§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [31st March]: "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
When the Debate was adjourned last night, I was about to draw attention to two matters of importance in this Bill. The first of these is the present condition of the South Downs, an area of 176,000 acres, a large part of which lies within my constituency; and the second is the question of the Nature Conservancy or wild life conservation.
At the present moment, those who live in the area of the South Downs have many complaints about the condition in which the Downs have been left by various Government Departments, and we are anxious to know whether there is to be any material improvement in this position when this Bill becomes law. I should like to describe what this condition is. During the war, the War Department quite rightly had large tracts of the South Downs in use for military purposes, and it was necessary to dig trenches, erect wire fences and to carry out firing of various kinds—artillery, mortar and small arms. There is quite a lot of wire, much of it buried and concealed, all over the South Downs, and other Sussex Members and myself have been pressing for at least three-and-a-half years to get the War Office to take an intelligent view and to appreciate the danger both to riders and to walkers. Not only is there wire lying about on the Downs, as well as concealed, but there are slit trenches which have become overgrown, and in recent months there have 1580 been bad accidents to both horses and riders.
The Society of Sussex Downsmen, a voluntary organisation which has the interests of the Downs very much at heart, is an organisation of which my father, whom I succeeded in the representation of the Lewes constituency, was president for many years. I should like to ask the Government to bear in mind that this Society, of which I know the Minister of Town and County Planning has personal knowledge, has done a great deal of important work in the past to safeguard public and private interests of all sorts and to retain the beauty of the Downs. I hope the Minister will be able to co-operate closely with this most useful organisation.
The second Government Department which is actively concerned with the Downs is the Ministry of Agriculture, through its East and West Sussex Agricultural Committees. The War Office has handed over large parts of the Downs to these agricultural committees, and the following are the exact words of the reason given for handing the area over to them—"for restoration pending de-requisitioning." That means that those parts of the Downs are being farmed by the agricultural committees, but, so far from the agricultural committees respecting the traditional public rights of way and freedom of access which have existed for many centuries, they have sometimes done exactly the opposite. We are now having fences erected across rights of way and tracks ploughed up, while other narrow tracks have been churned up by vehicles in such a way that no one can walk or ride on them with safety.
I submit that there is no excuse for this and that Government Departments in future, particularly in view of this Bill, will have to take a very strong hold on themselves and realise that, if the provisions of this Bill are to be of any real value, they must make sure that the War Office and the Ministry of Agriculture are no longer allowed to behave in this way. This is a matter of very great importance, and I hope that the Minister will get tough with his colleagues and explain to them how seriously they have interfered in the past with public amenities. Under Clause 39 of the Bill, the local authorities can make public path orders, and this adds special significance to the remarks which I have just made. At all 1581 events the behaviour of Government Departments in past years so far as the South Downs are concerned, does not inspire me with any confidence that the provisions of this Bill will be fully carried out. I hope that careful consideration can be given to this question during the Committee stage.
I wish to raise the question of nature conservation. When the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland rose yesterday and announced that he intended to speak abont nature conservation, and told the House that that part of the Bill applied equally to Scotland, I hoped that he would tell us something really constructive about the Government's plans in this respect. I was rather disappointed that he said very little indeed about the Bill and practically nothing with reference to England. What he said seemed to hold out some hope that Scotland would handle these matters rather better than England. I hope that that will not be so but that both countries will set an equally high sandard.
The Minister of Town and Country Planning dealt at some length with those Clauses of the Bill dealing with nature reserves. Under Clause 17 nature reserves can be set up by agreement with "any owner, lessee or occupier of…land". Land can be acquired compulsorily or by agreement for this purpose under Clauses 18 and 19. Under Clause 21 (2, b) provision is made for by-laws to be passed. I wish particularly to draw attention to those about prohibition and restriction of thekilling, taking, molesting or disturbance of living creatures of any description…They may, under subsection (2, c):prohibit or restrict the shooting of birds within such area surrounding or adjoining a nature reserve (whether the area be of land or of sea) as appears to the Nature Conservancy requisite for the protection of the reserve;I am strongly of the opinion that this wording is extremely loose and open to serious misunderstanding. I hope that it will be made much clearer during the Committee stage exactly what those provisions mean and entail.
I wish to point to one or two anomalies which appear to me to arise out of these Clauses. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewksbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) took up the par- 1582 ticular point upon which I now wish to touch. What is to happen under these Clauses, which offer such wide protection to birds and beasts of all kinds, not only in nature reserves but apparently in the surrounding area? What is to happen to predatory birds and animals which can do serious damage in the neighbourhood if allowed to run riot? Are pigeons to be allowed to breed freely, and if so what will be the effect upon agriculture? Are grey squirrels to be allowed to breed freely or are they to be kept down by intelligent keepering? What about carrion crows, rabbits, stoats, weasels, foxes, rats, otters, and all the other birds and beasts which have to be kept under control by good keepering? I see nothing in the Bill to give me any confidence that this matter is to be properly handled. The Hobhouse Report, on page 90, refers to otter hunting as an available sport in North Wales.
I wish to stress briefly what might be the damaging effect upon agricultural and fishing interests unless some further safeguards are introduced into the Bill. As regards fishing, the Hobhouse Committee quite clearly favoured a policy, and came into the open about it, to encourage fishing in the national parks. Their report looked forward to the protection and improvement of fishing amenities. Further and somewhat inconclusive reference is made to this matter on page 44 of the White Paper on wild life. Millions of people in this country enjoy fishing, not merely a small select few as is popularly supposed. Millions of people belong to angling clubs all over the country, and I hope that this part of the Bill will be clarified and tidied up in Committee so as to preserve and improve fishing amenities which are already enjoyed by such a large section of the public, and which I hope will be enjoyed in these national parks by an even larger section of the public.
I now wish to say something about wild birds. There is an organisation, of which the House will be well aware, known as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. It was founded in 1889 and received a Royal Charter in 1904. This society is only one of numerous societies doing similar work. I am on the council of the society, and I should like to put one or two points to the Minister so as to let him know what is the attitude of this and other societies to 1583 the nature reserve Clauses of the Bill. Organisations interested in this subject include the British Trust for Ornithology, the Council for Promotion of Field Studies, the London Natural History Society, the Severn Wildfowl Trust, the Fair Isle Bird Observatory and the West Wales Field Society. These are a few among many others which are bound to be interested.
As I see that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is present, and as I am talking about birds, I cannot help mentioning a slight altercation which he and I had about herons. I trust he will remember that in that particular case the Duchy proved itself to be an extremely bad landlord. I am glad to say that it has now put right its small error.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Dalton)
Since I took over.
§ Major Beamish
It is a thing of the past, and I am glad that it has been put right. It concerned the question of putting a fence round the heronry at Crewe Hall Pool. I regret to state that although the Duchy had given us, in writing, a guarantee to put this fence up it took more than two years to do it. But that is now over and done with and there are no bad feelings about it. I hope that the Chancellor of the Duchy, who is to speak, will bear in mind that he will have to behave very well in future so far as nature reserves are concerned. We have also had trouble with the War Office for more than 3½ years about some property at Dungeness which belongs to the society. It was used for firing purposes during the war. We have been making inquiries about this property for the last 3½ years and we have not been able to obtain any intelligent answer from the War Office. That is one more example of the difficulties which societies and voluntary organisations such as this have had with Government Departments, and is an example of some of the difficulties which the Minister himself will have to face in future.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, after careful consideration of this Bill, has formed one or two preliminary views which I should like to state briefly to the Minister. The members of the society are anxious that provision should be made for nature reserves to be provided or held and managed by such bodies 1584 as I have mentioned, the society itself, the National Trust, the Norfolk Naturalists Trust and others, and even, we suggest, by private individuals, subject to the approval of the Nature Conservancy that the lands in question are of sufficient scientific interest to warrant their declaration as nature reserves and that the Conservancy are satisfied that they will be efficiently managed so as to fulfil their purpose. As the Bill is drawn, it gives power to the Nature Conservancy or councils only to hold nature reserves. These societies have had great experience of running such nature reserves, and I hope that in Committee it may be possible to take advantage of their wide experience and enable use to be made of them in this way.
The second point that the society is anxious about is this. It refers to access and excepted land. In order to safeguard nesting sites of rare birds and the sites of rare plants on land subject to an access agreement, it is desirable that owners should have the power to apply for the temporary exclusion of the public from such sites, in order to secure such birds and plants from destruction by collection or damage from disturbance. Recently the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has been in the news because it has been protecting the avocet, which has been breeding recently in the East of England. It was only in the last two years that the avocet bred in this country at all, and it is only through the activities of this society that they have been able to breed. It is probable that none of these birds would have been able to breed for various reasons, such as the activities of rats and so forth, without the protection of this society. That is a small example. Of course, these birds do not always breed in the same place, so that the scheme has to be elastic.
Thirdly, the society feels that the giving of access to large areas of open country must result in grave danger of extermination of certain species unless there is early amendment and strengthening of the Wild Bird Protection Acts. This does not arise directly out of the Bill, but it is closely connected with it; I hope the Government may be able to give facilities at an early opportunity for the new Bill, which is said to have been given consideration by the Home Office, because it must inevitably tie up closely with the Bill which we are now discussing. The present Wild Bird 1585 Protection Acts are very loosely drawn and are largely ineffective.
Lastly, there is a clear need for small reserves to be run in conjunction with county or other educational authorities for the purpose of field study by students and the promotion of an interest in nature conservation. Some hon. Members who come from the East of England will know that it is being done on Hickling Broad by that famous naturalist, Dr. Ennion. That is the sort of work which it may be possible to encourage under this Bill, to enable young people from the towns to go out under expert supervision and instruction to study nature in these specially set aside reserves. It is being done in several places already by voluntary organisations. All these things, I am sure, can be discussed in Committee. I hope very much that the Minister of Town and Country Planning will look most sympathetically on these suggestions and will be forwarned that amendments on the lines of some of these suggestions may be put down.
Perhaps I may sum up by saying that I feel that the intention of this Bill is entirely good, and that its objects are entirely worthy, but I do feel that it will need a lot of tidying up in Committee. It will need the addition of a great many safeguards, to some of which I have already referred. I am not entirely convinced yet of the necessity for certain parts of the Bill. Safeguards will be needed in many different directions to protect agricultural and sporting interests and the interests of those who are especially concerned with nature reserves. As the Bill is at present drafted, I find that it has a number of deficiencies. I am certainly not one of those who will make exaggerated claims for the Bill, such as an hon. Gentleman who referred yesterday to "setting the people free" with an airy wave of his hand. I feel that is grossly exaggerated. After all, one has to strike a balance between agricultural interests without which we cannot live, and allowing people to roam all over the place, and I am sure the hon. Member agrees with that. I do not subscribe to these exaggerated claims, but I certainly feel that the Bill can be made most valuable and useful, given the proper safeguards and given thoughtful and intelligent administration. I certainly hope the Bill will be made as good as I think it can be.
§ 11.25 a.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Dalton)
The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) referred to a matter on which he and I have had correspondence. I thought that I had met him completely, and I do not gather that he dissents from that view. I offer this as evidence of my interest in the matters on which he has been speaking. It appears that Crewe Pool was almost emptied of water due to events during the war, and he drew my attention to the fact that, as a result, a heronry which was situated there had been raided by members of the public. He asked for my protection and indicated a certain form which it might take, namely, the erection of a barbed wire fence of a certain height. I instantly furnished the protection desired, and that fence is now in position. I hope that he agrees that that is a fair statement of what has occurred, and that he will take that as evidence of my sympathy.
§ Major Beamish
That is perfectly true, and I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the speedy action which he took. I was referring to his Department about whose activities he was apparently unaware.
§ Mr. Dalton
On my arrival there I found that they had been misadvised by the Ministry of Agriculture many years ago. So much for that incident.
I commend this Bill to the House, although there is no need to commend it in the sense of overcoming opposition to it, because so far no one has spoken against it, although many detailed points have been made. This is evidence of a great ripening of opinion which has been taking place in recent years. Although it is true that Mr. Bryce, as he then was, introduced an Access to Mountains Bill in 1888, he was then regarded as a hopeless crank, and the same view was taken of later legislators—Sir Charles Trevelyan was another—who tried to introduce Bills somewhat on these lines from time to time in the House.
Largely as a result of the activities of many voluntary societies, and in particular the open-air societies, as they are called—the Ramblers Association, the Youth Hostels Association, and also the National Trust, to which the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) 1587 referred yesterday, and many others—there has been a great ripening of opinion, the consequence of which is that this Bill, on its Second Reading, has been generally welcomed in all parts of the House. I think we can all be very happy that that is the present position.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning yesterday gave a very full and clear account of the provisions of the Bill, and he showed himself very willing to consider in Committee any arguments put forward from any quarter for the improvement and the strengthening of the Bill in any part of its lengthy and complicated structure. There was certainly nothing at all rigid or obstinately doctrinaire about the speech made by my right hon. Friend. Therefore none of those hon. Members who have ideas, whether on the functions of the Commission or the planning authority or any of the other matters that have been discussed, need abandon hope that they will get their ideas reasonably listened to by my right hon. Friend, and perhaps in some modified shape accepted on the Committee stage. A great number of these are essentially Committee points, and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, who will speak later, will deal with most of them.
I should like to say a few words on one or two of the more important points, and in particular on the powers of the National Parks Commission. Thought on this subject began before there was a Minister of Town and Country Planning, and to some extent thought on this subject is still influenced by the fact that at that early stage it seemed necessary to create a Commission which would be independent of any Minister. That is a hangover from earlier phases of thought on this subject. However, once a Minister of Town and Country Planning has been appointed it is obvious that a Commission of this sort must depend on him in the same sense that the Forestry Commission, for example, depends upon the Minister of Agriculture. I think there is some danger, from the point of view of those who themselves are making these proposals, in suggesting that the Commission could he made more independent, as one hon. Member said yesterday. More indepen- 1588 dent of whom? More independent of the Minister, I understand. But, if it is desired to make the Commission more independent of the Minister, it will also be made more independent of the House of Commons, and we may easily run into difficulties with regard to Parliamentary Questions and so forth as in the case of public boards. By making the Commission more independent, we may disable ourselves in this House from watching closely its detailed operation.
The powers of the Commission as set forth in the Bill have not been dramatically brought out by the draftsmen. It is not the duty of Parliamentary draftsmen to be dramatic, but rather to be verbally dexterous, and my right hon. Friend yesterday, when putting into simple language a list of all the powers of the Commission, did produce something pretty formidable. In particular I would underline the financial responsibilities mentioned in Clause 79 (3). Here the Commission has a most important duty. It has to take the initiative year by year in proposing to the Minister a detailed allocation—as between planning authorities and as between purposes to be pursued by planning authorities—of what we hope will be a substantial sum of money.
I would imagine that, as the Commission becomes an established thing and its relations with the Minister and his officials become established, such proposals would carry very great weight indeed; and that it would be unusual for the Minister of Town and Country Planning substantially to change the recommendations made by the Commission in the field of finance; and that the recommendations made from year to year would, as it were, form a continuing pattern of development and encouragement on which the Commission would be continuously working.
I should also think that a local authority within a national park would desire, in view of this financial power, to maintain constant contact with the Commission and to stand well with it. Arising out of this financial responsibility of the Commission there should develop both an effective and harmonious contact with the park authorities on the one hand, and great authority for the Commission itself in getting its views accepted by those responsible in the separate parks, on the other. This Clause 79 is one of the most important in the Bill.
1589 I do not think it matters very much whether it is a quarter, as the Bill proposes, or a half, as the Hobhouse Committee proposes, or some other fraction, of the members of the separate park authorities who are appointed from the centre. I think it is a false and over simplified approach to suggest that we shall get two separate and conflicting sections of people sitting on these authorities; one block of people appointed from the local authorities and another block from the centre. I do not think the committees are likely to work in that way at all.
What is essential is not the figure of the percentage, but that there should be a certain number of people who will have broader views than would naturally be the views of the representatives of local bodies, and who would be the kind of people to make their views persuasively acceptable. Therefore, I would not attach any great importance to that fraction. This is definitely a committee point and in due course arguments may be forthcoming to vary the fraction. I have no doubt that all that will be considered against the background which I have been describing.
A similar point was raised yesterday by the hon. Member for Twickenham when he said that the Commission was weakened, as he thought, because it had no direct access to public bodies such as the British Electricity Authority. There is nothing in the Bill that says it has not such access. As I understand the matter, there is no reason at all why the Commission should not approach the British Electricity Authority if it has views in regard to the siting of pylons and electrical supply lines, and so forth, in any particular area. I hope that good relationships would be established between the Commission and these public bodies, and that there would be constant contact at the sub-ministerial level on these matters.
But the fact still remains that, if there is a difference of view between the Commission and the British Electricity Authority, or any other such body, the matter has to go up to Ministers and be settled as a result of ministerial discussion. There is no escape from this so long as the Commission remains, as it necessarily must remain, an agency of the Minister of Town and Country Planning. 1590 That brings me to what was said by several speakers yesterday. The right hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) spoke of it, and so did the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke). They conceived a danger to the future of the national parks from Government Departments, public bodies and statutory undertakings. As I understood it, they were arguing that the Minister of Town and Country Planning was in danger of being left quite alone to face an unequal combat with his more aggressive colleagues, whether Service Ministers or others, who would bear him down in the absence of any support from the rest of the Government.
That is not an exact picture of how things happen. I am speaking impersonally, and without seeking to colour it by illustration from any actual Minister past or present, when I say that my right hon. Friend, like any other Minister, has the right of appeal to the Cabinet if he is in serious conflict with any of his colleagues, and if the matter is of sufficient importance to take to that appeal court. Very often these matters, as many hon. and right hon. Members here know, are taken, not to the full Cabinet—which might become very congested if every matter of dispute had to be referred to it—but to some Cabinet Committee or other. It is contrary to our practice to speak in detail of the composition or functions of any Cabinet Committee; that is held to undermine the doctrine of the collective responsibility of Ministers; but it may be said without impropriety that something like what is proposed in the Hobhouse Report, where they suggest that matters in dispute should go to some permanent group of Ministers, is already the practice and is in operation. There are many Ministers other than the primary protagonists who would be anxious and eager to take an interest and form views when such matters come up. Therefore the picture of my right hon. Friend as a friendless orphan of the storm is not in fact an exact one.
My hon. Friend the Member for Black-burn (Mrs. Castle) who made, I thought, a very attractive speech yesterday, asked whether grants could be made under this Bill to the Youth Hostels Association and other bodies whose object is to improve and increase accommodation in the parks. I am advised that it is possible for that 1591 to be done, and that Clauses 10, 11 and 12 of the Bill, if read together, do confer that power. I hope that that power will be freely used by bodies of this kind, rather than by Mr. Butlin, to provide additional accommodation in the parks.
The problem we are trying to help to solve is a very difficult one, because in this little island there is bound to be a very tight fit between the various claims for land. The population of this little island is now for the first time in history above 50 million. That is a lot of people for this small space. I remember when I was once speaking on national parks in the United States that a Middle Western college president asked me, "Have you got the real estate to do it?" And my answer was, "I think so, with very skilful and careful management." It is a very tight fit with 50 million people in so small a space, and when these other claims on it, to which reference has been made in this Debate—claims for housing, claims for industrial development, claims of the Service Departments—have all to be, admitted to be, within their limits, reasonable claims.
Everybody who is not a pacifist has got to admit that we must have somewhere to train the Armed Forces which this House provides. We must have somewhere to train them, and yet wherever it is proposed to train them there is a complaint, [Interruption.] Of course my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) can object to everything quite logically. That is all right. But no other hon. Member can do that, and every other hon. Member must recognise that, wherever we propose to exercise the Army or the Air Force—in the dropping of bombs, for instance—or the Royal Navy, when it wants some land, there are complaints. The only solution to that is that we should try to reach a reasonable agreement which will minimise the damage on the whole. Perhaps it may be thought to be an additional argument in favour of Western Union that in future we may exercise British troops on the Continent and not in these islands; and that, no doubt, will be borne in mind in any discussions that take place under the aegis of Lord Montgomery's Committee.
Reverting to the major idea behind the Bill, which is to open the countryside— 1592 throw it open, subject to proper safeguards, to the British people—the principal safeguards which I think we ought to have in mind are for agriculture and for forestry. I think that everybody will agree that the importance of food and forestry is so predominant that it must have number one priority in all these matters, and that even access to the countryside for the great mass of our people must be limited and checked if it can be shown, and in so far as it can be shown, to damage the production of food or of timber.
The problem of access obviously varies as between the different national park areas. On the one hand, where we have large urban populations in the neighbour-hood of a national park, there is a much greater urgency for access because many more people are interested in it; and on the other hand, there is more danger of damage to food and forestry because more people will be moving about in the area. If we contrast, for example—to take two national park areas—the Peak and the Pembrokeshire coast, we find that the Peak is right in the centre of an immense urban population. It has often been observed—I was very much surprised when I first heard it, but it is true—that half the population of England—I do not speak of Wales—but half the population of England lives within 60 miles of Buxton.
For this reason, from the point of view of access for great numbers of urban populations, the Peak is by far the most important—more important even than the Lake District—of all the proposed national park areas. On the other hand, the fact that so many wish to go to the Peak means that special care should be taken to protect food production there. Forestry hardly enters into the matter in the Peak, as compared with other areas.
So far as the Peak is concerned, there is also another problem of very exceptional acuteness, and that is the relation between the general body of ramblers and the land owners in that area, and I think that the solution to it is only to be found in a very large measure of public acquisition. The powers of acquisition in the Bill are very strong and can be used, if it should seem fit to the Minister and the park authorities, on a large scale.
This brings me to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West 1593 Wolverhampton (Mr. H. D. Hughes), who referred to the National Land Fund and the use to which that money might be put. Now, the facts are that in April, 1946, when I was at the Treasury, I set up the National Land Fund with an initial sum of £50 million. The primary purpose was to reimburse the Inland Revenue in cases where Death Duties are paid, not in money, but in land or other real estate. The Inland Revenue riot receiving money from the executors of the estate will receive it from the National Land Fund and the national revenue will not be disadvantaged.
So far, although a certain number of estates have been received in payment of Death Duties, not even the interest accruing on this fund—because it is a real fund, actually invested, and not a paper fund; it is represented by securities—has been spent. Therefore, the fund has been accumulating. My hon. Friend did not ask the most interesting question he might have asked, and I suggest he should put down another Question, and ask what the fund now amounts to with accrued interest.
§ Mr. Dalton
I cannot say off hand. Well over £50 million. It has been running three years now. I shall be interested to read the answer. It is a good example of the provident character of my administration when I was at the Treasury. It illustrates this very well.
§ Mr. Dalton
It has not been spent, and as the money has not been realised that would not have made any difference up to date, and, of course, a larger yield might have been got, because at present the securities associated with my name are a very good buy. One can get 3⅛ per cent. for them. But this is a digression.
What I wanted to point out to my hon. Friend was that there was need for 1594 further legislation in order to make available this fund, or any part of it, for the purposes that I had in mind when I made the speech from which he quoted yesterday, and that he also had in mind. It seems to me that if my right hon. Friend—not at the moment, because the Bill is not in its final shape—catches the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in a receptive and imaginative mood—which would not be difficult—he would be able to arrange for something on the lines my hon. Friend suggested. Just as this fund can now be used for once-for-all acquisition purposes in connection with the transfer of property in payment of Death Duties, it would not be a very wide variation from that to use it also in connection with the acquisition of land for all time for the national parks.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Phillips Price) who, I think, is not here this morning, made a speech which I was very happy to hear and which interested me very much, with particular reference to forestry, which, I think, is sometimes not put in its proper place in this picture. I should like to say a word or two on this subject and on the relations between the National Parks Commission and the Forestry Commission. There are considerable overlapping areas, of course. I do not want to give too many statistics, but at the present moment the Forestry Commission holds more than 1,500,000 acres; a little more than half of that is in Scotland, but in England and Wales it holds 717,000 acres. In the 12 proposed national parks in England and Wales there is just over 3½ million acres. The Forestry Commission land in the proposed national parks in England and Wales is 156,000 acres.
Those figures show, on the one hand, that in England and Wales just over 20 per cent. of the Forestry Commission holdings are within national parks areas, and on the other hand, that the total area of the national parks is only as to five per cent. Forestry Commission land. This measures the overlap. The conclusion I draw from that, which is of some practical importance, is that, the relationship between the national parks and the Forestry Commission is of greater practical importance to the Forestry Commission than to the national parks in terms of percentage. In any case, it is very important that there should be no con- 1595 flict, either artificially stimulated or real, between these two agencies.
Mr. Vane (Westmorland)
When the right hon. Gentleman says that there should be no conflict does that also apply to private forestry interests, which are far more important to this country than the Forestry Commission?
§ Mr. Dalton
I am talking of the Forestry Commission because it is a public agency. We have discussed this matter together, and I am very anxious to see that everything possible is done to safeguard and assist private forestry. Of course, grants are made for that purpose, and it may well be that they should be increased. The same argument applies, that it would be most undesirable that a conflict should arise or he stimulated between the National Parks Commission or the local park authorities and persons who are concerned with private woods.
Would the right hon. Gentleman also impress this on the national body, because most of these private woods are in smaller areas and far less likely to come into conflict with the national park authorities than the Forestry Commission.
§ Mr. Dalton
I am entirely friendly to the notion that right through these areas all the people who are concerned, whether individuals or corporations—and some of the municipal corporations have large woods—or the Forestry Commission, should work in harmonious co-operation rather than conflict and rivalry.
§ Lord Willoughby de Eresby (Rutland and Stamford)
When the right hon. Gentleman refers to no conflict of interests, I am not clear what he means. Surely there must still be conflict of interest. I know the Forestry Commission land in North Wales in one of the areas which is to be a national park, and twice within my knowledge, when the trees were about 20 years old, large areas were burnt down and had to be re-planted, so there must be a difference of outlook towards this matter.
§ Mr. Dalton
The burning down of trees is due to people chucking matches about in dry weather. I said just now that food and forestry are so predominantly important that we must have reasonable checks on access by the public. This is necessary to prevent damage. 1596 I shall make some further remarks on that subject later. The point which I had in mind was that sometimes some of the friends of national parks have been rather unreasonable in their criticism of the operations of the Forestry Commission and forestry generally, and that I think is a pity, because they should work together and not at cross-purposes.
The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean yesterday reminded the House of a very important fact, that the Forestry Commission have pioneered with their national forest parks. I have myself been to places which he referred to, in the Forest of Dean where there are 29,000 acres very admirably organised, not too much organised, but with provision for camping and caravans, water supplies, and so on. That is a very attractive forerunner of the sort of thing which we hope to see established in other parts of the country in connection with the national parks. In Scotland, which is outside the field of this Bill, the Forestry Commission have gone even further and have three national forest parks totalling 180,000 acres. This is a very good pioneering effort for which I think credit should be given.
There is a further thought which I should like to offer to the House with regard to the national forests which are being built up. I speak of the Forestry Commission and not private owners because I am talking of large forest areas. Some of these, such as the Kielder Forest in the Border country, the forests in East Anglia and so on, when the fire risk is past, will be a most magnificent addition to the country to which the public will have right of access, though they cannot be technically national parks in the sense of this Bill.
As to how long the period of fire risk will be, I am advised that, if we take a wholly coniferous forest newly planted, after the second thinning it is reasonably safe against fire risk, and that if people do wander there, chucking about matches, there is not much danger. The time of the second thinning will vary with the species, and so on; but I am told that after about 25 years from the first planting it is pretty safe. If we have a mixed plantation of hard and soft woods the period of safety comes earlier. When we recall that the Forestry Commission began their planting in 1920, or thereabouts, it follows that increasingly from 1597 year to year there will be a greater safety zone. When we are thinking of the broad problem of access to the country by all sections of the public, these national forests will be a most remarkable addition in the days to come.
With regard to the fire risk, I recall an incident in the conduct of the war when some people were eager to set alight the Black Forest, which concealed some important German installations, and every effort was made to do so. In particular, certain balloons were used which were blown across the North Sea, and many of them fell quite harmlessly in the Black Forest. It was beyond the power of our most ingenious advisers to set the Black Forest alight, and that was because it was a mature forest, and well cared for. But I recall that some of those same balloons were blown back by an adverse wind and fell in East Anglia where they set alight a number of our plantations. This illustrates dramatically how fire risk passes away from forests which have reached maturity.
May I say one word in praise of the Scots? I think that in Scotland there has been a much keener sense of the importance of forestry and its place in the national pattern than in this country. The curious malady of conifer-phobia is much less severe there. In Scotland there is some development in hydro-electricity. And there will be more. Some of the critics of modern development have differed very much about hydro-electric schemes. Only a few days ago, I received a petition from somewhere—I forget from what body—urging opposition to plans for hydro-electricity in Wales within the national park area.
I do not believe that hydro-electric development in the long run damages the landscape. I am prepared to maintain that often the direct opposite is true. The formation of some of the artificial lakes which are part of the hydroelectric programme have in some parts of the world had an effect far from making ugly the landscape; in fact they have had quite the opposite effect. I remember, in particular, how very much impressed I was, when I went to the Tennessee Valley some years ago, at the way in which these artificial lakes have been created behind the dam, and how, although in the first year or two when the whole thing was rather rough, and around the edges of the lakes nothing had grown 1598 up, with the passage of time around some of the older ones there were already both additional facilities for holiday making, fishing, bathing, and so on, and an improved effect on the landscape.
I do not for one moment accept the view that more cannot be done in hydroelectric development in this island, although we cannot do very much here because we have not enough high mountains. I do not for a moment accept the view that the landscape will suffer from what we can do, and I think we must be on our guard against preservation in its extreme form—preservation for its own sake, seeking to maintain a changeless pattern in the landscape of this island. I hope, on the contrary, that the pattern will constantly change in accordance with developing national needs, but that it will change always in conformity with the beauty of nature.
This Bill and the very varied powers which it will confer upon the Minister—and they are very wide and varied—raise a whole host of fascinating questions, only the fringes of which have been touched on in this Debate, for the years to come. It is a curious thing that sometimes in this House the most important Bills are not those which lead to the most dramatic clashes of Debate between conflicting sections. For my part, I regard this Bill as one of the most exciting Bills introduced for many years. It will go to the Standing Committee with the general good will of the whole House, and I have no doubt that, as my right hon. Friend has indicated, there will be ample scope for the discussion of all sorts of Amendments which I hope will, in the total, considerably improve the Bill before it returns to us here. I believe that when the Bill has finally passed through the stages of friendly and harmonious examination, which we cannot achieve on all Measures, but which we seem to be able to achieve on this, it will stand out in the future as one of the most memorable Bills introduced within the lifetime of this very memorable Parliament.
§ 12.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)
This Bill has been debated throughout, as the right hon Gentleman has just said, in a non-party atmosphere, and I find myself in agreement with a great deal of what 1599 he has said. I find, living in one of these areas—the North Yorkshire Moors—that there is a little prejudice, fear and misunderstanding about the Bill amongst people who live in the dales, and I hope that this Debate will clear away the major misunderstanding, which is that national park areas will automatically become areas in which unrestricted public access is given. That, of course, is not and could not be the case without very serious effects upon agriculture.
Many of the areas designated by the Hobhouse Committee contain land which is intensively cultivated, and where serious results for food production would follow from unrestricted access. In the Norfolk Broads area, for example, almost all the land that lies within the demarcated boundary is cultivated land. The Bill, however, provides in Part V for the provision of access to open country as defined in Clause 48. The attitude of landowners has, I think, changed a great deal in the last generation upon this question of access; and, as the Minister generously stated in his opening speech yesterday, it is the exception rather than the rule nowadays to find that access to uncultivated land is objected to by the owners. There will clearly be a great deal of overlap between the areas of the national parks on the one hand and land to which access will be given under Part V on the other.
We on this side of the House welcome the Bill. We should have liked to have seen legislation passed on this subject at an earlier date, but between the passage of the Access to Mountains Act in 1939, which enjoyed a large measure of Conservative support—I remember speaking myself in support of that Act—and 1945, legislation was clearly not possible. The Access to Mountains Act was rendered largely nugatory through the opposition, during the Committee stage, of the ramblers' organisations and those interested in public footpaths and amenities. I remember that they objected very strongly at that time when they discovered that that Act, as originally introduced, would have created a number of new offences regarding litter, fires, broken glass, and things of that kind. The reason that Act has been valueless is because it was emasculated in Committee by its own promoters in order to 1600 try to meet completely the views of the ramblers' associations.
I am quite sure that by 1939 there was already a crying need for legislation upon access to the open country. The need, of course, was not only to give the public a greater right to enjoy these open spaces, but also to protect these open spaces from the encroachments and developments of statutory undertakers, Government Departments, and others. Many of our most picturesque villages have been very largely ruined by the thoughtless placing of overhead electric cables in front of the houses rather than behind them. While I agree with all the right hon. Gentleman said in paying tribute to the work of the Forestry Commission, I must point out that even the Forestry Commission have not been wholly blameless of sometimes planting trees unsuitable to the area, and of planting trees in ugly and unsightly rectangles which cause injury to the landscape.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) to some extent may claim to be at any rate the godfather of this Bill. He it was who launched Mr. John Dower upon his rural ride round England and Wales in the autumn of 1944, after which he produced a masterly report. Living as I do in one of these areas, I have spent a lot of time studying the problem of reconciling the interests which are thought to conflict, and occasionally do conflict, in the use of these areas. Great changes have taken place in the last 30 years. Many more people resort to these areas, and the manners of those who do so have shown a notable improvement in recent years. Let me give one example of how things have changed. Thirty years ago the children of the dales, in their endeavours to earn a few coppers, used to stand beside a gate upon a gated road and hold it open, hoping that the passing motorist would fling them a copper as he went by. But that technique is now realised to be completely outmoded. Today, the gate is closed after each motorist has passed, the child retires to a distance where he can conceal himself, he waits until the motorist has stopped and until, exasperated, he is just about to get out of his car, and then runs forward, with eager courtesy, to facilitate his progress. This method has enhanced the financial returns by many hundreds per cent., and it shows 1601 that education in the use of these open spaces has not been confined only to the adult population.
We have heard a little, but riot so much as I expected, in the Debate about the attitude, sometimes offensive, towards hikers of farmers and gamekeepers. But this is not altogether surprising in view of the desecration and damage which have occurred in the past. Let us be frank. Public manners are improving, but within my own experience I have known not only fires carelessly started, gates left open, dry stone walls pushed over, roadside turf, made so smooth and trim by rabbit and hill sheep, cut out in squares and carted away, but I have seen holly bushes slashed for Christmas decorations, and spruce fir trees pulled out of plantations for Christmas trees. These things have happened, and considerable education is required if we are to avoid them happening in future.
Of course, there has been damage by public authorities as well, and the danger of that damage, as my right hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) said yesterday, has been enhanced rather than diminished by the process of nationalisation. We have also seen, and it is almost too ghastly to speak of—terrible desecration during the war by the military authorities. I have watched tanks go down a gated road as if there were no gates or gateposts. All that could be found afterwards were fallen gateposts and a certain amount of matchwood. I have seen a Bren gun carrier cross the moors, shooting out hot carbon from its exhaust, its occupants quite unaware that half a dozen moor fires had been started a mile or two behind them. I have seen shrubs pulled up to camouflage vehicles, and the most striking illustration I can give of thought less and unnecessary damage by the military is this experience of mine.
About Guy Fawkes day we gather rather laboriously, the hill sheep off the moors. We separate them and sort them into various intakes with a view to introducing rams so that the lamb crop may arrive about the following 18th April. This takes a good deal of time, and much trouble is taken by farmers to separate ewes from the gimmer lambs and get the right number of ewes into each intake, according to the capability of the ram that is to be introduced. Believe it or not, after all this had been done, one 1602 night during the war, the military appeared in great numbers over the hill for night operations, without any warning. Vehicles were brought, walls were pushed down, ewes, and rams as well, were let out on to the moor. Chaos resulted.
I leave the consequences to the imagination of the House, but the fact was that the enforcement of a policy of equal shares, much less a policy of fair shares, became quite impossible in those circumstances. All the worst consequences foretold by hon. Members opposite about the premature abolition of controls ensued from this thoughtless action by the military. It gave us an extra fortnight's work, and it also interfered with our sheep-breeding arrangements for more seasons than one, as hon. Members will I am sure understand All that could have been avoided by a little previous consultation. The date of the manoeuvres could have been brought forward, or postponed, for a few days.
I have been trying for 30 years to reconcile the conflicting, or apparently conflicting, interests of agriculture, forestry, sport—by which I mean grouse shooting—and public enjoyment. The conflict between agriculture and forestry has been resolved at long last by putting the Forestry Commission under the Ministry of Agriculture in England and under the Secretary of State for Scotland in Scotland. So, there is no conflict there. Nor is there any conflict between the interests of agriculture and sport; they are identical. All the measures necessary on a moor to make it good for sheep, i.e., the regular burning of the heather and organised drainage of the land, are equally necessary for the prosperity and welfare of grouse. So, there is no conflict there.
The only possible conflict can be between sport and agriculture combined, on the one hand, and public enjoyment on the other. As the result of long experience, I believe that this conflict is almost entirely imaginary, and I am quite sure that it can be reconciled by wise planning and mutual accommodation. I know of excellent moors, Ilkley Moor is one, where Yorkshiremen, and others, resort in great numbers, both with and without hats. Ilkley Moor carries a wonderful stock of grouse, although people are continually crossing and re-crossing it on footpaths. There is also 1603 an area, in the hands of the National Trust, in the north-east part of Yorkshire, where I have seen 200 to 300 cars on a fine Sunday, which is also a favourite nesting ground for grouse.
It may, of course, sometimes be necessary, where there is a piece of moor which is the resort of a considerable number of people, for the owner not to shoot on a Saturday, but all these difficulties can be overcome by a little mutual accommodation. In the Peak district of Derbyshire there is, of course, a long history of bitterness and conflict, and it is much more difficult to re-establish good relations there than in an area where care has been taken from the start to build up good relations.
The main conflict between agriculture and public enjoyment turns upon the question of gates being left open, walls broken down and moor fires carelessly started. The remedy provided by the Bill is interesting. Clause 49 provides, in effect, that there shall be immunity from action for trespass so long as the persons on the land do not break or damage any wall, fence, hedge or gate. They also have, in order to preserve their immunity from an action for trespass, to abstain from doing the things set out in the Second Schedule to the Bill.
I am not quite sure that that is enough. In Clause 73 power is given to the local planning authorities to make by-laws. I want to give the House an interesting illustration from my own experience on this matter. I arranged for an area of moorland to be transferred to the National Trust, and the Trust enjoyed and exercised by-law-making powers. One day the warden of this National Trust land came across four fine physical specimens of young manhood setting up glass bottles on the roadside. They had enjoyed a bottle of beer, and they were passing part of the afternoon shying stones at these bottles, which they had set up on the roadside. The warden said to them, in appropriate Yorkshire dialect, the equivalent of "You can't do that there 'ere," to which these four young men replied," Oh yes we can. We know the law." To this the warden said "Who are you?" and the answer came "We are four police constables from one of the big cities." I am all in favour of the police and I have a very high opinion of them 1604 as a rule. Of course, it gave the warden very great pleasure to be able to say, "Thank you very much, but I will take your names because this particular piece of moor happens to be National Trust property. Whereas you would be all right in breaking bottles on the greater part of the moors, this is the one place when you cannot do it." The names of those four constables were duly taken by the warden. I may say that no prosecution followed, though the Trust had prosecution powers.
The morals to be drawn from this story are three. First, even the most law-abiding citizens do not always know how to behave when they get to a country district. Secondly, these law-abiding people do not like being corrected, even though it is civilly done, if they think the law is on their side. In the third place, it seems to me to show clearly that there is need for some effective provision for dealing—using the words the Minister used yesterday in his opening speech—rigorously with persons who do this kind of thing. I rather think the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy is on my side in this matter, because on the Access to Mountains Bill, 1939, he said he would be in favour of dealing severely with persons who set fire to areas of open space.
May I say one word about motor bicycles? I am glad to see that the definition of footpath and bridle path in the Bill makes it quite clear that motor cyclists will not have any right over them in these areas. Motor cycles make horrible noises and destroy the peace of the countryside. There are eager crowds of young motor cyclists who enjoy nothing better than driving their bicycles over most precipitous places, down slippery banks, and over becks, taking tosses as they go along.
The House may like to know how I have got over this difficulty. It was by opening my moor for what is called the Scott Trial—one of the best known cross-country trials in this country—on 20th November every year. It is only open for one day, the path is marked out, and it is at a time of the year when no harm can be done by the motor cyclists either to game or sheep. I have the complete co-operation of the motor cycling organisations, who take steps to prevent their members from practising before the event takes place. I hope the Minister will 1605 occasionally open areas of moorland for one or two days to these ardent young motor cyclists who like to break their necks in this way.
Mr. H. D. Hughes (Wolverhampton, West)
While I agree about motor cyclists, one of the recommendations of the Footpaths Committee was that pedal cyclists should have the right to wheel their vehicles on paths, which at present is not the case. May we have the support of the right hon. Gentleman in an Amendment to the Bill to carry out that recommendation of the Footpaths Committee?
§ Mr. Peake
I should not mind a pedal cyclist going anywhere with his machine if he thought he could take it with him. That type of machine does not create a nuisance in the same way as motor cycles do.
There are two points upon which there has been some controversy. The first is who should be the real authority. I am quite sure that those who advocate the building up of this Commission into what they imagine to be a stronger position are, in fact, mistaken as to the way in which government works in these matters. No Commission in my experience has ever been able to withstand or hold its own against a Government Department. We have got to get a Minister to argue with another Minister; we have got—I do not want to be offensive—to set a thief to catch a thief.
I believe that those who have the interests of these national parks and open spaces at heart have got the best Minister to look after their interests. I am not speaking personally, although I have the greatest admiration for the right hon. Gentleman. I believe that the Minister of Town and Country Planning is the right Minister for this job, because he is supposed to be the ultimate arbiter and authority as to the use of the land. He is supposed to be an impartial umpire between all other Government Departments which claim the use of land, and these national parks are going to have the umpire on their side from the outset. That seems to me to be the greatest advantage. To suggest taking these powers away from the Minister and handing them over to the National Parks Commission seems to me to be utterly destructive of any idea of obtaining proper protection for these areas from the 1606 depredations of other Government Departments.
As between the Commission and the local planning authority, it is my belief that, on the whole, the balance has been wisely held. I cannot share the view—I do not want to introduce a controversial note—which I was reading last night in a book called "The Socialist Case" written by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury. He was writing about food and nutrition, and he says on page 258:In the case of nutrition and health, just as in the case of education, the gentleman in Whitehall really does know better what is good for people than the people know themselves.I cannot subscribe to that view. I believe that the local people on the whole know better than the gentlemen from Whitehall.
At the same time, I think that the 25 per cent. representation of the Commission on these bodies is certainly good. It will ensure liaison between the officers of the Commission on the one hand and the local authorities on the other. I should not in the least object to a larger representation on the local bodies being given to the Commission, provided that the qualification put in by Sir Arthur Hobhouse were included, that the nominees of the Commission to the local planning authority should be residents in the area. I would not at all object to the 25 per cent. proportion allocated to the Commission being increased to 33 per cent., or 40 per cent., or perhaps even to 50 per cent., provided that at least half of the Commission's nominees were residents in the area.
I want to say just one word about finance. There is still a mystery, which has not been cleared up by what the right hon. Gentleman has just told us, about the National Land Fund. I was rather surprised that there was only one hon. Member, the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton (Mr. H. D. Hughes) whose mind reverted, in the course of yesterday's Debate, to the Budget speech made by the Chancellor of the Duchy on 9th April, 1946. The right hon. Gentleman then told us about the establishment of this National Land Fund and said that £50 million would be available for a variety of purposes, all designed to increase the national estate. He spoke of the fund being used to buy land which came on to the market to pay Death Duties, and he said: 1607I do not intend to stop there. In consultation with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Town and Country Planning I have been considering future possibilities, including the creation of national parks and the acquisition for the public of stretches of coast and tracts of open country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th April, 1946; Vol. 421, c. 1839.]The right hon. Gentleman elaborated this idea during the Report stage of the Budget Resolutions a week later, and in the course of a speech he said that he did not expect the whole of this £50 million to be spent immediately, and that the spending might be spread over four or five years. Then, a year later, in his Budget speech, the right hon. Gentleman gave an account of how the fund had been used. He told us that the fund was a genuine fund, that it had been invested and he said that he regarded it as a nest egg for national parks and similar projects in the future. Then I must refer to the Finance Bill, 1946, which provided that the fund could be used to reimburse the Inland Revenue in respect of the estates taken over to pay Death Duties. Section 48 (1) says that the fund is alsofor such purposes as Parliament may hereafter determine.Is not this an occasion for Parliament to determine? Here we have a Bill dealing with national parks. The right hon. Gentleman was explaining today how it was that there is no reference in the Bill to the National Land Fund, and he said that the form of the Bill was not yet finally settled. We can search the Bill for any reference at all to the National Land Fund without finding it. If we look at the principal financial Clause, Clause 82, we see that it says:There shall be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament (a) the expenses under this Act of the Minister…That time-honoured phrase "moneys provided by Parliament" means that the cost will be borne upon the annual Votes. It could not by any conceivable stretch of the imagination be made to include the National Land Fund, which was established by taking £50 million out of the Consolidated Fund in the year 1946. The position now is that the £50 million has been invested, apparently at 1¾ per cent. for nearly three years, and that only £275,000 has been spent out of the whole of the interest in the way laid down by the Finance Act, 1946. The right hon. Gentleman himself could not tell us how 1608 much money there is there now. There must be at least £54 million or £55 million. I do not suppose that the interest on the fund has borne Income Tax.
It surprises me that all we are told is that the Bill is not yet drafted in final form. The Chancellor of the Duchy said that if the Minister of Town and Country Planning caught the Chancellor of the Exchequer in an imaginative or receptive mood, he might get something from him. Knowing how carefully these financial Clauses are discussed between the Treasury and the other Departments before a Bill is put into shape for presentation to this House, I must confess that if I were the Minister of Town and Country Planning I should not feel that I was likely at this stage to find the Chancellor of the Exchequer in either an imaginative or receptive mood. I honestly think that this matter should be cleared up. The Chancellor of the Duchy should admit that there has been a change of policy because we are living in a more austere age, that this £50 million National Land Fund is not going to be used, for national parks and that all the expenditure will be divided between the Exchequer, on the annual Votes, and the local authorities.
I am afraid that I have kept the House all too long. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] There is one further point which I wish to make in conclusion. Clause 1 of the Bill lays down the function of the National Parks Commission. I am sure that we are all in agreement with subsection (1, a) that the National Parks Commission shall be charged with the duty of exercising their functions for the preservation and enhancement of natural beauty, in England and Wales, that is, throughout the Kingdom, and particularly in the areas designated as national parks. We come to paragraph (b), forencouraging the provision or improvement, for persons resorting to national parks, of facilities for the enjoyment thereof, and for the enjoyment of the opportunities for open air recreation and the study of Nature afforded thereby.We ought to be just a little careful not to overdo this encouragement. I do not want to see a great publicity campaign launched by the Central Office of Information and on the broadcast, a sort of "Come to the National Parks" campaign. I am all for doing a good deal, even to the extent of subsidy, to give the young people opportunities of visiting, 1609 these areas, but it might, I think, be a mistake to give subsidised holidays in these areas, part of whose charm is that one can obtain there a degree of solitude. It might be a mistake to give subsidised holidays there to adult people who receive holidays with pay anyway, and very often prefer to go to a Butlin's holiday camp. I remember during the war giving a night's hospitality to a war-time colleague, who now occupies an important position on the Government Front Bench, and taking him for what I thought would be a treat for him. It was a drive through one of the most beautiful parts of Yorkshire. I must say that he did not seem very interested, and spent the drive reading in "Lloyds Weekly News" and the "Sunday Dispatch" the accounts of a speech he had made the day before.
Let us realise that there are many people who do not appreciate these areas, who are gregarious and who much prefer all the noise of a holiday camp. Do not let us go too far in attracting to these areas crowds of people who may spoil their charm for those who are capable of appreciating them. There is a tendency nowadays to try to impose one's own standards, which, of course, are those of good taste, upon everybody else. These areas are a national heritage; let them be handed on unimpaired to succeeding generations.
§ 12.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Evans (Lowestoft)
As sat here yesterday while hon. and right Gentlemen discussed the general principles of the Bill and examined them closely, I heard the various points I wished to make expounded much more effectively than I could do it. I shall not, therefore, weary the House with fruitless repetition of remarks on the broad principles of the Bill. I welcome the Bill very warmly, especially the Clauses dealing with waterways and finance. I hope the Bill will help to solve many of the problems which affect and afflict the area with which I am concerned and about which I shall speak. I thank the Minister for the very kind and generous reference he made to me yesterday and I congratulate him not only on the Bill but on the manner in which he presented it. There must obviously be very many adjustments in Committee, but broadly, with minor reservations, I believe that the Bill will do much to solve many of the problems 1610 facing us in the region in which I am interested.
I hope I may be forgiven if I direct my observations to making a plea for one area. I admit that in this I am making an assumption; as the Minister has already made that assumption, I feel constrained to follow him. It is that the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads will be designated a national park. I base my plea and the case I want to put to the House on a sense of extreme urgency. I had the privilege not very long ago of putting before the House the case for the earliest priority for the Broads in regard not only to their maintenance but to their very preservation. Some hon. Members were good enough to examine the photographs I displayed in the Library. The Hobhouse Report puts the Broads last on the list. I do not know whether that was by design or whether it was felt that that was the proper priority for the area. I hope that it was not an afterthought.
Unless action is taken soon, the Broads will so deteriorate in value, from a national park point of view, that instead of being a splendid asset they will become a great liability. None of the proposed national parks mentioned in the Report have greater claim to be considered a national park in the best sense of the word than the Broads. They draw visitors from all over the country and from many places abroad. They are a natural playing ground and they conform more than any other to the popular conception of a national park. The area is well defined; one could say that the delimitations of its content are almost obvious. It provides the widest diversity of interests all in a sound British tradition—sailing, boating, swimming and hiking in the summer and fishing, skating and wildfowl shooting later on. It has unique facilities for the study of rare birds and aquatic vegetation. Within its boundaries are sanctuaries and nature reserves for conserving these rare specimens of animal and plant life.
Why, then, this sense of urgency? These amenities are being enjoyed by hundreds of thousands every year and already millions have benefited from them; but these glorious opportunities for the students and the holidaymaker are in the gravest danger of being seriously and progressively restricted through causes which are preventable and which should be prevented. The area of navi- 1611 gable water today is less than half what it was a century ago. There are two main causes. The hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) and other hon. Members yesterday praised the accommodation and co-operation of landowners. I wish we could say the same thing for the riparian owners on the Broads. During recent years there has grown up a habit of enforcing arbitrary enclosures. There are today, as is well known, cases of owners, or the men who regard themselves as the owners, of the waters building artificial barriers to free navigation and putting up notices "Private Water."
This is iniquitous and selfish and has no foundation in law. I would remind the House that already one-third of the navigable waters of the Broads is arbitrarily enclosed. From time immemorial there has been free access. The waters are tidal and navigational rights have never been extinguished. This action has induced a bitter and resentful feeling among those who live there and patronise the Broads. I hope that the powers of access defined in the Bill will apply equally to the waterways as they do to other areas in the national parks scheme.
There is also the neglect of the authorities to deal with the growth of weeds and aquatic vegetation. Many hundreds of acres are overgrown, and there is need for a forceful central authority to take the matter in hand. The Broad on which Nelson learnt to sail had 600 acres of navigable water in his time; today, through the growth of weeds and other vegetation, it is reduced to 100 acres. It seems to be nobody's business to take up this work, which is very expensive and requires a great deal of technical skill, effort, and drive. As to the representation on the local committees, our experience is that local authorities, while deriving considerable benefits in the way of revenue from the Broads area, have done very little to improve or even to sustain the amenities, and we are looking to the Minister to strengthen the local representation by people who will have the preservation of these navigable waters at heart.
It is gratifying that the financial burden upon the local authorities will be eased. A tremendous number of local authorities are concerned with the management of the Broads. I could name almost a dozen, including county 1612 councils, rural district councils, port and haven authorities, Broads preservation societies, all of whom are interested but very few of whom desire to spend money there. It is necessary that the Minister should appoint to the special parks committee which will administer the Broads men of vision and of great force. We welcome very much the special provision in the Bill for the 100 per cent. grant.
There is great potential wealth in the Broads, but there is a great and urgent need to remedy the evils. The Minister himself mentioned some of them—pollution by sewage, overhanging banks, quay headings rotting, trunks allowed to drift into the waterway and, of course, the terrible ribbon building, and what I would call debilitated shacks which surround the waterways. The people who live in the Broads and earn their living there, and the many who visit them every year, look to this Bill to provide expansion, to add to the amenities, and to give to this sadly neglected area new hope and new opportunities to provide health and enjoyment for many millions more in the days to come.
§ 12.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Beechman (St. Ives)
We have listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans) and to that of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Of course, we should have preferred to hear a Chancellor of the Duchy of Cornwall, but no doubt he is better established in another place. We all, irrespective of party, give a general blessing to this Measure. Indeed, I think it shows a certain amount of courage, though I cannot say that I know what will be the outcome. Certainly in Cornwall and in the Islands we shall make our final decision on what the results of this Measure may be.
In one respect I thought the Minister was in error. He said that in his view the word "National" referred to amenities. I think that is taking too narrow a view. This Measure is concerned to see that the interests of the people of this country whom we represent are preserved. It was well said by the Chancellor and by the Minister that in this small island of ours, and especially in the narrower part which I have the honour to represent, various types of interest and amenity are so adjacent to each other that it is difficult to say that there shall be a national park 1613 here or a national park there, because one may find oneself brought up against something which has nothing to do with a national park at all.
I give the example of tin. It serves the security of the public that tin and the other mineral resources of this country should be developed, but it may be that a tin mine will be found near a most beautiful area. Also, as we all know, or should know, the mineral in the soil gives a special intensity to the colour of flowers. I give this as an example of the difficulty there is in considering this matter on the lines of Yellowstone Park, of which we have heard so much—indeed, too much. One of the things we have to take care to preserve is a sense of remoteness. I live in my Division and, therefore, I am in that sense interested, but I am getting a little nervous as to whether we are preserving a sufficient sense of remoteness. It is easy to preserve a sense of remoteness on large moorland stretches because they have a faraway melancholy which nobody can touch.
I am all in favour of people with local knowledge being associated with the administration of these matters, and am inclined to think that the idea of a national advisory body is the right one. I also accept the view that we should have national parks and areas of natural beauty, which are more or less the same thing as the conservation areas—
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning (Mr. King)
Similar but smaller.
§ Mr. Beechman
But the matter needs re-thinking in certain respects. I could give a little advice on that subject, though I join in paying tribute to the work done by Sir Arthur Hobhouse and his colleagues, which was excellent and most carefully carried out.
In these national parks or areas of natural beauty, it does not follow that there should never be a house built. What is important is the type of house that is built. We do not want bungalows, except where bungalows may properly be built; we do not want camps, except where camps may suitably provide for the herd complex. Here and there, however, a house, besides serving the interests of an agricultural community, may add point to a landscape. The right type of house—Ruskin would have defined that as one useful to its purpose—and a gar- 1614 den going down to the sea, will very often greatly help the aesthetic appeal of the scene.
Before I sit down I must say one word about the Islands. I represent the islanders and I am not unaware that there are certain matters under consideration. May I say how happy we all are to think that His Majesty is making progress in health and we are proud of what our Royal Family has done to sustain the standards of public life in this country. Although the affairs of the Duchy of Cornwall are much better administered than I have ever known before, none the less there are grave uncertainties of which the islanders are well aware. There are great beauties there which need special thought. I am not at all clear what the position will be if we ever come to the point when the local authority, in the name of the people, wishes to acquire or administer land.
I have said enough to emphasise that there is a special conundrum here. My peroration will be that I greatly regret and cannot understand why the nightingale does not sing in the Isles of Scilly. It seems to stop its song somewhere in the middle of Somerset and to go only as far as Bedford. I shall remain the Member for St. Ives until the nightingale sings forever in the Isles.
§ 1.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland)
Perhaps I should begin by declaring my interest. I am what is generally known as a fell walker or fell scrambler, and as such I have committed an inordinate amount of trespass. I therefore welcome this Bill because I think that in future it will lessen the opportunities of further transgression in that regard. I was also one of those who trudged behind the Chancellor of the Duchy last May on the journey which was described by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) as "blazing the trail." Personally I found it more like a forced route march, and I understand that we are still remembered in the locality as members of "Dalton's Circus."
However that may be, I think it is both appropriate that the present Government should be taking this substantial step—and I do not want to upset the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish)—towards setting the countryside free for the people of this country, 1615 and that the Chancellor of the Duchy should have spoken today in this Debate. I well remember that in 1936 the Labour Party appointed a Distressed Areas Commission, which went up to West Cumberland. The Chairman of the Commission was the present Chancellor of the Duchy, and when they reported, not only did they suggest that the whole of the Lake District and the non-industrial coast should become a national park, but they went on to say:Here is a magnificent opportunity to preserve a world-famous district of grandeur and beauty from haphazard exploitation by private individuals; and to make it accessible, with the controlled provision of holiday facilities, including youth hostels, to all classes. We look forward to a near future when a Labour Government will have made holidays with pay the rule and not the exception, and when there will be opportunity for all to enjoy the glories of the English countryside.
Does that report say anything of the haphazard development of the Lake District by the water companies?
It deals with development in general, but does not deal with it in such specific detail as to touch upon the matter which the hon. Gentleman raises.
I mention this because, in a very real sense, this Bill is complementary to the steps which were taken under the Distribution of Industry Act. By the various Measures which have recently come before the House, we are taking those steps which are necessary to ensure that our country is used to the greatest benefit of its people. This is an aspect of this present development to be particularly considered. When we talk about areas of great natural beauty, we should also think of areas such as the Cotswolds, where the handiwork of man has added to the charm and attraction of nature. I do not think we should over-emphasise the character of these areas as nature preserves.
If I may return to the Lake District, I do not, for example, criticise the steps taken to provide for a road going over Honister. There were criticisms about that particular road when it was built, but nevertheless we have to recognise that that road has given tremendous pleasure to countless people. That is the way in which, generally, we should look upon these national parks, and it is par- 1616 ticularly important to us in the North. Again, taking the Lake District as an example, while I would not go as far as my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn did, because I do not think it would be desirable to endeavour to attract new industries into the Lake District, nevertheless, we should do all we can to develop the natural inherent Lakeland industries. I would go as far as to say that even a slate quarry, if properly managed, need not be an eyesore on the countryside, though it is true that slate quarries very often are. If the slate is required—and we know that today it is particularly difficult to get all the slate we need for our building programme—what is essential is to ensure that these quarries are properly worked and not to endeavour to sterilise the area.
At the moment there is the controversy about the factory at Windermere. I can see no reason at all why there should not be a factory on Windermere, although I can see objections to that particular factory. I do not say, however, that, if it were feasible and practicable, a particular factory should not be located adjacent to the lake. I think that is the reasonable and rational way in which we should deal with the controversial points which may arise once an area is designated a national park. It is the same regarding afforestation, and I agree with the Chancellor of the Duchy about hydro-electric development. We know that the prospects of any substantial hydro-electric development in the Lake District are very remote because of the water levels, but if there could be such development our main endeavour should be to ensure that the development is properly planned and not to prevent any such development which is in the country's interests. Again, more social amenities and holiday accommodation would be required and our primary concern should be to see that there is proper planning of the area concerned.
There is, however, one development which has been accentuated in recent years and which I do not welcome. That is the expansion of the demands of the Service Departments. I know that it is very difficult at the present time to argue very forcibly on this point, but at any rate we must remain very alive to this problem and as we restore peacetime conditions we should see that pres- 1617 sure is properly exercised on the Service Departments to contract their demands to the minimum. I was reassured by what my right hon. Friend said this morning in reply to the point raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, but my right hon. Friend has an aptitude for reassurance, and I should have preferred to hear that the Cabinet had accepted the recommendation of the Hobhouse Committee that there should be a number of Ministers whose responsibility it would be to ensure that the Minister of Town and Country Planning is not overborne on this question.
I welcome the general structure of the Bill, although I was surprised to hear the Minister say yesterday that the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman of the National Parks Commission would give part-time service. I can certainly see the desirability of the members being on a part-time basis but I should have thought that it was all-important that the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman should do full-time service. It seems to me that this is absolutely necessary to give the Commission the status which it requires.
Turning to the local administration, in spite of all the eloquent pleas by many voluntary organisations, and in spite of the views of the Hobhouse Committee, I support the structure which is at present proposed. It is satisfactory compromise. I do not think that the scheme will work unless we have wholehearted co-operation from the people who are resident in the designated localities. It is an extremely difficult problem. The Minister has had some experience of the inescapeable difficulties in the planning of the new towns. I have particularly in mind one of the new towns in the North-East, Peterlee. From that experience, one can recognise that it is absolutely essential in connection with all these developments that the people in the localities should be fully heard and that as far as possible their voice should be authoritative.
If I may refer again to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, may I say that I was not at all upset to hear that a candidate is fighting an election in Grasmere on this very issue. Why not? I cannot understand my hon. Friend's argument that these matters should be above the electoral level. Why should they be? These are matters which should be the subject of controversy, and if it is a question of the 1618 Lakes being a national park, the people in the Lake District should show a lively interest in the matter. I am not at all upset if one of the candidates says that he will fight an election on that issue.
I think we have a lot to learn from the experiment which the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster mentioned, the Tennessee Valley Authority. We should even look forward to local controversies. If action is being taken which may an-tagonise local interests not only should those local interests be encouraged to give expression to what they believe but the planning authorities should accept the burden and responsibility of showing and demonstrating that what they propose to do is in the interest of the area as a whole. We are fortunate today in that we are living in an adult democracy and I do not think that we should over-em-phasise the local aspect of local interests. It the case is properly put and argued. those difficulties will be overcome.
I have mentioned the status of the National Parks Commission. I should also like to mention the staus of the local planning body and to say no more than that I am a little surprised at the provision in Clause 7 (3) about aseparate sub-committee of a planning committee,…That should be avoided, if possible. I believe that the committee should be a fully recognised and separate committee and not a sub-committee. Again, it is no more than a question of status, but that is an important factor in ensuring that we attain our objectives.
I wish to make two general points about rights of way. First, without going into detail, as it is more a matter for the Committee stage, I think that an endeavour should be made to provide wider facilities for the general public to make representations. Secondly, I would add my voice to the many who have sung the praises of general access. I have enjoyed scores of visits to the Lakes, and I shall always be a very strong advocate of the right of general access to uncultivated land. I have been many times to the top of Scafell. I do not think that I have been up by the same way twice.
Of course, there is the danger of irresponsible people but I agree with most of what the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) said about this being a matter in which public standards have 1619 gradually been raised over the years, and that the understandable anxiety of landlords has to a substantial measure been overcome. I am afraid that in some cases, at least, we must feel that this question of access depends on shooting rights. I hope that everything which the right hon. Gentleman said, and all that the Dower Report has said about Ilkley Moor, will be noted by the owners of shooting rights. However, if it came to the striking of a balance, I would say that the interests of the public generally should override the sectional interests of people who enjoy that sport.
I notice that in the brief of the Standing Committee on National Parks which I have received, particular attention is called to the fact that it is only in some counties that a by-law is enforced against keeping a mature bull in a field where there is a public footpath, and that while, in the North, such protection is afforded in Cumberland, it is not afforded in Durham or Northumberland. I well remember an occasion when I escaped with great difficulty and at great speed from a bull while crossing a public footpath in Northumberland. That was some time ago, and I could no longer show the burst of speed which I showed on that occasion. I hope, therefore, that,opportunity will now be taken to see that the protection afforded in Cumberland is extended to the counties of Durham and Northumberland.
§ 1.18 p.m.
Mr. Vane (Westmorland)
I believe that the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. F. Willey) and I were brought up in the North of England and that both of us have equally enjoyed wandering about the country. If it came to adding up which of us had committed more trespass at one time or another, we might be close competitors. It is not worth while trying to make political capital about trespass in the North. I have wandered over open country and have never once come across any obstruction. I speak both as a landowner and a hill walker.
Mr. F. Wiley
When I was speaking about general access, I had in mind the North of England, where, I would agree, very wide facilities have been afforded to people like ourselves.
The hon. Member went on to recall that deplorable event the 1620 Whitsun before last, when the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, waving, I believe, a red silk handkerchief, and followed by about half a dozen admirers, trooped all along the Pennines. I do not know whether they made any speeches.
§ Mr. Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
We are going to Westmorland this Whitsun, where we shall do our best to remedy the point about political speeches.
They went into Westmorland the last time, and what my constituents said, particularly about the troop of photographers who followed them, is nobody's business. I hope that the provision in the Second Schedule against the holding of political meetings will be interpreted as covering political demonstrations of that kind as well.
The feature of this Bill which has been most welcomed by people in districts which are likely to become national parks is that embodying the Minister's decision that the planning control shall be largely local control and that the majority of members of these authorities shall not be outside nominee's as was at one time feared. Speaking for the Lake District, I may say that the impression began to get round that it was intended to turn us into some sort of reserve where we should have to live the life of a strange primitive Red Indian-like community. That apprehension was so strong that a go-ahead parson not very long ago founded a Society of Dalesfolk, which is another way of saying a society for the preservation of the local inhabitants, which has achieved a large membership in a very short time. However, I hope that there will not be a great field of useful work ahead of this society, since I believe it is the Minister's intention to reconcile all interests.
There is one other interest which is feeling a little apprehensive, and that is the agricultural interest. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has spoken reassuringly about the Government's intentions about agriculture, but Clause 5 (4) of the Bill says:local authorities shall have due regard to the need for securing that agriculture and forestry, as then established in the Park, shall be efficiently maintained.I should have thought that "as then established" was just a little bit condescending for the main industry or for other industries by which the people in those areas have to earn their living. Of course, 1621 we are looking forward not only to maintaining agriculture in the marginal and hill districts but to developing it. It is unquestionable that in this present time of straitened circumstances we have got to look for greater agricultural production wherever we can find it, and although it is true that most of the land in national park areas would come in the class of rougher grazing or marginal land it is capable of improvement.
Take cattle raising and grazing, for example. No one will say that in these times we have so much meat that we can afford to deny ourselves any opportunities for increasing or improving our herds of cattle. That means the increase of bulls running with heifers either in the larger enclosures or on the open fells. In spite of the experience of the hon. Member for Sunderland, with which we naturally all sympathise, I hope that it is not the Minister's intention to restrict that practice because it is a very important time-honoured practice of real agricultural value. It is not intended only as a deterrent to visitors. Agricultural development generally will mean new enclosures, new buildings and new cottages, but I do not think all that need affect reasonable and adequate access facilities, because we have such a large area which happily can accommodate a very large number of people visiting us.
It is sometimes said that it is only the Tories and wicked landowners who grumble about damage done by urban people who walk about the country side. That is not fair. We must of course take note of the fact that damage is done, and looking yesterday at a little book called "Socialism and Farming" published, I believe, by the Fabian Society in 1948, I read on page 6:Although the new National Parks will be in areas now mainly given over to sheep farming it seems certain that the development of 'hiking,' week-end excursions and holiday camps will be incompatible with the best farming. Untrained dogs, broken bottles, gates left open and fences broken through, seem the almost inevitable concomitants of the picnic habit.It looks as if the Fabian Society have recruited Colonel Blimp to write one of their books for them. I do not agree with all that is in that paragraph, but there is a danger which we must take note of, and when it comes to a conflict between this sort of thing and agriculture I hope the agricultural interests will be held to be more important.
1622 The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster then went on to speak about forestry, and I was very glad to hear him say what he did, because the opposition to forestry which is an industry very nearly as important in this country as agriculture, is so very foolish. Some of the crankiest of the cranks are never tired of complaining whenever a tree is planted. It is essential for us to extend our forestry areas, and it is clear that some of these national park areas will be those where this increased planting will take place. I do not entirely agree with the Chancellor in putting all the emphasis on the Forestry Commission, as hon. Members opposite are always inclined to do. In an area such as Southern Lakeland, the extension and replanting of large numbers of our smaller woods—not the sort of woods in which the Forestry Commission has any great interest—is likely to improve the beauty of the country, rather than spoil it, and I should like to see encouragement for that sort of thing, but I cannot find it when I look through this Bill. All I can see is:forestry, as then established shall be…efficiently maintained.We must have a considerably wider recognition than that. If we increase our area under trees that means more cottages and more local industry to deal with the forest products. Wood turning in many districts is important already; other industries will follow.
As for the question of fire, I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was quite right. It is true that certain plantations are more likely to burn when they are in their younger stages, but there are masses of older conifers growing over heather on light soils in the south of England which can be guaranteed to burn every Summer, irrespective of their age. The question of the rainfall in the district is just as important as the question of the age. Therefore, one must approach each case on its merits when considering access.
Reference has been made to quarrying. It is very difficult for a slate quarry to be ugly in a hill district, unless it becomes very large and exposed. Stone quarrying comes nearly in the same category. Both of those industries should exist in our hill districts, and there are other industries, too. It is noticeable how many small industries and mills are sited on the 1623 edges of villages in hill districts. In the early days water power probably decided the site of many of them, and they have continued to this day bringing a wider variety of employment where jobs would otherwise depend largely on two industries only—agriculture and the holiday trade. People in the Lake District would be extremely irritated and angry if they thought that their existing industries were not going to be allowed to develop reasonably and if similar new industries were not to be introduced. There is really no need to get hot under the collar the moment anyone mentions industry in a national park. Switzerland is frequently cited as an example of dispersed industry. There we find a wide dispersion, and I should like to think that Westmorland could offer a similar example. Many hon. Members who have gone through Westmorland by road or train have no idea of the number of industries, some of them employing many people, tucked away under a hill or near one of these scattered villages.
The question of beauty must be, to some extent, a question of opinion. Different people today have their own ideas. Different ages have had their own ideas. Not very long ago the beauty of the Lake District was not appreciated at all, now we have achieved a combination of beauty deriving from the natural character of the country, and the traditional way of life and the work of the inhabitants. I hope we shall not have too much interference. The traditions of building and development in country districts will generally turn out to be more beautiful than anything that is introduced by planners from outside with their straight lines, their concrete and cement verges and their best Ministry of Works neo-Georgian style of building and so on.
That may be admirable down the Great West Road, but it will not be suitable if introduced en bloc into the remoter country districts. The suburban approach which nearly all professional town planners have, is entirely unsuited. Our development has been sporadic. Of the 40 or so rural parishes in Westmorland, over 20 do not contain a village in the usual sense of the word. There are little scattered villages and hamlets at crossroads and so on. Our district would be entirely changed, and probably for the worse, if we had too violent a develop- 1624 ment along these suburban and semi-urban lines.
My last point is on the question of access which may have been a difficult matter, and may still be difficult, in some areas. So far as the North of England is concerned we have pretty well solved it by a matter of give and take on both sides. People can walk there with absolute freedom, and have walked there for generations. We have long welcomed visitors. We like them to take us as we are. We do not want them to bring their own prejudices with them. If there must be prejudices we would rather have ours than theirs.
By and large, I think and hope this Bill will contribute towards a better understanding between town and country. It could do no better than to try to give to other counties some of the many advantages which we have succeeded in developing on our own lake district where, and I maintain, achievement is a long way ahead of legislation.
§ 1.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Smith (Colchester)
In the generally cordial welcome which the House has given to this Bill a number of hon. Members have made references of a rather critical kind to the proposals for the composition of local committees in connection with the national parks. In this respect I cannot follow the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) in the view he took and I was very glad indeed to note the spirit in which the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster referred to this matter. It appeared that he was taking a very conciliatory view, and I hope that indicates that there will be a reconsideration of this matter when we discuss the Bill in Committee. Although hon. Members have already referred to this point, I propose to spend a moment or two on it because in his opening remarks yesterday the Minister was inclined to brush it aside. "Academic" was, I think, the adjective which he applied to the discussion about this question.
The case for national parks rests upon the basis that there is a national interest in such areas as Lakeland and the others with which we are concerned. It causes some anxiety when it appears to be proposed that the local committees shall be, basically, joint planning boards of local authorities which have geographically
1625 a share in the national park areas. Very authoritative opinions have been expressed in this House on the shortcomings of joint planning boards as a method of administration. I should like to quote one of them:This system has, on the whole, not been found to be conducive to good planning. I do not for a moment wish to decry the good and effective work which has been carried out by many of them, but the disadvantages of joint planning committees must be obvious. They offer opportunities for log-rolling anti bargaining by the representatives of the different planning authorities, and the resulting plan is often no better than, or different from the combined plans of the separate authorities."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1947; Vol. 432, c. 957.]The opinion which I have just quoted is entitled to very great respect, because it is the opinion which the Minister himself expressed on Second Reading of the Town and Country Planning Act. It is with such arguments as that in mind—and the Minister in that speech went on to develop the point at some length-that some anxiety is felt about this particularly administrative expedient, not regarded as satisfactory for normal town and country planning, being applied in those areas where far-sighted, imaginative and unified planning is of such exceptional importance.
It is proposed that there should be added to these joint planning boards a proportion of members selected from the Minister's panel. It is appropriate to make the point that in many cases, the individuals on the Minister's panel will not be remote gentlemen from Whitehall, as mentioned by the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake). They will, in fact, often be people with intimate local knowledge, but not necessarily representatives of the local authorities; and they would not have quite that regard for the interests of the ratepayers which representatives of local authorities very properly have. It would be particularly unfortunate if the impression were allowed to remain that the present 25 per cent.—or a much more substantial percentage which I hope will be arrived at by the time this Bill has passed through the Committee stage—will be made up of people who come from some remote and distant spot to impose alien ideas, formed from rather alien experience, upon our national park areas.
There is one point with regard to finance to which I hope the Parliamen- 1626 tary Secretary will give a reply. It is not clear to me whether the 75 per cent. grant towards expenses incurred in the national parks will cover the additional expense which may be involved in carrying out a particular piece of development in a more expensive but more desirable way, rather than a cheaper and less desirable way. This point was mentioned yesterday by the hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) and it is a matter of very great importance indeed. Unless there is to be financial assistance towards projects of that kind, unless there is to be a financial encouragement to carry out development with respect for the amenities rather than disrespect towards them, it will considerably weaken the position of the local committees.
So far, in this Debate we have had singularly little reference to the coasts outside the national park areas. This was a matter to which the Hobhouse Committee devoted some attention, and on which it made some proposals that I would commend particularly to the attention of the Minister. As a greater and greater number of people from the towns have full facilities for holidays, both summer holidays and week-end holidays, the pressure of the holiday traffic upon the coast will grow very steadily.
If we look at the coastline within, say, 60 miles of London, for example, we find, so far as I can recollect. that none of that coast actually falls within the area of a national park. But it includes areas, perhaps of less spectacular beauty than the national park areas, but which nevertheless have a very real attraction. The coast, the estuaries and islands in this area relatively near to London offer, on perhaps a more limited scale, those attractions of which the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans) spoke so persuasively in describing the Broads.
This is a problem to which, I hope, the Minister, if he considers it appropriate for the Commission, will give some attention. Before the war the pressure upon this coastal area was already formidable, and there is good ground for believing that, in the course of the next two or three years the pressure will grow steadily greater and greater. The existing holiday resorts cannot absorb this pressure. Nor is it desirable that they should, because there are many—indeed 1627 an increasing number of people—whose idea of a pleasant week-end out of London is of something rather different from the front at Brighton. They want to go to some area which can provide reasonable amenities, which is accessible, and in which, perhaps, rather more of the natural beauty has been preserved than has been the case, unfortunately, at some of our large and prosperous holiday resorts.
In areas of this kind I should certainly not advocate restriction of development. Quite the contrary. What I want to see is the stimulus of the right kind of development to cater for this particular type of need. We may expect that within the next few years, as petrol becomes more readily available, pressure of this kind will grow, particularly the pressure of week-end traffic. More private cars will be on the roads, and certainly more motor coaches; motor coaches in very much increased numbers, I think, will be on the roads. That is one aspect of the matter which has to be borne in mind. In the course of the next few years, too, we shall see building development in areas of the kind I have in mind, and I would recur to the point that we want to see the stimulation of the right kind of building development.
This is a matter which has had less public attention than the needs and problems and possibilities of areas of exceptional beauty. It is, nevertheless an aspect of access to the countryside and access to natural beauty which is of great importance, especially to the inhabitants of Greater London; and I would ask that the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary should take this matter into account. It is not quite clear from the Bill, nor was it clear from the speech of the Minister yesterday, whether it is proposed to take any action on this matter along the lines suggested by the Hobhouse Committee, but I hope the Minister will take this into consideration, and recognise that there is a problem here which requires foresight, and which will indeed repay foresight very greatly. Proper attention to this aspect of the problem car bring genuine benefit to the areas concerned, and very great solace and recreation to the inhabitants of the great urban aggregations in the South of England.
§ 1.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris (Cambridge University)
Like many hon. Members who have addressed the House today I shall say a few words in a moment about one particular locality, but first I may perhaps be permitted one or two more general observations. Anyone who has followed this Debate—and I have heard or read all the speeches, with, unfortunately, the exception of part of the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—must recognise that this Measure consists largely of a series of compromises—compromises between the powers of the Minister and the National Parks Commission, between the powers of the National Parks Commission and the local committees, between the various classes of representation on the local committees, between national and local finance, between—specifically and particularly—the national parks and Government Departments. I say that not at all in a spirit of criticism. It is obvious that there must be these compromises, and that the Bill could not have taken any very different form from the form which, in fact, it has taken; but it is the business of this House, and still more, perhaps, of the Committee which will consider this Bill, to take into account each of these compromises, and, where it appears to need a tilt in one direction or another, to see that it gets that tilt, to see in each particular case which of the particular bodies concerned needs strengthening rather than the other.
In that connection I would suggest first of all that the National Parks Commission needs strengthening in relation both to the Minister and to the local committees. I say in relation to the Minister because with great respect to him and his officials, we do not want to see national parks run from Whitehall, even if Whitehall extends as far as St. James's Square. There will be, of course, the closest co-operation between the Minister and the Commission. The Minister, it has been suggested, may have to fight the battles of the Commission with his colleagues in the Cabinet. However, it is particularly important that the Commission should have a very clear personality and existence of its own, and should he understood by everyone to be the controlling body in connection with national parks. I think the Commission should be strengthened in relation to the local committees. Like others who have 1629 spoken, I feel that the National Parks Commission should lay down a very definite code for the national parks; lay down a system and a policy which, to some extent, if possible, should be actually mandatory upon the local authorities.
With regard to representation on the local committees there is, of course, a conflict between those who, like the Hob-house Committee, desire 50 per cent. of nominees of the National Parks Commission, and those who, like the Minister himself, desire 25 per cent. I think the case for predominant representation by the local bodies has been established, but I should prefer to see a further compromise theme, and a balance struck between 50 per cent. and 25 per cent. I should have thought that 33⅘ per cent. nomination of the National Parks Commission would have been legitimate and in every way desirable. As between the National Parks Commission and Government Departments I feel very much with my right hon. Friend the Senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) that it may be desirable to follow paragraph 116 of the Hobhouse Report and establish some special Cabinet sub-committee, but I understand that the Chancellor of the Duchy—though I did not hear him—has given satisfactory assurances on that point, and, therefore, I shall not press it further.
Then, of course, we come to the all-important compromise, which has been a good deal discussed today, between amenities and industry in a national park area. The Minister yesterday said he had gone through the dictionary for a definition of the word "park." If, as I suppose, he went to the Oxford Dictionary, he probably got a relatively accurate definition, and his quotation reminded me of someone who told a story of a schoolboy who defined "vacuum" as "a large empty space where the Pope lives." An old lady who was listening laughed immoderately, and said, "How extremely diverting, but why the Pope?" I am not concerned with the Holy Father in this connection, but with the vacuum, because in part of the discussion on this subject—not in this House but in the public Press—the national park areas have been treated as if they were—I am afraid I shall have to say "vacua" or "vacuums"—at any rate, as if a national park area were a vacuum in which no one lived or worked, in which no rates were 1630 paid, no industry carried on—as though it were merely an empty space of which some new body could come in and take charge and administer as it would.
That is, of course, emphatically not the case, and it is just because people are living in those areas, because people are carrying on their agriculture there, are paying their rates, are concerned with all sorts of local matters, that the local authorities must, it seems to me, have pretty strong representation on the local planning committee. I do not feel that it would be excessive if they had 66⅔ per cent. and the nominees of the National Park Commission the odd 33⅘ per cent.
Then there is the question of the kind of safeguards which need to be applied in any national park area. I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) in what he said about industries when he suggested that certain kinds of industries did not detract at all from the amenities of national parks. I think that we have to take each particular case and decide it on its merits. I did not entirely agree with the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) when she seemed to deprecate, although perhaps she did not mean entirely to deprecate, the introduction of light industries into a national parks area. At one extreme one does not want to see coalmines in a national park area; on the other hand, there are almost cottage industries like turnery to which no objection could be taken. As to timber yards I think that the wholesome smell of sawdust is an attraction to the amenities of an area rather than otherwise.
When it comes to cement, that can be discussed with more knowledge and feeling than I can command by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) who will no doubt refer to it later. Hotels I view with some apprehension. There were two or three interesting paragraphs on holiday accommodation on the Hobhouse Committee report and there clearly must be additional accommodation for the increasing number of people likely to be attracted to these areas. But I hope that the National Parks Commission will give directions or at any rate advice to the local authorities to abjure completely anything in the nature of luxury hotels established for people who like to pay £2 10s. a day or something similar. Let us preserve the simplicity 1631 of these areas both in architecture and habits.
Then there is the question of pylons, about which I tried to elicit some information from the Minister yesterday. I am myself allergic to pylons; I think there is nothing more unsightly than these horrible structures sprawling across the countryside. It distressed me to hear the Minister say that no one had the power to pay the difference between the cost of carrying the electric cables overhead and carrying them underground. When this Bill is in Committee I hope that this point will be seriously considered. I am not indeed altogether convinced that the necessary power does not exist. I find some passages in the Bill which could be stretched to cover it if they do not actually cover it already. In Clause 5 (1) of the Bill it is stated:The provisions of this part of this Act shall have effect for the purpose of preserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the areas specified.How can natural beauty be preserved if we allow these hideous pylons to carry their electric cables right across it? I think that it it might be found possible to act under that Clause if no other, although I believe there is in fact another reference in the Bill with regard to the prevention of unsightly erections. I hope that in one way or another we may be able to avoid the erection of these pylons in the national park areas.
The Minister yesterday and the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans) today enumerated the great number of diversions which can be carried on in the national parks area; boating. camping, fishing, bathing and so on. But there was no mention of courting. I hope that omission was unintentional because I can imagine no better setting for the customary preliminaries to matrimony than a national park area. Hon. Members may recall that the Home Secretary some time ago mentioned to the House that he had conducted his courtship on Dartmoor—which is to be a national park area. Oddly enough I was doing the same thing at the same time at the same place. We did not happen to encounter one another while so engaged,, or while so becoming engaged, but the outcome was extremely satisfactory in both cases and to anyone who is in a position to do so, I can con- 1632 fidently give the advice to go to the same place and follow the same procedure.
That brings me to the particular area about which I wish to say a word, namely Dartmoor. May I suggest in that connection that those Members—and I have no doubt that they are numerous—who have constituents or personal friends accommodated at present in Dartmoor Prison will no doubt be gratified to reflect that in the course of two or three years these not entirely honourable gentlemen will be residing in the middle of a national park area. If the Home Secretary should find, as I hope that he will, that it is possible to dispose of Dartmoor Prison before many years are over, I trust that steps will then be immediately taken to blow the whole thing up. I can imagine no more depressing disfigurement of a national park area than this unsightly, grim and forbidding and hideous edifice.
In connection with Dartmoor I should like to endorse the suggestion of the Chancellor of the Duchy that artificial lakes by no means destroy the amenities of a naturally beautiful area. They may actually add to the amenities of it. I would instance in that connection Burrator Lake on Dartmoor, which was constructed to assist in giving the city of Plymouth the purest water in the world. It certainly does not detract from the amenities of Dartmoor. I trust that in this national park area and in others where the occasion may arise the National Parks Commission and the local authority will pay the greatest attention to the protection and preservation of antiquities. One national park area, that containing the Roman Wall, consists, of course, almost wholly of antiquities. But Dartmoor is far richer than many people realise in ancient remains of one kind and another. There are hut circles, stone circles, stone avenues, clapper bridges, menhirs and kistvaens, scattered all over Dartmoor and exposed always to the depredations of farmers who want to build what are called dry walls—consisting of large unmortared stones. It is of the first importance that the highest protection should be given to those kinds of remains.
I think that anyone who listened to the Minister yesterday must feel, as I think someone else has already suggested, that a new chapter was being opened in the social history of this country by the introduction of this Measure. The hon. 1633 Member for Blackburn referred to herself as a trail blazer. I think that the Minister himself might be described in another sense as a trail blazer. The spectacle of the two of them tripping through a national park together would be extremely attractive, and if the right hon. Gentleman should flag at all in that pursuit-I am quite sure that the hon. Lady would not—I should be very glad to take his place at any moment. I think that I have said enough on that subject. Altogether, speaking in the proper spirit of an independent Member, I should like to say that in my opinion this Measure reflects on the Government lasting credit—to set against some of its more deplorable actions, either committed or in contemplation.
§ 1.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
Apart from the concluding few words, we have had a remarkably pleasant and constructive speech from the junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris). In connection with his remarks about the desirability of courting in the national park areas, I would draw his attention to the Second Schedule to the Bill which points out that the rights of public access shall not apply to a person wholights any fire or does any act which is likely to cause any fire.I hope that his courtship was not of such an ardent nature that it brought him within those provisions, or those which follow later on concerningriotous, disorderly or indecent conduct.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
I am glad to hear it. I wish to add my welcome to this Bill as a step forward. A few weeks ago, when the Bill was published, I did not think it was a step quite far enough forward, but as I have listened to this Debate I have become more and more convinced in my own mind that we have reached a compromise solution, which is the only one possible in all the circumstances. At one stage I thought that the Minister ought to have had the title "Local Authority Parks" instead of "National Parks," but perhaps we can get over those difficulties in Committee.
There is no doubt in my mind, or in the minds of most people in this country, 1634 of the necessity to establish national parks. When we see every weekend the exodus from our great cities and towns of all those enthusiastic people, shod with heavy boots and wearing queer clothes, who crowd the railway stations or make their way by cycling or walking to places of outstanding beauty, and when we bear in mind the keenness with which they face all the difficulties on the way, we must realise that we are merely doing our duty by making these provisions more widespread. All the week these people are confined to dreary desks or humdrum tasks in factories and elsewhere, and at weekends they can clearly receive tremendous benefit from the open country of our beautiful land. They can get real exhilaration by battling against the elements, in climbing mountains with the wind and rain beating against them; that is a very invigorating exercise, and these people can be so refreshed in mind and spirit by a weekend in such surroundings that on their return they are better fitted again to take up their tasks and contribute more to the common good. Bearing that in mind, I am sure we are right in encouraging by this Bill more and more people to take such relaxations.
I was a little perturbed at the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), who did not want to give too much encouragement to this idea. Apart from that, he made a first-class speech, and I can see the danger he wishes to avoid. He does not want to have large masses of people tramping all over the countryside. But even with the maximum of encouragement that we can give under this Bill, I do not think that is likely to happen. In my view, there is probably no more vital a body of people than those who make their way into the unspoiled areas of our country at weekends and on their holidays. Not for them the manufactured entertainments of watching football or attending greyhound racing; they belong to a race with the real pioneering spirit, who go out and face adventure, and we ought to do everything in our power to increase their number, and to increase their understanding and perception of our national heritage.
I wish to say a little about what I consider to be the essential elements in creating a successful national parks policy. There are, I think, four clearly marked elements, the first being the 1635 Minister. I have no fear myself of the powers we have given to the Minister—either this or any other Minister of Town and Country Planning—being abused. I think that he is the right person to have those powers. When we examine the powers that rest in his hands we see how extensive they are: he has power to give directions to the Commission; the power of nomination to local parks committees; powers to acquire land in national parks in order to preserve the objects of the Bill—that is to say, to preserve and enhance natural beauty, and to promote their enjoyment by the community; power to secure access; power to determine long-distance routes, and to ensure that they are kept in good condition; power to direct local authorities to make access orders; and, above all, the default powers in Clause 87, which give complete authority to secure all the objects set out in the Bill. I say he is the right person to have those powers because if we are dissatisfied, we have the right to raise the matter in this House of Commons by all the means open to us, bringing pressure to bear upon him, and ensuring that whatever is wrong is put right. In the end that may be a speedier and more efficacious process than going to the Commission through the Minister.
The second element is the National Parks Commission itself. Obviously, that must be a strong body with the best people upon it. The definition in the Bill is left very vague, I think deliberately; and I am quite sure that the Minister knows in his own mind exactly whom he wishes to put on the Commission. I was, however, disturbed to hear him say yesterday that the chairman and deputy-chairman would be part-time. It may be that they can be part-time in 10, 15 or 20 years' time, but at the beginning, when we are starting this experiment, this great venture, it seems to me essential that the chairman and deputy-chairman should devote the whole of their energies to starting this work on the right road. I was therefore surprised to hear my right hon. Friend speak in favour of part-time chairman and deputy-chairman. Obviously, these people must be men and women of great vision, great imagination, strong personality, and with plenty of administrative experience.
Much of the argument on this Bill has developed over the composition of the 1636l local parks committees. It is here that each national park will be made or marred, so that it is essential for the county councils to have the duty of ensuring that their very best members are on the planning committee for the national parks. It is also the duty of the Minister to see that men and women of the right calibre are appointed to these committees. In my view, it does not very much matter whether the percentage is 20, 33⅘, 40 or 50, because provided there are a few people who know exactly what they want and have sufficient vision and drive to convince others of the rightness of their demands, even a county council sub-committee can make its demands felt.
It is somewhat academic to argue these different percentages, because if there is a dispute between the local and the national interests, it does not seem to me that having the National Parks Commission in control would solve it. In some of our new towns there might easily be such a conflict between the local authority and the national body, and it does not matter which is in numerical control; in the end it has to come back to the Minister who has the ultimate responsibility. I am content to see that the Minister himself exercises his full powers. I hope that as a result of this pressure the county councils and all involved will agree to meet together with the maximum of good will, and with the desire to create a national park, and that in any conflict local needs will give way to national needs, although safeguarded by adequate and proper discussion.
I now wish to refer particularly to the North Riding of Yorkshire which, under the recommendations of the Hobhouse Report, has two proposed national parks which take up about 600,000 acres of the county—almost the bulk of the county. I can see that there is a strong case why control should not be in the hands of a national body. That would meet with great resentment locally when almost the whole county is in the national park area. But I can also see a very strong case why authority should not be designated to a sub-committee of a planning committee, which is in turn responsible to the county council. I hope that in such cases my right hon. Friend will use his influence to see that a proper national parks committee is established, with prestige and power of its own. I hope, too, that on 1637 this point the county councils will take note of the doubts and fears which have been expressed, and will see that the national interest prevails.
The fourth ingredient necessary for success concerns the users of these areas. There are two kinds. First, those who live in the area, whose life has to go on whether they are living in a national park or not, and whose interests must be safeguarded. I am sure that they will be safeguarded under the present set-up. They will be allowed to engage in their normal pursuits. The whole range of their experience will be greatly increased by the fact that they are living in a national park. Second, there are the people who will come into the park for recreation and enjoyment. It is obvious that we must carry on large-scale education to convince them that theirs is not the only way of life, that there is much to be said for the people whose land and amenities they will be going over and enjoying. They must be educated in the ways of the countryside. In this sphere there is a tremendous job to be done by the voluntary bodies who have shown such great interest in this movement in the past. It will be their job to see that the Minister is made aware of what is going on in these areas, to see that the county committees are kept up to the mark and that there is no wanton vandalism.
Now let me speak of something which I do not believe has been mentioned in detail so far—the conservation areas, mentioned in the Hobhouse Report. In this Bill they are referred to as areas of outstanding natural beauty which, for one reason or another, are not classified as national parks. Because they will be nearer and easier of access to large centres of population I think we ought to have from the Minister some idea of what his proposals are in this direction. Is it proposed to establish the 52 conservation areas which were proposed by the Hobhouse Committee? How will the National Parks Commission come into this? So far as I can see, they are to be left under the provisions of the 1947 Act. I think it is desirable that in these areas the Commission should have a voice.
Could my right hon. Friend tell us about his plans in this matter, because it is of great importance to those people who cannot get to the major national parks? Can he tell us about his pro- 1638 posed time-table? There is nothing in the Bill to say that a national park must be designated within so many years of the Bill becoming law. I do not know whether it will be feasible or not, but I should say, let us make a start not with 12 parks but with, say, three—in the Lake District, the Peak District and perhaps Dartmoor, which is of easy access to those in the South of England. Let us see what kind of a job we can make of these before we develop national parks all over the country. I think that would be wise and desirable.
The mention of long-distance footpaths in the Bill is an imaginative gesture. I do not wish to go over the walk which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy and others undertook last Whitsun, although I have already told the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) that I intend to visit him again this coming Whitsun. If we can establish those walks, if we can have a continuous walk along the hills for 300 miles without coming into contact with roads and traffic, we shall put a great natural amenity at the disposal of all those who wish to take advantage of it. There is also the problem of grouse moors in the south of the proposed Pennine Way. I hope that people in the Peak District will note the wise remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds on this matter. If in that part of Yorkshire which he knows so well, there is no disadvantage to grouse through the access of walkers, I think we can apply that to the beautiful areas of the Peak District which, until now, only trespassers have been able to enjoy at the risk of being sent to prison or suffering bodily hurt. Further, could we pursue the question of coastal parks? I understand that with the exception of the built-up areas abutting on the sea front, it would be possible to have a path all around the coast of this country, either along the old coastguard walks or the sands or dunes. A large part of this is in the national parks area—
§ Mr. Chetwynd
I think it is covered by the Bill, but if not we can look into it in Committee and try to get some of the £50 million which was granted to the National Land Fund. I think my right 1639 hon. Friend the Member for the Duchy of Lancaster would support us in that.
It has been said that this Bill has been introduced for the benefit of townsmen whom we must educate in the use of the countryside, but there are many country dwellers who are still not aware of the natural beauty which surrounds them. They are surrounded by most magnificent scenery, but they never look at it. There, too, we have to convince them that this Bill is also in their interests. Let us encourage such people to go to other beautiful parts of Britain to appreciate the beauties there as well. In conclusion, I would like to quote a passage from a poem by Shelley:Away, away, from men and towns,To the wild wood and the downs—To the silent wildernessWhere the soul need not repressIts music, lest it should not findAnd echo in another's mind,While the touch of Nature's artHarmonises heart to heart.If that can be made the motto of this Bill, then it will have a great future.
§ 2.17 p.m.
§ Major Gates (Middleton and Prestwich)
I am glad that you have allowed me to intervene in the Debate, Mr. Speaker, because nowhere has a Measure of this kind been more eagerly awaited than in the built-up areas of industrial South Lancashire, part of which I have the honour to represent. I have been most impressed by the number of constituents who have taken the trouble to speak and write to me on this subject, and I think the Minister ought to know that all of those constituents, although many have not been members of recognised rambling and open air societies, are unanimous on two points: first, they are afraid that the machinery which is set up in the Bill will not be strong enough to resist the further encroachments and spoliations of the Service Departments, statutory undertakers and other Government Departments, second, they are wondering whether the Commission will be a strong enough policy-forming body.
I have been rather surprised to find that they all want a uniform policy for the whole of the national parks. I think that arises in this way: as has been brought out in the Debate, there will undoubtedly be one or two—I hope not many—by-laws dealing with conduct in 1640 these parks, and customs as to the way of using them will undoubtedly develop. Obviously the rambler who has become accustomed to taking his open-air recreation in the Peak District, does not want at a later date to go to a national park in the Lake District and find that he is doing things which are perfectly permissible under the by-laws of the Peak District but not permissible in some other national park. Uniformity in custom and by-laws seems to be desirable throughout the national parks, and people are wondering whether this Commission will be a strong enough policy-making body.
I should like to make another point on policy. The Minister made one or two references to the Yellowstone National Park. In this context reference to Yellowstone is a little dangerous. I have not been there since 1934, but I should like to refresh the memory of the right hon. Gentleman as well as my own. The park is closed in the winter months, and I got there a week before it was opened. The warden, finding I was a wandering Englishman, kindly let me in. The Minister may know that the part of the Yellowstone Park which the general public sees is just that vale about one mile wide and seven miles long with a lovely trout stream running through it and with silver birch glades, which are surrounded by the superb and steep mountains.
I wandered through that vale and then into the silver birch glades where I saw little pegs. Every one was numbered up to several thousand. I asked the warden what they were and he said that they were individual camp sites. That small valley seven miles long and one mile wide can at any moment contain 25,000 persons camping in its peak season. In America 25,000 persons mean at least 5,000 or 6,000 motor cars. If one thinks of Dovedale in those terms, one immediately becomes convinced that, although under this Bill we must give the freest possible access, access to the wilder parts should be physically as difficult as possible; in other words, one should be able to get there preferably by walking and not too much by motor car. That is the best way of getting into these solitary beauty spots, as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster knows very well.
That brings me to the question of footpaths, on which I feel very strongly. A 1641 study of this Bill reveals that reform of the whole subject of footpaths and rights of way in this country will have to be carried out. Having studied the matter of footpaths, I find that they naturally fall into three categories. The first category are what I would call merely accommodation footpaths. For instance, one may have two outlying farms called A and B. For the inhabitants of farm A to get into their hamlet or village or to go to church, it may be necessary and desirable for them to make a short-cut across farm B. Farmer B will not mind about a footpath being developed for that purpose, but it may do damage to his farm and become a nuisance if the accommodation footpath is developed into a public right of way and becomes a pedestrian thoroughfare. The most important category of all is the local convenience footpath and right of way, which has been developed in the community to make a short-cut when the road has meandered round a wide area. These direct short-cuts across the fields are essential to the local inhabitants and must be carefully preserved by law.
I hope, however, that this Measure will create a considerable new network of entirely new footpaths and rights-of-ways, which we might define as access footpaths. Access footpaths will never be for people in a hurry, and need never take a short-cut, but can meander about in search of the most beautiful parts of our countryside. Nearly all our present footpaths are short-cuts and our new type of footpath, which we will call the access footpath, can well meander. I hope that in Committee we shall be able to reform the footpath and the right-of-way law to conform with this principle, which is an important one from the point of view of the countryside.
There are two small Committee points which I wish to mention, because I feel strongly about them. I hope that in Committee we shall be able to make the leaving open of gates a definite offence. At present, as I understand the law, if a gate is left open damage must result before one can proceed against the offender. Sometimes there is a considerable lapse of time between the leaving open of the gate and the breaking out or the breaking in of stock. Very frequently the offender is never detected and brought to book. Similarly, I hope we shall be able to tidy up and strengthen 1642 the law with regard to litter, as has already been mentioned several times in this Debate.
In conclusion, I should like to say how much I appreciated the manner in which the Minister introduced this very important Measure, and I share his optimism that in Committee, with our united nonparty wisdom, we shall be able to turn it into something which will bring happiness, beauty and a feeling of peace to millions of our fellow countrymen.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Symonds (Cambridge)
I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Major Gates) will forgive me if I do not follow him over the ground he has taken. I am particularly anxious to deal with one part of the Bill which has been mentioned very little indeed, but which the Minister said yesterday was perhaps the most difficult part of the Bill to prepare and possibly the most controversial. I refer to Part V, which deals with the question of access.
Most hon. Members will be aware that the Minister has departed considerably from the recommendations of the special sub-committee of the Hobhouse Committee which dealt with this question of footpaths and access. Their principle was, in the main, that all uncultivated land should be access. land unless there were specific reasons to the contrary. My right hon. Friend said that he regarded those recommendations as far too sweeping. He has tackled the problem from the other end. We are to proceed by means of access agreements or access orders and to designate land piecemeal as access land. I think that the Minister has made a mistake in tackling the question from that end. He says that where there is access now without difficulty, why bother to bring into operation the procedure of the Bill? Let us deal, he suggests, with the individual cases where access is actually difficult. I suggest that for those areas where access presents no problems, it would not present further problems to bring them in under the general scope of the provisions of the Bill. Making the provision a general one would prevent various complications which I hope to mention in a moment or two.
Although not accepting the full recommendations of the sub-committee, the 1643 Minister did indicate that he was sympathetic towards the idea of the local planning authority making a survey within a certain period. The right hon. Gentleman's words were:I think that is worth considering. It is conceivable that some local authorities may, in the pressure of business and for other reasons, be slow in providing the necessary access."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1949; Vol. 463, c. 1487.]I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should give very thorough consideration to the idea, if he intends to maintain the principle at present outlined in the Bill, that every local planning authority should be given the task of making a survey of access land within its area, and that that survey should be completed within a certain reasonable time. I do not think that the idea presents any very great difficulty to county councils. They are, of course, at work at the moment upon their development plans under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. They therefore are at the moment surveying to a large extent quite closely the areas for which they are responsible. If they were given the extra task of a survey of access land within a certain period of time, that should not present any very great difficulty.
That, at least, I hope the Minister will do, if he is anxious to keep the proposed structure. He cannot do it better or more simply than by designating all uncultivated land as access land, unless there be good reasons to the contrary in specific cases. The use of the phrase "uncultivated land" would have prevented a great deal of the misunderstanding which has arisen from the phrase "open country." The phrase "uncultivated land" would make the matter clear. I do not think it is clear at the moment that what we have in mind is not agricultural land at all. The term "open country" to some people might include areas which are cultivated. Were the phrase "uncultivated land" there could be no doubt whatever. If the principle were accepted that all uncultivated land was access land, the general public could assume, quite safely, that the uncultivated land they were approaching was access land, unless there was some definite notice to the contrary.
There are two good reasons for this proposal. One is procedural and the 1644 other is practical, the process of designating land which the Minister envisages would, I fear, create a great deal of uncertainty and might lead to almost indefinite delay. The idea is that there should be an access agreement if possible and only an access order if it has not been found possible to get an access agreement. Clause 51 (2,b) says:An access order shall not be made as respects any land…(b) where such an agreement or agreements are not in force with respect to the land, unless it appears to the said authority impracticable to secure the making of such an agreement or agreements.In other words, a local authority has to go through the attempt to get agreement before it can impose an access order. There is no indication of there being a time limit. I fear that a determined landlord with the assistance of a clever lawyer might pretend to be working out an access agreement almost indefinitely.
In some parts of the country this matter of access presents no difficulty, but areas which are likely to present difficulty are beaches and shores. The subcommittee were very much concerned about that point. We want something more definite in the Bill than appears at the moment with regard to access, particularly as it concerns shores and beaches. I would quote a short sentence from paragraph 207 of the Report:The remainder of the beach and shore which stretches back from the foreshore to the cultivated land behind is governed by the same considerations as those that apply to any other private land. It is therefore possible for an owner to fence off land right down to the mean high watermark, and so control all access to foreshore and sea.They conclude:Since it is evident that a general right of roaming over the foreshore and the land immediately behind is a right unknown in law, we recommended that this land, referred to as beach and shore, should be subject to access designation.As the approaches to a beach and shore can be so easily fenced off, the Minister should make sure that there need not be any additional delay in securing access to such areas.
Then there is the practical reason why I think the Minister's approach is likely to cause difficulty. How is a wanderer to know when he approaches uncultivated land, whether there is in existence an access order or agreement? Presumably 1645 some kind of notice would have to be put up to indicate that it was access land. If that is done, it means that we shall have a horrible rash of notices of one kind or another all over the countryside. Were we to approach the issue the other way about, and to let the public assume that uncultivated laud was access land unless there was a notice to the contrary, the number of notices required to cover these few exceptions where, for one good reason or another, access was not contemplated, would be very few indeed.
I would therefore say that in order to prevent confusion and uncertainty in the public mind, it should be made clear that unless there is a notice to the contrary, access is possible. If we are to have this open access, one appreciates that much education is needed. The hon. and gallant Member for Middleton and Prestwich said that access should be made physically as difficult as possible. I agree that the approach to such areas should as far as possible be made on foot. There is a great need for education, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) that, with the passing of this Bill and the setting up of the National Parks Commission, there is greater scope perhaps than ever before for all the voluntary societies because it will devolve very largely on them to see that this freer access to the beauties of our countryside is not abused.
I am not a pessimist. I feel that open access will encourage good manners. I am reminded of that by the number of notices saying, "Trespassers will be prosecuted" which I have seen on roads bordered by private woodlands. It is around those notices that I have seen the most destruction and the largest collections of broken bottles. The appearance of such notices seems to provoke people to be destructive, and I dare say that the broken glass I have seen lying around them results from bottles having been thrown at them. I feel that the very presence of such a notice has encouraged vandalism, and that without such notices, a greater sense of respect for the beauties of the countryside is likely to result. I urge my right hon. Friend to go further than he has done in making access free and easy without the need for the complicated procedure of agreements and orders as envisaged in the Bill.
§ 2.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)
I must confess that of all the valuable Measures brought before this Parliament, this one gives me most personal and perhaps selfish satisfaction. Exactly a quarter of a century ago, as a very junior Member, I had the pleasure of sponsoring one of the many Access to Mountains Bills. It now looks as if what some of us have sought for such a long time is at last likely to come to fruition.
I want to deal with two points. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) rather suggested that everybody should not be encouraged to enjoy the advantages of our national parks and that some might still be left to the tender mercies of Butlin's Camps. I cannot agree with that. I believe that of all the pleasures of life, the joy of the countryside lasts longest and that advantage can be taken of it by people of all varieties of culture and education. But of course, such pleasures can be enjoyed most fully by those who have spent part of their youth in the country. I hope that when our national parks are developed, my right hon. Friend will do his best to get the school children to visit them so that they may be trained in the enjoyment of the parks and their proper use. There is an organisation with which I am connected called the School Nature Study Union whose slogan is "To see and admire and not hurt and destroy." When children are taught in the schools how to use and enjoy nature, they will I hope take advantage of the facilities provided by the national parks all their lives.
I particularly commend to the House the part of the Bill dealing with long distance routes, those ancient trackways hallowed by history and tradition. Some years ago before the war I spent a week with a friend walking along the Upper Ridgeway which runs along the Berkshire Downs past Avebury to the Marlborough Downs. As we went along we could see very few houses and there was no hostel or other place of refreshment. At night we had to descend about two or two and a half miles to some village inn and have eggs and bacon for supper and bacon and eggs for breakfast the next morning. That may sound attractive at present but it was less attractive 12 or 14 years ago. I see nothing in the Bill to provide for hostels and refreshment 1647 houses within reasonable distance of these long distance routes. Perhaps the Minister will consider whether something of that sort can be added to the Bill.
I very much appreciate the Bill. While there will be many Committee points to consider, I and other lovers of the country will ever thank the Minister and the Government for this valuable Measure.
§ 2.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
The Minister cannot be dissatisfied with the general reception given to his Measure from all sides of the House. As regards the general purposes of the Bill, there is a wider measure of agreement than ever before. If, on some occasions, over the administration of his Department a certain amount of disagreement arises between some of us and himself, at any rate that is only a difference as to how the balance of advantage is to be adjusted. It is no mere coincidence that this Measure should be introduced into Parliament at a time when it is more difficult than ever before to hold the balance fairly and wisely between industry and amenity because there is now such an immense proportion of the people of this country who work in factories, mills or offices to whom open-air recreation is so necessary as well as being popular. It is the ugliness of industrial development which makes it so necessary to have a Measure of this kind.
In one respect we can all agree that the problem has changed, and changed in a way that should be satisfactory to this House. Under the legislation of 1947 the establishment of these national parks should not be a costly matter. Naturally we were interested in hearing from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster his explanation of what had happened to his Land Fund. The verbal facility and the financial dexterity which he showed when he was at the Exchequer, has not deserted him now that he has gone to the Duchy of Lancaster.
We thought originally that this Fund was a paper transaction. That was a natural, if not a legitimate conclusion to draw from the rest of his policy when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. We are glad to know that it is actually a Fund, but I am sure we all also rejoice to know that the investments bought for that fund were not "Daltons" The 1648 dexterity of the right hon. Gentleman is shown when he mentioned that on those 2½ per cent. securities the yield now would be 3⅜ per cent., and he seemed to wish to draw our attention to the increased yield that would be derived by someone who bought those securities now. It is, of course, most fortunate to think that the Fund did not buy them when they were 100 per cent. for they are now down to about 80 per cent., and all the interest that could have accrued during that time, would hardly have made up for the loss of capital.
The farmers of the High Peak frankly regard this Measure with some anxiety, and I feel that it is perhaps natural. At the same time, I am confident that the obligation imposed by Clause 5 (4) for the maintenance of agriculture will ensure that they do not really suffer when this Bill is put into operation. I hope that not merely the maintenance of agriculture as it is at the present time, but also the natural and proper development of agriculture will be facilitated by the planning authority under this Bill. They are also somewhat concerned as to whether the higher standard of amenity interest which will rightly be required in the national parks should impose additional expenditure upon them.
I do not see that there is any provision in this Bill, as I think there should be, that additional expenditure required in the interests of amenity and, therefore, of the country as a whole, should not be imposed either upon the farmer or upon the landowner. The kind of point I have in mind is that I personally regret to see Dutch barns being put up in the Hope Valley, and I should like the traditional stone barns to continue to be erected. However, if that is to be much more costly, it would not be fair or reasonable that that additional burden should be thrust upon those people in the interests of the community.
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has made the more modest proposals for access that are contained in this Bill, in contrast with the more drastic proposals of the Footpaths and Access sub-committees. In the High Peak, farming is of considerable importance—there are 75,000 acres, 15,000 ewes and 30,000 sheep—and not only have the farmers given up their time and labour in trying to keep that somewhat barren and chilly area in effective cultivation, but also sub- 1649 stantial subsidies have been paid by the Treasury. Therefore, it is essential, particularly at the present time, that however interested we may be in amenity, we should not give such rights of unrestricted access as would be seriously harmful to the farming community.
Since one or two hon. Members have taken a contrary view, perhaps I may be allowed to say why it is that the farmers ask for reasonable protection against trespass. In what I am about to say, I have no intention of mincing my words, because the worst things I shall refer to are the acts only of a small minority, and no one need be offended by what I say except those whom the cap fits. In the first place, a number of ramblers and hikers are careless and thoughtless. They leave gates unfastened, with the result that animals get out and eat and trample crops. They make fires on the moors at a time of the year when the heather is dry. Only last year in the Goyt Valley one Sunday morning no fewer than five fires were started at approximately the same time. As the House will realise. it is not only the heather that catches fire but, when the fire reaches a certain intensity, the peat also catches fire and it is a frightful job to put out smouldering peat. The dry stone walls which are a feature, and I think a charm of the High Peak, are not able to resist hikers who scramble carelessly over them, and an immense amount of quite unnecessary work is imposed on the farmers by people who do that kind of thing.
I must point out that one of the practical difficulties that will arise under this Bill will be that of drawing the attention of hikers to what is excepted land. It may not each year be the same land which is excepted. To give an actual example, if hikers going over Kinderscout go on Win Hill or Lose Hill, they see Hope railway station almost immediately below them. There is a great temptation to take a bee line straight down there, scrambling over the walls rather regardless of the damage that may be done. It is for that reason that we welcome the provisions of this Bill which enable new and convenient rights of way to be made.
We should also like to see greater facilities for the diversion of old rights of way, especially of those that go through farmyards. We should like to see some limitation of the width of footpaths and 1650 rights of way which are to be created under this Bill. This is a new problem arising out of the large numbers of ramblers now going across the country together, when perhaps four or five of them walk abreast. While one or two are on the right of way, a good deal of damage is done to crops by the rest of the party who insist on walking abreast. We believe that, if a sufficient number of these new footpaths are created, it will not be so necessary to make use of Clause 51 or to give a large amount of access to what is technically uncultivated land but which is. in fact, used for the pasturage of sheep and cattle. With regard to the provision for the repair of footpaths, I noted what the Minister said about placing the responsibility fairly and squarely upon the local authorities, but I shall want to know the exact meaning of Clause 42 (3) which, apparently excepts the responsibility at present resting upon those who keep up the footpaths.
I have spoken of ramblers of goodwill who are sometimes negligent, but I regret to say that there is a small minority of hooligans whose damage to property and even to the person is not negligent but malicious. They behave indecently, they threaten the inhabitants and maliciously damage or destroy property. Castleton, an enchanting village built at the foot of the castle of which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy is the custodian—the castle of Peveril of the Peak—has suffered especially in this way. There is an old hand rope-making machine which I took the right hon. Gentleman to see last June and which has been deliberately destroyed by stones being thrown at it. There was also the case of a metal water ram which was put in by the Duchy of Lancaster and which was deliberately destroyed by hooligans who must have brought with them the instruments with which to destroy anything as solid as that.
There are farmers who have been threatened with knives, and, when a police constable and a sergeant tried to prevent some of these hooligans from breaking glass, they set upon the police officers and one suffered a broken rib. This is the kind of thing which is going on at the present time. The organised ramblers also suffer from these hooligans. Organised ramblers put up a bronze plaque on the top of Lose Hill to the work done by Mr. Ward, who had given 1651 56 acres of land, and they had subscribed for the plaque as a tribute to him and his wife. The hooligans tried to break the bronze plaque off the view-finder that had been erected. That is the kind of thing that is happening, and I was naturally sorry to hear the Minister say that the wardens who are to be appointed are not going to act as police. There are cases where it is most necessary that they should do so in the interests of the inhabitants of the Hope Valley.
I am a little concerned as to who are to have the right of making these access agreements. Clause 50 says that any person having an interest may make such an agreement to the extent of the interest which he possesses in that land, and Clause 93 states that that interest includes sporting rights. On behalf of the farmers, I am bound to say that we could not be agreeable to access rights being given over land which is being seriously cultivated by a farmer, by somebody else having an interest in the land which did not include that agricultural interest, and I hope that that is a matter into which we shall go further on the Committee stage.
I turn to another and equally important matter, namely the great limestone industry. Nearly 3,000 of my constituents are employed in it, £750,000 is paid annually in wages, and when addressing a Socialist Government I may be pardoned for pointing out that the National Coal Board receives £333,000 annually from that industry and that a very large sum is also paid to the railways. Seventeen per cent. of the national output of limestone comes from my constituency, and it is vital to about 300 industries, of which the most important are steel, which is of great importance because of the proximity of Sheffield, chemicals, glass, and cotton, and agriculture throughout the country is consuming large quantities of lime.
The right hon. Gentleman will have a difficult task in reconciling the interests of amenity with the vital need for this mineral development. The nearly 50 per cent. of the population of England who live within 60 miles of Buxton cannot have it both ways, any more than the right hon. Gentleman said I could have it. If they require lime to earn their living on weekdays, they cannot have the whole area preserved from quarrying in order 1652 to enjoy the amenities at the week-end. I think that the right hon. Gentleman regards me as a fanatic about amenities. He referred to certain criticisms which I made of his administration on 7th February. He really is not quite fair in thinking that I do not take industrial interests into account. Certainly the Minister of Transport and Minister of Labour, whom I have pestered about providing sufficient labour to keep the lime-kilns going, would not agree with him on that subject.
It will be extremely difficult to draw the line wisely between industry and amenity. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman will have to draw it geographically upon the map. I noted what he said in his speech yesterday; on the whole it was very satisfactory. He said he could not give an assurance that there would not be further quarrying development inside a national park but he went on to say that:The first condition is that it must be demonstrated quite clearly that the exploitation of those minerals is absolutely necessary in the public interest."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1949; Vol. 463, c. 1492.]No reasonable person would quarrel with what he has laid down as his policy. It has been represented to me by the limestone interests that they hope that they will be able to continue opening new quarries in the park. It has been represented to me by the amenity interests that they hope that the excluded area will not be in any way increased. The right hon. Gentleman will therefore be exposed to pressure from both sides.
I feel quite sure, and I should like to know what is the right hon. Gentleman's view about this, that it would be far better to have a slightly smaller national park and a larger excluded area for quarrying and lime-burning purposes than that there should continue to be the kind of dispute which we had on 7th February as to whether particular developments should take place inside the park or not. What makes the problem so extraordinarily difficult is that one is putting imponderables into the balance against each other. I believe that it would be far better to have a reserved area for the limestone industry which would enable the industry to look ahead with some confidence and certainty, and which would enable the people concerned with amenity also to feel some measure of assurance that there 1653 will be no unnecessary opening of further quarries in the national park.
When I make that suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman I am, to some extent, exposing myself to further criticism both from the limestone industry and from the amenities societies. There is a third industry which will be affected, and I hope and think beneficially affected by this Bill, and that is the industry which caters for tourists and hikers. Buxton, Castleton and Hayfield are three places which are largely dependent upon the tourist industry, and I hope that they will benefit from this Measure. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for Clause 14 which gives us some assurance that there will not be subsidised or unfair competition by the planning authorities against those who make their living by catering for visitors to the parks.
The most unsatisfactory part of this Measure, I think, is that relating to the arrangements for planning and managing the parks when they have been established, and on this matter the division of opinion cuts straight across both the parties. The Hobhouse Committee in its recommendations, especially in paragraph 47, sought to establish two principles which are not, I think, inconsistent but are really quite consistent with each other, that there should be a national commission which can lay down general policy for all the parks, but that the actual application of those principles and the management of the parks shall, as far as possible, be in the hands of local representatives. I feel that the Minister has somewhat fallen between two stools in choosing the joint boards to discharge so much of the responsibility of this Bill. I do not think the Minister will get the advantage of the national policy which he would have had with a stronger commission, and certainly in the Peak I fear that he will not get the close personal interest and understanding on the joint boards of those who actually live there.
We shall certainly ask for adequate and direct representation of local agriculture upon the local committees, and I should like to quote what the Hob-house Committee said about how they wanted the parks to be actually administered:The representatives of the National Parks Commission should mainly be persons resident within or near the National Park, who will 1654 combine a sympathetic understanding of its traditions and of the interests of the local community with an appreciation of the wider purposes of National Park policy.So far as the High Peak is concerned, the Derbyshire County Council is a bit remote from us. My constituents ordinarily regard either Manchester or Sheffield as their local towns, and Derby is a remote and inaccessible place. If we are to get that close and friendly co-operation between the local residents and the administration of the park, it is of the utmost importance that those who actually live in the Hope Valley and the High Peak generally should be adequately represented.
I should like to associate myself with what was said by my right hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) about the need for special precautions against the encroachment of Government departments and of nationalised industries. I should not like to conclude upon a critical note. This is an agreed Measure. The original foundations were laid by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison) when he was first Minister of Town and Country Planning, and it was he who appointed the Hobhouse Committee. So far as he has done so I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having implemented the recommendations of the main Hobhouse Report. In this Bill he seeks to carry out most of the recommendations of the main Hobhouse Report, but where he departs from it I think he has fallen into error. On behalf of the residents of the High Peak I welcome the much better and more modest proposals for access which he has put forward. I believe that the Measure will be helpful to the catering industry.
I trust that the Minister will allow us when in Committee slightly to fortify the provisions of Clause 5 (4) for the protection and development of the farming industry, and that he will see and reconcile the rival and conflicting interests of industry and amenity. Also that the limestone industry, which is so important to many of my constituents and vital to national industry, will be given an adequate opportunity to develop. Since this is an agreed Measure we should have ample time on Committee stage for full discussion. The Minister who is always a complete master of the details of his Bills has nothing to fear from a full dis- 1655 cussion of the provisions of this Measure. I hope that he will be willing to keep an open mind on those matters where we believe it still can be improved.
§ 3.18 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning (Mr. King)
More than half a century of controversy lies behind this Bill. Great names have been engaged and great reputations linked with this view or that, and we would all agree that there is no subject more capable of stimulating righteous passion than land tenure and the conditions and responsibility which ought to attach to it. Despite those solid qualities of tolerance and hardiness which usually adhere to those who love the land and those who serve it or like to walk over it, there have been many bitter campaigns. In those circumstances I think that my right hon. Friend is entitled to feel some gratification at the response so far accorded this Measure.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) pointed out that for once principles which for years have been bitterly contested seem now to be widely accepted over a considerable field. When the clash of arms dies away, faction yields to good sense. But that is not to say that there has not been much healthy and sturdy criticism. I was glad that the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) wound up for the Opposition. May I say at once that I was grateful, as was my right hon. Friend, for the whole tone of his speech. I shall turn to his points shortly.
I will first make two general points in an attempt to set the Debate in proportion. It is impossible to consider this Measure in isolation. The Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, and the New Towns Act, 1946, and this Bill all form part of an integrated land code which, I think I may add will for ever be associated with the name of my right hon. Friend. I am not sure that anyone could argue that it is good administration to allow the powers which as recently as July last were conferred upon local planning authorities to he taken away from them on April Fools' Day of the following year.
Second, I would say that this Bill and the regulations we intend under it strengthen the financial position. That 1656 is the second general point—that a considerable part of the purpose of this Bill is financial. However wise or unwise the administrative arrangements are—and I shall say a word on that later—I say now that, within some limits of efficiency, they are of less consequence than are the financial provisions. I would say now to the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) and my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) that I hope that it is now fully understood—and there has been much misunderstanding on this—that to the 75 per cent. grant authorised under the Bill, where 100 per cent. is not authorised—in some cases it is—there should be added an Exchequer equalisation grant habitually made under Ministry of Health arrangements.
Even, I notice, so doughty and respected a champion of national parks as Mr. Clough Williams-Ellis, a member of the Hobhouse Committee, writing in "The Times," fell into error here. He spoke, and others have spoken similarly, of the North Wales planning authority having to find a quarter of the costs imposed on them by this Bill out of the rates. It is not so. In the three counties affected in North Wales which he mentioned, 83 per cent., 89 per cent., and 91.1 per cent. of the cost will be borne by the Exchequer. Nor is that all. There is cream on top of that, for of the costly staff, to which he also made reference, some, and the most expensive of them, can be loaned free of charge by the National Parks Commission. That includes staff on survey; and warden service would also attract grant.
§ Mr. Price-White (Caernarvon Boroughs)
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the question of North Wales and quoted three percentages. There are six counties in North Wales. Were the percentages in respect of the whole six? Were they based on the whole six? Or can the hon. Gentleman deal with the whole of the six counties?
§ Mr. King
I have spoken of the three counties which were mentioned by Mr. Clough Williams-Ellis in his letter. I cannot, without notice, give the rates for the other three, but I can find them out later and let the hon. Gentleman know if he wishes me to do so.
I want to bring home this point, which I think is vital, by quoting a case. Let 1657 us assume that the North Riding of Yorkshire desired in a national park area to go in for the removal of disfigurements and tree planting on a big scale to the tune of £500,000. They could hardly do that now, for the cost to the local authority would be prohibitive. What would be the cost to the local authority if, when this Bill is passed, they obtained a normal 3 per cent. 30 year advance? A penny rate in that area, taking into account the grants, brings in over £500,000. That is an illustration of the major significance of the financial side of this Bill. I cannot in the time available run through all the counties, but it will be found in almost all cases that the benefits to be derived are greater, I submit, than has so far been appreciated. It may be said—it has been said—by some enthusiasts, "Why should the local authority pay anything at all?" I should have thought it was necessary in the interests of sound administration that some financial responsibility should be accepted by the elected representatives. After all, taxation and representation have gone together in this country for a very long time.
I turn to the speech of the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison). We all enjoyed his speech. I enjoyed particularly two metaphors of which he made use. First, he compared the National Parks Commission with a baby's comforter, and secondly, he said that the Hobhouse Report had been through a departmental mangle. I accept both those metaphors. I do not know the right hon. Gentleman's married state. A comforter, I submit, is not used to comfort the baby; it is used to preserve the amenities of the neighbourhood; so is the National Parks Commission.
He went on to say that the Hobhouse Report has been through the departmental mangle. It has. What is the use of a wet sheet until it has been dried and put into proper shape? We have the background that that report made for us, but it is not an Act of Parliament. Then the right hon. Gentleman complained that the tenure of office of those who serve on this Commission is insecure. I know of no precedent for the tenure of office of such a Commission being secure. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman will probably say that the tenure of office of 1658 my right hon. Friend himself is not secure. Is the tenure of office of the members of the Central Land Board secure? I do not think that we can argue that the prestige of a commission is depreciated for that reason.
The right hon. Gentleman then went on to quote paragraphs 46 and 47 of the Hob-house Report. If he had not quoted them, I think that I should have done so. I will not trouble the House again with paragraph 46, but I am perfectly content to read paragraph 47, and I submit that what we have done is about as near as it can be to what was there recommended. The Report states:It will be the Commission's responsibility to frame policy for the planning and management of the parks, to see that it is fully and effectively applied, and to supervise the expenditure of money for this purpose. They will be further responsible for the provision of advice and guidance, and the allocation of monetary grants, to the local authorities concerned with the planning and management of conservation areas.Apart from the dropping of conservation areas, which we all seem to have accepted, I see nothing in that which we have not already done. I will take it phrase by phrase. "To frame policy." That was the recommendation with which we were faced. Let us break down the tasks which we have handed over to this Commission. First, the selection of the parks themselves and areas of outstanding beauty; secondly, to advise the Minister on the selecting of co-opted persons, and, even more important, on the administrative arrangements within the parks themselves; to tell the authorities and, indeed, to tell the Minister what shall be done by way of protection and development within the parks. The Commission set the pace and the Commission dictate the broad policy.
I think that it was the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton (Mr. H. D. Hughes) who suggested that the local planning authorities should make an annual report to the National Parks Commission. Why should he whittle down the task of the National Parks Commission in that way? I would not regard an annual report as being the close contact which we envisage. We have in mind that they will be perpetually together, and what the hon. Member suggests would be rather a whittling down in the build up to which he was referring.
The second phrase is "Supervise the expenditure of money." I should like to say a word on that. I want to make 1659 it clear that, subject to what we can extract from the Treasury—which I suppose is a condition which applies to almost anything—the National Parks Commission will in practice have the power of the purse. No one has a better reason for knowing what that power is than this House itself, for from it historically all our powers flow. We have it in mind that the Commission will work within an annual programme previously agreed in bulk with the Ministry, and that the Commission will recommend to the Minister the grants to be made to each park, and for what purpose. I again submit that that is as much financial control as can reasonably be accorded
Many hon. Members have referred to the use of the word "advisory"; they have complained that the Commission will be advisory, and have said that it should be something more. But few of those hon. Members have suggested what extra powers they would wish the Commission to have. I should like, if I may, to set the House a competition, for which there are no prizes. Between now and the Committee stage we should like, and should indeed welcome, more precise suggestions on what powers it is desired shall be accorded to the Commission. For that competition I would suggest one rule, that it is not possible—and I think this is generally accepted—to place the Commission superior to a Minister of the Crown, for although no one has put it in those words, that is the effect of some of the suggestions. In so far as it is desired—and I suppose it is—above all to control the work of other Government Departments or statutory undertakers, who is likely to have the most influence in such a matter? Surely, my right hon. Friend the Minister, or his successors, having access to the Cabinet have a far better status than the Commission itself could possibly have?
Yesterday my right hon. Friend referred to the adoption of 90 per cent. of the Hobhouse Committee's recommendations. I think he was using a figure of speech, and I do not think the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) intended his remarks in that respect to be taken seriously. However, since he made those remarks, in the watches of the night one of our higher officials went through a summary of the recommenda- 1660 tions on pages 75, 76 and 77. I shall not tie myself down to percentages, but if the right hon. Gentleman were to mark them with ticks and crosses even he would be surprised to find just how much of that Report has been adopted.
§ Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)
The hon. Member will realise that I said that a matter of this kind was scarcely capable of precise statistical calculation, and that if one did try to assess the percentage, the assessment should be qualitative rather than quantitative in the sense of counting up paragraphs.
§ Mr. King
I was going on to add that, if the percentages were regarded as either quantitative or qualitative the result would, I suggest, be very similar. The duties of the Commission are supervisory; they are not executive. It is the National Parks Commission which will have the capacity to frame, the staff to guide, and the power to enforce the general policy and programme.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)
Could the hon. Gentleman give the House a little more information than was given yesterday by the Minister as to the kind of persons it is proposed to appoint to this Commission?
§ Mr. King
Let me put it negatively: It is not proposed, on the whole, to appoint persons as representatives. We want persons who are themselves good. I should not like, certainly not extempore, to lay down categories or classes, which is all my hon. Friend is suggesting.
With the speech of the hon. Member for The High Peak I would link the whole question of deleterious uses in national parks. First, let me make a general distinction between administrative function and legal form. Today we are dealing with legal form—with the form in which we cast this Bill. It is very easy—and indeed many of the speeches have done so—to criticise my right hon. Friend for what hon. Members regard, and are entitled to regard, as faulty administrative decisions. We are entitled to rebut those criticisms. We find there are many of them. In connection with the War Office we even got down to the Oxford Gas Works. Whether those decisions are right or wrong is one question, but they are administrative decisions and the subject to. which we must confine ourselves today is the form in which we cast the law, which is not the same thing.
1661 What was the hon. Gentleman's first suggestion? It was that we should adjust the size of the park. The first thought that occurred to me was that if he pressed that he would get into trouble with my hon. Friend the Member for West Wolverhampton, because we have committed that function to the Parks Commission. I quote that in all seriousness to show how difficulties arise when it is suggested that the Commission should have powers which are too great. At the same time, I think that the suggestion the hon. Member made was a valuable one. It obviously depends on the shape of the map. I have not had time to study that closely, but when the Commission come to delineate the area I am sure they will consider what he has suggested.
On the subject of minerals, it is very difficult to lay down anything much more precise than the hon. Gentleman himself said. We all know that limestone, silica, sand and fluorspar are vital to steel production and that five-sixths of our whole consumption of fluorspar is produced in that area. These things are part of the wealth of our country, and it is apparent that their production, subject possibly to some limitation here and there, must continue. Our main approach cannot in such a matter be prohibitive but it can, I think, be positive along the lines of increasing emphasis on restoration, the imposing of conditions upon planning consents and the whole modern technique which, in coming years, we hope to see grow up—landscape architecture, planting of trees and all the things that may be summed up in the word "restoration."
In the Peak some 12 permissions have so far been granted, and I would like to assure the hon. Member that in every case we have imposed conditions which. I believe, are as rigorous as they can be and which will see that the best is made of what is and what may never be a happy situation. I will give one example. In Chapel-en-le-Frith production was allowed to continue on conditions requiring the levelling of the land after the extraction of the minerals, and the covering of the work and levelling the area with top soil. There were no objections, and the removal of the dumps was regarded as beneficial on agricultural grounds. I could quote others, but in every one of the 12 we have taken the utmost pains, and I think all concerned 1662 intend to see that the conditions we impose are carried out.
I do not wish to dwell at length on the park planning authorities and the 25 per cent. My right hon. Friend yesterday put up a very strong case which I have scarcely heard controverted. If we were to accept the 51 per cent. which has been argued, we must recognise that duly elected local planning authorities would be deprived of control over any but a fractional rump of the people by whom they were elected. It would mean that in a national park area they would be by law placed in a position permanently inferior in authority to a body of persons, however eminent, who were appointed before them. That is the argument against the 51 per cent. This question did arise on the problem of what constitutional doctrine accorded the right to a non-elected body to disperse the ratepayers' money. That is a very old question. At the same time, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said, it is awfully difficult to come to a figure that is right within one or two.
§ Sir A. Salter
As the Exchequer is bearing the greater part of the expenses, one would hardly say that it was constitutionally irregular for the Minister representing the Exchequer to have the nomination of the half of the bodies concerned.
§ Mr. King
It was, in fact, 50 per cent. plus the chairman, which makes it just 51 per cent., which is my point. I would suggest that the main reason is better put positively. The main reason for using the local planning committees is that the control of development is essentially a local authority function subject to the supervision of the central Government. To carve huge slices out of the counties for particular purposes would be a cumbersome and unnecessary duplication. I submit that it is the job which the local authorities should do, and one in which many of them have already taken more interest than is commonly appreciated.
I referred earlier to those who serve the land as well as walk over it. The hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) and the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) both dwelt upon the farming interest. To the holiday maker and the nature lover, these facilities bring increased freedom, but they must also assume 1663 increased responsibility. We hope that at every point they will take the utmost care to see that the legitimate interests of the farming community are protected. It may well be argued that in some ways they are better off than before. The Minister will consult the Minister of Agriculture at every step on designation, access, rights of way and other matters where he may have an interest. In answer to the hon. Member for The High Peak, I would add that new land brought into agricultural use does become excepted land. That point was raised by one or two other Members who seemed to interpret, "time being" in a way not intended.
The Second Schedule reveals a formidable list of prohibitions. However necessary those things are, it is not in the stringency of such commands that we place our faith. Rather I think it is in the good sense and continuing and increasing education of the British people and the positive information, service and guidance provided by the National Parks Commission itself. We thought it right, in contrast to the blanket provision of automatic access, which was most recently raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Symonds), that we should obtain access first by agreement, then by order and, if all else failed, by compulsory purchase.
Some hon. Members have urged that we should adopt what I have called the blanket provision rather than the individual approach. I agree that there is an attractive simplicity about such a suggestion, but on examination there are grievous disadvantages. I am reasonably convinced that we should thereby endure the hostility of agriculture and that in itself would be a grievous thing. There would have to be a long list of exceptions, which could not be individual exceptions, and public inquiry procedure and individual protests would be almost endless. At present many landowners allow access, and there are difficulties only in certain areas. Payment for compensation would become universal all over the country and the public would receive little in exchange which it had not received before. I think that we should seek to amend the law where there is grievance or where justice is denied, but where there is no grievance and where justice is not denied such action is not easy to justify.
1664 A case was made out by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge and other hon. Members that some term should be set to delay by local authorities or obstruction by individuals in the process of designating access land. I make this, which is I think a fresh statement, that my right hon. Friend is willing to consider either the imposition of a time limit within which an arrangement should be completed—we do not tie ourselves to that—or any other hastening procedure. We mean to get on with this matter. I want to make it clear that within the Ministry we have a real sense of urgency. The right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) and the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) had a word to say about the Nature Conservancy and about the fear among landowners of nature reserves becoming a sanctuary for vermin, noxious weeds and pests. I would recall that paragraph 55 of the report foresaw that possibility. Those who will control the Nature Conservancy will pursue what I may call a good-neighbour policy. They will have an expert staff and will do all they can, I have no doubt, to watch that possibility. But one cannot deal by law with the procreation of rabbits, because rabbits are not amenable to statute.
The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris) was anxious to have information on the subject of overhead lines. He referred particularly to pylons. I recognise that here is a problem, but it can be exaggerated. I do not think that pylons are among the worst forms of disfigurement. To the hon. Member, and to one or two other hon. Members who raised the same point, I will give a single example. One 132 kilovolt line costs £6,500 per mile overhead. Underground, in hilly country, it can cost £80,000. Those figures are rather frightening. Even in medium country the underground process costs £56,000, against £6,500 overhead. I present those figures as showing the shape of the problem with which we are asked to deal. It may be that in some areas here and there, and for some short distance, placing the cable underground may be a necessity, but the figures I have given reveal that the scale which some hon. Members have suggested makes it not a very easy thing to do.
1665 My hon. Friend the Member for West Wolverhampton made a constructive speech. I think I have picked out most of his points already. He asked one specific question—whether Clause 12 was sufficient to provide park centre museums. No, it is not, but Clause 11 is. This is the vital Clause which answers questions put by many other hon. Members. It enables an authority to take all such action as is expedient for the purposes of Part I of the Bill, which is to preserve and enhance natural beauty. It is almost a blanketing power. There are very few things which it is not possible to do under that Clause.
Hon. Members have asked what the position is with regard to the use of more expensive materials in a national park area. Following the Act of 1947, no expense falls on public funds, and the question which was asked really comes down to one of compensation. The planning authority can refuse permission or grant it or attach conditions without incurring, as things stand, any claim to compensation whatever. The Bill does not permit or suggest any change in that procedure.
I have tried so far to meet the arguments and carefully considered criticisms which have been put forward. I wonder if, in ending, I may try to put the thing more positively? What is the positive case for which we invite the support of hon. Members? In recent years we have undergone not merely a mental revolution—that is perhaps platitudinous—but also a physical revolution. The strength of the swimmer, the skill of the athlete, the pride of the horseman, the endurance of the runner, the quiet joy of the naturalist and the rambler—all these things are within the means, or certainly within the compass of the ambition, of almost everyone, and it is those new circumstances which have given birth to this Bill, which I regard as a token tribute to the spirit of travel, adventure and exploration which we like to see and want to see abroad in the land. That is the challenge we seek to meet and that is the genesis of the demand for access to open country, long-distance footpaths and the like.
It may be asked where this work will be apparent to the naked eye, and how soon. Perhaps I may sum up what we have in mind. For example, we see the provision of long-distance footpaths which the National Parks Commission will survey and submit to the Minister for 1666 approval. What will the rambler find within the park? Any unsightly development which has existed is being removed. I am not suggesting that these things will happen at once, but as shortly as can be. Higher standards than normally may be imposed in the case of new development. A wanderer may pass some country house or estate of architectural merit standing upon land acquired by the Minister and paid for by the Exchequer, open for him to enter; the house maintained perhaps by the National Trust or some other body; the home or the adjoining farm managed by the Agricultural Land Commission.
He may pass on to a parking place, hostel or camping site which, aided by generous Exchequer grants, will be provided by the local park planning authority, although perhaps run by the Youth Hostels Association. He may stop at some ramblers' rest, perhaps expressly provided not by a park planning authority but by a neighbouring city—a point which has not been touched on—as their contribution to a place with amenities which their citizens enjoy in their leisure hours. If it is uncertain what is open to him, the rambler may make use of the services of a warden who may guide or advise no less in the interests of farming than out of a desire to reveal sources of entertainment and natural beauty. He may ride, or bathe, or sail, or fish, or cycle, or drive, or walk, perhaps on paths treed and shady, from which traffic is excluded, or he may just laze. In any event, the cost of what he does will be aided by the Exchequer and he will, we hope, go back refreshed and reinvigorated, and once again, when the week's work is done, he may return to the things he loves. Above all, he will be there a free citizen as of right, and if chance has brought him to one of those spots—there are not many—which used to bristle with wire or "Keep Out" notices, or about which tales were told of past battles between keepers and owners and ramblers, now he may reflect that those are things of the unhappy, far-off long ago, best forgotten by all.
I think we have had a good two days' Debate. There are few points appropriate to a Second Reading Debate which have not been touched on. I know my right hon. Friend is grateful for the reception this Measure has had. In this 1667 Parliament we have often had to discuss and divide over bitter matters, but here, in this piece of legislation, we are glad to feel that we are indeed one Parliament, and however we may vary in our ideas of administrative detail, we are united in the determination to secure and enjoy the peace of the English countryside.
§ Mr. Beechman
The hon. Gentleman did not reply to one or two points I made. I take no exception to that, because it may be difficult to reply to them now, but I would like to know some time, how it is intended that the coastal paths, which we all desire to see, are to be paid for. I am really wondering whether the county councils, which have so many charges put upon them nowadays, will have to pay for them. Also I should have liked to hear something about minerals, such as tin.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time and committed to a Standing Committee.