§ Sir I. Fraser
This Clause defines an open-air recreation and it excludes from the definition of an open-air recreation organised games. I wonder why?
§ The Temporary Chairman
Perhaps I can assist the hon. Member in allowing him to catch my eye on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." At the moment we are considering an Amendment to line 9.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. King
I beg to move, in line 23, at the end, to add "and the laying of turf."
The Committee will agree that the local planning authority ought not to be obliged to sow grass where the quickest and cheapest way of doing the job is to lay turf. This Amendment, therefore, adds the words "and the laying of turf" after the word "grass."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Sir I. Fraser
The definition of open-air recreation positively excludes organised games. I wonder why, because it would seem to me that cricket is an open-air recreation and perhaps also an organised game. Boating may be an open-air recreation and, if there were boating sports or a regatta, it might be considered to be an organised game. This is important because if we look back at Clause 13 we see that powers are taken there for the local authority to spend money in providing facilities for open-air recreation but not, as will be seen, for organised games.
Clause 14 has been omitted from the Bill by the Minister's action, which is very surprising since it was in the original draft and the Government are now taking even greater powers than were originally in the Bill to use the taxpayers' money to build hotels, restaurants, pavilions and other amenities for the entertainment of the people, thereby competing with the private interests that are concerned in this 1205 matter. In view of all that, it seems very surprising to me that organised games should be left out of this definition.
Personally, I object to the Government and local authorities entering into this competition with private entertainment purveyors who can do the job very much better than the Government or the local authorities; nor do I see why taxpayers or ratepayers should be asked to subsidise these services. Nevertheless, if the authority is to have this power, then it should be a complete power, and organised games should certainly be included. I therefore ask the Minister to explain why this definition has been drawn so narrowly.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. King
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) for the way in which he made his point. I think he has made a point which, at any rate in Committee, was not fully brought out. Certainly we do not intend to make any kind of distinction between the value of one kind of game or recreation and another. At the same time, I would
|New Clause.—(GENERAL DUTIES OF COMMISSION IN RELATION TO NATIONAL PARKS.)|
|5||(1) It shall be the duty of the Commission as soon as may be after the commencement of this Act, and thereafter from time to time, to consider what areas there are in England and Wales falling within subsection (2) of section five of this Act, to determine in what order they should be designated under subsection (3) of that section, and to proceed with their designation at such times as the Commission may determine.|
|(2) The power of the Minister to give directions under section three of this Act shall extend to the giving of directions as to the order and time of designation of the said areas, notwithstanding that the directions may be of a specific character.|
|10||(3) As respects areas designated as National Parks, it shall be the duty of the Commission—|
|15||(a) to consider, generally and in relation to particular National Parks, in what way action needs to be taken under this Act and the Act of 1947 for the purposes specified in subsection (1) of section five of this Act, and to make such recommendations with respect thereto to the Minister and to local authorities as may appear to the Commission to be necessary or expedient, and|
|(b) to keep under review the progress made from time to time in accomplishing the said purposes and to make to the Minister, to local authorities or to other persons, such representations as appear to the Commission to be necessary or expedient as to any matter affecting the accomplishment of those purposes.|
|20||(4) Without prejudice to the generality of the last foregoing subsection, it shall be the duty of the Commission, subject to and in accordance with the following provisions of this Act in that behalf—|
|25||(a) as respects any area designated as a National Park, to give advice to the appropriate planning authorities as to the arrangements to be made for administering the area as a National Park;|
|30||(b) where it appears to the Commission, as respects any particular National Park or part thereof, that the preservation or enhancement of the natural beauty thereof presents special problems or requires special professional or technical skill, to notify their opinion to the appropriate planning authorities and, on the application of any such authority in any case where it appears to the Commission expedient for the purposes specified in subsection (1) of section five of this Act, to place the services of officers of the Commission|
§ ask him to bear in mind that recreation or organised games may be carried out on access land. Let us take an example. Where there is access water it may not be unreasonable for a person to sail his boat over it. There would be no cause for objection in that case. However, an owner's reaction to a game of football on access land is a point which possibly requires further consideration. I am happy to be able to tell the hon. Gentleman that he has brought up a point of interest, and that we should like to study it, to see if some similar provision to that which he suggests could or could not be suitably incorporated in the Bill.
§ Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)
May I ask why in the interpretation there is no definition of "open country."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.1207
|35||at the disposal of the authority, for such period as may be agreed between the Commission and the authority and on such terms as to payment or otherwise as may be so agreed with the approval of the Minister;|
|40||(c) to assist such authorities in formulating proposals as to the exercise by such authorities of their powers under this Act for securing the provision of accommodation, access for open-air recreation and other facilities for persons visiting National Parks and otherwise as to the exercise of their powers under this Act as respects National Parks, and to consult with such authorities with respect to the recommendations to be made by the Commission as to the payment of grants by the Minister under this Act;|
|45||(d) to give advice where any Minister consults the Commission as to proposals for development of land in a National Park, or the appropriate planning authority consult them (whether in compliance with a requirement imposed under this Act or the Act of 1947 or otherwise) in connection with the preparation or amendment of a development plan or in connection with an application for permission to develop any such land;|
|50||(e) to make recommendations to the Minister and, where appropriate, to other Ministers as to any proposals for the development of land in a National Park, being proposals for development in a way which appears to the Commission to be inconsistent with the maintenance of the area as a Park; and|
|55||(f) if in any case the Commission are not satisfied that effect will be given to their recommendations or advice as to any matter mentioned in the foregoing paragraphs of this subsection, to refer the matter to the Minister and to advise the Minister as to the exercise of any powers of direction or enforcement (including powers of making orders) conferred on him by this Act or the Act of 1947.|
|60||(5) Nothing in this section shall be construed as modifying the effect of any provision of this Act whereby any specific power or duty is conferred or imposed on the Commission or whereby an obligation is imposed on any other person to consult with the Commission.|
|65||(6) In this section the expression "appropriate planning authority" means a local planning authority whose area consists of or includes the whole or any part of a National Park, and includes a local authority, not being a local planning authority, by whom any powers of a local planning authority as respects a National Park are exercisable, whether under the following provisions of this Act in that behalf or otherwise; and references in this section to a Minister include references to any Board in charge of a Government department.—[Mr. Silkin.]|
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. Silkin
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This Clause is to replace Clause 9 which has been deleted by an Amendment which I moved earlier, and it is being moved in pursuance of the promise which was made in Committee that we would endeavour to collect all the various functions and duties of the Commission into one Clause, instead of their being distributed over various parts of the Bill. This new Clause does that, but in the course of so doing it makes a number of amendments which I should like to indicate very briefly.
The first is in subsection (2), which gives to the Minister a right to give directions under Clause 3 as to the order and time of designation of the areas. Clause 3 gives the Minister power to give directions of a general character, and it was thought desirable that the Minister should, with his special knowledge of the proposed national park areas, indicate to the Commission those which he thought should be dealt with first because of importance 1208 or because of urgency. In that is included the question of time and the rate of progress.
The second amendment is contained in subsection (3, b). That is largely a verbal amendment. The hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) was rather disturbed about the words in the Bill—to keep "under surveillance." We have now altered that to "keep under review." I am sorry the hon. and learned Gentleman has gone out, because I am sure that these words would have given him great happiness.
Then there is subsection (4, e) where we have made an amendment of the general powers as they were. This paragraph is intended to give the Commission a right of direct access to Government Departments. That was a point that was made in the course of the discussions. I think that that right is inherent in the Bill, but it is now made explicit.
Lastly, there is subsection (4, f), which gives to the Commission a right which 1209 was always intended, namely, that if its advice is not taken by the various authorities to whom it gives advice, it should have the right to refer the matter to the Minister, with a recommendation in some cases that he should use his powers in default. Subject to those four variations the new Clause is really an incorporation of the various functions in the Bill which, as I said, previously were distributed in different parts of the Bill.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time.
§ Mrs. Castle (Blackburn)
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed new Clause, in line 8, to leave out "and time."
This is an Amendment to subsection (2) which, as the Minister has pointed out, introduces a new situation. It is one of the new factors we find in trying to draw together all the powers of the Commission under the Bill. The Minister has explained to the Committee that already, under Clause 3, he has powers of general direction to the National Parks Commission, but that he sought under subsection (2) of the new Clause a new specific power of direction with regard to its duty of designating areas as national park areas. The purpose which the Standing Committee had in mind when this Bill was upstairs in asking for the powers of the National Parks Commission to be drawn together in one Clause was primarily to make those powers look a little more impressive. Most of us felt that the National Parks Commission emerged with a very vague status indeed. Its powers were scattered and diffused all over the Clauses. We felt that the body would not start its very important life with any proper status and air of authority. It was to increase the authority of the National Parks Commission that we asked the Minister to draw the powers together; and he agreed to do so.
Now that he has done it, what do we find? We find he has introduced a new subsection and a new power of interference by the Minister which finally whittles down to their lowest point the puny powers which the National Parks Commission already had. Indeed, it is very significant that what the Minister is doing in the subsection is to attack the only duty in the whole of this Clause in which the Commission has the power 1210 of determination as against the power of recommendation. Quite clearly, the Minister has had cold feet over the revolutionary action he was taking in leaving any power of determination to the Commission at all. He has had second thoughts between the Committee stage and now. He has thought to himself, "Good heavens, we have left here to the Commission powers of determination, of the designation of areas as national park areas."
If hon. Members will look carefully at this new Clause, they will see that under subsection (3, a) the Commission is to have the duty to make recommendations; under subsection (3, b) to make representations; under subsection (4, b) to notify its opinion; under subsection (4, c) to consult with authorities in the making of recommendations; and under subsection (4, f) to refer matters to the Minister and advise. The Commission has one power of determination left, and that is the power of choosing the areas which shall be national park areas. Faced with that situation, the Minister decided that he clearly could not go on, and must, in addition to his powers of general direction under Clause 3, single out this last fling of independence by the National Parks Commission and nail it down.
What does he do? He says that, in addition to having general powers of general direction, he shall have powers of special direction as to order and time and designation of the special areas. The Minister has said that what he is concerned about is to see that the most urgent jobs are done first. As I am a very reasonable person, I would, most reluctantly, concede to the Minister the right, perhaps, to put in a word about priorities. All right, let him have that power to see that priorities are considered, a power which he has already. If he feels that one area urgently needs dealing with, for instance, the Norfolk Broads, let him have the power of direction of priority to see that the Norfolk Broads are dealt with before there is any further deterioration. Let him have that. But I do beg of him to accept this very modest little Amendment, so that he shall not, in addition to the priorities, settle the entire "when" as well—the time when any area shall be designated.
1211 I suggest that if the Minister takes that power he might as well take the whole power of designation and make that advisory, too, because he who settles "when" in this matter also settles "where." Supposing the Commission want to choose the Lakeland area, the Minister can make it impossible for the Lakeland area ever to be designated as a national park area by saying, "Not today; not tomorrow; and not the day after tomorrow." By deferring it he can make it not a national park area at all. If the Minister does not accept this humble, innocent little Amendment, he will in effect be saying to the National Parks Commission, "Your final power, your last remnant of authority, shall be stripped from you, and you shall emerge finally as merely an advisory body and nothing else."
§ Mr. Silkin
I am much obliged to the hon. Lady for the very moderate and reasonable way in which she has moved this Amendment. I understand that her conception of being reasonable is grudgingly to admit something which is inevitable. She accepts that the Minister ought to have the right to direct the Commission as to the order in which they should designate. I think that must be right. Incidentally, I should like to correct her on one point. She referred to this one ewe lamb of determination which the Commission had, and which was now being taken away from them. In fact, they have not even this one ewe lamb, because they never did have the right of determination of the designated areas. All they could do was to designate and see if the Minister would approve or otherwise, even under the provisions as they originally stood. The Minister could always have said, "I refuse to confirm a designation order because I think you ought to have done something else first." So that really there is no great change in the situation.
I think that the Minister ought to have control over the time, and therefore over the rate, at which these designations take effect. The hon. Lady assumes that this power will be used in one direction only, and that is to slow down. Does it not occur to her that it might equally be used to expedite designation? It is just as reasonable to assume the one as to assume the other. Here let me put in a 1212 plea for the possibility of being slow, and of asking the Commission not to hurry with designations. After all, conceivably they might decide to designate a dozen national parks all at one time, and I think that that would give the Ministry and local authorities very serious administrative indigestion. It really would cause great difficulties if they proceeded too rapidly. Some local authorities have more than one national park in their area, and it would be rather embarrassing if the Commission decided entirely to disregard administrative considerations and to designate a number of national parks together, or very rapidly one on top of the other.
Furthermore, the hon. Lady may scorn such mundane matters as finance, but one does have to take it into account. It may be that national considerations make it essential that we should proceed rather more slowly than we otherwise might have done. This subsection gives us that power. On the other hand, under this we can direct the Commission to go more rapidly than they otherwise would have done. I think that those powers are essential. The hon. Lady always proceeds on the assumption that no Minister, either past, present or future, is to be trusted, and that only the National Parks Commission is to be trusted, even though it has not yet been set up. I can assure her that Ministers normally have a due sense of responsibility, and having passed a Measure of this kind I think that Ministers will be anxious to do the right thing and ensure that it is a success, that national parks are designated in due course and with due speed, having regard to all the circumstances.
I think that these words must remain because they are essential for the proper administration of this Bill. In these circumstances, I hope that my hon. Friend will not press the Amendment. My own conception of the thing at present is that the Commission will designate all the proposed areas very much within the period recommended by the Hobhouse Committee. I see no reason at the moment for departing from their suggestions, but the Minister must have the opportunity of reconsidering the matter and making other proposals if he considers it essential.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. H. D. Hughes (Wolverhampton, West)
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed new Clause, in line 20, at the end to insert:(c) to keep under review all cases where a direction has been given under subsection (2) of section seven of this Act, and to make representations to the Minister if at any time they consider such a direction should be revoked.I cannot emulate the passion of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), and even if the Minister refuses to accept this Amendment I shall not be able to accuse him of nailing down the only fling of independence the Commission possesses. Nevertheless, I hope that the Minister will give serious consideration to this quite important point. Briefly the point is this. Some concern was felt on all sides of the Standing Committee at the powers under Clause 7 (2) to provide that in certain circumstances in areas of national parks there shall only be joint advisory committees with the power in the hands of the local planning authorities. That is a rather doubtful experiment which may not lead to the powers which we want to see exercised being exercised in any co-ordinated way where these directions are given.
In exercising the direction in Clause 7 (2) the Minister has to consult the Commission before the direction is actually made. Once such a direction is made we should like to feel that it is the specific duty of the Commission to watch what is happening in these areas, and if they are not satisfied that the joint advisory committee is a satisfactory body to administer a national park they should have the power to go back to the Minister and make representations to him, saying that the direction should be revoked. That is the short point covered by the Amendment. I hope the Minister will accept it, or, failing that, that he will give us an assurance that the Commission already possesses this power under the new Clause.
§ Colonel Clarke
I hope the Minister will resist this Amendment. The posi- 1214 tion has been considerably strengthened by the Government Amendment to the proviso in subsection (2), which was moved earlier, and which insisted that there should be a joint advisory committee. I believe the reasons that were given during the Debate on the Committee stage by myself and other hon. Members on this side are reasons which are permanent and not likely to change. I do not wish to go through them in detail, but the main points of our argument supporting an advisory body as against a joint planning board were, first of all, that the area of the particular potential national park that was referred to, namely, all the South Downs from Eastbourne, is some 80 miles long and very narrow with bad communications from end to end.
In order that the members of the joint planning board should be able to attend the meetings they would have long distances to travel, involving practically a whole day's journeying for one meeting of only a few hours. This would present considerable difficulty to those responsible for getting the type of people we want to serve. I went on to say that it might be simpler to meet in London, which, of course, would take a whole day and involve considerable expense.
It does not seem to me that those reasons are likely to change, and the idea of keeping the matter under review means a sort of probation on responsible bodies like the county councils—not one county council but three county councils, East and West Sussex and Hampshire—and the county boroughs of Brighton and Eastbourne. It is a little derogatory to local government bodies of the highest kind, particularly those with the records which those bodies I have mentioned possess.
I do not want to weary the House by repeating what was said in Committee, and stating what these county councils and county boroughs have done to preserve the Downs, but it will be remembered that under the none-too-powerful machinery of the 1932 Act, East Sussex managed to preserve an area of 28,000 acres, which cost the county council £60,000, besides other moneys spent by rural districts who supported them Brighton, of course, has bought freehold a very large Down area, as has East- 1215 bourne. With their record, and in view of the arguments for a joint advisory committee rather than a board, I hope the Amendment will be resisted.
§ Mr. Silkin
Not altogether for the reasons given by the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke), I also ask the Committee not to accept this Amendment. It is largely unnecessary. The case where the Amendment would arise is where there is a joint advisory committee set up under the provisions of Clause 7, and the Amendment would put on the Commission the duty of watching the progress of the advisory committee and keeping it under review, presumably to make representations if it were found that the advisory committee was unsatisfactory. I have never found constant watching over a particular body is a satisfactory process. Somehow things never go so slow as when there is constant supervision.
We do not want the Commission to be constantly keeping under review all these advisory committees, and I do not regard that as necessarily their function. I regard their function as watching the progress of the work that is to be done in creating a national park and providing the necessary facilities. They have ample powers, and, indeed, under Clause 7 they are required to keep under review—the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) will be glad to note the words "keep under review"—the progress made from time to time in accomplishing such purposes. That is what they ought to keep under review rather than a joint advisory committee.
If it should be found that the purposes of the joint advisory committee are not being properly carried out they will make representations. They have been specifically empowered to make them, and naturally the question of the position of the advisory committee will come up for consideration, while consideration will be given as to whether the lack of progress in carrying out the purposes is due to the fact that there is an advisory committee rather than an executive one. In that way they will get an opportunity of making suggestions. It is the words "keep under review" that I personally do not like. I hope my hon. Friend will 1216 not press the Amendment, particularly as I give him the assurance which he has asked for that in all cases where an advisory committee is found not to work there are ample facilities for the Commission to make representations, which it is the duty of the Minister to consider, and, if he considers it necessary, set up a joint planning board in its place.
§ Mr. Hughes
In view of what my right hon. Friend has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed new Clause, in line 49, at the end, to insert:(e) to make recommendations to the Minister with regard to applications for permission to develop land in a National Park as to the most effective administration for the purposes of National Parks of all statutory provisions applicable to such applications and such permission and in particular (without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing words) of subsection (4) of section sixteen and section twenty of the Act of 1947.The right hon. Gentleman will remember that on the last day of the Committee I raised by a new Clause the question of enabling high standards of building to be enforced in the national parks. Owing to the desire to make very rapid progress, my arguments and those of the Parliamentary Secretary were very briefly made. This Amendment, of course, is rather different, and I hope that the reason why I want some new words, either those proposed or some on the same lines, can be explained clearly to the Committee and that it will command general sympathy.
It is obvious that materials used for roofing, for example, will make a great difference in a national park. It may be that a slate roof instead of a roof of corrugated sheeting will have a very different effect on the landscape. It is, of course, a fact that under the provisions of the 1947 Act the planning authority has control of design, elevation and so forth. It is, however, possible that the desirable control of, say, the use of appropriate materials may be rendered a dead letter by one or other of two things; either by the planning authority not enforcing the use of what may be a more expensive material or by the authority, 1217 or the Minister on appeal, saying that the development can be permitted only if such a more expensive material is used and the developer not being prepared to go to that expense.
When I raised that difficulty in moving a new Clause during the Committee stage, the Parliamentary Secretary—I have already explained how I sympathise with him in the necessary shortening of his argument—put forward an argument which seemed to say that my point would be met in one or other of two ways. It could be met in certain circumstances by an adjustment of the development charge, and in other cases by the fact that compensation would be payable under the law as it stood. There will, however, be cases where neither of those things will be true. The rebuilding of a man's own premises, where the question of amenity may be very directly concerned, does not attract either a development charge or any question of compensation.
In the words that I propose to add, I am asking for nothing more than that a duty shall be placed on the Commission to watch the development in national parks and applications for permission to develop land there, and to make representations to the Minister on the most effective administration, for the purposes of national parks, of all the statutory provisions applicable to such applications and such permission. I have some hope that the Minister will have no great objection to my words so far, even if he has no great enthusiasm for them. If he is prepared to accept my words down to that point, I am prepared to drop the last two lines of the Amendment I have on the Order Paper. Amateur drafting is never entirely satisfactory, not least when it is done in a hurry by a lawyer, and it may be that the words from "and in particular" to the end of my Amendment the Minister will not think wholly appropriate. It is my view that the development of land in national parks should be watched by the Commission, who should advise the Minister on the most effective administration, for the purposes of national parks, of all statutory provisions that may be applicable. I believe that my view is generally shared in the Committee.
§ Mr. Silkin
There is no disagreement in principle between us on this Amend- 1218 ment, but I do not think the Amendment is necessary. I find myself, therefore, unable to take part in the Dutch auction to which the hon. and learned Member invited me. When I have explained to him why the Amendment is unnecessary, he will probably agree with me. I do not dispute at all the desirability of the Commission watching the type of development that is taking place in national park areas and areas of outstanding natural beauty. That is essential, if we are to maintain and enhance the beauty of the areas as is provided for in the Bill. Undesirable or unharmonious development can very definitely mar the beauty. This injury can be done in a great many ways other than that which is contemplated in the Amendment. The hon. and learned Gentleman probably recognised that, by offering to delete the last two lines in which he particularises two cases.
I should like to provide that the Commission should have the opportunity of seeing definite classes of application for development which come before planning authorities. I have the power to ensure that that takes place. Under Section 15 of the 1947 Act, which is in a way a re-enactment of the Act of 1943, the Minister can direct planning authorities to refer to him any individual application for permission to develop, or all applications of a particular class, and he can then refer those to the National Parks Commission. It is definitely my intention to do that.
I should like to consider very carefully the particular classes of case to which this Amendment should apply. Obviously, one does not want to overload the machine or to force the National Parks Commission to set up an elaborate organisation of its own to examine large numbers of applications for development. Nor does one want to slow down the time taken for giving the decision in regard to development which this proposal must inevitably involve. We want to do that in the smallest number of cases, but a matter for careful consideration is the class of case which it will be necessary to refer to the Commission for advice.
Moreover, it will be a matter of trial and error. It may be, for instance, that it is unnecessary to refer to the Commission at all a large number of cases or the class of case which at one time one thought one should refer to them. One 1219 will find that local planning authorities are dealing with that class of case quite satisfactorily. I do not altogether share the fear of the hon. and learned Gentleman that, by and large, the local planning authorities will not deal with these cases satisfactorily. It will be a matter of trial and error, and perhaps of considering in the first instance what kind of case I should direct local planning authorities to submit to the Ministry and thence to the Commission. The class of case may change from time to time.
Another point which the hon. and learned Gentleman may have overlooked is that there will normally be on every planning committee in the areas about which we are speaking a number of persons who are co-opted and who have been appointed on the recommendation of the National Parks Commission, and their special job will be to keep an eye on these applications and to see that in proper cases, where the local planning authority looks like going wrong, the Ministry are informed and, presumably, also the National Parks Commission. If a decision is given which is in conflict with good development, the Minister has power to revoke. That power has been fairly frequently used in the past and would be used again if necessary. Therefore, I think that ample powers exist for doing what the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes, and I can assure him that they will be used to the fullest. In these circumstances I hope that he will not press the Amendment, because the Bill is already long enough, among other reasons, and one does not want to overload it.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I am about to take the course which I think will be agreeable to the right hon. Gentleman, but I should like to make it clear that I was not fearing so much that the planning authority would not do its best but that under the powers it might find that the best was not good enough. Let us take the case of wishing to impose the use of a certain roofing material where a much cheaper roofing material might be available and might not be inappropriate in a quite different district. It may be a little difficult for the planning authority or the right hon. Gentleman, however anxious they may be to secure the use of the right material, to do so, unless it carries some 1220 right of compensation to the person concerned. It may be objected that that is not directly dealt with in my Amendment, but the National Parks Commission could advise if that is—
§ Mr. Strauss
By giving a duty to the National Parks Commission to watch these matters and to advise the Minister. One of the things they might clearly be compelled to advise the Minister would be certain quite brief but necessary new legislation. Having made that extremely handsome admission, let me say how glad I was to hear the Minister say how valuable he thought the powers were which I managed to get into the Act of 1943. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider whether it is desirable to insert any further words in another place. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed new Clause, in line 70, after "in," to insert "the."
When introducing the new Clause, the Minister drew attention to one new point in it, namely that in subsection (4, e) he had made it clear beyond all doubt that the National Parks Commission should have direct access to Ministers on any point which they thought of sufficient importance. The last words in the Clause are:References in this section to a Minister include references to any Board in charge of a Government department.I want to make sure what the right hon. Gentleman means by those words. Is he visualising the Board taking charge of the department or the department taking charge of the Board? There are boards in charge of Government departments. I cite the Board of Trade, which includes among its membership Mr. Speaker and the Archbishop of Canterbury. I am told that this august Board very seldom meets for the purpose of discharging its duties and that its president alone exercises this lofty jurisdiction. There is also the Board of Admiralty in whom is vested the power of what used to be the Lord High Admiral of England.
1221 It may be that the words:Board in charge of a Government department.refer to the Board of Trade and the Board of Admiralty. If so I should have thought it better to put the words in the Clause because the words are ambiguous as they now stand. The draftsman may not have kept abreast of recent political developments. There has been a vast proliferation of boards in the lifetime of this Government. We have the Coal Board and we are threatened with the Iron and Steel Board. If hon. Members opposite get their way, we may have a great number of boards which, if they are not entirely in charge of Government Departments, are at least powerful instruments of policy of these departments, and it may be held that the Minister is in charge of them. It would probably not be very easy to find out who takes charge in every case.
I should like the Commission to have direct access not only to the Board of Admiralty, the Board of Trade and other Ministers but to other boards and authorities as well. When we consider the object at which we are all striving with so much unanimity on both sides of the Committee—to preserve to some extent the amenities and natural beauties of the areas to be considered as national parks—it is clear that potentially great offenders exist among those boards. The Electricity Authority has frequently offended or called attention to itself by erecting cooling towers, which are not objects of beauty, in rural areas, and for the purposes of their necessary service to the public they have to carry high tension wires and pylons over a great deal of open country. The Gas Authority has at its disposal for the disfigurement of our land unsightly objects, which are no doubt necessary, called gas holders. There has recently been a dispute about a gas holder at Otford.
I move this Amendment with an exploratory intention. My view is that if the Minister really means in the words he has used the Board of Trade and the Board of Admiralty, he should say so specifically. If, on the other hand, he means to include all these other authorities, he should use words which are wide enough to do so, because although coal has a board, the others are called authori-1222 ties, councils and goodness knows what. If the Minister would undertake to look at this again and make it clear that the Commission can go to the Electricity Authority or the Gas Authority with a protest about a project without having to go through its Minister in every case, it would be an advantage to the Bill.
§ Mr. H. D. Hughes
An Amendment in my name which has not been called was designed to deal with much the same point as this Amendment. I hope that the Minister will indicate that the National Parks Commission will have the kind of power envisaged in this Amendment to go direct to a body such as the British Electricity Authority. Let us imagine that the National Parks Commission was in existence. Plans are afoot for a hydroelectric scheme for North Wales. They are known to be drawn up by the British Electricity Authority, and very responsible people like Mr. Justice Birkett, the chairman of the Standing Committee on National Parks, and many others are very concerned.
It would appear to be reasonable and sensible that at this stage of the drawing up of the plans by the British Electricity Authority, the National Parks Commission, becoming cognisant of the proposals, should have the power to go to the British Electricity Authority and say to it direct, "These proposals are very interesting and important. We recognise the need for electricity, but they will have serious repercussions on North Wales from the point of view of amenities and national parks." In that way it would be possible to get the view of the National Parks Commission and of the British Electricity Authority together, perhaps by the Chairman of the National Parks Commission taking Lord Citrine out to lunch and getting some reasonable adjustment of views at the planning stage.
If this Amendment is not accepted, if the only meaning of this part of the Clause is confined to the Board of Trade and the Board of Admiralty—who never meet and who therefore can never take any interest in the National Parks Commission—it would mean that, in order to have that desirable interchange of views at this stage, the National Parks Commission would have to go to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, that Ministry would have to go to the Ministry 1223 of Fuel and Power who, in turn, would have to come back to the British Electricity Authority before there could be even informal or reasonable discussion of these proposals. That would be a more elaborate and expensive procedure and more gentlemen would have to take each other out to lunch before we could get a reasonable exchange of views.
Therefore I hope the Minister will either accept this Amendment or will indicate that in his view it will be right and proper for the National Parks Commission and the British Electricity Authority to get together in the planning stage when developments that will affect national parks areas are discussed.
§ Mr. Silkin
First as regards the clarification of the new Clause, I would say that what was intended was the narrower of the two alternatives put forward by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Silkin
The Board of Trade and the Board of Admiralty. That was the intention. Whether it is right or not is another matter, but that is what we meant by using the words we did. Of course, I hope that the Chairman of the National Parks Commission will use freely the right he has in the Bill of having informal talks with the chairmen of other similar bodies or of nationalised undertakings, and even of receiving a lunch from the Chairman of the Electricity Authority rather than giving one. I think a great deal can be done by informal discussion, and there is nothing in the Bill or in the new Clause which prevents that. In fact, it will be encouraged.
Of course, in the end, if there is disagreement it is bound to get back to the Minister. Neither of the two chairmen at the end of the day can themselves determine a case where there is disagreement, and the Chairman of the National Parks Commission will have to come back to the Minister of Town and Country Planning, the Chairman of the Electricity Authority will have to go back to his Minister, and the two Ministers will have to argue it out and possibly bring in other Ministers as well. That is unavoidable. As I visualise it, there will be a good deal 1224 of agreement arrived at as the result of informal discussions, and I shall encourage them to the fullest possible extent.
Whether it is necessary to put words into the Bill to indicate something which to me seems to be perfectly obvious, I am not sure. I should like to think about it again to see whether it is desirable to put in something, and whether the simple expedient of the right hon. Gentleman is the best way of doing it. I have my doubts on the latter point because it seems to me to be open to the same charge of ambiguity as is the Clause itself, but I gladly give an undertaking to consider the matter again at a later stage in order to see whether it is necessary to put something in the Clause which at the moment is explicit in my view.
§ Mr. Morrison
I have listened to what the Minister has said and I agree with him that perhaps this is not the best way of expressing what is desired. However, there still remains the point of the ambiguity of the language used. The expression "any Board in charge of a Government department" might be read to mean either a Board like the Board of Admiralty or the Board of Trade, or a Board like the Coal Board, and the words "in charge" do not make it clear. I accept the assurance of the Minister that the Act will be so administered as to encourage the National Parks Commission to go direct to the executive boards such as the Electricity and Gas authorities or, at least, that there will be no hindrances placed in their way. While I think it would be better to say straight out, "Board of Trade and Board of Admiralty," as the Minister has undertaken to look at this matter again, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be added to the Bill."
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I am sorry that for a moment I was away from the Committee when the Minister mentioned the words in line 17 "to keep under review." That is a much better alternative to the one I attacked in Committee, but I still wish to make it clear that the new words are not mine. The other matter to which I would call the attention of the Minister and, through him, of the draftsman 1225 is that in line 46 he has the words "consult them." That seems to me to be good, straightforward English. In two other passages in this Clause he has "to consult with." He had better make up his mind which of the two forms he believes in and have it uniform throughout the Clause and throughout the Bill. Personally I think it is better to consult somebody than to consult with him.
§ Mr. Emrys Roberts (Merioneth)
Although I am grateful to the Minister for collecting together the general duties of the Commission in one Clause, I think we are entitled to ask how the Commission will work in regard to the powers given in this Clause and in regard to its constitution. Later on the Order Paper there is a new Clause standing in my name and that of my hon. Friends—(Welsh Parks Commission)—which provides for the setting up of a Welsh Parks sub-commission. I understand from the Table that that Clause is not in Order and that it will not be called, so I should like to say a word or two about that aspect of the National Parks Commission now.
We had a full discussion in the Standing Committee on the proposal whether there should be a sub-commission for Wales, bearing in mind that over 1,300 square miles in Wales are intended to be designated as national parks. We there made the point that a National Parks Commission sitting in London cannot possibly understand the rural economy in Wales or the Welsh way of life sufficiently to advise the local planning, authorities in regard to their duties under this Bill. The consideration of this Clause confirms me still further in that point of view.
The National Parks Commission has to designate the areas. Among those areas it has to designate will be areas in Wales. Surely that should be the task of a sub-commission sitting in Wales composed of people from Wales who know the conditions there? It has, further, to keep under review the progress made by local authorities. That again, I submit, cannot be done from Whitehall. It has to advise local authorities on local matters, to deal with special problems and to tender advice to the Minister. None of those things can be dealt with as effectively by a central commission as by a local sub-commission.
1226 6.30 p.m.
The hon. Member for West Wolverhampton (Mr. H. D. Hughes) referred to the very important hydro-electric proposals for North Wales. He rather alarmed me by suggesting that the future of the area and the people most concerned with the proposals—the people who live there—could be disposed of by a lunch between the Chairman of the National Parks Commission and the Chairman of the British Electricity Authority. The person who would be in the best position to discuss those proposals and their effect on the countryside would be the chairman of a Welsh sub-commission.
I am very sorry that the Minister has not accepted the lead given to him by the Minister of Agriculture in the setting up of an agricultural land sub-commission for Wales. We have met the Minister on this point and have put our arguments to him, but we have had no adequate reason from him why this proposal was not accepted. We certainly did not receive a satisfactory answer from the Parliamentary Secretary during the Committee stage. I hope that the Minister will say something about it before we leave the Clause.
Mr. Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
I wish to reinforce the arguments which have been put forward by the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts). I understand that this is the only opportunity we shall have during the progress of the Bill to discuss that important Amendment to the new Clause which appears on the Order Paper.
The Clause leads us, as Welsh Members, to ask for special consideration to be given to the national parks in Wales. I hope that by now hon. Members will have read the reply given in Committee by the Parliamentary Secretary, a reply which was one of the most disappointing ever given during the Committee stage of the Bill. We are not asking the Minister for anything new. We are simply asking, if possible within the Clause, for power to set up a sub-commission in Wales. We already have such bodies under the Agriculture Act, 1947, and under the Hill Farming and Forestry Acts, whereby a body of persons with powers delegated to them by a national Commission—not all the powers 1227 of the Commission, but matters delegated to them by the Commission—may discuss questions which are of significance to Wales.
It may be asked why we need such a body in Wales. The answer is that we are a nation of our own. We have our own language, our own national library and our own national museum, all of which have something to do with a national parks sub-commission. Every county council in Wales has agreed with the new Clause and I hope, therefore, that the Minister will say something about our proposal. Even the Welsh Tourist Board, and every Welsh committee of which one can think, have been in favour of it. The only person who says nothing at all about it is the Minister, who has a great deal of love for Wales, but whose Department has let him down. I cannot understand why he has not helped us. Amongst the suggestions which have been made to my right hon. Friend, it has been suggested that we should have two Welsh members on the Commission. That would be all right if there were only three members on the Commission, but it is possible that we might have only two members out of nine or 10. Rather than have one Welsh member on the Commission, I would much prefer that that member should be the chairman of a Welsh sub-commission.
I hope that the Minister will give us greater assurances and a better reply than the Parliamentary Secretary did, so that we can tell our people in Wales that his Department are sympathetic and will look at the matter again; and that if the national parks in England do not come up to expectations and those of Wales do, the status for which we ask may be given to Wales at a later stage. I beg the Minister to give us some assurances better than the replies we have had from the Parliamentary Secretary.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, Central)
I support the hon. Members for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) and Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins), who have put forward a perfectly reasonable request. It is not often that it lies within the power of my right hon. Friend to make such a gesture as this to the Welsh people. It is obvious that Wales will have a delightful park area of its own, but under the terms of the new Clause the Central 1228 Commission will have to advise the Minister on the development of land in that area. Surely the Welsh people themselves should have a voice in the development of land in Wales. We are giving the Minister an opportunity to make the Bill something really substantial for the Principality. I earnestly trust that he will realise that the advice which has been given to him is not only well-meant but is worth taking.
§ Mr. C. Williams
I must support the Welsh Members on this occasion. I belong to another Celtic race and I say quite frankly that on these occasions it is absolutely right and just that there should be a really strong protest in the House of Commons on the point of view which has been so ably expressed by three Welsh Members today. All too often very little sympathy is shown in Whitehall for distant places. In expressing my support for what has been said on behalf of Wales, and in hoping that the Minister, in the short time left to him, will give them the sympathy for which they have asked and which they deserve, I hope I may go further and express the view that other Governments in the future also will give that sympathy which is deserved.
Just as it is necessary to make this appeal for Wales on the Clause which is before us, it is equally necessary that we should appeal for consultation with local interests for a park which might be set up in, say, North Devon or Cornwall. For all these places far away from London, it is only right that on such rare occasions as people like myself get the opportunity of speaking in the House of Commons we should speak up for our people and for the areas we represent. It is all very well for people from London, Yorkshire and the big towns—they are strong and powerful—but we are not used to being called the "Celtic fringes"; I should prefer to call them the centres from which originality really springs. We get our chances all too seldom.
I wish that on this occasion, when Welsh Members and a representative of the West Country have been speaking, we could get a sympathetic reply from the Parliamentary Secretary, who still represents a West Country constituency. I wish also that we could have allied to us today the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey 1229 (Lady Megan Lloyd George), whose name and courage we all respect, and whom we expect on this occasion to speak in the name of Wales, for which she and her family have done so much, although naturally she has not that distinguished Liberal outlook of her brother at the present time.
§ Mr. Silkin
I should like to assure hon. Members who have spoken on this matter that the problem of Wales has received very serious and sympathetic consideration. I realise that to some extent the fact that a sub-commission of the kind referred to has been set up and sanctified under the agriculture and forestry Acts is an encouragement to them to ask for more. I congratulate the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) on his ingenuity in finding a way of circumventing the Rules by speaking on the Amendment which has not been called.
I very much regret that after the most careful consideration I am not able to do anything like that for which the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have asked. I will give the Committee the reasons. I think the agriculture and forestry Acts are a false analogy. In the case of those Acts a body was set up as an executive body to do a job on the spot. I suppose there is some case for setting up a sub-committee or sub-commission of those bodies in order to do the job in Wales, but, in the case of this Bill, it has been pointed out over and over again, sometimes as a criticism of the Bill and sometimes as a virtue, that the National Parks Commission is purely an advisory body.
What the hon. Member and his friends are asking is that there should be another committee set up in Wales to advise the advisers. [Interruption.] Is not that so? That will be their function. I thought their function would be to advise the Commission—
§ Mr. Silkin
That has been the case put up, that it would be a body which would advise the Commission on the discharge of their functions in Wales.
§ Mr. Silkin
A sub-commission of the Commission is a body answerable to the 1230 Commission itself. If it is now suggested that it should be a separate, independent body that is going much further than is even contained in the agriculture and forestry Acts. Apparently, the appetite of the hon. Member increases. I thought the claim always was that it should be merely a sub-commission of the Commission and should be anwerable to the Commission itself.
In the course of making his case, the hon. Member found it necessary to attack the Commission. What do these advisers, sitting in Whitehall, know, what can they know about Wales, or Northumberland? What can they know about Dartmoor, Exmoor or any other park when they are sitting in Whitehall; therefore, why a Commission at all? Surely the arguments put forward against the Commission dealing with Wales apply with equal force to the Commission dealing with other parts of the country.
§ Mr. Silkin
I know that hon. Members cannot help that, but they would destroy the Commission altogether. If they say that the Commission is of no value, what is the value of a sub-commission of a Commission which is of no value?
§ Mr. Emrys Roberts
Northumberland is not a separate nation; Wales is. The Minister must grasp that essential fact.
§ Mr. Silkin
However sympathetic one may be to Welsh nationalism, this is not a Bill to promote Welsh nationalism. It is a National Parks Bill and is designed to promote the welfare and progress of national parks. The hon. Member has not said a single word to show in what way the national parks would be furthered by setting up this sub-commission.
He made a great point, and I sympathise with him, that these parks should be administered by people who under-Wales—and so they will be. That is the whole purpose of the manner in which the Bill has been drawn; that the national parks should be administered by local people. Therefore the National Park of Snowdonia will probably be administered by a joint board consisting of Caernarvonshire and Merioneth. I presume that the members of those county councils are all Welshmen, fully familiar with conditions in North Wales and capable of 1231 representing the outlook and views of North Wales, and they will be the people actually responsible for administering those national parks. The people responsible for administering the Pembroke National Park will be members of the Pembroke County Council, presumably all Welshmen, although I understand that Pembroke is the most English speaking county in Wales.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Silkin
I withdraw that statement. But that is the position, that each of the national parks in Wales will be administered by the appropriate local authorities, which will consist of Welshmen.
Therefore, we shall get all the local colour and advice and nationalism we can possibly want. There is a regional office for Wales of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning and at the head of that office there is a Welsh speaking Welshman, born and bred in Wales and knowing all about Welsh conditions. That office is fully capable of advising, where necessary, on Welsh matters, and, in fact, the representative of my Ministry in Wales keeps us informed on Welsh conditions and on everything else we may have to know about Wales There is also the National Council for Wales, which was recently set up.
§ Mr. Silkin
That National Council for Wales is presided over by a Welshman and there are Welshmen on it who are, presumably, there to advise about conditions in Wales on cultural and other matters.
§ Mr. Silkin
Yes, if it is thought necessary they are there available. There will be others. There will be co-opted on to each of the planning committees a number of people recommended by the National Parks Commission and the bias will be in favour of people who are familiar with the conditions in the national parks. They, also, will be an effective link between the local authority and the National Parks Commission. 1232 With all this machinery there is no fear whatever that the views of the people of Wales, the views of the people who will be affected by the national parks, will not fully be before the National Parks Commission and the Minister.
There is the further point which I made when I saw the hon. Member for Merioneth and his colleagues. I promised him that I should be prepared to consider, if suitable, representation of Wales or the appointment of one or more Welshmen to the National Parks Commission. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas) thinks that is not sufficient. If that is rejected—
§ Mr. Silkin
—that is one more means of ensuring that the views, hopes, aims and aspirations in Wales will be fully before the Commission. This case cannot be made out on the grounds of achieving the purposes of this Bill. This is quite naturally and understandably a means of raising the national prestige of Wales which may be a very desirable object, but it is not the object of this Bill. It is my business to ensure in this Bill that the national parks are administered in the most efficient and economical manner without the creation of unnecessary machinery. I hope that is being achieved while at the same time achieving all the legitimate purposes of those putting forward this scheme.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
I intervene briefly to say how disappointing the Minister's reply has been—as disappointing as the reply we received in Committee upstairs. The Minister has on occasion shown great sympathy and understanding of Welsh problems but he has today shown a singular lack of understanding. He has missed the point of the whole proposal and suggestion put forward by my hon. Friend. He says, "You attack the Commission," and refers to the fact that there are no representatives from Northumberland or Cornwall. I fully appreciate and support the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) in claiming kinship with my race, a kinship which I am glad to acknowledge on all occasions. As I say, the Minister refers to the fact that there is no representative from Northumberland, etc.
1233 The whole point is that we are asking for representation not because we are a county but because we are a country. The right hon. Gentleman has completely missed that point here. Under this Bill a larger proportion of the land of Wales than of England is to be designated as a national park. Is it not reasonable that we should be allowed even to advise advisors if that is necessary, and I am sure that they will need advice—to advise them how these national parks should be formed and administered particularly if any special problems affecting the Principality arise? An important problem is arising now in connection with the hydroelectric scheme which it is suggested should be incorporated in the most famous of the two national parks. It might be said that these are problems which affect us in a purely economic sense, but if the right hon. Gentleman has any understanding of Welsh feelings he will know that they affect us in a much more fundamental way.
I would ask him to reconsider this matter. He has not given us a single reason why we should not have a sub-commission. He threw in an observation at the end of his speech about administration. That is the same old argument which is always put up when a reasonable claim is made on behalf of Wales—tidiness of administration, the argument "We cannot do because it will complicate matters, it will have to go through more channels." But if one knows that it will mean as it will in this case, more effective administration why not meet the claim? It would be far better to do so. The Minister will secure far smoother working of this machinery if he has a Welsh sub-Commission because he will find that Welshmen are much more easily dealt with by Welshmen—or Welshwomen.
Therefore, I again ask him to reconsider the case which has been made. I say, in all seriousness, that these continual refusals to acknowledge the reasonable claims of the Welsh people are exacerbating Welsh feeling. Is it really worth doing that in regard to this Amendment? What will it cost the right hon. Gentleman to give what he is asked to give? If he gives it he will find a ready response and a national response in Wales. If he does not give it he will be surprised at the public feeling which will be aroused.
§ The Chairman
I think that the Committee should now be able to come to a decision. In any event it is doubtful whether the discussion is in Order.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause added to the Bill.