HC Deb 19 July 1972 vol 841 cc761-79


Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move Amendment No. 734, in page 115, line 35, leave out from 'area' to 'under' in line 36 and insert— 'unless and until a joint planning board is constituted under section 1 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 or a National Park Committee is appointed'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this Amendment we are to take the following Amendments:

Government Amendments No. 738 and 749; and 750–754.

Amendment No. 485, in page 271, line 24, at end insert— Provided that where a National Park is contained wholly within one new county, the Secretary of State may by order constitute a special planning board to discharge the functions to which this Part of this Schedule applies as respects the area of the Park, and any enactment relating to joint boards constituted by an order under section 1 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 shall apply to a special planning board constituted under this Part of this Schedule and to the order constituting it as it applies to a joint planning board constituted under that section and to the order constituting it.

Mr. Page

We come to a rather important matter, a group of Amendments dealing with the national parks. The Amendment I have moved heads the group, but it is consequential to the later Amendment No. 749.

Subsection (6), which the Amendment seeks to amend, provides that where a new national park is designated or where the area of an existing national park is extended, the county and district planning authorities in the area affected will continue to exercise their functions until a joint planning board or separate planning committee is established for that area.

The Amendment replaces the reference to a separate planning committee by a reference to the new type of committee, the National Park Committee, for which provision is made in Amendment No. 749. The small change in the wording, the substitution of "unless and until" for "until", is significant, because in future there will be no statutory requirement to appoint a joint board for national parks.

That Amendment is a drafting Amendment compared with the substantive Amendments with which I now wish to deal. They give effect to the Government's proposals for the administration of national parks which I outlined when we discussed the subject in Committee. Broadly, the Government propose, while retaining the planning boards for the Lake District and the Peak District, to replace the existing requirements for the setting up of joint boards and the establishment of separate planning committees by a provision for the setting up of a National Parks Committee. That Committee will be set up by the county or counties in whose area the national park lies. Then we shall require for each park, including the Lake District and Peak District, the appointment of a national park officer and the preparation of a national park plan. That is putting our proposals in a very small nutshell. There is much more to them.

I refer first to Amendment No. 749 and new Schedule 17—what I think will become the national parks charter. The new paragraph 1 of Schedule 17 relates solely to the Peak Park Planning Board. The Peak Park will be the only case in which there will be a joint planning board in existence immediately after 1st April, 1974 and in which from that date the park will be comprised in two or more new counties. The Government propose to retain the Peak Park Planning Board and this paragraph requires the Secretary of State for the Environment to make an order reconstituting the board.

The powers which the board must be given are those set out in the existing paragraph 12 of Schedule 17 which are all the functions of a local planning authority, under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949, the Countryside Act, 1968 and the Town and Country Planning Act, 1971. These are the same functions as are at present exercised by the Peak Park Planning Board. New paragraph 2 to the new Schedule deals with the position should a new joint board be established for a national park. The power remains for the Secretary of State to make an order constituting the board and conferring on it the functions of a local planning authority under those Acts which I have mentioned.

New paragraph 3 is concerned solely with the Lake District Planning Board. The Lake District will be the only case in which, immediately before 1st April, 1974, there is an existing joint board and in which on that date the park will be wholly within one new county. This paragraph requires the Secretary of State to make an order reconstituting the board as a special planning board. Subsequent references in the Schedule to a special planning board consequently refer to the Lake District Board. The board is to be given the same functions as it has now and the same as those which will be given to the Peak Park Planning Board.

New paragraph 4 enables the Secretary of State by order to confer on the Peak Park Planning Board and the Lake District Planning Board and on any new joint board, should one be established for a national park, either initially or at a later date, any additional countryside functions, for example functions which in the opinion of the appropriate Secretary of State relate to the countryside and are appropriate for reference to the board.

New paragraph 5 provides that where there is no joint planning board or special planning board for a national park, the new county or counties in whose area or areas the park lies must arrange under Clause 101 for the setting up of a national park committee that will cover the whole area of the park. The county council or county councils concerned must arrange for the committee to be given all their functions as local planning authority under the Statutes which I have mentioned, except the functions described in new paragraph 6 of the Schedule.

Perhaps it would be convenient for me to explain here that Clause 178(4) provides in effect that in a national park the local planning authority functions lie with the county planning authority alone and are not distributed between that authority and the district planning authority so that the new national park committee, being a committee of the county, will inherit all the local planning functions. All those functions are vested in the county.

10.30 p.m.

New paragraph 6 sets out those functions under the 1971 Act which the county or counties concerned are not statutorily required to confer on a national park committee, but the paragraph does not preclude a county planning authority from making arrangements under Clause 101 of this Bill for those functions to be conferred on a national park committee. The functions there described are the preparation of structure and local plans; the operation and use of land which conflicts with the development plan; the operation and use of land which is partly within the national park and partly outside.

New paragraph 7 protects the validity of anything done or purporting to have been done by a national park committee in pursuance of delegated powers from question on the ground that it ought to have been done by the county council. There cannot be post-mortems on the action of the national park committee.

New paragraph 8 provides that a multi-county national park committee is to be appointed by such one of the county councils as they may agree, or, in default of agreement, jointly by the county council concerned.

Then we come to new paragraph 9, which enables the national park committee to arrange for the district planning authority whose area comprises land within the park to discharge such of the functions delegated to it by the counties as may be agreed between the committee and the Countryside Commission, or, in default of agreement, by the Secretary of State.

New paragraph 10 enables a joint planning board or special planning board for a national park, or national park committee, to be given functions over land outside the national park.

Finally, of the new paragraphs, paragraph 11 continues in effect the provision that not less than one-third of the members of each national park board or committee are to be appointed by the appropriate Secretary of State after consultation with the Countryside Commission, and that continues the present practice of a committee being, as it were, a joint committee between local government and central Government; but it is a committee which is directly under the county, and to that extent a committee of the county council—a committee of the county council with very special powers and attributes.

New paragraph 11 A, which is introduced by Amendment No. 753, provides, first, that the members of the national park committee shall in the case of a single-county national park be appointed by the county concerned, and secondly, in the case of a multi-county national park, by such of the constituent counties as may be agreed between them, or, in default of agreement, as determined by the appropriate Secretary of State. Members are apportioned between each constituent county. The decision, if there is no agreement, lies with the Secretary of State.

New paragraph 11B, C and D deal with the appointment of a national park officer, and this is a new feature entirely. New paragraph 11B provides for the appointment by each national park board or committee of a national park officer, and this applies to both the Peak Park and Lake District as well as to the national park committees of the counties. The national park officer envisaged will have the primary rôle of managing the national park; that is to say, he should not be employed in any other capacity than that of managing the national park, except it be after consultation with the Countryside Commission. It is the Government's hope that the National Park Officer will be an expert in the job and will be devoted full time to it.

The new duties placed on the national park committees relate to the preparation of a management plan. Each board and committee will be charged with the preparation of that plan. This is not quite the same as a local plan in the new planning system, but it may well form the basis of a local plan in due course. Until it does, it is envisaged that it will be much more flexible than a formal local plan. It will be a plan for the good management and development of the park as a park and as a part of the countryside heritage of our land.

I have gone into this in detail because it is a new scheme for national parks which I am sure will operate well. It is based on agreement between the Country-side Commission and the County Councils Association. To that extent, the Government have been happy to carry out the wishes of those two bodies. As the House knows, the Countryside Commission has a special duty in relation to national parks.

There has been some question about whether the district councils should be represented on the national park committees. We have taken the view that, looking at the existing committees which have been in charge of national parks in the past, there have always been representatives of the districts without the matter being laid down in any Statute. I am sure that that practice will continue and that the districts will be represented. I fear that if it were made a statutory obligation that there should be representatives of the districts which fell within the national park on the national park committee, we should find that we were appointing individuals as representative of certain geographical interests. I think that this is not the right way to find those who will serve well on the national parks committees. They should bring an open mind to their service rather than being delegates from an area.

Having watched this grow over the past few months into the present form in which we have set it out in the Amendments, I feel convinced that we have a scheme which will achieve far greater success in connection with national parks than we have had in the past. I look forward to a great future for the national park committees, which will be supported financially by the Government to a very great extent. I cannot give details of that at present. I hope that it will be part of later legislation dealing with local government finance. We have given an assurance that they will be given financial support, and I am sure that we shall have success with these committees in the future.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I certainly welcome the fact that the Minister has been able to carry out the undertaking he gave in Committeee that he would seek to introduce Amendments either on Report, as he has, or in another place. It is a modest benefit, after the long delays in dealing with the Bill in the House, that the right hon. Gentleman has brought the Amendments forward for discussion here rather than in another place.

Perhaps it would be better for me to mention the elements in these proposals that we fully welcome and support. The Amendment is an example of something to which we give one cheer rather than three cheers. It is a step forward, and that we certainly welcome; but it is by no means the leap forward or the brave change that many hon. Members hoped might have been possible in the focus of local government reorganisation.

We welcome the confirmation of the position concerning both the Peak Dist- rict and the Lake District, two of the most successful of our national parks, because they carried out the intention of the 1949 Act. They provided a joint board and a coherent system of control which has been fruitful and successful not only for the country as a whole, but for the people living in the area. We regard these two national parks, particularly the Peak District National Park, as examples of what the position should be in all our national parks. This is what our earlier recommendations sought to achieve.

We welcome the Minister's confirmation that a park officer must be appointed to each national park. We have long urged that this should be done. The query we still have is about the authority that officer shall have. In Committee the Minister said that it was his intention that the officer would have comparable authority with the county planning officer. We appreciate that in this whole area the problem is the linking together of the broad national planning picture and the special provisions we have in these areas. We understand that problem. However, it is of the utmost importance that it should be clear that the park officer is not to be a junior official, but someone who carries authority in the area.

The Minister could no doubt say whether it is his intention—as no doubt it is—to issue regulations and explanatory notes making clear what he intends in this regard as in others. We hope it will not merely be a matter of the minimum appointment of one park officer, but that we shall clearly have a staff concentrating largely, if not entirely, upon park duties.

We have wide experience of how the system works in an area like the Peak District. It is possible to reach understandings and to have arrangements about a limited number of other duties which it may be sensible for the park officer to undertake in looking after countryside problems in areas immediately outside the national park. We are overwhelmingly concerned to have a staff whose main duty shall be the work of the park and that this should not be pushed to the end of a long list of duties, as all too often happened in the past in many of our national parks.

We want further clarification of the authority the park officer is to have. We hope that this will be the start of developing what might be called a park service. I do not mean anything so grandiose as the park service of the National Park Administration of the United States. However, it would be enormously to the benefit of everyone, from the point of view of recruitment and everything else, if we were to begin to have some understanding that there was a service, within which officers could move, linking the national parks with the head office of the Countryside Commission in London or wherever it may be. We would gain a great deal by the concept of a national park service, and I hope that it will be possible.

10.45 p.m.

The Minister said that it is not possible to announce today what the details of the financial set up will be. Naturally we are sorry about that. The Minister explained in Committee that provisions will be inserted into the new Local Government Finance Bill, which we imagine will be introduced in the next Session of Parliament. We would like to have some assurance about that, because at least that Measure will deal with this crucial matter.

It is not much use making appointments unless it is clear that a wholly new attitude is being taken to the financial burden that inevitably will be involved. Not only will the Exchequer be helping considerably with the broad range of special functions—the provisions to be made within the national parks have already been outlined—but for the first time we shall have a clear undertaking to support in a major way the expenses of the staff that are to be employed to undertake the administrative work which is so crucial if we are to make the national parks as effective as I am sure we all want them to be. That is the second point about which we would like some further information, even though we accept that the statutory provision will have to come in the Local Government Finance Bill next Session.

However, there is still a considerable area of disappointment. We are still doing no more than providing county parks. With the exceptions of the Peak District and the Lake District, the parks are county parks. There is no need to delude anyone, although it is our habit to do so. For example, public schools are not public and national parks are not national. They are county parks within the administration of the county. There is no majority of national membership but a majority of local membership. I am not saying that this is a changed situation, but it is the fact that we should recognise it. I regretted it just as much under the previous Administration as I regret it today.

I have always campaigned for national parks to be purely national, but, alas, we are not to have that situation. However, we want to ensure that they are as independent as possible. We are still sorry that the Minister has not taken the further step of ensuring that there will be an independent park authority. The Minister has gone some way in that direction by establishing a separate committee of the county, but many of us wish he could have gone further. I had an Amendment which would have gone that little bit further and which would have ensured that in those areas where a park was within one county, a special planning board would have been appointed with clear independence. But that proposal is not to be accepted.

But, of course, half a loaf is better than no bread and we welcome the faltering step forward which the Government have taken. We would have liked them to go a little further, at least as far as to say that they would take a discretionary power for the Minister to use, if he desired, to establish a joint board where several counties or authorities are involved or a separate body where a single county is involved.

We should allow more thought to be given to this matter and I hope that the Government will reconsider. I appreciate the feelings of my right hon. and hon. Friends from Wales, who have made it clear that they want to ensure that in Wales, whatever we do in England, they will have nothing of a park which is not controlled tightly by the county itself. Sobe it! Perhaps it would have been better if Wales had been dealt with in a separate Bill. The Welsh could then have made completely different provisions if they had so wished. But we have to deal with this Bill as it is and I regret that the Minister is not giving himself the extra power I suggest.

Nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman has taken a step forward and I hope that full opportunity will be taken of the provisions being made and in the full expectation of better financial and manpower resources being available in future. The parks have been shamefully neglected in the past. It is amazing that the National Parks have done so much considering the small resources they have been allowed. In this restricted sense, we welcome the Government's Amendments. We hope they will be successful and will lead to even greater changes in the future.

Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)

I ask my right hon. Friend to clarify two points which he covered briefly in moving the Amendment. The first concerns the possibility of nominating members to national parks committees from a district. As I understood him, he is not reserving any powers in this respect and I feel somewhat disappointed. His argument seemed a little strange. He said, as I understood it, that it is wrong that members of these bodies should be delegates in any sense. He will understand my concern because we are hoping that, within the framework of the districts, it will be possible to have an Exmoor district as one of the districts in the new county of Somerset, and obviously we have a direct interest in the activities of the Exmoor National Park, which lies very largely in the county of Somerset.

Argument has been raging about representation on the national parks committees, and the Government have come down in favour of representation from the county councils. This seems to me to be accepting in part the argument that they should, in a sense, be local delegates. I hope my hon. Friend will give an assurance that there should be some reserve power so that the particular interests of a district like Exmoor can be recognised in the committee.

I would reinforce what the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) said on the role of the national park officer. I hope that he will have a real position and real authority, because increasingly the problems of the national park are much greater than those which are traditionally regarded as amenity aspects and other commonly understood aspects of the national park.

There is a particular problem. I hope that the national park officer will concern himself with the full fabric of life within a national park. The problem, especially acute in Exmoor area at present, which shows the range and scale of responsibility he might be expected to discharge, is that of housing. We are facing' this because of the very attractiveness of the national park area which makes it a desirable area for second homes and holiday homes for a considerable number of people from different parts of the country. The growth of the motorway system makes national parks ever more accessible. Increasingly, local inhabitants who have lived all their lives in the area, by the very fact that they live in a national park, are finding that they are priced out of the area. It is impossible for them to continue to live there. The village pattern is destroyed and they are forced to travel considerable distances to find any housing within their scope.

This is a particular problem at present and is just the sort of problem which the national park officer will find within his terms of reference—to concern himself with the whole fabric of life in a national park.

Mr. David Clark (Colne Valley)

I fully agree with the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Tom King) in his last sentiments. One of the great failures of the national parks has been the failure to protect the full fabric of life of the indigenous population, as he said. It becomes a scandal in some national parks where one finds that the business of second homes, with the help of improvement grants, makes for the great danger that some will become little better than middle-class ghettos.

While I look as kindly as I can on the Government Amendments, I am afraid that they will not do much good. I am sorry to be so pessimistic, but it seems to me that the national parks, with the exception of the Peak District Park and of the Lake District Park in certain instances, have failed their local populations and that there is nothing in these Amendments which gives any hope whatever for families who have lived for generations in a national park. I was horrified to read last week of a two-bedroom bungalow in the Lake District fetching £58,000. That is the type of value one is coming up against in some national parks. These are bought by businessmen from the large industrial conurbations.

In the Amendments two groups of people are trying to put forward points of view—amateurs and professionals. The professional has stated the problem in debate—such as my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop), who has spent some time working full time on this problem. One comes up with the same answer: if we are to have national parks, they must have full statutory, ad hoc governing bodies. It is no use pretending that our so-called national parks are national. They are nothing of the sort. Even the United Nations does not recognise our national parks as being national because they have not the necessary statutory bodies and planning machinery.

11.0 p.m.

The same theme runs through the reports of the Countryside Commission every year. The Second Report for the year ending September, 1969, stated: Now that the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act has been on the statute book for 20 years, it is all too plain that amenity considerations in the Parks do not enjoy the priority in public policy that the Act intended that they should. It goes on to give examples. I regard the Countryside Commission as being one of the professionals.

I turn to the Secretary of State's argument. In February, 1971, he said: In the Government's view, very little change is needed in the present statutory provisions governing planning functions in national parks. That statement and what is said in the Second Report of the Countryside Commission are contradictory. The Hob-house Report and the Dower Report reported in favour of statutory ad hoc planning bodies. Paragraph 5 of Appendix D of the Redcliffe-Maud Report on Local Government in England and Wales stated in 1969: For each national park…there should bea special authority with the sole responsibility for administering the park and employing its own staff for the purpose.…The authority for a national park should meet its expenditure by precepting on the main authorities with territory inside the park.

That recommendation was accepted by the then Government in their White Paper of 1970. Sir Jack Longland in his report, came down in favour of statutory ad hoc bodies with real power.

We have the Government's rather weak and feeble compromise in the legislation. Perhaps I should not be too churlish because we should be grateful for small mercies, but do not let the Minister pretend that he has satisfied us on this side of the House or the amenity bodies. He has done nothing of the sort. He has put forward a compromise. It is somewhat better than the past system, but it will not solve the problems of the national parks. It will do nothing to help to tackle the problem of growing restriction on access to the national parks. It is a scandle that in the 1970s there is probably less access to the national parks than there was in the 1950s. In my constituency, huge areas of moorland in the Peak District National Park are being fenced off and ramblers who have traditionally used the area have been kept off. Nothing in the Bill will help to tackle the problems of the national parks or of the indigenous population.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields referred to the question of national park officers. While we welcome what is proposed, the Minister should be more forthcoming and he should tell us more about the rôle and authority of such people. The Minister slipped up when he said that the national park officer could not do other work outside the national park without the "consent" of the Countryside Commission. Then he corrected himself and said without "consultation" with the Commission. The national park officer, appointed by the county council, could be employed on non-national park work even if the Commission objected because the Commission's consent is not required. All the legislation requires is that the Commission should consult—no more, no less.

If the national park officer is to mean anything he must be a person of senior rank who can tell the people at the county council and other departmental officers what the situation is. This raises the other problem of dual loyalty, on the one hand to the county council, and on the other to the national park officer.

We welcome the idea of a management plan. It is something that is very much needed in the national parks, because we must look at our national parks not only as an entity in themselves, but as an entity serving the whole nation as a recreational area. I am, however, concerned about such a plan. It is all very well drawing up plans, but they have to be enacted, and I have in mind the experience of the Peak National Park. It drew up a plan to divert some traffic on to certain roads and to impose certain restrictions on residential development, but it was cold-shouldered by the Government.

I appreciate that the Minister cannot give the House full details of the financial implications, but there is one thing about which almost all the people concerned with national parks agree, and that is that the national parks must have some financial independence. One reason for the Peak District's huge success is that it has the power to precept upon the rates. Will that power be removed when the new Local Government Finance Bill is brought in next year? Will there be financial independence for the national parks?

I welcome these Amendments in the sense that they are better than nothing, but they are only little better than nothing. I do not think that they will do very much for the indigenous population or for the visitor. Here was a golden opportunity for us to think again about our national parks. We have had 21 years' experience. The Peak District National Park Planning Committee is a glorious example of success, and what distinguishes that national park from all the other national parks, with the marginal exception of the Lake District National Park, is that it has this financial independence and it has its own officers. We cannot ignore those facts.

As I read the speech of the noble lord in the other place, I saw that he acknowledges that the Peak and Lake Districts have been successful, and that conclusion is implicit in the Minister's decision to continue these bodies as they are. But if they have been so successful, why not go the whole hog and put the other national parks on a similar strong, independent footing? If we were to do that, there would be a bright prospect for our national parks.

Dame Joan Vickers

Why are the Lake District and Peak District National Parks administered by separate bodies? The Lake District National Park lies entirely within the county of Cumbria. Dartmoor National Park lies entirely within the county of Devon. I do not see why they should be treated differently.

I should like to inquire about the persons to be nominated. At the moment there are 10 Devon County Council members, two co-opted members and six members nominated by the Secretary of State. There is none from Plymouth. This district of 365 square miles covers 10 county district councils, and I hope that they will have some representation because they are on the spot and they know a great deal about the area. At present there are 349 listed buildings and 260 ancient monuments, and we have over 4 million visitors annually to the Dartmoor National Park.

The committee's powers include the provision of accommodation, meals, refreshments, camping sites and parking places, and power to preserve the natural beauty and promote its enjoyment by the public. I hope that we shall not see our beautiful national park, Dartmoor, covered with camping sites and refreshment areas, and that there will be some proper planning in the future. Extra footpaths and byways have also been planned, and the care of ancient monuments. I believe that there is to be a sub-committee which will control parking and access generally. That is not very satisfactory without some supervision. I understand that the Countryside Commission has the duty of supervising this committee and that a grant of up to 75 per cent. can be made to the Devon County Council for expenditure.

What are the powers of the districts, if any? I understand that they are limited and that the districts would merely be consulted about any development plans. As there are 10 of these within the national park, I should like to know what type of consultation is likely and whether any of them are likely to be nominated to serve on the committee.

Mr. Graham Page

Replying to the questions raised, particularly by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop), may I say that perhaps I should have pursued the hon. Gentleman's Amendment a little more thoroughly in opening the debate.

The hon. Gentleman's Amendment would enable the appropriate Secretary of State to establish a special planning board for any national park wholly within the area of one of the new counties. What the hon. Gentleman seeks is an independent board. It is Government policy, supported now by the Countryside Commission and the County Councils Association, that while retaining the existing planning boards for the Lake District and the Peak District, the administration of national parks can be effectively secured inside the local government structure.

In these Amendments, we have inserted a reserve power to set up joint planning boards in multi-county parks. To that extent we have not shut the door on this. It may well be that in years to come we shall see that we develop along those lines. But for the moment it is our policy to bring them within the local government structure and, I think, give them strength from the counties in this.

Mr. Blenkinsop

As the Minister has reserved the power to establish boards in the case of multi-county parks, cannot he go that little step further and reserve the power also in the case of single-county parks?

Mr. Page

It was a decision not to go as far as that. But the hon. Gentleman is always very persuasive and as I did not shut the door on one I will not do so on the other. But we thought out this policy carefully and it was supported by the two bodies concerned, the Countryside Commission and the County Councils Association.

Apart from the Peak Park and the Lake District, each national park will be administered by this single executive committee, the new National Park Committee. In relation to each park, there will be a requirement for the appointment of a national park officer and for the preparation of a national park plan.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the financial arrangements. As I said, I cannot as yet give details of these, but there will be improved financial arrangements under which the Government will bear the lion's share of the expenditure of national park authorities. These will be introduced in the legislation on local government finance, which the hon. Gentleman said he hoped—as I do—would be introduced during the next Session of Parliament.

11.15 p.m.

I tried to make it clear that we envisage that the national park officer should be of sufficiently senior status to be able to advise his committee, to be able to conduct negotiations with his committee, to be on the same footing as the chief planning officer and other chief officers of the county and of the districts within the national park. It will be he who has to prepare the national park management plan and advise his committee thereon. I do not think that he need necessarily be a planner. He may come from other disciplines than the planning discipline. We are looking more for good managers, but experienced men of high calibre. I am sure that there are many who can serve well in that position. We shall ensure that the national park officer has as much independence as possible in his advice and that he is a senior officer.

We have carefully considered the question of district representation on the committees and the representations which have been made to us by the district councils. We have a good deal of sympathy with the point of view that there should be those on these committees who know the district, but on balance we think that the better course is to continue the arrangements under which two-thirds of the members of those authorities are appointed by the constituent counties, relying—as we have in the past—on the counties exercising their duties responsibly and having due regard to the local interests in making those appointments.

At present, about one-third of all locally appointed members of national park authorities in England are district councillors. In the case of Dartmoor it is a higher percentage than that, because five of the 12 locally appointed members are district councillors. There are similar figures for most of the present committees. District councillors have been well represented in the past, and I see no reason why there should not be a large proportion of them on the committees in the future without our laying this down by Statute.

I stress that the new paragraphs to Schedule 17 require each national park board and committee to prepare and publish within three years a national park plan formulating its policy for the management of the park and for the exercise of the functions as respect the park. This is new. This is something which I hope will meet the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Tom King), who spoke of the fabric of life of the parks. I am sure that the national park committees and the Countryside Commission are fully aware of these problems in the parks. It may well be that, unless there is a firm plan for management of the parks, they will be swamped by those who are not natives of the parks but who merely visit them at certain times of the year. We all enjoy that type of holiday within the parks, and I hope that no one will ever stop us from doing so, but there is a great difference between taking our holi-holidays in the parks and living and working there.

The national park plan which has now to be prepared by each park within the next three years will take account of that and will give us some ideas for solving the problem.

Mr. David Clark

Will the Minister comment on the powers of precept that the Peak Park has at the moment? Does he imagine that the power of precept will be taken away?

Mr. Page

I would rather leave that until I can put a scheme before the House. I hope that it will be a little better than mere precept as it has been in the past.

Amendment agreed to.

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