§ Order for Second Reading read.7.12 pm
§ Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The common land of Dartmoor, about 96,000 acres, comprising 41 per cent. of the national park, has about 55 owners and is subject to the rights of 1,500 commoners. At least 400 of the commoners are farmers who use the commons for their livestock. The estimated value of livestook on the commons during the year is about £7 million. Although most of the commons are in one continuous block, there are a number of small commons and groups of commons that are separated from it.
Until some time late in the nineteenth century, each common was managed for stocking, burning and the overseeing ot the use of rights generally by manor courts, and on duchy lands by steward moormen and agisters. These systems have long since broken down. In only two places are manor courts still held.
The Dartmoor commoners' association, a voluntary organisation representing about 30 local organisations, was formed in 1952. It has no legal powers to regulate farming or to carry out minor improvements to the land. Lack of any disciplinary system has three connected major effects. First, unscrupulous commoners, encouraged by a headage subsidy, put on the commons more animals than their entitlement. That, coupled with inadequate stockmanship, leads to local over-grazing, poor performance and consequently high disease and death rates.
Secondly, there is the withdrawal of stock by those commoners who do not wish their stock to be in contact with other less healthy stock, or who are statutorily prevented from doing so by health regulations if the better farmers withdraw. This removes one of the main influences which would maintain higher levels of livestock health and management of the pastures.
Thirdly, there is the inability to deal properly with disease outbreak, evidenced by the current problem connected with 786 sheep scab, which is the most important, and recent and continuing bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication attempts. These three mischiefs combine to reduce the productivity of the common and its contribution to the stock-rearing industry. In the end it leads to a deterioration of the quality of vegetation and thus in the wild life and natural beauty of the national park.
The common land is not legally available to the public. Nevertheless, it is used by up to 80 million visitors a year, most of whom are technically trespassers. That results in many problems. National park rangers and policemen have no power to act on common land against such problems. There is room for almost all recreational activities, but some need regulating in the best interests of the peaceful enjoyment both of the particular activity and of other visitors and common rights.
The recent boom in organised and commercial horse riding has led to concentrated damage to the vegetation and the surface itself in many localities. Motorised camping can lead to visual and actual pollution. Sports involving mechanical aids and instruments such as hang-gliding, model aeroplanes, roller skiing, crossbow shooting and ballooning, can all have an effect on other activities and animals. Most of these activities on Dartmoor do not demand prohibition. However, the ability to manage them in the interests of the whole of society is now necessary. Management by agreement will be perfectly possible in most instances if the power to regulate is also available.
The Bill was presented to Parliament in November 1978 after two years of detailed consultation with 55 owners, the commoners, local people including 46 parish councillors, local and national organisations concerned with Dartmoor and Government Departments and agencies. Its terms represent a partnership between the farmers and the park authority. It is a partnership in which each partner respects the other's point of view.
The park authority will have seats on the commoners' council. The commoners, in assenting to public right of access, expect the park authority to control public behaviour through byelaws. 787 The format of the Bill recognises the separate concerns of each party.
§ Clauses 3 to 8 deal with commoners powers. Clauses 9 to 13 cover public access. Naturally, the amenity organisations are apprehensive that commoners could alter the appearance of the commons. They say that agricultural operations might adversely affect the landscape. They therefore look for further representation on the commoners' council and further restrictions on the powers to improve land.
§ Clause 3 provides that the Dartmoor commoners' council should consist of 16 elected commoners, two park authority members, one Duchy of Cornwall representative, two landowners and two small graziers. The Bill has been carefully designed so that livestock, husbandry and the management of vegetation are properly separated from the management of recreation. Nevertheless, as the national park authority has a duty connected with the conservation of vegetation, it has two seats on the council. Thus two members of the council represent, in what is primarily an agricultural debating chamber, the interests of natural beauty and recreation. The national park authority will be aware at the outset of all proposals affecting the management of those social assets.
§ Under clause 4, the council may carry out a limited range of improvements to the land. Ploughing is excluded. The powers can be delegated to local associations and it is assumed that that will be the normal method of using them. The area that can be improved is limited to 25 acres in any parish in any year. The owner's consent must be obtained. If fencing or other structures are required, the consent of the Secretary of State must be obtained. The powers are of a minor character, already hedged about with numerous practical restraints.
§ The park authority does not wish to see changes to the landscape that might result in the appearance of lowland pasture. Improvement of any type needs investment. Indeed, it demands it. Unless improved ground is fenced, it will quickly attract animals from a wide area. The Dartmoor commoners' association has made clear that it does not envisage the wholesale improvement of large areas of common land. Indeed, only small areas are available for improvement.788
§ Of the common land, 30 per cent. is blanket bog above 1,200 feet. It is unimprovable for economic reasons alone. The density of surface boulders and the steepness of the slope precludes work with farm machinery. The commoners' economy precludes the use of aircraft and heavy machinery and thus manual operations are the only likely ones. Any operations will probably be on a smaller scale, if at all.
§ The commoners wish to be able to deal with deteriorating vegetation from a grazing point of view, particularly with the encroachment of bracken and gorse on potentially good grazing land and with small areas of the type of bog in which animals are frequently trapped. Hill farming is a stock-rearing exercise. It produces stock which is the basis of the livestock industry elsewhere. It is therefore important to recognise that the conversion of hill land to a type of low-land grassland defeats the object of the exercise.
§ The Royal Commission on common land, which reported in 1958, considered that commoners might have powers to plough the land. It considered that they might be empowered to fence it without obtaining the Secretary of State's consent and without an overriding veto by the owner. Recognising that that would go too far in the national park, the park authority has not adopted those proposals in the Bill.
§ Clause 5 would empower the commoners' council to make regulations promoting good animal husbandry on the commons. Many people have welcomed that proposal. Some of the petitioners, notably the Dartmoor livestock association, argue that the Bill should go further and that it should ban the out-wintering of animals on the common. However, it is a long-established right and it is essential to the hill farming economy. The breeds that are outwintered are out-wintered in all other hill farming areas in Britain. It is doubtful whether proposals to change the Bill could now be made, since to do so would be to interfere with a legal right. It would amount to an extension of the Bill, and that is precluded by Standing Orders.
§ As drafted, the Bill would empower the commoners' council to clear animals from the moor for specific purposes.789
§ Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)
The hon. Gentleman has made an important point. He told us that neither the House nor a Committee could change the Bill because it would affect other legal obligations. Surely that cannot be so. I have never heard of it. I should have thought that the House could do what it liked with legislation.
§ Mr. Mawby
The right hon. Gentleman has raised an important point. However, we have had these arguments before. We have had arguments about Hybrid Bills and arguments about Bills which may adversely affect a small group of people. It was therefore decided that points should be put before a Select Committee, not a Standing Committee. Other hon. Members know more about Standing Orders.
As I said, the breeds that normally run on Dartmoor are the same as those that are normally out-wintered in other hill areas. The Bill empowers the commoners' council to clear the moor of animals for specific reasons.
§ Mr. Anthony Steen (Liverpool, Wavertree)
Is my hon. Friend saying that the Bill is so drafted that it cannot be changed by a Select Committee? That would be of concern to all hon. Members. Perhaps he is saying that many rights are enshrined in legislation and in the tradition of hill farmers and that the Bill cannot change them without further Acts of Parliament. This is an important point and should be cleared up before my hon. Friend discusses the breeds of sheep that are out-wintered on Dartmoor.
§ Mr. Mawby
Perhaps I can help my hon. Friend. The Bill has been opposed. If it receives a Second Reading, it will come before a Select Committee. Different rules will therefore apply because all those who object to the Bill can be heard in person, or through counsel. No doubt one could argue about whether a small group of people would be adversely affected without the right of being heard. That is for the Select Committee to decide. To change the Bill at this point before it goes to the Select Committee would be outside the remit of the Bill, as I understand it, and would be precluded by the Standing Orders of the House.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
There is a motion down on the Order Paper in my name and those of other hon. Members to make a procedural alteration. Is my hon. Friend saying that that cannot be done?
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatnerill)
In order to clear up that issue, I make it plain that Mr. Speaker has not selected the amendment or the instruction for debate. This is purely a Second Reading debate.
§ Mr. Mawby
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I think that it is a little late in the day to put down an instruction to the Committee; it went on the Order Paper only this morning. That does not give me or the promoters of the Bill, who have spent three years in negotiations with everyone concerned, much of a chance if we are suddenly faced with an instruction to the Committee on the day of the" Second Reading debate.
§ Mr. Greenway
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I understand that it is customary for the promoters of a Private Bill to circulate a Second Reading statement to all hon. Members, and ii" they decide to do so that statement would normally appear in the Vote Office, where it could be seen by all those who have involved themselves in the Bill. I understand that Dartmoor common statement has been circulated to certain hon. Members, but I and others have not received it, and it was not in the Vote Office late this afternoon. This is a very doubtful practice. Would you give us some guid ance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in view of the fact that rulings are usually made by the Chair and not by my Friend the hon Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby)?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I believe that most hon. Members have received the statement on this Bill. I received mine in the post yesterday.
§ Mr. Greenway
But I have not had one and a number of other hon. Members have not received one either. I could not get a copy of it until one of my hon. Friends lent me his copy.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
That is not a matter for me. Copies of the statement are certainly available—I have one myself.
§ Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)
The point that the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) raised is for the promoters of the Hill. I have received a statement, but it is a serious matter if a significant number of hon. Members have not. I think that it would be in the interests of a good passage for this Bill if the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) considered it wise to seek the guidance of the Chair on whether he could withdraw the Bill at this stage or seek a possible postponement of the debate. If some hon. Members have not had a copy of the statement, it puts the House at a disadvantage. Many of us are anxious that a decision on the Bill should be reached in a sensible way after debate. I appeal to the hon. Member, even at this late stage, to withdraw it or seek some guidance on his position.
§ Mr. Mawby
I am grateful to the hon. Member. This is obviously an oversight because, as far as I know, a copy of the statement is usually sent to every hon. Member. If some copies did not arrive, the reasons must be outside the control of the promoters of the Bill, and certainly outside my control.
I do not think, particularly in view of the queue of Private Bills which have to be slotted in, that I would be doing a service to the House if I took the course that the hon. Member suggests. On behalf of the promoters, I apologise to any hon. Member who has not received the document from the parliamentary agents.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
I am supposed to be looking after the Bill for the Opposition, and I have not received a copy of the statement. I accept the hon. Member's apology, but I should hope that the promoters would post such documents rather earlier than the day before the Second Reading debate. I have no doubt that my copy was addressed to " The Rt. Hon. D. Howell " and that it has gone to the Secretary of State for Energy, who gets all my invitations, while I get all his bills.
792 On a more substantial point, we cannot take the instruction to the Committee—and we accept the Chair's ruling on that. It is therefore of cardinal importance for us to receive some undertakings from the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) tonight. We are now put in the position of voting against the Bill on Second Reading unless some of our substantial points can be met. I am afraid that I cannot accept the position in which I am told that we will have to give the Bill a Second Reading, and leave it to the Standing Committee to decide what to do with the petitioners. Of course, the petitioners are entitled to be heard, but so are hon. Members, and we have to decide whether the Bill should get a Second Reading. If I am not to vote against the Bill tonight, I plead with the hon. Member for Totnes to give an undertaking about consultations with hon. Members and outside bodies. Perhaps he can tell us the likely reaction of the promoters in Standing Committee when the objections are considered. If we cannot have proper undertakings, the Bill should not proceed.
§ Mr. Mawby
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. For a start, he is using the wrong term because this Bill would go to a Select Committee, not a Standing Committee. A Select Committee is made up of a group of hon. Members who sit in a quasi-judicial capacity, prepared and able to listen to the points made by the objectors to the Bill, either in their own right or as represented by counsel. Therefore, those who will be affected by this Bill have many more rights than anyone who is affected by normal Government Bills. They have the right to be heard before a Select Committee. Therefore, I believe that on this item we are splitting hairs. We do not need a lecture on the reasons why Standing Orders are so tabled.
There is one good reason for the Select Committee procedure. No group of individuals should be damaged without the right of being heard. That could happen with a Govenment Bill coming before a Standing Committee where no member of the public has a right to be heard. This matter will come before a Select Committee where members of the public and their representatives, who may be QCs—can represent that small group of people to make sure that their interests are properly protected even 793 though the rest of the community might prefer that those interests were extinguished.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman, and I entirely agree with him. I have not sat in this House for 25 years without understanding the workings of Select Committees. Indeed, I have served on them and I would not for a moment wish to deprive anyone of the right to have their case presented.
That, however, has nothing to do with the rights of this House. This Bill involves extremely important principles concerning the role of national parks, how they should be controlled, rights of access to them and, most important of all, the relationship between national parks in a national setting and local interests. That is a matter of supreme importance which cannot be dealt with by objectors. It must be dealt with as a matter of principle on the Floor of this House. That is what this debate is about, and that is why if I catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall address the House on the issues.
I want guarantees about how this national park committee and Devon county council see the role of this national park in relation to the whole country as well as in relation to the local community. Both have an important part to play, and, unless we get proper guarantees, I shall be advising the House to vote against the Bill. We must have guarantees. That is why we have a Second Reading procedure. I agree entirely about the role of the Select Committee, and the hon. Gentleman described the procedure with scrupulous fairness. The object of the Second Reading procedure is to allow us to raise important policy matters about which the House will wish to receive assurances.
§ Mr. Mawby
Let us clear up this matter, because it is generating unnecessary heat. The question is whether we out-winter stock on the moor or whether we require everyone to clear the moor of animals throughout the winter. I have said that most of the stock on Dartmoor is similar to that which is out-wintered on every other hill farming area in the country. I know of certain breeds of sheep which could not live on the lower levels. Such breeds have stomach problems. I have also said that the Bill as drafted would empower the commoners' 794 council to clear the moor of animals for specific reasons.
Must we continue to split hairs on that point? I do not think that we should. This a question of the out-wintering of animals. I said earlier that, because of the absence of any form of discipline, unscrupulous commoners can run more stock than the vegetation of the moor can feed. Is not that important? Would the right hon. Gentleman wish there to be more animals on the moor than its vegetation can support? That would involve a certain amount of cruelty.
§ Mr. Steen
I do not wish to labour this point unduly, but I want to get the issue absolutely clear. I understand my hon. Friend to be saying that the commoners' council will have powers under the Bill to clear the common land of animals so that we get rid of rotting carcases which one sees every spring littering Dartmoor. What my hon. Friend is saying is that that power to clear the land is something that we cannot change either here or in Select Committee.
Secondly, the people who are abusing the commons of Dartmoor include the very people who will serve on the commoners' council. If that is the case, this is a very funny Bill indeed.
§ Mr. Mawby
Let us get back to square one. A commoners' council will have among its members a number of commoners elected by their fellows for the various manors in which they reside. I cannot believe that commoners would elect to the commoners' council someone who might be guilty of this kind of malpractice. I cannot see such people being elected to the council.
I believe that those who are elected by their fellow commoners are respected farmers who practise good husbandry. I would see the commoners' representatives on that council as people who maintain high husbandry standards which reduce the incidence of cruelty because the moor would no longer be over-stocked. Those councillors would also use their powers to clear the moor for specific reasons in the interests of good animal husbandry.
§ Clause 6 provides for the appointment of grieves. The Dartmoor commoners' association says that these would be unpaid appointments. The appointees would be nominated by the local associations to 795 observe conditions on the commons and report to the council. Clause 7 provides for a register of commoners which will be required, among other things, for identifying those entitled to vote in elections and those who are required to make contributions to the council under clause 15.
§ Clause 8 constitutes a small but important amendment to the law to ensure that common rights cannot be separated from the land with which they have always been held. Clause 9 gives the public, for the first time as far as most commons are concerned, a legal right of access on foot to the commons. There may not be great practical significance in this because people already enjoy access.
§ Mr. Mawby
It matters if one is technically trespassing on land. In that case, surely it is important that this House, which believes in law and legal rights, should put right something if people are technically committing trespass every time they enter land. It is therefore important that the issue should be put right and regularised.
§ Mr. Steen
I am grateful for the way in which my hon. Friend is giving way. This is an important point and I am sure that the whole House would like to hear more information on it. For 1,000 years, Dartmoor has been of ready access to anyone in the country who wanted to go on to it. Today people can walk, ride or go anywhere they like on Dartmoor. Perhaps my hon. Friend will tell the House why it is important to be bureaucratic and establish a legal right which has not been needed for 1,000 years. What is the purpose of doing that when nobody has ever been refused access to Dartmoor?
§ Mr. Mawby
It is obvious that my hon. Friend did not listen to my opening remarks, but I cannot go back to the beginning now. However, I said that until the end of the nineteenth century Dartmoor was looked after and disciplined by manor courts. Those courts 796 represented the interests of the owners—the lords of the manor—and the commoners. Only two manor courts now meet. My hon. Friend believes that he has a right to do what he likes, but he does it with the permission, even if it is only tacit, of the landowner. That owner has the right to take civil action against him if he believes that he should not be on the land. However, the taking of that civil action is a very involved process indeed.
The Bill seeks to regularise the position so that people have proper legal rights and so that they know that in their enjoyment of the moor they are not interfering with the rights of others who want to enjoy the moor for other reasons, such as those involved in animal husbandry. That is what this is all about.
§ Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
I think I am right in saying that if someone who is legally a trespasser is involved in an accident with another party, the implications are different depending on whether one or the other is a trespasser or whether he has a right to be there in the first place. The argument that historically people may have been trespassing for a long time does not detract from the important point that to have a right to be there, rather than being there as a trespasser, is of value to a person who may find himself in that circumstance, and, as the moor becomes more crowded, accidents are more likely to arise.
§ Mr. Mawby
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. I did not answer the question that was raised earlier about why it is more important to have these rules now than, say, 100 years ago. One of the main reasons can be appreciated merely by visiting the moor and seeing the large number of people who enjoy its facilities. Obviously, it is in everyone's interests that some sort of regulation should be laid down.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, because the interventions are prolonging his explanation, but is not it a fact that for a long time, by custom and practice, there has been free access to Dartmoor, and that there has been a complete absence of any attempt by any established, ancient, legal body to take action for trespass? Therefore, this is a civil liberties matter, because by custom 797 and practice there has been free access. Clause 9 is a serious one, because some hon. Members may believe that the Bill confers a right upon people. It does not. Clause 9(1), while putting into a modern statute a right of access to the moor, provides powers for limitations to be imposed on British subjects in exercising a right of access to Dartmoor which they have had almost from time immemorial.
§ Mr. Mawby
We are again back to splitting hairs. The public have enjoyed access because, technically, they have had the permission of the owner. Because the owner knew that it was so difficult to go through civil proceedings with regard to trespass, his right has gone by default. However, the hon. Gentleman surely realises that large numbers of people doing exactly as they like can interfere with the enjoyment of the moor for other people, as well as interfering with the animals, the herbage and everything associated with a stock-rearing area.
Therefore, we must ask " Who came first, the chicken or the egg? " The commoners came first. Under the old rights which they possess, they have a right to rear their stock and so on. That is the most important issue. The Bill does not say that people should not have access to the moor. It is trying to regulate the access in such a way that people do not enjoy the moor at the expense of others or of people's livelihoods. That is all that we are saying.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
That may be a simple proposition, but it is the most extraordinary and breathtaking proposition that has been advanced in the House since the war. The hon. Gentleman is saying that the millions of people who visit our most important national park every year are there on sufferance and that agriculture interests, which I agree are important, should predominate over the recreational interests of the entire nation. He is suggesting that access of the entire nation to Dartmoor national park should in some way be regulated.
The House would be failing in its duty if it gave the Bill a Second Reading unless the hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the promoters, said how it was proposed to regulate the access of large numbers of people who undoubtedly visit the park and who, I admit, undoubtedly cause problems. That is why the Bill is so 798 critical. It is the first time in any Bill dealing with a national park that that sort of approach has been presented to the House. To do so for probably the most important national park in the country, certainly the one that attracts more visitors than any other, raises issues f such supreme importance that I am tempted to suggest that a three-hour debate is totally inadequate. Certainly these questions must be answered before we can proceed any further.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for putting the issues with such clarity, and I should like him to explain what sort of regulation of those millions of visitors is proposed by the council.
§ Mr. Mawby
I have said that Dartmoor is a place that ought to be open to all If everyone behaves reasonably, there is no reason why everyone should not enjoy the benefits of the moor. All that I am saying is that these days one cannot expect everyone to behave properly, without some sort of control. I wonder whether any of us has parked a caravan by the side of a stream and polluted that stream?—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]— That pollution affects someone lower down the river. That is the sort of thing about which I am talking.
§ Mr. Wellbelovedrose——
§ Mr. Mawby
I assure the hon. Gentleman that that is only an example, but it could be spread right across the board. 799 What about people who do not take their litter home? If that occurred anywhere outside Dartmoor, a policeman could say " Oi, Litter Act ", and run the person concerned into a police station, But lie cannot do that on Dartmoor, because he has no powers to do so.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
Unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman used camping as his example. I implore him to withdraw it, because the overwhelming majority of campers who belong to the Camping Club of Great Britain and Ireland, of which I have the honour to be national vice-president, act on a code of practice which ensures that they do not pollute the countryside or cause litter. They are the last people who should be used as the hon. Gentleman's example of bad behaviour.
§ Mr. Mawby
I know that the hon. Gentleman is making an important point. I was not talking about members of his organisation. The hon. Gentleman has no means of forcing every caravanner to belong to his organisation and so follow its code of conduct. Many people do not belong to any organisation. They leave litter and broken bottles. Anywhere else, those people can be prosecuted under the Litter Act. That cannot happen on Dartmoor. Is it right and proper that one family should be able to despoil the area so that the family next visiting that spot is prejudiced and enjoys itself less than it would if those who had been there before had behaved in a proper and orderly fashion?
§ Mr. Peter Mills (Devon, West)
I can perhaps help my hon. Friend and the House and reply to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell). The problem at the moment is that there is no real code of conduct for visitors. The whole idea is to set up such a code. Eight million people now visit the area. Circumstances have changed, and it is necessary to have a code of conduct because of the pressure.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
I have a lot of sympathy with that point, but this is a national matter, about which the Minister will no doubt advise the House. Those considerations apply to the Lakes, to the Peaks, to Exmoor and to other national parks. We cannot deal with a problem 800 of that magnitude in a local Bill of this kind.
§ Mr. Steen
If my hon. Friend is talking about a code of conduct, it does not need to be enshrined in an Act of Parliament. A code of conduct can be established through the national parks and through the Countryside Commission. The reason why litter is not a major problem on Dartmoor has nothing to do with whether an army of litter wardens in peaked caps are on patrol. It is that most people who use Dartmoor enjoy it and appreciate its beauty. Regulations and laws are not needed to be passed in the House that will inevitably result in a bevy of bureaucrats in peaked caps patrolling the moor telling people to pick up this or that and not to park their caravans there, as happens in our London parks. That will surely be the effect of the Bill.
§ Mr. Mawby
I wish that I had my hon. Friend's sense of optimism. If people were so well behaved generally, we should not need an Act of Parliament to prevent people from leaving litter. There was, nevertheless, pressure for such an Act. There were badly behaved people, although perhaps only a minority, and the House decided that it was essential to have some control over the spreading of litter. Why should people, simply because they drive through Ashburton and on to the moor, suddenly become better behaved than in Exeter? I do not accept that argument. " Men in big boots and peaked caps" is always the description that is given to good people who are seeking to carry out the wishes of the controlling body. In most cases they do so effectively without interfering with people unduly.
I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the length of my speech, but there have been one or two interventions. The camping and caravan clubs asked the Select Committee in another place to delete the park authority's byelaw-making powers to control camping on common land. While the back-pack camper causes no problems, those in caravans, Dormobiles and highly coloured frame tents do. The park authority has actively encouraged the opening of new sites, sometimes in co-operation with camping organisations. There are now sufficient sites in and around the national 801 park to meet the demand. There is no need for casual camping by the roadside or on open common land. Such camping spoils the enjoyment of the open landscape for others and gives rise to the risk of disease among commoners' animals and to the risk of injury from certain types of litter. The clubs have indicated that their objection might be removed if the byelaw-making power did not apply to enclosed common land. A suitable amendment is now being considered to try to meet that point.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
When the hon. Gentleman says that an amendment is being considered, I have to tell him that my understanding is that it has been agreed and that the promoters will put it to the Committee and seek to ensure that it is inserted in the Bill. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that this is the position?
§ Mr. Mawby
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. That is the case. These notes were made before we reached that final agreement.
The British hang-gliding association has taken exception to the inclusion of hang-gliding in the byelaw-making power. In correspondence before the Bill was deposited, the objection was to the word " prohibited ". The park authority has no objection to hang-gliding on suitable sites that are properly controlled, but control implies prohibition on some areas and in some circumstances. The words " or regulated " were added, and the association agreed that they went some way to meet its point. My hon. Friend the Member for New Forest (Mr. MacNair-Wilson) has asked me to state that the objection lodged by the British hang-gliding association has been withdrawn and that the association is most grateful to the Bill's sponsors for their help in reaching a satisfactory agreement.
Clause 11 empowers the park authority to appoint wardens for the commons to assist the public and to enforce byelaws. I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) wishes to call them prison officers. What sort of name would he like? If he goes along to an old people's home, he will find a friendly couple who are looking after elderly people in the twilight of their lives and making their 802 lives happy. Those people are called wardens. No one associates the word " warden " with anything other than friendly people who are doing a job of work looking after people. That is precisely what these wardens will be doing.
§ Mr. Steen
I am sure that the motoring public would not think of parking wardens in terms of a homely couple looking after motorists in the twilight of their lives. All the experience is that wardens bring with them officialdom and bureaucracy. Why does my hon. Friend take the view that passing an Act of Parliament empowering the council to appoint wardens, who will no doubt go around making themselves known, wearing either arm bands or hats, and uniforms, will not ruin the beauty, the remoteness and the wildness of this most remarkable part of the country? There will be seen, surely, the very invasion of bureaucracy against which this part of the country must be saved at all costs.
§ Mr. Mawby
It has been decided by society that we have to regulate parts of our lives. Traffic wardens are doing a job that we, as society, have asked them to do. Some of them may be a little more officious than others but, even if that happens, why should the title of warden be associated with men in big boots and peaked caps who seek to interfere with the comfort of the ordinary individual? They will, as they do now—my hon. Friend has probably met them, because I understand that he visits the moor from time to time—do their best with the limited amount of control that they can assert. My hon. Friend could not possibly say that any of them has done any more to interfere with his pleasure and enjoyment than is done by water bailiffs or others whom we employ.
Clause 12 empowers the park authority to close bridleways and parts of the commons that are damaged by riders so that the ground can be repaired or allowed to recover. Objections to any proposal must be considered, and alternative 803 routes must be made available. The latter requirement is important. It shows that riding cannot and should not be banned, but should be controlled in the best interests of the sport as well as of the national park.
Clause 13 gives the park authority a legal right to take action to protect the commons generally under the existing law.
I look at the clock. I believe that I have said sufficient to show that the Bill deserves to be given a Second Reading. As I said earlier, the Bill is opposed. There are petitions against the Bill. Matters of detail can be dealt with in detail in a Select Committee if the Bill is given a Second Reading.
§ Several Hon. Membersrose——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
Order. Before I call the next speaker, I repeat that Mr. Speaker has not selected the amendment or the instruction.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
The hon. Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Wellbeloved) has spoken for campers, and no doubt he will deal with the interesting point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby). I followed his argument with great care and noted that he said that campers were thought to bring disease to Dartmoor. I do not want to sound bitter, but I presume that it was thought that they should perhaps camp in Trafalgar Square. Now that the matter between the campers and the promoters of the Bill is settled, may we presume that there is no longer a danger of the former bringing disease to Dartmoor? What has happened to transform the situation on paper? It is a remarkable turnabout.
I have visited Dartmoor and talked to people who are interested in the Bill. I was anxious and disturbed about the attitude of some of the people I met. It was extraordinary. Some were almost antediluvian in attitude. I am worried about it. One lady told me that when she was out for a walk one day she met a couple of boys, miles from anywhere, that they had set up a log and a little pile of stones and that they were pitching the stones at the log. Apparently, it was vandalism of 804 the grossest kind which had to be stopped in the lady's view. That is an honest quotation of a conversation.
If my hon. Friend and others have been put under pressure to introduce and support the Bill against that kind of background they are in a dreadful situation. I regret that they should have been put into such a situation. I am not saying that they would buy a pig in a poke, but from my discussions, obviously there are pressures of an absurd kind and a total misunderstanding of society.
I am strongly opposed to the Bill which is the possible forerunner of similar action elsewhere. It could do more to divide town and country than almost any pitched battle—and this is not a pitched battle—that one could conceive. Having devoted more than 20 years of strong efforts in trying to bring town and country together for their mutual benefit, I am upset about that.
Many of my Ealing, North constituents love going to Dartmoor for holidays, excursions and other activities, as do people from other parts of the country. I know that Dartmoor people like to come to London to visit Oxford Street, the great sights of Westminster and so on. The Bill resricts or removes the rights of the people of Ealing and elsewhere to visit Dartmoor for certain recreational activities. Would not Dartmoor people be shocked if they found that they were to be restricted from rights that they had for so long rightly enjoyed in Oxford Street, Westminster and, indeed, other parts of the country for as long as people living elsewhere have enjoyed rights on Dartmoor?
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Surely that is exactly what people from Dartmoor do find when they come to London. They find every sort of regulation here. My hon. Friend seems to be unaware that London is a source of immense regulation. He is comparing a believed freedom on Dartmoor with an absence of regulation in London and saying that they are equivalent when they are different.
§ Mr. Greenway
I am not sure about that. I do not know whether the implication is that, because there are regulations in London, Dartmoor people therefore think that, whether they need them or not, they must have them, too. There 805 must, after all, be some regulations on Dartmoor. Speaking academically, that is not an acceptable argument. Only 8 million people visit the 365 square miles of Dartmoor each year, compared with 2 million people who visit Westminster Abbey alone in one year. One has to be careful how one puts it.
As I said, I visited Dartmoor recently to see things for myself. I was astonished by its size. It is not an area that I know well. It comprises 365 square miles of beautiful country. I have lived on and love Exmoor—I shall always do so for preference—but I concede that Dart-moor is a wonderfully exciting area.
I was filled with grave anxiety about the attitude that certain people took to the fact that 8 million people visit the area each year. Frankly, they will have to be prepared to see many more if we are to cope with the social problems that we face today. Speaking nationally, I cannot accept an argument that such a small number of people are a worry in an area when we consider the large numbers crowded into Bristol and the social unrest that that can bring. Dartmoor must share the country's broad social responsibilities. It must help Bristol to cope with the problem by permitting recreational activity and access to the countryside by people in Bristol and elsewhere. For more than 20 years I taught in inner city schools, including one in King's Cross, and some children in those schools had never seen the countryside until I could get them there.
§ Mr. Peter Mills
Will my hon. Friend accept from me that it is for that very reason—that we want to cater for these millions of people—that we do not want to spoil parts of Dartmoor for them? That is what the Bill is all about.
§ Mr. Greenway
I accept the sincerity of my hon. Friend's argument. I know him well. We had dinner together tonight. As I read the Bill, I see it not as my hen. Friend described it but as an attempt to insulate Dartmoor from other areas.
§ Mr. Steen
Is my hon. Friend aware that The Times did a survey a couple of years ago on the number of people visiting the moor and how they were broken up between motorists and walkers? Is he aware that of every 100 people who visited the moor 70 did not get out of their cars, 806 20 per cent. got out of their cars and walked 100 yards and only 2 per cent. went right out into the moor? If the promoters were seeking to rid the roads around Dartmoor of these thousands of motorists, we would be behind them, but what the Bill is doing is invading the right of the 2 per cent.
§ Mr. Greenway
That is a fair point, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making it. Dartmoor cannot be allowed to insulate itself from the rest of the country and the world problems that the country has to face. It has a responsibility, and it is time it faced up to it. I am not advocating swamping; there is no question of that. Growth has been reasonably gradual, and it can be handled.
One of the main enemies of Dartmoor and the countryside is concrete. An area the size of Oxfordshire disappears under concrete every 10 years. Do the people who are promoting the Bill know that?
Mention has been made of the lack of education in urban schools, and some country schools, on how to behave in and respect the countryside and the resultant vandalism and damage by ignorance. Cooperation between town and country is required, and that must come essentially through education. The police could not do it, even if there were a million police on Dartmoor.
§ Mr. Mawby
My hon. Friend makes a valid point about the increase in concrete, and that is a matter that worries farmers. Does he realise that the existence of the Dartmoor park committee means that anyone who wants to build a residence has to go over two hurdles, the local planning committee and the Dartmoor park committee? There is provision to ensure that Dartmoor does not become a concrete jungle. If permission is given for a residence to be built, it has to be built in proper fashion and must not interfere with anyone else's enjoyment.
§ Mr. Greenway
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I advise Dartmoor to hang on to that provision and to drop the Bill which will not help.
I remind my hon. Friend that there are miles of green belt than which nothing could be more protected, but into which incursions are made all the time. Let us have a sense of co-operation from an area which could make a massive contribution towards solving our social problems.
807 I have been a member of the council of the British Horse Society since the early 1970s, and both an elected and co-opted member. I was a founder, and have been ever since its foundation chairman, of the London Schools Horse Society. I am deeply and sincerely concerned that we shall remain a properly balanced society, with animals and humans living side by side.
It is fantastic that campers should be able to get to areas where there are animals. I do not want the animals to be interfered with. Dartmoor can say that it is making a major contribution to a balanced society. The horse is crucial in this argument, as it has been throughout history. I care deeply about riding for everyone, especially for the less privileged in our society and children. My record for the past 20 years will bear that out.
I have had great success in achieving curricula riding in 120 schools in inner London for children who are blind, deaf, physically handicapped, mentally handicapped, educationally sub-normal, autistic, maladjusted and delicate, for fit children from comprehensive, grammar, technical, and secondary modern schools and also for parents from adult education institutes.
One has only to see the effect of putting any child, disabled or not, with a horse to be thrilled with the part that the horse plays in the development, self-control and will to learn of that child. Children who are not interested in language get involved in trying to understand language so as better to accept instruction and make the horse or pony perform better.
Clause 9 specifically grants to the public a right of access to the commons on foot for the purpose of open air recreation. As long as a person entering on the commons for that purpose does no damage, that person shall not be treated as a trespasser or incur any liability. A statutory right of pedestrian access to the commons is created by the Bill, whereas before there was merely a de facto right. But right there was, and there has been no prosecution of people on foot. The walking public used the commons for open air recreation without hindrance, but there is nothing in law to say that they shall do so. There has been a de 808 facto right of access to the Dartmoor commons on horseback for as long as there has been a right of pedestrian access. The preamble to the Bill declares:And whereas it is expedient that the public be afforded a right of access to the said commons as by this Act provided ".No clause grants right of access on horseback, and clause 9 excludes riders from the right of access it grants.
Clause 12, which is largely the product of representations made by the British Horse Society to the Committee which dealt with the Bill in the House of Lords, acknowledges that riders will be present on the common, but that is mainly because of the public bridleways. It mentionsother parts of the commonswithout specifying the land or location of areas that may be used by horses. While this may be interpreted fairly loosely, it is also possible to restrict the use of such " other parts " very severely, and this is our fear.
The children from the special schools, of whom I have been speaking, like to go for riding holidays. I have conducted 30 or 40 such holidays for groups of children, and I cannot imagine a finer or more valuable use of one's time.
Earlier in the year, I mentioned in the House the fact that a former colleague of mine took a party of 12 maladjusted girls on to the South Downs at Petersfield. She begged for and borrowed—did not steal—12 horses and poines, and tentage, and took that party, in a period of eight days, over the South Downs from Peters-field to Eastbourne. The girls slept in tents at night and the horses were tethered nearby. The effect of that experience on those children, and on the horses and ponies, was electric. Most of the girls, having come back into ordinary schools, are now behaving very much more acceptably.
A similar exercise might be planned for Dartmoor. How damaging it would be if it became necessary to get a chit in order to do it. Think of the psychological effect on the children and the teacher who is giving up her time.
§ Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones (Watford)
My hon. Friend is probably aware that last Friday in the House we had a wide-ranging debate which touched on many of these subjects. It was introduced by my 809 hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Speller). Many of my hon. Friends who are now present in the Chamber were also present for that debate, as was my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, who will be replying——
§ Mr. Garel-Jones
I am sorry. But my hon. Friend the Minister was present throughout that debate, and I read very carefully the remarks he made in summing up. One of the points that he made—I was very pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) make it as well—concerned the need for balance.
I represent an urban constituency and it is most important to stress that those who live in urban constituencies, particularly in the great conurbations, are providing facilities for those who live in the country. They are doing so at considerable expense to themselves and to the ratepayers who live in those urban areas. The aim in all such debates should be to achieve balance. I was particularly pleased to hear my hon. Friend using that word, and I hope that the promoters will take cognisance of the fact that, as my hon. Friend says, horse riding has become an important aspect of urban life in many ways. There are many people for whom the possibility of making use of the facilities of Dartmoor is very important.
§ Mr. Greenway
That is absolutely right, and I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for his most valuable intervention.
There are about 2 million riders in this country, and my hon. Friends from Devon ought to know that most of them come from urban areas. Their support of horses probably makes it possible for the countryman—I wish him well—to have the enjoyment that he has with horses.
It could well happen that, as a result of the Bill, the children that I mentioned and their teacher could be put to the indignity of having to get a chit or a series of chits in order to be allowed to ride on the moor. They could be put to the further indignity of having to say 810 exactly where they wished to go, leaving them with no sense of the excitement that comes from innovation—from suddenly saying " Let us stop now and pitch our tents here ", and so on. That would be a grave insult to the children and to their teacher. It would diminish enormously the enjoyment of the activity.
What is there to stop the Dartmoor authorities, under the Bill, from doing exactly what I have suggested? Furthermore, what would there be to stop those who control Exmoor, the Lake District, and all the other national parks and open spaces, from pursuing similar legislation?
I am amazed that more was not made by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes—I note that he is not present at the moment—about the enormous size of Dartmoor. This has particular relevance to the fears expressed about somebody dropping a bit of litter or throwing a stone at a log.
A relative of mine, who is a soldier, told me in a letter recently that in the early summer of 1977, he walked with a group of men from Bittaford, just east of Ivybridge, due north across southern Dartmoor to meet the A384 two and a half miles east of Two Bridges. He wrote:The actual route we took was a 15-mile walk which took us most of the day and we met only one group of three people.Where are these millions of people who, we are told, are droppjng litter and making life hell for the few locals?
§ Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, West)
We must remember one sector of employment, namely, the proprietors of riding schools who provide the excellent facilities of which my hon. Friend speaks with such knowledge and eloquence. Like him, I fear that the Bill may be the tip of the iceberg and that a mass of regulations will restrict the activities of riding school proprietors and the facilities that they provide, which will affect the children to whom my hon. Friend has referred. We must remember riding schools and the employment that they provide for students and local boys and girls.
§ Mr. Steen
When my hon. Friend was ruminating on the Bill, did he have 811 difficulty in reconciling the fact that the Bill, which is promoted by the Devon county council, is concerned to regulate activities on the common lands with the fact that the promoters have not done their utmost to stop the Army from bombing the northern part of the moor day and night and creating crevices and potholes all over the moor? They are more concerned with the commons than with the heart of the moor, which they continue to permit to be bombed and damaged daily.
§ Mr. Greenway
My hon. Friend has made a telling point. If more than a year of legal negotiations with the promoters of the Bill by the British Horse Society and its representatives has produced not a word of change, we are in a serious situation. If horses cannot be ridden freely, though with proper consideration, they will not in this mechanical age be used at all and society will be a dreadful place without them.
I conclude with the words of Ronald Duncan:Where in the wide world can man find nobility without pride, friendship without envy, or beauty without vanity? Here, where grace is laced with muscle and strength by gentleness confined. He serves without servility, he has fought without enmity. There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent. There is nothing so quick, nothing more patient. England's past has been borne on his back All our history is his industry. We are his heirs, he our inheritance. The Horse!
§ Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)
The House will be grateful to the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) for the eloquent and moving way in which he put the case for the British Horse Society and all those who ride horses. I share his view about the place of the horse and the national parks in the lives of those who live in deprived, urban areas. I know of the exhilaration that youngsters feel when they have the opportunity to ride a horse.
I know Dartmoor well and go there each year on holiday. I declare an interest, because I am chairman of a trust in Birmingham for deprived children. It is associated with Liverpool. The purpose of that trust is to take youngsters who are in difficulties or who have been turned out of their homes to the countryside and to rehabilitate them by taking them on 812 lakes and up mountains and by allowing them to ride horses. Horse riding is therapeutic.
I should like to hear from the Government what their view is of the role of national parks in our society. I have a great deal of sympathy for those who earn their living in the national parks. I have visited the highest points of Dartmoor during a blizzard to meet people trapped by many feet of snow—people who were trying to look after their stock and to keep the milk industry going. I sympathise with them. I shall not say a word of criticism about them. I have also visited Dartmoor in the middle of the worst droughts that we have experienced—with spectacular results! [HON. MEMBERS: " It is still raining."] One reason why there was no water for the people of the South-West during the drought was that year after year we obstructed plans to build reservoirs on Dartmoor to provide that water. Some of the promoters of the Bill—I exclude the Devon county council and the national parks—took a parochial attitude to the role of the national park. That is a worrying aspect.
We must know how the House and the Minister regard the relationship between the local useage of the national park and the national interest. A question of principle is involved in whether we should approve the Bill. We have heard nothing from the Minister or his Department about the results of the countryside review committee's work and the second stage operations. We cannot resolve the great issues until a policy is determined by the Government and the House.
Nothing has been said about the relationship of the Dartmoor commoners' council to the national parks committee. We must know who will make the regulations, who will determine the issues, and what rights people will have in respect of them before we can reform a judgment on whether the Dartmoor commoners' council should be created.
How far would it undermine the national parks committee? What would be its relationship with the national parks committee? Those are extremely important questions. If we look at the proposed composition of the Dartmoor commoners' council, none of our fears are met in any way. The membership of the council, which will have extraordinary 813 powers for making regulations, is overwhelmingly composed of local interests, at the expense of national interests.
There are many matters of local interest—camping, cars, horse riding, and caravanning—tut Dartmoor does not belong exclusively to the local people. I am in favour of local interests taking charge of this national asset, and having a substantial say in its affairs, but not to this extent. We are told that there will be between 23 and 26 members of the council, and that 16 members will be commoners from the local community, including two from the parks authorities and two who will represent small graziers.. The Minister will know the concern that is felt about some of the appointments that are being made, and the feeling among many people that the appointments do not reflect the national interest. That is vital, because national funds are involved, and much of the money comes from the taxpayer. The national interest should be properly reflected on the national parks committee and on the Dartmoor commoners' council.
There are 16 members of the council from the local community, two from the parks authorities, two people representing owners of lands, and two commoners representing small graziers. The council may—not shall—co-opt not more than three persons as members of the council who can hold office for a period not exceeding three years. They might represent the national interest, but they will not be appointed by the Minister, and the council may or may not co-opt them. That is totally unacceptable.
At the end of the day, there may be no member representing the national as opposed to the local interest. Apart from the question of principle, it is a question of the right proportion of members on the committee to represent the national interest. To put forward a proposal whereby millions of people who visit Dartmoor each year will not be represented is extraordinary. I should have thought that the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) would give an assurance on that and, if he wanted this Bill to proceed, that he would substantially change the proposed constitution of the council, or agree to its being substantially changed by the Select Committee when it comes before it.
§ Mr, Wellbeloved
The schedule to the Bill provides:No commoner shall be appointed to be a commoners' council member unless his name is recorded in the register as normally grazing not less than 50 sheep, 10 horses or 10 cattle.That will exclude a large number of people who have commoners' rights. That is a restriction on the small man, which means that the council is likely to be comprised of people who graze substantially on the common, who will have little sympathy with the public who wish to use Dartmoor.
§ Mr. Howell
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing that provision to the attention of the House. That means that there will be no one representing recreational amenity on the commoners' council, and that even those who are members of the council will come from an extremely exclusive sector of the agricultural and local life of the community. If my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Wellbeloved) went to the area, bought a house and took an interest in local affairs, according to that definition even he could not sit on the commoners' council.
§ Mr. Mawby
The two persons representing the rights of small graziers, whose names are recorded in the register, are normally recorded as grazing fewer than 50 sheep, 10 horses or 10 cattle, if they graze any animals. In other words, there are at least two persons on the council who will fall into the category referred to by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved).
§ Mr. Howell
We are indebted to the hon. Gentleman for that explanation. Does that mean that if we do not own any cattle and do not own any sheep we cannot serve on the council? If it does, I cannot see how any hon. Member can vote for the Bill. Unless our constituents own sheep or cattle on Dartmoor, they will have no say in the making of regulations for this national park, including all the prohibitions and questions of access that are important to the nation as a whole. It seems that that is what the hon. Gentleman is saying. I have used the word " breathtaking " once before in one of my interventions, and this is one of the the most ludicrous proposals that I have heard for many years in the House. It is totally unacceptable.
§ Mr. Howell
I think that it is. It knocks into a cocked hat all the racist and sexist discrimination legislation that the House has ever proceeded to enact. It seems that we have no say about Dartmoor unless we own sheep or cattle and they happen to graze there. It is a remark-able proposition to bring before the House. It is totally unacceptable. As I have said, we have not been told about the relationship between the council and the park authority.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
The right hon. Gentleman has overlooked an important word. It is not said that no one shall be appointed to the commoners' council unless he has 50 sheep, 10 horses or 10 cattle. The Bill states that the members of that part of the commoners' council which is reserved for commoners must fall into that category. However, there are other members of the council who are not in that category. That might not be obvious to everyone in the Chamber from the way in which the right hon. Gentleman phrased his argument.
§ Mr. Howell
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I was relating what my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Cray-ford told us to the constitution of the council. If the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) is right, and I have no doubt that he is, it means that I must extend my proposition. It seems that it is a requirement to own sheep, cattle or land. We now have land added to the qualification.
§ Mr. Mawby
The object of the council is to bring some order into the husbandry practised in the park. However, control will normally still lie in the hands of the Dartmoor park authority. One must separate the two functions. The commoners' council is a means of self-discipline. Control—and changes in the control—of visitors to Dartmoor will still be the concern of the Dartmoor national park committee.
§ Mr. Howell
At the beginning of my speech I asked for someone to tell me about the relationship between the national park authority and the Dartmoor commoners' council. Even if I accept everything that the hon. Member for 816 Totnes has said, it cannot gainsay the fact that, whatever the Dartmoor commoners' council may do, it will affect the rights of others. A body may do something in its own self-interest in order to protect the livelihood and wherewithal of the agricultural and local community. I accept that that is desirable. However, there should be some representatives on the council who have the right to tell it not to do something that might affect the interests of ramblers, caravanners, those interested in natural historv and so on. I have never heard of a self-regulating body that had no one to represent the interests of those who might be affected by its decisions.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
The right hon. Gentleman appears to have overlooked clause 3. Clause 3(2)(b) states:two by the Park Authority one of whom shall be a person appointed to the Park Authority in accordance with paragraph 11 of Schedule 17 to the Act of 1972 (appointments by the Secretary of State) ".Presumably the Secretary of State bears in mind the factors mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman when making these appointments. However, the impression seems to have got around that a commoners' council is a council of commoners. The council contains commoners as well as non-commoners, representing other interests. That is set out in clause 3. The Committee will be at liberty to alter the proportions, if it thinks it right to do so.
§ Mr. Howell
I am glad to hear that. I considered clause 3 in some detail, and I understand it. I appointed such people for six years and I know what goes on. I know that, of the two park authority representatives, one is appointed by the Secretary of State. One does not have to be appointed by the Secretary of State. He may be appointed by the local authority. He or she will come from the neighbourhood.
In the Peak national park a good deal of argument is going on about the Minister's reappointments. He has been accused of kicking off all the Labour representatives who represented the national interest and I have been accused of kicking off all the Conservative members who were said to represent the national interest. I know the trouble that is taken about such appointments. 817 Although I think the Minister is unwise to remove some of those whom I appointed, he has the right to do so.
There is profound disquiet about how to appoint representatives to serve on the national parks. The present situation is unsatisfactory. More and more local people are coming in. It is often difficult to get national representatives from outside the immediate area. There is a lot of resentment in the local community when representatives are appointed.
I well remember making a change in representation in one national park—I will not identify it because I do not want to identify the individuals concerned. I went to that park on a ceremonial occasion when we had to walk 10 miles over the downs, and I was followed the whole way by a man whom I had just removed from that national park committee. In the course of my 10-mile walk I was met by his friends on horses who asked me what the devil I was doing. There are certainly deep resentments when one tries to bring people in from outside.
In practice, clause 3 means that we might have one of the Secretary of State's nominees representing the national interest if we are lucky. But the odds are that he or she will be a local person. Clause 3(iii) means that the council may appoint three others, but will not necessarily do so. That is a matter of profound dissatisfaction.
§ Mr. Steen
It may help the House if I clarify clause 3. In its present form the council could consist of no fewer than 23 and no more than 26 members. Of those 23, 16 will be graziers who run more than 50 sheep, 10 horses and 10 head of cattle on the common; two national park lieutenants, but only one who is nationally appointed; one Duchy representative, who will be a local man; two other landowners; two small graziers to be appointed not only by the local commoners' association but significantly by the 16 larger graziers on the council, often described as prairie farmers. Does the right hon. Member agree that it is very curious that there is no representation of those commoners with rights only of turbary and estovers, no representation of the venville commoners and no representation of independent amenity bodies concerned with the national parks 818 and public access?
§ Mr. Howell
I do not have the benefit of a university education, so the hon Member has an advantage over me, have not the faintest idea what he is talking about when he produces such terminology. No doubt we can have a drink later and he will be able to explair it to me. If he says it, I am quite happy to accept it.
I wish to turn to some of the main issues that should be determined by the Government nationally before this piece meal legislation is passed. There are some very important issues here. First, there is the whole question of amenity and the right of recreation within our national parks. I do not think that a local Bill of this sort is the right way in which this should be determined. A balance must be struck and there may have to be regulations. These things are best thought out nationally before we try to deal with them in this way.
The most welcome thing about the de-debate is the number of hon. Member; on both sides of the House who have said that, precious as the national parks are as our heritage, they have a dual role. They must provide for the local population and for those who enjoy tranquility, and they act as a safety lung for the industrialised and deprived areas of this country. I welcome that approach. It must be reflected in the management of our national parks and these councils.
The whole concept of a national park is a most important question. National parks were started in this country immediately after the war. The decision was controversial then, but over the years the concept has become accepted by everyone and the balance is also accepted. Arising out of that, we come to the rights of horsemen, campers, caravanners and re-creationists. I believe that we should dispose of this matter today one way or the other. Therefore, I must raise matters which I think require answers.
The hon. Gentleman has said that there is an adequate number of camping sites on Dartmoor. If there is, it is the only national park in the country where that is so. My experience as a Minister was that there were sufficient sites for most of the year, but not enough in peak periods. I should like to know how the park committee and Devon county council 819 propose to deal with the problem of saturation camping during the summer holidays, at Whitsun and at Easter. If we pay attention to planning, farmers and landowners will be assisted.
We need a dual system of planning whereby there are permanent camp sites and a mechanism for absorbing the large numbers of people who go to the sites at important times of the year—for example, in the summer. In the latter case, less sophisticated facilities would be required than for a permanent site. Nevertheless, farmers would be encouraged—in order to absorb the growing number of campers with more leisure time in which to enjoy the holiday period with their children—to open up their land. It would be profitable for them to do so as long as campers did not stay longer than two weeks. Farmers would thus be providing a national service to the camping population.
However, if we achieve that, the system must be regulated. Some authority must decide matters of sanitation and health. I am all for that, but we need assurances. However, those questions concern all national parks, not only Dartmoor.
What is to be done about cars and parking? I can see the point made by Devon county council. We are in danger—from the very weight of numbers of people driving into areas of outstanding natural beauty—of destroying, if we are not careful, the very amenities we are try-to preserve. That is a dilemma and is probably the reason for this Bill. If that is so, I give all credit to the people who have sponsored it. Nevertheless, these issues cannot be decided locally. We must think them through nationally.
I should like to see special provision for cars. I used to say to national park committees that if they did not provide for the camper and the car driver in ways that were satisfactory to the owners of the land, the camper and the driver would solve their own problems and local people would not like the solutions. Motorists would, for instance, park on the edges of lakes. Therefore, we should have car parks, associated with a free transport service, on the perimeters of the national parks.
That means that people like me who go to Dartmoor for holidays could leave our cars in Totnes—in the hon. Gentleman's 820 man's constituency—whose amenities attract me to spend my money. There could be a bus service which would go around Dartmoor dropping sightseers off at various beauty spots, and we could be brought back by that bus service. If it was a free service, that would be attractive. But it could be provided at a small cost. More sensible people would, I believe, appreciate that.
The Countryside Commission is doing a splendid job in taking people on guided walks around the national parks. I have joined some of them myself. They are excellent. A guide indicates what to look for and the individual decides whether he wishes to walk for half an hour, for two hours or for five hours. It is an excellent scheme, but how we relate it to the problems of this area I do not know.
I should like answers to those questions before we proceed further. For example, how will recreation and amenity representatives be elected or appointed to these various bodies?
Some parts of the Bill represent a pioneering step forward—that must be acknowledged—particularly the relationship between the rights of the landowners and agriculturists and the rights of access. I am rather inclined to the view that guaranteeing the rights of access to Dartmoor for the first time in legislation is an important precedent. I am rather neutral about its significance in this connection, but the inserting of such a precedent in a Bill is a matter of significance which ought not to be discounted. I know that a great deal of trouble has been taken by some of the recreational organisations, such as the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and so on, in order to achieve some sort of agreement, al-thought I know that they are not happy with regard to the question of composition.
I now turn to the whole question of general legislation on common land, upon which the Minister promised a statement long ago and which we have not yet had. The second stage of the general legislation on commons is a matter of great importance, and I hope that the Minister will be able to say something about that this evening.
§ Mr. Howell
I am well aware of what the Minister wants to do, which is quietly to slip away into the dead of night without saying anything of any significance. I have often been in that position myself. But my job, on behalf of the amenity movement in general, is to point out that we began the review of common land and a registration Act. My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) introduced a Bill on the subject, and there was correspondence with the Minister. My hon. Friend has been kind enough to supply me with copies of the Minister's correspondence. On 26 February, the Minister told my hon. Friend:As regards access to common land, we are still considering the outcome of a public consultation exercise ".The House, on the advice of the Minister, must decide whether this Bill should proceed in isolation from the general common land exercise which has now been conducted for some time. We must know where we are getting to in relation to the second stage of that exercise, because it affects access to common land and it substantially affects this Bill.
Again, I endorse the reservations of the hon. Member for Ealing, North about the access of horse riders and so on. When I look at clauses 9 and 12, I wonder whether we have got it right, particularly in relation to clause 12. I know that the amenity groups are now happier about clause 9 than they were. However, clause 12 deals with horses. I think that it gives very wide powers to the park authority which may well conflict with the rights, opportunities and privileges of horse riders using the moor, which I suppose they have been doing for hundreds of years.
We must not take away from horse riders the rights that they traditionally exercise. I recognise that there are problems about the maintenance of bridleways and that more money should be made available for that purpose. If constantly used, the bridleways can be damaged. That matter must be examined. If town and country can be brought together, and country folk and industrial and town workers are brought together, this serves 822 the interest of the nation. It should be the outlook of hon. Members to the Bill. Because we are not satisfied, so far, on the issues of principle that have been raised, we shall be very reluctant to support the Bill if there is a Division. I believe that there should be such a Division.
§ Mr. Peter Mills (Devon, West)
I welcome the debate, and I must declare an interest. Virtually the whole of Dartmoor is in my constituency, and it is important that I should be able to say a few words. I had some doubts about the creation of the Bill. I wavered considerably, but I have decided to support it in principle. I still have a few reservations, but I believe that in Committee many of these matters can, and must, be put right.
I take some of the points made by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) very much to heart. The scope of the Bill cannot be extended, but some improvements must be made in Committee. I am certain that the promoters will agree to those improvements. The question arises of the composition of the council. I had not fully realised the significance of this matter. That must be put right, as must the relationship with the national park authority.
I hope that those who serve on the Committee will heed the views expressed by many hon. Members in this interesting debate, but I must say that some comments have been rather wild. I have no wish to be rude. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) talked about night and day bombing on Dartmoor. I live there, and I have never been bombed in my life. Where my hon. Friend got the idea of bombing day and night from is beyond me. There is artillery fire for a few days, but that is strictly controlled. I wonder whether he can prove that Dartmoor is bombed day and night. Without wishing to be unkind, I would say that he was indulging in slight exaggeration, to say the least.
There has been reference to the size of Dartmoor and to the question of litter and similar matters. Dartmoor is wild and it is enormous. There are, however, certain areas into which the problems of 823 riding, of litter and of camping are compressed. I seek to support the Bill for the reasons expressed in the House. I want to see these areas controlled, preserved and helped. They are under attack. Vast areas of Dartmoor are completely wild and will, I hope, never be spoilt.
It is in the small areas where problems arise, and it is these areas with which the Bill seeks to deal. I hope that in Committee matters can be put right and that the House will allow the people of Devon to have a Bill that they want. The councillors have voted for it. I realise the implications nationally, but Devon county council and Devon folk are giving a lead and taking an initiative to try to deal with the problems that exist in our area.
§ Mr. Mills
With respect to the hon. Gentleman, who has not been present during the debate, this matter is not concerned solely with farmers. The whole basis of what I have been trying to say relates to the problems presented by holidaymakers and the tourist industry in certain areas. We must get the matter right. It can be got right. I am certain that the promoters will achieve that aim if the Bill is given a Second Reading.
Dartmoor is one of the largest chunks of my constituency, and its management and future are of great concern to me. Hence the importance of the Bill and the need to get it right. I congratulate the promoters on at least trying to do that in the difficult circumstances that we have in Devon. For example, Ian Mercer and many others have played and are playing a genuine role in trying to deal with the problems that we are experiencing.
I have had dozens of letters from people who are opposed to the Bill, and I propose to refer to some of the points that they have made. It is right that in a democracy we should hear the views of those in the county of Devon, let alone outside, who are opposed to the Bill. I can understand and sympathise somewhat with those who would like to see the clock put back. I am not being rude, because that is what some people want to do. They want no changes, no reservoirs, no roads, no Army manoeuvres. But that is just not 824 possible. The pressures on Dartmoor are enormous and we need to do something about them. Even the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath agrees with that.
People cannot live on fresh air and the view. It is not possible to do that in 1980. Regrettably, we have to make some changes. Farming methods do not stand still. They have to change. Our Forces must be allowed to practise on Dartmoor. We need to take the holiday interest seriously. We need to consider those who want to use Dartmoor for recreation and rest. We need to improve roads and to provide water. All this can be done without destroying the basic beauty of Dartmoor. It needs give and take, and understanding. I believe that the Bill sincerely tries to do that. It may have mistakes, and it may not be exactly right. Let us get it right and give it a trial for the benefit of those who come into Devon and those who live there.
The Bill came about because of concern over certain aspects of Dartmoor. Some hon. Members have spoken as though they had just been to Devon and seen it for the first time. Those who live there know htat the problems are increasing and that they must be dealt with. There are problems of public access. There is a need for better standards of livestock husbandry. Many farmers on Dartmoor are first-class; others are not. We need some control and say in these matters.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree, who is rather given to exaggeration, talked about Dartmoor being littered with dead sheep and cattle. That is not true. There may be the odd one or two. If they die, perhaps in remote places, it is often difficult to get to them. If we are to move forward, I hope that these problems will not be exaggerated.
I believe that a partnership must be forged with the object of improving both farming and recreational opportunities. That is what the Bill is all about.
There is much more that I should like to say. The hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr) has something wrong with his head. He keeps shaking it. That is unfortunate. I shall continue without worrying too much about the shaking of his head.
825 I want to mention some of the fears that my constituents and others have expressed about the Bill. First, the honorary secretary of the Dartmoor commoners' association, Mr. Woolcock, has written to me very strongly in favour of the Bill. That is natural, because it concerns the association greatly.
A farmer, Mr. Stuart Baker, is strongly opposed to the Bill. Some farmers are very unhappy about these proposals. I suggest that some are unhappy because it may mean that there are changes in farming policy which are right and proper in the interests of livestock and of Dartmoor generally.
Mr. Kelloch of Buckfastleigh in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) is concerned about the power of arrest. That should be looked at very carefully. Mr. Palmer of Sheepstor, Yelverton sent me a list of 50 signatories against the Bill. Not all the people on Dartmoor are in favour of the Bill.
Captain Madgwick of Tavistock is concerned about the wisdom and fairness of the Bill, because he is an owner of land. His policy would be to have management agreements, which would be very difficult, because people do not know where their land starts and where it ends.
I have a letter, in which the House might be interested, from Captain Farr of Ivybridge, who is a horseman. I do not know what the right hon. Member for Small Heath would say about this, but the letter reads:For information. Mills. Typical socialist grabbing and grasping, undermining the morale, freedom, peace of this generation and the next. How much longer do we have to endure?That shows that there is some opposition to the Bill.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
It only proves that people who vote Conservative do not know where their real interest lies.
§ Mr. Mills
I shall not follow that argument.
The West Devon district council, through its chief executive, has expressed grave doubts in a long list of amendments. I could go on naming various parish councils around the edge of Dart-moor which have been concerned about the Bill, it is right that attention should 826 be paid to that type of opposition in Committee.
The majority of the people to whom I have spoken, farmers, those concerned with tourism and riding establishments, and those who love the national park, believe that something has to be done. The Bill is a genuine and sincere attempt to do just that. I give it my support, and I believe and hope that the House will do so too, so that in Committee we can make the changes that are necessary.
I am sure that the promoters will listen sympathetically to the points that have been raised. I shall be interested to hear from the Minister exactly how the Bill fits into the national question of national parks. I hope that hon. Members will not throw out the views of the people of Devon. I hope that they will consider their fears, difficulties and problems and at least let the Bill go to Committee so that the problems can be ironed out. If the Bill it not given a Second Reading, there will be many disappointed people in Devon tomorrow.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Hector Monro)
It may assist the House if I intervene for a few moments at this stage to indicate the Government's attitude to the Bill. With private legislation it is the custom for the Minister to be brief and to give the opportunity for the hon. Member presenting the Bill, in this case my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby), to wind up the debate and answer the questions put by hon. Members.
It is important to bear in mind that my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills), who has a great knowledge of Dartmoor and of agriculture, tourism and everything else in the West Country, has given a clear indication that his balanced judgment, after weighing up the comments he has heard for and against the Bill, is that it should have a Second Reading so that it can be considered in Committee.
That was the argument put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes in presenting the Bill. It is in Committee that the answers to questions asked by hon. Members tonight can be discussed in detail. In the past few weeks we have had the opportunity, through the good fortune 827 of Private Members' motions, to discuss at length and in great detail the rural economy, in particular last week in relation to a national park. Hon. Members then raised many points that have also been made tonight concerning the rural economy and how it affects those who live in the areas concerned. It is not for me, therefore, to embark on any wide-ranging comments, because we are here to deal with the narrow issue of whether this Bill should proceed to Committee.
The promoters, Devon county council, are to be commended for the efforts they have put into the Bill, which provides for the first management scheme for common land in keeping with the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Common Land in England and Wales, which reported in 1958. I understand that the council held consultations on its proposals over a period of two years or more before depositing the Bill in Parliament, so no one can say that it did not try to do its homework before presenting the Bill to the House.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
Could the Minister give an absolute assurance that the consultations included all those responsible national bodies known to have an interest in the use of Dartmoor?
§ Mr. Monro
No, I most certainly could not give that assurance, because the list of people with an interest in Dart-moor and in all the national parks is very long indeed. Last Friday I referred in the House to the important part played in our national life by the voluntary organisations which are concerned with conservation, with our heritage and also with the national parks. But I am assured that the county council consulted widely. It may have consulted universally with all these bodies, but I could not give that assurance at the Dispatch Box at this moment. My hon. Friend the Member for Totnes may be able to do so.
I realise the concern that has been caused over recent months in particular by clauses 9 and 10. Clause 10 enables the park authority to make byelaws controlling certain activities, particularly re-creation. This is a power which I have looked at very carefully, not least because I have a personal interest in flying and riding. I am not anticipating that at my age I shall want to go hang gliding, 828 but I have always been particularly interested in anything to do with flying, and, as a matter of interest, I hold a pilot's licence. I have looked at the question very carefully and, as hon. Members know, received a great many letters about this aspect of the Bill.
I am reassured by the fact that any byelaw has to be confirmed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and, furthermore, that if he has any worries at all he has the power, under clause 18, to call for an inquiry. Under the legislation as it stands, byelaws in any way affecting re-creation could not be introduced without first being looked at and considered by the Home Secretary.
I am aware that the hang gliders, campers and the caravanners, who are also particularly concerned, have, with good will on all sides, come to agreed amendments which will be put forward by the promoters at the Committee stage, should that be reached. As I have already indicated, I hope that there will be an opportunity to do just that. The amendments will ensure that hang gliding continues on agreed sites, and will exclude from any byelaws that could be made under clause 10 any possibility of preventing camping and caravanning on enclosed land with the owners' and occupiers' consent.
I am also aware of the concern of riding enthusiasts, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway). Clause 9 provides for legal access to the commons on foot, but not to riders on horseback. Riders could be subject to byelaws under clause 10 which would be subject to approval by the Home Secretary and could be closely examined by the Committee.
I join other hon. Members in paying tribute to the vigilance and hard work that the national parks, committee puts into maintaining high standards in the national parks. It is concerned about the damage to turf and bridleways and wishes to have additional controls. That is why clause 10 is drafted as it is.
Clause 12 has also caused concern. It gives power for bridleways to be closed if they are overworked or damaged in wet weather, but only provided that alternatives are available. There is no question 829 of riding being prevented on all bridle-ways at the same time. It could be prevented only on limited stretches to enable repair work to be done and to allow a rest period which turf needs if it is overused by horses. There again, there is some reassurance for the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North.
§ Mr. Greenway
Is my hon. Friend aware that the position affecting riders is substantially changed by the Bill, because de facto rights of access to Dart-moor, which have existed for riders for centuries, are to be removed? That is the issue.
§ Mr. Greenway
Should not something that has been going on well and satisfactorily for centuries be left alone?
§ Mr. Monro
If I am misinformed, it is by the display of ignorance of the West Country by the hon. Member for Felt-ham and Heston in the past 10 minutes, He would do far better to allow the debate to proceed so that the other West Country Members can talk about areas that particularly interest them.
§ Mr. Monro
The conclusion that the Government draw is that the Bill appears to strike a balance to enable all interests and activities to flourish on Dartmoor 830 commons without one activity inhibiting the rights and enjoyment of others.
The points raised by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in his report to Parliament on the Bill have been met in another place. Subject to assurances that we have received about amendments being fulfilled, we have no further objections. A number of hon. Members are still concerned, but the place to argue the differences of opinion is in Committee. Hon. Members should give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The Minister has already resumed his seat. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) has already made his contribution.
§ Mr. Anthony Steen (Liverpool, Wavertree)
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on what I believe to be one of the most important Private Bills to have come before the House for many years.
For those living amidst the stress and turmoil of the cities—and I represent one of those cities—the countryside offers an essential and important escape. More and more people are driven to leave the hectic and intense lifestyle in the urban conurbations for the solace and quiet of the country. Two-thirds of our population live in urban areas. For nearly 50 years we have witnessed a movement out, the development of the suburbs and commuter travel. People want an open feeling in their lives. They want to feel the countryside where they live and they want to be within easy reach of the cities where they work.
Dartmoor is a unique area in Britain. It stands defiant, largely untouched, 2,000 ft or more into the sky. It has a wild terrain and dramatic rock formations. Its remote and beautiful landscape offers to urban man a moving and satisfying experience.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
My hon. Friend is talking about a hundredth of 1 per 831 [Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop.] cent, of Dartmoor. He has got his decimal point wrong.
I am grateful for that interjection. Acording to my Ordnance survey map, which might have been published some year ago, the spot height of Yes Tor is 2,029 ft. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is reading the new Ordnance Survey map. I was giving a poetic and descriptive view of the moor. I was not suggesting that all the moor is 2,000 ft or higher, but part of it is.
For hundreds of years man has been drawn to the moor. A place of foreboding and beauty, Dartmoor has captured the imagination of man from neolithic times. The moor has never been more under threat than it is by modern man. From neolithic man we have wonderful artistic hut circles and stone rows which are great memorials to the archaeology of thousands of years ago when Dartmoor was inhabited by neolithic man.
Today Dartmoor is under threat. Urban man has a love-hate relationship with this extraordinary and dramatic land mass. It comprises more than 400 square miles of granite highlands in which ancient man left some of the world's finest monuments. They delight the archaeologists and geologists alike.
Let there be no mistake. Dartmoor is part of our national heritage and must be protected at all costs against the incursions of those who have already ruined our cities. I speak of our planners. One has only to look at Birmingham and Liverpool to see the damage that they have done. One of the beauties of Dartmoor is that the planners have not been allowed near the place. They have not intervened to spoil the beauties of the moor.
§ Mr. Mawby
I cannot let that remark go by without commenting. I pointed out to one of my hon. Friends who spoke of concrete jungles that if someone wishes to construct any building or residence on Dartmoor he will have to surmount two hurdles—two planning committees. Those are the planners that my hon. Friend does not like. There is the local planning committee and the Dartmoor park com- 832 mittee. We have managed to keep Dart moor in the condition in which my hon Friend hopes it will remain because o the existence of those two committees.
§ Mr. Steen
When I was talking about the planners having not spoilt Dartmoor I had in mind the mess that the planner have made of the cities. The planner have not been allowed to build on the moor and to despoil it. The corollary o that is that the planners have prevented building. The planners have not been allowed to spoil the moor. My hon Friend is correct to say that the planner: have helped not to spoil it.
I am glad to see the right hon. Mem ber for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) with us. He and I are proud members of that august body, the Dartmoor preservatior association, which is led by one of tht most resolute and courageous of cam paigners, Lady Sylvia Sayer, who is nov the president of the association. I think that the House recognises that Lady Sylvia has done more than most other; to protect the moor from utilitarian man I am greatly indebted to her for championing the preservation of the moor against innumerable cohorts of civil servants, bureaucrats and others who for some reason wish to meddle in the moor,
§ Mr. Steen
—remarkable, august lady, It is fair to say that she has such severe reservations about the Bill that I and the right hon. Member for Battersea, North may feel that we still have to decide, after listening to the whole debate and as Members of Parliament for urban areas some miles from Dartmoor, which way to vote if there is a Division. We shall have to decide whether to support the Bill. Neither I nor the right hon. Gentleman is the agent or servant of Lady Sylvia. We are greatly influenced by her wisdom, experience and knowledge of the local situation. However, we are not pawns in her game, although we are playing a formidable part in raising some of the issues that she rightly wishes to be brought to the attention of the House.
833 I was saying that Dartmoor has to be protected against the incursions of man. Dartmoor has had to fight for its freedom to keep its natural remoteness, for its beauty and its majesty, which urban man constantly wishes to defile. As hon. Members on both sides of the House will know, the Dartmoor association was threatened by a reservoir which would have destroyed much of the moor. There would have been cohorts of cars coming to the moor. There would have been picnickers and all the entrails that go with a reservoir.
The Government are now involved in an inquiry into whether a motorway should run through the northern part of the moor. Again, the moor is under attack. The inquiry has recently ended and the inspector has to decide whether to lop off a piece of the moor on the northern boundary just south of Okehampton or whether he prefers the southern route, which would not eat into the national park. One must take note of such precedents. We believe that the national park is sacrosanct. However, there is a danger that the Minister may support a Bill that will result in interference in part of the moor.
Dartmoor has had to fight for its remoteness. Let us hope that the present inquiry will not allow Dartmoor to be spoilt. The moor should be protected against any future incursions. The Government are in every aspect of our lives. They are responsible for military training on Dartmoor. The Army throws bombs all over the place. I am glad that I was corrected when I suggested that the Army threw them at night. It throws them only during the day. It does so only after red flags have been put on top of the tors. Not only does one hear the thud of bombs and the crack of machine guns, but one knows exactly where the range is. It is possible to see red flags flying and troops walking against the sky line. That is not a part of everyday life on Dartmoor that one would wish to encourage.
Dartmoor has not always been successful in its fight against the incursions of urban man. There is an 800 ft. mast at North Hessary tor, which is 1,600 ft. high. One can see that mast from nearly every bog to the north and south, even if one does not wish to do so. It spoils the natural beauty of the area. Man has made intrusions and incursions into the 834 moor. We seek to ensure that this Bill does not encourage more.
Planners have turned our urban areas into disasters. We are now debating a Bill that has been promoted by a county council. I am sure it is well intentioned, but it seeks to bring its type of officialdom and organisation into a desolate, remote and unspoilt area. Perhaps it is not content with its present powers and seeks to enter such an area, because it is the one spot that it does not have in its grips.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
My hon. Friend has put forward an excellent argument. Would he advance same argument if Derbyshire county council and other county councils covering the Peak park had put forward a similar Bill in respect of the Peak national park?
§ Mr. Winterton
I support my hon. Friend's argument and I seek to sustain him. However, bearing in mind that the Peak national park is closer to his constituency than Dartmoor, would he be as articulate about that park?
§ Mr. Steen
I would be even more articulate. There have been attempts to ward off the incursions of Government and of the public sector. I was mildly surprised to hear the Minister say that he supported the county council.
This is a brave Bill and represents a brave attempt to control something which, I am happy to say, is out of control. He did the Government an injustice by suggesting that there should be another Bill. The Conservative Party is committed to fewer Acts of Parliament. We want fewer administrative regulations. We wish to ensure that the Bill will not create more bureaucracy, more tiers and more hierarchies. One need only imagine wardens on Dartmoor. I have been informed that they will not all wear boots, arm bands and caps. However, the existence of wardens will cause great concern to many people and will prove costly.
The Bill seeks to regulate, control and impose so-called order when the moor has flourished for years without such order. Some of my hon. Friends have explained why the public need a statutory right of access, but since William the Conqueror 835 people have managed very well without that right. One wonders why the county council suddenly feels that it should be introduced now.
The county council rightly seeks to protect those parts of the moor which have been abused. In order to do that it suggests that the very people living around the moor should be represented in a commoners' council. This issue has caused considerable concern. The county council has put forward some very odd criteria, almost biblical in their wording. They refer to horses, beasts and oxen instead of using modern terminology. Although the council is right to argue for some protection of the moor—and I understand the need for that protection—it has gone about it in the wrong way and got the whole thing hopelessly wrong. The council has excluded anyone other than those people who are grazing animals on the moor. Although it is true that the 16 graziers out of the 23 or 26 members of the council must each have 50 sheep, 10 horses or 10 cattle before they are allowed on the commoners' council, it is also true that there are only two national park representatives or two small graziers to be appointed not by their local commoners' association but significantly by the 16 larger graziers. The idea of more bureaucracy and a larger council is something that Members on both sides would rebel against.
We must ensure that if the Bill is given a Second Reading clause 3 is suitably amended. Under clause 3 there
§ is no representation of those commoners with rights only of turbary and estovers, no representation of the venville commoners and no representation of the independent amenity bodies concerned with national parks and public access. Yet these minor commoners are the venville men and the public who will have the legal right of access to common land. All are subject to the council's regulations and byelaws, as well as to penalties and infringements of the same. They will also have to foot the bill as taxpayers and ratepayers for the council's administrative, professional and technical services.
§ The commoners' council will need to have administration, professional help and technical services. Who will pay for that? Obviously the taxpayers and ratepayers of the area. There has been little justice in this, and amendments are needed to provide that one representative of the non-grazier commoners and at least one from the recreational and amenities organisations should be appointed to serve on the council.
§ Clause 4 has probably caused more anxiety—
§ Mr. Wellbelovedrose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 19, Noes 63.837
|Division No. 267]||AYES||[10 pm|
|Alexander, Richard||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Mills, Peter (West Devon)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Gummer, John Selwyn||Monro, Hector|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Hicks, Robert||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)|
|Colvin, Michael||Jenkln, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Cope, John||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Mr. Ray Mawby and|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Mr. Robin Maxwell Hyslop.|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Mates, Michael|
|Aitken, Jonathan||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Leighton, Ronald|
|Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)||Durant, Tony||McCartney, Hugh|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Eastham, Ken||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|Blackburn, John||Evan", John (Newton)||Maxton, John|
|Body, Richard||Ford, Ben||Mills, lain (Meriden)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Greenway, Harry||Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)|
|Buchan, Norman||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Haynes, Frank||Morton, George|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Heddle, John||Murphy, Christopher|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Hooley, Frank||Myles, David|
|Cowans, Harry||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Nelson, Anthony|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Newton, Tony|
|Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Kerr, Russell||Parris, Matthew|
|Dover, Denshore||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Pawsey, James|
|Race, Reg||Straw, Jack||Waller, Gary|
|Richardson, Jo||Tilley, John||Wellbeloved, James|
|Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Tinn, James||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)||Torney, Tom|
|Rooker, J. W.||Waddington, David||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Sever, John||Walker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)||Mr. Marcus Kimball and|
|Stallard, A. W.||Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)||Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.|
Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question accordingly negatived.