by my noble friend, I see no future for ADAS at all.
Having heard from all round the Committee expressions of view on the importance of ADAS, I wonder whether I may now intervene. From the Benches opposite we heard criticisms from the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, and the noble Baroness, Lady White, of how it is developing at the present time. The noble Lord says that the service is not developing; but I disagree, and I hope to explain why.First of all, let me come to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie. It would impose a duty on ADAS to provide advice and indeed goods and services to any person who asked for it on every subject falling within the broad range covered by the clause. Clause 1 represents a much wider range of activities than the existing area in which ADAS is presently required to provide advice. The basis of the law as it exists is that in the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1944 there is a duty only to give technical advice and instruction on agricultural matters. It is clear from the speeches that noble Lords have looked closely at the Bill, but if Members of the Committee care to glance once again at it you will find in Clause 1(1) something very different from just a duty to give technical advice and instruction. There is, first, a commitment to provide goods and services (which of course includes advice) on:
I am sure that my noble friend Lady Elliot will be pleased to see the word "marketing". Secondly, there is a commitment for ADAS to be involved in:"the production and marketing of agricultural produce and other food".
That is an echo of the enormously important amendment that my noble friend Lord Sandford persuaded the Ministry of Agriculture to accept, and it did it with a light heart eventually. He was instrumental in getting that provision into the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. There were consultations between the Department of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture during the passage of the Bill. Thirdly, paragraph (c) is a complete catchall:"the conservation and enhancement of the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside".
The difficulty that I have in replying to what has been said is that if we are to keep Clause 1(1)(c) in the Bill—and I hope that we shall—it is asking a lot of the Minister of Agriculture for his advisory service to have a duty to provide goods and services for:"any other agricultural activity or other enterprise of benefit to the rural economy".
all at the same time. Let us suppose, if that were to be a duty, that in a soft-fruit growing area the growers and their wives came to the Ministry in London and said: "We have looked at Clause 1(1)(c) and there is a duty on you to provide ADAS services for any other agricultural activity or other enterprise of benefit to the rural economy. We explained to your divisional office that we were starting a jam-making enterprise in the village, but we were told that they were sorry but there were no jam-making advisers in ADAS". Let me give another example. This is something that I saw only a little while ago. Suppose that on a group of farms the farmers agreed to get together and funnel at least some of their vegetable production in a big vegetable growing area into a freezer plant to make use of the unused buildings on a particular farm. If they go to the divisional office of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and say "We want some advice on this"—in fact we could give advice—and at that moment the Ministry said. "We are sorry, but we cannot give you advice; we do not have a specialist at the moment", that would be a statutory breach by my right honourable friend because of Clause 1(1)(c). If we are to have Clause 1(1)(c) in the Bill, which goes infinitely wider than the law has ever gone before, I beg the Committee to think carefully before it lays that as a duty in the Bill on the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food."any other agricultural activity or other enterprise of benefit to the rural economy",
; I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I go along with all that the noble Lord has said; but in the earlier part of his speech he said that Clause 1(1) lays a firm commitment on the Minister. I find it hard to reconcile a firm commitment with the words as printed, "The Minister may make" that does not seem to me to be a firm commitment. It seems that he may if he so wishes, without any firm commitment. I fully accept that the present Minister and the noble Lord are firmly committed, but can he assure us that it will be a firm commitment on successive Ministers?
That is a fair point that the noble Lord, Lord Walston has made. It is the point around which the debate is turning. Although I realise that there is a difference between a duty and a power, we are I hope showing our, bona fides by not just putting down in Clause 1(1) what has been in the law until now. We are making it a power because we are trying to spread the remit of ADAS much wider than the law has spread it so far.My right honourable friend the Minister of State said in Committee in another place that the clause was not an opting-out clause but an opting-in one. I thought that that was a happy phrase because by putting paragraphs (a) and (b) on to page 1 of the Bill and adding paragraph (c) we are showing that we mean ADAS to have a wider remit in the future than It has had before. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, sdot;said that he believes that people will not want a career in ADAS in the future. Last week, we had a week which the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food called the Farming and Countryside Week of Events. It was highly publicised. It included a television programme at lunchtime on the previous Sunday in which the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, took part, and which was a trailer for the coming week. Some 33 farms throughout the length and breadth of England, with a hill farming event in Wales, were devoted to open days to show that agricultural production and conservation can, truly go hand in hand. If any Members of the Committee had the opportunity to visit any of those open events they would have found some members of the advisory service from the land and water service, the science service, the agriculture service and the veterinary service, although they are enormously busy in other ways. They were manning those events, ready to show people around and clearly proud of what they are doing. I have tried to set out the difficulty as I see it with the amendment that the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, has put down. However, we have Amendment No. 2 tabled by my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley, and with it goes Amendment No. 7. The effect of the amendments is to ensure that Ministers and their officials will be in regular contact with the farming industry if there were to be a change made or proposed—I am looking at Amendment No. 7—in the provision of goods or services to be supplied under Clause 1. My noble friend was restrained when he moved his amendment. I am sure that he will not mind if I say that I think what lies behind the amendment is a feeling, which I have heard in the speeches already, that there may be changes made to ADAS. I have tried to dispel that feeling in what I have already said. The effect of the amendment would be that if there were to be changes, there should be consultations. I believe that is my noble friend's thinking. I could not help but reflect, as I listened to my noble friend's brief introduction of the amendment, on the enormous amount of consultation we undertake whenever we take an initiative of any kind. I am talking for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food but that applies to all the other territorial departments responsible for agriculture throughout the United Kingdom. The list is sometimes as long as one's arm. The difficulty I see with the amendment is that Clause 1(1) is drawn so enormously wide. It includes not just producers but, as my noble friend recognised in his amendment, other people—those involved in the environment, especially from the point of view of access and conservation, people who might be in the consultancy profession in agriculture, or even people who are in the food industry. It would mean that the consultation which we should have to make, if we were to do what my noble friend Lord Stanley wants in Amendments Nos. 2 and 7, would be enormous. Having listened to the debate and the expressions of view which have been made in the past half an hour, I must of course take these amendments seriously and I must try and make some response to my noble friend Lord Stanley. I could not possibly do it now. I am afraid that the Government amendments did not go down in very good time, but I am sure that my noble friend will forgive me if I say that I have not had a great deal of time to look at Amendments Nos. 2 and 7. It is only 48 hours since they appeared, and we had one or two other things on yesterday. It would help me a great deal if it were possible to look with care at what my noble friend is trying to do to see—I cannot give a commitment—whether I can make some move on the face of the Bill in the direction that my noble friend Lord Stanley is taking. May I return to my original point on Amendment No. 1? There is a genuine difficulty about laying a duty in Clause 1 if the Committee wishes to retain clause 1(1)(c). The noble Baroness, Lady White, said that she assumed that the Committee would be hearing more about the Government's concept of charging for the services of ADAS. Not much has so far been said in detail on that in another place. I want to say something to the Committee about the detail of the Government's proposals for ADAS charging. It could wait for an amendment or two, but if the Committee would prefer to hear it on this amendment, I could intervene again.
I have an amendment with the noble Lord, Lord Buxton, concerning charges. Would it be convenient to the Committee if we left the matter until then rather than to do it now?
We must thank the Minister for his reply and for the fact that he has been very much seized of the Committee's feelings on the subject. My amendment was perhaps a little abrupt. The noble Lord, Lord Stanley, made his proposal rather better by attaching Amendment No. 7 to it. On Clause 1(1)(c) I had a note, "consultation point" because I realised that we were asking for a wide commitment from the Government. Unfortunately, I could not read my writing when I was speaking and I had to miss out the point.I beg leave to withdraw the amendment after hearing the Minister's speech, which we all welcome, and the fact that he will look at what has been said in Committee.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 2:
Page 1, line 6, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall, subject to subsection (2A),").
The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I do not intend to move it.
[ Amendment No. 2 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 1, line 10, leave out paragraph ( b).
The noble Lord said: This amendment also deals with the part of the Bill that we have been discussing. But rather than looking at paragraphs ( a) and ( c), upon which the previous debate concentrated, my amendment takes up the area covered by paragraph ( b); namely, advice on conservation, amenity, access and so on. I should perhaps remind the Committee that ADAS was first placed under a statutory duty to provide, free of charge, advice on these issues as a result of an amendment carried in your Lordships' House (not entirely, I believe, with Government support at the time, although subsequently it had strong Government support in another place) to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Section 41 of that Act amended the 1944 Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act to make it a requirement that ADAS should give free advice on these issues—namely, conservation, enhancement of the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside and diversification into other enterprises that benefit the rural economy—and advice to government departments and other bodies exercising statutory functions on the promotion and furtherance of such diversification.
This was done as a result of an amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, in your Lordships' House. It is fair to say that the amendment was very widely supported in your Lordships' House because of a strong feeling on two issues: first, that it was important that there should be an independent source of advice for people managing land, farmers and landowners about conservation issues and about diversification; and, secondly that ADAS was the right organisation to provide such advice. The objective that all of us had in mind in supporting the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, when he moved the amendment in 1981 was that this was a major way in which differences between, for example, conservation and agriculture could be reconciled effectively and successfully. The idea has a long and honourable pedigree. It was first recommended in the Strutt report many years ago.
Much to my surprise and, I hope, to the surprise of all your Lordships, the Agriculture Bill actually repeals this section of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. It does so not entirely overtly, which is why, along with this amendment, I wish to speak to Amendment No. 80. Amendment No. 80 is an amendment to the third schedule. Your Lordships will find in Schedule 3, on page 28 of the Bill, a repeal listed to Section 41(1) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which provision appeared in that Act as a result of the decision taken by your Lordships on the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford.
I must say, in passing, that I rather share the worries of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, about the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley. I am not sure that the best way forward, in looking at this part of the Bill, is to try to insist that the Government consult a very wide range of interests before making changes. It seems to me much more desirable that we divide out those bits of Clause 1 where we believe that ADAS should continue to provide a service and make those a duty on the Minister, and those areas where we think that there should be a discretion on Ministers as to whether advice and other services are provided in future. I am with the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, in saying that paragraph ( c) is one where there should be discretion about whether or not advice is offered in the future. I do not believe that such arguments apply to paragraph ( a) or ( b). In particular, in the context of my amendment, it definitely should not apply to paragraph ( b).
Parliament decided in 1981 that there should be a duty on Ministers to provide the sort of advice through ADAS and on diversification that paragraph ( b) and, to some extent, paragraph ( c) would cover. I believe that Parliament was right in 1981. Everything that has happened since 1981 should have made us more convinced that the decision was right. It can hardly be said five years later that there is less of a need for advice on diversification in agriculture now than in 1981. The need is incomparably greater. It can hardly be said five years later that the need for advice to farmers on conservation and amenity is less than it was in 1981. With new measures coming from the European Commission and the possibility of environmentally sensitive areas, with which we shall be dealing later in the Bill, becoming a European-wide Community-funded programme, the idea that there is less need for advice in this area now than there was in 1981 is nonsensical. There is a much greater need and much greater importance attached to the matters covered in Section 41 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act now than there was in 1981. And, goodness knows, the need was pressing enough then!
I am suggesting in these narrow areas that we leave the law as it was when your Lordships approved it in 1981 and that we leave Section 41 of the 1981 Act unamended and unrepealed. This means that the Ministry of Agriculture would be under a duty to provide, free of charge, advice of the sort listed in the Wildlife and Countryside Act, very broadly on conservation and diversification. If it was right in 1981, it is doubly right today that we should do this. I hope that the amendment will have the support of noble Lords on all sides of the Committee and that it will not be open to the objection that the noble Lord has raised in respect of my noble friend's amendment, Amendment No. 1. I beg to move.
I have listened carefully to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett. The Government yield to no one in their view, which coincides with the noble Lord's, about the importance of giving first-class environmental advice—something, incidentally, I accept, that the advisory services benefit from as well as the recipients. I know perfectly well, having worked in the Ministry now for three years, how much one learns from going to see people and hearing what they have to say as well as how much clients, in the case of the advisory services, are learning from ADAS. It is fair to say that an enormous amount has gone on in recent years in relation to training in ADAS. There have been regional conferences at which speakers from many conservation and environmental agencies have been welcomed to address officers in the advisory services. I assert that the expertise of ADAS today, not only on agricultural production but also on environmental advice, is on the up and up.However, the noble Lord presents a difficulty with this amendment for two reasons. I hope that the noble Lord will not mind my saying that it is, first, technically defective. This does not of course mean that the thrust of his argument cannot be fully debated. Obviously, if the amendment is technically defective the noble Lord will be able to put down a replacement. However, for the record, my advice in respect of Amendments Nos. 3 and 80 is that because Section 41(1) of theWildlife and Countryside Act 1981 relies on powers in Section 1(1) of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1944, and as the latter will be repealed by this Bill, the effect of the amendment would be to remove Ministers' powers to provide advice on conservation altogether. That is, I know, something that the noble Lord does not intend in the amendment. With respect, therefore, the amendment is not technically quite correct. I resist the amendment, too, on the basis that there are genuine reasons as to why we are bringing in charges for the advisory service. We believe that this will give to us in the Ministry of Agriculture and in ADAS proper signals as to what the farming community and, indeed all others who are in touch with ADAS really want from the advisory services. Without going over the ground in the previous amendment again at any length may I simply say in one sentence that it also gives us the chance to spread the net of ADAS wider in Clause 1(1)—far wider than it has ever been spread before. I realise that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, does not agree—because that is not the effect of his amendment—with what I have just said. But I think that it might be for the convenience of the Committee if I seized this opportunity to explain how we intend, if Parliament agrees, to make good the undertaking which was given by my right honourable friend the Minister that the Government do not have any plans to introduce charges for the kind of advice now provided to farmers free of charge on conservation, animal welfare and rural diversification. My right honourable friend said this quite openly on 7th November last year. He said this because the Government's purpose is to help protect the countryside by encouraging farmers and landowners to seek advice on conservation matters. That is why this part of the work of ADAS, together with advice on farm diversification, and animal welfare, will remain, as we intend, free of charge. Noble Lords, will say, "All right, how will you do it?" Because almost all ADAS advice these days is bound to have an environmental element it would not, I think, be practical to give a list in a statute of those types of advice which can be said to be environmental and those which can be said to be not environmental. Only the circumstances of each case can determine whether, say, advice on a pesticide application programme by a farmer is being sought primarily in order to protect his crop at a lower cost, or whether what he wants to do is to have a talk with the adviser to find out how he can better reduce the risk to birds and insects. Therefore, whether the adviser should offer free or chargeable advice in an individual case should depend, we believe, upon the adviser's answer to the question: for what purpose is the advice primarily being sought? If the adviser judges that the client's primary objective is to improve the running of his business, we are proposing that the advice would be chargeable. On the other hand, if the adviser judges that the primary purpose would be environmental, the advice should be free. "Environment" here would mean anything primarily designed to conserve or enhance the natural beauty of an area or its flora or fauna, or geological and physiological features or to prevent environmental pollution. The duty of the ADAS adviser to decide whether advice is being sought primarily for economic or for environmental reasons places an important responsibility upon him or her. The Government believe that ADAS advisers are well qualified to bear this responsibility by their ability, knowledge and experience of the farming conditions and of the farmers themselves among whom they work. But cases may arise where there would be disagreement or genuine doubt about the primary purpose for which advice is being sought. In all cases the adviser must leave no doubt whether he or she considers the work to be chargeable or not. The adviser must not commit the client to fees without making that clear in advance, and if there is any disagreement the adviser must postpone giving the advice until it is resolved. It is our intention, if there is disagreement which cannot be settled in a discussion between the farmer and the advisory service, that the farmer may appeal to the local regional panel whose members are independent and whose recommendation the Minister would normally accept. I emphasise that the Government realise that cases will arise from time to time where a farmer and his adviser may have agreed to discuss a technical or economic farming problem and that a fee would be charged. But then the farmer takes advantage of the visit to raise a quite separate environmental issue. Of course, the conversation might go the other way—starting with an environmental matter and moving on to something about husbandry. ADAS advisers would have discretion in such cases to use their honest judgment in deciding how much of their time had been devoted to advice primarily with an economic purpose, and how much on environmental matters. But once again the adviser would be required to let his client know, when the discussion switched from the free to the chargeable, that a charge ought to be made. I am sorry that I have been rather long-winded. This is the first time that the Government have tried to set out honestly and clearly what it is that we intend, if Parliament agrees, to achieve the undertaking given by by right honourable friend on 7th November last year—that there will not be charges in future for conservation, animal welfare and rural diversification. In doing this we are therefore trying to provide three things: first, clear guidelines for the ADAS officers to judge in the circumstances of each case whether the advice is environmental; secondly, flexibility to exercise judgment within those guidelines in discussion with the farmer; and, thirdly, a right of appeal where the farmer cannot accept the adviser's judgment. We believe that this will secure the objective of encouraging farmers to seek advice that will protect and enhance the countryside. But I assure noble Lords that the Government will watch closely to see how matters develop and will revise the instructions to ADAS if experience shows this to be necessary. I have used the amendment of the noble Lord as the vehicle to make this statement. The noble Lord will forgive me if I return to my original point. I must resist this amendment for the reasons that I gave at the beginning and because , with respect, the amendment is not technically correct.
I wonder whether I may make one or two comments on the response of my noble friend to this amendment. On the technical difficulty that he raised, it was not I, when I moved the original amendment, who introduced the tortuous form of wording that Members find in Section 41, which makes it difficult to amend the repeal in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, indicated in his amendment. I think that is a relatively trivial point. It is quite clear that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, is seeking to avoid a watering down of the objective of the original Clause 41 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.My noble friend on the Front Bench has not answered the main point which the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, made; namely, what has happened in recent years to reduce the need for the Minister of Agriculture to have a duty laid upon him to provide advice on conservation free of charge to farmers? That is the point to which we need to address our minds and to which I want to return at the Report stage. What has happened is that the Ministry of Agriculture, which did not like this amendment in the first place and resisted it to the extent that it could (but was defeated), watered it down to the extent that it could in the Commons and has sat pretty lightly on it ever since. It is now using the opportunity of this Agriculture Bill to water it down even more on the pretext—and I think it is a rather flimsy one—that with the introduction of charges for advice on mainline agriculture it is necessary to divest itself of a duty to give advice on conservation and to limit it to discretionary power only. I do not think that is good enough.
May I take up that point? The noble Lord has made some interesting and I think thoroughly confusing points about how charges will or will not be implemented. However, I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, that we may return to that on a later amendment.I have a number of questions that I should like to ask the noble Lord on that. How he will make charging, or not charging, work is not the question in my mind at the moment, as the noble Lord suggested would be the case. The noble Lord says that all the services which the Government are under a duty to provide free of charge under Section 41 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act will continue to be provided free of charge by ADAS. The question in my mind is this. Why repeal Section 41 in those circumstances? That question has not been answered.
Perhaps I may once again briefly intervene. I think that both my noble friend Lord Sandford and the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, are upbraiding me from each side of the Committee for not addressing myself to what they regard as the fundamental question. Just for once perhaps I may throw the ball back, because they have left me in some perplexity. If, for reasons which I deployed when I dealt with Amendment No. 1, the Ministry of Agriculture intends to introduce charges for the advisory services—and I realise that there is a difference of view on this—somehow or other there must be a way of drawing a dividing line between where you charge and where you do not charge.There is no difference between my noble friend Lord Sandford, the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, and the Government on the desirability of not charging for conservation. Indeed, on 7th November last year my right honourable friend gave an undertaking that the kind of advice now provided to farmers free of charge on conservation, animal welfare and rural diversification would remain free. The whole point of the quite long statement which I was prepared to make and which I was waiting to read out for the first time (because we have been unable to get down to the detail of what is a difficult problem until the Bill arrived in your Lordships' House) is simply to try to show how we believe we can fulfil the assurance given by my right honourable friend and, in doing that, ensure that we are genuinely not charging for conservation advice, although it is our intention to charge for general agricultural advice. If my noble friend, or the noble Lord opposite, can show that in my statement I have not drawn the line in the right way, I would be very ready to listen. That is what a Committee stage is all about. However, I have tried to show what I believe would be a workable approach. I beg the Members of the Committee not to sweep what I have said out of the way.
My noble friend is putting up an even thicker smokescreen about charges. The criticism which is being levelled by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, and which I share, is that my noble friend and his department have used this opportunity to divest themselves of a statutory duty and have put in its place a discretionary power, and my noble friend has not justified that move.
I find this quite confusing, because it seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and my noble friend Lord Melchett specifically asked about keeping a duty. Then we heard a long and very interesting speech about charges, which presumably we shall have to hear again when we come to Amendment No. 11. We still have not received an answer to the point about duty. Can the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, give us that answer, and then perhaps later we can deal with the charges point, on which we are all hoping to comment?
With respect, I think that I answered the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, when I spoke on Amendment No. 1. I made it clear in answer to the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, in relation to Amendment No. 1 that, because we are drawing the remit of ADAS in Clause 1(1) of this Bill infinitely wider than it has ever been drawn before, we want to make it a power. I gave two examples of ways in which, if we made Clause 1(1) into a duty, people could come to the Ministry of Agriculture and cause great difficulties for the ministry, because the remit had become wider and wider. It would mean that the duty to provide advice and advisory services had become yet wider and wider. I did not think that that was reasonable. I particularly hung it on the peg of the fact that Clause 1(1)(c) is such a wide catch-all that it would make it impossible to hang that onto a duty.As part of that we are debating Clause 1(1)(b), and so far as conservation, rural diversification and animal welfare are concerned, my right honourable friend gave an undertaking on 7th November last year. It was given in the clearest possible terms and it was that we did not intend to make charges. That therefore leaves us with one final responsibility to discharge, and that is to decide how we draw the dividing line between what is charged for and what is not. I have devoted a lot of time to saying how I believe that dividing line should be drawn and, with respect, not one Member of the Committee has come back to me and said that the dividing line is drawn in the wrong way.
We are being led from confusion into confusion in this matter. Apart from the noble Lord the Minister it appears to all of us who have spoken so far that a more determined effort to redraft Clause 1 would bring us to a much more satisfactory situation than that in which we now find ourselves. After all, what is to prevent the Government from putting paragraph (c)—which one must recognise is extremely wide—as a permissive power but leaving the other two, (a) and (b), as statutory duties? I am no draftsman, but I am quite certain that, given the will, it is by no means impossible to retain the duty which is included in the Wildlife and Countryside Act, to which my two noble friends (and for the moment, the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, is my noble friend) have drawn attention.I have great sympathy with the Minister. He has been extremely assiduous in his duties in this Chamber. Had he not had to spend his time on the subject of gas, for example, we might have had more sense in this particular Bill. I suggest that this problem is not insuperable. The trouble is that we have these three paragraphs which, with the abandonment of the first amendment for the time being, have been left as permissive when virtually all of us present wish to make two of them at any rate absolute duties. I cannot believe that there is no way in which this can be redrafted.
Perhaps I may speak at this stage because I want to pose two questions. The key element of Section 41 is that advice must be provided free, but that is to farmers, and Clause 1 of this Bill is not just wide in substance; it also has no restriction as regards farmers. First, does that not create some problem in knowing where to draw the line? Secondly, if the noble Baroness is saying—and I quite understand what she is saying—that there is no problem here, that we simply keep a duty, as it was in Section 41, but we leave paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 1(1) of the Bill as they are, we still have to decide how to distinguish between the free conservation advice and advice which is not free but which is concerned with husbandry. In practice we must actually draw a dividing line when an adviser visits a farm. I ask the noble Baroness, Lady White, how she would do that if it was not done in the way I have suggested.
I suspect that in rising I shall perhaps add more confusion to the debate rather than anything else. Throughout the whole Bill—and I go back to the core of the Bill—it seems that the ministry has had a major strategic change of policy, which is to look at the countryside as a whole rather than just as a food-producing unit. I welcome that totally, completely, utterly and wholeheartedly because I believe that it is a great and gallant step forward.However, we are then slightly crabbing on ADAS and we are clamping the performance of ADAS. ADAS is the machine that we have. It is full of very good people. At the moment it suffers from a slight morale problem, which I hope we can overcome, because ADAS will be there to give us the advice. It seems that the feeling of the Committee is that Clause 1(1)(a) and (b) should be compulsory, that paragraph (b) should go back to Section 41 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and that paragraph (c) should be allowable rather than compulsory. Having taken a major step forward in its thinking on the countryside, can the ministry not take the last little bit in its stride?
The Minister has asked a specific question. He has told us how he proposes to draw the dividing line between the sort of advice which is paid for and the sort of advice which is not. The noble Lord has asked those of us who disagree with him if we will give him some answer as to a different form of dividing line. My answer would be, as I said on Second Reading, as the noble Lord may remember, that in principle I am entirely in favour of the farmers paying for advice which will increase their profit but not paying for advice which improves the environment. After considering this, and listening to the noble Lord very carefully, my opinion is that it is impossible to draw a satisfactory dividing line between those two functions carried out by the same individual on the same farm at the same time. While it would be worth doing if the savings were really going to be very substantial to the national Exchequer, as I understand it the amount expected to be received in governmental terms, is pretty minimal.I would say it would be far better not to attempt a dividing line, not to attempt to have this allocation by the official of the amount of time he spends on one and on the other, and an appeal procedure, and all the rest of it, that the noble Lord has explained to us, but rather to say that the job of the official of ADAS is these two completely inseparable jobs. When he goes on to a farm, whatever it may be for, whether to give technical advice on crop production or whether to give environmental advice, as a friend of the farmer, as an expert with a pretty wide remit, with wide knowledge and experience, he should be able to combine all these operations. He comes to give advice on sprays, and at the same time he gives advice on small things which can be done for the environment, and vice versa. Therefore, it is something wherein without an enormous paraphernalia of bureaucratic timewasting, it is impossible to achieve any satisfactory dividing line between the two. That is why I would hope that the noble Lord the Minister will come to the conclusion eventually—sooner rather than later—that the game is not worth the candle, the amount of money to be saved is not worth this paraphernalia, and certainly not worth the potential loss to the environmental protection which is an increasing obligation and responsibility of ADAS.
If I may say so, the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and the noble Lord, Lord Walston, have successfully widened the debate on a narrow and simple amendment, no doubt as a result of the enthusiastic encouragment they received to do this from the noble Lord, Lord Belstead.This is a simple, narrow amendment which looks solely at the repeal of Section 41 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. There is no difference between the Government and myself about the fact that the advice given under Section 41 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act will continue to be given free. That is agreed. We do not need to argue about that. Perhaps I may put to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, the same question as he has already been asked by myself and by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. May I ask him to accept a couple of things in order to try and avoid the Committee going off at a tangent again? Can the noble Lord accept for a moment that I agree with him that there should be a charge for advice given under Clause 1(1)(a) and Clause 1(1)(c) for the sake of this amendment. I am moving an amendment which only affects Clause 1(1)(b), and for the sake of this amendment I accept charging for Clauses 1(1)(a) and (c). Perhaps I may also ask the noble Lord to accept for a moment that I think he has got his dividing line in exactly the right place—there is no argument about that whatsoever—for the purposes of this amendment. But there is still a question that the noble Lord has not answered. If he is going to continue to give this advice free, and if he has the line in the right place and he is charging for the other things, why does he need to repeal Section 41 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act? Why does he need to remove the duty on him to continue to give that specific advice free? That is the question.
I am glad the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has asked that question, because it is a perfectly fair one. The answer to it is, if I may be absolutely honest, that in drawing a line which I have made a statement about we would be having to use the words I have already used, "an honest judgment". It would be possible if the farmer believed, or indeed not only the farmer under Clause 1(1) but someone involved in the food industry or in rural diversification—maybe a whole variety of people—but if the recipient believed the line was being drawn in the wrong place, I have said in the statement I made there would be a right of appeal to the regional panel of the Ministry whose advice the Minister almost always accepts. So we believe this would be the right way of going about it.But it would be very much more serious to say that there had been a statutory breach when you are having to draw a line using your honest judgment. It cannot be an exact science. That is an honest answer.
If I may say so, at last we have got to the nub of the question which this amendment was designed to address. We have spent a long time—the clock has not been restarted, but I think it is about 66 minutes—getting to what I had hoped the noble Lord would have said after I moiled the amendment, and then we could have embarked on the debate which I hope we can now embark on, which is what this amendment was designed to address our minds to.As I understand it, what the noble Lord is saying is that if you introduce charging for any part of the ADAS advisory service, it is impossible to have a statutory duty on ADAS to provide any advice, however narrowly drawn that advice might be because in practice there will always be a boundary, and you will always come up against a statutory obligation to give advice. What I do not follow from what the noble Lord said is what the implications of that would be. If the noble Lord the Minister has said that it was his policy to give free advice on conservation and diversification, and that is what ADAS are under instruction to do, and the farmer then appeals, surely he would have a right to go to court to enforce the Minister's policy against ADAS, just as the farmer would have the right to go to court if the Minister is under a statutory duty to do the same thing. Or is that in effect what this is taking away—the right of farmers to go to an independent tribunal to get the Minister to carry out the Minister's policy? Are we talking about the difference between an advisory panel making a decision, or a farmer having the right to take the Minister to court? Can the noble Lord tell me that?
The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has put his finger again on a point. We are talking about the difference between an appeal to an advisory panel, which is well understood, certainly by farmers in all localities. There are a large number of appeals going on about the extension of less favoured areas, for instance. The farming community know very well about this. We would not be talking about an appeal to a court.
It seems to me that that raises serious issues. So far as I know, the Government have not admitted that this is the case up to now, that what they are doing by making all this advice simply a discretionary power rather than a duty is preventing anybody insisting that they carry out their policy and give advice on these matters. Frankly, I find that unacceptable, and I hope the Committee will find it unacceptable. Certainly I shall want to come back on Report stage with an amendment which does not have the technical defects which the noble Lord kindly pointed out to the Government's version of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and insist that the the Minister should have a statutory duty to give advice on matters which the Minister is saying he will do anyhow. If that means that the Ministry ends up in court for not carrying out their duty, I do not see that that is a great advantage to anyone, except possibly the Minister. It will be a great advantage to the farmers and the countryside as a whole. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move that the House do now resume.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
Northern Ireland Assembly
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I now repeat the Statement being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The Statement is as follows;"Under the Northern Ireland Act 1982 the present Assembly has two functions: first, to consider and report on how a devolved Northern Ireland administration should be formed. Secondly, the Act requires the Assembly to monitor and report on the policies and activities of the Northern Ireland departments. "The task of making proposals on devolution was undoubtedly made much more difficult by the regrettable decision of the SDLP not to take their seats. The Assembly has not been able to come forward with agreed proposals and there is no present prospect of that occurring. As for the monitoring of the Northern Ireland departments, the Assembly suspended this work on 5th December. In spite of clear warnings about the threat that this action would pose to the continuation of the Assembly, the Unionist parties have not been prepared to resume this function. As a result, the Alliance Party withdrew from the Assembly since they believed there was no longer any useful role to be played. "On 13th March the Assembly formally resolved not to carry out its monitoring functions, to wind up the Devolution Report Committee and merely to meet one afternoon a week for a debate on aspects of the Anglo-Irish agreement. "The position therefore is that the present Assembly charged under the Northern Ireland Act 1982 with two important functions is now discharging neither. As long ago as last December in this House, I warned that if the Assembly continued the suspension of its scrutiny role for long, questions about its future would inevitably arise; and on 1st May and 19th May I repeated this warning. On 27th May I invited the leaders of the main parties in the Assembly to discuss with me the position of the present Assembly. The leaders of the two main Unionist parties refused even to talk about it. I regret that I have therefore had to reach my decision without hearing their views. "The decision I have now taken is to lay an order today for the Assembly's dissolution under the powers in Section 5(1) of the Northern Ireland Act 1982. This order will come before the House for debate under the affirmative procedure. In taking this step I would make the following points. The present Assembly would in any case reach the end of its normal life on 20th October. There would then automatically within six weeks be fresh elections for a new Assembly. The effect of this order is not to abolish the legal basis for an Assembly but simply to dissolve the present Assembly and to leave open the date for a new election for a fresh Assembly. "I wish to emphasise to the House that dissolution of the present Assembly in no way conflicts with our desire for devolved government nor our commitment to the Anglo-Irish agreement. Devolution remains the Government's preferred option and I hope that we may see a future Assembly playing a responsible and valuable role in the Province. The sooner that happens, the better. "Meanwhile, the Government remain ready to discuss with all the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland the best way forward. In particular I would urge the Unionist parties to return to this House to argue their case and to take up the offer of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to discuss with her the four matters proposed: namely, devolution and the possibility of a round table conference; the future of the Assembly; arrangements for handling Northern Ireland business at Westminster; and new means of consultation between the Government and Unionist leaders. "Only if we are prepared to talk together and discuss these matters can we hope fully to play our separate but complementary roles in building a better future for the people of Northern Ireland".
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, we thank the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, for repeating the Statement made by the Secretary of State in the other place. Many of us who believe that devolution can help to satisfy the aspirations in Northern Ireland will have received the Statement with a great deal of sadness. But we are gratified that the door opened by the 1982 Act still remains open.We agree that the present evidence indicates that a newly-elected Assembly would not, at this stage, produce the will among the constitutional parties to work together. This is not the time to apportion blame for this state of affairs. But to elect an Assembly which would not work together in support of the prescribed functions of the Assembly would appear to be a pretty pointless exercise. The Government propose to dissolve the Assembly by an Order in Council and not to abolish its legal basis. We regard this as encouraging, because this means that an Assembly could be revived by an Order in Council if the Government were satisfied that the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland were committed to making it work. This is important because we believe that the 1982 Act still provides probably the best platform upon which Northern Ireland can build for itself a better future. Nevertheless, it should not be overlooked that the Assembly played a valuable role for three years in the scrutiny of Northern Ireland measures, and it compensated for some of the deficiencies of legislating for Northern Ireland largely by means of Orders in Council. Those of us who speak regularly on Northern Ireland measures benefited greatly from the knowledge and experience of the Assembly Members. We trust that when the House debates the order dissolving the Assembly the Government will have something to say about how Parliament, in the absence of an Assembly for any length of time, can improve its scrutiny of the contents of direct rule measures. We consider this also to be important. Finally, we endorse the Government's invitation to the constitutional parties to return to discussions and to a possible round table conference. We hope that that invitation will be accepted, and that before too long we shall have the pleasure of debating an order authorising fresh elections to an Assembly.
My Lords, I should like to associate our Benches with what my noble friend has just said. We may feel sad, as he does, but we can hardly be surprised that the Government find it necessary to take some action. The Assembly was formed, as the Statement tells us, originally as an all-party group to examine how to set up a devolved Northern Ireland administration, and to monitor and report on the Northern Ireland departments. It now consists of one party only, the SDLP having led to its downfall by refusing to co-operate. It is therefore unable to consider how to make an advance towards an all-party Assembly, and recently it has refused to continue with its duties of monitoring. It had only two functions, and it is not performing either of them now, though up to date it has been fairly decently paid for its attendance.We cannot hesitate for one moment in approving the Government's action. We are also grateful that it is not final, and that it leaves the machinery behind the Assembly available so that at some later stage something new and more constructive may be done. I end by saying that as we on these Benches are convinced—and I think that a lot of other noble Lords share this view—that there can be no move forward in Northern Ireland without some shape or form of shared government, we must hope that the Members of the Assembly, who have a bit more time to do other things than go to the Assembly, will spend at least some of it in trying to help the Government to persuade all parties to get together again so that a new Assembly may be formed which will be properly functional as soon as possible.
My Lords, may I briefly reply to the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, and the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, and thank both noble Lords, and especially the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, for his welcome of the Statement that I read out. We believe that the Statement that I have read out today, and what has happened, need not be the end of the road. We hope that it is not, for an elected Assembly acting constructively, as many of us believe they did until fairly recently, is a valuable institution. We want to have a new election when attitudes change, and that is particularly important.The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, stressed the aspect of devolution. I am sure he will agree and all students of Northern Ireland matters and those of your Lordships who speak on them will agree that integration would not solve Northern Ireland's problems, because of its divided community, its politics, and, above all, its different attitudes on many issues. All of these warrant special treatment. The Government's objective remains the establishment of a new devolved government because it could give—I stress the words "could give"—politicians from all parts of the community in Northern Ireland a real say in developing and protecting the interests of their constituents. We have no illusions that any progress will be easy. We shall do our utmost to promote it. Your Lordships will agree that any new arrangements must be acceptable throughout the community if they are, first, to survive and, secondly, to work effectively. We thank the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, for his welcome and his wise words today. He is sad, as indeed all of us are. We agree on that. We agree that the two functions of the Assembly have not been carried out—and certainly not constructively. All the politicians who have hitherto taken part in the Assembly should pay attention to the wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, because he has considerable experience of working both here and in Northern Ireland. We believe that the politicians would benefit from paying heed to his words.
My Lords, is this not another confession of failure regarding the problems of Northern Ireland? I am merely a distressed observer of the condition of Northern Ireland; I have been that for the last 50 years. This latest move almost confirms the belief that we have an insoluble problem on our hands. Your Lordships should be a little sensitive to suggestions that parts of the institution of parliamentary democracy should be abolished when it is believed that they have ceased to be useful. We are ourselves very sensitive to the word "abolition". We ought to be on guard against believing that institutions have failed when miraculously they have shown a new lease of life and have come to be regarded with great respect and as being useful, sober and worthwhile. Your Lordships' House has emerged from this kind of condition of uselessness in its time.We should be a little careful about meting on any other assembly within the body politic the sort of fate that some people would have visited upon us. It is a great pity if one abolishes anything that has been set up to achieve a particular purpose unless there is something else to put in its place. I do not believe it helps to say that the Government's aim remains as something which at the present time is not within sight. It strikes me that people are looking upon the Northern Ireland situation as Britain's permanent confession of failure to solve the problem of unity within the United Kingdom; but we go round the world telling everybody else how to get rid of their internal difficulties. I think our reputation for hypocrisy and incompetence must surely shine throughout the world.
My Lords, I immediately refute the two words to which the noble Lord referred—hypocrisy and incompetence. I do not think any fair and unbiased observer would label the efforts of this Government and, indeed, successive governments in the past with those two words: The noble Lord mentioned at least three times the word "abolition". May I stress to him especially, and to your Lordships, that we are not abolishing the Assembly; we are dissolving it. There is a major difference.As I pointed out in the opening Statement, we are dissolving the Assembly under the powers we have in Section 5 of the 1982 Act. We are dissolving it for all the reasons I explained both in the answers I gave to the noble Lords, Lord Prys-Davies and Lord Donaldson, and in the opening Statement. The Statement of my right honourable friend spelt out the reasons for taking this action. We regret it, we are sad; but I refute the two labels of hypocrisy and incompetence which the noble Lord seeks to place on our efforts. The Government will spare no effort to try to resolve the appallingly difficult problems of Northern Ireland which have been spelled out in your Lordships' House. I give that undertaking. We are not pleased that we have to take this action, but we believe that it is about the only option open to us.
My Lords, will the noble Lord the Minister assure the House on behalf of Her Majesty's Government that in future the people of Northern Ireland will be accorded the same democratic rights as are enjoyed by the people of the rest of the United Kingdom? In particular, will he assure the House that future legislation affecting the Province will be subject to full parliamentary deliberation and scrutiny, including the power to amend such legislation as and when Parliament considers it right to do so?
My Lords, the opening service (if I may put it that way) of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, was getting quite away from today's Statement. However, he referred to scrutiny in dealing with Northern Ireland parliamentary and political arrangements. The opening Statement stressed that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister would be very willing to discuss with the leaders of the Unionist Party four matters, one of which was the arrangements for handling Northern Ireland business at Westminster. I hope that that places squarely on the record what my right honourable friend would wish to discuss with the leaders of the Unionist Party. We hope that they will take up this invitation.
My Lords, is it not a sad commentary that 14 years after the abolition of Stormont in 1972 by order of the House of Commons we now have the seventh Secretary of State—five of them have been Conservative and two Labour—coming to the House this afternoon to admit that yet another initiative has failed? Will the noble Lord the Minister accept from me as one who has lived through those years in Northern Ireland that the failure lay not with any single one of those Secretaries of State to try to find a solution to the problem? The failure lay with the problem of the Northern Ireland people. The nearest that we ever came to success was the initiative of 1973 known as Sunningdale, which was the most hopeful political development that we had had throughout the years, but unfortunately it was brought crashing to the ground.Will the noble Lord accept that the failure of the Assembly is to be laid at the feet not of any one of the political parties, but of a combination of every single one of them, perhaps excluding the Alliance? Will he also accept that the Unionist Members at Westminster in 1982, when the legislation was going through the House, expressed their opposition to the Assembly, but attempted subsequently to make it work, whereas the SDLP and Sinn Fein representatives totally boycotted it and made its failure certain? Will the noble Lord accept that sentiments now being expressed by the leaders of the various political parties in Northern Ireland that they want to talk without preconditions are just so much hot air because they all have their own conditions? Does he accept the fact that the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council has made it more difficult for talks on devolution to take place? There are many members of the Unionist majority who regard the existence of the Anglo-Irish intergovernmental conference as being a precondition in itself. Will the noble Lord agree that following the failure of this latest initiative the only hope of any help towards solving the ongoing problem in Northern Ireland is to be found within the confines of Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland and that no solution can emanate from this House?
My Lords, perhaps I may first deal with the noble Lord's last point. He is getting a little wide of the somewhat narrow track that I beat this afternoon in regard to the Statement. Perhaps the noble Lord will go over this again when we debate the order, which we shall be doing at a future date. Perhaps I may then be able to approach the noble Lord's question and do a little more justice to it. I think that your Lordships would not wish me to go too far down that path this afternoon.The noble Lord referred to the regrettable fact that the SDLP refused to attend this Assembly, and I pointed that out in my opening comments in relation to my right honourable friend's Statement earlier this afternoon. I believe that the House would wish the Government to take a constructive line, and that we should not rake over the reasons for failure. We can learn lessons, and I hope that we shall, but I hope that the tenor of everything I have said this afternoon, both in the Statement and in reply to your Lordships, has been one of seeking for a constructive solution. I think that that, too, was the tenor of the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, today. I would thank him for his kind comments about successive Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland, and I am sure that his good wishes cover all of your Lordships and everybody who has tried to serve in Northern Ireland. I stress that we adopt a constructive outlook, and I hope that we might be able to have more to say on that on a future occasion.
My Lords, as today's announcement seems to mark the failure of this particular experiment in devolution, might it not be sensible, despite the special problems of Northern Ireland to which the noble Lord referred, to consider in future treating Northern Ireland more like other parts of the United Kingdom?
My Lords, that is a very interesting thought and we are very grateful to the noble Lord for raising it. May I ask him whether we might cover that a little more fully when we debate the whole of this order, which we shall be doing, I hope, in the near future? It is one part of the political argument that is under way at the moment in Northern Ireland. As I suggested to your Lordships, we believe that devolution is the best avenue; but perhaps we may leave discussion of that particular aspect to a later date.
My Lords, I should like to join in thanking the noble Lord the Minister for repeating the Statement. I cannot say that I welcome it, but I certainly understand and accept the inevitability of the situation that has brought about the reasons for the Statement. I note that we are to be presented with an Order in Council next week, when we shall have an opportunity to debate the position and the Government's policy. Today, I should like, with others, to express the regret that elected members of the Assembly failed to fulfil the democratic functions of the Northern Ireland Assembly and its devolved powers, although important powers, in promoting a basis for justice, peace and prosperity in the Province.I think that this would be an opportune time for me to pay tribute and commend highly the thoughtful efforts and work of the Speaker, Mr. Jim Kilfedder; the Clerk, Mr. Kennedy; and the officers and staff of the Assembly, all of whom worked under extreme difficulties earnestly and genuinely to uphold the principles and practices of parliamentary democracy. I should like to conclude my brief remarks on this Statement at this stage by quoting two sentences from a statement made by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on 26th November last. The Prime Minister said:
Matters have been raised here today about the rights and about the dissolution, and, in my view, the dissolution leaves a vacuum. I consider that rights in Northern Ireland are on a parity with those of the rest of the United Kingdom. What is required, as others have stated here, is that those rights be exercised. I think that a dangerous void exists in the vital democratic processes in Northern Ireland. It cannot be filled by ministerial statements, nor by the verbiage of politicians; nor, indeed, by the media announcements of clergy and others. I believe that it requires concerted action on agreed principles. Therefore, I hope that the Minister, when he comes to us—if it is to be next week—to debate the order will assure us of the determined measures by which the Government now propose to bring about the brighter picture of the future, to which the Minister referred, to bring peace and prosperity with justice in Northern Ireland."We, the United Kingdom Government, accountable to Parliament, remain responsible for the government of Northern Ireland … we will make determined efforts to resolve differences." [Official Report, Commons, 26/11/85; col. 752]
My Lords, I hope that I have guarded my words suitably about the time at which we shall come to debate this order; but it will be in the near future. That is all I will indicate to the noble Lord. We are very grateful for his forthright support for the efforts that are made by everybody, particularly by the Government and all of those who seek to assist in the political life of Northern Ireland. But the noble Lord rightly stresses that all of us are seeking after peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland.Quite rightly the noble Lord also stresses that dissolution leaves a vacuum. I hope that in my replies this afternoon and in the Statement we have gone some way to try to set out our ideas on the decision that we have taken, why we have taken it, and, I hope, some avenues for hope in the future. I note the noble Lord's comments and indeed his tributes to the Speaker of the Assembly and to others who have served so well, so long and so loyally to try to make it work. I think that tributes are due from all of us. We share the noble Lord's sadness that the Members of the Assembly felt unable to carry out their main task of scrutinising the work of the Northern Ireland departments.
House again in Committee, on Clause 1.
moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 1, line 11, after ("countryside;") insert—
("( ) the promotion of public enjoyment of the countryside;")
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 4. I think it would be convenient to take with this amendment, Amendment No. 77, which has the same effect as regards Scotland as would Amendment No. 4 for England and Wales. I hope that we can take this and the next two lots of amendments in my name rather more speedily than was the case with Amendment No. 3. As noble Lords will know, Clause 12 gives the Minister of Agriculture a new and, I must say for my part, very welcome duty to have regard to the promotion of the enjoyment of the countryside by the public and to endeavour to achieve a reasonable balance between that and a number of other considerations—the promotion of a healthy agricultural industry, conservation and so on.
As I say, that is very welcome and I have no complaints about the range of new duties which Clause 12 will introduce. But I am concerned that the same recognition of the importance of promoting public enjoyment of the countryside has not been carried into Clause 1 of the Bill. It seems to me that, however we draw the line and whether there is a duty or a power, and so on, the Ministry's advisory service will be one of the principal means through which it implements the new duties that are placed on the Minister by Clause 12. It therefore seems to me important that in Clause 1, when we look at the remit of the advisory service, it should be at least as wide as the new duties placed on the Minister by Clause 12. That is what this amendment and Amendment No. 77 would do. They would include in Clause 1 (though it is not included at the moment) the promotion of the public enjoyment of the countryside. It seems to me that unless I have misunderstood Clause 1, at the moment the way it is drafted would mean that, for example, if ADAS was visiting a farm to advise on conservation and the amenity of the farm, it would be outside its statutory remit to provide some literature about increasing access on that farm and providing facilities for people wishing to enjoy the countryside, such as picnic sites and so on.
I am sure that is not the intention and that ADAS will want to be involved in that field as it is becoming involved in the giving of conservation advice. This amendment would ensure that that was a possibility. Whether it actually did it of course would be up to the Minister, because it would be a discretionary power. I beg to move.
I wish to support this amendment. I believe that the enjoyment of the countryside will become of greater importance as the years go by. I think this whole question of land use and the rights of the public to have access to the countryside will become a major social and political issue. Surely before very long the present madness of growing to excess cereal crops that apparently are going to benefit nobody but the Russians will have to come to an end. The question of land use will arise when cereal growing has ceased to be the prevailing economic lunacy. Then the time will come when either we have alternative crops or we find alternative uses for our land.When you come to think of it, it is rather disgraceful, however angry we may feel about the hippy convoy, that we have to push people from place to place because there is no land upon which they can go temporarily, even to follow the mode of life they feel they want to follow. We are horrible to the gypsies; we are beastly to the hippy convoy. We think that everyone should live in houses, but we do not make it our business to see that they are there to live in. We are really a quite ridiculous people when it comes to matters of this kind. So far as the use of land is concerned there ought to be a wider recreational use of the land by people. Every beauty spot is overcrowded; motorcars go into open gates; litter is left all over the countryside. There is nowhere to go. Notices say that trespassers will be prosecuted and you must not go on to the land. Footpaths are obscured and wheat crops are grown so that you do not know where the paths are. Urban dwellers have a respect for the land and they do not like wandering through growing crops even to reestablish their right to a footpath. We must now recognise that the enjoyment of the countryside by the people—a growing population—including those who want more recreational opportunities and more relaxation from the pressures of life is going to be of much greater value than large parts of the National Health Service, which is not a health service but a sickness service. I believe the health of the country is going to lie in wider, fresh opportunities to regard the land as our own, and if it is not used for vital food production, it should be turned over to those of us who can enjoy it much better than we now have the opportunity to do.
I rise to support this amendment because I think that without expert advice the enjoyment of the countryside can do more harm than good. The farmer has to have some expert advice on how people should enjoy it and where they should go. Left to himself, he might do more damage conservationwise than with the advice of ADAS. For that reason I support the amendment.
I should like to support the amendment for two reasons. First, Clause 12 refers to the promotion of the enjoyment of the countryside by the public, and surely ADAS should be used to support that. Secondly, it is infinitely better that people should have access, and it is, after all, everybody's countryside. Even though I own some land, I am quite happy for people to enjoy my little bit. But I should like other people who live in the crowded south-east of England where I live to enjoy it responsibly and to keep to public footpaths. I want to get advice because there is room for all people to enjoy the land. As amended—I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, will appreciate this—I think the provision means that as fox hunting folk we can ask for advice on covers and how to make hunt ditches. I am sure beyond peradventure that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, would love that.
All I wish to do from these Benches is to give our support and my personal support to this amendment. The principle, as the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, has pointed out, is established in Clause 12(1)(d), and when we come to that it will be worthy of complete support. This amendment does no more than make it easier for farmers to fulfil one of the objectives of the occupation or ownershiup of agricultural land.
We certainly support my noble friend's amendment, but I hope he does not wish ADAS to be chivvying people into the countryside and forcing them to enjoy it. It rather gives me that impression; nevertheless we support it.When I first came to this Chamber I was not very sure of the procedure and I followed the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, on something. I criticised what he had said and that brought him to his feet again and he spoke for another 10 to 15 minutes when we were rather wanting to get away home. So I got up and was going to apologise for doing that, but I was shouted down because I was not supposed to speak a second time. I am rather tempted to say something about what the noble Lord said in regard to wheat growers when he turned to the economic side of farming. However, I think I had better refrain at the moment. There will be an opportunity at a later stage of the Bill.
This is an interesting amendment, and once again it has received much support. It is unusual in such circumstances for a Minister to turn down an invitation to extend the Government's powers, but I am going to make a case for doing so. I would remind your Lordships that Clause 1 of the Bill already provides powers for advice to be given to any person on a very wide range of issues, including those relating to the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside and any other agricultural activity or enterprise of benefit to the rural economy. As the noble Lord, Lord Walston, quite rightly said, the requirements of Clause 12 to have regard to and endeavour to balance all the considerations set out in that clause, including the promotion of the enjoyment of the countryside by the public, apply as much to ADAS as they do to other statutory activities and, I contend, would adequately meet the concerns which have been expressed.I am saying this because I think a difficulty would arise if this amendment were to be accepted, to the extent that the powers it would give would impinge on the responsibilities of existing statutory and other bodies with interests in this area. I am glad to say that ADAS enjoys good working relations with such bodies as the Countryside Commission, the Development Commission and so on. And of course there are voluntary bodies doing an excellent job. I am simply saying that I do not think it would be a good idea if it were to appear that the statutory remit of ADAS was being constantly and specifically extended when other agencies already have a statutory responsibility. The Committee may ask: what am I getting at? I am getting at the fact that the Countryside Commission is after all under a statutory remit under the Countryside Act 1968 to encourage the provision and improvement, for persons resorting to the countryside, of facilities for the enjoyment of the countryside and of open air recreation in the countryside. Excellent though working relations are with the Countryside Commission and ADAS, I am not entirely sure that the commission would welcome with open arms the news that quite suddenly an exactly parallel statutory responsibility had been laid on the Ministry of Agriculture. The Countryside Commission could quite reasonably pick up the telephone and say to my right honourable friend, "It is all very well. We thought we worked well with you. Are you now trying to take a statutory responsibility from us?" Not very long ago—about six months or more ago—the Countryside Commission produced an absolutely excellent pamphlet on access to the countryside. It was launched by the chairman, Sir Derek Barber, at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' headquarters. On that occasion I was privileged to be there representing the Ministry of Agriculture and my right honourable friend Mr. Waldegrave was there representing the Department of the Environment. I thought when I attended that launch that this surely was exactly the way that we ought to go about things in this country, with that now highly respected statutory agency—the Countryside Commission—taking the lead in this particular matter (access to the countryside) and the two government departments there and represented in order to show that we were all working together. I seriously say that if the amendment were to be put into statute the Countryside Commission would ask some direct questions as to what it was the Ministry of Agriculture wanted to do in statute. In practice, we are determined to work as closely as we possibly can with the Countryside Commission and with the Nature Conservancy Council, but we are not trying to take over their statutory functions.
For once I want to help the Minister. One could perhaps add the national park authorities because they have certain duties in this direction. I know that they work with ADAS at present, but whether ADAS should be given a specific remit is at least open to discussion.
I should like to support what was said by my noble friend on the Front Bench. The position at the moment is such that the Countryside Commission has this responsibility, and to try to bring it on to the Ministry of Agriculture at this stage would be misleading.I should like to pick up something said by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. He described as ridiculous—and think I am quoting correctly—people who are nasty to hippies. I can only assume therefore that if this amendment were to be accepted by the Committee he would expect the Ministry of Agriculture to take the side of the hippies against the farmer in incidents such as the unfortunate one that took place the other day.
So that we do not repeat earlier experiences, it may be helpful if we stick to the amendment. That is what I should like to do. I am delighted, incidentally, that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, enjoyed so much as he did the Countryside Commission's launch of its access charter with Mr. Waldegrave and Sir Derek Barber. I am not sure whether he was aware that the access charter was produced by the Countryside Commission as a result of an amendment made to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act through the Wildlife and Countryside Act in your Lordships' Chamber, an amendment which I moved against the Government's wishes and had placed in the Bill. I am delighted that the outcome has been to give the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, a good party at the Countryside Commission's expense.Unless I misunderstood it, I am not at all happy with what the noble Lord said in reply to the amendment. First, he said that if the amendment went into the Bill ADAS would have powers which overlap with those of the Countryside Commission. Clause 1 already gives it powers which mean that the remit of ADAS overlaps with those of a number of other statutory bodies. It overlaps with the Development Commission and CoSIRA under subsection (1)(c); it overlaps with the Nature Conservancy Council, another statutory body, under subsection (1)(b), because ADAS has a remit for conservation. It overlaps with the Countryside Commission already in subsection 1(b) because one of its primary statutory functions is to safeguard the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside. If I may say so to the noble Lord, that is no answer at all. Clause 1 already has ADAS overlapping with all sorts of other statutory bodies. Indeed, as I understand it, that is what all of us want to see. We want to see ADAS being able to give advice to farmers about a wide range of matters simply because the number of times a member of staff from the Countryside Commission, of whom there are very few indeed, turns up at a farm and starts talking to a farmer and where in the course of conversation some issue comes up and advice can be given is perhaps once in a thousand years on the average farm and may be less frequently than that, whereas ADAS is there more regularly. That is why ADAS—as we have all been arguing (and the Government now accept it)—should have a remit for giving advice on conservation, on natural beauty and on amenity. If it is right for ADAS to have a remit to give advice on all those matters because its people are in regular contact with farmers, why is it suddenly wrong for ADAS to have a remit to give advice on access? With respect to the noble Lord, it cannot be on the grounds that he mainly advanced, that this would mean an overlap with the Countryside Commission. This amendment has been on a little longer than some, but the noble Lord may not have had a chance to consult the Countryside Commission formally. My understanding was that the commission would not have any serious reservations about the amendment. The noble Lord has much faster and more efficient communication with the commission than I have. I wonder whether he has managed to ask the commission its view, and if he has not whether he will consider, if I withdraw the amendment, doing so between now and Report stage. Secondly, the noble Lord said that the new duty on the Ministry of Agriculture in Clause 12, which includes the words in my amendment, would be sufficient statutory cover to allow ADAS to do what my amendment says it should do. I am not sure whether or not that is right. But if I have understood the noble Lord correctly, what he nearly said (and what I frankly expected him to say) is that my amendment is unncecessary. Clause 12 will give the statutory power for ADAS to give advice along the lines I am suggesting in my amendment. I want to ask the noble Lord whether I have understood that correctly. For example, if a farmer has an area of high wildlife interest—a farmer, let us say, farming in an ESA and receiving money from the Government to maintain the environment, the wildlife interest, of his land—and he wants to talk to ADAS about allowing more visitors on to that land—about whether it would be sensible; about how he would do it; about what times of year to encourage visitors and what times of year to discourage them because of the wild flowers on the site—would ADAS be able to give advice on those issues under the Bill as it stands? That is the kind of question in my mind.
The noble Lord asked me whether I have consulted with the Countryside Commission. No, I have not—though I should be very pleased to do so. It is true that there is overlap between Ministry functions in Clause 1(1) and other statutory functions, but this would be an absolutely direct duplication of another statutory function. It would be very questionable whether that would be desirable—whether it is desirable from a statutory point of view and whether it is desirable as a matter of practice in our public life to lay duplicating duties on two bodies or more than two bodies.The noble Lord asked me a final question about Clause 12. We must wait until we get to Clause 12, a clause which has been widely welcomed. Indeed, the noble Lord himself has welcomed it on other occasions. I simply said in my original remarks that the requirements of Clause 12 to have regard to an endeavour to balance all the considerations set out in that clause including,
apply as much to the advisory service as they do to other Ministry activities. As we have tried to make clear, we have been putting into statutory form in Clause 12 what we believe the Ministry has been trying to do now for quite a few years. I do not think that at this stage, before we get to Clause 12, I would want to go further than that. I certainly do not want to get into the particular example that the noble Lord put to me."the promotion of the enjoyment of the countryside by the public"
I am sorry. When my noble friend first spoke I was totally satisfied with his answer. But now he says that ADAS should not have a statutory duty because it overlaps with the Countryside Commission and that would be a bad idea. He then says, "But actually it does have one anyway in Clause 12 but I do not want to discuss it yet". I am sorry. I am in a terrible muddle as to what he actually means.
I was going to make precisely the same point. The Government themselves have laid this power on the Minister. They have taken to the Minister of Agriculture the Countryside Commission's remit. To say that it is all right to take it to the Minister of Agriculture, who has to balance these matters, but that it is not all right to take it to ADAS—and one should remember that it is a powers and not a duty on ADAS, that can be exercised if they want to exercise it—is something that I find impossible to follow. It is made even more difficult by the point that the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, has raised, when he said that one cannot do that for ADAS because that will overlap with the Countryside Commission, but one should not worry because Clause 12 does it anyway. Those two statements are not logically consistent.I appreciate the noble Lord's anxiety to move on to Clause 12, but we are dealing in Clause 1 with the remit of ADAS. When we are dealing with the remit of ADAS, the Minister should either answer now, or say that he will let me know, whether its remit includes giving advice in the kind of circumstances I have mentioned and in the circumstances spelt out by the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, when he spoke in support of the amendment. If a matter concerning public access arises and an ADAS adviser is giving advice on conservation or diversification, for example, then will ADAS be statutorily empowered to do that because of Clause 12, or will it need of more specific remit in Clause 1? That is the question.
Clause 12, as its sidenote says, deals with a duty to balance interests in the exercise of the Ministry's agricultural functions. I believe that the four ways in which that ought to be done, which include the promotion and enjoyment of the countryside by the public, are right. However, Clause 1, as the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, says is different. It concerns a direct power inviting the Ministry to give advice which, in this particular amendment, would relate to the promotion of public enjoyment of the countryside. That would mean such things as drafting and giving out pamphlets and literature on public access. I am clear in my own mind that if we do that, then it would be a direct duplication of the duty that is laid on the Countryside Commission by the Countryside Act 1968. I do not believe that would be right.I believe that it is right that the Ministry of Agriculture should at all times work in very close collaboration with the statutory agencies—that is to say, the Countryside Commission and the Nature Conservancy Council—which are charged by statute to give particular advice to the Government, and also with the voluntary agencies. I do not believe, however, that the proposed amendment would be right, for the reasons that I have tried to deploy.
Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, exactly what he means. I am all for promoting enjoyment of the countryside, but I would have thought that the advice I would get would be where to site car parks when people come to look at the daffodils that I have planted by the roadside through my farm. But they would not, I imagine, give me advice as to how I should advertise that the daffodils were there. That would be someody else's duty. The advice that ADAS would give would be how to site the car parks or how to point visitors to the high chairs to see the deer that we have about us.
I agree with the noble Lord; that is the kind of advice I should like to see ADAS being able to give. The Government's point of view, as I understand it, is that ADAS should not do so because it might upset the Countryside Commission. My information is that the Countryside Commission would welcome the amendment I have tabled, which is in sharp contrast to what has been said by the Minister. I do not have the Commission's view in writing—it is simply an informal view. So that we do not prolong the debate, I suggest that the noble Lord should agree to consult the Countryside Commission between now and the next stage of the Bill, and have a discussion about it. Naturally, I shall try to get something definite from the commission itself. If it would welcome such a power, and if the Minister and myself could both obtain its view, then we could return at Report stage with more informed advice from the statutory body whose remit, as the Minister has said, this is. If the noble Lord is prepared to agree to doing that. I shall be happy to withdraw the amendment.
I do not want to appear unhelpful or taciturn, but I am not going to have other people making statue law for the Government. I do not believe that the amendment is right, and I have given my reasons. I am delighted to talk to anybody but I do not think that further discussion would make the Government change their mind on this point.
In that case, it would have short-circuited matters a little if the Minister had said so in the first place, rather than base his whole argument on what he suggested would be the view of the Countryside Commission, which is what he spent several minutes telling the Committee. Nevertheless, even if the Minister will not speak to the commission between now and Report stage, I shall do so. That will at least remove what the Minister said was his main argument against the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 2, line 4, at end insert—
("( ) the giving of information or advice, or the performance of any service required to prevent the pollution of any body of fresh water or ground water.").
The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 15. The amendment would ensure that in giving information or advice to farmers on the steps that they should take to avoid polluting fresh water or ground water, ADAS will give advice free of charge. This is simply a probing amendment and I hope that on this occasion the noble Lord will at least be able to reassure me that it is not needed.
I put down this amendment because the Water Authorities Association suggested that water authorities are particularly concerned about the changes that are being made in the remit of ADAS, and are worried, in their position as the statutory bodies responsible for pollution control, that any advice ADAS may give about measures to avoid pollution of water should remain outside the charging scheme and should be given free of charge. I beg to move.
The giving of information and advice is already covered by paragraph (a), and it is clear from subsection (1) that such advice may cover any matters relating to conservation. With respect to the noble Lord, I do not see therefore that the proposed new paragraph would add anything significant, and I do not believe that it would be helpful or necessary to single out one particular aspect of conservation in that way. It might create the impression that water pollution ought to receive some special degree of priority over all other environmental matters.I recognise that water pollution is enormously important, and we have put a lot of effort into trying to prevent pollution, so far as the Ministry of Agriculture is concerned—and the noble Lord is good enough to be nodding his head. An advisory leaflet was issued last year which I believe has been very widely read. However, other environmental issues also are important. The list of matters in subsection (2) is only intended to illustrate the kind of broad areas in which ADAS is likely to be operating. We could create all kinds of distinctions and impressions if we started adding in detailed subjects and leaving others out. The amendment seeks to establish whether pollution advice is covered by general undertakings that the Government have given on charges for conservation advice. Although the noble Lord did not get into that area, maybe it is part and parcel of the amendment. I hope that the general guidelines that I tried to explain when speaking to the very first amendment that the noble Lord moved about conservation show that the Government's intentions to keep environmental advice free of charge would apply to pollution advice, including advice concerning water pollution. Although it is a subject on which the noble Lord and I are not in agreement at the present time, I hope that shows that the Government, for their part, intend that my right honourable friend's undertaking of 7th November last about free advice for conservation matters will extend to pollution advice.
I am grateful to the noble Lord. I am sure the Water Authorities Association, which apparently has not previously received such a clear assurance on the matter, will be encouraged. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 2, line 4, at end insert—
("( ) the undertaking of research and development of organic agriculture;
( ) the supply to any person of any services or goods relating to the production and marketing of organic agricultural produce and other organic food.").
The noble Lord said: This amendment is also a probing amendment which I do not intend to press. It is tabled merely to give me an opportunity to ask the noble Lord what are the Government's intentions in giving advice and undertaking research on organic agriculture.
My reason for singling out this aspect of farming in particular and asking the noble Lord whether the Government are going to take the subject seriously, do some research and give advice, is because I think it is fair to say that there is widespread concern at the moment that organic agriculture has been given the cold shoulder by the noble Lord's department. For example, in an editorial in March this year the Farmers Weekly noted that farmers were being
encouraged by everyone, including the noble Lord and his ministerial colleagues, to diversify and take notice of the market place. However, the editorial noted that the Ministry apparently did not apply this creed to their own research and advisory services and that the Ministry had suppressed a report on organic agriculture.
In fact, my understanding is that two senior members of staff in the Ministry of Agriculture went to West Germany and Holland and in a report made a number of recommendations on organic farming to the Ministry. According to the Farmers Weekly that report has been ignored—indeed, suppressed. The report apparently states that in both Holland and West Germany investment in organic research was seen by the governments concerned as money well spent. Organic methods in both countries were attracting an increasing number of farmers and growers. Indeed, I understand that there are about 3,000 farms in West Germany which are fully organic compared with probably a thousand or so organic farmers and growers, many on a small scale, in the United Kingdom. The ADAS report, which I understand the Ministry has not published or responded to publicly, states that crops grown organically can command a high premium.
I mentioned on Second Reading that, as a farmer, I find it very disturbing that other countries in Europe within the CAP are taking organic agriculture very seriously. For example, in West Germany three state farms have already been converted to organic agriculture. The West Germans employ specialist advisers who are experts on organic agriculture. Universities and research stations are spending considerable sums of money on it. Even with 3,000 farms producing organic output in West Germany the supply is far exceeded by demand.
In those circumstances, it seem to me particularly unfortunate that the Ministry has none of the experimental husbandry farms doing any work on organic agriculture. I believe that the Government have claimed to be involved in one farm where research on organic farming is carried out but I understand they intend to pull out of that project within the next six months so so. It is disappointing that where there is one sector of demand for agricultural produce which is expanding rapidly, where at least one supermarket chain is buying organic output and another is seriously investigating it, and where at some times of the year up to 90 per cent. of the demand for organically-grown vegetables has to be met by imports from the rest of Europe, the Ministry is not taking this matter more seriously and diverting resources into research, thus allowing its advisers to gain some scientific background and expertise so that they can give advice on the subject.
I hope that the noble Lord will be able to assure me and the many others concerned that the Ministry is taking this issue more seriously than appears from what has been said in many quarters. I beg to move.
I support my noble friend. There is considerable interest in parts of Wales in the development of what is commonly called organic agriculture; that is to say, relatively low input and relatively low output. After all, the problems in agriculture today are costly input and over-large output. I am not sure whether it was to our particular pioneer that my noble friend Lord Melchett was referring when he spoke of marketing the products. It so happens that there is an extremely entrepreneurial and imaginative marketing scheme for these products with some of the large supermarkets. It is therefore no longer to be regarded as a rather cranky form of food production. It is undoubtedly of some importance for the future and I hope very much that we can have some reassurance on the Ministry's attitude towards this matter.
I think that this amendment should be resisted, though I am not in any way against organic farming or the pursuit of research into that subject. I believe that it should not be put into statute in the same way that water should not be in statute. It is possible for advice to be given within the Bill as it stands. It would be a pity to include research specifically because I do not believe, as perhaps do some noble Lords opposite, that organic farming is a subject on its own.The definition causes some of us a great deal of trouble. All farming is a little blurred at the edges and it would be a pity to put organic farming on to one side. I know that organic farmers must have their land free of chemical fertilisers for two years, and so on, but there are degrees of organic farming. It can be combined with other forms of farming—I will not say traditional farming because organic farming is probably more traditional than what we do now—and for those reasons I believe that the amendment should not be taken on board.
I entirely agree with everything that the noble Earl said, and I said so in introducing the amendment. It is possible in Committee to introduce probing amendments so that subjects can be raised for debate. I explicitly said that that was my intention. I agree that it would be wrong to put this amendment in the Bill, but I hope the noble Lord the Minister will be able to give us some information on what the Government are doing in this respect.
I could not tell an organically-grown swede from a non-organically grown swede if they were dished up on my plate, but that is another matter. Some people, however, like the idea of an organically-grown swede, or whatever. Organic farming is, as my noble friend Lord Radnor said, extremely difficult to define, and there is a problem. If ADAS gives advice on organic farming, is that conservation farming or is it increased-profit farming? It produces yet another muddle as regards the ADAS charge.If it is said to be conservation farming, and if this lovely organically grown swede is then flogged by a supermarket at double the price of the swede which is fattened on nitrogen which comes from an oil company as opposed to a pile of horse manure, there would seem to be something odd in the idea of charging at all; but we may get to that later.
My noble friend has raised an interesting point. As he said, he raised it for discussion and he does not feel that the amendment should be put into the Bill.Along with one of my sons, I investigated organic farming. There is a private organisation that advises on it. We found the conditions so severe that in considering the situation we felt that if it was carried out on any great scale the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, would not have to complain about surpluses in any shape or form—that is for certain. I want to make the point that the Association of Agriculture also carries out research into organic farming. Does the Minister know whether that association receives any assistance? I have a feeling that it does, and, if so, that may satisfy my noble friend; so the Minister may not be quite so bad as my noble friend suggests.
I try to practise a mixture of farming. Certainly I would not burn the straw and regard people who do as evil, and I also keep fattened cattle and that sort of thing. I think there is rightly a tremendous interest in organic food. A lot of the food that we eat is rather dull and certain ways of producing it make it taste better. However, because there is a big demand for it, I should have thought that it would be right and proper for the Government to do some research, if only to expose what is phoney and to praise what is genuine. There is a big demand and people do think in this way. The more accidents that occur and the more people become frightened of nuclear power, the more they want to go back to nature. I think that the Government ought to undertake at least to see that the claims can be backed up and are correct in this case.
Perhaps I may first of all say that ADAS is taking an increasing interest in organic methods of farming. We already provide advice and we have plans to designate a number of advisers with specialised interests in organic issues to help us respond to the industry on this matter. I am not sure that we have said this publicly before, but I am saying it now. This is one reason for having a probing amendment.In that context I think we should like to think about what the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, has said. If I may say so on behalf of the Government, I think that it is very important that the best practices of organic growing and the best prospects for marketing should be pursued and indeed supported so far as possible, because obviously at its best, for those who want organic produce, organic growing is a very interesting sector of the agricultural industry. I should like to go on from there and say that we are funding research into organic farming. We are monitoring a farm in Wiltshire, which I have had the pleasure of visiting, and we have awarded a research contract to the University of Wales to undertake a three-year study of the nitrogen balance and nitrogen cycle in organic farming systems. I am not quite sure when that research contract comes to an end but it is a three-year study and, so I am advised, not a study which will suddenly end. ADAS is always prepared to consider undertaking research projects that are commissioned and paid for by the industry or by particular sections of the industry, and I can confirm that the service is willing to assist organic farmers and those wishing to convert to this system in the same way as it assists farmers with other systems of farming. Organic farm businesses come within the scope of the agricultural improvements scheme which, as the Committee will know, is the new form of capital grant which came into effect at the end of last year. Grants are available to organic farmers on a wide range of investments, including organic irrigation and the storage of farm waste. I shall just add that Food from Britain is conscious of the development of markets for organically grown food. Food from Britain has recently received a report that it had commissioned on the future of organically grown produce. I realise that it will need to study the report before deciding what action to take but that locus is there for our main marketing arm in this country. Having said that, I share the concern of my noble friend Lord Radnor about this particular amendment. What worries my noble friend—and it worries me too—is the implication that research into organic farming methods in some way is different and special. Though I think it is an extremely interesting area, I do not think it is different. Indeed, many organic farmers would say that they are doing in the most natural way what they believe farmers have been doing over the centuries. If we were to accept the amendment, I think that we would create the impression that this is an entirely specific sector with specific methods and we should then end up with a very much larger clause or we should find that we have picked out just one or two items from the whole of the agricultural industry for no really very logical reason. So I hope that the noble Lord will feel that, even though I am resisting the amendment for reasons which are shared by my noble friend Lord Radnor, what I have been able to say in reply to this brief exchange has made the tabling of this amendment worth while.
I was very interested in what the noble Lord had to say. I think that organic farming is different and special in two respects. First, it represents one of the only areas in UK agriculture where there is a rapidly growing market and where there is no sign of that market being met from domestic production even though it could be met from domestic production. That makes it rather different and rather special; but I do not think that it makes it sufficiently different or special to warrant a particular mention in the Bill.The other respect in which it has been different and special, up to now at least, is because the Ministry has shown very little enthusiasm for giving advice or doing research on the subject, and in that sense it has been different and special compared with other forms of agriculture. The statement of the noble Lord that some ADAS officers were being designated to develop particular expertise is very welcome indeed. I am sure that all those involved in the organic farming movement will welcome it, as will many farmers who are thinking of converting some or all of their enterprise to organic farming. I wonder whether I may just ask the noble Lord one further question. He mentioned a farm in Wiltshire. That was the farm where I understood that the Ministry intended to pull out of the research project in a few months' time—indeed, my understanding was that it would be in about three months from now. I do not know whether or not that is correct but I think that while it is very useful to have some advisers with expertise, it would also be useful either for some work to be done on an experimental husbandry farm (of which there are many very good ones around the country) or for the Ministry to continue to monitor organic farming on an existing organic farm such as the one in Wiltshire. Can the noble Lord give me some information on how long that project will continue?
I should like to give a straight answer to the first question. I think that it was two years ago that I had the opportunity to pay a visit to that particular farm in Wiltshire. There were two members of the agricultural science service who were monitoring the pests and diseases in the organically grown crops on that particular farm. Incidentally, as a matter of interest, my visit took place about three weeks before harvest started in July, and it really was something I shall never forget. On that particular farm the crops were entirely clean. They were wholly free from disease of any kind. It is certainly an abiding memory for me. I am sure that the farmer concerned would have been the first to have pointed out that whereas the corn crops in the first year after the land had been laid down to grass—it was being done on that cycle—were producing really quite heavy crops, when one reached the second year of corn, of course the crops were less thick, and no doubt this has some bearing on their freedom from disease. Nonetheless, there were some very good crops of winter and spring wheat the first year after being laid down to grass and all the fields—the whole lot—were absolutely clean. I think that is something on which our minds need to dwell.The Ministry's mind has dwelt on it—the noble Lord is right—for a period of three years. Indeed, after I had had the pleasure of visiting the farm, we brought in a research student from the University of Bristol to do a project there, and so we increased the Ministry's input into the farm. I am now speaking off the cuff but I think that if the noble Lord is right and that project is due to be coming to an end because we have finished a three year study, we really ought to be thinking at least of moving our focus of attention. As I tried to show, it is a farm which is enormously interesting, but I am sure that the farmer himself would probably say that it is right that in the cause of research and development one should also look elsewhere. I seize this opportunity just to say that perhaps we have somewhat hidden our light under a bushel, in the sense that the three-year project of the University of Wales at Aberystwyth that I mentioned is having its work planned and monitored with the assistance of a steering group which includes senior representatives of the organic farming sector. I like to feel therefore that the Ministry and the organic farmers have been in fruitful co-operation.
May I ask the Minister whether it is intended to publish this study by the University of Wales, when it is completed?
I must write to the noble Lord on that matter. I am sure the answer will be yes; but as I am not briefed on this question I shall write to him.
If the noble Lord cares to look at the records for the North of Scotland College he will find that Aberdeenshire was farmed in precisely that way for 100 years before the war.
I think that the noble Lord is wrong. It is a common misapprehension that modern organic farming simply involves turning the clock back 100 years. Perhaps he should take the opportunity to see some of the detailed research work that is being done in West Germany, for example, on flame weeding, using quite sophisticated, modern equipment. I doubt whether that was available even in Aberdeenshire 100 years ago. This is one of the areas—modern equipment for modern organic farming—where I am afraid that our rivals in the rest of Europe (although we are all in the EC) will be stealing a march. British agricultural machinery manufacturers will be suffering from even more imports as organic farming grows throughout Europe, as it will. The EC is considering setting a European-wide standard for organic farming produce.That is another reason why it is important that we should take it seriously, as the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, obviously is. I am encouraged by what he said. I agree that it would be wise to look at another area and another farming system after the research in Wiltshire. If the ministry is to do that, that would be widely welcomed. I do not think that the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, was that concerned whether his swedes were organically grown, but a lot of people are. It seems to me to be a source of considerable shame to British agriculture that even in the swedes market most are being imported by the entrepreneurs in Wales that my noble friend Lady White mentioned. We cannot even produce enough organic swedes in this country to satisfy our market. There is a lot of work still to be done. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has been extremely encouraging. I am grateful to him for what he said, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Does the noble Lord realise that, whatever he may say, farming in Aberdeenshire remains the best in Europe?
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 7:
Page 2, line 4, at end insert—
("(2A) the Minister shall from time to time consult with such persons appearing to him to represent the interests of producers in the agricultural industry and to represent other interests concerned as he considers appropriate, regarding the provision of any goods or services which are supplied to any person, or for which provision is contemplated, by virtue of this section.").
The noble Lord said: I explained this amendment when I spoke to Amendments Nos. 1 and 2. My noble friend made sympathetic noises. I take his point that the amendment might suggest that the Minister must consult all and sundry and that might cause inefficiency. Like him, I hope that it may be possible before Report to ensure that the Minister has a less onerous and difficult job. I hoped that my amendment said that he should consult only those whom he wished to consult. I thank my noble friend for his offer of help, and I hope that he will be in contact with me before the Report stage.
I give my noble friend an undertaking on those last words of his. I shall be in contact with him on the amendment before the next stage of the Bill.
I therefore shall not move the amendment.
[ Amendment No. 7 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 2, line 5, leave out ("or goods").
The noble Lord said: First, I want to apologise for the stupid way that I put down the amendment. Instead of asking for the subsection to be withdrawn and rewriting it, I tried to amend it by Amendments Nos. 8, 9, 10 and 11. They are really only one amendment. The provision would read:
"Any services provided by this section will be provided free of charge and all"—
and I think that the "all" should have been "any", but let us leave it there for now—
"goods provided by virtue of these services will be charged for at a reasonable cost".
I put in the last part of the provision because I would be prepared to say that farmers should pay for goods, although I am not quite sure, and I should like the Minister's enlightenment when he replies as to what goods he was considering other than veterinary medicines and so on. I can think of no goods that ADAS provides other than those.
As usual, I must declare an interest. I am a farmer and use ADAS liberally. I first used the advisory service in Scotland 56 years ago. I remember the occasion well. I had heard from somebody that sulphuric acid could be used on cereal crops to kill weeds. (Do I hear a murmur against spraying already?) I asked the college adviser whether he could find out about that. He discovered that it had been used in France quite a lot, and he went to no amount of trouble to get me the advice. I used sulphuric acid and it had to be carefully done. It was valuable information. That has been my experience in Scotland and in England ever since, and I have farmed in both countries.
I should like to emphasise that the advice has always been unbiased, free and in 99 cases out of 100 (or on ever larger odds) correct. That free and unbiased advice has been a major factor in the unprecedented increase in the efficiency and productivity of British farms and has resulted in an increased supply of food to the British people, which not only feeds them better but effects enormous savings on imports. Because of that I do not believe that the British taxpayer would grudge that free service to his farmers. I believe that the saving target is about £6 million, or 10p per person, but I may not be correct here.
As I said earlier, in his Second Reading speech the Minister catalogued all the changes and difficulties, including reduced incomes, but he ends up by implying that the best way to help farmers is to charge them for advice which they have had free for so long. Not only that, but the number of advisers has been cut. Although the extent of the cuts has been reduced recently, there will still have been a reduction of about 750 posts in the service in the past five years. That is equivalent to about 20 per cent. With all the difficulties and changes in our industry this is surely the time for more free advice and not less and more expensive advice.
I return to the Minister's words on Second Reading (at col. 621 of Hansard):
"This will enable farmers to have the clearest possible say in the kinds of services they receive. That is crucial, at a time when the agricultural industry is facing a period of unprecedented change. There is no point in providing services that farmers do not value or which are no longer relevant to their needs".
I should like the Committee to look at that carefully. Quite frankly, when I consider what the Minister said it seems to me to be a strong slur on ADAS to suggest that because the advice was free over past years ADAS did not keep up to date and provided services which farmers did not value and which were no longer relevant to their needs. I beg to differ strongly. I think that on reflection he may wish to drop that argument.
What will the reaction of farmers be? Times are hard and they look like getting harder still. My bet is that the small farmer especially will not pay ADAS for advice. The likelihood is that commercial advisers will go to them. However unbiased a commercial adviser tries to be, his advice is tied up with selling something. I have a lot of friends in the commercial advisory service and get on well with them, but I have had various experiences.
I had a young farm manager who had many attributes, but dealing with salesmen was not one of them. He was persuaded to spray quite a large field of wheat to kill black grass. I looked at the field and could find no black grass. I had a big row with the company about that. That is the sort of thing that happens.
My son had another experience. I wish to illustrate the difference in the experience of using ADAS. As we know, we are now looking for ways to reduce expenditure. He was being advised about a fertiliser that he should put on his wheat for next year, looking well forward. He took the advice that he had received from a commercial company to ADAS. ADAS pointed out to him that if he had his soil analysed and he found that his phosphate and his potash were above a certain figure, he need not use any fertiliser. I looked through all the commercial literature to see whether I could find that advice, but it was not there. That is the type of thing that one must remember when considering charging farmers for advice.
The great advantage at the moment is that one can go to ADAS and obtain advice and have matters that I have described confirmed. That will no longer be the case if the Government have their way. ADAS does a great deal more than just go to farms and give advice on the spot. It provides demonstrations, meetings and pamphlets. I have an excellent pamphlet which arrived just the other day. It gives clear advice about what to do when diseases hit crops. I wonder whether we shall have to pay for all that advice which is so helpful when we do our jobs.
The noble Lord told us that there is to be no charge for advice on conservation. The argument on that point that we had earlier, on my noble friend's amendment, has almost taken the wind out of my sails. Apparently advice on conservation, rural diversification and animal welfare is to be free. We received an explanation of that from the noble Lord the Minister earlier, but I do not think that it satisfied the Committee. Why make such advice free and confuse farmers and advisers? That point was brought out in our earlier discussion. What does "animal welfare" cover? It is a wide subject. If a sick cow requires welfare, will that be free? What does "rural diversification" mean? Farmers are not fools. If they realise that environmental advice is free they will make the case that everything that they are doing is environmental. There could be diversification through new crops. Will that be free?
I make those points to show that there will probably be a muddle if ADAS is put on a semi-commercial basis. I cannot emphasise too much the muddle that there will be. That point was also brought out in our earlier discussion.
The staff at ADAS do not like the proposal. I have discussed it often. The noble Lord said he was at a demonstration and that some ADAS staff were there. They feel that the good relationship with farmers that they have built up over the years will be put under a considerable strain. That will be to the great detriment of both. I appeal to the noble Lord the Minister and the Government to accept the amendment.
There is another similar amendment, and I shall be interested to know what the noble Lord will say about it. The industry is worried about the Government's treatment of ADAS. There is a great deal of stick going about just now, and I do not want to see headlines such as, "ADAS bleeds to death" in the agricultural press again. That is the sort of headline that the Government are creating. I hold no brief for the press, but that headline is in a widely-read agricultural paper. I plead with the noble Lord to ensure that such a thing does not happen again. I beg to move.
I had intended to move Amendment No. 13, which relates to charges by ADAS, but if I speak now I shall not have to introduce that amendment. I had intended to say a great deal about ADAS and the subject of charges, but almost all of it has been said. I should like to underline the fact that I feel deeply and am as worried as anybody about the prospects for ADAS and the dangers, implications and consequences that may arise from the proposed charges for advice.I am puzzled because I have not heard in this Chamber, in the other place or even in a public statement any reason given for making charges. Will my noble friend the Minister make it clear why these charges are suddenly thought to be necessary and to be a good idea? They seem to be completely illogical. If it is argued that there is an economic or financial basis for them, before the Bill's next stage I urge him to tell us the figures, what the Ministry's revenue estimates are and how it thinks the charges will help. I feel that the proposal is an ill-thought-out and unfortunate insertion into the Bill which cannot be justified on any basis. I believe that the exemption for conservation advice is an afterthought. Although my noble friend has eloquently described how that provision will work, it will never be like that in practice. I can only describe the whole idea as a nonsense. I hate to criticise my noble friend the Minister because of the marvellous part he has played over the past year or two in agriculture and conservation, and I pay tribute to him. Nevertheless, the brilliant and eloquent way in which my noble friend described how things would work between an ADAS adviser and a farmer sounded like a first-class lecture to a new squad of students at ADAS. After half a century as a landowner, farmer and conservationist, I know that that does not happen. It is manifestly impossible to stand with a man in the middle of a farm and decide whether one is talking about agriculture or conservation because the two matters are one and are indivisible. The whole basis of the Government's policy, which we all applaud and welcome, is to proclaim that agriculture and conservation are one and are indivisible. That is the direction in which we are supposed to be moving. I cannot therefore understand how at this stage one can take one pace forward and three paces backwards and start dividing the two again. The ways around the provision are absolutely legion. There will be abuse, certainly by me. Every time I receive advice about agriculture I shall draw the adviser's attention to a blue tit sitting on a hedge. We shall discuss that for a few minutes and then continue with the agricultural discussion. I shall then say, "Why do you not stay on and catch a trout?" It is impossible to deal with matters in that way. It will lead to a great deal of unnecessary bureaucracy, form filling, arguments, correspondence and complaints from farmers saying that that was not what they agreed. My amendment seeks to have no charges, not to argue about what should be charged and what should not. Anything else would lead to serious consequences for ADAS. I can see that after two or three years the Treasury will say, "How much revenue did we get last year from ADAS? How much did it charge?" Of course there will not be much, and the Treasury will probably then say, "ADAS is not earning enough. It is not earning its keep. It is about time we started to wind it up". The consequences of the proposal are serious and the idea of charging should be dropped and forgotten. I implore my noble friend to realise that the charging proposal is completely inconsistent with the splendid way that he has carried forward the whole idea of integrating agriculture, conservation and the countryside. To go into reverse and to start trying to separate them will lead to nothing but chaos and trouble.
If it was possible to separate the functions in the way that the noble Lord describes, there would be an even greater danger that ADAS would not be on the farm in the first place. If the farmer has to decide about advice and is offered free advice by commercial companies wanting to sell their products, the ADAS man will not be there. Much of the conservation advice given in the past has been incidental advice to the more technical advice that ADAS was called in to give.It might be useful to give the Committee my list of a number of associations that have expressed anxiety over the question of ADAS charges. There is the World Wildlife fund, and then the RSPB, which has said:
I believe that that is so. It is a point raised by a number of other organisations. The Water Authorities Association, to which my noble friend Lord Melchett has already referred, thinks that the same will happen in regard to pollution of water supplies. It points out that ADAS already gives advice on pollution of water supplies. This has proved very useful. The association fears, too, that farmers will be disinclined to seek help from ADAS if there will be a cost to them in the long run. The noble Lord. Lord Buxton, asked how much the ministry hopes to raise from these charges. I should like to ask the Minister whether a cost benefit analysis was done at the beginning of the exercise, or whether it amounts really to the pursuit of a dogmatic approach in respect of charging. It is awfully difficult to see how any true profit can be made at the end of the exercise. The noble Lord, Lord Stodart of Leaston, pointed out at Second Reading that when charges for soil analysis were introduced in Scotland some time ago there was a substantial reduction in the number of soil analyses requested. There is a great danger that this may happen in the case of all services offered by ADAS. I hope that the Minister will think again on the question of charges and that he will decide that the game is not worth the candle."The RSPB believes that opportunities to influence farmers and encourage conservation will be reduced because farmers will increasingly reject the ministry's services in favour of free advice offered by manufacturers of pesticides, chemicals and farm machinery".
I must support my noble friend Lord Buxton and the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, to the greatest of my power. I cannot conceive of an exercise that is going to cause more muddle than trying to separate conservation charges, animal welfare charges and profit charges. I asked my noble friend on an earlier amendment whether organic farming was conservation or profit making, and answer came there none. If an ADAS officer was to advise that the use of spray X meant that while one's yield of weeds might be slightly higher, there would be more partridges and there would still more or less be the same yield of wheat, is that conservation or agricultural advice? It is impossible to separate.If the ministry was to say that it would form a Royal agricultural advisory service to be made into a company that would function as a paying concern, there might be some logic in the proposal. I suspect, however, that the six million quid—the figure that one has heard mentioned—that will be raised will simply disappear into the great bowels of the Treasury without touching the sides on its way down. No one will hear of it at all. It will have no effect whatever on the public sector borrowing requirement. It will simply vanish, and we shall have done a terrible damage to the agricultural industry and to an excellent service that is under pressure and where morale is low. That would be a very retrograde step, especially when the Government, as my noble friend Lord Buxton said, are now coming round to the right and sensible policy for the countryside which pleases those who care passionately about it. The Government's thoughts are as plain as a pikestaff. Their reasoning is that farmers are a bit unpopular, that "green" people are nice, and that they will therefore charge farmers who are in any case producing too much food. However, they have not actually thought the whole operation through. They have come up with an illogical proposal for trying to raise six million quid extra in tax. In the same process they will wreck the ADAS service. That is not a good step for them to take.
I should like to add my tuppenceworth. I have nothing new to say. My noble kinsman, for once, was talking complete common sense. The noble Lord, Lord Buxton, was eloquent and exposed how ludicrous is the double charge or no-charge charge and the glorious opportunity that this will afford hirers of bluetits for the afternoon. The whole idea is quite ludicrous. It would be funny if it were not so serious. The fact is that the colleges in Scotland are suffering a severe drain of very good people. Some are going out of farming altogether and others are going to commercial firms. The commercial firms will be employed by those who do not need them, the good farmers on the good farms. Those who really need them but who cannot afford to pay will not have an advisory service.The noble Lord the Minister has been offered a way out. The money could be raised with great ease through levies on various bodies. There could then be a free service. This would be logical and would permit advice to be given on both conservation and farming. After all, farming is still very important. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, talked about these ridiculous people who cover the countryside with unwanted cereals. We also feed the people of this country to the extent of almost 100 per cent of their needs in terms of temperate products and save an enormous amount of money. It is still quite important that these people are kept going. I admit that is is important to get rid of the surpluses, but it is also important to consider the other side. The Minister has been offered a logical way out from all sides of the Committee. I see no disagreement around. Maybe some loyal chap will get up and defend the Minister; I hope not.
I am going to defend my noble friend, who seems to be under great stress. It is most complimentary that the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, should remember what I said on Second Reading. It is perfectly true that I started by saying—I say it again—that I believe that advice for which you are asked to pay is probably treated as more valuable than that which you get for nothing; I firmly believe that. The crux of the matter is what the charge will be. This is, I am bound to say, an unfortunate time to introduce a charge. The farming industry is under considerable stress. Yet, throughout what one might call the good years, during which I watched carefully, as did nearly every farmer north of the Border, what the Mackies were doing on their respective farms, we discovered that provided we followed what they were doing, we made a little money as well. I suggest that they could have afforded, out of the fairly substantial profits that I believe they made, to pay for the advice that they received.Most of the farm buildings that one sees, put up to the great benefit of the industry and provided under the farm capital grant scheme, were designed by architects of the advisory services totally free of charge. I have often wondered why an industry that claimed to be the greatest in the country should expect to get totally free services of that kind. I come back to what the charges will be. I think that it is an immensely difficult question. I know that my noble friend was sitting on the Front Bench last night when the noble Lord had a certain success with an amendment of his. One of the most learned of the Law Lords made the observation that it was most unwise to introduce into any statute the word "reasonable" because it was almost hopeless for anyone to interpret what the word "reasonable" means. I hope that my noble friend will tell us what some of these charges will be. I shall also ask him whether he will let me into a secret. Are the words in his brief those that were in my brief when the word "reasonable" came up in a Ministry of Agriculture matter 12 years ago? The brief said, "If asked what 'reasonable' means, to be reasonable is to take an action that a reasonable Minister would find it reasonable to take."
I hope that the noble Lord is not suggesting that the farm building service provides an architectural service as well as a design service. It can give only a design service, not an architectural service.
I fully accept that.
I was waiting for the noble Lord to do what he said he was going to do—spring to the defence of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead. I was waiting with interest to hear him defend the indefensible. However, he never got round to it.The objection to charging which has mainly been raised in this debate is the impossibility of drawing distinctions between those matters which the Government will charge for and those that they will not. A number of people have illustrated how one aspect might be seen as conservation or diversification or might be seen as normal agricultural advice. It seem to me that there is another twist to this. The same project can quite happily jump from one category to the other depending on how the conversation goes. For example, if I were to ask ADAS to give me advice on providing a farm pond for the benefit of wildlife—as many farmers are now doing—it would come along and give me free conservation advice. But at some point in the discussion, as always happens in these instances, the ADAS officer would be duty bound to remind me that if I called this farm pond a reservoir it would be eligible for grant-aid from the Ministry. At the point that the ADAS officer says that, our discussion becomes one about agricultural development and not conservation, because otherwise I am not eligible for the grant. I suppose that we would slip in and out of this—sometimes with free advice, sometimes not—depending on whether we were talking about the species of trees we were going to plant around the pond or the quantity of water that it was going to hold for emergency fire-fighting purposes, which would make it eligible for grant-aid. Perhaps we may take another less common example, but one certainly on my mind as I watched my sugarbeet crop blow out of the ground in northwest Norfolk at least three times this spring. If I were to ask ADAS to come along and give me advice on erosion and on reducing the damage caused to sugar beet by strong spring winds and dry weather, I suppose that would be agricultural and I would expect to pay a charge. We would look at the soil structure and matters of that kind. Those would all be matters of agricultural advice. That is money ticking away. However, the ADAS officer might then reasonably come up with a solution that a shelter belt or a hedge might be desirable to reduce this problem. We then go straight into conservation advice. That would be free advice. Would all the previous work that he had done on looking at the soil profile become free of charge as a result or would it not? I think that that is the nub of the problem. It is a totally illogical and impossible split. As the noble Lord, Lord Buxton, said, it moves directly against what for the past seven years the Government in every department have been urging all of us—conservationists, environmentalists and farmers—to do: namely, to draw these interests together, integrate them and reconcile them in the countryside. This is a deliberate attempt to stop that process and reverse it. It will have damaging effects on conservation. As the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, said, it will make sure that those who most need advice, and therefore can least afford it, do not get advice. But those (and I would include myself) farming larger farms who do not need the advice so badly can afford to pay for it and get it mostly, I have no doubt, from private consultants. It would be a total disaster. To my mind, the end result would quite clearly be that ADAS will cease altogether to give advice on conservation. While farmers will want to get advice on conservation and will dress matters up to pretend that they are conservation so that the advice is free, the relentless pressure on ADAS is to raise the money. That pressure is against the background of an industry facing rising costs and falling prices year by year. There is pressure to raise the money, against stiff competition from private consultants, against a background where they are losing staff, expertise and, sadly, competence because the best people are going. They face a quite impossible job. They will be forced to try to do everything on a commercial basis to meet their target. They will fail. The Treasury will impose further cuts. This is undoubtedly, to my mind, the beginning of the end of ADAS.
I simply do not believe that this will save, or bring in, £6 million if ADAS make any charge. It might bring in a thousand or two at best. What will happen is that the ADAS man—who obviously wants to keep his job—will come to one's farm and investigate, say, a piggery. The first thing he will say is, "Let us look at what effect this alteration will have on duck flighting onto a nearby pond because if I do that then I do not have to charge for it". That is what will happen. The ADAS man will bend over backwards so that there is no charge. By doing that he will have a job. In the end it will be complete nonsense. It is simply not worth making any charge at all because one will get nothing out of it if one does make a charge.
In speaking to this amendment I must say that I feel rather a turncoat because—I make no bones about it—I had every intention of speaking along the lines of my noble friends Lord Onslow and Lord Buxton. However, I have to say, having listened to the arguments on both sides, that I am not convinced by theirs.Everybody has explained that the complications of trying to define what is conservation and what is not will be extremely difficult to solve. That is no doubt right. I would say to my noble friend Lord Onslow that if he wants advice on partridges he should go to the game conservancy and not to ADAS. He will be charged but he will get first-class advice. I am extremely concerned that conservation matters and matters relating to the diversification of farm industries should be free. In this respect I am concerned in particular for those farmers in the less favoured areas. However, my noble friend has given us his assurance that these services will be free. I am certainly not against the basic principles of charging for certain advice and services. Indeed, I very much welcome the widening that the clause gives to ADAS. I believe that it would be far too complicated to try to incorporate in a Bill of this nature what should be charged for and what should not. Either one scraps ADAS charges altogether—as has been recommended by most people in this Chamber—or one has an order which dictates quite clearly what should be charged for and what should not. However, I believe that in view of the widening of the ADAS remit and its further responsibilities on giving advice (some of which, as I have already said, should be charged for), on balance I come down in favour of the arguments that my noble friend on the Front Bench has given. I would go further in saying that by not charging for certain ADAS services it is possible that we may be eliminating the advance of ADAS. It is absolutely imperative that the Ministry remains highly flexible in these matters in view of the uncertainty of farming in the future. That is a point that has been made by many noble Lords. I believe that it could be very restraining on the Ministry if it was tied by specifics in the Bill. Certain noble Lords have mentioned the free advice that would be given by chemical companies. They include the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol. Surely farmers realise that the advice they will receive from chemical companies will be one-sided, and that the advice which they will receive from ADAS will be impartial advice. Of course they will have the sense to differentiate between the two. This is a very thorny subject, and I quite freely admit that I have changed my view about it. That perhaps is due to the advantage of being able to come here and listen to the debate. However, after considerable thought I have changed my mind and I support my noble friend.
This has been an interesting debate and I have also listened carefully to it and learned something from it. The first reason I say that it is interesting is that the effect of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, would be that advisory services were provided entirely free. However, interestingly enough, the noble Lord is more draconian than the Government in that the amendment says that there should be a charge of a reasonable amount for any goods provided as part of an advisory service. There, of course, the Government want to keep more flexibility. For instance, we think that advisory publications or emergency vaccines, which the noble Lord mentioned, could in some cases be free as well as being charged for. So there are quite interesting cross-currents in relation to this amendment.Nonetheless, the main thrust of this debate has been that Members of the Committee think that the advisory services should continue to be entirely free of charge. My noble friend Lord Buxton asked me why the Government think that they should start charging for the advisory services. My noble friend was indeed generous in the remarks that he made but, uncharacteristically, perhaps not quite fair when he said that he felt that it was a sudden, last-minute decision. The reasons were clearly set out in Professor Bell's report, which was published in November 1984, and, as I made clear earlier this afternoon, in November last year my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture gave his assurance about intending to see that advice on diversification, animal welfare and conservation should be free. Therefore, I think it is fair for me to claim that for some time we have been thinking about these matters and gradually trying to develop our thoughts. Nonetheless, my noble friend asked why we wanted to charge. It was my noble friend Lord Stodart who really gave the answer. We genuinely believe that, at a time when we are looking very carefully at every penny in the agricultural budget, it really will give the opportunity for both the agricultural industry and the Ministry to decide between themselves what is of most value in the services which ADAS provides and how, over the years, these services can best be developed for the future. However, we also believe—and I shall not disguise this from Members of the Committee—that it is not unreasonable to say that, where an industry benefits from a public service, it ought to contribute to the cost. Do not let us forget that on the present proposals the Government will still be paying over 80 per cent. of the cost of ADAS, which is in the region of £100 million. I was interested that my noble friend Lord Peel, who yields to no one in wanting to ensure that the right advice gets through not only in husbandry matters but also in conservation matters, came out straight and said that, although he was absolutely determined that environmental advice should be free, he believed that the Government were on the right track in introducing charges. I was interested in that remark of my noble friend and, indeed, in my noble friend Lord Stodart taking a friendly attitude on the general thrust of the Government's policy, because if we look at Europe we will see that we do not stand alone. We find that the agricultural industry contributes about 40 per cent. of the cost of advice in Germany. Indeed, two years ago I had the opportunity to visit Schleswig-Holstein and I was told that there it was being carried out on a Läander basis; that farmers were contributing 50 per cent. and the state the other 50 per cent. Farmers in France are contributing not far short of half of the cost of the advisory services; and I am told that nearly 80 per cent. is contributed by farmers in Denmark to their advisory services. I understand that an average charge per farmer off £1,000 is made in Denmark where the average sized farm, at about 30 hectares, is less than half the United Kingdom average. In the Netherlands discussions are continuing in the expectation of a greater contribution from the farmer, but there is a move to 50/50 funding for research and for some animal health functions, including tuberculosis and brucellosis work. Therefore, with respect we do not stand alone in Europe. Indeed, other countries have moved ahead of us in this particular matter.
Can the noble Lord tell us how the services are paid for in Denmark and Holland? Is it by contribution or by individual charges for advice?
I am very sorry, but I do not have that information. I shall have to come back on that to the noble Lord. When I visited Germany my understanding was that it was on a subscription basis at the beginning of the year, but I shall come back to the noble Lord on that. However, the noble Lord's question leads me to try to answer a question which was put to me by my noble friend Lord Stodart, who said that, while we are on this subject, we ought now to know exactly what it is that the Government are putting before the Committee as regards charging.If the Members of the Committee will bear with me for a moment—again, this is a prepared statement and, again, we have not said this elsewhere—I think that in this Committee stage in your Lordships' House I ought to say this. We currently envisage, if Parliament agrees to charging coming into effect for ADAS, providing four broad categories of service. Firstly, we would envisage that there would be two annual subscription schemes under which farmers would receive free advisory literature and regular information about ADAS services and, for the higher priced scheme, some advisory visits. We are still working out the precise details of these two annual subscription schemes, but the aim would be to provide a straightforward service at a reasonable charge aimed at those farmers who have relatively modest information demands but who nevertheless value the contact with ADAS, and those who may take up more complex specialist advice but who wish to establish a longer-term contact with ADAS than that provided by purchasing advice only when it is needed. Detailed costings, cannot yet be made, but we would envisage two standard charges for two different levels of service: something in the region of £50 a year for the simpler service and about £150 for a service offering advisory visits. These prices, which exclude VAT, are still very provisional, but they give an indication of the levels that we would be considering. Secondly, we intend to offer advice on a time-related basis at a standard charge per hour. This is likely to be of the order of £25 or £30, excluding VAT, for the majority of ADAS advisers. We are also considering whether a higher charge would be appropriate for national or other specialists. Thirdly, we would intend offering a number of special advisory packages, ranging from a financial review of the farm business to compehensive recording and advisory schemes to help farmers manage specialist enterprises. I shall not weary the Committee by trying to describe those in detail, but we shall be publishing a series of leaflets describing these packages in outline within the next few weeks, and I shall arrange for copies to be placed in the Library of your Lordships' House in due course. It would also be possible for farmers to purchase individually tailored packages. Finally, we would intend to offer special contracts for farmers or groups of farmers whose needs are not covered by the schemes in the other groups that I have described. These contracts would provide whatever advisory services are needed, including research and development, which ADAS can provide at a price which will have to be negotiated for each contract. In parenthesis, perhaps I may say that that does not of course mean that ADAS R and D will not be made publicly available. I am simply saying that there may be occasions when these may be particular contract R and D work which certain farmers or groups of farmers would want to commission with ADAS. May I just end by making a general point or two. We envisage these categories of services as being independent. For example, a farmer would not have to join a subscription scheme before being able to buy advice by the hour. Farmers certainly would not have to pay to find out what ADAS can offer by way of changeable services and should not be afraid to discuss matters with their ADAS advisers. Farmers will always be told beforehand whether they are incurring charges. I should not like it to be thought that these proposals are in any way our last thoughts and I should not like it to be thought that this Committee would allow them to be. If it becomes clear following introduction that a demand for particular services is lower than anticipated—and I listened very carefully to what my noble friend Lord Forbes has just said—we will examine critically whether the services are too elaborate and expensive, and will try to make necessary changes. Opportunities will also be taken to introduce further services. The prices for ADAS' services will have a major influence on demand; of course we realise that. The prices of ADAS' services will be set at levels which cover the direct cost of the service and make an appropriate contribution to the overhead costs properly attributable to the service, having regard to what the market will bear. We will continue to keep under review the scope for improving efficiency within ADAS and hence reduce the cost of ADAS services, and will give careful consideration to the overhead costs appropriate to the chargeable services that ADAS is providing. It is important that I say that because we are talking about the interests of others who are in the market as well. Perhaps I may add a final word. I am not worried about how ADAS will be competing in the market. Working in the Ministry of Agriculture I can say that I believe ADAS will succeed well in the market place because it has a lot of expertise, a lot of skills to offer and great integrity. That is known and accepted. I should like to pay tribute to the professionalism and dedication of the officers of the service. I hope noble Lords will forgive me for having been rather long-winded, but I felt that it was important that this statement about ADAS charging should be laid before the Committee at this stage.
May I ask the noble Lord the Minister whether, in view of the particular hardships that occur in the less favoured areas, he would consider a reduced charge for farmers in those places?
I should like to look at that and perhaps have a word with my noble friend between now and the next stage of the Bill. There are problems as to where one would draw the dividing lines in this particular matter. It was because I was bearing in mind the sort of point my noble friend has just put to me that I started my statement by pointing out that we will have two levels of subscriptions, and the first will be at a very reasonable level indeed.
Before the noble Lord sits down may I ask him whether he will say anything more about the other important problem raised by noble Lords on all sides in this debate about distinguishing between conservation and other free advice and advice which will be charged for? Can he say something more about what happens if a project turns from one thing into another in the course of discussion? The noble Lord the Minister told us how he saw the dividing line working on an earlier amendment, but it clearly did not satisfy noble Lords on either side. Is the noble Lord able to respond to any of those criticisms which have arisen despite the long statement he has made on another matter just now?
I especially underline that point because the noble Lord the Minister has just said to my noble friend Lord Peel that dividing lines are difficult to arrive at.
With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, we had a long debate on his Amendment No. 3, and this was exactly what we discussed and I had hoped that we had moved on from that. May be we differ on this, but we can agree to differ. I do not see that there is much point in going over all the ground again, if I may say so.However, I would say just one thing to my noble friend Lord Onslow. My noble friend said that he had not had a reply about whether organic farming would fall within the definition of conservation. When making the statement about not charging for conservation I endeavoured to say that we would feel that environmental matters would mean anything primarily designed to conserve or enhance the natural beauty of an area or its flora or fauna, or its biological, geological or geographical features, or to prevent environmental pollution. If I may say so, I do not think that organic farming would fall within that category. My noble friend Lord Radnor said he did not feel, and I said I did not feel, either, that organic farming should be treated as something separate and apart. It is admirable when done well, but something which is not separate and apart. Therefore, I do not think there will be a case for saying that organic farming will be a sort of conservation.
I do not want to delay the Committee, but nothing that the noble Lord the Minister has said has changed my mind in any shape or form. May I point out that the mix-up between conservation and commercial advice is not one of my main points, although it is an important one.My main point is that farmers, in particular the farmers the noble Earl, Lord Peel, has mentioned, in the less favoured areas, will not go to ADAS if the charges are what the noble Lord says. I think the figure is £25 to £35 per hour and more, and if it is a specialist it will be £150. I am not quite sure what that covered, but I think it covered obtaining literature, etc. I feel that will bear very hardly on small farmers. The average small farm is only about 160 acres; I am sorry, but I cannot convert that into hectares. Bearing in mind the debate and the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Stodart of Leaston, did not have a lot of support (at least, it was limited support as was that for the noble Earl, Lord Peel) I think we should test the feeling of the Committee.
On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 8) shall be agreed to?
Their Lordships divided: Contents, 53; Not-Contents, 81.
DIVISION NO. 1
|Airedale, L.||Grey, E.|
|Attlee, E.||Hanworth, V.|
|Banks, L.||Harris of Greenwich, L.|
|Birk, B.||Hatch of Lusby, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Heycock, L.|
|Briginshaw, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Jacques, L.|
|Buxton of Alsa, L.||Jeger, B.|
|Craigavon, V.||John-Mackie, L.|
|David, B.||Kilmarnock, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Kirkhill, L.|
|Falkender, B.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Mackie of Benshie, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||McNair, L.|
|Foot, L.||Melchett, L.|
|Forbes, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]||Murray of Epping Forest, L.|
|Nicol, B. [Teller.]|
|Onslow, E.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Oram, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Pitt of Hampstead, L.||White, B.|
|Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Ritchie of Dundee, L.||Willis, L.|
|Seear, B.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Strabolgi, L.||Wise, L.|
|Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Amptill, L.||Marshall of Leeds, L.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|Auckland, L.||Maude of Stratford-upon- Avon, L.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Belstead, L.||Middleton, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Morris, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Butterworth, L.||Northbourne, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Peel, E.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Radnor, E.|
|Carnock, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Clinton, L.||Reay, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Reigate, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Davidson, V.||Salisbury, M.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Savile, L.|
|Denning, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.|
|Elton, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Glanusk, L.||Swinton, E. [Teller.]|
|Glenarthur, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Tranmire, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Hardinge of Penshurst, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Hives, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Hooper, B.||Vickers, B.|
|Inglewood, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Kitchener, E.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Lane-Fox, B.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Layton, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Ypres, E.|
|Long, V.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
This might be a convenient time to postpone the Committee stage of this Bill. In doing so, may I suggest that we do not return to the Committee stage on the Agriculture Bill before five minutes past eight. I beg to move that the House do now resume.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
Drug Trafficking Offences Bill
Read a third time.
Clause 5 [ Definition of principal terms used]:
moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 6, line 23, after ("time") insert ("referred to in subsection (6) below as").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is purely drafting. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 7, leave out lines 7 to 26 and insert—
("(b) pay any sum which would be included among the preferential debts (within the meaning given by section 386 of the Insolvency Act 1986) in the defendant's bankruptcy commencing on the date of the confiscation order or winding up under an order of the court made on that date.
(8) In the case of a confiscation order made before the coming into force of the Insolvency Act 1986, subsection (7) above shall have effect as if for paragraph ( b) there were substituted—
"(b) pay any sum which, if the defendant had been adjudged bankrupt or was being wound up, would be among the preferential debts.";
and in that paragraph "the preferential debts"—
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 2. May I at the same time speak to Amendments Nos. 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 35. This lengthy list of amendments is required to take account of the Bill consolidating the law on insolvency which was yesterday considered by the Joint Committee. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 7 [ Cases in which restraint orders and charging orders may be made]:
moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 10, line 16, leave out ("court") and insert ("High Court").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this small amendment is to clarify that where action requires to be taken under this Bill before criminal proceedings have been commenced, it will be for the High Court to determine who is to be regarded as the prosecutor. Under the Bill as at present drafted the Scottish Court of Session might have to take a separate decision in this matter in cross-Border cases, and this would add an unnecessary complication. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 14 [ Variation of confiscation orders]:
moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 16, line 10, after ("above") insert ("(a)").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 4, and, if I may, speak to Amendments Nos. 5, 13, 20 and the new clause intended to follow Clause 16. I have a lengthy note, but perhaps it may suffice if I say that your Lordships will recall that during the Report stage of the Bill we agreed amendments to deal with the situation which might arise if assets belonging to a trafficker were tied up in bankruptcy proceedings at the time when a restraint or confiscation order was made. I indicated then that the Government might bring forward similar amendments on Third Reading relating to the liquidation of companies. These are those amendments. If the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, would like me to go further I can do so; but if he is happy, I beg to move.
My Lords, I postpone my happiness with the amendment for only a moment. I have no comment on it.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 16, line 14, at end insert ("and
(b) the court may disregard any inadequacy in the realisable property which appears to the court to be attributable wholly or partly to anything done by the defendant for the purpose of preserving any property held by a person to whom the defendant had directly or indirectly made a gift caught by this Act from any risk of realisation under this Act.").
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 15 [ Bankruptcy of defendant etc.]:
moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 16, line 38, leave out ("Part III of the Insolvency Act 1985") and insert ("Part IX of the Insolvency Act 1986").
My Lords, this amendment was spoken to with Amendment No. 2. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 7:
Page 17, line 2, after ("21") insert ("of this Act").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a drafting amendment. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 17, line 7, leave out ("154 or 155") and insert ("307 or 308").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 en bloc. I spoke to them with Amendment No. 2.
My Lords, I must take Amendment No. 8 separately.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendments Nos. 9 to 12:
Page 17, line 12, leave out ("127(2)( c)") and insert ("280(2)( c)").
Page 17, line 22, leave out ("133") and insert ("286").
Page 17, line 27, leave out ("134(6)") and insert ("287(4)").
Page 17, line 28, leave out ("133(3)") and insert ("286(3)").
On Question, amendments agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 13:
Page 17, line 33, after ("shall") insert (", subject to a lien for any expenses (including his remuneration) properly incurred in respect of the property,").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 4. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 14:
Page 17, line 38, leave out ("174 or 212") and insert ("339 or 423").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 en bloc. I spoke to these amendments with Amendment No. 2.
On Question, Amendment No. 14 agreed to.
moved Amendments Nos. 15 to 18:
Page 18, line 7, leave out ("Part III of that Act") and insert ("the Insolvency Act 1986").
Page 18, line 10, leave out ("III of the Insolvency Act 1985") and insert ("IX of that Act").
Page 18, line 13, leave out ("127(2)( c), 133, 174 and 212") and insert ("280(2)( c), 286, 339 and 423").
Page 18, line 13, leave out ("1985") and insert ("1986").
My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall put a single Question as to Amendments Nos. 15, 16, 17 and 18.
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 16 [ Sequestration in Scotland of defendant etc.]:
moved Amendment No. 19:
Page 18, line 36, after ("21") insert ("of this Act").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a drafting amendment. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 20:
Page 19, line 26, after ("shall") insert (", subject to a lien for any expenses (including his remuneration) properly incurred in respect of the property.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 4. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 21:
Page 19, line 41, at end insert—
("(7) In any case in which, notwithstanding the coming into force of the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985, the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1913 applies to a sequestration, subsection (2) above shall have effect as if for paragraphs ( a) and ( b) thereof there were substituted the following paragraphs—
and subsection (3) above shall have effect as if for the reference there into the Act of 1985 there were substituted a reference to the Act of 1913.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of Clause 16 is to regulate the relationship between the provisions of this Bill and sequestration under Scots law. This amendment makes transitional provision in the case where the sequestration was awarded before 1st April 1985 (the commencement date for the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985) and thus is governed by the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1913. The amendment therefore substitutes in Clause 16 (2) and (3), in their application to such cases, suitable references to the 1913 Act in place of references to the 1985 Act. I beg to move.
My Lords, may I congratulate the noble Lord the Minister on his expertise in Scots law, which appears to equal his expertise in his own native law of England?
My Lords, I merely correct the noble Lord about the words my "native law", because he will find that my native law is Scots also.
My Lords, I must correct myself and apologise and ask the noble Lord whether he will not mislead the House and will really obtain a Scots accent when he addresses us.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 22:
After Clause 16 insert the following new clause:
"Winding up of company holding realisable property.
.—(1) Where realisable property is held by a company and an order for the winding up of the company has been made or a resolution has been passed by the company for voluntary winding up, the functions of the liquidator (or any provisional liquidator) shall not be exercisable in relation to—
but there shall be payable out of such property any expenses (including the remuneration of the liquidator or provisional liquidator) properly incurred in the winding up in respect of the property.
(2) Where, in the case of a company, such an order has been made or such a resolution has been passed, the powers conferred on the High Court by sections 8 to 12 of this Act or on a receiver so appointed or on the Court of Sessions by sections 19 to 21 of this Act shall not be exercised in relation to any realisable property held by the company in relation to which the functions of the liquidator are exercisable—
(3) Nothing in the Insolvency Act 1986 shall be taken as restricting, or enabling the restriction of, the exercise of those powers.
(4) Subsection (2) above does not affect the enforcement of a charging order made before the relevant time or on property which was subject to a restraint order at the relevant time.
(5) In this section—
"Company" means any company which may be wound up under the Insolvency Act 1986; and
"the relevant time" means—
(6) In any case in which a winding up of a company has commenced, or is treated as having commenced, before the date on which the Insolvency Act 1986 comes into force, this section has effect with the substitution for references to that Act of references of the Companies Act 1985.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 4. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 25 [Enforcement of other external orders]:
moved Amendment No. 23:
Page 27, line 14, leave out ("14") and insert ("17").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is consequential. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.