HC Deb 20 May 1968 vol 765 cc155-76


In exercising their powers under this Act a local planning authority shall as respects public rights of way to which Part VI of the Highways Act 1959 applies have due regard to the need for the creation, closure and diversion of public rights of way, and to initiate changes in footpath patterns where they are needed.— [Mr. Channon.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

The Clause deals with public rights of way, particularly footpaths and bridleways. We move away for a short time from the more urban matters which have been interesting the House for most, though not all, of this afternoon. I urge on the Government the merits of this Clause, even though I expect that it will be possible for the Parliamentary Secretary to raise drafting points against it.

All hon. Members who have been following the proceedings on this Bill and on the Countryside Bill will know that the question of footpaths and bridleways, their creation, closure and diversion, has exercised many hon. Members during this Session and in the past.

It would be generally agreed that the present system of footpaths and bridleways is totally out of date. Most evolved centuries ago. They were paths to and from the farms and the villages. Some were old pack-horse routes. It is true that a minority were planned deliberately, but most just grew up and in the course of time became legal rights of way. I will not go into the historical details, but a haphazard pattern has grown up.

The need has changed. Footpaths used to be needed for severely practical purposes. Now, for the most part, although not entirely, they are needed for recreation. The number of people who walk in the countryside using these footpaths ha? grown enormously, and will go on growing. This has led to conflicting interests in the countryside. It is common ground that we wish to see an adequate number of footpaths. We wish to encourage walkers. Walking is a healthy and enjoyable exercise, and more hon. Members should take part in it. At the same time, we must realise that the livelihood of the farmers, and those who live and work in the countryside, must not be put at risk. This is especially so now, when food production is so vital and agricultural interests are so crucial to our country.

The differences between these conflicting interests must and can be reconciled. The Government agree with that. They have agreed in the past that changes are required. In discussing footpaths and bridleways, the Government White Paper "Leisure in the Countryside" said: It is clear that some amendments to the legislation, which is in some respects out-of-date, are required … some simplification of the procedure for the creation, diversion and closure of footpaths is necessary in the interests both of users and of landowners and occupiers … But in the Government's view a more radical reform may well be needed, to provide a legislative framework which would permit the development of a system of footpaths and bridleways, some based on existing routes, but others newly created, which would be more suited to modern needs. They then stated that they intended to have consultations and would try to bring forward changes in the law, including, if necessary, the creation of new administrative machinery to achieve their purpose.

Unfortunately, I think that the Government have not completed the job they set themselves to do in the White Paper. The Gosling Committee on rights of way concluded that, for what it called utilitarian footpaths—which are now perhaps in the minority—the convenience of pedestrians should be paramount. The majority of footpaths are now needed for recreational purposes and a fair balance needs to be struck between the interests of the farmers and of those who are going to use the footpaths, because they can present very serious difficulties for the farmers.

There is, I think, general agreement that the present arrangements for the creation and closure and diversion of footpaths are out of date and difficult to understand and implement. They are largely embodied in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act and have subsequently been consolidated in the Highways Act, 1950. I need not describe in detail what the legal arrangements are, because they are set out fully in Appendix 2 of the Gosling Report, but there is a procedure whereby magistrates' courts can stop up or divert footpaths if necessary or whereby they can be developed to make them more commodious to the general public. This, under the present law, can only be done on the application of the local highway autho- rity. An individual can make application to that authority and, if he manages to persuade it, it must then convince the magistrates' court that this procedure should be followed.

The local authorities have also been given powers to make public path extinguishment orders, which have to be confirmed by the Minister. Is it any longer necessary to have this confirmation power for these orders? The Minister may have to have a local inquiry in a case of this kind, and this procedure also applies to diversion orders. There are also powers to create public bodies through public path creation orders, which also have to be confirmed by the Minister.

I welcome the new procedures in Schedule 3 of the Countryside Bill, now in another place, which would add county councils to the list of local authorities with the power to create footpaths. Previously this has been restricted to district and urban councils.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is going rather wide. He must now come to the new Clause.

Mr. Channon

I will do so immediately, Mr. Speaker. The present system is extremely unsatisfactory and my argument is that local planning authorities, in respect of the rights of way, should have particular regard to the need for these matters to be considered and to initiate changes in patterns where these are needed. It is my case that, as the law stands, the local authorities, although they have these powers do not really have placed upon them the duty to give proper consideration to the whole pattern of footpaths in their areas. The local authorities should be made to ask themselves two questions on this. First, are all the footpaths at present in their areas needed? Second—the corollary to that, are the ones that exist in their areas adequate?

9.30 p.m.

We had high hopes some time ago that in these two Bills, which are very related in this matter, the Government would take steps to improve the situation. There was the White Paper which I have quoted and the setting up of the Gosling Committee on rights of way. I have no wish to be critical of the Government, especially after the good start they made by setting up the Gosling Committee and producing the White Paper. But it is a great pity that this matter should subsequently have been handled as the Government chose to handle it. Having set up the Committee, they introduced the Countryside Bill before it had reported. That was extraordinary. They were then faced with two possible solutions—either to delay the Countryside Bill until the Gosling Committee had finished and its Report could be adequately studied—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are discussing this Bill, not the Countryside Bill.

Mr. Channon

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I was trying, in passing, to make the point that in a way this Clause is connected with the Gosling Report and the Countryside Bill. The Government could either have dealt with the Clause I put forward in the Countryside Bill or in the present Bill. My criticism of them is that I understand that they have taken neither course.

I was saying that I had wished they had taken the course in the Countryside Bill, but since they have not decided to do that, I still feel that there is a need for legislation. The rights of way Clauses in the Countryside Bill should have been taken out of it and proper legislation along those lines and along the lines of our new Clause should be introduced. That is the course we urged on the Government both during that Bill's passage and tonight.

I think that what the Gosling Committee recommended is directly relevant, because the whole purpose of the Committee was to report on the creation, closure and diversion of public rights of way. In recommendation 4 of its Report it said: Creation, diversion and cosure of footpaths and bridleways should be regarded as aspects of land use and become planning functions and the responsibility of the local planning authority. That is the approach that I tried to incorporate in the new Clause.

In recommendation 5 it said: Planning authorities should have the power and duty to initiate changes in footpath patterns and to consider applications for changes both from users and landowners. We should like to see the Government do that, and it is another feature of the Clause we put forward.

Throughout the consideration of this Bill and the Countryside Bill we have had repeated assurances from the Government that they would implement any unanimous Gosling recommendation along the lines which I have quoted. The Minister of State said in the Committee proceedings on the Countryside Bill, when he argued that this matter would be more properly dealt with by this Bill: But I can give this assurance: if, on those matters,"— these are the ones I am describing— which, as hon. Members know, are very complex, we were to receive agreed recommendations from the Gosling Committee, which, in the Government's view, would lead to a simplification of these complex legal positions and would provide for a better system, then it certainly would be the Government's hope that they could bring forward new Clauses to the Town and Country Planning Bill based upon those recommendations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 1st February, 1968; c. 706.] I only wish that the Government had brought forward those new Clauses.

To those of us interested in this problem, it came as a shock to learn from the Government on the Third Reading of the Countryside Bill that, in spite of the assurances we had been given, it was not intended fully to implement the Report of the Gosling Committee along those lines. Will the Government give a full explanation of their reasons and expound their alternative plans for this important matter? How soon will they bring forward a plan alternative to the one which Gosling recommended? We were told on the Third Reading of the Countryside Bill that there were no plans even then for early legislation. No wonder that my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) expressed himself very forcibly on that occasion and spoke of the shock and disappointment which hon. Members felt.

It appeared that there was one paragraph in the Gosling Report which the Government were unwilling to accept. I refer to paragraph 27, setting out the detailed procedure which Gosling suggested people should follow when applying to the local planning authority for an order creating, diverting or closing footpaths. The Government, as I understand their case, base their refusal to do anything on the ground that that paragraph is impractical. In that case, will they suggest an alternative rather than leave the problem as it stands now?

I hope that the Government will accept the recommendation of the Gosling Committee in paragraph 22, that planning authorities should have the power and duty to initiate changes and power to consider applications for changes from both users and land owners. My hon. Friends and I do not wish to stand on paragraph 27 of the Gosling Report if alternative and more satisfactory arrangements can be found, but we certainly ask that that recommendation be implemented even if the Government cannot accept the detailed proposals for implementing it which the Gosling Committee wanted.

The position now is that, as a result of the Bills going through Parliament, the matter is more urgent than ever. Under the old procedures, there were many footpaths which were little used, with a haphazard pattern, some paths probably not having been used for years. With the advent of the present legislation, all this controversy has been publicised and activated. There is now a duty to put signs on every footpath. Farmers have a duty to maintain stiles on every footpath. We need a quick and flexible procedure which the planning authorities will be able to use either on an application from fanners, if need be, to close a footpath, or on application from the general public to create other footpaths where there is inadequate provision at present.

We all agree that the present procedure is unsatisfactory. Some impetus must be put behind this matter. We want local authorities to have to look at the whole picture and periodically to review the pattern of footpaths generally in their area. Unless further steps are taken along the lines of the new Clause, the whole position will remain unsatisfactory. If the Government cannot accept the detailed proposals in paragraph 27 of the Gosling Report, they have a duty to produce an alternative. Otherwise, they will have done three-quarters of the job of tackling footpaths, bridleways and public rights of way, but they will have left out the key to the whole procedure for the future. They will have caused a vast amount of unnecessary expense. There will be all these signs on footpaths, a lot of which are conceded by everyone to be unnecessary, there will have been a lot more muddle, and the situation, instead of being improved, will have been made worse.

The Government must tell us clearly how they envisage the question of footpaths being dealt with under the new planning system created by this Bill. My right hon. and hon. Friends are disappointed that the Government have so far shown themselves unwilling to accept the Gosling proposals, but they will gladly welcome constructive alternative suggestions from the Government. However, should we hear nothing from the Government tonight, my right hon. and hon. Friends who take an interest in this important matter will be bitterly disappointed that the Government, having set out to deal with the problem, have failed to tackle by far the most important aspect of it.

Mr. Skeffington

It seems a little bit like old times to hear the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) speaking on this subject which, I know, is very close to his heart. I should like to make a marginal comment on the first part of his speech which, if I may say so, came, I thought, a little oddly from him, a member of the Council of the Commons and Footpaths Preservation Society, for he seemed to hanker so much after a kind a regular pattern of footpaths.

The hon. Gentleman pointed out how they had developed over the centuries, and that nowadays people wanted to use them, and that once upon a time they had to use them. I am glad that he has indicated now that, perhaps, it was not so, but he left me with the impression that he was thinking in terms of a very regular pattern, and all I wanted to say was that I do not think this is what a great many people want, although some change, some rationalisation, particularly for easier opportunities to use footpaths, certainly is required.

Mr. Channon

I am very sorry if I gave that impression. I certainly did not intend to. I based myself on the Gosling Committee's Report, which itself said there should not be too rigid regularisa-tion, and that the haphazard pattern was to some extent one of the charms of these footpaths.

Mr. Skeffington

That was the alternative point I was coming to, that one cannot hope for too much system here, although, quite clearly the new requirements for recreation, as well as the former use of these paths, are very much to be encouraged.

I think that I can very briefly summarise the position. I do not want to comment on the drafting of the hon. Gentleman's new Clause. I do not think that that really matters, but it does put footpaths, as it were out on a limb, apart from everything else which local authorities and planning authorities have to consider under the Bill. There are a thousand other matters which they have to consider but the hon. Gentleman would separate out this question of the creation and alternation of footpaths.

However, in the whole of his argument I think that the hon. Gentleman overlooked some very important parts of the Bill, points I want to come to in a moment, and which will go a very long way, I believe, to meet the main point of his new Clause and that contained in paragraph 27 of the Gosling Committee's Report.

As my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State said on Third Reading, on 9th April, the position is that the Government accepted recommendations 4, 5 and 6, and some provisions are being made elsewhere. It would be out of order to refer to them in detail, but I think that they are not unknown to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Rippon

On a point of order. It would be very helpful if the hon. Gentleman were allowed to tell us what is happening. We certainly do not know of any action other than the Bill which the Government are taking in implementing recommendations 4, 5 and 6.

Mr. Skeffington

I think that if I were to refer to proceedings in another place on another Bill I would be out of order, but I think that this matter is generally known, and we have already indicated that certain changes are to be made in relation to responsibilities of the Ministry of Transport—responsibilities which will be passed to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government—under the Highways Act. This is one of the provisions being made elsewhere. I can certainly say that recommendations 4, 5 and 6 of the second interim Report of the Gosling Committee were accepted, as my hon. and learned Friend made quite clear.

Paragraph 27 was not a recommendation, as, I think, the hon. Gentleman suggested. He suggested certain procedures might be introduced. That paragraph was a suggestion, it was not a recommendation. My hon. and learned Friend suggested that we could not contemplate immediate legislation on this. He said that in a speech made in Committee on another Bill. He said, in relation to this matter, that there were recommendations which, in the Government's opinion, would lead to an improvement in the situation. My hon. and learned Friend on 9th April said it was impracticable, in the Government's view, to introduce the suggestion in paragraph 27 and that, in the Government's opinion, this would not be a practicable procedure. This, I am sure, is the reason why the hon. Gentleman has put down a new Clause. I want to spell out the reasons why we do not think this can be acceptable.

The suggestion in paragraph 27 of the Gosling Committee's Report comprises these elements. First, any person or body could apply to the local planning authority for an order for the creation, diversion or closure of a footpath. The initiative is no longer to come after consultation with or investigation by the local authority. It can come, not even by a recognised society, but by an individual. When that application was considered the planning authority would have to notify the owner, as would the person or body applying for a footpath procedure, and advertise in the local newspapers and in the London Gazette. After a period of time, if there were objections, they would have to be considered, and then the authority would make its decision.

A very interesting suggestion in para-27(d) was that, whether the planning authority granted or refused an application, any interested party which had made representation on the original application should have a right of appeal to the Minister. Almost certainly there would be an appeal. There would be an appeal by those who wanted the footpath. To a great extent this would give impetus to walkers and ramblers to ask local authorities for more footpaths. It might be opposed by landowners and allotment owners through or near whose land a footpath was sought. There would be orders which would be secured by agreement and not contested, but there would be a great many cases where, inevitably, there would be a right of appeal, either by the individual whose application had been refused, or by the owner across whose soil it was suggested the new right of way should be created. One would have a mass of appeals flooding into the Ministry.

There are two consequences which must have struck the hon. Gentleman. A major part of the Bill is designed to prevent thousands of appeals cascading into Whitehall. By adopting this series of suggestions we would be creating a new series of appeals to the Minister. There are at least some criteria by which to judge the appeals which now come forward. But in this case there would be no background corpus of knowledge by which the Minister could judge them. There would be an intermediate stage between the appeal and the decision of the local authority, since there would have to be a public inquiry under the proposals. When he had received the report of whoever heard the appeal, the Minister would be expected to judge it against a background of which he has relatively no knowledge.

For the reason that they would undoubtedly create very large numbers of appeals in a Measure which is designed to ensure that such matters should be decided locally, the Government took the view that the suggestions—I emphasise they are not recommendations—in this part of the Gosling Report were not practicable. This was stated by my hon. and learned Friend on the Third Reading of the Countryside Bill, and it is our position today. Does that mean that we do nothing about it? No, it does not. As I have already said, recommendations 4, 5 and 6 of this group of recommendations have been accepted by the Government.

In connection with this matter of a system of footpaths—I do not want to call it a plan, because I do not want to fall into the trap of the hon. Gentleman by using that phrase—it will be perfectly proper, under the major provisions of the Bill, that footpaths should be considered both at the structure and at the local planning stages. It is true that they will not often be a prominent feature in a structural plan, except in the case of a long-distance way, a coastal route, or something like that. However, the existing pattern of footpaths will be an important matter to consider in the recreational and rural areas when looking ahead as far as it is possible to do. In making its local plan, it will be possible for a local planning authority to take full account of it and make the necessary provisions.

Furthermore, all the emphasis that we put in the earlier part of the Bill and such recommendations as are brought forward by the Committee which I have the honour to chair, will mean that the public will have a bigger say about footpaths than ever before when a local planning authority is making its local plan. All of this gives an opportunity within the Bill to deal with a system and pattern of footpaths in a given locality.

That is the immediate answer that I can give as to the way in which we feel that it is best to deal with this provision in the Bill. When the Bill and the other Measure receive the Royal Assent, specific guidance will be given about this matter so that local authorities can take it into account.

The proposals which I put before the House on paragraph 27 of the Gosling Report, which is the hon. Gentleman's major point, will be met within the body of the Bill, and I think that that will be an extremely effective way of doing it.

With that assurance, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not feel it necessary to press his Clause.

Mr. James Ramsden (Harrogate)

In an admirable speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) put our point of view so clearly that I can be quite brief.

In essence, the issue that he raised was a perfectly simple one. It sought to ask why the Government, having given the Committee considering the Countryside Bill to understand that there would be legislation to take account of our point of view, had now decided not to bring forward that legislation.

In a very long speech, the Parliamentary Secretary explained to the House why the suggestions made in paragraph 27 of the Gosling Report are not workable, in his view. It may be true that they are not workable, but that is beside the point. At a very late hour, the Minister of State said on Third Reading that the Government accepted in principle the Committee's fifth recommendation—

Mr. Speaker

With respect, we cannot have the Third Reading debate on the Countryside Bill over again, any more than we can have the Second Reading of another Bill which has not yet come before us. The right hon. Gentleman must come to the Clause.

Mr. Ramsden

I am in the same difficulty as my hon. Friend. We seek to argue that the Government should have introduced legislation, having undertaken to do so. They have not done that. By moving the Amendment we are seeking to do it in their stead and getting the House to accept it. With respect, Mr. Speaker, it is to that point I am addressing my argument. My argument is relevant because the Minister of State said that he accepted in principle the need for legislation. He told us that on Third Reading of another Bill. He went on to say that the Government did not contemplate immediate legislation. The simple question I ask is: Why not? If there is no good answer, the Government should accept the Amendment so that we get the legislation.

The Government's position seems to be that what was suggested by the Gosling Committee is not acceptable and they will have to find some other way. I regret that they have not so far found another way and are not prepared to make recommendations to the House to implement that which they accept as being desirable. I regret this all the more because, in my view at any rate, the Government put themselves in the position on the Committee stage of leading us to believe that if Gosling came up with an acceptable recommendation and they accepted it, there would be legislation.

On reflection, I think hon. Gentlemen opposite must regret having got into that position. As a result of what was said in Committee, the proceedings both on the Countryside Bill and on the Town and Country Planning Bill were considerably facilitated. It would be a pity if. having eased their position regarding these two Measures, the Government were not prepared to follow up the spirit of the undertaking that they gave. I think they should, if it is not too late, have second thoughts. I am sure they regret not having done so.

Mr. Rippon

This is one of the most serious matters which we have to discuss tonight because the Government, unfortunately, have behaved throughout in a thoroughly devious and unsatisfactory way. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) said, there was a clear understanding that the Countryside Bill should be expedited on the assurance of the Government that when Gosling made its recommendations, matters which could not be dealt with in the Countryside Bill would be dealt with in the Town and Country Planning Bill.

Accordingly, I wrote to the Minister of Housing and Local Government on 27th March, saying: I will be grateful if you can let me know when you intend to table the necessary new Clauses in the Town and Country Planning Bill to give effect to those recommendations of the Gosling Committee which the Government accept. I feel that it is important that the position should be cleared before the House deals with the Report stage of the Countryside Bill. I got no answer to that letter. However, I was told informally that the Minister of State would be able to deal with the matter on Third Reading of the Countryside Bill, although there had not been time to frame the necessary or possible Amendments to the Town and Country Planning Bill at that stage.

On 9th April, as we have heard, the Minister of State made clear: We have accepted recommendations 4, 5 and 6 of the Report. Recommendation 6 is a clear legislative recommendation which we accept and will implement. We accept that these matters should become a planning function."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th April, 1968; Vol. 762, c.1330.] We were clearly led to understand that it would not simply be a minor amendment of the law which would be made in the Town and Country Planning Bill, but that the real substance of the Gosling Committee's recommendations concerning this matter would be dealt with.

Recommendation 5 in the Gosling Report is set out more fully in paragraph 22: We recommend that in future the creation, diversion and closure of footpaths and bridleways should be regarded as aspects of land use and so become planning functions. This means that the powers now vested in district councils by virtue of the Highways Act, 1959, should be transferred to local planning authorities. We also recommend that planning authorities should have the power and duty to initiate changes in footpath patterns when they are needed and, equally, power to consider applications for changes both from users and from landowners That is a perfectly clear recommendation. The Government had a clear duty, in view of their undertakings at every stage in our discussions, to table the necessary Clause—

It being: Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Ordered, That the Proceedings on the Town and Country Planning Bill may be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour, though opposed.—[Mr. Ernest G. Perry.]

Question again proposed.

Mr. Rippon

In the light of all the discussions that have taken place and the undertakings that they gave to my hon. Friend and myself at every stage of the proceedings, the Government have a clear duty to table the necessary legislation. We have had to do their duty for them. The case for the new Clause rests on the recommendations of the Gosling Committee which the Government themselves set up to deal with this matter.

On 25th April—a considerable time after the discussions which took place on the Third Reading of the Countryside Bill—the Minister of Housing and Local Government said: I apologise for the delay in replying to your letter of 27th March about the tabling of new Clauses in the Town and Country Planning Bill and the Countryside Bill. We found it impracticable no take action on the Gosling Committee's final recommendations at the Report Stage of the Countryside Bill, but we intend to make some further amendments in the Lords. The Parliamentary Secretary made reference to that tonight, but we do not regard it as a satisfactory position, and there is no indication that the recommendations will be dealt with.

The Minister went on to say: The Minister of State explained in his speech on Third Reading that we intend to make provision in the Town and Country Planning Bill for transferring the functions of the Minister of Transport, dealing with footpaths under section 153 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962, to the Minister of Housing and Local Government. That is relative to recommendation 6. We think that the other major proposal in paragraph 27 needs further consideration and consultation with the authorities affected and we do not contemplate immediate legislation. That is a rather different way of expressing the position from that which the Minister of State put forward in the Third Reading debate of that Bill. He said: referring to paragraph 27 of the Report, I do not think that hon. Members opposite who speak of it as if it were "— a recommendation— have quite taken that on board. Paragraph 27 says: 'we suggest that the law should provide for the following steps to be taken '. When the Report makes recommendations, it does not in fact make a positive recommendation based on paragraph 27. It was a suggest-tion only, and I have no doubt that the Committee realised the difficulties involved in the suggestion. It would be out of order, even if the House had the patience to listen, for me to try to explain why those suggestions would produce a quite unworkable position, but I would gladly meet hon. Members to explain my reasons for saying that. I cannot undertake, and it would be irresponsible of me to suggest, that we should bring forward legislative proposals in the Town and Country Planning Bill based upon recommendations which we believe would produce a wholly unworkable position and an anarchic state of the law on this subject. All we can do, and what I have done, is to say that we shall at once enter into consultations with the parties concerned to see what procedure we can devise to implement the recommendations which we have accepted." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th April, 1968; Vol. 762, c. 1329.] The recommendations that were referred to were Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

The Minister of State says that paragraph 27 relates only to a suggestion but the Minister of Housing and Local Government says We think the other major proposal in paragraph 27 needs further consideration and consultation with the authorities affected and we do not contemplate immediate legislation. He did not rule it out altogether, and it would be quite intolerable to deal with a responsible body like the Gosling Committee by saying that simply because in paragraph 27 it makes a suggestion it is not to be regarded as a recommendation of any sort. My hon. Friend put the matter clearly in saying that we are not standing, any more than the Committee did, on the exact form of that suggestion. We are saying that the matters (a) to (g) in paragraphs 27 should be the subject, as the Minister of State promised, of further consideration and consultation. There is nothing in paragraph 27 to over-ride or undermine paragraph 22 and recommendation No. 5, which it is the main purpose of the new Clause to implement.

Therefore, I hope that, even at this stage, in view of all they have said to me and my hon. Friends, the Government will accept this Clause. This should be done and I hope that they will honour their obligations.

Mr. MacDermot

Since an attempt has been made to attack my honesty, I think, in this matter, let me make it clear that there is nothing which I have undertaken to do which has not been done. I said that we accepted recommendations 4, 5 and 6. Only one of those, No. 6, points clearly to a requirement for legislation and that is embodied in the Bill. Recommendation 4 says that these matters, dealing with the closure and diversion of footpaths and bridlepaths and the creation of new ones, should be regarded in future as planning functions.

Recommendation No. 5, on which the right hon. and learned Gentleman worked himself into such a state of indignation says: Planning authorities should have the power and duty to initiate changes in footpath patterns and to consider applications for changes both from users and landowners. I entirely agree with the whole approach described by the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon). This is a matter on which we must be careful, but I accept that the pattern of many of our footpaths is out of date. I believe that, in the machinery of local plans under the new planning system, local planning authorities will be able to do what recommendations 4 and 5 asked.

As the hon. Gentleman said, there must be a survey of the existing pattern of footpaths against present day needs, to see how the two measure up. Where they do not, the authorities can, under the new system, in the form of a local plan, produce an alternative pattern, and this must be subject to all the procedures for publicising, publication and consultation and for receiving representations from interested parties, including agricultural and amenity interests, before the plan is accepted and approved.

Then, we will have the coherent framework against which to do the individual closures, diversions and creation of new footpaths, as to which I am assured that adequate legal powers exist. We will consult the authorities on these matters and if some additional powers are required, that can be dealt with.

I am certain that, for a substantial period ahead, the task is one for the local planning authorities, as the hon. Member for Southend, West mentioned. With respect, I do not think that the new Clause would have much effect and it would be misleading if written into the Bill. What we want to do is to make use of the new planning system to achieve what we all agree is a desirable objective.

Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)

The hon. and learned Gentleman says that these matters could be dealt with "in some way". In what way? In our debates on a Bill which we must not mention tonight, I would have taken a very different view if I had thought that these matters would not be dealt with in this Bill. I am now told that they will not be dealt with under this Bill, but somewhere else. Where will they be dealt with?

Mr. MacDermot

I do not know to which matters the hon. Gentleman is referring. I am saying that if, in the working out of this, it should later be found that some addition to the powers is required, then that matter can be considered and discussed. I am advised that there are adequate powers in the authorities now for the opening, closing and diverting of footpaths, but that they lack coherent judgment against which to base their decisions in individual cases.

Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)

During an earlier debate the hon. and learned Gentleman dealt with this subject throughout. It is, therefore, with him, rather than with the Parliamentary Secretary, that we have a quarrel tonight. The points made by my hon. Friends are well known and I will merely repeat that whereas throughout our discussion of the Countryside Bill we were promised—not only in Committee but elsewhere—that the matter would be dealt with, it is clear that, whatever the hon. and learned Gentleman may say, it has not been dealt with, either in this Measure or in the Countryside Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman cannot deny that.

Mr. MacDermot

I do. The whole of the new system of structure and local plans, which this Bill is mainly about, is concerned with the machinery that is required to implement the recommendation of Gosling to which I referred.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

The hon. and learned Gentleman has not answered my question. I asked him whether, in this Bill or in the Countryside Bill, this matter has been put right. The answer is "No", and he knows that only too well. The reason why we set such store by this—I accept that the wording of the new Clause is not perfect; no new Clause ever is—is because we hold this to be important in view of the new situation which will arise for local authorities when the Government tell them to signpost all existing footpaths throughout the

Division No. 149.] AYES [10.12 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barktton Afh) Goodhew, Victor Pounder, Rafton
Allason, James (Hemel Hetnpstead) Crant, Anthony Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Astor, John Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Pym, Francis
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Hall, John (Wycombe) Quennell, Miss J. M.
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Biffen, John Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Biggs-Davison, John Holland, Philip Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Boardman, Tom Hordern, Peter Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Bossom, Sir Clive Iremonger, T. L. Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Brewis, John Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.SirWalter Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Russell, Sir Ronald
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Kaberry, Sir Donald Scott, Nicholas
Burden, F. A. Kirk, Peter Sharples, Richard
Cary, Sir Robert Kitson, Timothy Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Channon, H. P. G. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Silvester, Frederick
Clark, Henry Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry smith, John (London & W'minster)
Clegg, Walter Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Speed, Keith
Cooke, Robert McAdden, Sir Stephen Stainton, Keith
Costain, A. P. Maude, Angus Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Crouch, David Mawby, Ray Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)
Crowder, F. P. Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Currie, G. B. H. Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Temple, John M.
Dance, James Monro, Hector Tilney, John
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry More, Jasper Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.) Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Deeds, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Mimro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Ward, Dame Irene
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Murton, Oscar Webster, David
Eden, Sir John Nabarro, Sir Gorald Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Emery, Peter Onslow, Cranley Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Errington, Sir Eric Page, Graham (Crosby) Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Farr, John Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe) Wright, Esmond
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Percival, Ian
Foster, Sir John Peyton, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gibson-Watt, David Pink, R. Bonner Mr. R. W. Elliott and
Mr. Reginald Eyre.
Alten, Scholefield Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Beaney, Alan
Armstrong, Ernest Bagier, Gordon A. T. Bessell, Peter
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Barnett, Joel Bidwell, Sydney

country. The hon. and learned Gentleman has made no provision whereby local authorities—planning authorities as they will become—can, before this is done, have an overall decision about which footpaths shall exist and which shall not.

The framework created by the Countryside Bill, and, to an extent, reinforced by this Measure, should be completed. This method of proceeding is unsatisfactory. The way in which it has been handled by the Government is atrocious and when my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) said that Ministers had been devious, I can only say that my hon. Friends and I were led to believe all the way through that we would have a satisfactory answer at some time to this question. We have not received that and I therefore hope that my hon. Friends will divide the House.

Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time: —

The House divided: Ayes, 102, Noes 155.

Blackburn, F. Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Park, Trevor
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hooley, Frank Parker, John (Dagenham)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Horner, John Pavitt, Laurence
Boyden, James Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Pentland, Norman
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Hoy, James Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Huckfield, Leslie Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hunter, Adam Price, William (Rugby)
Buchan, Norman Hynd, John Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Irvine, Sir Arthur Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Roebuck, Roy
Carmichael, Neil Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Rose, Paul
Chapman, Donald Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Coe, Denis Kelley, Richard Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Concannon, J. D. Kenyon, Clifford Sheldon, Robert
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Lawson, George Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Leadbitter, Ted Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Davies, Dr. Ernest (stretford) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Skeffington, Arthur
Dell, Edmund Loughlin, Charles Slater, Joseph
Dempsey, James Lubbock, Eric Snow, Julian
Dewar, Donald Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Spriggs, Leslie
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John MacDermot, Niall Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Dickens, James Macdonald, A. H. Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Doig, Peter Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Swingler, Stephen
Dunnett, Jack McNamara, J. Kevin Taverne, Dick
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) MacPherson, Malcolm Thornton, Ernest
Dunwoody, Dr. John(F'th & C'b'e) Mallalieu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield, E.) Tinn, James
Eadie, Alex Mapp, Charles Urwin, T. W.
Ellis, John Marks, Kenneth Varley, Eric G.
English, Michael Marquand, David Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Fernyhough, E. Mayhew, Christopher Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mendelson, J. J. Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Millan, Bruce Wallace, George
Fowler, Gerry Miller, Dr. M. S. Watkins, David (Consett)
Fraser, John (Norwood) Milne, Edward (Blyth) Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Freeson, Reginald Moyle, Roland Whitlock, William
Galpern, Sir Myer Newens, Stan Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Gardner, Tony Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Gourlay, Harry Norwood, Christopher Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Gregory, Arnold Ogden, Eric Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Grey, Charles (Durham) O'Malley, Brian Winnick, David
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Orbach, Maurice Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Orme, Stanley Woof, Robert
Hamling, William Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn) Yates, Victor
Hannan, William Owen Will (Morpeth)
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Page, Derek (King's Lynn) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Haseldine, Norman Paget, R. T. Mr. Joseph Harper and
Henig, Stanley Pardoe, John Mr. Ernest G. Perry.