§ 12.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Turton
I beg to move, in page 3, line 8, to leave out "other than sheep walks or cliff."
From my point of view this is one of the most dangerous parts of the Bill. The framework of Clause 2 is a definition of the kinds of land which the Minister is to class as being exempted from the provisions of the Bill. Land which, in his opinion, is agricultural land, is to be exempted subject to these two exceptions, namely, sheep walks or cliff which are to be within 702 the purview of the Bill. Although placed second in order of reference, I will deal first with the point about cliffs, because it is a short and rather curious point. The Bill when first introduced dealt only with moorlands and mountains, and an attempt was made by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) to obtain an Instruction from the House to include foreshores, cliffs, and manorial ways. He was not fortunate enough to obtain that Instruction, but notwithstanding that, we find in this Clause that cliffs are brought within the purview of the Bill, and in my submission this is an abuse of the Rules of the House. We have in this Clause the word "cliffs" when the House has already decided that cliffs shall not be included in the Bill. Whether we were right or wrong, I do not intend to argue. I am not so interested in the cliffs part of the Bill as in the sheep walks, but if this Clause is persisted in with the word "cliffs" in it, I submit that the only proper course would be to recommit the Bill for this purpose.
In regard to sheep walks, to which I attach great importance and about which the farmers in my constituency and throughout Yorkshire are deeply anxious, I submit that the hon. Member for Shipley has got the wrong words. I have looked in Murray's Dictionary and other authorities to find out what a sheep walk is, and Murray is quite clear on the point. It is, what I have always thought it to be, "a tract of grass land used for pasturing sheep." Perhaps the hon. Member for Shipley will remember that Milton in "Paradise Lost" wrote:A field part arable and tilth….The other part sheep walks and foulds.That is what we mean by a sheep walk— land that is used for grazing sheep. I do not know whether the hon. Member intends that all these upland farms where they have not got the good fortune to have arable land but which are probably sheep farms are to be brought within the Bill. If so, it is a great injustice. I would have no objection to land being brought within the purview of the Bill which is moorland with a right of stray for a certain number of sheep, but to say that farmland for which a farmer pays rent and which in many cases is enclosed should be brought within the Bill is demonstrably wrong.
703 There is great danger in this matter to sheep walks, and I think some of the promoters of the Bill are rather apt to disregard the dangers that those who come on to the land can do to sheep. First of all, there is great danger at lambing time, and one or two persons, acting in an incautious manner in lambing time, especially people with dogs, can ruin the whole of a farmer's lamb crop during the year, and it is no answer to say, "Oh, yes, but we have provided for that by one of our glorious penalties later in the Bill, in Clause 6." Penalties will not help the farmer or recover for him the lost Iamb or the lost sheep. I have had a certain amount of experience of the damage that people can do to sheep, especially when folded, by leaving gates open. You can take a man to court and get him fined £2, but it may well mean that you will get a very different crop of lambs from what you expected. Therefore, I ask the promoter of the Bill to reconsider these words and to put in some form of words that will limit the Bill to moorlands over which sheep have the right of stray and no more. If he did that, he would cover a very serious point in the Bill.
I have no desire to obstruct the free passage of hikers on mountains or moorlands in this country, but I think we in this House must not forget that the farmers have an equal right with anybody else to carry on their business. From my own experience the people who damage agricultural land when they go on to it are not frequently the hikers or the ramblers, but rather the richer people who go in their Rolls-Royces and think they own, not only all the towns, but all the countryside as well. When you are looking at this Clause in the Bill and trying to make land for which a farmer pays rent free to everybody, you are not limiting it merely to the hikers or ramblers, but you are laying his land open to the free passage of the richer people, who really ought to pay for the benefits which they will be enjoying under the Bill. The ramblers and hikers in the North Riding of Yorkshire have never caused any trouble, and there has always been a very close friendship between them and the farmers over whose land they go— I know that some places in the West Riding are not so fortunate— but we have had trouble from people who come out from the towns to plant themselves in our rural districts 704 and think they are just as important people on our moorlands as they are in the towns.
I think hon. Members opposite are really misapprehending the position in this part of the Bill. Why should a farmer who pays rent for a field for his sheep have these people from the towns coming frequently with their motor cars and walking on it? Why should not a farmer drive his sheep through a factory, say, in Middlesbrough or Sheffield? I am certain that if that happened, the factory owner would object very violently, and I assure the House that the farmers object very violently to their sheep fields and folds being included in this Bill. I hope that this House, if the promoter will not give way on this point, will exclude these words from the Bill.
§ 12.53 p.m.
Mr. Creech Jones
On a point of Order. In respect to the point raised by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), as to the inclusion of cliffs in the Bill, in Clause 2 the Bill very clearly limits the land concerned to "mountain, moor, heath, or down," and in the second Sub-section it clearly indicates what lands must in any case be excepted from the Bill. Among those lands are agricultural land, and in view of the definition of agricultural land which has already been given in other legislation by this House, it was necessary to include these words "other than sheep walks or cliffs," so as to make it clear that, although only moorland and downland was included, if sheep were permitted to graze such land could be included within the scope of the Bill. As certain downlands include cliffs— for instance, in Cornwall— it was felt desirable that the point should be made clear that we are not asking for the inclusion of cliffs but rather making it clear that agricultural land docs not include cliffs where cliffs form part of downland.
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think any point of Order arises. The only point of Order that might arise would be whether the inclusion of these words altered the whole Clause. That is the only point that I can think of, and I do not think it does arise.
§ 12.55 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Heneage
I beg to second the Amendment.
705 In Lincolnshire sheep are one of the main standbys in agriculture, and although we have various places which are called moors or downs, they are really grasslands. If these words are allowed to remain in the Bill, I can see a rather curious result. If there are sheep in these fields, which are all enclosed and on the side of hills, presumably ramblers will be allowed to go into them. If, however, the farmer for some reason puts cattle into them they will not come under the terms of the Bill and ramblers will not be allowed there. If there is nothing in the fields at all, again ramblers will not be allowed to go into them. As I read the Bill they will be allowed to go into them only when there are sheep in them. It is doubtful whether it is possible to say of a good many of these places whether they are devoted to sheep or cattle or are lying fallow and used for hay.
The point that my hon. Friend and I desire 1o stress is the danger of allowing people to use these lands before the lambing season. There is not so much danger after the lambing season, but before it the sheep are easily frightened. We want to be certain that the machinery for orders will give these safeguards. I do not think they will, because when an order is made in the first place there may not be sheep on the land in that particular year. This means that for ever after that land will be liable to have hikers and other people on it. I am not afraid of the hikers' organisations, because they are extraordinarily careful. I am afraid more of the irresponsible people in cars. I have seen them go on to land and strip the place clear of flowers and every kind of thing. They are the people who do the damage.
§ 12.59 P.m.
Mr. Creech Jones
I hope that the Amendment will not be pressed, because an effort has been made in the drafting of the Bill to adjust all interests in the land concerned. The scope of the Bill covers mountain, moor, heath and down-land, and it is obvious that sometimes those lands will cover land which is used for grazing sheep. Under the machinery of the Bill definite provision is made for limitation of and regulations of access in order to meet any special conditions or circumstances in regard to the land. If these words are left out it will mean 706 that considerable areas of moorland and mountainland will be excluded from the scope of the Bill. Within the limits of the Bill there is definite provision for meeting any special need in regard to the grazing of sheep. I submit that in these circumstances the Amendment is unnecessary and that the term "agricultural land" should stand as it is in the Bill. If it is modified in the way suggested it will add enormous restrictions to the land to which the Bill is intended to apply.
§ 1.1 p.m.
§ The Minister of Pensions (Mr. Ramsbotham)
Perhaps I may say a few words in order to resolve the genuine difficulty that has been put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). If these words are omitted we shall be faced with the drawback that the categories of land, mountain, moor, heath and downland, which the Bill is intended to cover, might cease to be covered because they would come under the definition of agricultural land. On the other hand, it is possible that "sheep walks" go a little too far, and I would advise the promoters that it might be as well to have this matter considered in another place. Without committing the promoter to any particular phraseology, it might be worth considering a proviso stating that mountain, moor, heath and downland should not be regarded as agricultural land by reason of the fact that it is used for grazing sheep. Perhaps that will meet the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton. It is clear that if these words are left out we shall be in danger of omitting mountain, moor, heath or downland because they came under the definition of agriculture land. From the general commonsense point of view it is not likely to do harm if people are allowed to go over a sheep walk, and we do not want to exclude people from these types of land because they are used for grazing. Bearing in mind the point which has been raised and the suggestion I have made for dealing with it, it may not be necessary to press the Amendment.
§ Mr. Marshall
I do not think the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) realises that if the Clause is modified in the way suggested it would practically exclude all Derbyshire, for there are sheep on almost every moor in the county.
§ Mr. Turton
I said that I thought other words should be put in to except the right of stray over moorlands.
§ Mr. Marshall
As I understand the hon. Member he would exclude from access practically every moorland which is used as agricultural land and that would exclude practically the whole of Derbyshire.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 1.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Turton
I beg to move, in page 3, line 17, after "range," to insert "gliding ground."
Unfortunately, I was not on the Committee which considered this Bill, or I think that the gap which exists in it at present would not be there, because gliding grounds would have been included. I have been looking through a list of members of the committee and I think not one of them engages in the sport of gliding or has a gliding ground in his constituency, or they would have realised that there is a gap in the Bill. The Clause exempts from the provisions of the Bill:land used for the purpose of a golf course, racecourse, training gallop, sports ground, recreation or pleasure ground, shooting range, or aerodrome.You do not find a racecourse on top of a moor, or aerodromes situated on mountains, but a gliding ground must always be situated on moorland or mountains, because that is essential in gliding. I happen to have in my constituency the best gliding ground in England, Sutton Bank. There are large hangars there, housing a number of valuable gliders, and the land is enclosed with a wall and a fence. Spectators who wish to be within the grounds pay a small charge for admission, while others who do not wish to pay but like to watch the gliding usually wait on the roadside or take up points of vantage on the hill. The gliding ground itself is rented by the Yorkshire Gliding Club from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and they pay a substantial rent for it, and unless gliding grounds are among the excepted grounds in this Measure that club will be placed in the 708 position of not being able to secure any advantage in return for the rent which they pay. I cannot understand why the hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. Marshall) shakes his head at that remark, and I hope he will explain himself, but if we are going to deprive these gliding enthusiasts of the enjoyment of rights which they have purchased by the payment of rent we shall be going very far towards Marxian Socialism, which I do not think the House has associated with this Bill. I feel that the House ought to pay attention to the claims of what is a new industry and provides much recreation for people who come out of the towns to engage in the sport of gliding. I cannot understand why gliding grounds have not been excepted from the provisions of the Bill, because I feel there is more reason for excepting them than for excepting aerodromes.
§ 1.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Macquisten
I beg to second the Amendment.
I would point out that it is in the national interest that we should encourage gliding. That is how the Germans learned flying— by gliding, on the quiet. Thousands and thousands of them have taken up gliding, and we should do everything we can to encourage our young men to engage in this to some extent dangerous sport, because it will qualify them to help us if the day of trouble should come, though we hope it never may.
§ 1.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I should like to assure the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment that we have great sympathy with gliding and appreciate that there is a definite point in this Amendment, but there is the difficulty that we have no clear definition of a gliding ground. It might be any hill from which people can start gliding, and such a definition would be much too wide. We think that under the Bill as it stands it will be within the powers of the Minister to deal with gliding grounds in any Order which he makes, but if there is any doubt whether he has sufficient power for that purpose we are quite ready to agree to have the point looked into before the Bill gets to another place if the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) sees fit to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Marshall
I hope that the promoters of this Bill will not concede too much in this matter. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) talks about having the best gliding ground in the country in his division, but I very much doubt whether he has, because there is one in Derbyshire—
§ Mr. Turton
The English championship meetings take place at Sutton Bank, or at Dunstable, and I am afraid that any gliding ground in the hon. Member's constituency must rank very low.
§ Mr. Marshall
I do not want to vie with the hon. Member in expressions of local patriotism, but I would defy him to define what is a gliding ground.
§ Mr. Marshall
I do not suppose that any Minister of Agriculture would include any small area such as the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton has spoken of in any Order which he made, and I feel that the owners of that flying ground are perfectly safeguarded by the existing provisions of the Bill. But the hon. Member knows that gliders often travel miles away from the particular area in which they start their flight—
§ Mr. Marshall
— and it may be that the hon. Member would want to define the area which the gliders cover as the gliding ground.
§ tions at the places where the gliders are launched into the air, and I want to protect their interests, and I feel that the interests of the owners of glider grounds are sufficiently covered by the provisions of the Bill. I am sure that no Minister in his senses would want to include a particular piece of land for which rent is being paid when making an Order, but I would point out that gliding does not go on every day, and it would be a hard ship to exclude people from such land when gliding is not in progress—
§ 1.13 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Clifton Brown
In view of the fact that the encouragement of gliding is a matter of national interest I was very glad to hear the promoters of the Bill say they would be willing to look into the point raised by this Amendment, but although the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) no doubt knows this Bill much better than I do, I would like to point out to him that already there is a provision that the Minister before making an Order shall have regard to whether it will depreciate any rental value, and if he does make an Order a local authority is empowered to make up any loss of rent. I think those two provisos do fairly safeguard the interests of gliding grounds.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 43; Noes, 92.711
§ 1.24 p.m.
Mr. Creech Jones
I beg to move, in page 3, line 20, to leave out from "authority" to "and," in line 22, and to insert:(including any authority having power to levy a rate as defined for the purposes of the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925, or for whose expense a precept may be issued for the levying of such a rate, and any combination or joint committee of any such authorities as aforesaid).The definition as it stands in the Bill does not include joint committees and is unduly loose in regard to London. In the attempt to tighten up the definitions this Amendment has been put down and is in the same form as words included in Section 12 of the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 1.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Turton
I beg to move, in page 3, line 32, after "tramway," to insert "or."
I move the Amendment in this form rather than in the form in which it appears on the Order Paper, namely, to insert "or land." It is a purely drafting point, and I understand that the promoters are willing that the Bill should be improved in this manner.