§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
My Lords, I ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading to this Bill. It is divided, roughly, into two parts. The first part is to increase the number of Forestry Commissioners from eight to ten. That is found to be necessary in view of the increased work put upon the Forestry Commission and also on account of the representation of the necessity of having all the political Parties represented on that Commission. It is of a domestic character, which really affects only the Commissioners themselves, because the extra Commissioners will not be paid. There will be only two paid members of the Commission at the present time out of a limit of three in the 1919 Act.
The second part deals with the question of by-laws and I trust that your Lordships will find that the subjects on which these by-laws are to be drawn up are put in a reasonable manner so as to deal fairly with the rights of individual 499 commoners and the general public. You will see that steps have been taken by which under Clause 2 (a), (b) and (c) existing rights are maintained, and you will see that under subsection (2) of the clause it is provided that the by-laws, as and when drawn up, have to lie on the Table of each House of Parliament for a period of not less than twenty-one working days. I think it will be agreed that this is a necessary measure because in a comparatively short time there will be no fewer than 2,000,000 acres of land belonging to the public under the further control of the Forestry Commissioners. There are already 464,000 acres under their control to-day. It is necessary both to safeguard these woodland areas in their earlier stages when they are liable to damage by fire and otherwise, and also, when they have got to the stage that the general public can be permitted to enter and use them, that Regulations should be drawn up.
Already in certain of the older forests, perhaps particularly in the New Forest, there is a definite demand for by-laws, in which the verderers, the inhabitants, the visitors and the commoners are agreed. Certain of these areas, such as the New Forest and the Forest of Dean, are being more and more used by the public, and it is important that there should be bylaws to control this use and keep down the abuses which have arisen. Your Lordships will see that this Bill applies only to Great Britain. I ask the House to give it a Second Reading.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Lovat.)
§ EARL DE LA WARR
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken said that it would be generally agreed that the passing of this Bill was a necessary step. That is quite true, so far as the Bill goes, but I rise to give notice to the noble Lord that I shall move an Amendment on the Committee stage. It has, I think, for some time been fairly generally felt that a body such as the Forestry Commission, handling as it does large sums of public money, should be brought under some form, not of Parliamentary interference in the details of the manner in which it is carrying out its duties, but of Parliamentary control. At the present time the Commissioners have to employ money 500 for such purposes as the purchase of land from private owners and the giant of public money to private owners for carrying out planting. I think, therefore, that it will be agreed that it is a very reasonable request to make that the Commissioners should be answerable to some Department of the Government whose representative can be questioned in the House of Commons on the manner in which they are employing these public funds. In conclusion, I should like to make it quite clear that nobody has ever questioned the efficiency of the manner in which this work is being carried out. I am merely asserting the very definite and reasonable constitutional principle that the use of public money should be under the control of Parliament. I hope that the Bill will receive a Second Reading.
§ LOAD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
My Lords, I rise on behalf of the verderers of the new Forest to say that they do not wish in any way to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. The New Forest is the largest area that is dealt with by the Forestry Commission, and is also the oldest, excluding, of course, the new areas subsequently formed. There are certain customs, privileges and rights in the New Forest concerning which we have been negotiating with the Forestry Commission, and so far, I think, we have seen them placed on a fairly satisfactory basis. Like the noble Lord opposite I may wish to move an Amendment or two in Committee, but so far as the Second Reading is concerned I do not offer any opposition. I should like to make one further observation. Heretofore the New Forest has always had special legislation, I suppose for two or three hundred years back, and while this Bill affects us and touches the interests of the commoners and the rights of the public in the New Forest, though perhaps in no harmful way, I hope that the Forestry Commission will always have due regard to the customs of the Forest and will not merely concern themselves with the rights which can be definitely put on paper and included in an Act of Parliament. I believe that the noble Lord is quite prepared to consider these customs in a favourable way and to give them special consideration. On that understanding I have no wish to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.