§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood
I beg to move, in page 43, line 13, at the end, to insert:Provided that unless the Minister is satisfied that exceptional circumstances prevail, the land or any part of it shall not be excluded from the operation of the said subsection (1) on any public holiday, nor on any Saturday on Sunday immediately following or preceding a public holiday, nor for more than twelve consecutive days or a total of twenty days in any one year.This is a very constructive proposal which will give my right hon. Friend another opportunity to show that spirit of magnanimity which has inspired his 1300 utterances for the past three-quarters of an hour. Members will appreciate that the Clause as it stands provides that access agreements or orders may contain restrictions on public right of access during particular times. We take no exception to that in principle because provisions of that kind are clearly desirable. In the Bill itself it is provided, for example, in Clause 64, that the Minister of Agriculture shall be able to close access land in order to protect it from any danger of fire.
It may be necessary to close access land to protect rare flora or fauna, for example, the nesting of rare birds. There are people who, I believe, say that it is desirable to close access land during the lambing season. There are people, of whom I am not one, who believe in closing access land so that those who enjoy the sporting rights shall be able to take full advantage of them. But it is clear that if there are so many occasions on which access land can be closed the total period during the year when access land is closed may be considerable. Therefore, by hon. Friends and I have tabled this Amendment which would mean that, unless there were exceptional circumstances, the public would not be excluded from access land on any public holiday, or Saturday or Sunday immediately following or preceding a public holiday or for more than 12 consecutive days or for a total period of more than 20 days during the 12 months.
It will be appreciated that we have included the phrase about exceptional circumstances because we agree that land must be closed from time to time. Otherwise we believe that the very moderate periods we have suggested are reasonable under normal circumstances. In view of the fact that this Amendment is supported by many hundreds of thousands of people both young and old in various amenity organisations, and organisations like the Ramblers' Association and the Youth Hostels Association, I hope that my right hon. Friend will find it possible to accept it.
§ Mr. Silkin
I am very sorry, but in spite of the tempting plea to me to be reasonable, or rather to continue to be reasonable, I cannot accept this Amend- 1301 ment. In the first instance, no justification was given for limiting the period to 20 days. I do not know whether 20 days is a reasonable maximum or not, nor apparently does my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Radcliffe (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), because he said not one word of justification for it. Nor do I feel quite happy about excluding Saturdays or Sundays or public holidays.
There is a controversy at the present time as to whether it is necessary to exclude the public from land on account of lambing and breeding, and so on. I do not know that the argument is conclusive, but if there is any justification at all for excluding the public on those grounds, then there can be no guarantee that it would not be right to exclude them on Saturdays and Sundays or public holidays. I feel that we are somewhat in the dark about this, and that it would be wrong to legislate on the assumption that we know what is a reasonable period.
At an earlier stage I introduced an Amendment under which the Minister has to approve of every single access agreement which is made. It will be his business to satisfy himself that it is a reasonable agreement and that in all the circumstances it is giving the public a reasonable amount of access. What is reasonable may vary from time to time and one's conception of what is reasonable may vary as one gets more and more experienced. I think it is much wiser to leave it to the Minister to determine what is a reasonable agreement and what does give the public reasonable access.
Grouse shooting has been referred to as if it was an evil and that no facilities ought to be provided for it. I do not know whether it is or not, but it is certainly no part of the business of this Bill to determine that subject, and I am not in a position to do so.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Greenwood
It was not at all implicit in my argument. The point I was expressing was that some makers of agreements might in fact think it was reasonable to exclude the public for certain periods, and that that, coupled with other periods, might mean that the land was closed for a considerable time.
§ Mr. Silkin
I think my hon. Friend went on to say that he himself did not approve of it. That may be, and there may be a 1302 good many people in the House who disapprove of grouse shooting, possibly with some justification, but the fact remains that this Bill is not introduced to abolish grouse shooting. If it were, it ought to say so, and it ought to be referred in the long title. I am not prepared to abolish grouse shooting by implication.
I hope my hon. Friends will be satisfied with the assurance that it is the intention of this Bill to give to the public the maximum amount of access consistent with the due carrying out of farming operations without interference. It may be very difficult at times to balance the two, and I would say quite frankly that, in any case of doubt, the farming consideration must prevail. Subject to that, it may well be that the amount of time which is mentioned in the Amendment will turn out to be excessive even as a maximum in normal cases.
There is this further point that, when we refer to 20 days in any one year, there is always a tendency to regard that not only as a maximum but also as a minimum, and the local authorities might still feel that it was all right to give up to 20 days a year even when it was not necessary. Therefore, I appeal to my hon. Friends to leave the matter as it is now, so that the Minister may approve of each agreement, having regard to the various claims that may exist on different types of land.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman can only speak by leave of the House. He has already seconded the Amendment, and has exhausted his right to speak.
Mr. H. D. Hughes
May I ask the leave of the House to make a few remarks on what the Minister has said? I would first, with the permission of the House, thank the Minister for the reasonable way in which he received the Amendment, and in particular for his comment that the number of days indicated in it is the kind of period which he thinks might normally be required in cases where access land is to be closed. In Committee, the Minister seemed to suggest months rather than days, judging by the interjections he made, and one good purpose of the Amendment has been to get his mind turned towards terms of days rather than months. Those of us who support this Amend- 1303 ment do not do so because we are in any way desirous of eliminating grouse shooting by this means. I gather that a large number of sporting associations which have discussed the matter have accepted the view that 12 shooting days are fairly reasonable in a normal year.
What we desire to eliminate is the case of land being closed for one period for bird nesting, for another for lambing, and again for other purposes. As regards bird nesting, it is the case in a large number of grouse moors where access has been allowed that the subsequent bags have been very satisfactory to the sportsmen. As regards farming, my right hon. Friend recently accompanied a party of hon. Members through at any rate the fringes of the Lake District. Had he been able to penetrate its fastnesses a little further, he would have met a number of large-scale sheep farmers who have for many years allowed access on their land throughout the lambing period. It is their view that, when dogs are under proper control, there is no reason to prevent access to the land during the lambing season, and that it has no serious effect. Having got the Minister into the frame of mind in which he thinks in terms of days rather than months, I hope that my hon. Friend will withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Forest of Dean)
One point which has not been mentioned so far is forestry. If one ties oneself down to a definite figure of 20 days, trouble might be caused.
§ Mr. Philips Price
The point should be borne in mind. If one ties oneself down to a period such as this, trouble might be caused if there is a long drought and it becomes necessary to keep the public away from a forest to avoid serious damage by fire.
§ Mr. Philips Price
I do not know. I cannot see that provision is made for that. I am very glad that the Minister has refused to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
I was glad to hear that the Minister does not support this Amendment. In 1304 the vicinity of Sheffield there is some beautiful scenery and I am certain that my constituents like to go out, as they will be able to go under this Bill, to visit those areas. The Amendment might have the effect of causing serious damage to an activity which is almost becoming an industry in the agricultural parts of North Derbyshire. The hon. Member for West Wolverhampton (Mr. H. D. Hughes) mentioned that it was possible that grouse might continue to thrive if continuous access was allowed to the moors. That is a fallacy. One of the effects of this Amendment would be to drive the birds away from that area of North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. I know people in that area, farmers and others, who earn a great deal of money by assisting in this form of sport. Not only that, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer derives a great deal of money from grouse shooting, and the ratepayers in the area also benefit. This Amendment might do serious harm.
§ Mr. C. Williams
I do not happen to be interested in grouse shooting, but I know a certain amount about the care of sheep on mountain sides. The Minister is absolutely right on this point. Danger might be caused by a person walking about with a dog which is only nominally under control. Immense losses are incurred in various parts of Scotland because people wander around with dogs during lambing time. One can always find people who, if a dozen politicians bully them, will say almost anything. What they say carries no weight at all. The fact is that the Minister knows—and I hope that the Minister of Agriculture has helped him in this matter—that there must be a time in the lambing season when people are not allowed to wander about all over the place. Nine people out of ten would not do anything to cause damage, but a person might do harm quite innocently. I have said many things today which the Minister has not liked, but I try to be just, and on this occasion I say that he is absolutely right.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood
In the hope that my right hon. Friend will be reasonable in this matter, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Molson
I beg to move, in page 43, line 24 at the end, to insert "and is unenclosed."
1305 This Clause provides a definition of the land which is excepted, that is, land over which access orders cannot be made. Paragraph (a) provides that agricultural land shall be excepted land and that is not to include land which is only agricultural but land which:affords rough grazing for livestock.In The High Peak we have on the heights, the moors where the sheep graze—chiefly open heather—and then, as one comes down into the valleys, the heather gradually gives place to grass. There are small enclosed fields which have permanent grass growing and which are used for the pasturage of the sheep and the cattle. Some of those small fields are, in fact, the very centre of the hill farms in that area. The purpose of this Amendment is to provide that that rough permanent pasturage which is used for the sheep and the cattle, and which is enclosed, shall be excepted land within the meaning of the Bill.
§ Colonel Clarke
I beg to second the Amendment.
I feel that this definition requires a little clarification. I believe that as it stands:agricultural land … by reason only that it affords rough grazing for livestock.may be difficult to define, and if to that can be added the fact that the acid test is whether it can be enclosed or unenclosed, it might be a help. Some permanent pasturage is very rough, but it is very good grazing land, and it should not be included in the access land.
§ Mr. Silkin
I see the force of the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke), namely, that there may be some difficulty in deciding whether a particular piece of land is excepted or not. I shall be quite willing to have another look at it to see whether some test could be devised so as to avoid any possibility of dispute. What seems to me to be quite clear is that that test cannot be whether the land is enclosed or not. That lays it much too open to any person deliberately to enclose land in order to bring it within the exception. But if the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) is content to accept an assurance that I will discuss this point with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture to see if we can discover some simple way of 1306 deciding whether land ought to be excepted or not, which is capable of being put into an Act of Parliament, I shall certainly do so.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Turton
I think the right hon. Gentleman is a little bit wrong on this because nobody would purposely enclose a field in order to get it within the exception because it would cost far too much. Walling or hedging would cost something in the region of £200 or £300. What we are trying to deal with here is rough grazing land in hill farming areas. Under the Hill Farming Act passed by the present Government the enclosed land, which is of great value for lambing, is part of the hill farm.
As this Bill is now drafted that part of the farm will be subject to rights of access. It is the one part of the farm we want to keep exempt from rights of access. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept this Amendment in another place, if he cannot accept it here, because nobody will go to the expense of enclosing such land where it is not required. In the North of England we call it the hinter. It should not be subject to rights of access; it should be an integral part of the farm. It is, in fact, rough grazing because we take the definition of rough grazing as what an ordinary animal would eat, although what is rough grazing for the lowland type of sheep is good grazing for the hill sheep.
§ Mr. Silkin
I rise only to seek information. Admitting the fact that a farmer would not deliberately enclose a piece of land when it would not pay him to do so, would the hon. Member regard the mere expense of an enclosure as a satisfactory criterion?
§ Mr. Turton
I can only talk for my own part of the country, but the cost of maintenance of enclosures today is so great that no one would do it unless he wanted it for some farming purpose. I think that applies to all parts of the country because the cost of maintenance is very great. One maintains enclosures if one wants it for the lambing of one's hill sheep or to improve the grass of that enclosure. In both cases I do not want that land to be subject to rights of access. There is no possible objection to rights of access over unenclosed land although it is pastured by hill sheep. When it is 1307 enclosed it is because it is of use for another purpose.
§ Mr. Wilmot
I hope the Minister will stick to his objection to this Amendment. The type of grazing about which we are talking would not be impaired or damaged in any way by the access which the Clause provides. To permit the possibility of enclosing on a large scale in a most unpleasant way—the cheapest way by slinging barbed wire around a field and thus bringing it within the Clause—would defeat the purpose of the Bill, and I hope the Minister will amend the Bill in some better way while preserving the substance.
§ Mr. Collins
I would add that there are in existence in many parts of the country stone walls running across the country around land which I am quite sure would be regarded as rough grazing. It could be argued that that is already enclosed land, but I am quite sure that no hon. Member would wish to excuse such land or regard it as enclosed. In addition to the point made about cheap and nasty fencing by the use of barbed wire, in many areas there is an increasing use of temporary enclosure by means of electric fences. I hope that when the Minister looks into this and decides to meet in some way the points raised he will look into it, above all, as to the definition of an enclosure. It is not merely a question of a definition of rough grazing but a question of what is the kind of fence or wall or barrier which will constitute an enclosure. I hope the Minister will bear that point in mind.
§ Mr. Molson
I hope that the House will permit me to say a few words upon this matter. In moving this Amendment I did not want to make it possible for entirely spurious enclosures to take place. What the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins) said about electric wire can run very close to the improvement provision of this Bill whereby any land can become excepted land when it is being used for agricultural purposes. I take it that if anyone went to the expense of putting up an electric fence it would be in order to use it for an agricultural purpose and, therefore, it would come within the protection of the Bill. I moved this Amendment at the request of the farmers of The High Peak, who are anxious that those particular small fields which are down 1308 close to their farmhouses should receive protection. I am much obliged to the Minister for undertaking to try to devise a satisfactory form of words, and in view of the undertaking that he has given—it is a difficult task that he has undertaken—I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I beg to move, in page 43, line 32, at the end, to insert:or which is managed in accordance with the rules and practice of good forestry.We had a long discussion on this subject in the Standing Committee. I do not propose to trouble the House at this late hour with a full account of the arguments for and against this proposition which we are putting forward. The position, to put it as shortly as I can, is as follows. Agricultural land is excepted on the grounds that the maintenance of agriculture and food production is in the public interest and that nothing must be done by this Bill to impair it. Forestry and the supply of timber is, equally with agriculture, in the public interest in its own sphere, but whereas the whole of agricultural land, with few exceptions, is excluded from access, only a very small fraction of the land devoted to forestry is, by the Bill as now drafted, so excluded. The exception in favour of forestry is to be found in this Clause 55 (5, c), and there it is described as:land which is subject to a forestry dedication covenant entered into under the Forestry Act, 1947, or in respect of which advances have been made by the Forestry Commissioners under the Forestry Acts, 1919 to 1947.The amount of forestry land which is covered by that definition in the Bill is a tiny fraction of the whole of the land which is devoted to forestry in this country. The noble Lord the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, speaking in another place, gave the figure, and said that 12,000 acres of woodlands have actually been dedicated out of a total of 2,800,000 acres of woodlands in private hands. So the fact is that this exception in favour of forestry, in the Bill as now drafted, affects a very tiny fraction of our most essential timber-growing land. In the Standing Committee we endeavoured to enlarge the matter by providing for an exception in the case of trees which were cultivated as a commercial crop. It 1309 was a very difficult definition to justify when all the arguments against it had been presented. That is one of the advantages of a Committee stage.
However, I think that in all parts of the Committee the consensus of opinion was that the mere existence or non-existence of a dedication covenant did not really affect the merits of whether or not forestry land should be excluded from access. Undedicated trees are just as liable to burn as dedicated trees, and as much damage can be done to the national interest by the destruction of trees whether they be dedicated or not. Trees remain exactly the same whether dedicated or not, and are just as valuable to the nation.
So we have made this second attempt here to try to enlarge the scope of the protection of trees. The Minister, at the conclusion of our Debates upstairs, said:All these considerations lead me to the conclusion that I ought to think again about this exception. If the hon. Member for Westmorland"—it was my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) who moved the Amendment upstairs—is prepared to withdraw his Amendment I shall be very glad to look at the whole matter in the light of everything that has been said."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 24th May, 1949; c. 395.]That was the way it was left, and we withdrew our Amendment. I should be very grateful to learn from the right hon. Gentleman the result of his cogitations on this matter. What I am suggesting is to except also land which is managed in accordance with the rules and practice of good forestry. There has been in agricultural leases for a long time the phrase "managed in accordance with the practice of good husbandry." That has become a well-known term of art in defining whether or not a farm is being properly run and properly farmed. In the case of forestry, I am bound to admit that I do not think the term we suggest has been in such general or long use as the term "good husbandry." Nevertheless, I think anyone would have no difficulty in distinguishing by the use of this test whether or not this was a woodland that was being run as a woodland for the production of timber and trees. That is the sort of land we wish to except. I have put the argument as shortly as I can and I leave it there.
§ Mr. Philips Price
Although I agree in general with the substance of the Amendment—that it is not right to separate dedicated land from undedicated land—I take a somewhat wider view of all this. I think that forest land ought not to be excluded from public access except under special conditions which should be laid down. Just now, when I was intervening on another Amendment, my hon. Friends tried to put me wise by saying that forest land was protected. Well, that is just what I do not want. I want the public to have access to the forests; but there must be rules and regulations, particularly in regard to protection from forest fires.
It is obviously unreasonable that there should be this distinction between dedicated land and undedicated land, and in that respect I am entirely in support of this Amendment. At the same time, I wish the Minister would do what he hinted he would do when we discussed this in Committee, and that is to review this whole matter and see whether forest land cannot be treated in the same way as agricultural land. In Committee I hinted that there was a possible way out. The Forestry Commission are now preparing a list of all productive forest land in England and Wales—and I think in Scotland, too, although I am not quite sure about that—a list which is eligible for dedication. The Commission hope that all this land will be dedicated, but they cannot be sure.
My suggestion is that this Clause should be so drafted as to make it possible for all productive forest land to come in under this provision, and for the public to have access to it subject to the various rules and regulations which will be hereinafter determined. It is most important that the public should have access to the forests, because there is a gross ignorance about forestry, particularly in England. It is not the same in Scotland; the Scots are much better informed about forestry and trees than the English. I think that all that would be got over if the public began to learn something about what the forests are and how they are run. I rather hope that we shall get something settled now on the Report stage. I hope that at least by the next stage my right hon. Friend will recast this part of the Clause concerning forestry.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Colonel Clarke
Do I understand from the hon. Gentleman that at present all plantations and all forests are excluded from access because they have been paid for by Government grant? I think that under the Clause they would be excepted land. The Clause says:land … in respect of which advances have been made by the Forestry Commissioners under the Forestry Acts, 1919 to 1947.I think that covers all Forestry Commission land. It certainly seems a pity that some of the older forests, where there is little or no danger of fire, should not be available for access.
I am not clear whether copses, as apart from plantations, are open to access or not. In the definition of "open country" they appear to be left out, but the fact that plantations are specifically excluded makes it look as if copses should automatically be included, otherwise why make an exception of plantations that have been dedicated or paid for by forestry grants? I should like to know the position of copses. Then another question arises: if they are accessible land, how are we to get access to them? In this question of forestry there are a good many points that have not yet been touched, and if the Minister could clear them up before the Bill leaves the House, it would help many of us.
§ Mr. Wilmot
Would the right hon. Gentleman say a word on areas such as Fitfield Forest in Norfolk, in which the Forestry Commission have considerable influence and which have from ancient times been open to public access? It would be a great tragedy if the passage of this Bill should close to the public some of the open country which happily the Forestry Commission have brought into productive use in recent times and which would seem to exist side by side with public use without any great harm being done.
§ Mr. Silkin
Before I reply to the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison), I would like to assure my right hon. Friend there is nothing in this Bill which would require the Forestry Commission to discontinue the granting of access to the public in respect of land to which the public have previously had access. Once this Measure becomes law, I am sure the Forestry Commission will not suddenly close access to the public.
1312 The right hon. Gentleman invited me to tell him the result of the cogitations that had taken place since the Committee stage, and I gladly do so. Let me say at once that I cannot justify subsection (5, c) as drawn. I think it must be wrong to draw as the dividing line between excepted forestry land and non-excepted forestry land the fact that a dedication agreement has been made. To that extent the right hon. Gentleman has made his case.
However, I am not entirely satisfied with the present Amendment. I am inclined to go rather further. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for the Fort of Dean (Mr. Philips Price) that, with certain exceptions in the case of young trees, copses and so on, there is no reason why the public should not have access. What I would like to do is to see whether I can devise a form of words which would except areas of forest where there is danger of fire. I am not quite certain at the moment what would be the test—whether it would be a test of age, or what other test could be applied. What I am groping for, if I may use the word, is some simple test which could be applied to forest land which could be accepted, and which would not—
§ Mr. Philips Price
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has quite got it right. The only thing that the foresters want is to see that there is no danger of fire at certain times of the year. It is not a question of the age of forests. Whether they are young or old is all the same. It is a question of whether, during a long period of drought, such as we have just had, there might be serious danger of fire in forests of all ages. It is merely a question of giving power to the authority to say there is this danger for a week or two.
§ Mr. Silkin
I do not dispute the great authority with which my hon. Friend speaks on these matters, but unfortunately there are others, who speak with almost equal authority, who take the view that it is a matter of age. I have to make up my mind, and I have to do that before the next stage of the Bill. I propose to try to do so by visiting certain forests and making such investigations as are open to me—not applying a practical test.
§ Colonel Haughton (Antrim)
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, it is almost impossible in this intimate dis- 1313 cussion, to hear a single word which is being spoken.
§ Mr. Silkin
I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is missing the fun. The short point of what I was saying was that I had promised to give consideration to this matter in the Committee stage. I feel that it is possible to go considerably further than we have gone in the Clause as it stands. I would like to have the opportunity to move something on the lines which I have indicated at a later stage. That is not quite what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind. It would be accepting far less than he has in mind, excepting from access only such areas as were definitely in danger of catching fire, and to which otherwise there could be access. But that is the kind of thing I have in mind. Unfortunately, I have not been able to devise an exact form of words at this stage.
§ Colonel Clarke
Before the Minister sits down, may I ask whether he is able at this stage to say anything about copses? I raised the question whether copses would be eligible for access or not.
§ Mr. P. Roberts
Two things which have been said in this Debate worry me. One is the reference to the age of trees. Does that mean that it is considered that young trees would be free from fire?
§ Mr. Roberts
The older ones, of 20, or 30 years, or some figure of that kind? But one danger has not been mentioned, and that is the danger of rabbits. I have had experience of putting down a young plantation in which there is no danger of fire, the trees being perhaps one year old. Someone walking through that plantation leaves open a few gates which have been carefully wired round; three or four rabbits get in, and the plantation disappears in three or four nights. It may be said that there is no danger from access to small plantations, but I hope that that point will be borne in mind.
The other thing which frightened me was the suggestion of the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Philips 1314 Price) that at certain times there was danger of fire, and that the public should be told, if there were a drought for some weeks, that access would not be permitted in certain areas. I have a great deal of experience of forest fires in Norfolk, particularly with the Forestry Corn-mission areas in Norfolk, and it is an arduous task to put them out. Let me assure the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean that merely to say there will not be access for the next two weeks is not possible. Either the thing is barred altogether or not at all. It cannot be on and off for brief periods. People coming from long distances do not make themselves acquainted with the rules and regulations. If the Minister is considering the matter along those lines, I hope he will make it quite clear that for possibly six months in the Summer time access shall not be permitted, but that in the six Winter months it may be. The same rules should apply all over the country, and not merely change with the climatic conditions in one part. If that is done, it will not have any benefit at all.
§ Mr. Turton
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) asked whether subsection (5, c) included or excluded Forestry Commission land. As I read it, the provision excludes it, because the Commission is not receiving the advances under the Acts mentioned. Therefore, on that account, this is a bad definition. I am attracted by the Minister's suggestion that age should be the criterion, but I should have thought the right way of tackling this was to say that all plantations under the age of 30 shall be excepted land, and in plantations over the age of 30, where there have to be forestry operations, there should be right of access.
I do not agree with the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Philips Price) that there can be one week in and one week out. The only way it can be done is to have six months in and six months out, though I think it is far better to say, if the forest is of a certain age, that it will be excepted land. If it has standing timber in it, there is no reason why the public should not enjoy it, but do not let the House forget the very great loss that is being incurred on farms in forestry areas at the present time. I have large areas of Forestry Commission lands in my constituency, and continually a large amount 1315 of good timber is destroyed through the careless habits of those who come from the towns and cities and set fire to that timber. I hope the Minister realises his responsibility in this matter. I am sorry that, although on the Committee stage he gave a very clear undertaking that he would look into this matter and produce an Amendment for the Report stage, he has entirely failed to do so, and it is not really any great consolation to say that he will leave it in this unsatisfactory state in the hope that in another place something better may be done.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I can only speak again by leave of the House. It is something if this discussion has driven the Minister off the too narrow definition that he has embodied in the Clause we are now considering. It is a difficult question, but I think there is a great deal in what my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) said, that age is perhaps a very important criterion with regard to this matter. There is something also in the observation that people should know which woods are open and which are not. I do not think there can be one week on and one week off. However, in view of the difficult problem, which I quite appreciate, and the Minister's assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.