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November 11, 2003 1:12 PM

Government Department For Enviornment Food and Rural Affairs in Cromwell House LondonCommenting on the expected announcement by Lord Haskins that a new land management agency is to take over the functions of English Nature, the Countryside Agency and possibly the Forestry Commission, Liberal Democrat Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Andrew George MP, said:

"We must closely monitor how this situation progresses to ensure the new agency is an independent watchdog, not a Government lapdog.

"Ministers could use this as an opportunity to exact revenge on English Nature for its unwelcome advice on GMs, housing and road-building.

"There is no point in the Government further adding to the alphabet soup of agencies and initiatives. Devolving funds should bring decisions closer to the rural communities and not be an excuse to cut the countryside budget."