§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.7 a.m.
Mr. Creech Jones
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
It is a privilege to move the Second Reading of this Bill, which, I think, the House will agree, is marked with the struggle of the past 50 years. It has sometimes been rudely caricatured, but I think the Bill is none the worse for that. In the past week the House has been discussing how best to treat persons deprived of their freedom. To-day, I want the House to consider a Measure which is designed to extend to the general public freedom to enjoy open spaces and air on some of the wildest and most attractive moors and mountains in these Isles.
The Bill has had a chequered career. Fifty years ago Lord Bryce, who himself was a famous walker and climber, as well as a distinguished Ambassador, and whose name, as we all know, is honoured in Washington, brought to this House a Bill on similar lines and secured for it a Second Reading. Since then many distinguished voices have been raised in favour of the principle of the Bill. May I ask the House to mark the jubilee of the introduction of this Bill, and also mark the conclusion this year of the Anglo-American Trade Agreement, by giving the Bill a Second Reading? I hope the House will show that tolerance to a Private Member's Bill which, in its generosity, it showed last year.
I selected this Bill for the consideration of the House, conscious of its difficulties. I am aware that the Bill has certain defects and omissions, but I am asking the House to endorse the principle of the Bill to give the right of access to mountains, moors, heaths and uncultivated downland, because that right so far has not been recognised. I can give an assurance to the House that in respect of any blemishes or defects in it, these can, with accommodation, be removed in Committee. My earnest desire is that we should have the good will of all concerned, and that we should get the maximum of agreement in favour of the principles embodied in the Bill. There is 748 a great public demand for the passing of this Measure. Great organisations which are concerned with open-air activities most sincerely want it. The Youth Hostels Association, many of the principal rambling organisations and many of the well-known touring and travel bodies have passed resolutions demanding that something on these lines should be conceded by Parliament, in order that the more healthful amenities should be available, particularly in the industrial North, to the town populations.
This is an opportune moment for passing the Bill, because we want a healthy and intelligent people to serve the nation in war and peace. Yesterday, the announcement with regard to a national register reminded the nation of the responsibilities of citizenship. Is it not, therefore, just to extend the rights of men and women, particularly in the industrial north, to the healthy and harmless enjoyment of the country they are asked to serve? In the second place, we are spending £2,000,000 on a physical fitness campaign, with the object of increasing the fitness, mental and physical, of the youth of the nation. The Board of Education has made interesting grants to promote open-air activities for youth. Here I submit is a desirable development, for by this Bill, at little or no cost to the nation, we can do something which the youth of the country would welcome, and thereby the purpose of the Board of Education and of this House would be well served.
Again, during the past year the Minister of Labour, following a report on holidays with pay, has sought to extend holidays for workpeople and to improve amenities and create facilities for the right use of leisure. It is because of the limitations regarding our great open spaces and the closing up of some of our great natural lungs of our industrial regions, and the curtailment that is placed upon enjoyment of open spaces, that this Bill has been introduced. Therefore, I submit that in present circumstances this is an opportune time for the giving of a Second Reading to the Bill. Many hon. Members saw the ancient pageant in the Lord Mayor's procession in London a few weeks ago. In that pageant the Physical Fitness Council showed us open-air activities throughout the ages. We applauded groups of fell walkers, climbers and 749 ramblers as they went by, and we all saw how remarkable had been the growth of interest in recent years in athletic and open-air activities.
I have tried to do my bit in assisting this movement. The House may be interested to know that I am associated, as an officer, with an organisation which is a vast landowner, both in this country and in Scotland, and the owner of foreshores as well. We have helped all we could to encourage fell walking and climbing. We have played our part in the founding of the Youth Hostel Association, and the House will agree that that movement is one of the most welcome features of contemporary England, with its 80,000 members and nearly 300 hostels. There has been a remarkable development in recent years in the interest in open-air activities, and various public and voluntary bodies have assisted this remarkable growth in interest. We all recognise the way in which great landowners and public benefactors have given properties to the National Trust for public enjoyment, and we also recognise the way in which local authorities have exercised their powers to preserve commons, green belts, downlands and playing fields, to make the regional reservations, specially protected from industrial development, and to open those regions for public access under proper conditions.
We know, too, of the work which the voluntary societies have done to preserve beauty spots and footpaths for the nation, and to build up a healthy respect for the amenities of the nation. Parliament has also contributed in no small way. In 1925, Parliament passed a section of the Law of Property Act which protected the public rights in regard to commons, and in 1932, the House passed a Bill to secure for the public rights of way which were in danger of being lost. Moreover, Parliament has given its approval from time to time to the work of the Forestry Commissioners, who have already provided the public with two national forest parks. I am sure that all hon. Members welcomed the announcement yesterday of the possibility of another national park in the Forest of Dean. The Forestry Commissioners have generously granted facilities in order that people may pass through the Commission's plantations when those plantations are situated at the base of 750 mountains or waste land. All this is to the good. Again, Parliament has made grants for the physical fitness campaign, including a very substantial grant to the youth hostel movement in order to enable young people, through the use of these hostels, to enjoy the country as they roam over it. Considering all this voluntary and national effort, I ask the House to crown the developments that have been taking place by giving this Bill a Second Reading and giving people the right of access to moors and mountains.
I know, of course, that vast areas are already open to the public. In the Lake District, Snowdonia and the Northern Pennines, there are great regions in which the walker may go undisturbed, but also there are numerous moors that are reserved for sport, and there are many moors and mountains which have restrictions placed upon them even though they are not reserved for sport. I ask the House to consider whether certain of these restrictions cannot now be removed. Since it was announced that I was to introduce this Bill, I have been inundated with letters from various parts of the country setting out the grievances which ordinary people suffer in the matter of alleged trespass. I know that in many parts of the country an increased public spirit has been shown by the landlords in regard to access to their property, but still, there are whole stretches of land that are vitally important to the town population which ought to form a natural playground for them and to which they ought to have the right of access.
There are the moors about the great Lancashire and Yorkshire towns, there are the irksome restrictions in the Peak District, there are the wild lands of Scotland, and even so magnificent a conception as the Pennine Way, which is associated with the name of Tom Stevenson, cannot be achieved because of the restrictions which now exist and the difficulties in the way of it. I have already referred to Scotland, with its 3,500,000 acres of deer forest. If hon. Members will look at the Scottish Youth Hostel Handbook, they will see how irksome are the restrictions in the way of people when they wish to tramp through the country. There is often a footnote to the name of the hostel warning people that they must not trespass at the back of the hostel, and that they must not take this or that route; and often they 751 are diverted on to the roads, which with the ever-increasing volume of motor traffic, become harder for the walker. There ought at least to be certain tracks off the main routes across the mountains and moors.
I have received a great deal of information about closed areas, with their threatening notices; and there exists in some cases a somewhat inverted morality which places the sport of shooting above every other type of recreation. There are restrictions on climbers, and my attention has been called to a number of wild places where trespassing is an offence, where people are warned off, and told that if they trespass they will be physically ejected. The Peak District would be ideal for a national park, and such a national park would be valuable to the health and happiness of thousands of people in Manchester, Sheffield, Oldham and other towns. That is a region of 215 square miles having only 12 footpaths two miles in length. There are 32 moors over which there are no paths, and a constant vigilance has to be shown in order to secure the removal of obstacles and prohibitory notices, even where there are genuine public footpaths, and there is a continuous wrangle as to disputed ways. Again, on the great Yorkshire moors, there are cases where the public is restricted on what formerly were regarded as being public rights of way. In the West Riding, the moors nearby and beyond Wharfedale contain vast stretches which are closed, even where there are old bridleways and tracks, and on which the public has no right of way.
I ask the House why these obstacles exist. Several excuses and explanations have been offered. We are told that, as far as the local authorities are concerned, one has to be careful that the watersheds are not polluted. We are told by certain landowners that the areas are required for shooting, that there is a danger to the birds during the breeding season, and also that the presence of walkers tends to prejudice the sport during the shooting season itself. On the question of watersheds, I would only point out that if there is a fear of pollution, it resides rather in the carcases of birds and animals and other types of pollution which occur in those areas; certainly, the risk in this respect is far greater than would be the 752 risk involved in allowing walkers to cross the watersheds. As to shooting rights, I would point out that there are many areas in which the right of access of the public has not in any degree interfered with the grouse shooting. On one of the best moors in Derbyshire, there is a public right of way across it, and this does not interfere with the birds. I believe that in the case of Ilkley, where the public has complete freedom of access, the bags are as big as ever they were in the past. Even if this represents a serious difficulty in certain cases, I suggest to hon. Members that in Committee they could consider whether Section 193 of the Law of Property Act, 1925, could not be administered in some way, so that the Minister would have discretion to meet this particular type of difficulty.
As to the damage done by the public, which is a further reason advanced for excluding them from these areas, let me say that ramblers and the societies concerned with open-air activities are just as anxious as anyone else to preserve the solitudes and amenities of our open spaces. There are great stretches of country in the southern part of Great Britain, such as the North Downs and the South Downs, over which the public roam at will, and practically no harm has been done to the amenities in those areas. There has been, in recent years, an extraordinary rise in public standards of conduct. There is a new respect for the dignity and beauty of these open spaces, and in the process of education which has produced that result, the voluntary societies have played an important part. In any case, I submit that the Bill, as drafted, provides certain protections against the possibility of damage. It may be that the provision in the Bill is, technically, not as adequate as it might be. It may be that there are certain types of offences which have not been provided against in the Bill as now drawn, but I suggest that that is a difficulty which could easily be met, if a disposition were shown in all parts of the House to arrive at a reasonable agreement on this subject.
A further objection raised to any proposal of this kind is that it would increase the possibilities of fire. I believe I am right in saying that the Forestry Commissioners, while they do not under-rate the risk of fire, rather discount that 753 risk as far as their own property is concerned, as long as proper precautions are taken. We have not much evidence in regard to the incidence of fire on private lands as compared with public lands, but I doubt whether it can be shown that in those regions to which the public have freedom of access, and where vehicles are not allowed, the menace of fire is any graver than it is on private land. It is a difficulty, but I feel sure that the risk is not as great as has sometimes been suggested.
Some correspondents have written to me to express the hope that if the House agree to the principle of the Bill, they will not restrict access to moors and mountains to certain periods of the year. I fear, however—and I regret it personally—that if we are to get this Bill we must leave a wise discretion to the Minister, as provided in the Section of the 1925 Act dealing with common lands. Nevertheless, I think it should be said that experience, in regard to those moors which are still used for purposes of sport, and to which the public have the right of access, has removed the main objections, so far urged by the sporting fraternity. In the last analysis, I submit with all respect that the extension of the public right of enjoyment is more important than occasional shooting operations during a limited period of the year by a small section of the community. Professor Trevelyan once said that if the Alps were British, they would long ago have been closed to the public on account of the chamois. I am sure that those who regard the matter in a spirit of true sportsmanship will agree that the ordinary public ought to be able to secure as much health and pleasure from the use of these open spaces as the sportsmen.
Then there is the objection based on economic grounds, and in regard to that I submit that the alternatives to the sporting use of these areas are equally if not more advantageous from the economic point of view. Our experience in respect of the Lake District and North Wales shows, I think conclusively, that areas of that kind can be brought to reasonable prosperity apart from the exercise of sporting rights. Indeed, the economic conditions in such areas can be even better than those in areas where sport is the dominant feature. If we are to take the economic argument, there is much to 754 be said, also, about the damage done to cultivated ground as a result of the existence of shooting rights, of the way in which various forms of vermin are harboured, and the way in which ground becomes overgrown with bracken. I do not, however, wish to argue on economic grounds either in regard to employment or in regard to the contribution which these lands make to the rates. I feel, however, that there are more fundamental advantages to be secured from these districts if they are used by the general public, than if their use is limited to a very small section of the community.
I hope that I have not, so far, aroused any undue antagonism to the purpose of the Bill. I confess, however, that I have sometimes felt a little bitter when I have remembered how the deer forests in Scotland were made, and how the enclosure of moors and mountains in England was achieved. My heart has often ached at the thought of the tragedy through which generations of men in those regions have had to pass. Indignation has stirred me when I have read of people in many parts of these islands, in days gone by, being deprived of their natural heritage. Where men freely worked and tended and produced, where they freely walked and communed, they may do so no longer. I desire, therefore, to appeal to the gentlemen of Britain, and to their sporting spirit, on behalf of those who are debarred from that loveliness which they themselves can enjoy. I appeal for those who have to endure the squalor of our cities and the noise of industry, for those who would seek recreation and spiritual refreshment in the wild grandeur of the mountains and the vivid colours of the moors. These restrictions of which I have been complaining are peculiar to the British. Many of us have gone to Austria, France and Switzerland, and have climbed or walked among those great majestic mountains like the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc and the Jungfrau. We have walked there unrestricted and with great respect for the land in which we found ourselves. There you have great reserves and hunting areas as well, but, in spite of the facilities for access, the natural beauty and glory of those regions has not been defiled. What is true of countries abroad, surely can be equally true of our own land.
Certain terms in the Bill, perhaps, ought to be defined, but I suggest that 755 it is slightly better than the previous Bills which have been introduced dealing with this subject. There is, in any case, a positive and definite Clause dealing with penalties for offences, but I suggest that the Bill can be amended in Committee to meet any conclusions which may be reached, in any negotiations designed to secure acceptance of the principle of the extension of public rights. I would, therefore, like the House to reach a real degree of agreement by giving the Bill the Second Reading that I ask, and in Committee, without sacrificing the purpose and principles of the Bill, to bring it into shape in order to meet certain difficulties which have been urged against it at different times. I think we are all easily moved by the beauty of moors and mountains. It would be easy for most of us to declaim about.The shoulders of upland brown,Laid dark to the sunset's bosom,Hollows where caged winds slumber,Moorlands where winds wake free.All of us have seenThe dawn and sunset on moors and windy hills,Coming in solemn beauty like slow old tunes of Spain.And most of us in city streets have chantedOf the soft wind blowing, Soughing through the fir tops on northern fells.We have achedfor the brown burns flowingThrough peaty soil and tinkling heather bells.I ask that that great beauty, that lovely heritage, called Britain shall be the birthright of all the people of this country, and that they shall enter into its enjoyments and its enchantments, and I ask that after 50 years of agitation this House should no longer withhold this plea that we make to it to-day, that in place of uncertainty and uneasy tolerance there shall be the assured right of all to access to mountain and moorland.
§ 11.37 a.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I beg to second the Motion.
I feel that the whole House will agree that I am not paying any formal or empty compliment to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones), who has moved it, when I say that his 756 speech was not only cogent, but most fair-minded and broadminded. I think every part of the House will endorse that. I can only congratulate him upon the opportunity which he has had to bring forward a Bill and on the choice which he has made of a Bill to bring forward. I hope that as a reward for his efforts he will some day hear the ramblers and climbers of this country saying to himHow beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings.My interest in this Bill arises first and foremost from a very long and happy association with the Lake District. If I may make a personal remark, I was taken for my first walking tour among those fells when I was five years old, and since then I can honestly say that I have walked and climbed over every fell and every rock face in the district. Looking back to those early days, I remember that walking and climbing were then considered to be a rather queer form of amusement, and I certainly never dreamed that I should live to see it become a great national recreation, rechristened "hiking," and that I should see its devotees adorned in a special and sometimes becoming uniform. I myself in the Lake District have watched trousers giving way to knickerbockers, knickerbockers giving way to shorts, and shorts in their turn giving way to shorter shorts. Looking at some of those shorter shorts, I have smiled to remember that my father walked and scrambled over every fell in the Lakes wearing a bowler hat and clasping an umbrella as firmly as any British Prime Minister being taken for a walk up the Berchtesgaden path.
Not only has the Lake District brought health and happiness to thousands of hikers and the greatest joy that they know in life, but it has also brought great gains to the farmers and cottagers there. Freedom and hospitality, public access and private profit, have gone hand in hand. Cottagers in the Lake District are not evicted if they take in lodgers, and after the Herdwick sheep the tourist is as a matter of fact the main source of income to the tenants, and the landlords benefit in turn. Let me hasten to say that the landlords of the Lake District have always enjoyed a reputation for showing a very good spirit indeed in this matter of access to the fells. But access to the mountains in Cumberland and Westmorland has proved good for the tourist and also good business for the 757 residents. The tourist traffic there is a great source of prosperity. Individuals have not suffered, and private interests have not suffered. I do not know that I am prepared to say that natural beauties have not perhaps slightly suffered here and there, but considering the great numbers who visit the district very little harm indeed has been done, although personally I hope that those county councillors of Cumberland who have converted the track over Honister into a motor road may some day, jointly and severally, swell the list of road accidents.
This Bill is concerned, not with amenities, but with access to amenities. I, therefore, among the various vandals who have raided the Lake District, only mention the Forestry Commissioners. It is not merely that they have disfigured Eskdale, the loveliest part of all that lovely district, by the commercial planting of those dreary regiments of conifers, but both in Eskdale and in Ennerdale their operations have restricted access to the mountains. It is foolish for the Forestry Commissioners to deny what is obvious, because you cannot fence in the intake of the valleys to a height of 1,500 feet without restricting access to the fells, and I could give several instances of paths which have been diverted or closed.
I have dwelt on the Lake District as an example of free access to the mountains, benefiting all concerned. Let me turn to a less favoured district, that of the Peak. During the past 12 years there has been a growing demand for unrestricted access to the Peak moorlands. I wish that prior to this Debate we could have had in the tea room an exhibition of photographs of the Peak District in order that Members might see for themselves the beauty of the scenery from which the public are now excluded—some of the most interesting and some of the most natural scenery in England. The Peak moorland covers a great area of 215 square miles, which are accessible from Manchester, Sheffield, Barnsley, Stoke-on-Trent, and Chesterfield, and thousands of young people in these grim cities longing for some means of escape from drab and dreary streets, are denied the natural outlet of their native hills, valleys, and moors for exercise and recreation after a week's monotonous toil. Because these hills and moors are preserved for sport, those who wish to 758 ramble to-day where their forbears passed freely are turned back, if not in fact intimidated by gamekeepers. I am not clear that that is good sportsmanship. To shoot grouse is only legal between 12th August and 10th December, but to keep those who work in factories and in offices off these moors is legal between 1st January and 31st December.
Sixteen miles from grimy Manchester and Sheffield are 37 square miles of wild country surrounding Bleaklow Ridge, which are inaccessible save by breaking the law. On Kinderscout there are 15 square miles of mountainous country, which is very strictly preserved and has no public paths. A gentleman came to tea with me last night to discuss another matter, and in the course of conversation I happened to mention this Bill. He then told me how repeatedly he had been chased away while endeavouring to walk on Kinderscout. There has been a great increase of ramblers here since the War. Trespass admittedly takes place, but there is no indication that game bags have decreased. There were several record bags since 1931.
It is not only the private landlord who is at fault. There are 39,000 acres in this district publicly controlled in connection with waterworks, and these are just as inaccessible as the rest save for one permissive path which has been granted to the public. Incidentally, this path runs through the heart of a grouse moor but does not affect the bags. The private landowner naturally does not see why he should do what a public authority does not do. I cannot believe that the admittedly important argument about water pollution can apply to the whole area in question. The fact is, I think, that much of this publicly-owned land is let to sporting tenants, and that that is why the public are denied access to it.
As regards the argument that ramblers would do damage and destroy natural amenities, my hon. Friend has dealt with that, but I might mention in support of him the evidence from two estates near Sheffield which are publicly owned—the Longshore Estate and Blacka Moor Estates. They have been accessible to the public for six years and two years respectively. They enjoy cheap and well advertised transport facilities, and yet neither estate has suffered as regards natural beauty. The same can on the 759 whole be said of the Lake District. The fact is that those who advocate this Bill are the very people who most deplore damage to our flora and fauna, and disfigurement of the countryside by advertisements, and by picnic debris or litter. They are those who are interested in the preservation of rural England. I have heard it said that more public paths would meet the situation. I do not agree. I do not think that more public paths, while they would be welcomed, could ever give that sense of freedom, wildness and solitude which the rambler desires. Such paths tend to destroy natural beauty. There are many of us who know those tidy paths through the very trim German woods, and the rather depressing effect they have with their efficient sign boards at every turn pointing the way to the Aussichtspunkt or Jausenstation. The whole pleasure of rambling is the sense of being able to move as you will. I have given the Peak District as an illustration, but other instances can be drawn from Yorkshire, Wales, round Lancaster in the Trough of Bowland, and from the mountainous districts of Scotland. I can safely leave these cases to be urged by other speakers.
I have been speculating as to the arguments which will be brought forward against this Bill. The subject appears to have been debated last in 1908. I have been reading that Debate, and there was then a great rally of owners and tenants of grouse moors and deer forests. Reading the Debate, I felt that the prevailing spirit was rather that which animated a certain American colonel who returned to his native state of Virginia after having been the tenant of a big shoot in Scotland. He was met on his return by a friend who said to him, "Everything has gone to pieces since you have been away; they have even passed a law making it illegal for a man to shoot his own niggers." The colonel looked at him in consternation, and said, "Good heavens, in what months?"
If the House will allow me, I would like to make a few quotations from that Debate. Mr. Mason, then Member for Windsor and a well known shot, said that if this Bill were passed it "would expose the owner of a deer forest to blackmail by anyone who threatened to walk up to the top of a hill and drive the 760 deer out of the forest and in face of this, owners and tenants would abandon the sport, and the deer forest would revert to grazing lands for sheep. "Then there was Mr. Lambton, the Member for Durham, and he said:If people were allowed to roam about flying kites and playing concertinas there would soon be no grouse or deer forests.Sir Arthur Bignold was also very alarmed. He said quite seriously:If the Bill passed and the House rose early this summer it was not improbable that hon. Members might see a personally conducted party of Cooks' tourists climbing up the slopes of Ben Mohr.Mr. Chaplin, then the Member for Wimbledon, said:Even one man at a critical moment coming at the wrong time might spoil a whole drive. If that were to happen it would be a cause of great annoyance and one which any hon. Member of this House would be sorry to see.It has happened that a caddy, sneezing at a critical moment, has upset my drive, but I would not expect the whole House to sympathise with me about that. There was a Mr. Herbert who was an unconscious and not a cold-blooded deliberate and determined humourist as is his namesake in the House to-day. He said thatthe effect of this Bill was practically to make every mountain and moor into an unregulated Hampstead Heath.I will pass hastily over the sad story told in the Debate of a shooting tenant who saw a trespasser and thought his gillie said. "Shoot at him," only to learn with surprise but not regret at the subsequent inquest that he had been misled by his gillie's Gaelic intonation when saying "Shout at him." I come to a very remarkable argument which was used in favour of the Bill which I commend to the Secretary of State for War. One Member said "he had been much struck by a military friend of his telling him of difficulties in training men. He said he was discussing the proper tactics to approach a fortified position and endeavouring to explain how his men should take advantage of cover, but the difficulty was that his men had never seen cover." "That," said the Member, "was a curious light on the exclusion of people from all the natural features of the country."
761 These arguments certainly have a very queer ring after 30 years, but I would like to ask those hon. Members, if there are any, who intend to speak against this Bill, to reflect how equally queer some of the arguments they may advance may sound in 10 years' time. In that Debate of 1908 not even those grand old diehards were able to bring forward one specific instance of harm done where access existed. In fact, a very liberal spirit was shown on that occasion. Mr. Herbert, to whom I have referred, went on to say thatif sport interfered with the interests of the community, the interests of sport must suffer rather than those of the community.And I was particularly struck by words used by Lord Willoughby de Eresby—again we have a namesake in the House to-day—who said:If greater freedom for the public was required, personally he would not be opposed to it. He was sure they would all go on the principle of live and let live, and he for one would be only too delighted that people should enjoy the scenic beauties of their native land.I think that was an admirable spirit to be shown by a great landowner and a great sportsman. I must add that Lord Willoughby had some odd ideas about scenic beauty, because he went on to say:Personally, he had always looked upon Switzerland as a region of desolation.He was of the Dr. Johnson school of thought, as regard mountains. The people to whom this Bill seek to give their natural rights are not those who wish to interfere unnecessarily with other people's enjoyments. They would not be out to spoil the shooters' fun if this Bill becomes law. The reconciliation of various interests involved will have to be threshed out in Committee in the event of this House giving the Bill a Second Reading, and I believe that those conflicting interests appear to be more conflicting than they really are, and that they can be reconciled. But a small, wealthy minority cannot be allowed to interfere indefinitely with the health and the happiness and the recreation of a large and not so well-to-do majority. It will not be to the advantage of the sporting fraternity in the long run if they take the contrary line, because the game laws will not exist for ever unless those who may benefit learn to play the game.
762 This exclusion from moors and mountains means the exclusion of those who most need that health and recreation which the moors and mountains can give, and that is morally unjustifiable. If we had to begin to-day de novo would we allow such exclusion to take place? Those who live and work in towns have a peculiar right to enjoy access to the country and fresh air for holidays to replenish their store of health. The well-to-do all make for the country at week-ends and holidays, following a very sound instinct. There is a real demand for this Bill. Those of small means are the backbone of the Youth Hostels' Association, the Ramblers' Federation, the Camping Club, the climbers' clubs, the scouts and guides, and all those organisations are considered worthy of and receive public encouragement. Together they represent an urge and a desire which must be frustrated unless this Bill becomes law. If the House of Commons does not give a Second Reading to the Bill and permit examination and argument in Committee they will be standing in the way of a great and numerous movement in this country, and a movement of a very good type of people indeed. How are you to preach your Keep Fit Campaign in smoky Sheffield and Manchester if those to whom you preach are denied access to their native open spaces?
I do not want to attack owners of property or of sporting rights, but I base my appeal on the national right to enjoy national scenery, on the simple enjoyment of those natural rights, the natural claim to health and happiness. We ask that people should have access to these open spaces not on sufference or by trespass, as at present, but of right. The word "patriotism" is much on people's tongues at the present moment. How can you expect some people to feel patriotic about the rookeries in which they have to live? Let them have free access to beautiful scenery, which will kindle their love for their country. I am one of those who through no merit have had the fortune to enjoy all the beauty this country can show. I have wonderful memories of our hills in sunshine, of our mountains in the grip of ice and snow, memories of days fishing in the pools of the Long Run of Spey.
Those recollections have given me a great wish to do two things: first of all 763 to help on the movement for holidays with pay. We see the beginnings of that, and let me pay my tribute and give due need of credit to the Government for what they have done in that direction. My second great wish has been to support a Bill giving access to moors and mountains, and nothing could give me more pleasure than to have the opportunity of seconding this Motion to-day. I ask those members who may contemplate opposing this Bill to examine their motives in doing so. I have no wish to impugn the motives of any man, but let there be no motive of selfishness in any opposition to this Bill to-day, and let those who have also enjoyed such long days in the open as I have spoken of ask themselves if they do not owe a cock to Aesculapius which they can pay by voting for this Bill. We have all seen urchins trying to peep through a knot-hole in the fence, or over the fence, at some game going on inside. One can never see that very simple human sight without smiling, and I dare say many honourable Members have paid the entrance on those occasions. But there are many grown-up people who want to enter into full communion with Nature on our moors and mountains, who at present have to peep at her through locked gates and over barbed wires. Let us vote for this Bill and give access to Nature to those upon whose shoulders falls the burden of the drab, dreary, monotonous working week which our industrial system demands.
§ 12.3 p.m.
§ Captain Heilgers
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
We have listened to two very excellent speeches from the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill and the hon. and gallant Member who seconded it. One was grave and the other was gay. There was very little in either speech with whcih I could find myself in disagreement. One could not help being touched by the sincerity of the appeal of the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading, and one enjoyed the humour of the hon. and gallant Member who seconded. I am afraid that I was not born with a sense of humour and I cannot rival those jokes. Perhaps 764 a better description of myself would be that which was given to a boy at school in his report, which said: "Dull in form, but brightens at the thought of food." The Mover of the Bill was good enough last night to tell me that he intended as far as possible to meet any reasonable objections on the Committee stage, and my hon. Friends and I who have been responsible for putting down this Amendment considered the question very carefully. We came to the conclusion, much as we appreciated the offer of the hon. Member that if we withdrew our protest, the withdrawal might be misinterpreted in the country. We decided that it would be right to make our protest and to move the rejection of the Bill.
When I first saw the Bill I thought it was a harmless little Bill and the last thing that I should wish to oppose. I could not help thinking of those bands of joyous adventurers who go out from the cities to hike and who roam over the woods and open spaces. In these days of national fitness nothing, I agree, could be better. To that extent I find myself in agreement with hon. Members opposite, but I am not sure that I agree with them to the same extent when they say that there is a public demand for the Bill. I am not certain that there is such a great need for it. In my part of the world not one representation has been made to me as to its desirability. I have walked a good deal in many parts of England and Scotland and I have found that the greatest deterrent was a bull on the other side of the fence. There are so many wide open spaces in this country and so many rights of way over the moors and elsewhere, that it is doubtful whether by opening up a certain amount of private property we could add greatly to the facility already enjoyed by hikers.
Our main objection is not on that ground. We do not think that the Bill is quite so simple as it appears, because when you look at it closely you will find that it is not, as the hon. Member who moved it stated, to allow freedom to enjoy space and air on some of the wildest mountains in the country. It extends very much farther than that, over all heathland and moorland as well as mountains, and that may include a very great deal. To our minds it also attacks the whole principle of owning land. It would mean that an owner no longer had 765 the right to enjoy his property. Until land is nationalised I do not see why he should not enjoy that right. His land would become public property under this Bill. I believe that hon. Members opposite who propose to nationalise the land have said that they would pay compensation, but I see no mention in the Bill of compensation being paid in respect of any damage done to the rights of landowners. The hon. and gallant Member who spoke last was pleased to pour scorn on the idea expressed by an hon. Member of this House 30 years ago, that such a Bill would turn every heath and moorland into an uncultivated Hampstead Heath.
§ Captain Heilgers
I meant unregulated. I have a certain amount of sympathy with what Mr. Mason said in those days. In the guise of helping the hiker, an object which goes to all our hearts, the Bill really aims at the nationalisation of property. There is more behind it than one imagines, because I notice that the names of three Front Bench Members of the Socialist party are on this private Members Bill.
The remainder of the Bill is not so important, so far as we are concerned, as the principle with which I have just dealt. We feel that it would be difficult to effect a radical alteration in the Bill as it stands, and I think that hon. Members would agree that the Bill is extremely sloppily drawn. Clause 4 proposes to exempt:any land actually occupied and enjoyed as a park or pleasure ground in connection with and in proximity to a dwelling-house; "any plantation of young trees.I do not know whether "plantations of young trees" is a technical phrase used for Income Tax purposes, but does the Bill not give exemptions to plantations of older trees? Does it mean that every wood is liable to be entered by any tourist seeking recreation or scientific or artistic study? If that is the case, it would be extremely hard upon gamekeepers. I represent one of the greatest shooting districts in this country. Gamekeepers work all the year to put up a good show in the shooting line, but under the Bill they might find themselves at any moment having their birds driven away and the next-door keeper getting 766 all the credit for their work. It would be pretty hard on a keeper if there were many rights of way over his ground because such rights of way are very often lover's lanes. The keeper would find the whole of his beat made into lover's lane. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] The hon. Member who interrupted has evidently never met a keeper.
Further scorn was poured by the hon. and gallant Member upon shooting, but that is a pretty big industry. In my part of the world it forms a very considerable part of the activities of the population.—[An HON. MEMBER: "Grouse moors."]—I am not concerned with grouse moors but they alone provide employment to the amount of about £3,500,000 a year. It is not the grouse moors alone which would be threatened if this Bill were passed. The Bill deals with heath and moorland. The best shoots in Norfolk and East Anglia are very often located on heath or moorland. Woods are very often situated on what may be termed heath or moorland. If anyone who wishes to go in is to have unrestricted entry, such shoots will be seriously damaged, and if you do great damage to the shooting industry you damage a very large number of people. In this country I believe there are between 20,000 and 30,000 gamekeepers, as well as a large number of warreners. Further, a number of people spend the whole winter earning their living by what is called brushing. Then there are the people who work at the ancillary industries, such as the gun and cartridge makers. There is no end to the list of people who might be affected if a serious attack were made upon the shooting industry.
There is yet another aspect which I would commend to the House. What is to happen as regards the rateable value of the land? Suppose that it is made impossible in Norfolk and Suffolk and the Eastern counties—in Scotland not so much for the Highlands are remote—for shooting activities to be carried on, then the rateable value will go down very considerably; the county councils will not get the money, the revenue, from the sporting rights. In some parts of Scotland that revenue is important. The amount of revenue which the Highland counties derive from sporting rights is no less than 25 to 30 per cent. of their income. The percentage is not so big in the Eastern 767 counties of England, but it does form a considerable part of the revenue of the various county councils, and if that revenue is taken away it inevitably must mean a greater burden on the taxpayers in the town. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill suggested that some arrangement might be come to under the Law of Property Act of 1925. If the Bill passes we might well consider whether something could not be done in that way to meet the situation. As has been said, the great danger to the shooting interests is at nesting time and during the shooting season. Under the Law of Property Act there was a provision that if necesary, on local representations, the Minister could prescribe certain close times. I quite agree with the hon. Member that that might be a useful way of dealing with the matter if we reach the Committee stage.
I confess that I have been befogged by Clause 3. It states:If any person enters upon any land to which this Act applies,and if we look back to Clause 1 we find that it refers to:Uncultivated mountains, heath moorland or uncultivated downland.But apparently in Clause 2 "uncultivated downland" has vanished. Are we to take it that the word "uncultivated" applies to downland or not? Moreover nobody has ever yet been able to define what a mountain is. Where does it begin? Is it not possible to call almost anything in this country heathland? Then let us come to the safeguards in Clause 2, about which the hon. Member spoke. I think that if they are studied closely, the conclusion must be reached that Clause 3 would change a Lambeth Walk into a Poachers' Parade. In paragraph (a) is to be found the most complete invitation to the poacher to have a free afternoon out. It is apparent that the drafter of the Bill, although a very eminent draftsman I am assured, quite forgot all about the Ground Game Act. As the Bill stands, any person choosing to go on to any land for the scientific study of rabbits or hares is able to do so, and can put the game into his pocket, and no one can object in any way. Even supposing that some mistake was made by the occupier of the land, or his gamekeeper, and the poacher was 768 shot, it would be the man who let off the gun who would be "liable." I confess that I have a sneaking sympathy myself for poachers. I often think that if I had been born in a different walk of life I should have enjoyed occasional poaching. But the Bill as it stands would take all the zest out of the life of the poacher; if he was allowed to take all that he wanted there would not be any fun left for him.
I ask myself what is the value of the other safeguards in the Bill. The poacher of birds and the gatherer of eggs is to be fined £2. The man who destroys plants and the beauties of the countryside is to be fined £2, as is the man who leaves litter; and any one who disturbs sheep or cattle also comes under the same penalty. Is it not more likely that if sheep are disturbed in the lambing season the owner's loss is not likely to be not £2 but £200? Are we to take it that if the Bill passes every one who feels so disposed can enter any land, sit down and stop any shoot that may be going on? I can see the most frightful difficulties arising if any one is allowed to go all over grouse moors. Think of the embarrassment there would be to our Prime Minister. He would be pursued all over the grouse moors by photographers. [AN HON. MEMBER: "The penalty of being famous!"] There would be nothing whatever to stop the photographers, and that would apply also to hon. Members on the other side of the House who are famous and who indulge in a little sport themselves despite their attitude to-day.
Further, I would draw attention to the position in which the landowner will be put. How is it proposed to enforce the safeguards and to make the £2 penalty effective? First of all it is necessary to get a police constable. Is it imagined that right in the middle of moorland, miles from anywhere, there will be a police constable handy? The occupier or gamekeeper is not allowed to take the name or address of any one who is causing damage; he has to get a police constable first. Then there is the danger, already referred to, of fires in forests. Hon. Members opposite cannot afford to deprecate that danger. In Norfolk in the last few years the Forestry Commissioners have built up a forest which I understand is nearly as big as the New Forest. There are notices everywhere ordering the people to be as careful as possible to avoid causing fires. But these forests are inter- 769 sected by a large number of commons—heathland and moorland—and, if there were a general invasion of these moorlands between the Forestry Commission's woods, I think there might be a very great danger of setting the whole countryside alight. Reference has been made to a letter from the municipal corporations. I have here a letter which I should like to read to the House. It says:In many cases local authorities have spent large sums of money in acquiring all the gathering ground for feeding their reservoirs for the supply of water, their sole object being to secure the purity of the water by excluding persons from the gathering ground. I need scarcely say that that is a matter of vital importance. If the Bill goes through in its present form, there will, I expect, be many cases of gathering grounds to which it would apply, and the public might frequent them in large numbers. The use of motor cars would enable people to reach the gathering grounds, and they could then roam about and seriously Prejudice the purity of the water supply.I think that perhaps that may be a little over-drawn, but we must pay regard to the views put forward by such bodies as the Association of Municipal Corporations. The hon. Member opposite has drawn a touching picture of what would be desirable as regards access to mountains and free entry on to the various lands that are private property to-day. I believe that the right way to approach the matter is by another line, by a great extension of forest national parks. This year no fewer than 29,000 people visited the Argyllshire forest park, and we have already heard that there is going to be another forest park in the Forest of Dean. I believe that, if these forest parks could be developed to a far greater degree than has been the case in the past, the difficulties would at once disappear. I admit that in the West Riding and similar districts there is a feeling that people want to get out more from the cities than they can at present.
I would sum up the Bill in this way. I do not believe, and I do not think that hon. Members opposite, except for propaganda purposes, believe, that the Bill would add very appreciably to the amenities of life, but, on the other hand, I believe that it would cause a great deal of destruction of private property, and would damage the shooting industry. Although I may be accused of being biased, I assert that the landowner performs an important function in this 770 country. The landowner provides an amount of capital for agriculture which is equal to the total of our investments in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In that way he is certainly doing something for the State. Moreover, the landowner has a good many responsibilities. I would remind the House of what Ruskin said:No man is so free as a beggar, and no man more solemnly a servant than an honest landowner.If we pass this Bill, we shall, I think, endanger the living of a great many people in this country. I believe, too, that it would be the thin end of the wedge as far as nationalisation is concerned. That is a very old argument, but this Bill has gone on for 50 years, and that argument has always been used against it. I think, myself, that it is somewhat exaggerated. To a certain extent the happiness of the majority must prevail as time goes on, and I sympathise with that ideal, but I would submit that adequate safeguards must be given to the owner, the occupier and the gamekeeper. In this Bill there are no safeguards at all. It is the owner who has to bear all the damage, and I do not believe it is right that one section of the community should be called upon to foot the bill in every case. I believe that compensation ought to be given in cases where rights are taken away and damage sustained. We have done that in the Livestock Industry Act, in the Bacon Industry Act, in the Marketing Acts and in the Coal Mines Act. We give, to everyone who is deprived of something, safeguards and compensation. Because this Bill does not provide for compensation, and does not provide any safeguards for the landowner, for the shooting industry, and for the countryside, I ask the House to vote against its Second Reading.
§ 12.32 p.m.
§ Colonel Clarke
I beg to second the Amendment.
In the first place, I want to join with my hon. and gallant Friend in paying a tribute of thanks to the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) for the spirit of restraint and consideration that he showed in moving the Bill. I believe that in some parts of the country a very different atmosphere has prevailed when these matters have been discussed, and 771 that feeling has run very high. I hope that the spirit in which the debate has been begun will be maintained, and I shall endeavour to follow the example that has been set. The hon. Member for Shipley expressed willingness to allow almost unlimited modification in the Bill in Committee, and for that we are very grateful. Indeed, I feel that in those circumstances it is almost ungracious not to withdraw opposition at once. But I feel, too, that, as my hon. and gallant Friend has just said, that would not be fair to those whom we represent in this matter; and, moreover, I feel that, even with the best will in the world, it may not be possible for the hon. Gentleman to give us all the things that we want within the framework of the Bill.
Before I develop my argument, I should like to refer to one or two things that were said by the Mover of the Bill. In the first place, I agree with him as to the value of hiking as a form of training in case of war. I believe that one of the strongest arguments for that—and I will make the hon. Member a present of it, as he has been very generous in what he said—is the way in which hiking teaches map reading. Any territorial officer will tell you that that is one of the weakest points in the Territorial Army, and it is one which territorial officers are always trying to improve. With regard to deer forests, if I have time I want to say something about them later. I should like also to discuss the subject of "the Highland clearances," but that is a very large subject, and would take up a great deal of time. If the hon. Gentleman is interested in the subject, I hope he will read, if he has not yet done so, Dr. Johnson's "Tour in the Hebrides." I read it last summer, and found in it a great deal that threw light on matters that had puzzled me in this connection. I think it is a most valuable document. With regard to the question of the pollution of water supplies, hon. Members will recollect the Croydon case, which showed that it does not take a crowd to pollute a water supply; one carrier of typhoid will do it; and I believe that municipal bodies should be allowed to protect their catchment areas. As regards the restriction of open spaces for purposes of sport during certain parts of the year, does not my hon. Friend feel that the staggering of 772 holidays will go a long way towards meeting that difficulty?
With regard to my own objections, I first want to stress a point that has been already made by my hon. and gallant Friend, that this is really a direct attack on the rights of property. The right of the individual who owns the lands designated in the Bill to be protected by the law against trespass is to be taken from him, if the Bill becomes law, without compensation. I appreciate that certain hon. Members who favour Nationalisation look on these rights quite differently, and think they should anyhow be taken away; but I would point out that even so compensation would he given, and in this case there is no provision for compensation. It looks rather like cutting a slice out of a cake before you have bought it. But I shall say no more on this point. I want this subject to be treated not as a controversial party issue, but on its merits. It should be remembered that these rights are no less rights because they are not always exercised. They are valuable, too, as constituting what in these days we are very fond of calling a sanction. I mean that if the privileges granted by a landowner are abused, he has the right of saying, "If they cannot behave themselves, I will close the area." If he does that, people learn a lesson. Under the Bill, that will be altered. A policeman will have to catch the actual person who has committed any offence, and he may be fined £2; but that will not have the same effect on the public. The present course, whereby a landowner, if his hospitality is abused, can for a time close the land and write to the papers saying why he has done so, is a stronger sanction than that given under the Bill. Again, not all landowners are landowners in the ordinary sense of the word. As the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut-Commander Fletcher) has said, there are different public bodies which own land, including the War Office and other Government Departments.
I think this Bill is not very good law. I do not set up as an authority on law; but, as an example, Clause 3 says:If any person enters upon any land to which this Act applies and— (a) goes in pursuit of game or other wild birds …That seems to me to allow a person to 773 go in pursuit of deer or any other four-tooted beast, except possibly ground game, which may be protected separately under the Ground Game Act. Again, part of the land that is being ostensibly thrown open is ungetatable except by aeroplane service, the bottom part of a mountain is often surrounded by agricultural land, to which the public have no right of access at all. I think rather more careful drafting would be necessary with regard to that. My third objection is that this is really unnecessary legislation. I feel that laws are an unfortunate necessity, and that the fewer of them there are the better, and the better they will be kept. In the parts of the country that I know principally, the uncultivated Downlands and the Highlands, and the Border to some extent, walkers are very seldom stopped. I have walked and ridden over a great part of the Down-lands between Warminster and Dover, and I have never been stopped. A friend who spends most of his holidays walking told me during the last week or so that in the Highlands of Scotlands he had only once been stopped. Of course, we have been reasonable about it, and have tried not to do any damage. But I think landowners will nearly always give permission when people want to go on their land for any of the objects specified in the Bill, provided they are satisfied that these people will do no damage. In most cases, the people that the Bill is intended to help can already be received as guests if they ask permission. Why demand as a legal right what in most cases you can obtain as a guest? I admit that I do not know the Pennine Range, and I am aware that there has been some trouble about that.
My fourth objection is that I believe this Bill, if passed, would prejudice the increase of what are usually styled amenities in other directions. Take national parks, for instance. I think that they are in many ways the best solution of this problem. In a national park you can have hostels, guides, and park-keepers to see that the privileges are not abused and that the regulations are enforced. I would like at this stage to welcome, as other hon. Members have done, the action of the Forestry Commissioners in throwing open a new forest area in the Forest of Dean. But I believe that if the Bill is passed the getting of those national parks will be much prejudiced, especially at a 774 time like this, when money is tight and people will tend to say, "Why should we pay for land when people can hike anywhere?"
I would ask hon. Members to consider, too, for a moment the work done on similar lines by the East Sussex County Council in preserving the Downlands. The story is familiar to most of us—how they promoted a Bill, which failed, and then started under the Town Planning Act to schedule as many areas as they could. In April last the county council stated that the area preserved in perpetuity amounted to 26,669 acres, or 90.26 per cent. of the area for which the council is responsible. That result was made possible largely by the generosity of landowners. They made a magnificent response, and in a great number of cases they asked for no compensation at all. It is true that compensation was paid in some cases, but there were others, some of them involving estates of over 1,000 acres, in which no compensation was paid. It seems to me a little ungrateful to take this gift, and then to say, "Thank you for what you have given; from the time this Bill passes, the public will have uninterrupted access to the lands that you have so kindly preserved as open spaces." As a Member of the East Sussex County Council Town Planning Committee I am convinced such a course would be very prejudicial to finishing off that scheme and to the starting of new schemes of a similar kind anywhere else in the country.
I also feel that the provisions of the Bill for the protection of amenities against damage are quite inadequate. What I have in mind principally are danger from fires, and damage by litter. To-day, the owner's servants can move on anybody who looks a suspicious character or who they think is likely to light a fire. If such a person does not move, the owner's servants have the ordinary rights of using sufficient force to move him, provided that they do not do anything which constitutes an assault. Under this Act all that power will go. The extent of such damage by fire is well known to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Nuneaton, who does me the honour for part of the year to live in my constituency. He knows as well as I do that last Spring practically the whole of Ashdown Forest was burnt, and I expect that he knows, 775 too, that in that area we have three rangers always occupied in trying to stop that danger. Whether this Bill will affect the Ashdown Forest Act or not I do not know, but I am quite certain that if owners' servants are not able to act in the same way as these wardens do, there will be great danger on all heathlands of similar fires. That really would be a disaster, because the Ashdown Forest area this Spring was just a blackened wilderness.
I want to touch upon the question of bird sanctuaries. Some of these are privately owned and others are owned under trust, and the idea is that the birds there shall not be disturbed. I know that this matter will interest certain hon. Members of this House, including the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers), who asked a question about it the other day. Last Whitsuntide I went to the North of Shetland to visit a bird sanctuary at Herma Ness, where the great Skua is found. I think that it is under the protection of the National Society for the Protection of Birds. That may not be its correct title, but it is something very like it. There during the breeding season they have a keeper, one of the crofters, who lives in a little hut and is on the look-out all the time and moves on anybody who looks as though he might disturb the birds. It is well known that there are professional egg-stealers in this country, as British birds' eggs offer a valuable market, and these people make a living by stealing them. There are many species of wild birds in danger of extermination owing to this practice. The keeper of a bird sanctuary will be in a far weaker position under this Bill than he is at present. There are people who watch individual nests of very rare birds practically from the time the eggs are laid until they are hatched out. It may be absurd, but a man night go and take these eggs under this Bill and make off with them, and, after paying a fine of £2, sell them for £10 to the next day.
I want to say a few words about the question of deer forests. The hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton mentioned a speech delivered 30 years ago by Mr. Mason. I have not read the speech myself, but arising out of that, I would refer to a report of a Departmental Committee that was set up 776 in November, 1919, by the Secretary of State for Scotland. That committee reported that they frankly recognised that much of the area devoted to deer forests is fit for deer or nothing at all. The importance of that fact is that in those areas, if I remember rightly—I am talking without the actual figures—they considered that at least one-third of the present area under deer forests in Scotland came under that head as being land fit for deer or nothing at all. If land was spoilt as a deer forest it depreciated in value altogether. The only economic use of it would be gone, and a certain number of people, stalkers and their families, who are the only people who get any living out of it at all at present, would not only be done out of their work, but the only rateable value in those districts would be gone, too. In those districts a very large proportion of the income of the county councils comes from the sporting rights, and I think it is true to say that, if the storks bring the children to the cottages, the deer and the grouse carry them to the schools.
The trouble is that if you have unrestricted access to the deer forests it will cause serious disturbance to stalking. In the first place, the deer are killed with high velocity rifles and it would be quite impossible for that practice to continue. Naturally most people are careful where they shoot, and if they saw a tourist or hiker they would not shoot in his direction. However, if they did kill a hiker, by accident, the hiker would be liable. To-day if he is trespassing it is his own liability, but if this Bill is passed the man who fired the rifle would be liable even if the bullet ricochetted off a rock and killed a man whom he had not seen. The only result would be that you could not use a rifle, and the sport of deer-stalking in these areas would cease, and that would mean that economically the country would become even a greater wilderness than it is to-day. In a deer forest there is another cause of disturbance besides the one of just frightening them by their seeing you in the distance or by walking on top of them. They move when they get the wind sometimes a mile off, and as they move small herds of deer attract other herds, and the more the deer get together the further they go before they stop. It is quite an easy 777 thing to clear a whole mountain or whole range of mountains if you go out in a wrong wind. When you have done that, if the wind remains in the same quarter for a few days, they go on moving, and it may be quite a long time before they come back.
I am afraid that so far my criticism has been mainly destructive. I suppose that in opposing a Bill one's criticism is bound to be destructive, but I will end with a note that is possibly a little more constructive. I said at the beginning that I had very considerable sympathy with hiking, but I do not expect to be believed, because it is a sort of set form when you get up to try and attack anything in this House, that you always seem to say, first of all, that you are sympathetic. But in this case it is a fact. There are very few people who appreciate open spaces more than the countryman, who is away from home and perhaps cooped up in town. I have often been that countryman. While I freely admit that I owe the best of my fun in the open air to horse and hound and to rod and gun, I can look back on many happy days which have been spent with nothing more lethal than a map and a walking-stick in my hand, and perhaps a pair of field glasses.
The hon. Member opposite referred to the history of this Bill and said it was 50 years old. I believe that that is correct, but I found on Sunday a reference to the Bill in a book by Mr. Bromley Davenport, published in 1885. It was apparently talked of some time before that, and it makes me wonder why it has such a long and unsuccessful history. I believe that it is really because the promoters, who perhaps came mostly from the towns, never in the past really tried to understand the difficulties of the problem which it presents to countrymen, farmers, landowners, shepherds, sportsmen and keepers. I think that on this occasion the Promoters are making a real attempt sympathetically to appreciate the point of view of these countrymen. I have given my reasons why I am afraid that I do not think they can succeed in quite altogether meeting that point of view inside the framework of this Bill, unless it is made of a somewhat more elastic material than I imagine. I believe, too, that agreement between all interests is very far from being impossible 778 if the spirit which has so far animated this debate continues.
§ 12.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Kingsley Griffith
I should like to join in congratulations of the admirable, contrasted speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Motion. The poetry of the first was reinforced by the pungency of the second. They made an admirable combination. I have no quarrel either with the manner of the two other speakers who moved and seconded the Amendment, but naturally, I cannot be equally sympathetic to the arguments which they put forward. On the literary side I should like to say to the Seconder of the Amendment that I do not think he really ought to call in Dr. Johnson as an authority on this matter.
§ Colonel Clarke
I quoted Dr. Johnson only because he visited the Highlands a few years after the Rebellion of 1745 which was the beginning of the changes in land tenure in Scotland, and which meant the coming into force of the English system of land tenure. That was my point.
§ Mr. Griffith
I may have misunderstood the hon. and gallant Member, but he need not take my objection too seriously. I only desire to say that Dr. Johnson was most obviously incapable of appreciating Highland scenery. A man who could refer to the highest and most dignified mountain in Scotland by the term "a considerable protuberance", is obviously lacking in the finer sense, and I am sure that the Seconder of the Motion would not like to be moving an Access to Protuberances Bill. I heard with great interest the cogent arguments of the hon. and gallant Member who Seconded the Amendment with regard to deer forests, and I was glad to hear him say that the difference in the point of view of the town dweller and the countryman was not final, and that it could be overcome. I hope that is so, but at the present moment there is a very big cleavage of opinion. I have been in some of the Highland Counties of Scotland and I found that it was practically impossible to move off the motor roads at all. Paths which were clearly marked on the ordnance map, and which invited one's straying feet, were closed. As soon as you set your foot upon them an extremely polite person would say "We want you to keep away from here as the deer have gone up to the 779 high ground to get away from the midges" That was exactly my point of view. I wanted to get on to the high ground for the same reason.
I appreciate the argument the hon. and gallant Member put forward as to the use to be made of this land, but at the present moment the position is that there are these colossal areas which are practically locked up at certain times of the year. It seems that, somehow, there has been a want of proportion in our national economy for such things to happen. Nobody can say that these great areas do not provide some amenities of a nature which cannot be bought in shops, and which the town dweller most earnestly desires. Then as to the bogy of land nationalisation. Quite seriously, and without wishing to give any offence, I have heard two speeches to-day which seemed to me to be going in the direction of land nationalisation, but they were not the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Motion but the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. I think we shall agree with the hon. and gallant Member that landowners do a great service to the community, but it is really only upon the basis of the services they render that their position as private owners of land can be retained. If in the exercise of their rights under the present law those rights are maintained rigidly, if nothing is given away, if at every gap in the fence and at every stile there is someone turning away those who want to get access to the open spaces, that would be a bigger step in the direction of land nationalisation than anything else could be.
I would urge those who are dissatisfied with the Bill in its present form to take a more constructive attitude. A good deal that has been said seems to me to be in the nature of Committee points. Surely the matter of bird sanctuaries can be safely provided for in the Bill or in some other special Bill. With regard to the penalties it may be that they are inadequate, it may be that every possible source of damage has not been dealt with, but they can be dealt with in the Committee stage, and hon. Members would be doing a great service by attending the Committee and pooling their brains with the Mover and Seconder of the Bill so as to produce a Bill which would avoid the evils which they deplore and at the same time give these great advantages, 780 the essential nature of which to the nation as a whole I am sure they realise as much as anybody else. If they will make a gesture of that kind they will improve the Bill and show that they are national Members, not sectional Members, as some ill-disposed persons might suggest.
§ 1.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Peake
We have listened to some excellent speeches from all sides of the House. I was very struck with the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Bill, and I must confess that I agree with almost everything they said. As a landowner and a sheep farmer, and as one who has the good fortune to have his home in the heart of the Yorkshire moors, I have given a close study to this question of public access to the moorlands. I do not agree with the general view running through the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Captain Heilgers) which was that the conflict of interests is between the sporting interests on the one hand and the interests of the community as a whole, on the other. I would go so far as to say that if that conflict in fact exists, the sporting interests must give way to the interests of the community. But I believe that the real issue and the important issue raised in this Bill, is between the great majority who have a real appreciation of country life, a reverence for natural beauty and a respect for rural amenities, and the minority who are thoughtless, inconsiderate and sometimes destructive of natural amenities. The problem with which the Bill has to deal is the problem of reconciling the natural and laudable desire of townspeople to enjoy the countryside, with that of the preservation of natural beauty in the interests of all. We see exactly the same problem, and we all recognise it, in regard to building. We know that towns-people nowadays want to live out in the country, and some of the buildings which they put up enhance the beauty of the landscape. On the other hand, we sometimes see horrors in asbestos, brick and even concrete. Anybody who knew the coast of the beautiful county of Sussex as it used to be a few years ago is possibly acquainted with a spot known as Pevensey Bay. While I do not wish to hurt the feelings of the doubtless worthy people who reside in those bungalows on the sea front there, I feel confident that if Pevensey Bay had been in 1066 what 781 it is now, William the Conqueror would have turned his helm about and set sail back for Normandy.
I appreciate most fully the desire of the general public to have access to the beauty of the moorlands. They should have it for the health and the pleasure which they can derive from it, and for the peace of mind and body which can be found amongst the moorland hills. I have given some practical proof of my sympathy with this desire. I mention this fact in no spirit of self-praise, but simply to explain to the House that I have given very close study to this problem. Three years ago, as my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Harvey) knows, I negotiated the purchase of an exceptionally beautiful area of moorland in the north-west corner of the Cleveland Hills, for transfer to the National Trust, and during the three years that that property has been under the National Trust, we have gained valuable experience of the habits of the general public, and the effect of public access on game and sheep. In my opinion game—grouse in particular—are very little effected by the presence of human beings.
§ Mr. Peake
Nor are the interests of the sheep farmer and the interests of the grazing rights adversely affected if the public behave in a reasonable manner.
These moorlands, to which access is sought by the Bill, have three values—amenity value, sporting value and grazing value, and there are three parties who have a right to be considered. There are the interest of the community as a whole, the interest of the landlord, and the interest of the sheep farmer. All these parties are equally interested in the amenity value of the moorlands. The sporting and grazing rights, on the other hand are, directly, only the interest of the landlord and the sheep farmer. In my view, all these three interests are complementary and not conflicting interests.
The work that is undertaken on behalf of sport and on behalf of sheep farming, such as the draining of the moors, the burning of the heather to a rotation, and the destruction of that noxious weed, bracken, are all in the interests of the community as a whole. That work enhances the beauty of the moors and makes what would otherwise be impene- 782 trable beds of bracken and swamp into country over which the public can pass. Nor do I believe that the general public as a whole are regarded in a hostile sense by the people who live amongst the moors. The people of the moors are hardy and independent and, especially at the present time, they are by no means enjoying prosperity. Sheep farming has never been worse than it is to-day, and I have never heard of a time when the dales people were so well off that they could refuse any little source of income that might come their way. There is many a farmer's wife who is only too pleased to supply teas, and glasses of milk, or sell her surplus butter, cheese or heather honey to the visitors who come to us during the summer.
It is, too, a good thing for agriculture that the people of the towns should come into the countryside and understand our difficulties and our problems. I do not believe that we shall ever get the public as a whole, wholeheartedly to assist the agricultural interests unless the common people understand the difficulties which agriculture has to face. I believe that the interests of the public, the landlord and the sheep farming tenants are by no means in conflict. That is to say, the interests of the landlord and the tenant are not in conflict with the interests of the community as a whole, but rather with the thoughtless and inconsiderate minority. Those are the people who leave our gates open, drop banana skins and broken glass, lop the lower branches off the trees and cut squares out of the beautiful green turf which lines the sides of the moorland roads. The people who do that deliberate damage are, however, few and far between.
The really great danger to the beauty of the moorlands and the interests of those who live there arises from accidental causes, that is to say from moorland fires. If by this Bill we could safeguard the position as regards moor fires, I should not be inclined to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill. Moor fires, as the Seconder of the Bill told us, are becoming more frequent and more disastrous year by year. That is a very grave problem for those who live in the countryside, and the damage which moor fires do is not confined to them. A charred and blackened desert is no longer a beauty spot, and the effects of a serious moor fire may continuo for many years. Once 783 the peat is on fire and the soil has been burnt away, you may get a complete desert for 25 or 30 years. That is the great problem we have to face. That is the problem which a handful of gamekeepers and shepherds have to deal with when the public want to go to the moors at the end of a long period of hot, dry weather in the summer.
Some sanction to prevent the disaster of moors being destroyed by fire is necessary. The promoters of the Bill would admit that that is so. Clause 3 attempts to provide some sanction to deal with that and one or two other problems, but, to my mind, the only effective sanction is the right at the period of danger—and in some summers no period of danger arises—it is only after a month, perhaps, of dry weather that that dangerous period ensues—is to tell people to go back. To my mind, a simple sanction, the power in certain circumstances to the gamekeeper or the shepherd to tell people to go back, is the most effective sanction; and I must confess that I cannot see how we can by regulation or by by-law draw up any sanction which would be as effective as the one which exists at the present time. It seems to me that if you are going to make regulations and by-laws, they will be complicated, and they will not be understood by the general public, and they will, in practice, turn out to be impossible to enforce.
I admit that at the present time there are a few cases where, perhaps through stupidity, the public are kept off moors to which they should and could be reasonably admitted. I believe that sort of thing is limited to a comparatively small number of cases, and I am afraid that by legislating against them, as is proposed in this Bill, we may be opening the gate to the wholesale destruction of large areas of moor by fire during dry periods in the summer, which would be a thing which those who are most pressing for this Bill would be the first to regret.
The other day there was a remarkable letter in the "Yorkshire Post" from the secretary of the Friends of the Lake District. He said that "the landowners had notably defended the beauty of that district during the last three or four generations." I rather believe that this Bill may render the task of the landlord, which is first and foremost to defend the 784 beauty of the countryside, more difficult than it is at the present time.
I believe, as my hon. and gallant Friend who seconded the Amendment suggested, there are other ways in which greater public access could be secured without taking the risks which would be run under this Bill. I can never understand why, in the North of England, rights of way are not signposted to anything like the same extent as they are in the South. There are over the moors which I know best many rights of way, but not a single signpost of any sort. National parks undoubtedly should be established, especially in those districts where a large population lives close at hand. In conclusion, I believe that, on the lines of signposting rights of way and the development of national parks, we could combine the preservation of natural beauty with reasonable opportunities for the recreation of mind and body amidst the hills and under the open skies, which is so necessary in the distracted and mechanical age in which we live.
§ 1.18 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Morgan
I feel that I am fortunate in following so sympathetic an approach to the Bill as we have just heard from the hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake). No doubt he knows my Division, the Doncaster area, particularly well, and I am sure that in addressing the House on this Bill, he had a sympathetic regard for that area.
I ask the indulgence of the House on the first occasion on which I address it, on a Measure which has been described by the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Captain Heilgers), who moved the Amendment, and the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) who seconded, as a sloppily devised Bill. I can imagine that this epithet has been applied to almost every Bill of this nature which has been submitted to the House. I gathered from the very close argument developed by the hon. Member for North Leeds, however, that he has only one objection to the Bill, and he foresaw no difficulty in dealing with it on the Committee stage, provided that we could safeguard, not the landlords—and I was glad to hear this—but the beauties and amenities against vandalism and against people who are liable to destroy them—and who, incidentally, are open to education, but 785 can never be educated in this respect until there are open to them the facilities for doing the very things about which hon. Members opposite have complained.
I am certain that the Government Front Bench must be well disposed towards this Bill, in view of the responsibilities which the House has increasingly placed upon certain Departments to awaken on the part of young people a desire for fitness, bringing in its train an inevitable moving out to the open spaces still available to us in our land. If the Government are to offer the facilities that will accomplish the end which they have in view, they must find—as the aerodrome authorities have already found, and as the War Office have found, since Salisbury Plain was inadequate for their business—access to wider spaces, to mountains and moors for the large numbers of people who are to be stimulated in this way by the Government's activities. I am inclined to take the Government's line seriously; I think that on this matter they mean business on the Government Benches. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) say that if hon. Members opposite are afraid that any encroachment on property rights, however slight, will be a hook on which to hang land nationalisation then they might be advised to compromise with us on this Bill. It has always been good Conservative policy to know when to compromise in the interests of a larger principle. If hon. Members opposite really want to prevent young people from advocating land nationalisation, they ought to give these young people rights that are within sight in this Measure; for otherwise the young people will instinctively and inevitably turn to these Benches and to a main principle for which we stand, as the only hope of getting that access to rural amenities to which in these days they begin to think they are entitled.
Hon. Members on these Benches are satisfied that the adequate safeguards for which hon. Members opposite ask can be given. I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead. He comes from a district which I know well, for I have enjoyed and still enjoy the loveliness of the county of Sussex, which was referred to by him. I still hold property there. We also heard an interesting speech from the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. 786 Edmunds. I reside in one of the most delightful villages which I know in this country, a village on the border of his own county. I am as concerned about this matter as the hon. and gallant Members, but I feel that they have been inconsistent in their argument. It is insistent in their argument. It is inconsistent to say, on the one hand, that there is no great demand for that which this Bill seeks to provide and, on the other hand, to speak of a hypothetical large scale of damage that is going to be done. How could the scale of damage which they contemplated be done if there was no likelihood of large numbers of people taking advantage of the increased facilities promised by this Bill? Actually if I were a countryman—and I speak as a man who has farmed—I could have built up a greater case against huntsmen than the hon. and gallant Members put up against the possible invasion of the sanctuaries and privileges of shooting parties by ramblers and others. But I a m not here to state the case against huntsmen, I will simply mention how, on wet days, the heavy fields are stodged down, and gates are left open so that animals get loose, and farmers have to search for them for miles. I advance that argument only in order that the hon. and gallant Member opposite may balance it against the arguments which he has used in favour of shooting rights and similar privileges.
What are we asking for in this Bill? Hon. Members opposite have stated a case in favour of resistance to this Measure on the ground that the facilities for which it asks are already given by a considerable number of good landlords. That is precisely our case. All we are asking is that what the good landlords have found reasonable and possible should be made available generally to the public by all landlords. Reference has been made already to the manner in which facilities have been availed of in certain attractive territories in the North-East of Yorkshire. When the general public have been admitted to those territories they have, on the whole, behaved surprisingly well considering the novelty of the contacts which they were making with the country. One is confident that the more the people know the country the more they will treasure it, the more they will themselves become the guardians of its beauties and amenities. I feel sure that as an increas- 787 ing number of townspeople are brought into contact with the beauties of the country, they will themselves become the defenders of its amenities. I see as the biggest problem before the countryside to-day the gulf which exists between town and country. I see a problem which affects not only farming but other aspects of country life, in the fact that nine out of ten of our people to-day live in the towns, many of them with an ache in their hearts for the country, but baulked of all facilities for making any contacts with that country. I want to extend those facilities.
I had no intention of speaking on this Bill when I came into the House this morning. I was disposed to wait for the opportunities and possibilities of the Milk Bill before addressing the House for the first time, but the privilege of speaking on that Bill has been withdrawn for the time being. Finding a disposition among hon. Members opposite to help in promoting the effectiveness of this Bill, I hope to be able in future to commemorate this day, as the day on which I made my maiden speech and the occasion on which all sides of the House united to meet this 50-year old demand. It is 50 years ago since this matter was first brought to the attention of the House, but there is no argument against the Bill in that fact. I daresay there are many women to-day who could tell us about the fight for votes for women which began quite as long ago as 50 years. A right hon. Member of this House presided last night at a function where testimony was paid to the work of a woman who started 50 years ago to advance the cause of good housing. Reforms are often won after generations of effort, and there is no argument for a further postponement of this reform, in the fact that the first Bill was presented 50 years ago. Rather is it an argument for accepting the Bill at this hour, when we are on the eve of probably the greatest movement towards the countryside, inspired both from reactions against urbanism as well as from Government departments, that we have ever witnessed.
I make a final appeal to hon. Members opposite on that ground. Could not the great property-owning and landed interests, focused in this House, make a gesture to-day by accepting the principle 788 of this Measure? They are assured of adequate safeguards. The Bill cannot be carried through its Committee stage without the support of hon. Members on the Government benches. There will be adequate protection for their interests. Can they not make a gesture to the rising mass of young people who are turning their eyes to the countryside to-day, though many of them are now three generations removed from the countryside? The industrial revolution is petering out, and our industrialist people are harking back to the countryside. Will hon. Members opposite not make that gesture for which I appeal, and give us this Bill?
§ 1.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Wakefield
May I be allowed to congratulate the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. J. Morgan) who has in his maiden speech made such a powerful appeal for unanimity in favour of this Bill. The hon. Member, obviously, spoke from the heart. He has given us information of a very valuable kind from his own practical experience, and I hope that we shall hear him on many future occasions, and that he may make many equally valuable contributions to our Debates. I speak this morning as one who has an interest in property in the Lake District, an area where townspeople love to roam at holiday times. I also speak as an enthusiastic supporter of the national fitness movemen who wants greater facilities given to our young people to walk through the countryside, to keep themselves fit and healthy and to enjoy the beauties of mountain, river and stream, and that scenery which, I believe, this country alone can display. I congratulate the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) on the impartial way in which he introduced the Bill, and I support what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) about the Lake District. I was brought up in that district. As a boy and as a young man I enjoyed roaming over its moors and hills, and I would like to see the facilities which I enjoyed in the Lake District extended to other areas which at present do not possess them.
We are fortunate in the Lake District in having very few restrictions, but it is clear that this Bill would not be introduced and supported unless there was some real grievance felt in various parts of the country. There are parts of the 789 country, close to industrial centres, which are closed to access now, but which ought to be open to the young people who live in those industrial centres. It should not be beyond the ability of the House to devise ways and means of enabling people to enjoy those facilities while at the same time satisfying the objections which my hon. Friends on this side have quite properly stated. I thought the hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) stated the position admirably, and with everything he said I whole-heartedly agree. I do not think there is any real conflict between the landlords and their sporting interests on one side, and the community on the other. Every one of us who has any sort of sporting instinct in his heart must wish all the young people of this country to have facilities for enjoying open air and scenic beauty. We have to try and see how we can attain this objective, which I think is desired on all sides of the House. The hon. Member for North Leeds pointed out the real difficulty and stumbling block, which, as all who have had experience in this matter realise, is that of fires on our moors. The great majority of people are only too anxious to avoid causing any destruction to property or doing anything which would create these fires and at the same time make these beautiful places desolate, but unfortunately fires and destruction take place through ignorance. We have, therefore, to try and see how we can remove that ignorance as people desire more and more to walk and ramble and roam over our countryside. I do not believe that that is outside the scope of our ability, and I hope that this House, having listened to the arguments from all sides, will at any rate permit the Bill to be discussed in Committee.
The principle of access to mountain tops and to places which I think the public have a right to enjoy, to the beautiful scenery and the beautiful views which you can alone obtain from a mountain top, should be given an opportunity to be thrashed out in Committee. If it is not possible to obtain in Committee satisfactory safeguards, then the Bill fails to go through, but I do not see why it should not be possible to shape the Bill and to put it into a form which will be acceptable to everyone. I do not think, for example, there is any need to touch those districts which have already been described, such as the Lake 790 District, where people are now free to roam. Incidentally, I am glad to see that the Forestry Commissioners have realised the error of their ways and are now seeing to it that proper access is given to the mountain tops; we are grateful to them for that.
I think ways and means might be found to overcome the difficulties. Suppose a Schedule were attached to this Bill, of areas and places close to towns to which the public really want access, leaving out some of those large spaces and open areas, far away from urban populations, where perhaps very few people will want to walk. Reference was made, for example, to parts of East Anglia. I do not know how many people want to go walking in East Anglia. There is no great city or town near by, and perhaps those areas could be excluded, but there must be a number of areas close to cities and towns where young people could walk. Let us make a start, at any rate, and, instead of turning the Bill aside, try out the suggestion that I am trying to make on the constructive side. Have a schedule of a number of these areas in Derbyshire and the Peak District perhaps, close to cities and towns, and make some arrangement whereby access to those places can be given to people living in the towns, we hope without damage to the local authorities. We all realise that water must not be polluted, but let us try, for an experimental period of five years if you like, giving access to those places, and leave places such as the Lake District free at present.
In that way you will not antagonise landlords' interests, and there will be a definite expression of good will towards those walking and rambling associations which we on the National Fitness Council are doing all that we can to encourage, because there is no better way of contradicting the ill-effects of sitting and tending a machine than to get young people out into the open, to walk and enjoy their week-ends in the sunshine and air. We on the National Fitness Council are doing all that we can to encourage the erection of hostels and to see whether it is not possible to give cheaper transport facilities from the towns to these areas, for the young people to be able to enjoy those facilities, but it is not much use our trying to do that if the young people are prevented from getting to those very places, and I feel that we ought to carry out 791 the traditions of this country, which are those of compromise, in this matter.
I feel too that this Bill has not been introduced in any party spirit or, shall I say, any nationalisation-of-land spirit or anything of that kind. I think we can keep the party spirit out of a Bill of this description, and I really feel that if only the Bill is allowed to be given a Second Reading, the principle can be approved in a very general and wide sense, and the Bill can go to Committee, where perhaps we can overcome the objections that have quite properly been stated. I hope that in some way we may try to make those spots which at present are inaccessible more easily available to the people, and particularly the young people of this country, whose health it is so important for us to safeguard.
At the present time there are, I think, 2,500,000 adolescents in this country, and if the present social tendencies continue, there will only be half that number in our time. How important it is that this young life be given the very best opportunity to preserve its health and to widen its knowledge. That can be done by its being brought closer to nature and the countryside. Quantity is declining. Let us do our best to make up for this decline in quantity by an increase in quality. The best way in which we can bring back the qualities of the countryside to that third generation to which the hon. Member opposite referred is, I think, for all of us, even if it may mean some self-sacrifice on the part of some of us, to do what we can to help the decline in the numbers of youth in this country, at any rate to make up that decline in number by an increase in quality. There is no better way in which we in this House can do that than by giving every possible opportunity for our young people to enjoy the beauties of the open air, the moorland, the mountains, the heather, and the bracken, which I have had the privilege and pleasure of enjoying all my life in the Lake District. I therefore ask hon. Members to do what they can to support the principle of the Bill and to let us thrash it out in Committee.
§ 1.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Marshall
I am sure we are all very grateful to the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) for the general 792 support which he has given to the principle of this Bill, which we rather expected. His fame in sport and his interest in the National Fitness Campaign both fit him to judge of the merits of a Bill of this character. As the Debate goes on, one feels that we are gradually reaching some measure of agreement on the Bill. I listened very carefully to the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, and one could not, by any stretch of the imagination, say that they were violently opposed to the Bill. They put forward certain arguments and took refuge behind the local authorities and water catchment areas. On the whole, however, I think they felt that they were fighting a losing battle in this matter and that the 30 years' agitation that has gone on has had some effect even on their minds. The Mover of the Amendment spoke about the economic aspect. I do not know whether he wanted to suggest that 200 or 300 brace of grouse were more valuable to the country than 800 or 900 head of sheep.
§ Captain Heilgers
One thing that makes a really good sheep run is a grouse run. A moor which has not had grouse on it and is then turned into a grouse moor produces much more feed for sheep.
§ Mr. Marshall
I admit that. There is nothing inconsistent between sheep and grouse. One sees both on the Derbyshire moors. The Corporation of Sheffield bought a moor and handed it over to the public, and another moor was given by that great benefactor, Mr. J. G. Graves. If my information is correct, there are as many grouse on those moors to-day, now that they are open to the public, as there were when they were private propery. The Seconder of the Amendment talked about disturbing sheep. These mountain sheep do not want much disturbing. Those I have seen would be good candidates for the Grand National. They can bolt over walls and jump and skip about, and there is very little danger of damage being done to them.
Again, the hon. and gallant Gentleman took refuge behind the evident desire of water undertakings to protect the catchment areas. That is another problem, but, as one who has served for a long time on a local authority, I think that this argument is rather overdrawn. It would be quite possible to introduce safeguards into this Bill that would entirely protect 793 the catchment areas of the local authorities. Water engineers are not particularly noted for their rambling propensities, not so far as their feet are concerned and they are naturally anxious to keep the sources of water pure and undefiled. I am sure that proper safeguards could be put into the Bill that would be consistent with greater opportunities for rambling over the water catchment areas. The Seconder of the Amendment talked about the destruction of private property. As a rambler and as one who has at intervals spent many years in that pleasant occupation, it is difficult for me to see what damage can he done on moorlands, unless a person wants to throw a few stones about, and that is not what the rambler wants to do. He wants to go to the highest points and see the loveliness of his own country. Nobody is more concerned than he is to do the decent thing and to prevent anyone who has the tendency from inflicting damage on any amenities that moorland or mountains may possess.
Some anxiety was expressed by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment about the possible destruction of bird life and the stealing of eggs. I read some years ago a book by W. H. Hudson, the great naturalist and he bewailed the fact that on these great open spaces what were really lacking were great birds that had been completely destroyed. These had not been destroyed by ramblers. They had been destroyed by gamekeepers. I read only the other day of where a rare bird was found in the country and the gamekeepers were not satisfied until they had shot it. The extinction of these birds has been brought about by the landowners themselves to the regret of everyone who loves bird life. In regard to fires, again, many which have raged during the autumn this year have been on private property where the public have not had access. We all want to combine to try and prevent these fires, whether on private or public property. A fire on moorland or in forest is a devastating thing and everyone will want to combine to prevent them. The Mover and Seconder of the Amendment felt that they were fighting a losing battle and the quality and tone of their speeches seemed to indicate that they would probably not be against giving this Bill a Second Reading. I hope that at the end of the discussion they will be generous enough to withdraw their opposition. Similar 794 Bills have been rejected many times, but that fact will not deter this Bill being brought forward again and again if it should be rejected to-day.
Beautiful and lovely scenery has not only an aesthetic value. It has a definite spiritual and moral value. One who is in the habit of contemplating England's natural beauty is a better man and citizen for doing it. There is no form of recreation—and I speak from experience—which brings such a measure of content both to mind and body as a ramble among the hills and the pleasant places of this island. I read the Debate of 1908, and it seemed to me that the issue there was, deer forests versus the enjoyment of the public. My knowledge of Scotland is not very extensive, but, living on the borders of Derbyshire, I can claim intimate knowledge of the Derbyshire moorland. The Peak District is not very extensive and yet it contains some of the most varied and lovely scenery in this land. It is a combination of gritstone edges, heather-clad moorlands and limestone dales, with lovely rivers running through the valleys. It contains such wonderful gems as Monsaldale, Lathkill Dale, Dovedale, with its associations with Isaac Walton who wrote the "Compleat Angler," and Manifold Valley. Its archaeological interest is also very great.
The remarkable thing about the Peak District is that it is situated right on the fringe of the greatest industrial belt in this country. A look at the map will show how precious it is to the great industrial populations of such towns as Manchester, Sheffield, Stockport, Rotherham, Barnsley, Hyde, Stalybridge, Stoke-on-Trent, Oldham, Glossop, Chesterfield and Alfreton, all of which are within a short distance. Yet there are vast areas in that district locked up from access to the great industrial populations of these towns. Like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher), I have trespassed over many of these moorlands. The two highest peaks in that district, Kinderscout and Bleaklow, and others of less elevations are locked, bolted and barred to the general public. One is entitled to ask, What for? The only thing that can be placed against it is grouse. It is grouse versus human beings. Hon. Members opposite talk about sporting rights and about grouse. Who eats the 795 grouse? The working men of Sheffield do not eat the grouse. They have a grouse, of course, but it is a mental grouse.
It is a scandal and a shame that this country should have allowed a sport of this character to stand in the way of enjoyment for the vast industrial population of those towns. I know Sheffield pretty intimately. It is a city which has rendered incalculable service to this country both in times of war and in times of peace. It has also made enormous sacrifices. After the War it was left with an imported population of 30,000 who all went on unemployment benefit or on public assistance. When it had to convert its swords into ploughshares Sheffield was left with this great imported population, and the Government left Sheffield in the lurch. Sheffield is a very famous town, and its fame rests upon many factors, the most important, perhaps, being the skill and the marvellous craftsmanship of its workers. Many of the industrial processes are heavy and exhaustive, calling forth the greatest physical and mental powers from those engaged in them. Men who stand and toil before the vast furnaces in blinding heat, smelt and pour the steel, fashion, hammer, and roll it into all kinds of useful articles, from the tiny razor blades to the great blocks of armour which line the sides of the great Leviathans of war, are absolutely precious to this country. The service they have given to it is incalculable. These men stand behind this Bill. They are the men who will carry on that wonderful craftsmanship and they are not content to spend their week-ends in places where they can see nothing but the belching smoke of factory chimneys. They ask for the national right to see the lovely spots of our land.
What has this House said to them? With incredible ingratitude this House has said, "No, you will disturb the grouse." The House has mumbled something about private property and the damage they will do to the gritstone rocks. And the owners have said "No." They have said, in effect, "We are having a few gentlemen from London for a shooting party for a day or two for the glorious twelfth, and therefore we must close the moors for twelve months, and anyone found on them will be summoned 796 for trespassing." They have put up their miserable little boards "Trespassers will be prosecuted," which really deface the eternal hils, and are at once an insult and a challenge to the youth of these great industrial centres. I put the position at its worst probably, but I am convinced from my knowledge of Sheffield that there is an ever-growing demand behind a Bill of this kind. I can remember that 30 years ago, when I used to belong to a rambling club, there were possibly no more than two or three rambling clubs in the whole district. To-day there are 40 clubs associated with chapels and churches and independent clubs also. Every week the railway companies take thousands of these people out to the very heart of Derbyshire, but when they get there they are denied the right to go on the top of the hills. I say that is an awful scandal and that the House ought to embrace the first opportunity of ending it.
Opponents of the Bill have spoken about the National Trust. We can all pay tribute to the wonderful work of the National Trust. They are opening out some of the lovely spots of the land, but that is not enough. We can also pay tribute to towns which are establishing green belts, but green belts can never serve the purpose which this Bill is designed to serve. We should also pay tribute to those who have made splendid private bequests. There is Dovedale, for instance, and all that Mr. MacDougall has done in Dovedale. The House ought to thank such wonderful benefactors for their praiseworthy efforts to preserve some of the loveliest corners of our land. We should pay tribute, also, to J. G. Graves, that great Sheffield citizen who has given many acres both of moorland and parkland to the city. That, again, is not enough. The adolescents of this country require something greater.
We are initiating a great effort to secure national fitness. Certain Members opposite think that a few drills on the parade ground or in a school yard will induce that physical well being we all want to see. I think it was a Greek who said that the ideal man was the one who had a healthy mind in a healthy body, and yet we allow that healthy mind to be created by the enthusiastic contemplation of asphalte and mucky bricks and mortar on parade grounds and in 797 school yards. This Bill provides the House with an opportunity to adopt a method of achieving national fitness that will need no drill sergeants or appeals to patriotism but will go forward by its own momentum. If the House wants the youthful generation to be thoughtful and balanced give them access to the wide open spaces. If it desires to encourage a healthy and a rational patriotism, a love of their country, give them a right to enjoy their country. If it wants them to be healthy and fit in mind and body, give them the opportunity of wandering among the lovely places, and that will be I he greatest and the noblest contribution this House can make towards the ideal of national fitness.
§ 2.3 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Clifton Brown
I wish to say a few words in this Debate which, we must all recognise, has been conducted at a high level. My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) has said that the principles of this Bill ought to be acceptable to all of us. For myself, I am a little vague as to what those principles are. If they are concerned with increasing the opportunities for exercise and encouraging physical fitness, I am quite sure that he is right, but as I read the Bill—and it is such a vague Bill that I can hardly pretend to know what it does mean—and as I listened to some parts of the speech of the hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. Marshall), I began to feel that the principles underlying the Bill were to down private property and to nationalise the land. If that is so, then I should oppose the Bill; but if in Committee we can reconcile our views with doing what is good for the youth of the country, I shall he very glad to consider any suggestions which the Mover of the Bill puts forward to improve the Bill and give him my help to make it a good Bill. In its present form not only is the Bill badly drafted, but it can mean anything or it can mean nothing.
The Mover that said that as far as the South Downs are concerned—and that is my part of the country—they had no complaints to make as to the liberty of people to wander over the Downs. If they have had no such complaints, what is the use of the Bill? I have heard complaints from the South Downs farmers who find that the dewponds which are necessary 798 for their sheep are interfered with by hikers, who make camps and whose children get into the water and paddle about so that you cannot keep the sheep there in the summer. We want to make sure by Amendment in Committee that the agricultural rights of owners of sheep and cattle are not interfered with as they are at present on the moors and on the downlands.
What do the promoters of the Bill mean by "uncultivated downland"? What is the definition of "mountain"? There ought to be a Clause in the Bill saying what these things mean. Much of the property where I live seems to come within this provision regarding uncultivated downland and mountain. Again, how high has a hill to be before it becomes a mountain? I suggest to the hon. Members who moved and seconded the Second Reading that they need a clear definition Clause in the Bill. We have to be careful to do as little damage as possible. As far as I can gather, the Bill is almost entirely for the benefit of the young townsmen. I wonder whether the Mover or Seconder have inquired of agricultural landowners or farmers in Scotland or England whether they would rather have hikers with their hostels and everything else, or the grouse shooters during a short time of the year? My impression is that the men who come for a short time every year for the sport pay four or five times as much as they would if that sport were interfered with to any considerable extent by hikers and their hostels, which would ruin the sport.
I am not going to assert that to allow a reasonable latitude to hikers to go over the moors would kill all the sport, but I say that you are going to create a certain amount of unemployment if the facility is used to the full. When we are bringing in Bills the party opposite frequently tells us that we are creating unemployment. I ask them this morning whether they are sure that they are not doing the same. I believe that a great deal of unemployment would be caused all over England and Scotland if the proposals of the Bill were carried into law. I was saying just now to a friend of mine who was arguing the point, that we have to consider not only the hikers, who are a class we certainly want to help, but a great many people who now go out, after having formed a kind of syndicate, and get a little shooting. There are, perhaps, as 799 many who go shooting now as there are who go hiking, and I want to be fair to both classes. We have to consider very carefully whether we might, for instance, not throw out of employment thousands of persons who are in business now as cartridge makers. You may do more damage than good.
I should like to see clearly defined the proposals to exempt plantations of young trees. I have a few acres on which I grow trees, and I keep foresters to do the work, but there is very serious danger of fire. The example of the Forestry Commissioners, who lose numbers of trees by burning every year, shows what the danger is. The hon. Member who opened the Debate said he never heard of private landowners' loss through fire; well, I can tell him of my own experience. I have lost hundreds of thousands of trees and the loss has been of such an extent that I have wondered whether forestry is worth going on with. I am not blaming the hikers for all those fires, but in certain places I have had to put up wire fences and notices saying that the land is private, although I have not tremendous forests or plantations of trees. What do hon. Members mean by "young trees?" A plantation of young oak will be 50 years old, but a plantation of larch or spruce may not be more than 15 years old. This is a Commitee point but, like the point about fires, it is of vital importance if you are asking the country to consider the hiker. The water undertakings of local authorities have already been referred to, and the point can no doubt be met by Amendment, but the matter is of outstanding importance to the health of the people in the country.
I am afraid that unless the Bill is altered a good deal it may interfere with negotiations which are already going on with the big estate and landowners, and smaller men also, in regard to planning schemes. It is a bad time to bring in a Bill of this sort, not only from the point of view of the planning authorities but from that of the footpaths and commons societies whose point of view is being favourably considered by landowners' associations? Every effort is being made to reach agreement, and I should be very sorry if something were to cut across arrangements which are being made to keep rights of way open with fairness to both sides. We have to see 800 that in a Bill like this we do not tread on the toes of the associations who are doing very nearly the same kind of thing and with whom we get on quite well. I do not agree with hon. Members opposite who have said that the shutting up of England is due to the landowners. I appreciate the more generous and fair view of the mover and seconder of the Bill in recognising what these associations are doing in meeting the landowners. The best idea in planning rural England is to make it usable by the people in the towns, as has been done by the older landowners.
In the country we—not only landowners but agricultural labourers—feel that the towns are very often unfair in their attitude towards us. We are only too glad to do what we can to help them, but when we ask the towns to buy agricultural produce and to pay a reasonable price to enable us to keep our labourers I think it is up to the townsmen to remember that we do not always get the help for which we ask. We should be fairly treated. We are glad to do what we can to make rural England a place not only for the villager and the people who live there, but also for those who live in the towns. It is all very well for an hon. Member opposite to laugh. I know he has always been "down" on the landowner and the countryside. The country has its rights as well as the towns and the more we can settle these matters in a fair way the better it will be.
§ 2.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie
The main argument against the Bill so far is that it is badly drafted. That difficulty can easily be put right in Committee. Therefore, I hope that the appeal made by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) will not fall on deaf ears, but that from all parts of the House will come co-operation to improve the Bill during the Committee stage. A good deal has been said about the damage that is likely to be done with respect to grouse. A prominent landowner who participated in the B.B.C. broadcast on "The Freedom of the Moors" in October, 1935, asserted that you cannot have ramblers and grouse. The facts are that on much frequented moors, such as the Ilkley Moors, the years 1933 and 1934 yielded record bags; and on the Longshaw and Blacka Moors, near Sheffield, to which the public have access, the grouse were reported to be more 801 plentiful. Then another writer declares that where the grouse are scarce the scarcity is due to a disease among the birds and also due to overstocking the moors and interfering with natural conditions. So that I do not think that hikers can be blamed if there is a shortage of grouse. An hon. Member said that recently he had read a book dealing with Highland clearances and deer forests. I know something about the Highland clearances. I recommend the hon. Member to read McLeod's "Gloomy Memories". The people of the Highlands were evicted in the dead of winter; their homes were committed to flames, and children were born and died on the open moors. The hon. Member said that these deer forests were fit for deer and nothing more. Let me remind him that out of 3,500,000 acres of deer forests, 2,000,000 acres were once cultivated land.
§ Mr. Radford
My hon. Friend said that one-third of the deer forest area was fit only for deer forest, and that fits in with these figures.
§ Mr. Leslie
This Bill has been before the House on more than one occasion. At one time the Bill was confined to Scotland. No doubt the reason was that Scotland has the finest scenery outside Switzerland. Another time England was included, and that no doubt was because of the beauties of the Lake District of Cumberland. The present Bill covers a much wider area and I understand includes Wales, or at least North Wales. In Scotland to-day no fewer than 5,500 square miles are devoted to blood sports, and with the migration of people from the rural areas to the towns there is undoubtedly a growing need to provide them with opportunities for breathing the fresh air of the country. In recent years hiking has appealed to a growing number of young people. It is a form of recreation that ought to be encouraged. Better far to spend a day in the country than a day in a public house or cinema. No country except Britain puts up barriers to prevent people enjoying themselves freely on mountain or moor. Switzerland, Italy, Germany, France and the Scandinavian countries advertise their attractions, and visitors are welcomed to the mountain regions. The selfishness of landlordism, in Scotland in particular, has become proverbial. Scottish land- 802 lords welcome the foreign invader so as to obtain from him a ransom price for a few weeks' shooting. Prior to the 1745 rebellion the Highland chiefs held the land in trust for the people. After that rebellion the curse of landlordism was inflicted upon the Highlands. First, we had evictions to make way for sheep, and then later to make way for deer. I am not going to assert that all landlords are bad.
§ Mr. Leslie
Let me tell one story. A Captain Barclay, a one-time famous athlete, one morning found a tinker grazing a donkey on part of his land. The captain seized the donkey and threw it over a hedge. The tinker in his turn also seized the donkey and threw it back again. The captain challenged the tinker to a wrestling match, and the tinker got the fall. Because of that Captain Barclay thereupon gave the tinker free grazing on his estate. He at any rate was not a very bad landlord. The objection hitherto to free access to mountain moors has been due to a fear that the hiker might scare the game, but the Bill provides ample protection in that respect. The fact is that in the more mountainous areas people are inclined to adhere to well-defined paths rather than run the risk of being lost in the mountain mists. One objection raised to a similar Bill was that people would fly kites or play concertinas or make a noise that would frighten the game, but nowadays the game must be used to noises of aeroplanes. Prior to every holiday we know that the B.B.C. renders good service in appealing to people to refrain from littering public paths with paper and other refuse. The Bill imposes a penalty upon persons guilty of such conduct. The Government have given their blessing to the physical fitness campaign. Here is a Bill calculated to encourage physical fitness, and I hope and trust that from every quarter of the House it will be supported. Let the Bill go to a Committee, and if there is any part of the Bill that calls for alteration it can there be remedied.
§ 2.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Donner
I should like to pay my tribute to the moderate manner in which the Mover and Seconder of the Bill put their case. I am one of those who believe that it would perhaps be a good thing if 803 the Bill were considered in Committee; but I share the apprehension which was so exceedingly well expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake). This is a Bill which does contain certain aspects and problems which it will be very difficult to deal with or amend in Committee. I should like to place before the House for its consideration a few observations with regard to the difficulties I have in mind, and, if any hon. Member can relieve my doubts and tell me where I am wrong, or convince me that my objections or the difficulties I envisage are insubstantial, I shall be only too glad.
The Mover of the Bill asked the House to endorse the principle of it, and no doubt a great many hon. Members will sympathise with the principle that the public should have greater access to mountains and moorlands. But I would point out with all respect that that is not the only principle which the Bill involves. The second principle which it involves is, surely, the establishment of a right on the part of the general public to roam without let or hindrance across certain types of private property. While a great many people would sympathise with the first principle, I think that a great many more people would not sympathise at all with the second.
Something has been said during the course of the Debate about the demand for this Bill, but I do not believe that the public entertain any general sense of frustration in this regard. For my part, I have never yet been told to leave any moor or mountain that I have climbed, and I have climbed many, and I do not think it is true to say that there is any great demand for this the first principle which underlies the Bill. On the contrary, I believe that the great majority of landowners are very reasonable people, and that they are prepared, and rightly prepared, to give access to certain parts of their property at those times of the year when the public are not likely to cause damage. Therefore it seems to me that to set up the whole machinery of an Act of Parliament for the sake of dealing with a minority of landowners who are not reasonable is like using a battleaxe or sledge-hammer to crack a very small nut. After all, it is one thing to establish a custom whereby people are allowed to 804 climb mountains and roam over moors with the permission of the landowners concerned, but it is quite a different thing to establish the principle that they have the right to do these things. That, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds, would make it impossible for a gamekeeper or a shepherd to draw the attention of the public to the fact that at the particular time in question they might do great damage.
The damage that I have uppermost in mind is not damage to sport or anything of that nature, but the danger of fire. You cannot provide satisfactory legislation or regulations that people must not go on moorlands at certain times of the year. It might be quite safe to go in August in one year, and very dangerous to go in August the following year. We are told that it is only a minority of the public who do any damage, and I do not quarrel with that statement at all, but how much damage is it not possible for a small minority to do? If someone carelessly throws a cigarette end into the heather on a warm August day after a long drought, that one piece of thoughtlessness may do thousands of pounds' worth of damage; and the only people who are really capable of telling the public when they should not go on to moorlands are the shepherds and the gamekeepers. Nothing is easier than to state a case with an apparently desirable aim, but which only when it is examined reveals disadvantages which wholly outweigh the advantages.
I said at the beginning that many of us sympathise with the principle that there should be greater access to down-lands and mountains, but the House should consider whether it is possible to translate this ideal into practice without injury to that very public interest which the Bill professes to serve. Is it to be done at the price of gross interference with the owners of certain kinds of property? I would not like to subject a minority of landowners to discrimination when it is generally admitted that the majority have done nothing to deserve the discrimination contemplated in this Bill. The Mover of the Bill, in his very moderate and reasonable speech, drew attention to its defects, and I would like to say something on that point, because I believe that, unless the Bill receives the drastic amendment which, in my opinion, it will require, it will have unjust and 805 lamentable results. I do not want to base my objections on any ludicrous argument. It might be said that, while Scott, the explorer, crowned the South Pole with the Union Jack, we may witness every mountain top in the United Kingdom crowned with a bin placed there under the auspices of the anti-litter league.
My hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown), drew attention to the necessity for a much closer definition of what constitutes a mountain. Dr. Johnson, to whom reference has been made, described a mountain as "a considerable protuberance." I can quite well imagine an urban hiker in shorts, or the shorter shorts referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher), might regard a hill as a "considerable protuberance," and as one coming within the scope of the Bill, whereas the farmer on the spot would regard it as no more than a gentle undulation of the ground, and would be very surprised to hear that his land was affected by the Bill. Therefore, a much closer definition is required.
I come now to what, to my mind, and I hope hon. Members opposite will agree with me, is one of the most fundamental objections to the Bill, particularly if it is to apply to Wales. The Bill is being brought in at a time when Professor Stapledon is carrying out most valuable experiments to improve grasslands, with the result that sheep are grazing to-day at levels and heights considered impossible hitherto. Farmers are doing their best to improve such grasslands, to redeem the land, often at great cost, in places considerably above sea level. Bracken and heather are being removed, and a great effort is being made to-day and on a considerable scale. We hear speeches about the necessity of improving the fertility of the soil, and yet this is the moment chosen to introduce this Bill. Surely there should be some safeguard to ensure that, where sheep are grazing on lands that are considerably above the level of the sea, these experiments shall not be jeopardised. An hon. Member opposite referred to the question of disturbing sheep. We are dealing here with a Bill which contemplates the arrival of hikers in large numbers, not from the countryside but from the towns. I think hon. Members will agree with me that urban 806 people have not the same experience of the countryside as the people who live there, and it is very easy for damage to be done when you get a number of people walking at large on the land, and who leave gates open, not wantonly but through ignorance, with the result that cattle and sheep stray all over the place. These points may be Committee points, but I submit that they are points of some substance, and they will have to be very carefully considered during the Committee stage.
Again, Clause 1 of the Bill penalises the owner of moorland. If the Bill passes into law, it will establish the principle that the general public have a right to roam over land which nevertheless the present owner may have bought as private property, at a price higher than he would have paid had it not possessed the privacy which he at present enjoys but which this Bill will take from him. Therefore, I think the question of compensation should be considered. We also read in Clause 1 that people will be allowed to roam about "for purposes of recreation." That may mean anything. I do not want to use the sporting argument, because it has been used already this afternoon, and I think that perhaps too much significance has been attached to it, but certainly if, say, football matches by boys are to be allowed on the grounds that they constitute recreation, great damage will accrue.
We now come to the most important clause of all, Clause 3 because it contains the safeguards. Clause 3 is really no more than window-dressing. I think it is accurate to describe it as most uncandid and dishonest, because it is uncandid and dishonest to lay down wide prohibitions which you cannot possibly enforce. This Bill is intended to apply to large tracts of moorland, where it would be quite impossible to bring home responsibility to offenders when damage has been committed. Hon. Members, I think, realised it when I was speaking just now of the immensity of the damage that could be done by fire. On the Committee stage this question of safeguards and compensation in connection with Clause 3 will have to be very carefully considered. One hon. Member has mentioned the burden of supervision and cleaning up which is to be placed on the owner. If the owner has no keeper 807 now, he will have to employ one, as a result of this Bill becoming law. Even then, the keeper would not be a policeman. He could not arrest people. He would not even have the right to ask for the names and addresses of people causing damage. Even if he is given a name and address, how does he know it is the right one; and even if he gets the right one, how can he prove that these were the people who did the damage? Therefore, it seems to me that fines for damage done are never likely to be imposed. Again, I think that the Bill is badly drafted, but that could be put right on the Committee stage. Clause 4 says:Nothing in this Act shall apply—(a) to any land actually occupied and enjoyed as a park or pleasure ground in connection with and in proximity to a dwelling-house.…Does that mean that if a house is unoccupied temporarily, or for a year or two, there will be established a practice whereby the public can walk all over the place, and that, when the house is again occupied, this advantage to which they have been accustomed will be taken away from them? If so, and the public are accustomed to certain privileges and advantages a very real grievance will be created when these are denied them at the time when the house is once more occupied. Reference is made to land "in proximity to a dwelling house." The wording is ludicrous. What does "proximity" mean? Does it mean too yards or a quarter of a mile from a dwelling house? These matters could be argued in court.
Lastly, I would draw attention to a point which, I think, has not been made so far. This Bill affects all the farmers who may be living around the mountains or downlands concerned. If there is no right of way now there will be a demand for it. The question of compensation must again be considered in this respect. Then, there are certain aspects which I think I may accurately describe as being worse than nationalisation; because in a scheme of nationalisation of the land compensation would be provided for, whereas here discrimination is made, apparently without compensation, against a certain type of landowners, merely because they happen to be a minority. In a free 808 country, we should not lightly discriminate against individuals merely because they happen to be a minority, and they should not be penalised merely on account of their environment. I hope that hon. Members, when this Bill reaches the Committee stage, will consider the effect firstly on the people who live around the mountains, and secondly, on such experiments, which I think hon. Members will agree are most useful, as are now being carried on by Professor Stapledon. Everything should be done to ensure that the unfair incidence of the present Bill is removed, and that the question of compensation is very carefully considered. I must confess that I think the dangers and injustices inherent in the Bill are very difficult to deal with on the Committee stage. Having given expression to them, I would like to say sincerely but with little hope that my objections can be met when they and the Bill are considered in detail.
§ 2.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I was very interested in the way in which the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Donner) dealt with the problem of minorities. There were two minorities that he dealt with. The first was the minority of landowners. No disability should be placed on any landowner, because of this minority. Then he dealt with the fact, generally admitted throughout the Debate, that damage and inconvenience are caused by a minority of the ramblers, and, because of that, he is opposed to anything being done for the vast majority of people who behave themselves quite well.
§ Mr. Donner
I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent me. All I am anxious to secure is that proper safeguards shall be included in the Bill whereby the owners shall receive compensation for any damage done.
§ Mr. Ede
If that is all the hon. Member wants, I do not think he should do other than vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, because, quite clearly, that and the majority of the other points he raised were Committee points, which cannot be dealt with unless the Bill gets a Second Reading. I support the Bill because when I started to explore the parts of England away from the South of the Thames I was appalled to find the limited amount of access that anyone has in the North of England as compared with 809 Surrey and Sussex. In Surrey we have 9,000 footpaths. I have met some who say they have walked over every footpath in Surrey. I do not believe that, because 9,000 footpaths take some walking over; and when you compare that, in a county which is only 700 square miles in area, with the kind of availability that one finds in the Peak District and other districts of great natural beauty and interest, it becomes plain that the London townsman has a great deal more access to the countryside than the townsman in the great industrial districts of the Midlands and the North. In these days it is exceedingly desirable that we should afford to the townsman not only an opportunity of making himself practically acquainted not merely with the beauties that can be seen from the valleys or from the urban districts when he looks across the rural scene, but actual contact with the remoter parts of the country.
If the game laws of 100 years ago had never been passed this difficulty would never have arisen. It is still very largely a question of the preservation of game that causes the problem to arise in the moorland areas. We were so busy making appeals a couple of months ago that we ought to realise that it is very difficult for many people to feel that the call that their country needs them means very much when they are kept off so large a part of the more beautiful parts of the countryside to which no great damage could be done by allowing them to traverse it.
I admit that there is the difficulty with regard to fire, and especially that it is more urgent in some years than in others. It would be quite possible on the Committee stage, if there is a genuine desire on the part of both sides of the House to meet the situation that has arisen, for the county councils to be given powers to declare in certain years or certain seasons that access to certain land should be prohibited. I am quite sure that if access were general, and the people who desired the access could be assured that some impartial body would deal with the question of denying access at certain times and seasons, that denial would be accepted. I put that forward as a perfectly reasonable way of dealing with this matter. Anyone who is a member of a county council will know that during recent years the county councils them- 810 selves have been very seriously concerned by the problems of heath and moorland fires, and I sincerely hope that that suggestion may be considered on the Committee stage.
It would be a very welcome gesture, and one that the opponents of this Bill might consider, to withdraw the opposition at this stage and allow the Bill, which has been before the House for over 50 years, to get the benefit of a Committee consideration. I have not heard anything in the course of the debate which is not properly a Committee point. When we get down to the practical details, it may be impossible to meet all the objections that have been raised, but unless we try to meet them on both sides in a fair spirit of accommodation we cannot say where the impossibilities lie. The hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier General Brown) mentioned that at the moment there are negotiations going on between the Central Landowners' Association and the Commons, Paths and Open Spaces Preservation Society. I think that these negotiations would be helped by the practical consideration that would have to be given to this Measure on the Committee stage. After 50 years of introduction and rejection of this Bill, and when it is becoming quite clear that public opinion is growing more and more in favour of something on the lines of this Bill, surely if we give a Committee stage this year which would next year result in a Bill not very far from an agreed Measure being introduced, the time this year will have been exceedingly well spent.
I frequently go out on the Sunday rambles organised by the Southern Railway and I know of nothing more exhilarating even when there are 700 or 800 people on these rambles. On one occasion, I recall, there were 1,600 people who went on one of these downland rambles, which was said to be a midnight ramble to Chanctonbury Ring to see the sunrise, but, unfortunately, the clouds were so thick we could not see the moon, and they remained so long that we did not see the sunrise. At any rate, everybody had a thoroughly healthy experience. When you think of 1,600 people, mainly young people, being willing to give up the greater part of a weekend to an open-air excursion of that kind it should be very encouraging to those who sometimes lament that the young people 811 of this country watch rather than do physical exercises. The one thing I should have thought that would encourage that movement would be the passing of this Bill and the opening up of some parts of the country that are not at the moment accessible.
I believe, as has been admitted on the other side, we are dealing only with a very small minority of landlords in this matter. I regret that sometimes a certain minority of landlords take a line which I am quite sure is inimical to their own interests as well as to the interests of the community. I recall walking along a footpath and being stopped by a gamekeeper who asked me if I knew that I was on private land, and I said "Yes, what about it?" He said, "My only instructions are to ask you if you know that you are on private land". I said, "Does it not occur to you that we should not call it a public footpath unless it was on private land", and he replied, "I know nothing about that, Sir. My job is to ask the people who come here, do they know that they are on private land." I said, "I suppose that every one of them has turned back," and he replied, "Yes, every one except you, Sir." That kind of spirit is not the way to secure good feeling between the general public and the landowner. It is an abuse of the ignorance of the person who is legitimately using the footpath, and I am quite sure it would not be defended in public by any landowner.
I suggest that this Bill has now reached the stage in public controversy when we should be w ell advised to submit it to the detailed consideration of a Committee of this House. If that consideration does not satisfy the opponents, they have still the Report stage, and the Third Reading, and some of them have even got another place which has never been regarded as being unmindful of the landlords' interests. I hope, therefore, that this afternoon the opponents of the Bill, in view of the fact that they have not really advanced arguments of principles but criticisms of detail, will consider whether it would not be the best start for a really accommodating consideration in Committee to give the Bill an unopposed Second Reading, in the hope that we may be able to hammer out something that will be satisfactory to both sides.
§ 2.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Raikes
I should like to identify myself with what the hon. Gentleman, the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), has said, as it seems to me that all through this Debate we have been playing about on very narrow limits. I recognise the advantages of shooting as much as any hon. Member in this House, and I do not believe for one moment that a Bill of this character, and the Amendments that can be made in it, can seriously interfere with the sporting activities of this country, and if we make certain small sacrifices to the common good, I can see no reason why we should not be prepared to do so. There is, however, a danger in regard to fires. It has been the principal danger which has been raised by the other side, but I presume that the hon. Member who has introduced the Measure will be prepared to collaborate as far as he possibly can on that issue. The real difficulty, if you take the moors of Scotland, for example, is that while, for the greater part of the year, they are safe for everybody to go over, there is a period, it may be a short period in August, when it is dangerous to do so, and one does require some power to prevent people running undue risks by going on to the moors at such a time. More than that, I am going to congratulate the hon. Member on having produced rather a Tory Bill. It seems to me that he has consciously or unconsciously tried to deal with the problem in a way which, in my view, is not entirely satisfactory either to hikers, to landowners or to the public.
The law of trespass is the most vague law you can find. In the ordinary trespass a number of persons go on to land in a perfectly harmless way. They are warned off, and they go off. In point of fact, I doubt very much whether any damage could be proved. But what happens is that the innocent hiker is turned off while the salted old scoundrel, who knows the law, just goes somewhere else, and if he means to do harm he does. My own view is that if the Bill is passed you are going to give landlords certain powers which they have never had before. I do not think anyone will wish to deny them these powers if they are used for the good of the community. I think they will be. I am so seldom in favour of a Bill which is produced by hon. Members above the Gangway that I hope the House will allow me to go on for a 813 moment more. In Clause 3 you have one of the most valuable advantages which you can possibly have in regard to damage, and that is that a person entering upon land of this character accompanied by a dog, and I presume a dog which is loose, knows that by so doing he is committing an offence. Any trouble that is caused in the way of damage on land is caused at breeding time, and if you have loose dogs running about they may do a tremendous amount of damage before a gamekeeper comes along. Here you have the safeguard, that the man knows perfectly well that if he has a loose dog running about he is committing an offence, and I think that a provision of that character will do something to protect game where it is not protected at the present time.
Again, I do not think that in Committee hon. Members in charge of the Bill will be inclined to insist upon a 40s. fine being imposed in the case of a fire and also for some minor offences. I think we can very easily tackle the question of fire in Committee. It is also to be an offence to drive a vehicle or to leave a liquor bottle; and that is a great advance on the present situation. It is all very well to say that the urban population have no experience of the countryside. How on earth are they ever going to get it unless we give them an opportunity of learning the beauties of the country as we know them ourselves? For my part I have great pleasure in giving warm support to the Bill.
§ 3 p.m.
§ Mr. Price
I entirely agree with what has been said by the hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) as to the damage which is done at breeding time by loose dogs roaming over the country. I remember when shooting over some country in the North one or two years ago that the owner organised a man hunt right in the middle of the breeding season and we had the best bag in that year for many years—indication that the presence of human beings on the ground is not a serious deterrent in the breeding season. But dogs, on the other hand, are dangerous not only to birds in the breeding season but to all wild life. The Bill will tighten up the law in this respect and make it possible for wild life to be protected to a greater extent than it has been hitherto. It has been mentioned 814 in the Debate that my constituency, the Forest of Dean, is to be made into a national forest park. We in the Forest of Dean have had access to the amenities of the Forest for many generations. The foresters have seen to it that they have acquired this right in spite of the opposition of the owners of the forest, Kings in the old days, arid later the Office of Works and now the Forestry Commissioners. Access to the open forest has been acquired by my constituents and is very jealously retained so that the actual fact that the Forest of Dean is to be made into a national forest park will make no alteration in the present position.
Hon. Members have stressed the great danger of forest fires. We know what fires mean in the Forest of Dean. There is an old regulation, made in the last century, whereby the Crown and now the Forestry Commissioners enclose a certain amount of land every year for young trees, but they must reopen a certain amount of land elsewhere, and the proportion must be strictly observed. Some regulation of that kind is possible under the Bill. Where there is a will there is a way. If there is good will on all sides an arrangement of that kind can be easily put into the Bill. Of course the Forestry Commisioners and private owners must protect their young plantations. The public must be confined to certain lines in young plantations, to certain paths, indeed, in dry times they must even be excluded from certain areas. I was in a national forestry park last August and found that the Forestry Commissioners had confined the public to certain very definite paths at certain times of the year because of the fear of forest fires which is always greatest at certain times of the year.
An hon. Member has referred to the definition of a young plantation as a matter which can be gone into in Committee. Why confine it only to young plantations, and exactly what is a young plantation? A young plantation of conifers is far more combustible and is likely to be more dangerous for a much longer period than a plantation of young hardwoods. That is a matter which can be considered. The Bill does not mean that the public will have a right to walk on any forest land in the lowlands of England as one hon. Member seemed to suggest. It says "uncultivated down- 815 land" and by implication I suppose it means cliffs and foreshore to which the public are often excluded, wrongly I think. But that is a matter which, again, the Committee can consider. I am not only concerned with access to mountains and moorlands. I want to see that the beautiful scenery in the South of England, the Downs, the foreshore and the cliffs in Cornwall and Devon are not excluded from the public. Under the Law of Property Act, 1925, about 125,000 acres of common land are dealt with in the way this Bill proposes. At the present time the private owners who are lords of the manor of this area of common have asked the Ministry of Agriculture that this property shall come under this Act giving public access to these commons and power to the Ministry of Agriculture, after consultation with the owners, to make regulations for the control of the public, in the way of preventing litter and general damage to the property. This Bill would do no more than apply on a much wider scale the same principle as we have in that Act.
I confess that I have been agreeably surprised by the amount of general agreement on all sides of the House on this Bill. Similar Bills have been considered by the House over a long period of years, but they have never got very far. Surely, something should be done now. Many hon. Members have emphasised the fact that the country must be better understood by those who live in the towns. I feel most strongly that unless the urban dwellers get access to the countryside, as is proposed in this Bill, they will never really appreciate the beauties and the value of the countryside, and never understand the difficulties which the countrymen have in dealing with their problems; and we shall never get that co-operation between town and country which would be of such advantage to everybody in the State.
§ 3.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris
I wish to draw the attention of the House to a point which has not been touched upon by hon. Members who have spoken. It is a fact that the House repeatedly makes Statutes and unmakes them. Some are good and some are bad; surprisingly few have been bad during the last seven years. But when the House tackles common law, as 816 it is doing to-day, it is right that it should, to use the old Scottish expression, "gang very warily." To-day, we are going right to the root of the law of trespass on land. It may well be said that this is a law which should be tackled by the legislature, as it is an extremely unsatisfactory law from the point of view both of landowners and trespassers; but this Bill does not help us in any way. I draw the attention of hon. Members to Clause 2 of the Bill, which reads:In any action or other proceeding at the instance of any owner or occupier of uncultivated mountain or moor land, founded on alleged trespass, it shall be a sufficient defence that the lands referred to were uncultivated mountain or moor land, that the defendant entered thereon only for the purposes of recreation or of scientific or artistic study, and that no special damage resulted from the alleged trespass.If this provision is passed into law, then away goes the rule of trespass ab initio; for the provision makes it quite clear that if a person enters the land with a perfectly right intention, and then when he is there changes his mind and commits some damage, he will not be liable, as he now is, under the rule of trespass ab initio, for that damage. Again, in Clause 1 a person is allowed to be on landfor the purposes of recreation or scientific or artistic study.A point that certainly would have to be tackled in Committee is exactly what recreation is, and what scientific or artistic study is. If I may say so without offending hon. Members opposite, I think that the Bill, as it stands now, is utterly useless. I do not say that in any carping spirit, for like many other hon. Members on this side and in other parts of the House, I am most anxious that the public should have reasonable access to the mountains and moors of this country. If the Bill is given a Second Reading and goes to Committee, I suggest that it will be necessary entirely to alter the Bill. I suggest that it would be much better not to play about with the law of trespass, but to move the whole matter into the law of licence with regard to land. In that way, the mountains and moors could be made available to the public at certain times of the year by the ordinary law of licence, and could be closed at other times, and if people entered them at such times, they would be committing trespass as we know it at the present time.
817 If the matter is tackled purely on the lines laid down in the Bill, we shall entirely alter the whole law of trespass. I suggest that such a matter could be much better dealt with by the Government, and that a committee ought to be set up first to examine the law of trespass, which is not a proper matter to be dealt with by private Members. If this Bill is given a Second Reading—and all of us agree with the principle of it—I sincerely hope we shall not delve into the labyrinth of trouble into which the law of trespass undoubtedly would bring us, and the labyrinth of trouble into which the courts of justice would be brought if we dealt with the matter in this way.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
I think I shall be expressing the sense of the House if I congratulate the Mover and Seconder of the Motion, on the reasonableness and moderation with which they have recommended the Second Reading of this Bill. We are to-day discussing a very important subject. Hiking, at any rate in my view, is a great recreation and a very healthy recreation. Many of us in this House know its value and delight in it and I am not ashamed to say that I am a hiker myself. There is this point to be considered. We all know that after work of the sort in which we in this House are engaged, it is a real pleasure and relief to be able to take a quiet walk among natural surroundings in the country. But we have to remember that those who are not Members of Parliament, who work in the offices, factories and workshops of our great cities, although they may not be engaged in quite the same kind of work as that which we do here, are subject to the same stresses of modern urban civilisation and get exactly the same relief and pleasure from quiet country walks. The real question which we are discussing to-day is how to provide proper facilities for the working population and others to indulge in this very good and healthy type of recreation. I would like to point out, too, that this movement is an important part of the great fitness campaign which is taking place in the country at present. Games also form a very important part of it but my own view is that although games may be important, we ought not to under-estimate the possibilities of country walks. 818 I would like the House to regard it from another point of view. During the past week we have been discussing the Criminal Justice Bill and many people, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury)—whose statement I referred to and largely agreed with in my speech last night,—have expressed the view that lack of proper outlet in the lives of many people is one of the causes of delinquency and particularly of juvenile delinquency. During the last week we have been considering negative checks and methods of reclaiming people who are beginning to get on to the wrong path. But equally, and perhaps even more important, is the provision of positive outlets for healthy initiative, and one may say, a certain sense of adventure. Therefore, we want to see hiking encouraged. But there are difficulties and those difficulties have been very much in our minds to-day. I think I can sum them up fairly well by giving the House an illustration of an experience of an early and not undistinguished hiker. It is said that Dr. Jowett himself climbed to the top of a hill in the neighbourhood of Glenshiel one day in the last century and was met by the irate owner of the land. Although I do not wish to indulge in any un-Parliamentary expression I think I am entitled to repeat to the House the language of a Peer of Parliament—for such was the owner—when he greeted Dr. Jowett by saying, "Who the hell are you?" Dr. Jowett had to reply "I am the Reverend Benjamin Jowett. I hope I have done nothing illegal." That is the crux of the problem which we are discussing.
I ought to say a word about the considerable development which has taken place in recent years in providing practical facilities for hiking. What I have particularly in mind is that wonderful experiment of recent years, the National Trust. They have a very considerable number of properties which are now available to hikers. For example, they have 3,000 acres on Scawfell in the Lake District, they have Selworthy Beacon and about 6,000 acres on Exmoor," they have the Longshaw property of moorland near Sheffield, they have Dunkery Beacon, another 1,800 acres of moorland, they have Coniston Water, they have Aberglaslyn Pass, and indeed, they have 300 other properties; and the Scottish National Trust have, of course, the celebrated 819 district of Glencoe, where thousands of tourists and hikers go every year.
We also ought to note that the Forestry Commissioners have in many instances adopted a very progressive policy in enabling access to be obtained to properties under their control. Though there has been some controversy on this matter to-day, I think too that many private owners have in fact adopted a very reasonable attitude to this problem, and I confess that I was interested and indeed moved by the appeal which the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) made to what he described as the sportsmanship of the gentlemen of England in this matter. I would like to reinforce that appeal to landowners to consider whether they cannot give reasonable facilities for this very healthy recreation for the working lads of our country in proper circumstances.
But we have to deal with this Bill, and here I must say at once, because we have to deal with the matter practically, that in our view it is a bad Bill. It is badly drafted, and it suffers from two particular defects. There is no proper definition of land that could be reasonably enforced in an Act of Parliament, and it does not provide any proper redress for the landowner in respect of abuses that may be suffered by admitting people on to land, and that must be properly provided for in any legislation on this subject. As a matter of fact, I think I can say that it is common ground that considerable improvements are necessary in the Bill, and, indeed, I must do the hon. Gentleman the Mover the justice to mention that he said that he was prepared to consider substantial Amendments in the Bill. He particularly mentioned the possibility of following the precedent of Section 193 of the Law of Property Act, 1925, and it is a fact that the powers given under that Section have been working quite well in the limited time during which they have been in operation. It may well be that the proper line of advance is in that direction.
I would rather like to tell the House that in fact negotiations are going on at the present time between the Central Landowners' Association and the Land Union on the one side and the Commons and Open Spaces and Footpaths Preservation Society on the other hand, who 820 have been in touch with the ramblers' associations. These negotiations, I understand, are proceeding along the lines mentioned by the hon. Gentleman in his' speech when moving the Second Reading of the Bill. Further, I understand that these negotiations, while, of course, they have only just been opened, show considerable chances of success, and indeed their object is to produce proposals upon which an agreed Bill might be based. I understand, for example, that with regard to one of the land associations, it was only the week before last that they finally agreed to take part in the negotiations. I think that the fact of these negotiations does raise a strictly practical point for the House, and I wish to state the alternatives as I see them.
One possible alternative is to take the view that, as these negotiations are proceeding, it would be better to allow this Bill to lapse and to enable the negotiations to proceed with a view to a Bill coming forward on the basis of an agreement reached in the future. There is the other view which the House might wish to take. It might wish to pass the Bill and hope that negotiations might proceed sufficiently fast to enable an agreement to be incorporated in the Committee stage. The situation is not too easy because it was only in the week before last that one of the land associations came into the negotiations, which have therefore only just started, and a question will arise whether it is physically possible for the negotiations to take place sufficiently fast to be incorporated in the Committee stage of the Bill. I think it would be for the promoters to consider, in the event of a Second Reading, how this problem can be solved, and whether it will be sufficient for them in these circumstances to defer slightly the consideration of the Bill in Committee with a view to allowing the negotiations to come to a point. That, of course, is not a responsibility of mine. I am endeavouring to give the House an objective account of the position as I see it. Having done that, and stated the attitude of the Government and the view of the Government that this Bill is a bad Bill, I leave the matter to a free decision of hon. Members.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalton
We have had this afternoon a very interesting and valuable 821 discussion, and I do not think I can remember a Debate in the comparatively brief period of a Friday in which there has been so much eloquence, wit and wisdom displayed by successive speakers. It began with the eloquent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech-Jones) and was followed by the witty speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher), and other speakers who made balanced contributions. The Under-Secretary has left the decision to the House and has made a reference, which I should like to take up, to negotiations which are now proceeding between the Central Land Owners' Association and the Land Union, on the one hand, and Sir Lawrence Chubb and others representing the Commons and Footpaths Preservation Society on the other. We are glad that negotiations of that sort are proceeding because a negotiated settlement would be obviously preferable to one imposed by a majority vote. None the less I am strongly of opinion that the success of those negotiations will be assisted rather than otherwise if this House indicates—even more if it indicates without a Division—that the general principle of this Bill commends itself to hon. Members in all parts of the Chamber. I think it would create an appropriate atmosphere for negotiations and I should hope that it would have the effect of speeding them up towards an agreed and reasonable settlement.
Speaking as one hiker to another, I greatly appreciated the observations of the Under-Secretary, even though they were rather guarded, as was proper; and although he is over the average age, and I am much older still, we do need to remember that the real demand for this Measure comes from the younger generation. My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley handed me after he had finished his speech a telegram from the Secretary of the Ramblers' Federation to him saying:Thousands stand silently behind you hoping that great need will be recognised irrespective of party success.I am sure that is typical of the feeling of large numbers of young people in the country. I have received a Resolution, which other hon. Members have no doubt seen, from the national executive of the 822 Youth Hostels' Association, which is one of the keypoints of the whole national fitness movement. It is on those young people that the Bill if it passes—and I will say a word in a moment about the form of the Bill—will confer great benefits of health and recreation.
It has been made clear by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley that the promoters of the Bill are perfectly willing, if it goes to Committee, to examine with a completely open mind any Amendments which may be suggested. We are in no way committed to the exact words in the Bill, and no doubt hon. Members will be able in Committee, and afterwards on Report stage, to assist in putting the Bill into such a form that any legitimate objections that may be raised to the present draft can be overcome. I take up two examples only of suggestions from hon. Members opposite which seem to me very reasonable and may well be further examined.
There was a suggestion made by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield), whose speech we all welcome, that one might, perhaps, have a schedule in the Bill indicating certain areas where wider rights of access might properly be granted as compared with other areas, such as those sylvan haunts in the constituency of the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Captain Heilgers), where there is both less demand for peaceful walking, whether down lovers' lanes or other tracks, and perhaps somewhat greater objection than in those wide areas around Kinder Scout and the Peak District, which are so close to great massed urban populations, and yet so unduly closed to them. I think that suggestion of a schedule of areas to which wider rights of access than the ordinary might be granted might turn out to be a very valuable contribution to the redrafting of the Bill. The hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) made an observation, with which I am wholly in accord, namely, that persons who light fires which spread and cause damage whether to trees or to heath or moorland ought not to be treated with undue leniency. I do not suppose that my hon. Friend, the Member for Shipley, would have any opposition in principle to tightening up penalties against persons who negligently cause damage through fire. Taking it by and large, the Debate this afternoon has 823 drawn a number of practical suggestions from all parts of the House, and they can well be examined in Committee.
Reference was made by the Under-Secretary to the experience obtained by the National Trust and the Forestry Commission in their national forests and parks of the extent to which they can safely and without grave damage permit wide rights of access to places of duty. Their experience is very valuable, and wholly endorses the argument that has been put forward that people who have been condemned, in this decadent, over-urbanised civilisation of ours to live cut off from the country, can learn how to enjoy, appreciate and respect the country only by experience, and by the power to learn those things by becoming acquainted with that which has hitherto been denied to them.
The general run of the Debate has been such as to encourage us to hope that the House will give a Second Reading to the Bill. Negotiations are proceeding, and I repeat that, taking full account of what the Under-Secretary of State has said, it is the view of my hon. Friends and myself that the negotiations will he much encouraged and stimulated rather than retarded if this House should accept the Second Reading of the Bill this afternoon; on the clear understanding that it will be open in Committee to reconsideration in respect of all sorts of details which have been suggested. We may hope that the outcome of this afternoon's Debate will be that a long step forward will be taken in the campaign for physical fitness with which the hon. Member for Swindon dealt so emphatically, and with the opening up of new possibilities of joy and healthful exercise for great numbers of people, particularly the young generation of this country, who at present have only a too-meagre restriction of their happiness. I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading and permit it to go for consideration to the Committee.
§ 3.37 p.m.
Mr. Vyvyan Adams
I would briefly support what has just been said. In his extremely sympathetic speech the Under-Secretary of State described this Bill as a bad Bill. Is it a badness of detail or of principle? I think the House of Commons this afternoon has merely to decide whether it values the principle of 824 the Bill. If it does, perhaps the Motion for the rejection could be withdrawn and the Second Reading agreed to without a division. If, on the other hand, it is contended that there is a serious division of opinion, by all means let us divide and carry the Bill on Second reading. I suggest that there can be no dispute about the principle of the Bill. I have been here continuously since 11.20 this morning and never, during a Second Reading Debate, have I heard so much attention paid to details by the opponents of any Bill. I have always understood that the correct stage in which to consider details was the Committee stage and not the Second Reading. I can only infer that the House as a whole feels that the broad principle of the Bill is incontestable.
If any Member of my party has any lingering doubts in his mind on this subject I would commend to his attention what was said earlier in the Debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield). He has always been an asset to the open air. He referred to the young people of this country; I remember my hon. Friend as a young person of the country, a good many years ago now, when he was a gorgeous, formidable spectacle in light blue and white, destroying a darker opposition as effectively as he to-day destroyed the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Capt. Heilgers) who sat beside him—although in those days a good deal less gently. At one moment I thought he was going to hand off the hon. and gallant Member and I was glad that, although I was spiritually on his side, I was not physically beside him. I hope that the hon. Members, one of whom has gone from his immediate vicinity, recognise the personal jeopardy in which they were during the speech of the hon. Member for Swindon.
It has always been agreeable and convenient to me to be able to agree with my immediate neighbour the hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake). I agreed with him to-day when, at the beginning of a speech which I greatly admired, he administered a rebuke to the Mover of the Amendment. But I would like to congratulate the Mover of the Amendment because he exhibited to-day extraordinary intellectual agility. He made a speech which with great respect I would say would have been substantially out of date when this question 825 was last discussed in the year of our Lord 1908. He said, for example, that there is no public demand for the principle of this Bill. There may not be any public demand from Bury St. Edmunds—that hive of industry. My hon. and gallant Friend represents a part of East Anglia in which, incidentally, I was born; but let him go north and then he may be able more accurately to assess the need for fresh air in those densely populated areas.
§ Captain Heilgers
My hon. Friend does me an injustice. I did say that there was no demand for the Bill in Bury St. Edmonds, and that is quite true; but I also mentioned that I was not conversant with the West Riding and was quite ready to believe that there was a demand for the Bill there.
As far as I recollect my hon. and gallant Friend—of course we can judge to-morrow from the OFFICIAL REPORT—he in fact said there was no public demand for this Bill, and it was upon that statement that I thought he based the major structure of his argument. My hon. and gallant Friend clearly must be in favour of a kind of vocational representation. When he has introduced into this House a system of Soviets I have no doubt that my hon. and gallant Friend will appear as the representative of the game-keeping industry, with a simultaneous solicitude for the poaching profession.
§ Captain Heilgers
I would remind my hon. Friend that a poacher turned gamekeeper makes the best game-keeper of all.
I am glad to hear that my hon. and gallant Friend takes such an optimistic view of the future of the countryside. But with equal intellectual courage he set up what he was pleased to call the "shooting interest" against the need of millions. I can assure him that it is a real need. I have received many communications from the populous area part of which I have the honour to represent. My hon. and gallant Friend sets up the shooting interests against the need of millions of industrial workers to escape from drabness, monotony and gloom and to realise the natural treasures of our country. Never have I heard such an audacious, or witnessed so unblushing, an opposition of sectional interest to the general good. If it is complained, as it 826 has been complained to-day, that this Bill would in some respects be too sweeping, we can easily modify it in Committee and see that the interests of guns, gamekeepers and poachers, about which my hon. and gallant Friend is so solicitous, are adequately safeguarded.
I suggest that we want facilities given to our youth fully to appreciate the physical beauties of this country. Therefore, I think I may have the audacity to say that it is reasonable to regard any opposition to the broad principles of the Bill as an emotion which is lacking in unselfishness and patriotism. One of the deepest excitements conceivable in this island is, I think, the thrill conveyed from the summits of Snowdon and Cader Idris. Above the foothills of these mountains the territory is unrestricted. But seldom have I been so irritated—my hon. Friends who know me well will agree that that is saying a great deal—as when I once set out to walk to the summit of the Peak in Derbyshire and found my progress early ended by barbed wire. There was no use for me to try to be treated as a guest, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) suggested, because it happened that at this particular point there was no human habitation in sight. The moment of time was in the month of June and what conceivable sense or excuse could there be in wiring off this vast and beautiful area?
Like other hon. Members, when I go for a holiday, I happen to be able to go further afield, to Wales or Scotland or perhaps even to Switzerland. But how often, I would ask—and this is the core of the matter—can the young factory worker in a great centre of population go to Scotland or to Switzerland? Such people have to spend their working lives in Lancashire or the West Riding. There is no possibility under this Bill, I assure its critics and opponents, of democratic multitudes blackening hitherto inaccessible mountain tops, because the areas involved are too vast for that. There is no question of Socialism here. It is a matter merely of the national interest.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Duncan
The hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. J. Morgan) suggested that we should give a unanimous Second Reading to this Bill, in order to ensure that the principle of the Bill was understood 827 and agreed by Members of all parties in the House. I rise to make sure what that principle is, because more than one principle has been enunciated to-day by hon. Members on one side of the House and the other, and I want to be quite sure what principle I am going to support. If it is merely the principle that the young people of this country should have more opportunity for getting into the open air for recreation, artistic study and the rest, I think we shall all be agreed in giving the Bill a unanimous Second Reading. It has been suggested that it is the thin edge of nationalisation, and, if that be so, I do not think the House would agree to a unanimous Second Reading.
§ Mr. Dalton
May I point out, with respect, that that suggestion was made, not from this side of the House, but from the other side?
§ Mr. Duncan
I have already said that it has emanated from various parts of the House. I want to know, before I vote, exactly what principle I am voting for. If it is the thin edge of nationalisation, or if it is an infringement on the private rights of property owners, as has also been suggested in another quarter, I could not vote for it; but on the understanding that the principle underlying the Bill is that we in this House will do everything we can to encourage greater access to the open spaces of this country, to encourage the Government's "Keep Fit" programme, and to strike a blow for greater positive health among all sections of the people, then I think the whole House will be unanimous in agreeing to give the Bill a Second Reading. I think the House will the more generously desire to help the Mover of the Bill when we remember the sentence of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) to the effect that he and his friends desire to keep a completely open mind on the Clauses of the Bill, because I, in common with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, think it is a bad Bill as it stands, and must be drastically amended if it is to be a really workmanlike Measure.
I am a layman, but I happen to be familiar with the law of Scotland even more than with that of England, and I do not think there has been any mention to-day of the differences between the law in Scotland and in England. One hon. Member said 828 he had been to a youth hostel in Scotland, and had seen notices all over the place to the effect that you must not go to the back of the hostel, that you must not go to the side of the hostel, but that you must keep to the path. In Scotland, however, as I understand the matter as a layman, there is no law of trespass at all; you must prove damage. Anyone can wander over any mountains, moorlands or cultivated lands in Scotland, and, provided that no damage is done, there is no law of trespass. In Scotland, if damage is done the only remedy the landlord or occupier of the land has is to get an interdict against the individual who has done the damage, and, if a whole body of people do the damage, to get an interdict against each of them. That is a very lengthy and complicated process. In any amendment of this particular law, it seems that there is ground for some alteration making it easier to protect the genuine amenities of the district, and improving the law generally. In addition, upon the person who has committed the damage this interdict is, or can be, permanent; and if somebody trespasses on a piece of ground and does damage and an interdict is obtained against him, never again is he allowed on that land. He can be turned off at any time. That seems a little hard on the individual, and amendment of the law in that respect for Scotland would be desirable.
§ Mr. Lloyd
It is true that the Bill does apply in terms to Scotland, although I think it was not introduced or backed by any Scottish Member. In the circumstances it will be necessary if the Bill gets a Second Reading, to examine it very carefully in the light of Scottish practice and Scottish law.
§ Mr. Duncan
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that assurance. In England there is a law of trespass, and it seems to me, speaking as a Scotsman, that the law of England equally needs amendment. But the Amendment suggested in the Bill does away with the law of trespass altogether. It has been said more than once to-day that there are occasions when, in the interests of the amenities of the district and to prevent fire or to protect plantations of trees or for other reasons, some sanction is needed against walking or trespassing on certain pieces of land. The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has a great deal of experience of 829 the commons of Surrey, and I am sure he will understand when I take, as an example, a common like Walton Heath, which so often in the spring is blackened for the whole year by a fire raging during a particularly dry period. That sort of thing must be dealt with by prohibition during certain parts of the year. It is no good having a fixed closed season. So much depends on the weather or the season. Neither is it possible to lay down a prohibition on national lines. It must be on local lines.
§ Mr. Duncan
I recognise that, and I hope it will be taken into consideration. Therefore, I think that the negotiations which are going on between the interests concerned are the right line of approach to this matter; and if the hon. Gentleman will delay the further stages of the Bill until time has been allowed for these negotiations to proceed—and, I hope, proceed to a satisfactory conclusion—it may yet be found possible to get this Bill through its Third Reading in an agreed manner.
§ Captain Heilgers
In view of the assurances of the promoters of the Bill that their sole purpose is to promote national fitness and their promise of reasonable Amendments on the Committee stage, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.