HC Deb 30 November 1962 vol 668 cc811-901

11.5 a.m.

Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)

I beg to move, That this House congratulates the National Parks Commission on their progress over the past 13 years in furthering the purposes set out in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949; considers that time has shown the need for amendment of the Act in a number of respects, so as to facilitate the extension and diversification of the activities of the Commission and, particularly, with regard to the existing financial arrangements; and urges Her Majesty's Government to introduce amending legislation accordingly. It is now thirteen years since Parliament, with all-party support, created the National Parks Commission. Having been fortunate enough to draw a place in the Ballot, I felt that it would be useful to assess the value of the Commission and its work over the years and to ask, in the light of that experience, whether the 1949 Act stands in need of amendment. I should say straight away that I approach this subject in all humility, because it is one of immense complexity. The Act itself has 115 Sections and two Schedules.

I know that there are many hon. Members who were present during the Second Reading debate of that Bill and who have expert knowledge. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) was even a sponsor of a Bill to obtain access to mountains in this country as long back as 1930. I know also that there are many hon. Members who, like myself, have National Parks within their constituencies, and no doubt they will be able to speak of their own personal experiences of the operation of the Act in their own areas.

I have the privilege of representing part of Exmoor, which I drive over fortnightly on the way to my constituency, which I shall in fact drive through tonight, which I know well and love deeply. I shall not go into particular details in regard to Exmoor but try to keep to more general principles and leave it to other hon. Members to deal with their own personal experiences.

I have received representations from many admirable bodies interested in the National Parks—the National Trust, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, the Ramblers' Association, the Council for Nature and others. Obviously, it is not possible within the compass of one speech to deal with the many valuable and interesting points which have been raised. Nor, indeed, do I think that I need go into the history of the great pioneers who helped to set up the idea of National Parks—James Bryce, through the Addison, Dower and Hobhouse Reports, finally to the introduction by Mr. Silkin, as he then was, of the Bill in 1949.

During the Second Reading debate, Mr. Silkin pointed out that this was one of the most densely populated countries in the world, that four-fifths of our population lived in urban areas, and that the object of the Bill was to preserve and enhance the beauty of the countryside; and, secondly, to enable our people to see it, get to it, and enjoy it"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 31st March, 1949; Vol. 463, c. 1462.] It was for those who feel the need, in the words of Cicero, to fly from the town to the country as though from chains. It is certainly right and proper that the people of this country should be able to enjoy the one benefit bestowed on them by our appalling climate.

Since then ten National Parks have been designated—the Peak District, which is of easy access to people living in the great centres of population like Manchester, Sheffield, Derby and Stoke; the Lake District, 900 square miles; Snowdonia, of which Hilaire Belloc said that there was no corner in Europe which moved him more than the "awe and majesty of the North Wales mountains seen from the corner of their silent sea." Then there is Dartmoor, represented by the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock (Sir H. Studholme), whom I see in his place; the Pembrokeshire coast; the North York Moors; the Yorkshire moors; Exmoor; Northumberland, and the Brecon Beacons. It is some of the finest countryside in these islands, an area which covers one-tenth of England and Wales. Scotland is not within the purview of the 1949 Act, although I shall not go into the reasons for that.

I should like to clear up one or two misapprehensions. First the term "National Park" is, in itself, misleading. A park normally connotes some form of nature reserve, such as one finds in parts of America and Africa, whereas, in the Act, a National Park is defined as being … an extensive area of outstanding beauty, suitable for recreation but where the life of the existing community goes on. As the Hobhouse Report says: National Parks must not be sterilised as museum specimens. Farming and essential industries must flourish, unhampered by unnecessary controls and restrictions and protected as far as possible from inconveniences that might arise from an increased number of visitors. When one realises that, one realises what a very delicate balance has to be maintained between the various interests.

First, there are the needs of the agricultural community, whose people have tilled the soil for centuries, long before the idea of National Parks was conceived. There are the rural inhabitants who make their livelihood in those areas in their different ways. There is the nation at large, and there is the effect of the influx of visitors, which may well change the landscape, and could provide some inconvenience to the indigenous population. The job of the National Parks Commission and, through it, the Park planning authorities, is to maintain this very delicate balance.

The Commission, as such, is not a planning authority. As the House well knows, each National Park has its own separate planning authority, or, in cases where more than one county is involved, there may be several planning authorities, and two-thirds of those are appointed from the elected members of the county council, and only one-third are appointed by the local planning authority, on the nomination of the Minister, on the advice of the Commission. Therefore, when brickbats are thrown at the Commission for certain planning permissions, the fault very often does not lie in the Commission. The criticism should be directed to the elected members of the county council, who have the majority representation on those authorities.

The House should also bear in mind that the planning authorities themselves have no power to control the agricultural use to which land can be put, because agricultural use of land is not "development" within the meaning of the Town and Country Planning Act. The Commission cannot own land. Its chief task is to act in an advisory capacity, not only in regard to National Parks but areas of outstanding natural beauty, and areas of England and Wales generally, on any issue involving natural beauty.

We have moved a very long way to accepting the need for planning to maintain the beauty of our countryside. As the present Minister pointed out in the Adjournment debate on 29th March, 1961, 5 per cent. of our land is now designated as being of outstanding natural beauty, 6 per cent. is accounted for by the green belt and 9 per cent. by National Parks. That means that 20 per cent. of our land is under the strictest possible control, bearing in mind the balance that has to be maintained between all the conflicting interests. At any rate, there is a realisation of the duty on planning authorities to maintain the beauty of the countryside.

How have our National Parks failed since the coming into operation of the 1949 Act? They have sustained a substantial number of invasions, from pylons for the super-grid to overhead distribution lines. We have seen a proliferation of masts for the General Post Office, the Ministry of Aviation and the Air Ministry. In Dartmoor, we have a 750 ft. television mast on Hessary Tor. In Snowdonia, we have a nuclear electricity generating station and a pumped storage installation. The Service Ministries have training rights over 410,000' acres, and 25 of their training areas are within National Parks. The Minister has to decide which intrusions are in the vanguard of social progress and which are downright vandalism.

It was Lord Strang, Chairman of the National Parks Commission, who said to the Ramblers on 29th September last: Where a Government Department has plans for erecting large installations of one kind or another in a National Park I can remember no case where it has been diverted from its purpose by anything the Commission might say about the intentions of Parliament as embodied in the National Parks Act. Coming as that does from one who spent many distinguished years as a careful draftsman in the Foreign Office, I do not think that anyone could accuse Lord Strang of verbal flamboyance, and I think that that considered view is a very great criticism of the way in which successive Ministers have allowed invasions to take place within the National Park.

Today, the State is driven on by an almost insatiable appetite for more water, more electric power, more land for forestry, more wireless communications, and I ask the House what the picture within the National Parks will be in 20 years' time. Will there be a conglomeration of pylons, reservoirs, concrete posts and pig wire, or shall we see the National Parks preserved?

One must, however, balance the position. The situation is not all black. There have been some notable achievements in regard to planning, where credit is due to the Minister, to Select Committees of this House and of another place, and where, also, the advice of the Commission has been invaluable. As we know, a House of Lords Select Committee recently threw out a Bill that sought to create an aerodrome at Harrobeer in the Dartmoor National Park, and a similar fate met the Torquay Water Bill when it came before a Select Committee of this House. Another place saw to it, after a brilliant speech by the late Lord Birkett, which was the peroration of his life, that Manchester should not be allowed to plunder water from the Lake District.

The Minister has recently refused to allow increased quarrying of limestone in the southern part of the Peak District, and there have been many cases where derelict property has been cleared and where electricity boards have agreed to lay their electric lines underground; where, for example, as a result of consultation with the Forestry Commission, the Exmoor Chains are to be spared being smothered in conifers, and where, by screening, by adapting plans and by rerouting, the damage to the landscape has been minimised.

I say at once that some intrusions into the National Parks are inevitable. In my own constituency, I have many villages that are without piped water arid without an electricity supply. Who is to say that it is wrong that those villages should receive the essential services? It is essential that many rural areas should have better roads, especially those that are threatened with railway branch line closures and to which one is trying to attract light industry in order to provide alternative employment.

If these essential services are not provided, we shall see increased depopulation of these rural areas. In my division, I have villages with populations smaller now than they were a hundred years ago. We must recognise that if rural depopulation proceeds apace, that, in itself, deprives the National Parks of one of their vital and virile assets, because it is a vigorous, healthy rural community and a vigorous rural village life that gives part of the character and charm to Our National Parks.

We have to realise, therefore, that this is a very difficult balance. I hope that in future the Minister of Housing and Local Government will be tougher than some of his colleagues and particularly with the Service Ministers. It is true that they have released about 100,000 acres in the last few years, but I was not particularly pleased to read the speech by the General Officer Commanding Northern Command when he said that the Army was very short of training ground and would probably need more. I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary what are the intentions of his right hon. Friends the Service Ministers. Is it to continue a phased withdrawal, or will their appetite, on the contrary, grow?

I should like to touch on certain specific problems which I believe face the Commission. The first is inadequate finance. The second is the need to amend the Act. The third is the prickly and controversial question of ploughing and afforestation. The fourth relates to the constitution of the Park planning authorities.

On finance, the Report of the Addison National Park Committee in 1931 suggested that the figure which would be required would be £100,000 per annum for the first five years. It also suggested a utility scheme of £10,000 per annum for the same period. The Report of the Hobhouse National Parks Committee (England and Wales) suggested that £9¼ million would be necessary for capital expenditure for the first ten years and that administrative costs would be at the rate of £170,000 a year for the first full year, rising to £750,000 a year after the fourth year. Mr. Dalton, as he then was, suggested that the Land Fund might become available. I know that this is a question which the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman), who has been a great protector of National Parks, raised in a speech on 30th March, 1961. I leave that point with him if he chooses to raise it.

The House knows that certain schemes carried out by the Park planning authorities are grant-aided with 75 per cent. contribution from the Exchequer and 25 per cent. from the county council or county councils, whichever the case may be. It is interesting to assess what the income and expenditure of the National Parks Commission and the Park planning authorities has been for the twelve years, 1949 to 1961, bearing in mind at all times the suggestions in the Addison and Hob-house Reports as to what the level of expenditure should be.

First, with regard to the Commission, the cost of administration, Which includes Stationery Office expenses, has been £346,229. Publicity is largely on the C.O.I. Vote and costs £24,489, making a total expenditure for the administrative costs of the Commission of £370,718. That, of course, comes from taxation, that is, a direct Exchequer grant, and works out at roughly £30,000 per annum. As for the Park planning authorities, Exchequer grants, Which include grants for areas of outstanding national beauty and long distance routes, have been £53,274 and the local authority's share of 25 per cent. has been £17,758.

Sir Henry Studholme (Tavistock)

Do I understand the hon. Member to say that that is for the period since National Parks were started? It is not annual expenditure?

Mr. Thorpe

No. I wish it were. This is the expenditure for the twelve years since the passing of the National Parks Act. It is, therefore, a sum of £370,000 at the rate of £30,000 per annum, for the Commission's expenditure, that, is on the task of representing views at inquiries, administrative costs in London, the running of publicity, and the education of the public about the countryside. As for the planning authorities, the total Exchequer contribution has been £53,000, including a 25 per cent. contribution, or £17,700, from the local authorities, and the administrative costs of the county councils have been £750,000. This has meant that there has been total expenditure on the Commission and the Park planning authorities of a little over £1,200,000, or roughly £100,000 per annum. This has meant that the expenditure on our National Parks has been roughly 1d. per head of the population per annum.

I should like to make some comments on these figures. The largest single item of expenditure is on administration. This is borne exclusively by the county councils, with no grant from the Exchequer. The main burden of financing the National Parks, therefore, has been on the shoulders of the county councils. The second point that I would make in fairness is that one cannot take the average here, because some Parks have only recently been designated, and in any event the rate of annual expenditure has gone up significantly in the last few years. The result is that the total Exchequer contribution in the last few years is very nearly as great as it was in the preceding ten years, or £24,000 versus £28,000.

This indicates that the main brunt of bearing the expenditure on our National Parks has fallen on the county councils and I know what the Minister may well say. He may say, "The county councils must be more ambitious. They must put up more schemes. We have never refused an application for a grant. We stand before you in a white sheet." I want to make the point to the Minister that county councils are, after all, human and they have many competing claims. They have, for example, the competing claims of schools. In my own area there are many schools with no electricity supply. There is one where 117 children use four lavatories and where there is virtually no other sanitation. Some schools have no flush sanitation at all. County councils also have enormous demands for expenditure on unclassified roads and sometimes on unadopted roads subsequently adopted. They have enormous conflicting and competing claims upon their exchequer. Who is to say that they are wrong if, faced with these claims, they put the immediate needs of their own local people first?

I believe that the main difficulty with the Act is that it is not possible to enjoy an Exchequer contribution for subsequent management and administration. The 75 par cent. grant has been chicken feed. It is one of the minor expenses. The major expense is the subsequent administration. I should also say in fairness that part of the cost of administration will have to be borne in any event by a council as a planning authority. The Minister will also say that the Exchequer Equalisation Grant gives a hidden subsidy to the local authority. But we are still faced with a situation in which the main burden is being borne by the county council.

Therefore, I believe that certain amendments are needed to the Act. First, I believe that the 75 per cent. limit enshrined in Section 97 should be removed, and that, in his discretion, the Minister should be able to make grants of up to 100 per cent. I do not say in every case, of course. Nor do I say that the local authorities should not have to make contributions. Of course they should. The Minister will, no doubt, know that he already has power to make 100 per cent. grants in the case of works carried out on waterways under the provisions of Section 97 (2), and I should like to see the same facilities afforded to other works which are carried out.

That would make a great difference, I believe, to the speed with which our National Parks could provide for the future. There are many activities which I will refer to briefly as Section 11 activities which are not grant-aided. It is not possible to get any Exchequer assistance to buy land to preserve. We had a case the other day of a vast stretch of land—Heddons Mount, an area of about 800 acres—which, fortunately, has been purchased and is now owned by the National Trust. But it would not have been possible to get any Exchequer grant for that unless the Minister made a purchase under the provisions of Section 14, which he has never exercised. It was necessary at the last moment to rush round to try to raise sums of money to prevent this property from falling into the wrong hands. If we have areas of outstanding beauty of this sort, it is precisely the sort of property which should be purchased for the nation and preserved for all time.

Again, we have further considerable powers under Section 89 for clearing derelict land and for planting trees. But there is nothing to meet the cost of subsequent management. Many Park authorities have been inhibited from operating the provisions of this Section because of the subsequent management expenses which they would have to meet 100 per cent. out of the county council grant. There is no grant for staff expenses or administration. The Peak, perhaps the outstanding Park authority, largely because it is the richest and it has a highly rated area on which to draw, has set up a Peak forestry organisation. But many other authorities cannot even afford to engage the services of a single forestry officer. I believe it to be vital that there should be a grant available for this purpose.

There is nothing for what I would call amenities. If a farmer is told that he must not put corrugated on his roof but must thatch it, or that the electricity cable must be put underground, and he has to meet the increased cost, which may be as much as £90, £100 or £200, there is no way for him to be assisted in meeting that increased expenditure. I know it is a controversial subject, but I think it wrong that the small shopkeeper, the farmer or any other individual, because he lives within a National Park and accepts higher planning standards than prevail outside, should have to meat the whole of such increased costs. That is very unfair.

I am certain that if the Commission and the authorities had more money they would be able to engage planning officers and more wardens and provide centres where lectures and information could be given. They could provide accommodation for the public and facilities for recreation. The question which the Minister has to answer is: are our National Parks to be paid for largely by the county councils, or are they to be paid for by the nation which uses them? That is the nub of the matter.

I wish to say a word about powers. I believe that we should extend the warden service. At present wardens may be appointed only for those areas in respect of which there is am access agreement, or where some by-law has to be enforced. I believe it would be to the benefit of the public, and it would certainly be welcomed by the farming community, if more wardens were provided. They would be able to assist the public to see that people did not commit trespass and provide necessary information. At present, under Section 92 the provision of wardens is rigidly restricted to areas where there is an access agreement.

I believe that we should have a look at our existing planning of the coastal areas. I may not carry many hon. Members with me on this point, but I take the view that privately-owned foreshores are a thing of the past and should be brought immediately into public ownership. I echo the radical cry, I think it was of David Lloyd George—"God gave the land to the people. How much longer must they wait to get it?" I believe that a situation in which local inhabitants are charged 6d. for bringing their own chairs on to their own beach and 1s. for sitting on someone else's beach—and in certain instances prevented from having access to the beach at all—is intolerable. I should like to see all coastal foreshores brought into public ownership.

There is the question of forestry, and here we must remember that we are dealing with two problems; forestry schemes carried through by the Commission and private afforestation. As I indicated earlier, this is not development within the meaning of the Town and Country Planning Acts. Many of us in the West Country, and no doubt people in other parts of the country, were disturbed by the threats of commercial concerns, such as Economic Forestry Ltd, which led us to believe that they would buy up vast tracts of moorland for afforestation. Economic Forestry Ltd. Shouted a little too loud and has not, in fact, been as fearful a body as we thought. Perhaps it has had second thoughts.

There is no doubt that afforestation can change the character of an area. For example, were Exmoor afforestated, an area which for centuries has been open, and where ponies have grazed with black-faced sheep and wild deer, it would change the whole character of the area. The Forestry Commission is to be congratulated on the way it has consulted Park planning authorities and the National Parks Commission. Obviously there have been disputes and disagreements, and recently there was one in Northumberland and the Minister went to Harbottle to adjudicate. But it is a great tribute to private interests that it has been possible to reach the voluntary agreement arrived at in 1961 between the timber growers organisation, the C.L.A. and the National Parks Commission.

I think that the idea of carrying out a survey and dividing the area into three categories—where forestry would be acceptable, where there was a presumption against afforestation subject to modification, and the third category where there was a presumption against afforestation and there would be consultation between the parties—is the right way in which to try to balance schemes of afforestation. I am convinced that if this could be achieved by voluntary means that is to be preferred. It is early yet to decide whether the 1961 agreement is working out. There are those who say that we need only look at High House Moor on Dartmoor, and at half-a-dozen other examples, to see that the agreement has been breached. It would be interesting if the Minister would indicate his view on the working of the voluntary agreement. It may well be that if commercial syndicates are to plant without regard to the natural beauty of the landscape, we shall have to think again and to say that some sort of planning permission would have to be obtained for planting areas of, say, over 20 acres. But let us hope that that will not be reached and that the voluntary agreement will suffice.

Next, there is the thorny question of ploughing up. No one has a right to say that no moorland shall be ploughed up. Similarly, no one has a right to say that any moorland or part of any moorland may be ploughed up. Clearly, those two extreme points of view are both wrong. However, I think it fair to say that in Exmoor, where there has been the main criticism, about 7 per cent. of the area, 2,600 acres, has become enclosed for agriculture and forestry purposes since the creation of the National Park.

There are cases where ploughing up will assist a hill farmer to raise his income above subsistence level. Fencing can be as much for the convenience of the motorist as for the protection of the farmer's stock. But we must realise that to plough up some moorland will spoil the general amenities and landscape, and it would be ludicrous for the Ministry of Agriculture to be paying a subsidy which might rise to as much as £40 per acre if one takes into account the plouging grant, the lime grant, the enclosure costs and other reclamation costs, on the one hand, if the Ministry of Housing and Local Government is, on the other, trying to preserve the moorland and the general character of the landscape.

I believe that the statement made by the National Farmers' Union in the West Country last Wednesday is a very encouraging start. I hope that there will be consultation on a voluntary basis between the N.F.U. and other farming interests, the Park planning authorities and, possibly, at Commission level as well, to see whether some form of voluntary agreement comparable to that which now obtains in regard to forestry can be thrashed out.

I am convinced that it would be wrong—indeed, it would be almost impassible—to try to subject the farming community to rigorous planning in regard to the cultivation of its land, and I certainly think that to do so would be contrary to the spirit of Section 84 of the 1949 Act. Let us see, before we start going into the alternatives, whether some sort of voluntary consultation can be agreed upon, and then let us look at it after it has been working for two or three years.

Now, representation. In 1949, the National Farmers' Union pressed for direct representation on the Park planning authorities. The answer of the Minister at that time was, "If you have the N.F.U., what about the hoteliers, the caterers, the ramblers, and all the other interests concerned?" On balance, I think that the Minister was right, but I think that it is in the interest not merely of the farming community but of the Park planning authorities themselves to see that the interests of agriculture are properly represented. After all, it is the agricultural community which is entitled to carry out the one form of development within a National Park which is not development subject to planning control.

There is the suggestion that rural district councils should be represented on the Park planning authorities. I know that there was an Adjournment debate on this subject and I shall not canvass the argument at great length now. I do not think that this is practicable. I believe that some rural district councils suffer from a sense of injustice and a feeling that they have not been adequately consulted. I had a case in my own constituency where, in my view, the Park planning authorities were wrong.

The Minister knows about this case, because he was courteous enough to let me come to see him about it some months ago. This was a case in which the Park planning authorities decided to close a caravan site, the consequence of which will cost the council about £20,000 in compensation, will lose the local community an income of £10,000 or £15,000 per annum, and will probably lead to a proliferation of caravans on unauthorised sites.

I, have never regarded the caravan as the highest form of aesthetic art, but I think that we must realise that 4 million people last year took their holidays in caravans and 500,000 people live in them. Since the caravan is here to stay, it is far better that it should be in controlled, well-ordered sites such as have been established, with great success, I think, on parts of the Pembrokeshire coast, than that we should close sites and run the risk that there will be unauthorised caravan camping instead.

Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Marylebone)

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act, 1960, has been very beneficial in controlling caravans and preventing the proliferation and scattering of caravans all over the place. I am not quite clear what the hon. Gentleman is saying. The 1960 Act stops that kind of spoiling of the amenities in Parks and elsewhere, does it not?

Mr. Thorpe

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I agree that the 1960 Act has been very useful, but what I say is that, when a Park planning authority takes a decision, there must be consultation with the local interest concerned because a decision reached by the authority may mean economic disaster for the area affected. I do not want to go into the merits of this particular case, but what I say is that, if a well-ordered site is closed down, the chances of unauthorised caravanning all over the place, without proper facilities, without running water and without a properly laid out site, are considerably increased.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)

But how is this possible? The hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) is quite right. How is it possible to have caravan sites proliferating in that way when it is specifically forbidden by the 1960 Act? I should be interested to hear from the hon. Gentleman a specific instance, because I think that it would be right to report it to the Ministry.

Mr. Thorpe

I can almost hear the hon. Gentleman saying, in that case, "Ignorantia juris neminem excusat". He knows as well as I do that, if a family is on a caravan holiday, driving, perhaps, to Wales, the West Country or to the Peaks, they are not likely at, 9 or 10 p.m. when they want a site, to drive to the nearest town hall, find out the telephone number of the clerk to the council, ring him up and ask whether or not it is in order to park on site B. There has been, and will always be, illegal caravan parking. What I say is that, if one has well-ordered and well-publicised official sites, the chances of it happening are considerably decreased.

Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Cambourne)

May I offer the House an experience which I have had which has led to complaints by the public health officers of some of the councils in Cornwall? Recently, the Ministry itself has given sanction to the establishment of one, two, three or four, caravans where the local authorities think that they are improperly sited.

Mr. Thorpe

What I deduce from what the hon. Gentleman says is that this shows all the more how vital it is to have proper consultation.

Mr. Hayman

Hear, hear.

Mr. Thorpe

On many matters the county councils fail to take sufficient account of local interests. I know of many planning cases, outside the National Parks as well, where the county council has suddenly presented a local area with a fait accompli. It is the job of the county councils to realise how vital it is to have close consultation.

Now, a further word about representation. We have a system whereby, if more than one county is concerned, there are separate county Park planning authorities with a joint advisory body to bring them together. I hope that we shall eventually be able to overcome local prejudice and the wish of each county to be autonomous and sovereign. I hope that they will be told to move towards co-operation not only over the Channel, but within the rural areas of England and Wales, and that we shall see, as we have in the Peak District, one planning authority which combines the members of all the various county councils affected and has executive power. Otherwise, we shall have two or three bodies which will always have to refer back to their county council, with the same people sitting on an advisory council wearing different hats but having no power.

It is possible to show—and I hope that I have shown—that legislative amendments are needed to the present Act. Parliament willed the ends in 1949, but has not really provided the means. I think that very much more has to be done. I congratulate the Commission on what it has achieved with very slender resources and a very small staff. I also congratulate the various Park planning authorities. One may differ from them on a decision here or there, but, by and large, they, too, have given outstanding service.

It can, I think, be said that there is no overseas country which at least one hon. Member has not visited. It is also true that there is no country which has such diverse and beautiful countryside as these islands. Our countryside has brought out some of our finest writers and painters—Constable, Turner, Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Thomas Hardy. Whether people live in the town or in the country, there is a deep love for our countryside.

With the increasing tempo of urban life and the industrial revolution, perhaps the most hideous contribution which any civilised nation has ever made to the world, and which is still going on—we continue to build hideous towns which contribute to what I call a "Croydon and chromium" civilisation—it becomes all the more vital that there should be this outlet for our people. It is our job to maintain Blake's "green and pleasant land".

I think that the Commission has done an extremely good job. It needs the encouragement of more money and greater powers. If this Motion is carried, I hope that the Executive will respond to the wishes of the Legislature, because I believe that we can say with Keats: To one who has been long in city pent, 'Tis very sweet to look into the fair And open face of heaven,—to breathe a prayer Full in the smile of the blue firmament.

11.54 a.m.

Sir Henry Studholme (Tavistock)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) on his interesting speech, and, if I may say so, on his very competent survey of the working of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. I am also grateful to him for choosing this subject for debate because it gives me the opportunity to refer to Dartmoor National Park, a large part of whose 233,000 acres, if I have done my arithmetic right, lies in my constituency.

Dartmoor is, as I am sure anyone who knows it will agree, probably the most beautiful stretch of wild open country left in the south of England. Perhaps the hon. Member for Devon, North thinks that Exmoor is more lovely. In England and Wales, whose population is thicker on the ground than that of any country in Europe apart from Holland, National Parks are priceless national assets.

There are three main questions regarding Dartmoor on which there have been heated arguments in the last few years and about which I receive most letters. These are the Service training area, afforestation and animals on the moor. Always with us is the problem of the behaviour of those visitors from the cities and other parts of England who litter the place with mess, which is a sad reflection on the disgusting and inconsiderate habits of some of our fellow countrymen and women. In the summer I try to avoid crossing Dartmoor, because the sight of bottles, paper, tins and cartons by the roadside makes me very angry.

Let me deal, first, with the Service training area, which on Dartmoor is just under 26,000 acres. This area has been used for a great many years. If the Services need to go over any stretch of moor outside the training area, the National Parks committee is consulted. I do not believe that special arrangements made in this way are abused.

Of course, we should all like to see the whole of Dartmoor National Park free and open for the public to roam about in at will, but now the training areas have to be closed when firing and training exercises are taking place. Unfortunately, in our small and over-crowded island, there are few suitable places for Service training. I have, therefore, come to the reluctant conclusion that it is necessary for the Services to continue to use parts of Dartmoor.

It is curious that the most indefatigable enemies of Service training are often those very people who would be the first to cry out in wartime if the troops were not properly trained. I remember a very curious thing in the early summer of 1939. The Socialist majority on the London County Council, of which I happened to be a member, refused to allow Territorials to drill in Battersea Park because it said that this might give the children of Battersea militaristic ideas.

That sort of thing does not apply to all the members of the Dartmoor Preservation Society, to which I belong and which in many ways is doing a good job as a watchdog and guardian of the moor. The other day, however, I received from this Society a page with three photographs on it depicting damage and disfigurement to Dartmoor. I believe that they had recently appeared in Country Life. I was, naturally, very disturbed when I saw them, and I took the matter up with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, who told me that they were not current photographs.

Two were taken after the Franco-British parachute exercise on 4th and 5th April this year. One of these shows grass churned up by the wheels of Army vehicles. It is a horrible mess, and it conveys the impression that large tracts of Dartmoor are in that state. In fact, the mud covered only about one acre of the 4,500 acres of the training area at Ringmoor Down, where the training was taking place. Most of that grass has now recovered.

The second photograph shows some nasty litter. The facts about that are these. The moment the local G.O.C. heard about it, he ordered a search party out which removed all traces of litter that it could find. Incidentally, I believe that this trouble was not due to British troops. It is inexcusable to leave litter about, and this point is rubbed home to troops at all levels.

The third photograph was taken over three years ago, and it shows an unfinished blockhouse which was then being built on Rough Tor to house equipment used for towing targets on the Okehampton ranges. I agree that in the photograph it looks absolutely beastly, but, since it was finished, it has been camouflaged, in consultation with the county planning officer.

To my knowledge, the Services are in constant touch with the National Parks Commission, with which I believe they are on very good terms. From my personal experience, I can say that when any complaints about damage by troops have been made to me, I have always found the Service authorities most cooperative, quick to investigate and ready to compensate in any case where damage can be proved, and, indeed, usually, giving the aggrieved parties the benefit of the doubt, if there is doubt. I think that it is a pity that people, however keenly they feel about encroachments on National Parks, should over-state their case, as in this instance of the photographs, which suggest that damage and disfigurement were permanent and widespread, which they were not.

The second question to which I refer is that of the planting of trees in National Parks. The hon. Member for Devon, North has dealt very fairly with that question. Under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949, the Park planning authorities, as we all know, have the duty to preserve and enhance the natural beauty of National Parks, and to encourage open-air recreation. They also have the duty of paying regard to the needs of agriculture and forestry. In fact, they have to hold a fair balance.

As the hon. Member for Devon, North has just mentioned, there was a scare recently that very large areas of the moor were to be planted by a private commercial forestry group. Largely as a result of this, as the House probably knows, a scheme was devised by the National Parks Commission, in consultation with the Country Landowners' Association and the Timber Growers' Association, for voluntary consultation and agreement between any body or bodies proposing to plant and the various interests concerned. There is no reason why this scheme, though voluntary, should not work quite well. At any rate, it should be given a trial, and on this point I quite agree with the hon. Member for Devon, North.

In my view, there certainly should not be any more planting of open moorland. Indeed, on Dartmoor, some of the Forestry Commission's planting in the areas on the face of the moor exposed to the south-westerly gales has been a failure, as is proved by the fact that the trees have not grown. There are, however, still areas on the fringe of the moor within the National Park where I believe the planting of softwoods would not interfere with the amenities, and might well in future enhance the beauty of the scene. Anybody who knows the reservoir at Burrator will agree that the softwood plantations round that valley have added enormously to the beauty and romantic aspect of the site. Personally, I am not one of those who think that oak scrub is always preferable to well-grown softwoods. It is a question of keeping a balance, and forestry, and the employment which it gives, can play a very useful part in rural life.

The third point concerns the question of animals on the moor. Here, again, it is one of the duties of the National Parks Commission to have regard to the needs of agriculture. This year, we had a very late spring, and the winter was a bad one for animals. Sheep, cattle and ponies on the moor had a hard time. The thought of animals suffering is abhorrent to all decent people. The sight of dead sheep on the moor, where they are not buried, as they are when sheep die on a farm, from whatever cause they may have died, creates a very bad impression on the public. There was, naturally, a great outcry in the Press.

I am quite sure that the bulk of moor-land farmers on Dartmoor look after their stock properly, but, unfortunately, there is a small minority who do not. The Dartmoor Commoners' Association is most anxious that all moorland farmers should practise good animal husbandry, and it has set out a list of rules. It has, however, no power to enforce them, and can only try to persuade. Owing to the very complicated, ancient and partly obsolete system of common rights on Dartmoor, nobody knows who are the commoners and what exactly are their rights. Until these two facts have been determined and laid down by Statute, no enforcement of rules, which also requires legislation, is possible.

I hope and believe that the Government will implement the decision of the Royal Commission on Common Land by first having a register of commoners compiled, and then determining what their rights are. Anxious though we all are to find a speedy solution to this problem, it must take some considerable time, unfortunately, owing to the complexity of the subject, the necessity of checking the registration and the time that will take, quite apart from the difficulty at the moment of finding parliamentary time for legislation of that sort. Nevertheless, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture will take action as soon as possible.

Many of us would like a special act for Dartmoor, which is in a special category—something along the lines of the legislation governing the New Forest. There are some people who advocate clearing the moor of stock for three months in the winter, but this, again, would present many difficulties, not the least being that if this were done, it would mean disposing of about 80 per cent. of the sheep population on the moor because there would be no room for them to wilder off the moor. I do not expect an answer from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary today, but I hope that he will draw the attention of the Minister of Agriculture to what I have said.

Finally, I wish to make a few general observations. I agree that the National Parks Commission is doing a very good job, but I think that it could do an even better job if it had a little more money. The grants from the Exchequer, as we have heard, amount to about only £30,000 a year. Otherwise, the cost of a National Park falls entirely on the county in which it is situated, except in the case of youth hostels and certain other works which, I believe, are technically defined as "positive action", which attract a 75 per cent. grant.

Mr. Thorpe

For the record, it should be stated that the total Exchequer grant to the authorities has been only £50,000 for the last twelve years.

Sir H. Studholme

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I am glad to have that correction.

With regard to these special grants of 75 per cent. for these special objects, local authorities are not always very keen on spending the other 25 per cent. of the cost, which may be mostly for the benefit of outsiders, whom they do not always consider an unmixed blessing. Therefore, I think that an Exchequer contribution of even £100,000 a year to the National Parks Commission, to be used at its discretion to help the park planning authorities, would be a very great help.

On Dartmoor, I believe that it would be of tremendous help towards providing more wardens, who could help in patrolling the moor and in seeing that it is kept tidy. There is certainly a case for a larger national contribution to the National Parks, which, after all, are such a priceless asset to the nation.

12.10 p.m.

Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)

The House is indebted to the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) for initiating this debate and for the splendid contribution he has made to our discussion. Equally, I pay tribute to the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock (Sir H. Stuclholme) for his excellent contribution in regard to Dartmoor. Although we do not always see eye to eye on some aspects of Dartmoor administration and the like, nevertheless we are in broad agreement about it and I am grateful to the hon. Baronet for much of what he has said.

On the Easter Adjournment last year, I was fortunate enough to initiate a debate on the National Parks. That short debate showed how necessary it was for us to have a day in which we could thoroughly debate this big subject.

I was interested to read, as probably many other hon. Members were, the "Profile" in the Observer last Sunday about the Minister of Housing and Local Government. One significant omission, however, was that there was no mention of the fact that one of the Minister's responsibilities was the National Parks, as well as the designated areas of outstanding natural beauty. I do not blame the Minister for that, but it shows how necessary it is for the House to debate this subject, because, as the hon. Member for Devon, North has pointed out—indeed, the present Minister, when Parliamentary Secretary, drew attention to the fact—9 per cent. of England and Wales is within the National Parks, 5 per cent. is designated as areas of outstanding beauty and 6 per cent. comes within green belts.

In our last debate, I was wrongfully accused of having said that I wanted the National Parks to become wildernesses. I said no such thing. I referred to a magnificent film of Dartmoor given on television by the B.B.C., West of England, entitled "Dartmoor, the Last Wilderness". Of course, it showed the parts of Dartmoor that are cultivated. Nobody has ever wanted the whole of Dartmoor to be turned again into a vast wilderness.

Nevertheless, in this complex civilisation, particularly in this overcrowded island of ours, it is essential for people to get away from the towns and the conurbations, from the stink of diesel fumes and petrol along our roads, and to go to places like parts of Dartmoor and our other National Parks, where people can be alone, as it were, in the wilderness for quiet reflection and for spiritual and physical refreshment.

There is need to get away from the madding crowd. The vast amounts of money which the country spends on mental hospitals and in dealing with mental disorders is surely an indication that we should try to find release where ever we can. I suggest that the proper use of our National Parks is one way in which people suffering from nervous disorders can get health and refreshment.

I do not want to be personal, hut hon. Members on the Government side frequently visit the great parts of Scotland where they can get grouse shooting, deer stalking and that sort of thing. The same kind of need exists for the ordinary people—the vast majority of the people—to get away to our cliffs and our National Parks.

The hon. Member for Devon. North has made thoroughly the case for new legislation, which, incidentally, has been promised by successive Ministers of Housing and Local Government. In the debate last year, I dealt with finance. The hon. Member for Devon, North has dealt with it much more thoroughly today. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will have been impressed by the need for more money by the National Park Committees, which was stressed also by the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock.

Last year, I said that anyone who had never been on the north coast of Cornwall in a north-westerly gale in winter did not have any real knowledge of that coast. It so happened that three weeks ago, the nation was able to see exactly what I was speaking about, when a French trawler went aground near Land's End. It was a magnificent spectacle and all of us were thrilled and proud of the men who took part in the rescues, showing once again how much we depend upon our men who earn their living on the sea. The same thing happened in North Devon, a fortnight ago. I pay tribute to the West Region of the B.B.C. for the mganificent films it was able to take and preserve for posterity.

One point which I should like to make relates to an Answer which I was given by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury to a Question I addressed to him about Godrevy Farm, which is in my constituency and on the north coast of Cornwall. It is part of a bequest by the nation to the National Trust in part payment of death duty from the estate of the late Mr. D. W. Thomas, of Camborne.

During his lifetime, Mr. Thomas was a great benefactor to Cornwall and to the nation. He gave to the National Trust some miles of coastline within my constituency, running from Basset Cove down to Godrevy Head. It has never before been said in public that Mr. Thomas could have made a great sum of money by permitting development at Godrevy, but he refused it. We therefore have this wonderful coastline and the wonderful cove at Godrevy. Mr. Thomas's sons are following in his footsteps, and I should like to place on record in this House the appreciation of the people of West Cornwall of what Mr. Thomas and his family have done for the nation.

I stress, also, a point which I have made before, but which has not so far been made today. We ought to preserve these areas of outstanding natural beauty, and particularly our clifflands, because they often contain unique flora which could so easily be destroyed for ever. I can remember years ago that every time we went to the north cliffs of Cornwall we could always depend on seeing the grey seals swimming up and down. The grey seal here has today been almost exterminated. I know that the National Parks Commission could have done nothing about that, but it is an instance of the destruction of wild animal life in my lifetime. Then there are two rare flowers which my wife and I have found in parts of our coast which are inaccessible to motor cars—and I hope that they always will be. The time has come already when I cannot see those any more, but I have seen them, I have enjoyed them, and I hope they will be there for others who come after us to enjoy them, too.

There is another fact which I should like to bring out and that is the increasing interest in these matters. For instance, in Cornwall, during the last thirty years, the Cornish Bird Watching and Preservation Society has grown to be an influential body of seven hundred members. About eighteen months ago the Camborne-Redruth National History Society, itself not very old, took the initiative in trying to get a naturalist trust created for Cornwall, one of the few counties outside the ambit of that organisation, and to our great delight, when we called a county meeting, the thing was immediately set up and within less than twelve months—in about eight months—the organisation has got over 200 members. The same thing applies to the Cornwall Archaeological Society, which was formed only about six months ago and seems likely to flourish. These are indications, I suggest, that there is a very live interest in our National Parks and in these areas of outstanding natural beauty.

I would refer to another more local matter, and that is the Carnelloe mine project, in West Cornwall. This is what the Report of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government for 1961 had to say about it: By the nature of the proposal, however, the prospects of successful mining development leading to an increase in the domestic supplies of tin concentrates and to continuous employment for a substantial number of people are necessarily uncertain. Having regard to this and to the effect of the proposed development upon the exceptional natural beauty of the area the Minister decided that he would not be justified in giving planning permission. I was very pleased when the Minister took that decision, although it was not welcomed largely in West Cornwall. Application is being made now for reconsideration of this project, although in a modified form. I trust that the Minister will call in this application to be dealt with by himself personally. I need not go into all the detail about it, because there was a very detailed report issued by the Minister himself when he gave his decision, but I would point out that it is hard on amenity societies like C.P.R.E. and the National Trust, and so on, if they have to employ counsel and go to great expense year after year to deal with one kind of application.

I would say for those who do not know it that Zennor is a barren region of unsurpassable beauty. The coast road from St. Ives to St. Just and Land's End is very well known. Zennor is about six miles from St. Ives, but in illustration of its isolation I would point out that there is no school from between St. Ives and Pendeen, a distance, I think, of about 12 miles. I have not checked that, but I think that that is aibout right. That shows how very sparsely populated that area is, and it will show that if a mine is developed at Zennor then houses will have to be provided and piped water supplies and a sewerage system and that kind of thing, whereas everyone knows that a mining venture is a very problematical affair.

At this very moment the Geevor mine, at St. Just, is carrying out extensions which, we hope, will require more labour. There is an experiment in Penzance town itself and there is another venture likely to take place at Wheal Vor, near Helston, which may well employ some hundreds of men. There is the reopening of an old mine at Perranporth. There are sections of my constituency and in the town in which I live, Camborne-Redruth, on the northern side, of which it was said ten years ago that there were very bright prospects for further mining. These are very vital subjects, and I ask the indulgence of the House in referring to Zennor, which has been designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The hon. Member for Devon, North referred to water resources, and the Bill about water resources, presently before the House, provides for the setting up of a water resources board to manage the water resources of England and Wales. It has been described as having A key rôle in the planning development of water resources. The hon. Member referred to Ullswater and how, last year, it was saved in the House of Lords from spoliation by Manchester Corporation. There is a great danger of Dartmoor being spoiled to some extent by over-development of its water resources. Two or three years ago there was a debate in the House on the question of the North Devon Water Board, I think it is, wanting to take water from Taw Marsh in the northern part of Dartmoor. It is said at the moment that it is seeking to build a reservoir which will cost £2 million.

I should like to know from the Minister whether that is because the Taw Marsh scheme has been a partial failure. I should like this board, when it is set up, to give very careful consideration to underground resources like Taw Marsh, because I feel that if we draw too freely from these underground reservoirs we shall lower the watertable of the countryside for miles around. I think that I am correct in saying that in areas of Australia there were great underground reservoirs which have proved to be not as persistent as was supposed at one time and, therefore, partial failures.

Reference has been made to the Torquay Bill. One result of it was the development of a pumping station near Totnes and in the lower reaches of the Dart instead of taking water from the headwaters on the moor itself. This pumping scheme has proved a triumphant success, I understand. I am not sufficient of an engineer to be able to give a proper assessment of it, but that is what we are told in our newspapers. I should like to think that before permission is given for another large reservoir on Dartmoor in North Devon, attempts will be made to do in the lower reaches of the rivers running to the Bristol Channel something like what has been done near Totnes.

The hon. Baronet Member for Tavistock and I put Questions to the Home Secretary a week or two ago about Dartmoor Prison. I express my gratitude to the Home Secretary for adhering to the decision of his predecessor that the prison shall in due course disappear altogether. One does not want Princetown—

Sir H. Studholme

I do not entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. Although it may in the long run be a good thing, I am very glad to think that it will be a long time before the prison is replaced.

Mr. Hayman

I appreciate the hon. Baronet's feelings, but many of us feel that the quicker this takes place the better. I was on the point of saying that it is time now for those responsible for the planning of Dartmoor to decide what the future of Princetown ought to be.

High House Moor has already been mentioned, and so has the voluntary agreement about afforestation of national parks reached last year—largely I think, at the inspiration of the present Minister—between the Country Landowners' Association, Economic Forestry Ltd. and, I think, the National Parks Commission.

Mr. Thorpe

Perhaps I might be allowed to say for the record that Economic Forestry Limited was not a party to the agreement.

Mr. Hayman

I accept that. I had in mind whoever bought High House Moor with the intention of carrying out afforestation there. I am sorry that the agreement about High House Moor has broken down. It might have been due partly to the lack of finance available to the Devon County Council. As I have said previously, I hope that the National Land Fund can be utilised for purposes of this sort.

There is also the question of electricity installations. I know that the electricity boards have gone some way to try to meet amenity needs, but I suggest that the total contributions which they make are not very substantial. If they are unable to do it, it seems to me that the National Land Fund is a source which could be tapped to preserve amenities in rural areas.

I shall have a few words to say in a moment about the military use of Dartmoor, because it is so vastly important. For the moment I wish to say that one of the great advantages of Dartmoor is that it can be used, even partially, for adventure training for young people. I have here a cutting from the Western Morning News of 11th June reporting that 1,400 young people aged 14 to 18—there were some girls—took part in a two-day adventure training course on Dartmoor. That is a kind of development we all welcome and I hope that it will continue.

I now turn to the military use of Northern Dartmoor. Northern Dartmoor is reserved to the military for training, but Southern Dartmoor is supposed to be available as a National Park. However, the Armed Forces are increasingly using Southern Dartmoor. Despite what the hon. Baronet said, I have here a book of photographs of damage caused by the military to Dartmoor, and I also have a nine-page foolscap document, closely typed, about the misuse of the moor by the military.

The military now seem to organise a huge motor scramble across the moor every year. Surely military training of that kind can be done elsewhere. It seems to me that there are enormous areas in Scotland, at least, which could be used by the military. The population of Scotland is, after all, very small compared with that of England and Wales and particularly that of Southern England.

It seems to me that the time has come for another full-scale investigation into the use of National Parks by the Armed Forces. I certainly hope that one result of this debate will be to stir the consciences of hon. Members to the need to ensure that the National Parks are kept as far as is humanly possible for civilian use. I do not demand that the military should leave Dartmoor at once, but a plan should be drawn up for a phased withdrawal of the troops from Northern Dartmoor. After all, Dartmoor is not much more than 20 miles square, and that is not a very big area in these days of fast motor cars, and so on.

There is another aspect of National Parks. At the moment this country is assisting an international welfare fund for the conservation of natural resources—the World Wild Life Fund. We have already, as a nation, voluntarily contributed £80,000 or £100,000 to this fund in order to persuade, in the main, the emergent nations of Africa to preserve the great national parks of that continent. We are asking them to forgo the full economic development of those great National Parks in the interests of the preservation of the wild life, which is unique, for the benefit for the people of the world.

Surely it is not much to ask our Government to set aside a sufficient sum to preserve the few wild spaces left to us in Britain for the benefit of our own people. It sounds rather hypocritical to me to be appealing to the people of Africa to forgo their economic advantages when in this House we say that we must not interfere with the economic advantages of our own small National Parks. I know that it is not hypocritical, but I think that those who are inclined to feel that way and the educated people of Africa who have spent so much of their life in this country might feel it to be so.

The Government must be reminded from time to time that they administer the National Parks, or at least are trustees of the National Parks, for the nation. They must be reminded that the things of which we complain are not transitory but cumulative and permanent. One thing which is vital is an up-to-date review of the use of Dartmoor by the Armed Forces and that review should be carried out by a high-powered independent tribunal. It is essential that this House should plan for the lone-term survival of the National Parks. We are trustees of the Parks for the benefit of the people of this country now and for the benefit of generations yet unborn.

12.43 p.m.

Mr. Dudley Smith (Brentford and Chiswick)

I shall not follow the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) into the complexities of the preservation of Dartmoor or of mining in Cornwall, because he is a far greater expert on those subjects than I am. The hon. Member spoke with a great deal of good sense about both aspects. On the other hand, he was a little hard on Scotland. I am not a Scot, but there is much that needs preserving in Scotland by way of natural beauty.

I should like to join with other hon. Members in congratulating the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) for his good sense in moving this Motion today and for the clear and excellent way in which he explained it to us.

Some hon. Members may wonder why I have chosen to speak in a debate like this, representing, as I do, a Greater London area constituency which shortly, if the will of the Government prevails, will become much more concerned with the general administration of Central London. I do not live in the country, but I am fortunate that although I live in the Greater London area, I am able to see the Chilterns from my bedroom window. The Chilterns are, I believe, administered by the National Parks Commission. I am speaking today because, like all hon. Members, whether they live in the country or in the metropolis, I support the idea of the National Parks Commission and the idea that the heritage of this country should be preserved in a tangible way.

I also support the Motion that the hon. Member for Devon, North has moved. There should be much greater concern both in this House and outside for the needs of the National Parks Commission's work. If we do not show this concern generations to come will curse us for our shortsightedness and our great lack of concern. It is no use just using expediency for expediency's sake. We have, as the hon. Member for Devon, North said so realistically, to think of twenty years' time and of what the country may well look like then, unless that we provide adequate safeguards. We owe it to those who come after us to preserve the countryside, even allowing for all the necessities of industrial and social expansion.

The amount of public money spent on the Commission's work is extremely small, as the hon. Member for Devon, North explained. He said that for the first ten years of the Commission's work less than 1d. per person per year was spent in connection with its work on National Parks. I believe that it is hardly more than that today, if one works out the figures. This compares with about 12s. or more per person per week which is spent on defence. I support to the full the defence of this country and I believe in Britain's independent deterrent, but it is amazing to compare these two figures.

I believe that it shows the need in the long-term for helping the preservation of the countryside for more money to be spent in the direction of the National Parks. As the Commissioners said three years ago in their Report: We do not believe that the public would be reluctant to spend say 6d. per person per year for the preservation of our national heritage in the countryside. I personally believe in that point of view, but not everybody does. There is some criticism from time to time that the Government's money has not been spent wisely. An editorial in the Evening Standard of August last stated: The Ministry of Housing and Local Government consistently allocates more money to the National Parks Commission, a central administrative body, than it does to the local authorities who are meant to improve the parks. Yet, except for an occasional murmur in the House of Lords, little comment is ever made. The figures are there in black and white in the annual civil estimates. Nearly £54,000 goes to the offices of the Commission, most of it towards the salaries of the 32 members and staff. In contrast, the 10 national parks, Snowdonia, the Lakes, Exmoor among them, have to share out a mere £45,000. With this, they are expected to pay full-time and part-time wardens, set up information centres, build car parks, lay-bys, plant trees, provide hostels, camping sites, places for refreshments, as well as a multitude of tasks suggested in the National Parks Act of 1949. Towards the end of that leading article, it is also stated: So while the central commission flourishes, the countryside remains much the same as it was before the grand title of national park was bestowed on it. In contrast, London spends nearly £2 million on the city's parks and open spaces a year. And the Royal Parks claim another £1 million. Surely the national parks, as well, deserve a better deal. I would have thought that there was a good deal of sense in that leading article, and perhaps my hon. Friend, when he replies to the debate, will be able to give us a crumb of hope that more money will eventually be forthcoming which may well be used to benefit the National Parks themselves rather than the administration of the Commission.

The preservation of the countryside is, of course, of paramount concern to everyone who believes in Great Britain. As the hon. Member for Devon, North said, there have been a number of incursions into park land over the past few years which have given rise to concern and one wonders what our National Park land will look like as we ourselves get older and to those who came after us.

There has been an increasing number of masts erected in the country, mainly for radio and television purposes, but also for telecommunication services for the Armed Forces and the police. I wonder whether there could have been a much better co-ordination of these various masts. Perhaps they could be amalgamated far joint use, if there were a little more foresight and planning. We must be increasingly vigilant on these matters.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Devon, North mentioned the question of county councils. I am a member of a county council which works within the London metropolis and we have little to do with National Parks, but surely there are many hon. Members, who are both present and past members of county councils and who could use their influence to try to get more co-ordination among county councils in relation to National Parks and other bodies connected with the planning of the countryside.

Far too many people, in industry, the Services, in local government and elsewhere, are prepared, for private gain or from a misplaced sense of progress and efficiency, to tear the heart out of our countryside and take away the green and pleasant parts which still exist. Here again. we can do much to counteract this.

I want to make a slight criticism of the Commission concerning the amount of money spent on publicity. When I decided to speak in this debate I did some research. I went to a cuttings library and discovered that over the last seven or eight years there have been only three or four newspaper reports about the work of the Commission, and these were mostly connected with the annual report. This is a disgraceful state of affairs, because very few people get to know of the Commission's work. If it is to flourish and make the sort of progress with the cooperation of the public which is needed, it is essential that it should do more about publicising itself.

Mr. Marcus Worsley (Keighley)

I thought that a moment ago my hon. Friend was deploring the tendency to spend so much on the work of the Commission.

Mr. Smith

That is a fair point but I think one should make an exception over publicity because, without publicity, the work of the Commission falls largely to the ground, for it needs the support of the public and of the local authorities. If the Commission was prepared to publicise itself more, I believe that it would gain a better public backing. The annual reports received scant coverage in the Press.

Before the hon. Member for Devon, North put down this Motion, I was very hazy about the work of the Commission, but I have taught myself a good deal by reading three of its reports. The Commission should consider a new publicity drive to get itself better known.

Mr. Thorpe

I agree with the hon. Gentleman on this, but will he bear in mind that the total publicity grant for 1962–63, covering the Stationery Office and all publications, is just under £18,000? It is very little.

Mr. Smith

I agree that it is very little, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will toll us that more money will be forthcoming. Yet even with that sum, more publicity could Ix achieved. I do not know the set-up of the Commission, but if it could obtain the services of a good public relations organiser it would be able to get itself better known.

The National Parks are constantly under threat from industrial expansion. Too often it is difficult to equate the needs of natural preservation with social advance, but we have shown ourselves today as being very conscious of this, and as a result I believe that this debate will do a great deal of good. We should ask the Commission to be more persistent in seeking publicity, and there must be more direct finance for that.

There is an overwhelming need for more general money, as was well illustrated by the hon. Member for Devon, North. We should try to encourage the Commission and also the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to link up the work of the Commission with the preservation and improvement of the green belts and local parks. These are all essential in providing and safeguarding the "lungs," large and small, of the community.

If this debate has struck a chord in just a few hearts it will have done a tremendous amount of good. I commend the Motion to the House.

12.55 p.m.

Mr. Carol Johnson (Lewisham, South)

I join with those hon. Members who have already spoken in offering thanks to the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) for giving the House an opportunity to discuss the National Parks, their administration, and some of the problems which require urgent consideration. It is a matter of slight regret to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government could not be present to hear the hon. Gentleman's sober, factual and extremely interesting and comprehensive assessment of our National Parks, and the posing of a number of questions, the answers to which must ultimately be found by the Minister himself.

I agree that it is regrettable that there is so little public appreciation of the aims and significance of the National Parks. There has been complete neglect by the Press, as was referred to by the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. D. Smith). In this day and age the general public depends so much for its general information on the Press for subjects like this. This question of publicity will require some consideration because, without an enlightened public opinion, we shall not be able to make any serious progress with the National Parks.

Indeed, it is largely the lack of enlightened public opinion which has enabled the Government to get away with so much neglect of them in recent years. All Ministers pay lip-service to the National Parks, but I cannot recall a single instance in which they have squarely faced a real threat which has emerged to any of them, as I shall seek to show.

One has only to look at the intrusions into the Parks, to which the hon. Member for Devon, North referred. He mentioned some of them, but the list is most alarming, and this has to be placed against the fact, as he himself told us, that there should be the strictest possible control. In the light of such control, however, we find that Government Departments and statutory and other large-scale developments have provided the following: defence installations on the North Yorkshire moors and the Pembrokeshire coast, masts for the Post Office, for the Air Ministry, for the Central Office of Information, for defence or communications, for police, for transport undertakings and—more and more—for television channels. In fact, this proliferation of masts in the National Parks, has become quite a serious factor.

Then there is the nuclear electricity generating station in Snowdonia, about which there was so much discussion a few years ago, together with overhead distribution lines, oil refineries and also the oil terminal on the Pembrokeshire coast. Lastly, there is the persistent and recurring demand for water supplies.

In all these cases, the attitude of the Commission has been that it is essential to the purpose of the Act that there should be the strongest presumption against the establishment of any largescale industry or commercial undertaking in a national park. I have already referred to the lip-service which Ministers customarily pay to these ideas and I should now like to read to the House the relevant passage from the speech of a former Minister of Housing and Local Government, in 1952. While the county councils have a general duty to do what they can to keep the balance between industrial needs and the development of material resources, on the one hand, and amenity interests, on the other, in those areas which are designated as National Parks, amenity and access are to be given an overriding position. That is really the difference. It is just that which distinguishes the National Parks from the general functions of the county councils over the rest of the country. The Minister continued: … whereas in the country as a whole, we must frankly face the facts that, if it is to exist and continue as a country able to keep its population at a high standard of living, proper regard must be had to industrial and material needs, and the creation of wealth is a paramount need, in the National Parks, the position is the other way round and the amenity considerations have the prior authority."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th July, 1952; Vol. 503, c. 1931–21] Those were the words spoken by the right hon. Gentleman who is today the Prime Minister.

But against that we have the rather sad statement made by the Chairman of the National Parks Commission, to which the hon. Member for Devon, North referred and in which he said—and it is a formidable indictment: Where a Government Department has had plans for erecting large installations of one kind or another in a National Park, I can remember no case where it has been diverted from its purpose by anything that the Commission might say about the intentions of Parliament as embodied in the National Parks Act. He goes on to say that where apart from Government Departments a project has been promoted by a statutory undertaker or large private developer and the ultimate decision has been with a Minister, again the Commission's experience has been equally disappointing.

In all these circumstances, is it surprising that in a famous letter to The Times, on 26th February, 1960, the Chairman of the Commission gave vent to the cri de coeur: The National Parks Commission anxiously await the day when Her Majesty's Ministers will at last firmly say 'Thus far and no further!'. I hope that the new Minister who has recently taken office and who is responsible for all these matters wild help to justify the faith of the Chairman of the Commission.

The hon. Member for Devon, North made a substantial case for the amendment of the existing National Parks Act which the Chairman himself has said as a result of experience has proved to be an imperfect instrument. This will not necessarily involve the Minister in a great deal of new work, because this matter has now been considered for many years, not only by the National Parks Commission, but by the Standing Committee of the National Parks, of which I have the honour to be a member, the Ramblers' Association, and many other bodies which are interested in National Parks.

Largely as a result of the invitation of the Minister himself, they have sent their proposals forward, and specific proposals for amendment of the Act have been embodied in recent reports by the Commission. All the groundwork has been done. What is required from the Minister now is action.

The hon. Member for Devon, North referred in some detail to the finances of the National Parks, and I need not elaborate on that because the figures which he was able to give were much more up to date than those which I have been able to obtain. However, let us compare the figure which he gave for national expenditure on our National Parks, which the House will recall as being roughly £100,000 a year, with the sums which are spent in the County of London on its parks and open spaces. Over a period of ten years, £1 million has been spent on the National Parks, whereas in ten years £13,839,762 on revenue account and £3,898,642, on capital account has been spent on London County Council's parks and open spaces, a total expenditure of £17,738,404, compared with which the £1 million on the National Parks must be regarded as paltry.

One of the reasons why additional funds are required by the Commission is that it is badly understaffed at the moment and unable to carry out quite important technical jobs which it has to do to carry out the purposes of the Act. It should be a matter of great concern to the Minister that there are now only two field officers of the Commission available to carry out investigations and submit technical reports on problems which arise all over the country. I need not add that they are grossly overworked, and, like hon. Members, underpaid.

The Minister must appreciate from his own knowledge that many of the matters and problems with which the Commission is concerned are of a technical character. The Commission needs highly qualified technical officers who can meet their counterparts on the county councils and deal with them on equal terms and, what is most important, argue from a national as distinct from a local point of view. Let me illustrate what I mean.

The location of long-distance power lines across the country should be decided not on purely local considerations from county to county, but on national considerations of the whole length of line. To ensure that, skilled technical fieldwork is essential. Another analogous problem is that of landscape improvement. The Peak Park planning officer recently pointed out that what is urgently required was a broad survey of all the parks, from the results of which could be picked out the problem areas which should be dealt with in a comprehensive fashion, according to a long-term programme which would involve a variety of remedies. However, an important task of that character is quite beyond the Commission's present staff resources.

Lastly, there is the problem of coastal preservation, another subject for the Commission. For a long time, it has been quite obvious that the Ministry should have given guidance to potential developers on the coastline, which is being rapidly despoiled. If we are to save what is left, the Minister must intervene. For years, the Ministry has had under consideration a review of development plans and just over a year ago it was urged that, because of the delay in producing that review, it should issue a separate circular about developments in coastal areas. As a result of a Question which I put to the Minister a week or so ago, the Ministry has now agreed to do that, but it is not yet forthcoming. All this betokens a lack of sense of urgency in dealing with these problems.

The House has had an extremely interesting contribution from the hon. Member for Devon, North, one which I hope the Minister will welcome. There is a general consensus of view by everybody who has studied the problem that the time is ripe for amending legislation. If the Minister were to introduce legislation, hon. Members on both sides of the House would assist in getting it on to the Statute Book. A great step forward is needed. The time is past for further speeches by Ministers and the paying of lip-service to the ideas of the National Parks. What we want is action, and the only action which can meet the needs of the day is amending legislation on the lines set out in the Motion.

1.10 p.m.

Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Marylebone)

Like other hon. Members, I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) on choosing this subject following his luck in the Ballot. The hon. Gentleman has shown something of a low cunning in choosing this subject because there has been no need for him to enunciate any policy for the Liberal Party on this important matter. We are all united on the objects to be achieved, and we can all express individual views and opinions on how best to achieve the objects and functions of the National Parks Commission.

The hon. Gentleman said that many hon. Members had National Parks in their constituencies. I suppose that I have in my constituency of St. Marylebone one of the most famous of all National Parks, Regent's Park. It does not come within the functions of the National Parks Commission, but I think that it has provided a valuable prototype for National Parks on a far wider scale in this country.

I should like to draw the attention of the House to paragraph 3 of the functions of the National Parks Commission. It says: … the Commission are charged with the duty of exercising the functions conferred on them—(a) for the preservation and enhancement of natural beauty in England and Wales, and particularly in National Parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. I think that that sub-paragraph will commend itself to everybody both inside and outside the House.

Sub-paragraph (b) says: for encouraging the provision or improvement for persons resorting to National Parks, of facilities for the enjoyment thereof and for the enjoyment of the opportunities for open-air recreation and for the study of nature afforded thereby. Here again, I think that this function will commend itself to everybody both inside and outside the House, but the great problem facing the National Parks Commission and the planning boards is that when these two functions are considered together a grave conflict arises.

The difficulty is that when encouragement is given to people to resort to the National Parks, and when provision is made for new buildings, or increased facilities of one kind or another, whether it be car parks or anything else, there is a grave danger that the function referred to in sub-paragraph (a) will not be carried out and that instead of preserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the national park concerned, exactly the reverse happens.

It is very difficult for them to know quite what to do in certain circumstances. It would be helpful if the Minister could give greater guidance than has been passible in the past on what should be done. I suppose that if the provision of extra facilities and new buildings would result in the natural beauty of the park not being preserved, approval would not be given for their provision, even though this would be contrary to sub-paragraph (b). Equally where them is no question of not preserving the natural beauty by providing facilities, I hope that permission will be granted, either for a change of use of the land, or development of some kind or another.

Great anxiety is being caused in the Lake District by the fact that applications for the change of use of land, or perhaps for converting old barns and buildings, without in any way changing their exteriors, for holiday recreation have been refused on the ground that the presence of people will spoil the amenity of the countryside. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will take particular note of what I am saying and will give us assurance that when everybody agrees that the countryside will be preserved there will be no question of refusing to grant facilities for people purely on the grounds that the presence of people will spoil the amenities.

That is happening at the moment. Applications have been refused purely on the ground that the presence of people, or a multitude of people if one likes, in the parks will spoil the amenities there. I cannot think that it was ever the intention of the House that that should be a ground for acting contrary to paragraph (3, b), to which I have referred.

Two years ago a conference was held by the National Park planning authorities. Reference to this is made in page 2 of the Report. Mr. Clough Williams-Ellis, who gave a talk on "Solitude and Multitude", referred to one of the difficulties which arises in this small island of ours, namely, that when people go to the National Parks to find solitude they cannot find it because so many other people are there at the same time.

I thought that that conference created a false impression. It gave the impression that anybody who went to the Lake District, or to any other National Park, would not be able to find solitude and was bound to have to walk shoulder to shoulder with thousands of others. This is just not so. It is true that on Sundays and over Whitsuntide and August Bank Holidays one finds many people in certain places, but even during the peak periods of holiday recreation there are any number of places in which an individual who really wants solitude can find it. In any event, it only means that there might be a bit of a crush in some places for one hour out of a hundred in the whole year.

If an individual wants to sail on one of the lakes, all that he has to do is to get up at five o'clock in the morning and he can have four or five hours of complete solitude. If someone values solitude enough to do that, he can find it. I therefore think that this point about congestion was rather exaggerated at the conference. I think that too much was made of the presence of other people spoiling one's opportunity to find solitude. There is ample opportunity for solitude if one really wants it.

I turn from that to Appendix E of the Report which recommends certain amendments to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949. The hon. Member for Devon, North, and several other hon. Members, said it was high time that certain changes were made and further legislation introduced. I hope that, if there are to be any changes or extensions of powers, the functions of the planning boards will not be extended to cover the operating and running of sites and camps and the carrying out of forestry. Under the Act as it is at present they can carry out certain functions. It is a mistake that they should be allowed to do so. A planning authority has not the staff or the facilities to carry our executive work.

It is far better for a planning board, such as there is in the Lake District, instead of running camps and caravan sites on its own, for which it has no staff or facilities and has not the knowledge, to purchase the appropriate sites and invest capital in them so that there are all the necessary facilities. It should then lease them to local authorities, which are able to carry out such administrative action, or to voluntary organisations or commercial organisations or individuals who are able to manage such camps or sites or plant trees or manage forests.

This would be the most efficient and cheapest way to do it. We do not want to run into Parkinson's Law and have planning boards and others increase and increase their staffs with extra cost to the taxpayer and the ratepayer if there are other organisations—whether local authority or voluntary or individuals—who can probably carry out the work more efficiently.

If the planning boards, whose function it is to plan, determine and decide whether a new building or a development will spoil the country or give added facilities, are to give proper attention to these matters, they should not be burdened with executive and administrative responsibilities in carrying out other duties for which they are not fitted. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will look carefully at any possible extension of the powers of planning boards. If necessary we should restrict the powers they now have for carrying out these duties.

May I again express my thanks to the hon. Member for Devon, North for giving hon. Members who are able to benefit from and enjoy the National Parks the opportunity of paying tribute to the work of the National Parks Corn-mission and the planning boards? I have been extremely fortunate. In my younger days, at home and at school, in the hills of the Lake District and the vales and moors of the West Riding, I was able to draw both physical strength and mental recreation. This was true, not only in my youth but it has been throughout my life. It must be a great satisfaction to many of us who ourselves have been able to enjoy these facilities to see that more and more people are now able to have the great fun and pleasure and the opportunity to enjoy the recreations and open air facilities which, in the past, were enjoyed by a comparative few of our fellow citizens. I add my support to the Motion.

1.24 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Worsley (Keighley)

I follow in this debate three hon. Members from the West Country and three from London. I must admit to a certain alarm at the remarks of all three London Members, who compared the National Parks in some way or other with the London parks. I am aware that my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) used this point as a lead into his speech and did not make much of it. However, the other two hon. Members spoke as if the fact that the expenditure on the parks in London is very much greater than the expenditure on the National Parks is in some way significant. This is a dangerous analogy. There is nothing in common, except the name, between a national park and a park in a town.

The hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) made this perfectly clear. He said that the phrase "National Parks" is misleading. It immediately gives the impression that there is some comparison between a park provided in a town, where the grass is cut by the community, where the trees are planted, and where the flowers are planted, and a National Park which is an area of the country subject to special planning control for the benefit of the community at large. Perhaps it was an unusual and unfortunate name for the originators of the scheme to have chosen. Many people compare it either with a park of the type I have mentioned or with a national park in North America. There again, the ownership of the park is in the hands of the State—sometimes the United States Government, sometimes the Government of a State. The same is true in Canada. This is a totally different conception from that of a national park in this country.

I prefer the approach of the hon. Member for Devon, North, that this is a matter of balance. That is very well expressed. How right he is. It is wrong for hon. Members merely to list the various difficulties which are found in relation to the parks—for instance, the pressures of defence—when talking in terms of balance. That is why the hon. Member was right when he described this as a matter of balance.

I do not have a National Park in my constituency, but hon. Members who look at the map in the current Report of the National Parks Commission will see the extent of the National Parks in the North of England. In Yorkshire alone there are two large National Parks. There are the North Yorkshire moors and the Yorkshire dales, which are wholly within the county. In the South there is the Peak District National Park, which has a corner in Yorkshire. My hon. Friend the Member for the High Peak (Mr. Walder) may be mentioning this Park in due course. There is further across the large and famous National Park of the Lake District. On the Scottish Border there is the Northumberland Park. These Parks in total are just under half of the total of National Parks in the whole of England and Wales. I do not say this out of any vainglory as a north countryman, but to emphasise that in our part of the world a very large area of the countryside is National Park. The hon. Member for Devon, North said that about one-eighth of the country was National Park. In the North it is very much more. The significance of this is that the interests of the people who live within these National Parks have at least an equal importance to that of the people who wish to come in.

As the hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. C. Johnson) quoted, I too, should like to quote from the original debates when the National Parks were set up. The then Minister of Town and Country Planning said this: the intention is to maintain the general character of the national parks area, it is to be a living community and the life of the area will go on. Nevertheless, agriculture and forestry will always be the dominating form of activity, and I think it right that this, and this alone, should be emphasised."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1949; Vol. 463, c. 1285.] That might be regarded as the charter for those living in the National Parks.

The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) said that he had been accused of wanting to turn the National Parks into a wilderness, but I do not accuse him of that. We all agree that within every National Park there are areas which should remain wildernesses, as they now are. In the Lake District, there are large areas of that marvellous and astonishingly varied countryside that we would all, without hesitation, agree should not be altered in any way by anything. But round those areas there are other places within National Parks where the question of balance comes in.

I suppose that the original decision might have been that we should turn into National Parks only those areas that should remain wildernesses. That would have been an intelligible attitude, but that was not the decision. The Government's decision at the time, and it has not been queried in this debate, was that wider areas—cultivated and cultivable areas—should be included. In parts of the country further away from London there is concern over the question of employment, and we must not forget the importance of employment in these areas as well. I shall have a word or two to say about forestry in a moment, but let me say now that, in a given area, forestry employs more people than would be employed in sheep farming. In the valleys of North Wales, where a highly developed forestry industry has been developed, the people do not say that they do not want forestry, or blankets of conifers in their valleys. They are proud of the new beauty provided in those valleys, but they are also happy to have a job.

As firmly as I believe anything, I believe that the balance of which the hon. Member for Devon, North spoke is attainable. It is possible to combine in the National Parks the balance of beauty and economics. If we do that successfully, we create that beauty of a well-tended and well-ordered countryside that has a particular English ring about it. The beauty of the English countryside is just that combination between cultivation and natural beauty that has been evolved, partly consciously, partly unconsciously, through the centuries. A well-ordered and well-cultivated countryside has a beauty of its own, but it is not an automatic process. To find examples of that we have only to look at many of our great estates, where we find that for centuries, very often, there has been a continuing interest and concern in the amenity and in the profitability.

I can speak on that with a certain personal experience, because over the last few years I have been responsible for running a family estate. I know very well the immense vigilance one has to show all the time to get the benefit of both amenity and profitability. I know how easy it is to be slack about it, and to do the little things wrong; to put up the wrong sort of gate, to put up the wrong sort of fencing, to let the wrong sort of trees be planted, to put the fence along the wrong piece of land. Neglect of those details adds up to removing the proportions and beauty of the countryside.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Devon, North referred to forestry in the National Parks. He himself took a very balanced view there, but we must record that there are many people—.sometimes even those who live in the country, but more often those who do not—to whom the idea of new planting of any type in a National Park is anathema. Odder than that, there are many people to whom not only is new planting anathema but to whom the replanting of existing woods is also anathema.

There are people who have never thought of how a tree grows, and who have never remembered that, like a human being, a tree is young, grows older, and eventually dies. In the last century, this extreme view was represented in an Act of this Parliament which actually laid down that, in order to preserve them, large areas of the New Forest should be left completely alone. There are areas in the New Forest where nothing was done for a hundred years. No tree was replanted. When a tree fell down, it was left. The result was not to preserve that forest, but to let it decay.

Those areas are now being revived under the skilful hand of the Forestry Commission with great and patient skill, but it need never have happened. It is an absurd misunderstanding of the process of nature to think that by just saying "Halt—go no further, "we get that result at all. All we do is to preserve things for the next ten or fifteen years and to do nothing to provide new beauty for the future. That is why the hon. Member for Devon, North is so right to talk of balance.

The Report of the Merthyr Committee on hedgerow timber has a limited application to National Parks, but, beyond that, it stresses repeatedly the positive beauty that can be achieved by planting. The Committee made 47 recommendations. Perhaps few people would support them all, but over and over again the Report recommended that such bodies as the Transport Commission, agricultural departments, and the planning authorities in the Parks should concentrate on planting more trees. It emphasised that all over the country there are little corners that can be beautified by trees. It took a view opposite to that of those who think that any new tree will detract from the beauty of a National Park.

The fact of the matter is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Sir H. Studholme) emphasised, that in plantings, particularly in the Lake District, hideous errors have been made by the Forestry Commission, as the Commission is now the first to admit. There was the planting of blocks of conifers, with no variation of species, and very often ignoring the contours of the land. One of the worst features to be seen in Scotland is planting where the contours of the land are not exactly ignored but far too rigorously followed. As a result, we see trees planted right up to a given contour line and then stopping. In nature, the tree line is always varied. As I have said, the right balance is achieved only with hard work and great attention. But the National Parks Commission goes out of its way to say, and everybody would agree, that the Forestry Commission discusses its planning programme very carefully with other people, and particularly with the Parks Commission.

It is, of course, true that however skillfully afforestation is planned and however carefully it is fitted in with the contours, there is in every plantation an awkward age. Some say that the same thing is true of human beings. There is an awkward age when the trees are 10, 12, or 15 years old before they turn to trees as individuals, so to speak, and when they are still part of a mass of young plantings. One of the difficulties is that at this stage the outsider does not often realise that sometimes within these conifers, which appear to be a solid block, young hardwoods are planted. What one sees, namely, the conifers, are shelter trees and in the years to come what one will have will be an oak, an ash or a sycamore wood at this point. Yet at the moment it looks like a young and gawky softwood plantation because these trees are being used as nurses.

I said that the Forestry Commission and the National Parks Commission have produced excellent results. The reason why the situation suddenly blew up recently into one causing great alarm, particularly in the south-west, was the emergence of a new form of forestry company. In the past the Forestry Commission, on the one hand, and private individual owners, on the other, had done nearly all the planting and development of forestry. Now it is one of the most hopeful things on the forestry front that commercial companies are coming forward, prepared and willing to develop the woods of the country.

We all ought to welcome this. It is a thoroughly good thing. It means that forestry and the countryside in general are drawing on new sources of capital which have not previously been available. This new development—and the hon. Member for Devon, North mentioned Economic Forestry Group Ltd.—causes considerable alarm in that part of the world. The hon. Member was the first to exempt that company from an attack on the amenities of the district. The truth of the matter is that what has happened has been a major step forward in consultation.

I have already referred to the consultation which has taken place with the Forestry Commission. What is now happening is consultation on a wider front with the private owners involved as well. This surely is the way in which we get the balance to which the hon. Member for Devon, North referred. I am sure that he is right in saying that this is a better way than doing it through the machinery of planning, because there are interests which conflict unless they are resolved. It is not only that the amenities societies can learn from the foresters but that the foresters also will learn from the societies. If we get consultation and co-operation we shall have, I suspect, in years to come the same sort of mutual understanding which produced the big estates of the past where these different things were fused together.

I believe that this consultation can be, will be, and indeed is being applied in many cases more widely than just in this matter of forestry. The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne mentioned water supplies, Which are very much an issue in 'the Lake District. I suspect that the violent opposition aroused by the Ullswater plans of Manchester was caused not only by the nature of the plans but also because of the attitude of the Manchester Corporation to those plans. Apparently there was not present an attitude of co-operation and of understanding of other interests which were essential to make this thing work at all.

The current Report of the National Parks Commission has the most encouraging story of electricity supply to Upper Borrowdale. I will not tell the story again now but I think it shows everybody up in the best possible light. The result in the end was extremely satisfactory. Here we have had cooperation, and such is the divergence of interests that I suggest that without this co-operation these things cannot be done. It is not a matter, as hon. Members have sometimes indicated in debate, of spending more money. We are all great spenders of public money on a Friday, but what is needed is not essentially more money. It is better and better consultation.

The hon. Member for Devon, North said towards the end of his speech—and it was one of the few things with which I disagreed—that the decision to be made was whether these things should be financed nationally or locally. Surely the truth of the matter is that just as these other aspects I have talked about are achieved by co-operation so again we need a balance here. I thought that the hon. Member at this point was arguing against himself, because he had talked of balance earlier. The truth of the matter is, again, a balance, and I think that the hon. Member made a good case for the part of the national Exchequer to be rather larger in that balance. But were it to become a national charge then, by absolute certainty, it would follow that the local interest would not be thought of as it should be.

I have kept the House rather long but I want to refer briefly to two other aspects of National Parks. One which has not had much attention in the debate is the question of litter, and I would hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will have something to say on this critical matter. I am not sure that we are working altogether on the right Lines about hitter. I am not sure that we are right in providing on an enormous scale in National Parks facilities for the disposal of litter. This may sound paradoxical, but I am not sure that there is not a wiser policy to adopt, contained in the saying "Take your litter home".

Nearly all the litter left in the park areas is left by motorists, but even if it is not left by motorists there is not the faintest reason why, whether the litter was produced from a haversack or from a car, it should not go back where it came from. There is danger in encouraging people to think that wherever they go there is a litter basket, because the corollary is that if there is no litter basket one throws the litter on the roadside. The policy should be, "Take your litter home". There is not a soul who cannot do that. It must be understood by people that there is nothing more selfish than to leave litter in these beautiful places.

My wife and I were recently picnicking in the North Yorkshire Parks near my home, when, a well-mannered young man came up and said, "Will you remember to take your litter home?" Our first instinct was to say in a certain tone of voice, "Of course, we always do" but then I thought that this was an admirable service that the young man performed. Who of us would voluntarily give up his afternoon off to go and ask people to take their litter home? What an unenviable task, and he was doing it for nothing. This, I thought, was a most admirable example.

One of the encouraging features in National Parks and elsewhere is the development of voluntary wardens. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. D. Smith) referred to expense, but that is not the only criterion. These voluntary wardens who operate on a big scale do an absolutely overwhelmingly good job. It is another indication of the voluntary co-operation which is needed.

My hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) spoke about access to these National Parks and I am not sure whether what he said was right, or whether we are not making access to the Parks too easy. Recently I drove in the Lake District over Wrynose Pass and Hardknott Pass, where an exceedingly bad road has been made into a fairly bad road. I wonder whether this is the right policy to adopt over the roads in the Lake District. Certainly the compromise which was reached there was unsatisfactory. They are neither good and safe roads, nor the sort of roads on which no one would dream of going. I wonder whether we ought, as we are doing, to develop the communications in the National Parks to a higher and higher standard. What used to be the privileges of the rich are now becoming wider spread and rightly so. One notices a great increase in horse riding in the National Parks, and there is a tremendous amount of walking. Should not there be large areas which cannot be approached except by walking or on horseback?

I think that we ought to look carefully at the whole question of the provision of roads. The inhabitants of National Parks must have adequate road communications. But perhaps there is in some instances a case for restricting access to the roads, which are by nature very narrow, to the inhabitants of the district and preventing visitors from travelling along them in cars and cramming up the narrow roads and making life impossible for everyone who lives in the area. We tend to go on improving roads in the National Park districts and I think that we ought to consider much more carefully whether we should be serving the purposes of the National Parks better if we allow walkers and riders to come in but say to others, "If you will not do these things, you may go elsewhere."

Much more could be done by the Forestry Commission, not only in the National Parks, to make clear to the general public that people are welcome within the Commission's areas. The Commission has its forest parks, but I am not speaking of these. There are areas where, at the edge of a forestry Commission plantation, notices suggest that one is not welcome. The Commission ought to say, "There are times of the year when we simply cannot, because of fire risk, allow the general public into these woods, and we are sorry about that. But at the times of the year when we can we not only invite you in, we welcome you. "There should be a notice in some of these areas at certain times of the year indicating that the road is closed because of fire risk, and this people would understand. But at other times there should be notices indicating that people are welcome. These Commission woodlands occupy more and more space in many of the beautiful areas of the country and are themselves becoming increasingly things of great beauty. It is only right and proper that the general public should be encouraged to visit them.

I have spoken at length on this critical subject of National Parks. I wish to conclude by congratulating the hon. Member for Devon, North on introducing this subject. I agree with nearly everything he said, although when he quoted Lloyd George I thought that he was going rather far. But people who are rash enough to quote Lloyd George are apt to do so. But I thoroughly agree with the general case advanced by the hon. Member on the question of the balance of needs and the necessity and rightness of voluntary agreements.

1.55 p.m.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)

May I associate myself with the congratulations extended to the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) on his good fortune in the Ballot, on his choice of subject and on the speech with which he opened the debate. His remarks were a thoughtful and a thorough appraisal of the present position regarding National Parks.

I was interested in the hon. Gentleman's persuasive advocacy of the nationalisation of the foreshore of this country. I have no doubt that the Labour Party will look into that very carefully. It is rather sad to reflect that the great old Liberal slogan, "God gave the land to the people", has been modified to, "God gave the foreshore to the people", but I suppose that that is better than nothing.

I agree with the hon. Member for Devon, North that this is a very good time to take stock of National Parks. As he said, it is thirty years since the Act was passed and twelve since the first National Park was designated, so that the initial period of trial and experiment has passed. Now, perhaps, is the time to profit from experience and to ask a number of questions. For example, has the work of the Commission been successful? Have the Park committees worked successfully and effectively? Have the Government been co-operative in their attitude towards National Parks? Lastly, what are the steps, if any, which should be taken now to build on the basis of experience? I think that those are the main questions which the House should be asking today.

We should look, first, at the Commission itself and the duties which Parliament has laid upon it. Hon. Members have reminded us that the Commission is an advisory and a supervisory body. It was not given the powers that successive Reports recommended for it, including those recommended by the Report of the Hobhouse Committee. Now the Commission seeks extended powers and these are described in the recommendations in Appendix E of the twelfth Report.

On studying these recommendations, my reaction was that many of them could be accepted without very much argument. But there are a few that one would need to look at very carefully. It would be interesting to go into them, but I do not think that this is the appropriate time. I think that it would be better to look at them thoroughly when the Government's proposals are presented to the House. There are important recommendations about long-distance routes, rights of way, the appointment of wardens, the removal of the limitation on grant to 75 per cent., and so forth. All these matters, obviously, will have to be discussed in great detail in due course.

When he addressed the conference of Park planning authorities at Harlech on 5th May last year, the Home Secretary, who was then Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs, said that he was sure that the 1949 Act would need amendment but he could not be certain in what Session it would come. Is the Parliamentary Secretary able to say today whether legislation will be put before the House this Session? If not, will the Government publish a White Paper during the Session outlining their attitude to the recommendations made in the twelfth Report? This would be a very useful contribution. It would give us time to consider precisely what additional powers the Commission should have, and I think that Parliament would be greatly assisted by it.

We all want the Commission to have adequate powers to do its job properly, but I—I speak personally—do not want the Commission to have overriding powers, for instance, over local planning authorities. Although there are experts who argue that it should have overriding powers, I do not agree. Furthermore—here I direct my remarks in good time to the Minister for Welsh Affairs to whom, I hope, the Parliamentary Secretary will convey what I say—it the Commission is given additional powers—if it is given teeth—lit will be necessary to appoint a Welsh Commission. Welsh people have an aversion to being bitten by English teeth—even if they are false teeth. If legislation is introduced to give the Commission additional powers, I am sure that hon. Members from the Principality will urge that we should have a Welsh Commission to regulate our own affairs.

The Commission has achieved a great deal in its advisory capacity. Everyone who studies its Annual Reports, especially the examples given of the way in which it has handled cases referred to it, will agree that the Commission's approach is invariably reasonable and sensible. It took many years for Parliament to embrace the idea of National Parks from the early days of Bryce, Trevelyan and others. National Parks are now part of our national life, but their ultimate permanent success must depend on the maintenance of very delicate balances.

As hon. Members have argued, one of the urgent tasks is to create public appreciation of National Parks. It can be done only if more funds are made available for expenditure on publicity and if the Press also proves rather more co-operative than it has been in the past. I hope that the debate will help a little to arouse public interest.

I mentioned the maintenance of delicate balances. The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley) urged the importance of this and I thoroughly agree. There must be an understanding between those who live in the Parks and those who come into them to enjoy their amenities, between the Commission, on the one hand, and the local authorities, on the other. There are those who wish to preserve the Parks inviolate at all costs. There are also those who wish to earn a living in the areas where their families have lived for generations. Plainly, a modus vivendi must be achieved. No interest—I stress this—can hope to have its own way in relation to the National Parks on every occasion.

It is the Commission's first statutory duty to look to the preservation and enhancement of natural beauty. Its duty, of course, applies to the country as a whole, not to the National Parks alone. It is good that the Commission should be able to look beyond the National Parks and beyond the areas of outstanding natural beauty to the country as a whole.

I do not wish to be derogatory in any way, because I sympathise with them and fully understand their point of view and the essential work which they do, but I hope that the extreme enthusiasts will remember that people who live in the Parks love the area as much as they do. There is occasionally a tendency to give the impression that the fauna and flora of the National Parks are more important than the people who live in them.

In the Snowdonia National Park there are among the ordinary people, the quarry men and the farm workers, poets who have in the Welsh language composed poetry which can be compared with the works of Wordsworth and Keats, to which the hon. Member for Devon, North referred. Amongst them are the chaired bards and crowned bards of the National Eisteddfod. They love their country and they do not want to leave it. That is why they cry for work.

They resent—I say this in the hope that it will be heard outside—the somewhat patronising and overweening attitude expressed by people who do not live there, but merely spend two or three weeks there each year. We want to preserve its beauty, but we know that its beauty cannot be preserved or appreciated if there is no one living there. It is people living in the area who create a vital and living community. Any attempt to sequestrate the National Parks from the rest of the country would have disastrous consequences. They must never be regarded only as a playground or a sort of reservation.

In some areas—Snowdonia is one—there is unemployment and depopulation. This is one aspect of the question which the Government must consider. Is the Parliamentary Secretary equipped for this debate with the figures of unemployment and depopulation in the National Parks? He may not be, but I think that he will find a study of the figures extremely interesting. This is where one of the main difficulties arises in relation to the Parks. Let us accept it at once. We must have in the Parks suitable work for people. With the decline in the number of people working in agriculture, quarrying and the traditional rural crafts, we must expect and welcome new industries. Of course, there must be consultation about the designing and siting of factories in the area. We all agree about that. But constant carping criticism can only do harm to the concept of National Parks.

Again, we must have electricity and piped water in the Parks. Their absence is one of the contributory causes of depopulation. Young people will not live in hill farming areas and young housewives will persuade their husbands to move if they do not have adequate housing accommodation, piped water and an electricity supply. These things mean overhead lines and reservoirs. Here a great deal can be done by consultation between the Commission and the electricity authority.

The hon. Member for Keighley mentioned Lower Borrowdale. What was done in that beautiful area was clearly right and proper. I hope that a similar scheme can be devised for the cable running from the Wylfa Power Station in Anglesey to the Menai Straits. There is no more beautiful part of Great Britain than the Menai Straits. At the moment, there is argument between the Central Electricity Generating Board and the local planning authority as to how and where the cable should run. The Board says that it is enormously expensive to put it underground. The county council says that this is an area of outstanding beauty and that the cable should therefore go under the Straits. I believe that this matter is now before the Minister of Power. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will convey these views to the right hon. Gentleman and tell him that if it can be done, the cable should, if at all possible, go under the Menai Straits.

It is said on page 28 of the Report that: Sir Christopher Hinton has recently indicated, however, that, while research will continue, he cannot see any possibility of closing the gap between the relative cost of underground and overhead transmission, to such an extent as would materially affect the problem. We must therefore do our best to secure that, by the very closest co-operation between the Central Electricity Generating Board, the planning authorities and ourselves, the routes least damaging to the landscape are selected. We know that the Board has its problems and that in cases of extraordinarily high expenditure it must take that into account or it will be taken to task by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), but, with a little give and take, a reasonable compromise can be arrived at. What happened in Lower Borrowdale shows what can be done with a little good will in negotiation.

Another matter to be taken into account is that of rural housing. Housing authorities, and especially those in National Parks, should set higher standards. By the intelligent use of materials old and new and perhaps by architectural award schemes, houses can be built which blend into the landscape and which can contribute to the beauty of national parks and not be an eyesore. But these are matters not entirely for the Commission, but also for the Government and for local authorities, and I hope that they will be borne in mind by the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary.

I turn to the second of the Commission's duties, namely, "the promotion of public enjoyment" in and of the national parks. Here the Commission is in a rather weak position mainly because of the limited money at its disposal. Every hon. Member who has spoken has mentioned finance. I believe that it was my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) who referred to the late Hugh Dalton, who set up the National Land Fund. This was supposed to be a nest egg set aside to finance some of the operations necessary in order to give the public permanent access to the national parks. The Fund has not been used for that purpose, so that development and preservation have been dependent on county councils.

Nevertheless, taking this limitation into account, a great deal has been done. Information centres have been provided. I know the centres at Llanrwst and Tremadoc. I understand that those at Edale and Windermere are first class. These centres are of great help to tourists. They give all the facts about the Park, together with maps and photographs. They give geologists, antiquarians and naturalists information about what they may expect to find in the Park. They give details of local events and transport and accommodation facilities. These form an invaluable asset within the Park.

As Lord Strang, the Chairman of the Commission, has said on many occasions, many more centres are required. There is an overall shortage of accommodation and of refreshment facilities in the parks. These amenities attract tourists, and tourism is an industry which we want to encourage, because it brings work, albeit seasonal. It should be encouraged and built up in order that it may bring more work within the National Parks where work is needed. There is also a need for more full-time and part-time wardens, as hon. Members have said. These things cannot be provided without money. I believe that there is a strong case for increasing the grant from 75 to 100 per cent. Even then the Government would have control over it.

I return to what the Home Secretary said in a speech at Harlech, on 5th May last year. I agree with a good deal of what he said, but his remarks about schemes put forward by Park planning authorities need careful attention. On page 76 of the Report the Home Secretary said: I want to say quite plainly that I would be happier if park planning authorities were putting forward more imaginative schemes than they are doing; and they certainly could without any change in the law. It would be nice, you know, if you would give me a chance now and again to approve something other than a car park; yet car parks head by a very long way the list of projects which the park planning authorities put up to me. I notice that the sort of people who say that £50,000 ought to be spent on each National Park each year seldom specify on what they would spend the money. If you think that your National Park would benefit from some new project that is not outside the Act, put the idea forward. Discuss it with the Commission or with my Ministry …". Later, he said: It is you, the park planning authorities, who should be looking round and seeing what needs to be done, and then putting forward your proposals and obtaining approval for them and getting on with them. This is plain speaking by the Home Secretary. I am sure that the Commission and the authorities are considering what he said very carefully. But, even if what he said has some validity, is not the real obstacle to progress the lack of finance? If we face the situation honestly, a very heavy burden must fall on the ratepayer, and this is in areas where the rate product is comparatively low.

The point made by one hon. Member about the Peak District, which is a comparatively wealthier area than the average National Park, bears me out. Because the Peak District is wealthier and because the rate product is higher than the average rate product of the National Parks, it is able to provide more amenities than Snowdonia and Dartmoor. It is the lack of money which is holding the park 'authorities and the Commission back. If this is true, I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will be fair and will admit it freely. If there is some other reason why the money cannot be given, then let him say so.

People living in the National Parks are expected to contribute towards providing amenities for people many of whom come from the more wealthy areas. The people of Snowdonia who are suffering from high unemployment and depopulation and who have a low rateable value are expected to spend money on providing amenities for people who come from Cheltenham and London where there is over-full employment and far greater wealth. This is indefensible. I do not see how the Minister, who is a fair-minded person, can say otherwise. These are National Parks, and, if the word "national" means anything, the burden of them should fall on the nation as a whole.

if the Minister studies the rate resouroes of the National Parks—I do not know whether he has the figures with him; if he has, the House would be interested to hear them—the will agree that the present position is inequitable and becomes even more lopsided if we consider the expenditure on the Royal Parks in London. If one compares the expenditure on Hyde Park and St. James's Park with the expenditure on all of the National Parks, the position is clearly ridiculous. We do not argue that the amount of money which is spent on the Royal Parks should be spent on the National Parks, but let there be some sense of proportion if we value the idea of National Parks.

I hope that the Minister will respond to the appeals made from both sides of the House today, and that he will pay attention to the financial aspect of National Parks and will tell us what are the Government's views.

Lastly, I should like to pay a tribute to Lord Strang and his colleagues on the Commission for their dedicated work. I think that "dedicated" is the proper word to use in this context, because these are dedicated people. I should also include the members of the park planning authorities throughout the country. There is very great beauty in these islands, and it must be preserved for posterity, but pressures of one kind or another are inevitable.

Several hon. Members have referred to this being a densely populated country, in which about 20 per cent, of the total acreage has been devoted to National Parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and green belts which are subjected to fairly tight development control. With good will on all sides, and with a little give and take, we can make our National Parks a continuing success, not merely something set aside, but an integral part of the country, loved, not too possessively, by some, but cherished by all. If that attitude is fostered by the Commission, the Park authorities, by the enthusiasts and all the people who live in the Parks, I believe that the Parks will become an attraction not only to tourists in this country, but to people from all over the world.

I have great pleasure in supporting the Motion which was so ably moved by the hon. Member for Devon, North.

2.22 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. F. V. Corfield)

I should like to commence by adding my congratulations to those of other hon. Members to the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) for introducing this Motion and on speaking to it so very comprehensively. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. D. Smith) expressed the view that it was essential that we should show more concern for our National Parks, for if we failed to preserve these areas of great natural beauty, which are a great heritage, we should be cursed by future generations. I am sure that we would all agree that publicity is a prerequisite to public concern, and, here again, I think the hon. Gentleman has performed a useful service.

I should also like to join in the congratulations and good wishes expressed by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) to the members of the National Parks Commission, to its Chairman, in particular, and to the members of the Park planning authorities of the individual parks. I certainly found that the reference of the hon. Member for Devon, North, in his peroration to the beauties of the countryside, struck a very sympathetic chord with me, although I would go one further and say, although, fortunately, this is not a Departmental responsibility, that I would even defend the British climate. Representing, as I do, part of Gloucestershire, living in the Cotswolds and being a native of the Shropshire hills, I found that his only cruel barb was his reference to the need to flee the country on a Friday afternoon.

As other hon. Members have said, the functions of the National Parks Commission are set out inside the front cover of the 1961 Annual Report. They have been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield), but I should like to read again, at the risk of repetition, the two main branches of its functions in paragraphs (a) and (b). Paragraph (a) reads: for the preservation and enhancement of natural beauty in England and Wales, and particularly in National Parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty; Again, in paragraph (b): for encouraging the provision or improvement for persons resorting to National Parks, of facilities for the enjoyment thereof and for the enjoyment of the opportunities for open-air recreation and for the study of nature afforded thereby. I think we have to recognise from the outset, as indeed hon. Members on all sides have done, that there is a certain incompatibility between these two parts of the Commission's responsibilities.

Most of these areas of great natural beauty which have been formed into National Parks, largely because they are of sufficient size in one solid block to make this a possible arrangement, owe a great deal of their attraction to a certain sense of grandeur which the hon. Member for Anglesey described as "the awe and majesty of the North Wales mountains", and that in itself gives and enhances a sense of isolation. I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) who talked about getting away from the maddening crowd. It is a moot point whether we can preserve while, at the same time, deliberately publicising, in a tourist sense, with the object of attracting very large numbers of people to these areas.

Obviously, the second leg of the duties of the Commission rightly requires information services for those who are interested, and also the provision of facilities, but I think that if we overdo this and we get the volume of tourist trade which we associate with the seaside resorts, we are in danger of defeating our own object and of destroying that which we are out to preserve. I should think that, in the Lake District, for instance, where for obvious reasons there is a more national appeal than in many of the other Parks, we are probably getting very close to the stage in which an intrusion of even more people may well endanger the beauty and enjoyment of the countryside as it exists today.

On this point, I should like to refer to the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone. He asked me to give an assurance that there would no question of turning down a planning application purely on the grounds that a multitude of people would spoil the amenities. My view on these things is such that I do not think we could possibly lay down a general rule of that nature. We have to consider these things individually on their merits, and I think that there could well be a case in which we already have a concentration of people where this could be a good reason—not, perhaps, the sole reason, but, certainly, a contributory reason—for an adverse planning decision. I should not like to lay down a general principle, and all that I can assure my hon. Friend is that matters will be considered on their merits as and when they arise.

My hon. Friend also asked me whether the powers of the park authorities should not be restricted with regard to the ability to carry on certain undertakings, such as camping and caravan sites, and the like. I would remind him and the House that the Act already safeguards the interests of those who provide these facilities in the areas. The reference is to the proviso to Section 12 (1) of the Act. and I see that the hon. Member for Anglesey has a copy of the Act and will check me if I am wrong. It is true that this does not apply to camping grounds, but there is very little likelihood of the park authorities wanting to compete, for example, with the hotel and boarding-house business. In the majority of cases, I think there is a case for the park authorities having power to provide these facilities where the existing facilities are inadequate, and the adequacy of facilities, particularly, indeed almost solely, in National Parks, is a very important factor in the planning decision whether or not to provide more car parks, or whatever the thing may be. I think it is the right approach that the planning authorities should have the power to provide these facilities where they do not exist in sufficient quantity in particular places at particular times.

Sir W. Wakefield

My hon. Friend has missed the point. I was not dealing with competition. I was saying that I did not consider it efficient for what was essentially a planning authority to carry out executive and administrative duties. I thought that those duties should be carried out by a local authority or voluntary organisation or some other organisation or individual who was efficiently able and capable of carrying them out—not by the planning authority itself.

Mr. Corfield

I apologise to my hon. Friend if I missed the point. I certainly have it now and will think along those lines.

There are, however, occasions when the administrative authority for a park should have executive authority as well. There was a caravan site, for instance, in one of the Forestry Commission parks, which I came across only the other day, which is run very well by people who are employed in the winter in the forest. This seems to me to be an admirable way of meeting part of the need for bringing employment into an area where, by the very nature of things, so much of the employment connected with tourists is inevitably somewhat seasonal.

The hon. Member for Devon, North and others have referred strongly to the interests of people who live in these areas. The hon. Member knows, I expect, that one of the statutory obligations of the National Parks Commission is to prepare a Country Code, of which, no doubt, he has seen a copy and on the first page of which I am glad to find that this aspect is underlined. The Country Code starts with the words: The countryside in Britain is for the most part more like a garden than a wilderness. It is farmed and afforested over most of its area right up close to the towns. This emphasises the contribution that man, that is, generations of farmers, foresters and other rural workers, have made to the beauty of the country. It is essential that we should keep in mind their descendants who preserve these beauties as much as any Parks commission can ever do, as well as the interests of those who come in from outside. While speaking of this publication, my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley) will, no doubt, be glad to know that litter is also specifically dealt with in it, although I hope to say a word about that later.

On the planning side of administration, it is true that the National Parks Commission is not in any sense a planning authority. It is equally true that for the parks—Dartmoor, I think, is one which falls entirely within the boundaries of one county council—the planning authority, nevertheless, is either the county council, as in Devon, or, in the other parks, very often a series of county councils sharing the burden according to where the boundaries of the counties lie. There are, of course, the exceptions of the Peak and the Lake District with their joint boards'.

I agree with the hon. Member for Devon, North that the logic must clearly be towards a joint board; but as the hon. Member so well knows, we do not always administer our affairs in strict accordance with logic. A strong case has been made by the county councils who are planning authorities for the rest of the area to preserve their planning powers through the parts of their areas which are in National Parks. If there is a case for increasing the financial contribution, it perhaps becomes a little stronger if there is a joint board or a single unit than if, as a result of their own request, the county councils retain separate administrations for different parts of a park.

Much has been said about the allowance of various forms of development in the National Parks, and on these occasions a great deal always centres On overhead electricity lines. I was glad that the hon. Member for Devon, North and my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley, as well as the hon. Member for Anglesey, underlined the necessity of bringing these services to the people who live in the area. I agree wholeheartedly that if we see these areas depopulated as a result of failure to provide these services, we are undermining the beauties to a large extent in a way that would be almost impossible to repair by any form of administrative action.

We should bear in mind, too, especially in the Tight of the remarks 'that have been made and are made from time to time about trees and afforestation generally, that in many areas, if it were not for the sheep farmers, large tracts of the country would 'be covered with scrub Which would obliterate many of the attractive folds of the ground and do away with much that is beautiful, and would be much less attractive than a formal forest. AU this is important.

The procedure concerning overhead electricity lines is that before the Central Electricity Generating Board or an area board can erect an overhead line, it must obtain the consent of the Minister of Power. That consent carries with it deemed planning permission. if the local planning authority object, the Minister of Power must hold an inquiry, and my Department is consulted if there is an objection on the grounds of amenity. Normally, the boards discuss the proposed routes informally with the local planning officers, who are generally the same people as are responsible for planning for the parts of their area Which are parks, before a formal application for consent is made. The search for an acceptable overhead route is usually a joint effort between the boards and the planning authorities. In National Parks, the Parks Commission very often takes part in these discussions and much can be done, and is done, by putting forward suggestions and alternatives, slightly altering the route and so on, to preserve particular views and vistas.

We try to ensure that the pylons or poles are placed so that they do not stand out against the skyline. Deviations in the routes to take account of these features are frequently made. The House is only too well aware of the enormous extra cost of underground lines, and this, I suppose, applies to underwater lines, too. In a recent case, the Electricity Board employed a well-known landscape consultant to try to ensure that the minimum damage was done. I am advised that there have been some enthusiastic comments following various developments of this sort as to the contribution that landscaping has made to minimise the damage.

I was glad that the hon. Member for Devon, North listed a formidable collection of credit items, even if, perhaps, of necessity they are rather smaller types of development than those of which we generally hear complaint. We must face the fact that although in a National Park the presumption is against development—in other words, a very strong case must be made—there are occasions when the case Which is made is to the effect that the site in question is the only suitable one for the project concerned. As many of these projects, such as electricity generating power stations, defence installations, and so on, are absolutely vital to the country I do not think, when we are presented with that type of evidence, we really have very much alternative but to accept the principle and do the very best possible to ameliorate the effect, by siting, tree planting, and such other things that one can do.

Throughout this debate—and, as one hon. Member said, this is, perhaps, a characteristic of Friday debates—there has been criticism of the financial side, all, of course, aimed at increasing the Government's contribution. Well now, I am sure that the hon. Member for Anglesey on reflection will appreciate that I am not in a position to promise an increase in the financial contribution today, but although I take his point that the facilities for which he wants finance are very largely for people going into an area rather than for the people who live in it, I think we have got to bear in mind that bringing people into an area does of itself help the prosperity of that particular area and, therefore, indirectly, the rate contribution and so on.

I am much too much of a countryman to try to argue with the hon. Gentleman that we can compare this problem, say, in Snowdonia, with the similar sort of problem in a seaside resort. Quite clearly we cannot, and if we were to attempt to do so, by attracting tourists to a similar extent, we would upset the rather delicate balance between preservation and publicity. I would have thought that in many areas there was at least an element of profit to the receiving area as a result of the people coming in—in increasing trade, and so on.

Whether that is so or not—and I am not in any way closing my mind to looking at this further—I think we have also got to bear in mind that of the 25 per cent. contribution from the local authority end, where we have deficiency grants operating, as almost certainly we do in these areas, the taxpayers' contribution is not negligible. I am only putting this point to get the matter in perspective. There is not that demand in fact for 25 per cent. of the cost from the rates, although I do appreciate that the value of the trade brought in may be marginal in some cases. At any rate I will give the House the undertaking that we are looking at all these proposals—and as I think my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone pointed out, other proposals are listed in Appendix E of this very excellent Report —we certainly accept the general proposition that after twelve years it is likely that this Act needs some revising and some amendment in the light of experience and in the light of the advice we receive from time to time from the National Parks Commission and, indeed, from some of the local authorities.

Mr. C. Hughes

I am sure the House is extremely grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for what he has said, namely, that he and his right hon. Friend are now looking at this recommendation with sympathy, but I wonder if he is in a position to say when a statement will be made?

Mr. Corfield

No. I am afraid that is the most difficult part of our task. The hon. Gentleman and the House will be aware that the legislative programme of my Department is fairly full this Session, and I think that I would be unwise, and, indeed, I would be unwilling, I am afraid, to take on the burden of yet another Bill in this Session. But certainly we are keeping it in mind and I will certainly do my best at any rate to see it does not go any further down the queue. I am sure the House will appreciate that this is the sort of matter, particularly on the financial side, which is apt to get perhaps not the highest priority particularly when we are facing such things as unemployment in the North; it is inevitable that this should not have a very high degree of priority, particularly in a busy Session.

Mr. Thorpe

I concur in what the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) said, that this will be received with pleasure, but if it is not possible to give any sort of undertaking or indication as to what the position in the legislative queue is, could I revert to the suggestion I made about the possibility of a White Paper which would set out the Government's proposals?

Mr. Corfield

That is something I will certainly think about, but it was only put across the Floor of the House and I certainly should not like to commit myself at this short notice.

Turning to my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. D. Smith), he and many others, on this financial aspect of the matter, did draw a comparison with the London parks. I am bound to say that I simply do not think these sort of the sort of things are comparable. In London a park is essentially a garden which has to be mown and planted and replanted and so on; we have in the National Parks something which is essentially a workshop, where people are doing this as part of their daily life.

Mr. Hayman

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that local authorities in London are enormously wealthy compared with the local authorities covering the National Parks?

Mr. Corfield

If the hon. Member had sat up on Wednesday night he would not have been given that impression about the local authorities in London, but I will very willingly take his story rather than that of his hon. Friends who kept me out of my bed on Wednesday.

But however that may be, and turning again to finance, two valuable suggestions were made by the hon. Gentleman. One was an increase in the warden service, where I am sure there would be a great gain, and particularly from the point of view of the local people. We know that, unfortunately, people coming in are not always very careful as to where they wander and what damage they do to crops and where they allow their dogs to run in the lambing season, and so on. So I would accept that there is a gain to be won by increasing the warden service. I would certainly like to look at his suggestion—and it is a point made in other connections before—about people who are forced to use more expensive materials or designs as a result of the fortuitous fact that they live in a National Park—and again, coming from the Cotswolds, with their enormously expensive stone roofs—I can tell him that he has struck a chord of sympathy. But they are things which I think are well worth considering.

The question of forestry has been raised by almost everybody, but here again I think—I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley raised this point—we must realise that forestry in many of these areas is the only industry which can contribute to the employment of the people who live there. Of course, this was the basis of the Harbottle proposal which somebody has referred to; and in advising my right hon. Friend I felt very strongly that if the villages concerned were to fall into complete neglect any increase in the value of the countryside, by preserving it open, would be more than offset by the depreciation of half-empty, derelict villages, and I think this is something which we have got to bear in mind in all applications or proposals for planting trees, as much as building or anything else.

I believe with my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley that a good deal depends on how we design a particular plantation. I think the Forestry Commission would itself be the first to admit that in its early days it was rather fascinated by geometrical designs, generally the square, and this does, of course, tend to be unsightly, particularly if all the trees are of one species, and all conifers at that, but I think it would be the first to admit that this is something in the past, and I equally agree with my hon. Friend that a too rigid adherence to contour can equally give too rigid a line which upsets the vista. Nevertheless, I think that, with care, we can plant in a great many of these places without spoiling their beauty. I suggest that although one may change the character of a hillside by planting upon it, one does not necessarily make it less beautiful. Forests can be very beautiful, although, as my hon. Friend said, they go, like the rest of us, through an awkward age.

I am glad that the National Parks Commission has embarked on the idea of helping individual parks to carry out a survey to ascertain where forestry can be carried out. One survey is complete, and another is in hand. This will produce basic information which will be immensely valuable for the purpose of looking at such schemes in future. But I agree with the hon. Member—I am glad he endorses the general principle—that if we can get voluntary cooperation to work, and if it appears to work over the next few years, that is the preferable way of doing this, as it is also in the case of some similar problems which arise from ploughing up moorland.

The effect of the ploughing-up policy depends to an enormous extent on where it is done, as it does on how it is done. There are in Exmoor, in particular, considerable stretches of agricultural land running thought the moor—the hon. Gentleman will know this much better than I recollect it—where there probably is a much stronger case for marginally extending the agricultural land than there would perhaps be for ploughing-up on the open moorland away from what I think they call in Wales the "in by".

However that may be, I feel that we must encourage the interests concerned to get together and thrash out what should be the right policy. I understand that representations have been made to the National Parks Commission. They have not come to my Department yet, but no doubt they will when the negotiations are more advanced. Although this is not my responsibility, I should think that a factor to be considered is the real value of the land agriculturally when the ploughing has been carried out. I do not know to what extent it can be made into first-class pasture or whether it is merely a slight improvement. These are factors which ought to be considered.

A great deal of questioning, if not criticism, was directed at the Service Ministers, and I was asked whether I could say anything about their intentions. The intentions of the Services are nearly always inscrutable, and I would not attempt to look into the crystal ball, but I can say that there has been, and is continuing to be, a certain amount of rundown in the requirements of the Services, particularly for camps, aerodromes and so on, though not, I fear, for training areas.

I also think that some advance is being made in persuading the Services to rehabilitate land when they leave it. The abandoned camps with broken windows and half knocked down chimneys and walls are some of the more depressing eyesores in the country. I am told that the Royal Air Force has an airfield construction unit which is extremely good at destruction and makes a very good job of rehabilitation when used for that purpose.

The caravan question always raises a difficult problem. It always gives rise to a great deal of local feeling whether or not there is a good case for caravan sites in a certain spot. People on both sides seem to be touched on the raw by the caravan question. I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman that this is a case pre-eminently for the utmost consultation with the local authorities and other interests concerned. I would also hope that a good deal of publicity would be given to it, because I believe that a great deal of the ill-feeling is aroused when people wake up in the morning and find themselves faced with a fait accompli because it appears from the newspapers that planning permission was granted the previous day and they knew nothing about it.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the Ministry's circular on the subject which seeks to persuade local authorities to look at all developments which are likely to have an effect on the character of a neighbourhood and in such cases to give publicity by way of advertisement in order to enable people in the neighbourhood to put forward their case. I think this is important. I would hope that caravan sites would always be looked at by local planning authorities to see whether in a certain case publicity was required, because I think that, as a general rule, it is more likely to require publicity than not. That is certainly my experience of caravan sites, particularly in the national parks. In the national parks, when requested to do so by the Commission, we always call-in, for the Minister to make the decision, after hearing any representation which the Commission wishes to make.

With regard to development generally, remarks by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have been quoted. The crux of the matter, as I have already mentioned, is that the onus is very much on the developer to say that a certain place is the only one possible. We adhere to that as far as we can.

We have recognised for some time that the Act would require some amendment. It was, after all, in 1949 an entirely new concept, at any rate legislatively, although there had been plenty of Commissions and so on before that. It would be surprising if one did not come to the conclusion after these years that some gaps needed filling and perhaps some powers extending. It would be almost unique if an Act were perfect in the first place, and it is still less likely that it would remain perfect after 10 years in this rapidly changing world. However, as I have said, because of the timetable I cannot give an undertaking about when there will be amending legislation or which of the many suggestions will find their way into it.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Devon, North on initiating a very full debate which has raised interest among wide sections of the community and a fairly wide cross-section of membership of the House. I need hardly tell him at this stage that, on that basis, I have no difficulty in advising the House to accept his Motion.

Mr. Hayman

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, may I ask whether he will give an assurance that due consideration will be given to my remarks about the Carnelloe Mine project at Zennor and the Minister perhaps calling for any fresh applications?

Mr. Corfield

I apologise to the hon. Member for having missed that point. I will certainly look at the problem. The hon. Member will appreciate that this has been a rather lengthy debate and I was trying to reply on the basis of subject matter rather than order of speeches. I will certainly look at that matter.

3.0 p.m.

Mr. Aldan Crawley (Derbyshire, West)

I make no apology for continuing the debate, not only because I have already missed my train but because the one point that I wished to make has not really been dealt with—it was merely referred to by the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe)—by the Parliamentary Secretary or any other hon. Member.

I am particularly glad to do so because the last time I had 'the pleasure of hearing the hon. Member for Devon, North he was speaking at the same time as I was through a rival microphone in the market place at Bakewell, Derbyshire, but today, instead of having to try to drown his voice, I can join others in congratulating him upon both the speech that he made and his Motion, which I support.

I support it not only because I share his interest in the countryside, but because one4hird of the Peak Park area actually falls in my constituency. The Peak Park being the largest open space in that densely populated part of the country, is the lung for Manchester on one side and Leeds and Sheffield on the other, and it is, perhaps, one of the most important of all the National Parks.

One point which I want to raise and which was mentioned by the hon. Member is the failure of county councils to see that local interests are represented on Park planning boards. Surely the intention of the Act is quite clear. I think that the wording is to the effect that not less than one-third of the members of the planning board should be appointed by the Minister and this is intended to see that the broad national interests are represented, and two-thirds are appointed by the county councils to see that local interests are also represented.

When the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act was under discussion, the then Member for The High Peak introduced an Amendment because he was a little worried about how this might work. He tried to make sure that both agricultural and other local interests, particularly of the people who live in the Parks would be certain of being properly represented. He withdrew his Amendment on the assurance of the then Minister, who is a member of the Labour Party's Front Bench, that if these interests were not represented the Minister himself would see that they could be by making special appointments.

Nevertheless, in practice, in the Peak Park the whole intention of the Act is being defeated by the way it is being worked, and the reason for that is perfectly simple. I am sorry to introduce a little controversy in what has been a non-controversial debate, but the reason is simply that the Derbyshire County Council, which has a Labour majority, will not appoint anyone to the Peak Park planning board who is not a Socialist.

As the members of the Labour Party on the Derbyshire County Council are not elected by rural districts, but by the towns, there is not a single councillor on the Peak Park planning board who lives in the area. There is one alderman who lives on the fringe of it, but he lives in a small industrial town whose character and interests are totally different from those of the Peak Park. In fact, what has happened there is that the people who live in the Park have no real representation at all. It is easy to dismiss this by saying, "Never mind, planning boards work well and are well administered", but I hope that the Minister will not take that line.

I think that the principle of representation is really important. After all, this is not just an advisory body. It is an authority which has considerable power over the lives of about 45,000 people in this case, and it is absolutely fundamental to our constitution that the people who are governed should be represented in the organs of government and represented by elected representatives. It goes deeper than that, because besides the law courts this principle of representation is our effective check on the use of arbitrary power, and it is as important that these checks should exist in the smaller local representative bodies, even for a parish, as it is in this House.

I am very tempted to digress about the whole principle of checks by representation being eroded in this House, but perhaps I can turn to that on another occasion. But it is of tremendous importance, more than ever in this House, because the whole principle of representation to check arbitrary power is being eroded in the rest of the world and a very large part of the principle of elected representation has disappeared altogether. If we are to preserve our liberties and keep this principle alive it has to be injected at all levels.

I ask the Minister not only to consider this point very carefully when he comes to amend the Act, but also to consider whether he might not do something now. As I understand, he has the power to do so. My right hon. Friend's predecessor made one appointment to try to correct the balance, which he realised was not working as intended. The Act gives the Minister power to appoint to these boards no less than two-thirds of their members. I take that to mean that he could appoint a lot more people and enlarge the number.

One does not always want to increase the size of a particular body, but it would be better to do this in order to give proper representation of the people living in the National Parks. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to consider whether, by further appointments of local representatives—perhaps members of rural district councils—he could redress this matter.

When my right hon. Friend amends the Act, I hope that he will also take into consideration the appeal circulated by the local district councils, who ask for representation on the Peak Park planning board. I do not suppose that they could be associated en masse but it is right in principle that such councils should get representation on these boards, and I am sure that we could easily arrange representation. It might even be possible for the local rural district councils themselves to nominate some members of the county council who form such a large part of this board.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Devon, North on this Motion and emphasise strongly that if the people who live in the Parks go on being unrepresented and regard planning boards as arbitrary bodies, the spirit of the Act will fail, with serious consequences.

3.8 p.m.

Mr. David Walder (The High Peak)

I am pleased to have the opportunity to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Crawley). I shall not go into the political matters he has raised, although I too have received representations on this matter. I believe he mentioned that the last Ministerial nominee to The Peak Board happens to be living in my constituency. There is a wider issue here than the political one.

I was intrigued to hear hon. Members mentioning the Peak National Park as being to some extent a model. There is some conflict here between us. I live in the Park and whether, thereby, I get the insulation against deterioration of my mental condition, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Falmouth and Cam-borne (Mr. Hayman), I am not certain. One accepts, as someone who lives in the Park, this praise when directed to the work of the Board itself, certainly to the voluntary wardens who work in the Park. But I do not think one can go the whole way and regard this as a model National Park. In many ways it is a very curious one. The hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) mentioned the easy access to this Park from Manchester, Sheffield, Huddersfield, Nottingham, Derby and Stoke-on-Trent.

Indeed it is surrounded almost entirely by industrial cities. To a certain extent it is a small rural oasis in the middle of what is essentially an industrial part of the country. Some one-sixth of Britain's population lives in and around the Peak District, and it is sometimes a matter for regret, I must confess, that the whole one-sixth seems to turn up in the Peak Park at weekends. There are disadvantages to the residents of the Peak in the fact that they are surrounded by these large industrial cities whose populations come, not as they do in some other of the other National Parks for a holiday, but as day trippers only.

In consequence, there is firstly this slight difference of viewpoint from a person who lives in the Peak Park and those who see it from the outside. The very appearance of the Peak Park is itself illusory. One tends to assume that the two main occupations are those of agriculture and quarrying. That is quite false, for a large amount of industry is carried on within the Park and the majority of the people there are concerned with industry.… To this extent, the Peak Park illustrates the dilemma of the National Parks—the double use of an area by people who live and work there and as a preservation of the picturesque. It does not always redound to the advantage of those who live in the area.

Naturally, like all countrymen, the residents of the Peak are prepared to welcome visitors who are themselves prepared to lose weight walking up and down the hills and not necessarily prepared to throw it about in small villages. We have had our rashes of hooliganism and trespassing, but it is on the wane, largely because of the system of employing voluntary wardens.

I make no criticism of the Peak Park Planning Board when I say that this has also arisen by coincidence, purely because in the Peak Park so many access agreements have had to be reached so that visitors can use what are in some cases and were in others grouse moors, so the warden system has grown up there as being absolutely essential. Certainly this is a system which could be extended in the other National Parks which do not possess that advantage.

I refer now to a matter which my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West mentioned. In consequence of the Peak's being surrounded by industrial areas, inevitably the representatives appointed by the county councils to the Peak Park Planning Board come from industrial areas, some from Sheffield and the West Riding and Cheshire and some from outside the area of the Park. Because of that, there is a tendency for some members of the Board at least to be out of touch with the aspirations and the ideas of the residents of the Park. To solve this is partly a national matter and partly a matter for the Board.

I will quote two examples. The first is of a village in my constituency, Castle-ton, which is a small picturesque village of some 700 inhabitants, which has been described by a Ministry inspector as a picturesque village whose inhabitants are devoted almost entirely to agriculture and the tourist trade. That is quite inaccurate. Above the village of Castleton there towers the chimney of a quite enormous cement works. Anyone who visited the village of Castleton would see that and would realise that inevitably the residents of Castleton would mainly depend on that cement works and not on agriculture and the tourist trade for their livelihood.

But in consequence of the view that the village is merely picturesque, blocks have been placed in the way of housing development in Castleton, not offensive housing development, but any housing development. In consequence, young people in that village tend to move out to the towns, and it strikes me as a paradox that, having moved out to the nearby towns, they in their turn become visitors who visit Castleton for perhaps one day only. There is, therefore, a conflict—and it was mentioned by the hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. C. Johnson)—between the interests of the locals and the interests of the nation as a whole.

One can quote examples of that kind, and the answer that one gets from the Minister is that he has to balance the interests of the nation and the interests of the residents in the National Parks, but I think there is a tendency for the residents to think that not only are they becoming a National Park in the American sense mentioned by the hon. Member for Devon, North, but almost a reservation, which I think is still confined to Red Indians., There is a feeling of resentment that in a curious way their areas have been picked out, and that they are being preserved and kept to be viewed at weekends by the inhabitants of the industrial areas that surround the parks. This naturally produces resentment, and this resentment is not accurately directed. It is directed against the mysterious "they" who control our affairs, be they Government or Park planning boards.

One has to consider the by-pass round a picturesque village which may redound to the interests of the residents. I have an example in my constituency in Chapel-en-le-Frith, which has a narrow winding street, picturesque perhaps. It is part of the A.6. and along it thunders heavy lorries. In my view, it is a dangerous road, and this view is shared by the inhabitants of that small town. It is matters like this which, if solved by the Government or by the Park planning board, would make the inhabitants of the area accept more easily the view that they are living in an area of national beauty and that people outside have some rights to visit the area and enjoy themselves.

Reference has been made to the Peak Park and to its wealth, and its consequent ability to spend money on its excellent information centre at Edale, its publicity, and its services. The wealth of the Peak Park, like its other advantages which have been mentioned, is again coincidental and stems entirely from the fact that it is surrounded by wealthy county councils. This is sometimes an advantage, but at others a disadvantage.

Like other hon. Members who have spoken in this debate. I, too, urge the need for more expenditure. No doubt my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is weary of hearing this. As my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley) pointed out. we are great potential spenders of money on Fridays, but perhaps I might refer to Appendix E to the twelfth Report of the National Parks Commission and the various recommendations set out there. The Commission is kind enough to elucidate, for instance, sections 11 and 97 and show what advantages may stem from them. We in the Peak Park are interested in Recommendation 3, which would enable more information services, boundary signs and footpaths to be provided, though the Peak Park is one of the leaders in this respect. We, like most other National Parks, are concerned about woodlands, which are almost a rarity in the Peak area.

I should like to mention Recommendation 15, because like many other hon. Members I have read the recommendations of the National Farmers' Union. That body is much concerned that a burden might be placed on a farmer who has to comply with rather higher standards of planning than would be expected outside the area. Recommendation 15 interests me, as I think it would make an excellent substitute for the recommendation made by the National Farmers' Union.

I apologise to the House for concentrating, as I very naturally have done, on matters concerning my—I nearly said "my own"; shall I say "the National Park in which I live", rather than dealing with the other National Parks in the rest of Britain. I have only a fleeting connection with the other National Parks. I crawled over some of them at one time, when I was being instructed in the interests of national defence, but this is the only one of which I can speak with any knowledge and accuracy, because I live in it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley went to the root of this problem when he talked about balance. I have made certain criticisms from the point of view of the local inhabitants of what I would say is a rather individualistic National Park. There must patently be a balance between national interest and local interest. If the feeling of those living in the Parks is offended in the ways which I hope I have shown in my examples, the greatest amount of publicity will not reconcile them to the activities of a planning authority and the Peak Park Planning Board. I hope it is clear that I am saying nothing to detract from the actual work of the board in the area, which is excellent. It is only a question of the relationship between the Board and the inhabitants.

The balance may often be solved by those very activities on which we would like to spend more money. There is room for more publicity for the activities of a Park planning board, not only in the area but outside the area. I am surprised at times to find that many people in Britain have no idea that National Parks exist or, if they have, what they consist of. There have been recent programmes on television, and I would certainly recommend that those efforts be continued and increased. There is room for publicity both within the area of the National Parks and outside. If that balance can be struck in that way, it will be an encouraging sign for the future.

I have stressed the matters of local feeling within a National Park. I do not know whether these are common to other National Parks. This is a problem which must be faced. There is a local interest. There is a national interest. If the local interest goes sour, one gets the feeling from inhabitants, "Why are we paying money? Why are we supporting a venture not for our own use? It does not always redound to our own advantage. It is of benefit to visitors only, and visitors do not always behave as we would like them to." This is an extreme view. I am painting the blackest picture, but it is a viewpoint which has been put to me by my constituents. I realise that some part of that stems from the peculiar nature and position of the Peak National Park. The element of resentment which arises locally must be removed if the National Park is to succeed. Certainly, it is a auestion of balance but, in that context, I would at least put the local interest first, because, that secured, the rest follows. To remove that sense of grievance, one has to start locally, and then move towards the national picture, rather than do the reverse.

3.26 p.m.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

It is quite obvious that it is the desire of the House, perhaps quite rightly so, to devote the time available today to the consideration of this Motion. I think that, in fairness, I should say, for the benefit of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Exchange (Mr. W. Griffiths), that he has been here all day, hoping to have the opportunity to move the next Motion on the Order Paper, but as the House is entitled to spend its time debating this Motion I make no apology for intervening in order to comment on the Minister's speech.

It may well be that the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), and some other hon. Members, feel that the Minister's observations were satisfactory as far as they went, but I was rather disappointed. The Minister has said, in terms, that he will advise the House to accept the Motion which, first, asks us to congratulate the National Parks Commission on the progress it has made; second, expresses the view that … time has shown the need for amendment of the Act in a number of respects, so as to facilitate the extension and diversification of the activities of the Commission … particularly, with regard to the existing financial arrangements … and, third, urges … Her Majesty's Government to introduce amending legislation accordingly. The Minister admitted that some amendment of the Act is required, but said that he was unable to give any undertaking as to when amending legislation would be introduced, or as to what it should contain. That is not a very satisfactory answer—

Mr. Corfield

I am a little shortsighted, but I did not observe the hon. Gentleman while r was making my speech.

Mr. Fletcher

Oh, yes. I made a note of what the hon. Gentleman said, and wrote it down. He agreed that some amendment was required, but could give no undertaking as to when amending legislation would he introduced, or as to which of the various amendments that had been recommended by the Commission would be adopted. Those were his words. And then he advised the House to accept the Motion.

This matter is relatively non-controversial. We are all agreed that it is in the national interests that National Parks should be developed, and that they should have more finance. We are all agreed that the recommendations—or, at any rate, some of them—that have been urged by the Commission should be carried into effect. As it is noncontroversial, this is not a matter in which long periods of Government time are involved and, therefore, there cannot really be any excuse on the part of the Government for their failure to give some assurance that these very limited amendments of the Act will be introduced at any early date.

What is the position? We are all agreed, as the Minister said in accepting the Motion, that some amendments are required; that the important work being done by the National Parks Commission should be strengthened, and that it can be strengthened only if it has further financial assistance from the Government, in particular to enable additional wardens to be employed, and additional facilities to be provided to help in its very important work.

Unlike the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Walder) and the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Crawley) and even the hon. Member for Devon, North, all of whom have constituency interests in the sense that they have National Parks in their constituencies, I and my hon. Friends the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) and the hon. Member for Manchester, Exchange are equally interested in this matter because a great many of our constituents, although they do not live in a National Park, are entitiled to the benefits and amenities conferred by these Parks. In that sense we are more interested than some hon. Members opposite who have National Parks in their constituencies.

We who represent Londoners, for example, are particularly concerned that the advantages of National Parks should not only be preserved, but should be enlarged and developed and that their facilities should be far more generally known. There is in the twelfth Report of the National Parks Commission an excellent map showing, for example, where the National Parks are situated, which are the areas of outstanding natural beauty, and where there are coastal roads on which pedestrians can enjoy the tremendous advantages of British coastal scenery.

It will not require a great deal of additional financial assistance from the Treasury to enable far greater publicity to be given to this publication. I urge that the Parliamentary Secretary should take that matter in hand seriously. The lion. Gentleman has to recognise that in these days we are moving into a system of society in which most workers have a fortnight's holiday with pay during the year and many of them quite rightly desire to spend their holidays in this country where the opportunities for relaxation and enjoying the natural advantages of the landscape which the country offers are unsurpassed. There is a great danger that with the increased congestion on the roads the advantages available to pedestrians and those who delight in enjoying natural scenery by walking will suffer unless additional precautions are taken.

I am familiar not so much with some of the National Parks as with that delightful coastland country in Devonshire and Cornwall, some of which has been scheduled but some not yet scheduled or incorporated as an area of outstanding natural beauty. Anyone who is familiar with Devonshire and Cornwall will know the dangers that are involved unless particular care is taken to preserve that part of the country from inroads by motor cars and various other forms of modern transport which tend to destroy the natural advantages. I would hope, therefore, that the Parliamentary Secretary will review what he said today and will give serious attention to what seems to me to be the compelling necessity of having some early legislation to amend the Act to give the Commission the relatively modest additional facilities which it requires.

In connection with the proposals that have been made and the discussions that have taken place as to which are the more important interests—the local or the national—to be represented on these bodies, I would express the opinion that there should not be a dominance by local interests and that these areas should be regarded as predominantly something of concern to the nation as a whole. I hope that in exercising his powers of nomination the Minister will not regard himself as restricted to the nomination of one-third and will regard it as his duty to see that the national interests in this matter are predominant.

I wish to quote from the observations made by Ethel Haythornthwaite in a recent publication called "Town and Country Planning", where the same view is expressed, and where it is pointed out, taking Snowdonia as an example, that it was not reasonable that the local interests of Snowdonia should come before that of the nation, any more than the interests of Merionethshire, Caernarvonshire and Denbighshire should come before that of Snowdonia. The writer goes on—I endorse these words— The protection of the beauty of England and Wales, and indeed of Scotland, is the business of the British people and should not be dependent on local politics. That is the attitude I should like to support and I hope that we shall hear from the Minister that he will do his best to impress upon those responsible for the overall control of Government time that the short amending Bill which is required to strengthen the implementation of this Act should be introduced as soon as possible.

3.37 p.m.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

I hope that I shall not trespass on the patience and time of the House so long that my hon. Friend will not be able to ask leave to speak again to answer some of the questions which have been asked. If I see him looking with distress in my direction I shall immediately sit down.

Like those of the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), my constituents live in a town or a city. I think that they are happier in their surroundings than are the constituents of the hon. Member for Islington, East because, as the House knows, the City of Bristol is fortunate in the open spaces which it has within its boundaries and the areas of great beauty which surround it. I notice on the map with this Report that there are no green stripes or opaque areas immediately surrounding my city. I suppose that is because the countryside surrounding Bristol is on the Whole fairly happily placed.

One of the reasons why this is so is that at any rate until recently, and in many cases still, there are great tracks of the countryside still in private ownersihip of a great landed proprietor. One thinks of the Badminton Estate; the Dodington Park Estate, now part of the National Trust—at any rate the house; the Dynham Estate; the Ash ton Estate, running right against the city boundary, and purchased recently by the city; the Tyntesfield Estate, still belonging to the son of my predecessor in this House, Lord Wraxell, and the Clevedon Estate. So long as that sort of thing can go on some of the things mentioned in the Report would not be necessary.

It is obviously quite right that there should be a public body which, in these changing times, could take the place of the private landed proprietors and do the good things which they were able to do. I know that some hon. Members opposite will argue that because an estate is in private ownership and therefore the countryside is probably preserved, public access is not particularly good in all cases. But even though members of the public cannot get everywhere they would like, the countryside is being preserved and will be there fifty and a hundred years later. But if the wrong sort of development is allowed, the beauty of the countryside will not be there, whether members of the public can obtain access to it or not. However, I do not wish to speak too much about the particular problems of my own part of the world.

The Motion urges that more money should be spent. Money can usually bring benefits, but very often it is not just money that is required. The whole object of the Report is to make it possible for more and more people properly to enjoy the beauty of the countryside. Money alone could not achieve this object, because there are people who can spoil scenic beauty for all the rest. Five per cent. of the people who visit the areas mentioned in the Report could easily spoil them completely for the other 95 per cent.—one has come across many examples of this—just as small thoughtless developments can do.

There is in the Report a good deal of extremely useful and instructive reading, but I wonder how many people have actually seen it. It has the usual blue and rather unattractive cover of a Government publication. I know that things move slowly in Government Departments, and it has taken many years even to arrive at the sort of type and presentation which we have here. Some reports, however, are better presented. I wonder whether it would be possible to produce—perhaps one already exists—a popular version of this Report, the sort of booklet which the general public might care to purchase and enjoy reading. This Report costs 7s. There is a great deal in it which is not of general interest—lists of committees and other information which is, no doubt, very important for the record but not of great concern to those who might be encouraged to enjoy our countryside in a fuller and better way.

Mr. Fletcher

Does the hon. Gentleman think that there would be a great demand for a publication exhibiting merely the map? If this were sold at 6d., tens of thousands of people could see where the National Parks and scheduled areas were.

Mr. Robert Cooke

I am very grateful for that intervention. I heartily agree with the hon. Gentleman. Half the trouble is that people do not know of the facilities which exist.

One might have to overcome a hurdle which the Government erected. They might say that such a publication would not pay, that it might cost a lot of money to produce and then people might not buy it. What the hon. Gentleman has suggested would, I believe, be attractive to a great many people. There would be growing interest, and such a publication might even make a profit. I am sure that this would commend it to my hon. Friend, if not to the Treasury. I hope that there will be a popular version.

There is a good deal of ignorance of the way in which the public bodies concerned with the preservation of the amenities of the countryside do their work. Very often, when I am taking people round my own house in the country at the times when we open it to the public, people say to me, "Surely the National Trust will give you a grant to repair the roof". Of course, the National Trust never gives people grants to repair roofs. Perhaps, if one were lucky enough, this might he the concern of the Historic Buildings Council for England under the Minister of Public Building and Works, but the National Trust has nothing to do with looking after other people's properties. In passing, I think it well to say again that the National Trust is not a Government body at all but a body formed by private citizens. This leads me to recall how valuable is the work done today by private individuals. Without the goodwill of people of enthusiasm and private benefactions of one kind and another, we could never have achieved what we have achieved so far.

The map in the Report gives a fair indication of where the areas of scenic beauty are. Obviously, they could be extended, and I am sure that they will be. Not to use a geographical term, I notice that the right-hand side of the country seems to be largely uncoloured on the map. Also, there are some contradictions. There are bound to be because lines have to be drawn and, whenever a line is drawn, it excludes someone who ought to be included. I see that the area of Dorset is so shaded that I find myself in a white area, not one of great scenic beauty, whereas the residence of the noble Earl the former Member for Dorset, South is surrounded by scenic beauty, as is that of his colleague Sir Piers Debenham. That sort of thing in a county rich in scenic beauty such as Dorset is obviously a contradiction.

To come to the serious point I wanted to introduce by that reference, I feel that if there is an area of scenic beauty in a county the rest of the county often tends to be neglected by the planning authority and applications for the erection of bungalows or other, perhaps, less desirable developments are passed because they do not arise in the scheduled area. For this reason, there is danger in the system as well as advantages.

There is also the question of some of the things which are put up in the countryside and which are mentioned in the Report, particularly power lines and telegraph wires. A good deal is done if pressure is brought to bear to site these things in an attractive way, but only if pressure is brought to bear. There are lamentable examples of public bodies which have had to be pushed hard to give way on some of their highly undesirable schemes. Nothing like enough is done to plan between electricity undertakings and the telephone people digging trenches for underground wires.

I stayed in a small house on holiday in Cornwall. The electricity board wanted to put its wires underground and charge us a lot of money. I wished to know whether the telephone wires could be put in the same trenches. The answer was "No". I discovered that because the wires had been blown down many times during the winter they would put some underground, but not those immediately by the houses. Therefore, half a dozen poles had to remain. When I pointed this out to the telephone office people in Plymouth they said how easy it would be to take their tractor and dig a longer trench. They had not thought of this. They did this, and we got rid of the wires.

I hope that this does not fall on deaf ears because there are many lines going to coastguard stations and houses which should be removed and a good deal of thought should go into getting rid of them.

On a day when Scottish Members were asking Questions, I asked by right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he would do his best to make the Highlands more attractive even than they are now for the enjoyment of the English by endeavouring to remove some of the unsightly poles and wires. He gave me a most encouraging reply.

There is a good deal in the Report about mineral workings and gravel pits. Here is where some sort of undertaking could benefit the community, because we all know how valuable they can be when providing lakes for fishing. Intelligent working need not necessarily ruin the countryside for good, just the same as even the tipping of soil can often restore areas which have been damaged. I hope that because the Report deals mainly with preservation we shall not neglect the question of restoration, since a little thought could produce a very pleasant effect without a great deal of cost in some areas.

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary probably wishes to ask leave to address the House again, so I will not trespass for much longer on the time of the House, but a number of things should be said. I see in the Report some unflattering references to the Ministry of Works, which built most unattractive telephone exchanges. This is a general problem all over the countryside. I hope that there will be a little more assistance in that direction.

There are many other subjects which I could mention, such as balanced afforestation and not merely the spreading of conifers across hillsides, but I should like to refer to caravanning, which provides a popular and for many people very desirable holiday. On the whole, however, caravans are a menace to everyone who is not a caravanner. They are a menace on the roads when they are going to and from sites and an eyesore and a menace when they arrive, because invariably they are accompanied by poor sanitary conditions and no facilities to speak of for the removal of household refuse. Obviously, if properly sited, caravan sites could be dealt with in a much more sympathetic way than they are. All too often, one has the sight of caravans sited in the wrong place, because of local corruption, perhaps because some local farmer has a field which he wishes to develop. I feel that somehow national policy should deal with this matter.

One final thought on caravans. Why cannot they all be painted some colour so that they merge into the landscape, and are not seen by people who want to enjoy the scenic beauty of the district? Why cannot we make them all dark green or perhaps some other colour which fits into the landscape? Why must we have the cream and red chromium-plated monsters on our hillsides? Perhaps the Minister will give thought to that point, while I hope that he will also deal with some of the other points which we have raised.

Mr. Corfield

With the permission of the House—

Mr. W. Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)


Mr. Speaker

Permission is declined, I thought I heard.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House congratulates the National Parks Commission on their progress over the past 13 years in furthering the purposes set out in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949; considers that time has shown the need for amendment of the Act in a number of respects, so as to facilitate the extension and diversification of the activities of the Commission and, particularly, with regard to the existing financial arrangements; and urges Her Majesty's Government to introduce amending legislation accordingly.

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