HL Deb 19 October 1949 vol 164 cc949-1010

3.5 p.m.

Debate resumed (according to Order), on the Motion for Second Reading moved yesterday by Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor.


My Lords, yesterday we had a number of interesting speeches from noble Lords who gave what the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, described as a "grudging welcome" to the Bill. Indeed, most noble Lords who took part in the discussion damned it with praise which ranged from the just audible to the hardly perceptible. Nevertheless, with perhaps one exception—namely, the speech of Lord Radnor—I think the speeches supported the objective of this Bill. Even Lord Radnor, who was opposed to the introduction of national parks, found that some Parts of the Bill were excellent; although being more frank and less polite than the famous curate he confessed to a general feeling of nausea in respect of the proposals as a whole.

I think we are all agreed with the observation of my noble friend who moved the Second Reading, that there is no Party controversy involved in this measure. The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr claimed that as the Hobhouse Committee had been appointed by Mr. W. S. Morrison, and as its Chairman was a Liberal aid the Government introducing the Bill were Labour, all Parties were entitled to some credit in respect of this matter. One might even go further than that, and say that the Cross Benches were entitled to some credit too, because my recollection is that Mr. John Dower was requested to investigate this problem by the noble Lord, Lord Reith, during the war period, when he was Minister of Works and Buildings.

It is perfectly true to say that in the long struggle which has taken place, in which I have had the pleasure of taking some share, members of all political Parties have taken a prominent part. Mr. John Dower himself was a Conservative, but we in the Labour Party can congratulate ourselves, that although this proposal has been mooted over- many years it has in fact been a Labour Government which has introduced this Bill. My right honourable friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning, who has to his name three remarkable Statutes of a pioneering character (or will have if your Lordships pass this Bill), will, I think, go down in political history as having carried through a work of major importance. The Town and Country Planning Act of 1947, the New Towns Act and this Bill are indeed a remarkable trilogy to come from one Department during one Parliament.

Before I come to deal with the numerous points which were raised in the discussion yesterday, I should like to call your Lordships' attention to one feature of the Bill and to underline its importance. It is a feature, which appeals particularly to me perhaps, as one who has given a great deal of time to the question of the preservation of the beauties of England, and of bringing there more within the range of the great masses of the people of the country. I refer to the opening words of Clause 1 of the Bill. They are indeed golden words to all of us who have at heart the preservation of the natural beauty of the country Your Lordships will see that the duty of the National Parks Commission, as set out in Clause 1, is to exercise the functions conferred on them by the Bill for the preservation and enhancement of natural beauty in England and Wales. That is a very important matter, and an important new departure, because up to the present time it has not been the formal duty of anybody in this country-to take care of the natural beauty of the country, although it is one of our most priceless heritages.

Over a number of years we have had the Royal Fine Arts Commission doing exceedingly valuable work in respect of architecture and the lovely buildings which we have inherited from the past; and in the future it will be the duty of this National Parks Commission to give attention to the preservation and enhancement of the natural beauty of this country. And your Lordships will see that a little later on it is laid down that they have to render a yearly report on all matters which come within their purview. The report is not in any sense to be confined to those matters which are more specifically and particularly dealt with in the Bill, such as national parks, footpaths, and access, but may relate to all problems in which natural beauty is found to be at risk. I am sure your Lordships will agree that this annual report of the National Parks Commission may become an extremely important document, a document focusing the attention of Parliament and the public on many important problems relating to the preservation and enhancement of natural beauty.

Most of the criticisms levelled against this Bill, certainly the most weighty of them, were directed to the instances in which it departs from the recommendations of the Hobhouse Committee. That puts me in a somewhat embarrassing position because, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, I was a member of the Hobhouse Committee, and I do not, in any sense, retract from the signature which I appended to that Report. I personally should have preferred to see a Bill in which the recommendations of the Committee were put into effect, but the House may be sure that the recommendations of the Hob-house Committee received the most anxious consideration from my right honourable friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning and, indeed, from the Government as a whole. It was only after mature and deliberate reflection that they took the decision to entrust the administration of these national parks to the local authorities. Obviously, there are very weighty arguments which can be advanced in favour of a decision of that kind. I am satisfied that the scheme embodied in this Bill can not only be made to work, but can be made to work well.

Having had the happy experience during the war of working on civil defence matters with some of the most competent local authorities in this country I am very well aware of the fund of administrative ability and mature judgment which is to be found among the local authorities. If they are prepared to work this Bill with energy, enthusiasm and good will—I think it was Lord Cranworth who emphasised, in his delightful speech yesterday, that whether this Bill works well or not depends on the spirit with which it is worked—there is no reason why those who have battled so long for national parks should fear the result. It may well be that they will be able to look back on this as a golden time in the history of this movement. After all, a very large number of the recommendations of the Hobhouse Committee are embodied in the Bill, and in practice it is often the practical recommendations of what I may term a medium character which prove to be the most valuable. I do not think that any member of the Hobhouse Committee would feel that the time which was given to the drawing up of that Report was in any degree wasted. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my cordial agreement with all that was said in the debate yesterday in praise of the Chairman of the Committee, Sir Arthur Hobhouse, personally, as a member of the Commission, and as a servant of the Government, for on this occasion, as on others, he has rendered, by virtue of his profound knowledge and tireless enthusiasm, very great service to his country.

Turning to the criticisms of the Bill which were made yesterday, I think I am right in saying that the main one advanced by a number of your Lordships (the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, were perhaps the three chief protagonists of this point of view) was to the effect that the Bill does not confer sufficient powers upon the National Parks Commission. In reply to that, there are two main observations which I should like to make. The first is that the Government having decided, as a matter of policy, that the administration of these national parks should be entrusted to the local authorities—and it hardly lies in the mouths of some noble Lords opposite to object to that decision, because more than once they have accused the Government of taking away too much from the local autl-orities—when that decision was taken it followed that the powers which the Hobhouse Committee had recommended for the National Parks Commission could not be entrusted to them, for that would have meant that the Government were taking away from the local authorities with one hand what they were giving to them with the other.

The second observation I would like to make in this connection is that although we heard a great deal about lack of powers we were given no information as to the sort of powers which, in the view of noble Lords opposite, ought to be given to the National Parks Commission. I should very much like to know what powers it is suggested should be given to the Commission, because it would be necessary to scrutinise them very carefully to see whether they were capable of implementation from a constitutional point of view. It is the Minister of Town and Country Planning who is responsible to Parliament for the conduct of this Commission and if the Commission are given powers which, if I may so put it, are outside his control, clearly it would not be possible for him to be answerable for their work to Parliament. That seems to me to he an important reason why the rather extreme powers which have been suggested—not in your Lordships' House but outside—for the Commission could not properly be conferred upon them. If we look at this in relation to the position and powers of the local planning authority, I think we shall see how it works out.

Clearly, if the National Parks Commission, as has been suggested, were to be put in a position to give directions to the local planning authorities as to how they should do their job it would mean putting into the hands of the Commission duties which, by the Town and Country Planning Act ire imposed upon the Minister of Town and Country Planning, duties which should be upon him because it is he who has to answer to Parliament for what is done. So I think your Lordships will see that it is not possible to entrust to the National Parks Commission the very wide powers to which I have alluded. If they are not to have these wide powers, is it not better—the point was well put yesterday by the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Winchester—that the Commission should do their work by using their influence and prestige, and their good relationship with the local authorities, rather than that they should be entrusted with rather weak and nebulous powers to give some sort of directions to the local authorities from which there would be an appeal to the Minister. If that were all that was done it might quickly bring about a situation in which the National Parks Commission had no influence or prestige with the local authorities at all. This being so, the argument that wide powers should be entrusted to the Commission falls to the ground.

I think the powerlessness of the Commission was rather over-stressed by some of your Lordships in the debate yesterday. It was suggested that the Commission had no sort of power in regard to a model code of bylaws, and that there was nothing which they could do in respect of planning national park areas. I suggest that this is not quite right. Out of their experience, and out of the prestige and influence which they will undoubtedly gain over a few years if they do their work effectively, the Commission will be in a position to suggest to the local authorities model bylaws which are likely to be successful in the administration of the national parks. Moreover, Clause 85, which has hardly been referred to so far, specifically puts upon the Commission the duty to establish a sort of information bureau, to take steps to educate the public and in every way to build up the knowledge and information of the public and the responsible local authorities in regard to the problems arising in connection with the national parks and their administration. I suggest that that will become an extremely important part of the work of the National Parks Commission.

The second point, which was made particularly by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel—and to some extent it hinges on the first—was that there should be a strengthening of the national element on local planning authorities. As my noble friend Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor pointed out, the Hobhouse Committee recommended that the composition of the local planning authorities should be fifty- fifty, with a national chairman, so that the balance of authority was on the national side. As soon as the Government had decided that as a matter of policy the administration of the national parks should be left to the local authorities it followed, not only as a matter of logic but also as a matter of practical politics, that the local planning authorities should be left with a majority of local members, and that without throwing the whole of that policy overboard it would be impossible to give the majority to the nationally nominated members.

The third point, which again follows from the others, and which was made by more than one noble Lord, particularly by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, related to the question of the 75 per cent. Exchequer grants to the local authorities administering the national parks. The noble Viscount said that that was not sufficient and that it would be impossible for many local authorities, as they were poor authorities, to raise the 25 per cent. balance. He suggested in effect that they ought to be given 100 per cent. of their expenditure. But surely, as soon as the administration of the national parks is left to the local authorities, we get a situation in which it is impossible to give them 100 per cent. of their expenditure. It is a fundamental principle of local government finance that the central Government finances local authorities either by block grants limited to a certain sum or by a percentage, hut not to 100 per cent. Probably this Bill goes farther than any other in its generosity to local authorities. Obviously, the districts in which national parks will be set up will be the least industrialised and poorest parts of the country, and therefore in many cases the local planning authorities will qualify heavily for the Exchequer equalisation grants to which the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, referred. In a number of cases it will mean that over 90 per cent. of expenditure will be reimbursed by the central Government.

A number of your Lordships drew attention to the economic crisis through which the country is passing and urged that it would be wise, however desirable this legislation might be on general grounds, to postpone it until the economic crisis was passed. The noble Lord, Lord Radnor, and the noble Duke, the Duke of Rutland, were particularly insistent on this point. The Government are anxiously considering the whole problem of expenditure and are reviewing all types of expenditure, and it is impossible for me to give any sort of indication of what will be done about this particular matter. But I should like to point out that the expense involved by this Bill, especially in the earlier years, is very small indeed. Local authorities will not begin to spend for a considerable time. First of all, the National Parks Commission have to be set up. Obviously, it will take a considerable time before they will have designated the parks, and until they are designated the local authorities cannot even begin to take up the question of planning them. The right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Winchester, made this point particularly well towards the end of his speech when he said: It would seem almost fantastic to hope that in the near future it will be possible, however desirable, to spend much money to implement the provisions of the Bill. Even when local authorities are in a position to spend money, they will be closely within the control of the Minister and the Treasury.

The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, made a point of considerable importance when he asked the Government to give an undertaking that injurious development would be kept out of the national park areas. Of course, as he himself realises, it is impossible to give an absolute undertaking that in no circumstances whatever will injurious developments be permitted to take place in national park areas, but I can assure him that it will be only in the most exceptional cases that that will be so, and that the whole policy of the Government is against permitting injurious developments in these important districts. The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, raised the problem of bringing electricity to the people living in these areas—exactly the sort of question which might become a matter of conflict between interests on one side and the other, as indeed the noble Viscount himself realised and to which he drew attention in the course of his speech.

Another point of considerable importance made by several noble Lords, particularly by the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, and the noble Lords, Lord Radnor and Lord Cranworth, was that the least knowledgeable of the public will think, and indeed already think, that as soon as a national park has been established in any area, it gives them a complete right to go wherever they like within that area. The Government were asked to make it perfectly clear that that is not so. It is certainly not the case. The mere designation of an area as a national park does not give the public any right of entry anywhere. It is only in respect of land which has been declared access land, and which may be land outside a national park area just as much as within it, that any right to go on the land will be established. Even then, it does not become a right; it merely means that people will not be liable to be sued as trespassers.

These areas will have to be advertised and sign-posted so that it will be quite clear to the public where they have and where they have not the right to go. As I have already pointed out, it will be the duty of the National Parks Commission, under Clause 85, to carry on an educational campaign among the public in order to draw to their attention what their rights are under the Bill, and to train them in the best methods of using those rights. More than one noble Lord drew attention to the great progress that has been made over the past years by the ramblers' associations in educating large numbers of young people to use the land decently and to behave properly on their rambles in the country. Undoubtedly there has been great progress in that direction, and the land owners and farmers realise how much the ramblers' associations have done to improve the position. No doubt the National Parks Commission will be able to improve on that as the years go by.

A particular point made by the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, was in respect of the wardens. The Hobhouse Committee attached great importance to the establishment of the system of wardens, and that is one of the useful suggestions made by the Hobhouse Committee which has been incorporated in the Bill. The noble Earl complained that the wardens have not enough powers to deal with the hooligan element which unfortunately is to be found in country districts at the present time—coming, of course, from the towns—and he asked whether some- thing more could not be done. I think the noble Earl referred to the possibility of their being made special constables. It does not require any power under this Bill to make them special constables. It is quite possible to do that under the powers by which any citizen is made a special constable, and it will be open to the National Parks Commission, if it is found over a period of years that the powers are not sufficient to enable the wardens to cope with their problems, to ask the Minister to go to the Secretary of State for other powers that may be required.

I think the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, also complained that the powers of the wardens, such as they are, to enforce such bylaws as may be enacted by the local authorities, applied only on local authority land and to access land, and that if a hooligan strayed on to private land the wardens would have no control over him. That, of course, is quite true. But does the noble Earl suggest that the wardens should be given power to go on private land?




That might be achieved by the noble Earl putting down an Amendment on the Committee stage of the Bill. I hope the noble Earl is speaking on behalf of the Central Land owners' Association and other land owners when he asks for this power for the wardens to go on private property and exercise such powers as they may have. The noble Earl also complained that there was no provision in the Bill for a representative of agriculture or forestry to be a member of the National Parks Commission. The Minister has deliberately taken the view that it would be unwise to confer the right, so to speak, of any particular interest to be represented on the Commission. That would immediately lead to an extremely difficult situation. It is much better that the Commission should be chosen, as I think the Duke of Rutland suggested, from men of real ability, anxious to do a good job of work. The noble Earl can take it—I am authorised to say this—that there will be somebody on the Commission of real knowledge and capacity in respect of agricultural matters.

The next point, which was also made by Lord De La Warr, was in respect of the special standard of housing which may be required by the local planning committees in national park areas. The noble Earl drew attention to the fact that no compensation for additional cost of this specially good housing was provided in the Bill. That, of course, is true. This is a point which was raised during the passage of the 1947 Act through your Lordships' House. It has been the Government's policy that there could be no special compensation awarded to people for the rather higher standards which may be exacted in certain parts of the country in respect of the type of housing which might be permitted there. It really means that if somebody is to have the privilege of living in one of these particularly beautiful areas, he may be called upon to spend a little extra for that privilege. But the standards are to be laid down and maintained by the local planning committees, and it would seem unlikely that they will adopt unreasonable standards in this regard.

The first point of the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, was a plea on behalf of agriculture and forestry for protection against the vast hordes of incomers whom he foresaw would invade these areas as soon as the national parks were established. The noble Lord, Lord Cranworth, was also worried on that point. This, of course, is a matter of prophecy and expectation. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, made some reference to prophecies, and said he felt it was unwise to prophesy, despite his name, although yesterday he did privilege us with a prophecy. I feel that the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, is probably wrong in thinking that there will immediately be a vast incursion of people into these national park areas. Over the last years there has undoubtedly been among the people in the towns a growing interest in the countryside. It is a gradual growth, and I believe their education has been kept up to it by the ramblers' associations and others. I have no doubt that that will continue to be so. At any rate, as I have pointed out, it is the duty of the National Parks Commission to concern themselves actively with the education of the people who are going to have the privilege of making use of these national parks. That they will be successfully educated is indicated, I feel, by the work that has been done by the ramblers' associations over the last years.

The noble Earl, Lord Radnor, also emphasised the necessity of planning the problem of access as a whole and not in piecemeal fashion. A good deal of discussion on this problem took place on the Committee stage of the Bill in another place, and, in fact, the Bill was amended quite drastically in order to ensure that that should be done. If the noble Earl will look at Clauses 62, 63 and 64 he will find that careful provision is made for a balanced survey of the whole area of any particular local planning authority for the purpose of seeing that the whole of the land is dealt with at the same time. It may be that there will be an exception to that, in that a particular part has to be dealt with in priority; or, again, it is provided by the Bill that it may be possible to take areas out. Indeed, to refer to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cranworth, there are cases where land will automatically be taken out of the access areas. In the sort of cases to which the noble Lord referred, such as where a farmer decides to plough up the land or reseed it, that land will become agricultural land again and will automatically be taken outside the provisions of the Bill.


Will that be without application to anyone? Will the mere fact of ploughing up make it excepted land?


It will then be excepted land. Of course, it would be wise for the farmer in question to notify the authority if he wants that done, in order that they may alter their maps, and so on. It might be difficult to bring proceedings against a trespasser if that were not done. It is not always clear that land has been reseeded, although of course it is easy to see that land has been reploughed.


I would like to ask the noble Lord one question. We know that a great deal of this land is much too rough and steep for a plough, but probably something else will be done to it. It may be used for drainage, or something like that. Would such moderate action as that cause it to become excepted land? I think that would be a very common case.


I would not like to try now to lay down the law about borderline cases of this kind, but generally speaking it is a fact that, under this Bill, if this rough grazing land is brought back into cultivation it automatically ceases to be access land. Another point of the same kind, which was stressed a good deal by the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, was that there were not sufficient areas excepted specifically in the Bill, and he drew attention particularly to the question of private woodlands which had not been dedicated. Of course, it is open to him to put down an Amendment to deal with that position should he desire to do so, but I would like to make this general observation. The excepted areas are areas which the local authority cannot make access land. It does not, of course, follow that all rough land not coming within the exceptions will be made access land. The authority has power to deal in a reasonable way with the land in their particular area, and I would suggest that a private woodland which is being competently looked after by its owner would not be included by the local authority in access land. But, even so, it must remain with the Minister to sanction what the local authority have done, and it would be quite open to the land owner in question to go to the Minister and say: "This wood ought not to be made access land." I can assure him that the Minister would give careful consideration to points of that kind, because he is most anxious that properly afforested woods should not be land open to the danger of fire and that sort of thing.

Questions were raised about accommodation and transport by the noble Viscounts, Lord St. Davids and Lord Bledisloe. Of course, the question of the provision of accommodation is specifically left to the local planning committee and it will be able in proper places to provide accommodation—that is, where there is not sufficient accommodation already existing in the area.


Will that have to be provided at the expense of the local rates?


That is a case where an Exchequer grant up to the Limits within the Bill can be made available. As I pointed out, it might be up to 90 per cent., which is a very substantial subsidy to the local authority in question, especially bearing in mind that when the building has been erected and becomes a hostel or hotel, as the case may be, it will from the point of view of rating be to the local authority in the particular area concerned a valuable piece of property.


May I interrupt the noble Lord? He used the phrase: "Where existing accommodation is inadequate." He will remember that his colleague the Minister specifically removed that protection front the Bill.


That is obviously a point which can be discussed at the next stage of the Bill. If the noble Earl wishes to put down an Amendment for the purpose of giving rise to discussion, of course he is perfectly at liberty to do so. With regard to transport, it may be that in some of these areas transport is not so good as will be required when it becomes a national park. That is just the kind of case where the National Parks Commission and the local authorities together should be able to go to the Minister of Transport and make application to him so that he can bring it to the attention of the Transport Authority.

The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, advanced the claims of the Forest of Dean and Wye to be a national park. It is certainly a lovely part of the country, which I have had the pleasure of visiting, and it is perfectly within the powers of the National Parks Commission to designate areas of land other than those suggested by the Hobhouse Committee. The Commission are not in any sense bound by the recommendations of the Hobhouse Committee, and it may well be that they will give way to the blandishments of the noble Viscount. I am quite sure that he will put forward the attract ions of that district so soon as the Commission is established. I am sorry to go over these points so hurriedly, but there are so many of them and they are important points which require something to be said about them. The noble Lord, Lord Cranworth, in a charming and witty speech, raised the question of persons being injured by a bull. He pointed out that the bull is an intelligent animal and is attracted by the colour red, and that people might wear red blouses.


Surely he gets very angry at the colour red.


Well, he is attracted by the colour red—an attraction which I feel myself.


My Lords, a bull is colour blind.


The noble Lord's suggestion, at any rate, was that the bull desired to get on nodding acquaintance with the persons, and in the course of developing that intimacy it might be that the persons in question would be injured. The noble Lord asked whether they would have any right of compensation against the owner of the bull. I think that is clearly dealt with in Clause 67 (2), which shows that the owner of the land conies under no sort of obligation, either under Statute or Common Law, to persons because some of his land has been made access land.


I read that clause with great care several times, and I came at long last to that conclusion. But you will bear in mind that farmers who are farming hill farms will find great difficulty in understanding what that particular clause does in fact mean. I hope the noble Lord will not have any objection if I endeavour to make that particular paragraph more intelligible to, shall we say, the lay intellect.


I wish the noble Lord God-speed in his endeavours to do so. The National Parks Commission will have in him a strong ally. May I say in regard to these important matters of farming—because it was one of the fundamentals of the Dower Report and the Hobhouse Report that a national park area is an area in which farming must be maintained—that my right honourable friend has been in the closest consultation with the National Farmers' Union and the Central Landowners' Association in respect of the provisions of this Bill, and in general they are agreed that his proposals are reasonable, and they are co-operating with him in regard of this matter.

The next speech was that made by the noble Viscount, Lord Esher—another charming and witty speech, if I may be allowed to say so—which boiled down to a criticism of the Minister over a number of decisions which he had given in respect of industrial activities in one or more areas. In regard to that, may I say this? My friends in the Amenities Movement have tended to take the view that the Minister of Town and Country Planning is in fact a Minister of amenities. That, of course, is not so. Amenities is obviously a very important matter which he must bear in mind in every decision, and bear in mind very carefully. But it is not the only consideration he has to bear in mind in coming to a decision on problems of this sort. He is a Minister of Town and Country Planning, and has to have regard to all the different interests involved in coming to a decision. It is for this reason that the National Parks Commission, with the duties put upon them in Clause I of the Bill, are of such importance, because it does mean that there will be a body whose main job is the preservation, maintenance and enhancement of natural beauty. The Commission will be at hand to bring to his attention all cases where natural beauty is endangered, and to put the case with all the force and eloquence at their command in favour of the point of view of natural beauty, so that it will in future be quite impossible that it should be overlooked. But it will remain the Minister's job, his statutory duty, to take into consideration all national interests in reaching a decision on any disputed point.

Finally, we had a delightful speech from the noble Viscount, Lord Gage. As we all know, the noble Viscount represents a forward-looking and efficient county council, whose work in connection with the preservation of the countryside entitles them to the warmest congratulation. Lord Gage's speech, in effect was a speech of congratulation to the Government for having entrusted this problem to local authorities; and in that sense he answered many of the points which have been made by several noble Lords who were taking the other view. Indeed, the noble Viscount thought that there was really no need for this Bill, since the whole of the national parks problem could be effectively dealt with by the local authorities under the terms of the 1947 Act, and that the National Parks Commission was just a fifth wheel to the coach and not really called for at all. All I can say to the noble Viscount is that it is good to know that there is at any rate one local authority in the country to whom the National Parks Commission can look for most cordial relations from the start. East Sussex has certainly been planned and looked after in an admirable way for many years by the strong local authority which exists there, and I am quite sure that the relations between Lord Gage and his county council and the National Parks Commission will be of a most cordial character.

I think I have touched upon all the points that were made in the long discussion which took place yesterday. There may be other matters which might be more properly and effectively raised at the next stage; but I am sure your Lordships will agree with me when I say that, by and large, this is a Bill which can establish something to which the people of the country have been looking forward for many years. If it is administered with energy, efficiency and good will, it can set lip national parks to the great advantage of the wide masses of the people of this country.

3.53 p.m.


My Lords, I think the whole House will realise with what care the noble Lord who has just sat down must have gone through the whole of yesterday's debate during the hours before the House met to-day, and how diligent he has been in trying to answer the points which were raised. I am sure we are all grateful to him. I welcome this Bill as a whole, though whether, when I have concluded what I am going to say, it will be called a grudging welcome or a real welcome I do not know. There are some parts of this Bill which I consider might be far better than they are, but with the principles behind it I believe we are all in agreement—indeed, as has already been said, its genesis has been claimed by all Parties.

The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, spoke of this Bill as one of the valuable trilogy that the present Minister of Town and Country Planning has introduced during the course of this Parliament—the other two, I gather, being the Town and Country Planning Act and the New Towns Act. With regard to this present Bill, all of us who have had anything to do with the egg hope that it will produce a better chick than either of those other two measures has done. If you look at the effect of the Town and Country Planning Act at the present moment you will see that it has hatched out into a great big goose which hisses at everybody that goes on the land: nobody is allowed to go on with this awful monster, in the shape of the Central Land Board, warning them off. Looking at the New Towns Act we find a rather puny little fowl that has not yet even scraped off the first turf from the earth in any of these designated new town areas. It has certainly not been remarkable for the progress that it has made since it became law. We all wish this present Bill a better fate than that of those other two.

I should like to make it clear that we on this side have no intention of damning or condemning this measure, but it is odd that during the first two days of the reassembly of Parliament after devaluation we should be discussing a measure which has nothing to do with the real problem that faces this country—nothing to do with saving us from bankruptcy or from further devaluation. I hope that Parliament will not be asked to wait much longer before the Government make up their mind what they are going to do consequent on the decision to devalue, which was taken as far hack as August last. Several speakers have already referred to the subject of expenditure on these national parks, and the noble Lord who has just sat down said that the Government are looking anxiously at all types of expenditure. I hope we shall get the best possible value for the people of this country over the first year or so, with the minimum amount of expenditure capable of obtaining the designed advantages.

When I come to deal with the measure itself one of the things I wonder is what is really to be the function of this Commission. The noble Lord said that he would like to know what powers it was thought that the Commission should have. I have here a copy of the Hobhouse Report, with which, I suspect, the noble Lord is more familiar than I. In paragraph 76 of that report it is suggested that the chairmen of the park committees should be appointed by the National Parks Commission. That has not been done, although it would not take away any power from the planning committees. In the same paragraph it is suggested that one-half of the representatives shall be appointed by the National Parks Commission. Now, I understand, one-third are to be appointed by the Minister, so that the Committee's recommendation, if it had been adopted, would have given the Commission more power than they have in this Bill. The appointment of the local committees' planning officer was also to be subject to the approval of the National Parks Commission.


May I interrupt? These are powers which could not have been given to the National Parks Commission when it was decided that the main duty of administering the national parks was to be conferred on the local authorities. In other words, as soon as the Government had laid down a policy that it was to be a local authority matter, then, clearly, these powers could not be given to the central authority, the National Parks Commission.


That may sound very good, but let me take one particular point, the Hobhouse Committee recommendation that the National Parks Commission should appoint one-half of the members of the park committees. The noble Lord said that that would not have been consistent with the principle of giving power to the local Plant-um= authority. But it is only a question of degree whether somebody outside the local planning authority appoints one-half, or one-third as proposed under this Bill; it is not a question of principle.


The recommendation was half the members, plus the Chairman.


Let us see what the noble Lord himself said, very frankly. It was this: "It is better that the Commission should act by their influence, and prestige, rather than through any weak and nebulous powers." What we object to is that, except in the way to which the noble Lord drew our attention and which makes the Commission into a kind of publicity agent and a publisher of books, stationery and photographs of the parks, the Commission are given by this Bill no powers at all. In the noble Lord's own words, he believes it is better to leave it like that, rather than to give the Commission "weak and nebulous powers"—which admits that the Commission have none at all. That is what we are always doing; it is all part of the camouflage that we put up nowadays. The Government set up a body like this which can only advise. It is true that the Commission can advise upwards, or downwards or sideways. They can advise the local planning authority (whether that is downwards or sideways I do not know), and upwards, of course, I refer to the Minister. That is all they can do. Nobody need accept their advice, and in many cases nobody need even ask for it. That is what we say: that the Government are setting up a body which in fact has very little standing at all.

We are always duplicating functions nowadays. For instance, when we passed the Bill nationalising the railways and transport, we set up a body called the Transport Commission. They have only one function—namely, to co-ordinate the activities of the Railway Executive, the Road Executive and (for what it is worth) the Canal Executive. What on earth is the Ministry of Transport itself for, except to perform exactly those sorts of functions? That Commission have at any rate some power, but this Commission have none. What they will be doing in regard to the Ministry is merely advising how to co-ordinate the general layout and general conduct of perhaps eight, ten or twelve national parks. Surely the officials in the Ministry are themselves quite capable of doing that job.

The noble Lord rejoiced in saying that hitherto it had not been the formal duty of anyone—and he quoted the words of the Bill—to look after "the preservation and enhancement of natural beauty" in our country. That is the wonderful thing about this country, and the people of this country: that it has been made beautiful by the instincts of tile people who live in it; and that for generations cur ancestors have so improved their own neighbourhood and the places wherein they live that in many cases we do not need this Bill at all. What we do need it for is the very purpose for which I can see no strengthening whatever of the authority—that is, to protect these national parks from Government Departments and these big nationalised undertakings. Nobody is to have any more power, whether in a national park or wherever it is, over these monstrous people who have all the powers of compulsory purchase, whom nobody can gainsay and who cannot be taken to the courts.

Take a case, of which the noble Lord is well aware—that of the lovely area on the Dorset coast containing Tyneham and Warbarrow Bays. The noble Lord says, "Apart from the most exceptional cases those places will be preserved." I see no "exceptional case" why the Tank Corps had to take that beautiful piece of the coast. There is only one reason—that it was an easy trip down from London and a delightful part of the countryside in which to live. That area is part of the conservation area referred to in the Hobhouse Report, yet no protection has been given to that beautiful part of the coast where hundreds—nay, thousands—of people used to go in the summer afternoons to enjoy themselves on those beaches without, I am glad to say, any of this awful accommodation that may be put up by some of these people under this Bill. Thank heaven, in the national parks the people are still to be allowed to go on farming. Thank heaven, they are to be allowed to continue living in them.

In the area about which I am speaking, nobody is allowed to live or farm because there may be some ricochets. The whole thing looks too frightful for words, if you are ever allowed to get near it. I would like to know how the national parks are to be distinguished from other places. Unless there is a notice put up, or unless I have studied the map, how should I know that I am either inside or outside a national park? I come into the area of countryside concerned. It may be near Snowdon or somewhere in the middle of it and I know that I am getting near it. I then see a farm cultivated just the same. I see the houses lived in just the same. I am glad I shall. I see everything going on just the same. I hope to see good planning there by the local planning authorities, as I hope I shall also find elsewhere. I say to myself: "Now, here I am in a national park and, it being 'national,' I can go anywhere I like." The one thing I find out is that I am absolutely wrong in thinking that I can go anywhere I like in the national park any more than I can elsewhere.

What is there to these national parks? I like the name. Other countries have them; and people like them. The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, reminds us of the park at Wigan; but I doubt whether these national parks will be anything like that. I rather visualise these parks as more like the national parks that I have seen in other countries in the world. This Bill is really a terrific piece of camouflage. It does not mean anything, unless extra power is given to some central authority to plan national parks differently from other places and unless there is some greater power to prevent these juggernauts of our age coming in and spoiling these areas. I find no power like that in this Bill, so perhaps to that Part of it, at any rate, I shall rightly be put down as giving a grudging welcome.

Now, my Lords, if I may deal with one or two other matters in the Bill I want to say just a word or two in regard to nature reserves. Of course nothing can be more delightful. I do not know whether other noble Lords have had the opportunity, as I have, of going to a place like the Kruger National Park—that really beautiful large game reserve. Of course we cannot haw anything so big as that in this small Island, but we can have smaller places like it. Quite a number have been in existence under private ownership. The Abbotsbury Swannery, and the bit of the Chesil Beach opposite have long been preserved by Lord Ilchester, in my own county, and there are the gull breeding grounds at Rem-stone in the Isle of Purbeck. But the whole point of this Bill is as to how intelligently these nature reserves will he run. I rather wish the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, were here to-day, because some of the grounds now occupied by the Forestry Commission are the greatest breeding grounds of foxes, magpies, stoats and weasels, and all sorts of vermin are spread about over the neighbouring countryside. I hope that in any bylaws made under Clause 20 the destruction of such creatures will not be prohibited, otherwise these nature reserves will be the most unpopular places. Let us preserve the kinds of animal life that do no harm by preying on their fellows, and that do little if any harm to the crops that grow around.

I now come to rights of way, and I should hope that these maps will not take much making, because under the Rights of Way Act, 1932, the owner of land deposits a map with his local authority showing which are rights of way over his land. These maps can all be collected up in the local authorities' offices and put together in one big map which will be of great advantage to people in the countryside. They will be able to consult it, knowing that they have a perfect right to walk over the roads that have been dedicated to the public.

I have one specific matter to raise under this heading. Under Clause 31 an owner or lessee may go to quarter sessions to obtain a declaration that the surveying authority has been wrong in including as a right of way a particular route. That is quite right, and I think the court should settle the matter. But if the case has gone against them the surveying authority, the county council, can come along and declare a new way, which may well be exactly the route as that which the court of quarter session has decided against shortly before. There is no protection against that in the Bill, and we should clear that point up in the course of the passage of this Bill. After all, if a matter has once been arbitrated upon by the court an authority ought not to be allowed by outside action to get round a decision given against them. I remember such a happening in a case in my constituency. The Great Western Railway Company had fought a right of way case, and had lost; they then inserted in their General Powers Bill a clause reversing that decision, and trying to get statutory authority to say that there was no right of way. Fortunately, as a good Member of Parliament I got hold of that attempt, and successfully blocked the Bill in another place until they agreed to remove that clause. Authorities are sometimes inclined to work in that sort of way when a decision has gone against them, and I think we ought to prevent that possibility in this respect.

I want to say just one word about the long-distance routes. It is a good thing that those who wish to do so should be able to ride or walk along some of these ancient ways; perhaps it would be better for us all if we had more leisure in these days to be able to walk along the old Pilgrims' Way. But I dislike Clause 54 (1) and (2), which lays down that It shall, be the duty of local planning authorities…to make arrangements for securing…accommodation, meals and refreshments (including…intoxicating liquor). Note that the Bill is so phrased that intoxicating liquor shall be provided "if the authority thinks fit." Previously, of course, that has not been a matter for the authorities; it has always been a matter for the licensing justices of the area. And there is no reason whatever why that should not be so in this case. It is a most extraordinary thing.


They would still have to get the licence.


I am not so sure as it is phrased. I am afraid it might be held that they have not to get a licence; but I may be wrong about that.


I am advised that it does not mean that a licence would not still have to be obtained from the licensing authority.


At any rate, that is a matter which must be made abundantly clear on the Committee stage. The clause reads as follows: (2) The arrangements to be made by an authority…shall be arrangements for securing…the provision, whether by the authority or other persons, of accommodation, meals and refreshments (including, if the authority think fit. intoxicating liquor). It may be that it is a question of the construction of the wording, but I read it as meaning that if the authority thought tit they could provide intoxicating liquor without going to the licensing justices. I am not saying that the Government intended it to be done in that way; but the extraordinary thing is that once again the Government are intending, to take power in regard to this matter. When we had the Civic Restaurants Act in this House we provided for intoxicating liquor only with meals. That was a Ministry of Food Bill. The next Bill to come along was a Housing Bill, and there again the Government provided in their Bill for the general licence; and again the House said that they had made the decision once and that it ought to be restricted to the same degree. Two Ministries, therefore, have tried. Now, to my great surprise, I find on reading this Bill that a third Ministry are coming along with this same claim to increased power, although twice during this Parliament we have persuaded Ministers to alter their decision. I hope that at any rate I shall be responsible for a good trilogy—to use the noble Lord's own expression.


A hat-trick!


Now as to access to open land—I should prefer the expression "uncultivated land." Most people, the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, said yesterday, look upon "open land" as meaning land not built upon. I am, therefore, inclined to think that "uncultivated land" is the better term. I am all in favour of there being spaces to which people from the towns can go for recreation and enjoyment. I live just outside a town myself, and my brother happens to own an island in the middle of Poole harbour. Some years ago, we put up a notice on this island which says in effect "You will be welcome here provided you do not cause fires and do not damage any trees, and that you leave the place as you would like to find it." Our experience has been that, by and large, that notice has been extremely well observed, and people are glad to have the welcome. Of course, sometimes there are cases where the invitation is abused, but that cannot be helped.

Regarding the making of an access order, I should like to ask the noble Lord who is going to reply on behalf of the Government if he will consult the Treasury about this point: whether the owner thereafter will be let off paying Schedule A tax on that land. An owner pays Schedule A tax only because he has right of access to that land. If every-one has a right of access to it, why should the owner be asked to continue to pay Schedule A tax, especially when a compulsory access order has been made against him? I do not know whether any thought has been given to that question. I hope the noble Lord will be able to reply that the Treasury are glad to say that all owners of land in those circumstances will in future be relieved of that liability.

I wish to refer now to Clause 61, which in my opinion is an extremely oddly drafted clause. It starts off by saying: Subject to the following provisions of this Part of this Act… I suppose those words ought to put one slightly on one's guard. I do not know how other people react, but I was not put on my guard until I had read through the whole of the Bill. The clause continues: where an access agreement or order is in force as respects any land a person who enters upon land comprised in the agreement or order for the purpose of open-air recreation without breaking or damaging any wall, fence, hedge or gate, or who is on such land for that purpose after having so entered thereon, shall not be treated as a trespasser on that land or incur any other liability by reason only of so entering or being on the land. From that, I suggest, you would be led to believe that if you did not break down or damage any wall, fence, hedge or gate and you were on the land for the purpose of recreation, you could not be treated as a trespasser. But let us look ahead and see what we find at the back of the Bill. Let us look at the Second Schedule, with regard to which, as I have suggested, just a slight warning might he gained from the opening words of Clause 61. The Second Schedule states that Subsection (1) of section sixty-one of this Act shall not apply to a person who, in or upon the land in question…"— and then we get a list of possible actions under sub-headings running from (a) to (o)—that is, I think, about half the alphabet: fourteen different exceptions, if my calculations are right. One or two of those exceptions are very good. I think that exception (b) is certainly most necessary. This excepts any person who lights any fire or does any act which is likely to cause a fire. That is most important, certainly in Dorset where we have suffered immensely from heath fires which have started in consequence of some person casually throwing away a cigarette end or committing some other act of carelessness. But surely there is something wrong in the drafting of the Bill when it leads you to think that you are all right so long as you do not break down or damage any wall, hedge, fence or gate, but then points out that. all these other things ate added unto you which you would never have suspected unless you had read conscientiously through the whole of the Bill, as I am happy to assure your Lordships I have done. I think we shall have to do something about that matter.

I agree with several of my noble friends who have said that when we are so dependent on the private owner who cultivates his own woodlands, for such large quantities of timber and timber supplies—I believe it was about 85 per cent.—it ought not to be only those areas on which a grant is received from the Forestry Commission which can be created as exempted or excepted. I do not see why, because a man cultivates his woodlands entirely at his own expense without a grant from the State, he should be put in a worse position than a man who depends in part upon a grant from the Forestry Commission.

Then I think we shall have to look at Clause 67 (2) when we come to it in Committee. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Cranworth, raised the point yesterday as to whether that subsection completely exonerates an owner or tenant from responsibility for any trap, or anything of that nature, into which people who have access to his land may fall. I certainly think the liability of the tenant or owner in this respect cannot be extended. We have had some mention of danger from a bull, but there is also the hazard of a sand pit or things of that nature. If free access is given to land, it must be understood that those taking advantage of it go on the land at their own risk.


The noble Lord realises, no doubt, that a man going on such land is a trespasser in law although not to be treated as such. A trespasser has no rights against an owner except where the owner has deliberately laid a trap to catch him.


That is a matter into which we can look. I gathered from the Bill that he who enters upon such land shall not be treated as a trespasser, subject to the exceptions.


He is a kind of authorised trespasser. He is not an invitee or a licensee. I am sure the noble Lord understands what that means.


I appreciate that. If the case came to the courts, he could not he treated as a trespasser. He cannot be "run in." "Trespassers will be prosecuted" is, of course, a wholly absurd statement which ought never to have been used by anyone. But a man might be sued for damages as a trespasser. If he comes under Clause 61 and has got past all the hurdles in the Schedule as well, according to the Bill he cannot be treated as a trespasser. Now he may have fallen into a sandpit without having done anything specified in the Schedule, or broken or damaged a hedge, fence, gate or anything else. I think we shall have to look into the question as to whether not treating him as a trespasser will give him the right to sue for damages, if he has, shall we say, fallen into a sandpit.


I am advised that it would not.


I have spoken for too long a time, I am afraid, and I wish to add only that I think we should give this Bill an unopposed Second Reading. I believe there are some ways in which we can improve upon it. We all want those who work hard and who live in congested towns to have the means of enjoying the countryside on their holidays or on their days or afternoons off. In most areas, they have been able to do so quite happily so long as they have not abused the privilege. This Bill does not really give people in those areas anything they have not had before; but where it is a new privilege, let those who act under it realise that good behaviour is still necessary in order to justify the benefits they will be receiving. Let me conclude in the way I started. I hope that no one will think, because this is a Bill that makes further provision for recreation, that hard work is not still the prior order of the day.

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, has referred to me and to the Forestry Commission, of which until quite recently I was a member, as breeders of vermin. To a large extent I agree with him, but I should like to say that the worst cases—and there have been some very had ones, notably of foxes—have been due to the fact that when the Forestry Commission have purchased or leased land from owners, those owners have reserved the sporting rights and we have not had the privilege of employing keepers to kill the vermin. We disapprove of that as much as the noble Lord. I believe that all my former colleagues on the Forestry Commission are as anxious as I am to see that destructive vermin are destroyed. There are certain exceptions. We preserve interesting animals and certain rare birds—pine martens, in most districts the badger, the golden eagle and some of the hawks. But, with these exceptions, we endeavour to destroy vermin, though not always successfully, and I hope the noble Lord will acquit us of the deliberate intention of maintaining destructive vermin in excessive quantities.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend, Lord Llewellin, is perfectly right about this Bill: it does not create national parks. They exist already, in the fine stretches of open country which are there to-day for anybody to enjoy. Noble Lords opposite may blow trumpets in all directions, saying they have created national parks, but it is not true. This Bill does nothing to create national parks. Its two governing principles are to preserve and enhance the natural beauty of the areas specified, and to promote their enjoyment by the public. But there is no creation, because the natural scenery and landscape are already there. We want to preserve them.

I am glad to see the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, returning to his seat because it is the preservation of the national parks from spoliation by Government Departments and statutory bodies that is really the important point. That is the point which defeats planning authorities all over the country at the present time. No planning authority can compete with a Government Department or statutory body, because such bodies were excluded from the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. When we appeal to the Minister of Town and Country Planning, as we frequently do—well, I will not requote the instances brought forward yesterday by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, but I think your Lordships will agree that the cases he cited made a pretty melancholy list. This Bill does nothing to solve this problem, because the National Parks Commission have no power, and the local planning authorities have no power, and up to the present the Minister of Town and Country Planning has not defended the interests of amenity in a way that many of your Lordships would have wished to see.

The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, who showed such diligence in covering so many points in the debate, told your Lordships that the Minister is not a Minister of Amenities. That may be perfectly true, but a Minister of Town and Country. Planning who is performing his public duty must surely put amenity very high indeed when he considers the cir- cumstances of each case. Unless the Minister is able to convince his colleagues in other Departments that he will stand up for amenities, within the park areas and without the park areas, then this Bill in itself will do nothing to protect the national parks. The first governing principle of this Bill is that the Minister shall act in this way, and it is the hope of your Lordships that in future the Minister will be more successful in this respect than he has been in the past.

In regard to the second governing principle, that of promoting the enjoyment of the national parks by the public, what exactly can be done in these areas? Those who belong to local planning authorities which have national narks or proposed national parks within their areas have been considering this question ever since the publication of the Hobhouse Report. I suggest that nothing we do under the second principle must damage the first—namely, the preservation and enhancement of the natural beauty of these areas—because if it did, we should destroy the basis of the national parks; there would be no natural beauty left. Therefore the local planning authorities must be extremely careful in their development plans which they have a statutory duty to make, that there should be no damage to natural beauty. That means that the public improvements must be on lines that will not affect the natural beauty.

The public improvements envisaged in this Bill are, first, further accommodation, which is badly needed in many areas which are suggested as national parks. This accommodation is of two sorts: accommodation of the youth hostel type, for young ramblers, and accommodation of a rather more comfortable nature for family parties and more elderly people. If such accommodation is required, and I think it is, I suggest that it should be provided in small units and not in the monster hotels which the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, described yesterday. I do not think that in most national parks there is any place for large units of accommodation and restaurants. Small units are required in order not to destroy the scale of the buildings, and so forth, in national parks. There is one principle that can be observed here in considering what must be put in a park: it is that no new buildings and very few new facilities should be provided within a park which can equally well he provided outside. After all, when we consider it, the ordinary facilities of seaside holiday resorts will be quite out of place in a national park and will he much better provided outside. That applies to large hotel accommodation, cinemas, dance halls and so on. We find them outside the parks in the main centres of population where those who desire that type of holiday can enjoy them.

I should like now to refer briefly to the powers of the Commission. During this debate many noble Lords have commented on the poverty and weakness of the Commission. I do not agree, because if your Lordships glance at Clauses 7, 8, 9 and 10 you will find that the Commission come in at every stage—the Minister consults with the Commission, the Commission consults with the planning authority, and so on. Although there are no definite powers of compulsion, or executive powers, in the Commission, the planning authorities will in practice be unable to act against the advice of the Commission. That is the safeguard. It is so for this reason. As your Lordships know, the planning authority are the county council, and if the county council wish to act against the Parks Commission, we should hope that they would immediately be faced with the position of the Commission appealing to the Minister, and the Minister would then issue a direction under the powers which he possesses. That being so, the Commission are in a very strong position, because although they have not the executive power—that must, of course, reside in the planning authority—they have an even greater power behind the scene. I am certain that the Parks Commission, when formed, will have no difficulty in pressing their wishes on the park planning authorities.

The park planning authorities, of course, are the executive body, and I think it is well that that should be so—for this important reason, which I am sure the noble Lord in charge of the Bill understands well. Under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, the planning authorities are the county council. What does that situation carry with it? It carries the complete control over development and the most complicated procedure involving the Central Land Board for development charges, permission to develop, questions of compensation, and so on. To my mind, it would be quite impossible owing to the financial difficulties, to have two planning authorities within any country area. Therefore, it is logical—and I think the Minister should be congratulated on this —that the Minister should stick to the principle of one set of planning authorities throughout the country, more especially when we remember that one-tenth of the whole of England and Wales is covered by these proposed national parks. You could not take away one-tenth of England and Wales and have the compensation, development charges, and so on, dealt with by a Commission—especially by a Commission which is appointed and not elected. As your Lordships know, the local planning authorities are elected and therefore they have to have regard to the opinion of the electors. The National Parks Commission, of course, will be appointed by nobody except the Minister.

I should like to refer briefly to the length of time that this procedure will take. None of your Lordships should fear that things will happen quickly, because if you study the timetables in the Bill you will find that many months, and in some cases many years, will elapse before executive action can he taken. I would like to refer to the three years during which surveys of footpaths are being carried out. Your Lordships know that that is a monumental task, and it is doubtful whether three years will be sufficient time; and three years have to elapse before any objections are heard. At the end of that time the local planning authorities have to collect all the objections, and a complicated procedure has to be gone through in regard to those objections before the map can be published. In that case we have three years.

There is a good deal of difference of opinion in regard to access land, and I think that is inevitable. In any case, the planning authority are given two years to make a survey of access land, so it will not be done to-morrow. I foresee great difficulties occurring in regard to the foreshore and beaches when dealing with access land. As your Lordships know, access land is cliff, coast and dune, open country, mountain and so on. I feel that it is on the beach and foreshore that the greatest practical difficulties will arise, because that is open uncultivated land, not excepted, and under this Bill the public will presumably expect to have unlimited access. As your Lordships know, much of the sand dune land behind the beaches is divided into little plots; people come down and put houses and bathing huts there and enjoy their bathing. If this land is to be access land, it will be very difficult for the public to understand their position, and it will be even more difficult for the owner to see where he stands. I hope that point will be cleared up in Committee.

I have only one more point to make, and it is about the development plan made by the planning authorities for a park. Several months are allowed before that is started—I think it is three months in one case where there has to be consultation—and then within a year the local planning authority have to produce a development plan. A year is a very short time to survey and carry out all the necessary preliminary work before producing a development plan for a large acreage, such as one of these parks. One of the difficulties with which all planning authorities are faced is that in the past the Town and Country Planning Association have not had planning officers in forestry, or in the agricultural aspect of rural planning. Not unnaturally, in the past planning officers were always trained to do town planning under the old Acts. What did that mean? That meant that they had to be architects or surveyors. They could either be an architect with a planning connection or a surveyor with a planning connection. This is an important point, and I hope the noble Lord will make a note of it, because the Ministry of Town and Country Planning will have to do something about it.

They will have to take steps to arrange with the professional association that planning officers in the future shall have knowledge and experience of forestry and agricultural matters—because this parkland is purely a rural matter. We shall have great difficulty in finding the qualified professional people to do it. There are so few trained planning officers at the present time that if my county employs a new one it merely means that we steal him from the county next door at an enhanced salary. A most difficult position is arising, and noble Lords who have to deal with these matters every day know well that there are not sufficient trained men. That is what we told the present Government in 1947, when the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act was passed. I regret to say that they did not pay much attention to us. The development plan is of course the basis which has to be agreed with the National Parks Commission, and that is where the influence of the National Parks Commission will make itself felt. The planning authority have to take note and reconsider the plan if the Commission wish them to do so.

I must apologise for detaining your Lordships, but this Bill is good in parts, and by the time your Lordships have finished with it I think it will be better still. It is welcomed by the local planning authorities because undoubtedly it will help them when dealing with despoliation of the park areas. It will help them to feel that they have a Commission—for what it is worth—prepared to fight the case of the beauty of the countryside in conjunction with the Minister, and, we hope, urging him on.

4.54 p.m.


My Lords, it is customary in another place—I do not know if it is here—always to declare one's interest when a Bill is before the House. My home and all my property in North Wales is inevitably within the scope of this Bill. It is in Snowdonia and is in all the maps proposed for the Snowdonia National Park. From childhood upwards I have been familiar with what is now proposed as a national park and which I beg to claim at the outset has been used and treated as a national park for as long as I can remember. There is no part of the United Kingdom, with the possible parallel exception of the Lake District of Cumberland, where there has been more free access for climbers and ramblers than there has been in the Snowdonia district of North Wales, or a more popular holiday resort for people from far and wide in the summer months. The hardiest climbers come in winter for the snow climbing, as they cannot now get the Swiss francs to go to Switzerland and climb in the Alps. Snowdonia is the only place within reasonable access where they can get the snow and ice climbing which is their beloved pastime. Therefore, in many respects the Snowdonia National Park is ready made, and all I am anxious about is that there should not be too much further development.

After all, as the noble Lord who has just sat down has reminded us, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, who are going to take from the Commission and the local authorities all the effective powers in connection with national parks, are mainly a town planning authority—new Stevenages and great urbanisation. It is not the Minister—Ministers come and go; they become translated; they go out of office by reason of a General Election—but the Ministry which all of us who have been in office know is essentially manned from top to bottom by people trained in town planning. Whether they are the right people to advise on what forms of animal and plant life are to he preserved, I am very doubtful. I shall be returning to that matter in a minute.

I look forward to going on living in what I regard as a national park. May I say at once that although there has been an immense and happy growth of camping, rambling, youth hostels and the like, it is astonishing how little damage there is to complain of in that area. Admittedly there is always one source of damage which is going to be very difficult to counteract, and that is the leaving open of gates. In a sheep-farming country, where there are big stone walls dividing farm from farm, if a gate is left open and two large flocks get mixed, it is hard on the sheep farmers who have to separate those flocks.

The real threat to-day to the Snowdonia National Park is the centralised, bureaucratic Government monopolies. They are threatening some of the greatest amenities of that country. The first, of course, is the Electricity Authority. Let me say at once that I am all for the development of hydro-electric power. Coal is increasingly expensive and we want it for the export trade. I am all in favour of the methods one sees employed in Italy and other countries for harnessing electric power. But everything depends on how it is done, and in that regard a centralised State monopoly is much worse than any local authority. When the Bill was before Parliament to authorise the Birmingham Corporation to bring water from Rhayader in Wales, people insisted that the great tracts of land in the Elan Valley should be regarded as amenities, and provision was accordingly made. To-day one of the sights of Wales is the Elan Valley Reservoirs—and now that the trees have grown it has become an addition to the beauty of the countryside.

Now I turn to the great centralised bureaucracies who are in no way connected with the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. They snap their fingers at that Ministry. Who is to see, when they put up, for instance, a powerhouse, that it is sited with some regard both to amenity and to the preservation of the characteristics of a place like Snowdon? Who is to see that it will be faced not with any old stone but with local stone which harmonises with other buildings and with the landscape from which it is hewn? If I am rightly informed, it is proposed to build three new power-houses on Snowdon itself; it is proposed to site one of them right at the entrance to the famous Pass of Aberglaslyn, which is regarded as one of the chief spots in the whole of Snowdonia. The authorities concerned have been asked to move it 400 yards away, but. "No, it is not convenient"; they refuse to budge. And this property is vested in the National Trust!

I am all for the hydro-electric power resources of Snowdon being harnessed so far as possible: but let the authority doing it conform, as they have had to do in many schemes in Scotland, to the need for preserving in so far as they can the traditional amenities and beauty spots. But you know what engineers are: they have their plans; very likely they have never seen the place; they have their twenty-five inch and six-inch maps all plotted in straight lines on the drawing board, and they do not care in the least about anything from the amenity point of view. That is why I regret that the Government have not left more powers to the National Parks Commission. I wonder whether the Ministry of Town and Country Planning will stand up to these people.

I turn next to the War Office. In the middle of the Snowdon National Park (they have given up the actual Snowdon area) in the Trawsfyrydd area, they have put up an artillery range. As the guns get bigger and the range has to be longer, the ammunition larger and so forth, the area of that artillery range, where gunners are trained (and I agree it is not a bad place for them to train; I do not think the existence of an artillery range in the middle of the national park in that very sparsely populated mountain country can be or should be objected to) is likely to increase. I have been a Minister of Works, and I well remember that of all the awful builders and architects, the worst are those of the War Office Lands Department. As I once said in another speech in this House, if you go round Army barracks, from Chelsea to Aldershot—the Army's archetype and capital—you will find that they manage through the centuries to combine the maximum of uglification of architecture with the maximum of inconvenience and discomfort to the soldier. That is the long-standing tradition of the War Office Barracks Department and the War Office Lands Department. Why is that? It is because anybody who is any good as a sapper gets command of an army corps; if he is no good he goes to the Barracks Department. And that Department will not brook any civilian assistance or advice.

In that respect the War Office is quite different from the Air Force; if you go to Cranwell or Sandhurst you will see the contrast. You will see it also in the Admiralty establishments. But wherever there is the trail of the War Office Lands Department and the 'War Office Barracks Department, you find what I have described. Even in their temporary camps it is the same. During the war they had the whole of Morfa-Harlech for an anti-tank range. Under pressure they have given up a proportion of it, but they retain some, and it is still a place of Nissen huts. There seems to be no idea of making even the temporary camps blend into the countryside and be such as to give the Territorial who goes to train there a sense of amenity or decency. Of all Government Departments, the War Office is the one to be trusted least to erect buildings in a national park. That is the Department that needs to be watched.

Finally, I come to the Forestry Commission. In former days there was tremendous tension between the whole agricultural community in North Wales and the Forestry Commission. There is still a certain amount of tension on the question of vermin. They have started having some keepers there, but not nearly enough. There is a clause in this Bill about the desirability of preserving certain rare species of birds and animals and the like. I agree that that ought to be associated with a national park, and we have many species in North Wales—ornithologists indeed pass my own property to get to their posts. In the old days there were certain landlords who reared game, but that is all gone. They cannot now afford to keep gamekeepers. There is a strange pack of foxhounds—though you would scarcely recognise them as foxhounds—comprising the Ynysfor Hunt. There is no mounted person in the Hunt, for it is not possible to ride over the country. I must say they are odd-looking foxhounds—but they do kill a certain number of foxes.

Where there are woodland areas in North Wales the best way of destroying foxes is by shooting them. I remember the horror with which an M.F.H. once looked at me when I told him that I was out to bag foxes with my gun. He shuddered and regarded me as a malefactor; but it is the only thing to do if you are to prevent the destruction, on a large scale, of farmers' lambs. In these large forestry areas, the great woodlands are the most perfect breeding places for foxes. The lands are wired in and the rabbits are wired out; and as the foxes cannot get their natural food, rabbits, they prey upon the sheep, and the losses are staggering. It will mean in the Snowdonia National Park, as everywhere in North Wales, further organisation to combat the ever-growing danger and prevalence of foxes by shooting and trapping So far as sheep are concerned, the only other form of really bad vermin, which has increased enormously during the war, owing to the disappearance or elimination of the ordinary private gamekeeper, is the carrion crow. The hooded crows in Scotland and the carrion crows in North Wales are still a menace. They are the cruellest form of vermin, because they pounce upon the head of the sheep, peck the eyes until it is blind and then peck through tie eye sockets to the brain until they kill the animal. That is their method. The carrion crow is increasing in that part of the coup try and, in default of private landlords having gamekeepers again, unless something is done to deal with the carrion crows they will become an increasing menace and increasingly dangerous.

I am not afraid of the hiker, the mountain climber or the youth club. I say frankly that I do not think the Government should plan for them, or for the campers and the like, much more building. The great thing about North Wales (our buildings may not be beautiful; architecturally our chapels certainly are not) is that all the buildings, the farmhouses and the rest, except in places like Barmouth and Criccieth which are away out of the park, are built of local stone. What I dread is some super-authority coming into that area, on representations that another canteen is needed, and something that is planned as an admirable canteen for a park in Wigan being put down in the middle of Snowdonia. It may be of an entirely different style and different materials from everything else around it, thus completely upsetting the applecart. That is what I want to see guarded against in this Bill.

In talking of these things, I have spoken entirely from local knowledge, having lived in the area. I have mentioned points which have occurred to me. Generally speaking, taking the Bill as a whole, I hope that there will be no frantic hurry to declare new areas. I think we have to learn by experience from the four main proposed parks—Snowdonia, the Cumberland Lakes, Dartmoor and Dovedale. If we can get those well launched before other new national parks are created and organised—for they are the four natural ones to take first—then it will probably be a good thing. There must be learning by trial and error. It is almost impossible for Parliament or for any Ministry to know beforehand what problems will arise. But problems will arise, of course, and they may change with changing circumstances; but the less change in those areas in the position as it exists to-day, the better.

I am sure that any great development and artificial stimulation of tourism in any form is undesirable. Thousands of people already come to these districts, and in the main people have enjoyed them. Many people go to Blackpool. Let those people who prefer Blackpool continue to go there. For goodness sake, do not let us try to drive the people who like to go to Blackpool to Snowdonia, or the people who like climbing Snowdon to go to Blackpool. There is a variety of tastes in holidays and amenities. I see that one of the principal functions of the Commission is to ensure publicity. The motor coach companies and some of the hotels and other organisations provide quite enough publicity in the tours to North Wales which have been going on for years. It will be an absolute waste of public money to indulge in any advertisement of that kind, and I hope that that will not be done. Similarly with regard to guides. There are plenty of good guides who can tell you the known footpaths and where to climb if you intend to climb Snowdon. For the ordinary person, there are only about three ways in which he will not break his neck. For those fairly expert there are two more ways, and if you do not know how to rock climb you may break your neck. There are two other ways up by which, unless you are a real expert, you are certain to break your neck. That is all set out.

Half the county with which I am connected, Merioneth, is to be in the national park. The county council have had an excellent planning officer ever since the end of the war. All sorts of arrangements preparatory to this project have been made. Rights of way and existing footpaths have been noted, and the thing is all set to start. I agree that on these matters we do not want interference either from Whitehall or from the Commission. What we want the Commission to have is power against Government Departments. That is the most important thing of all—that they should have power against Government Departments, power of representations through their Minister to the Cabinet as a whole to prevent the atrocities which these powerful State monopolies perpetrate. We live in an age of centralised bureaucratic monopolies. Every new nationalisation measure that this Government bring in sets up a new bureaucratic monopoly impervious to criticism, either from above or below, either from its own employees or from Parliament or anywhere. They are a growing threat to our liberties, to our amenities and to the whole traditional way of life of this country. Having set up these great railway monopolies, coal monopolies, power monopolies, gas monopolies and the like, how are we to control them in the future and make them cease to he the great new feudal barons that they have become? That is the problem of the next generation. It is because I see the great danger of these bureaucratic State monopolies in connection with national parks that I have spoken as warmly as I have this afternoon.

5.19 p.m.


My Lords, unlike the noble Lord who has just spoken, whose knowledgeable and most interesting speech has enthralled us all, I can claim no special knowledge of this problem. I speak as an amateur, as a man who loves this country and its countryside, who has enjoyed in his life many opportunities of visiting different places of interest throughout our land and who looks forward in the years to come to a larger opportunity being given to others to share those same advantages. "National park" is a most attractive phrase. My first recollection of a national park was at Rotorua in New Zealand, to which unfortunately I went a rear or two too late to see the famous terraces before they were destroyed. Thence I went to the Yellowstone Park and I remember going into one of the hotels there. The first thing that the manager said to me was, "The bears come down at 5.30 and the geyser plays at 6." Those prophecies were duly fulfilled. Unfortunately, we have not the great wonders in this country that they have in the United States and, in some degree, in New Zealand, but I do think we have great beauties characteristic of our country which are worthy of being classed as national parks.

After all, size is not everything. I have been told the story of an American who came to visit our Lake District. He stayed in a small inn and the innkeeper was able to give him a good deal of time. He took him about and showed him Lake Windermere and some of the other lakes. At the end of the day, he expected a favourable comment but was met by the remark, "In our country we have lakes compared with which Windermere is just a little duck pond." He took the visitor up and showed him Scafell Pike and some of the other fine mountains of the Lake District, and again the comment was that in their country they would he regarded as mole hills. As day after day went by and similar comments were made, the innkeeper became very weary and decided to take his vengeance on his guest by putting a live lobster in his bed. When the creature began to pinch the visitor's toe and he rang the bell, the innkeeper came up and inquired what was the matter. The American asked what vas this creature. The innkeeper replied, "That is what we call a common bedbug in this country. I am sure that in your country you have ones compared with which this is a mere microbe."

My point is that size is by no means everything, and certainly we have in England and in Wales (which are the subject of the principal provisions of this Bill), and equally if not more so in Scotland, to which no doubt, if the noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, is speaking, he will refer later, wonderful areas which are worthy of the respectful admiration and love of visitors both from our own country and from other parts of the world. In the main, Scotland is not dealt with by this Bill, but I believe it is true to say that, as so often is the case, there will be another Bill of a similar kind which relates to Scotland, and which will give the same opportunities to Scotland as this does to England and Wales.

I have a great dell of sympathy with what has been said, notably by Lord Hylton recently, and Lord Harlech, who has just given us such a treat, as to what this Bill accomplishes. I hope that in his reply the Minister will say a few words on this point. As I think Lord Harlech mentioned, we have, in effect, had national parks for a long time. The fact that we are going to call them national parks does not make much difference unless with the change of name we get some advantage we had not got before. I shall be glad if, whey he comes to reply to the debate this evening, the Minister will tell us what real change of a practical kind is going to take place. Are we going to get greater amenities? Are the amenities that we have going to he more carefully preserved? Is the beauty of the place going to be less disturbed by the outrageous buildings of which Lord Harlech spoke? That is the first point. The second point is: is the access of the public going to be increased by this Bill, and, if so, how? If the Minister can satisfy this House and the public that the Bill is going to achieve both those ends, I think he will have contributed a great deal to the popularity of this measure and its understanding, both here, where no doubt your Lordships have read it and understand it, and more especially in the outside world where it has not been understood.

There is very little more that I have to say. I feel very keenly on the subject of public footpaths. During the war, quite properly, no doubt, many of the footpaths which were traditional in the countryside were surrendered temporarily in order that the last ounce of grain could be obtained from the fields. There are several in the neighbourhood in which I live, and I hope that when the new scheduling of footpaths takes place care will be taken to recover the rights of way which have been temporarily abandoned for the public needs, in order that the public of the future can use them. I regard that as of supreme importance, and unless steps are taken now, when four years have gone by since the end of the war, we may lose for ever many of those rights of way which were the glory, the joy and the freedom of the countryside. Having said that, I do not propose to take up any more of your Lordships' time. I know that we shall give a Second Reading to this Bill without any dissentient voice, but I hope that we and the Minister will use the Bill and the powers that it gives him—in so far as it does give him any powers at all, a matter about which I am not quite clear—to preserve the countryside and to make it more accessible to the general public of this country.

5.27 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that I also should declare an interest in speaking on this Bill because I am fortunate enough to have a home right in the centre of the Lake District. With that remark I would like to say that, in so far as it goes. I welcome this Bill as a step in the right direction. I believe the Minister has been right in making use of the existing local planning authorities and in resisting points of view that have been expressed by others to the contrary. The one thing which needs to be carefully watched is that there is no dancer of any feeling of antagonism arising between those who visit these parts for recreation and rest and those who live there and earn their living there.

I can speak with first-hand knowledge only of the Lake District which, as other noble Lords have said, although it is not a national park in name has been a place where tens of thousands of people have gone every year to take their holidays. I would say that the local inhabitants there can be divided into two groups. Broadly, there are those who earn their living largely by way of the visitor trade, and there are the others, the farmers and those with other forms of occupation, in industry of one kind or another, who carry on their livelihood despite the visitors. Of course, as regards the first group the more we can do for them in these national parks, obviously the better they will be pleased, because it will encourage visitors to come there. But as regards the farmers and so forth, it seems to me vital that nothing should be done to allow any feeling of antagonism to arise. I do not think that any feeling like that exists in the Lake District to-day at any rate, it is only very rarely that one hears any murmurings of it, yet it could easily arise if the local inhabitants were to feel that their needs were being subordinated to the needs of the visitors by an authority which owed greater allegiance to an all-powerful Commission in London than to a local authority. That is why I am pleased that the planning arrangements in this Bill are as they are.

Many noble Lords have referred to the question of the provision of electricity in these national parks. I would like to give a specific illustration of what I have in mind in this connection. If a farmer in this wild part of the country felt that he was being denied a supply of electricity, or that there was delay in providing him with such a supply, because it was too expensive or impracticable, owing to the presence of rock, to bury cables, and because it was thought that the provision of pylons would interfere with the view of, shall we say, a Mr. Smith, a visitor from London, it would make for bad feeling. It seems to me that this is so obvious as hardly to need stating. Yet it is vital that this should be watched. In point of fact, I am inclined to think that if the case were put to Mr. Smith in that way he would be the first to say that he would not wish to deny any farmer the right to a supply of electricity, a right which he himself gets almost automatically in his flat in London or whatever may be the big city in which he lives. The people who visit the Lake District cannot all be consulted on this matter, and it puts a great additional responsibility on the planning authorities to maintain a fair balance between what is needed for the local inhabitants, on the one hand, and for the visitors on the other. I hope that if there is to be my bias one way or another it will fall on the side of the needs—which are not unreasonable—of the local inhabitants, the farmers and others.

I wish to turn now to one other small point. Nearly every noble Lord who has spoken so far has mentioned the sentence in the Bill which refers to the fact that due regard must be paid to the needs of agriculture and forestry. That, of course, is essential, but I am wondering whether the wording of that part of the Bill is adequate. Does it go far enough? What I ant not certain of is whether the wording is such as to make it certain that farmers will not merely be allowed to keep their farms up to the present standard but will be able to develop and improve them in accordance with current practice. If they are not allowed to do that, then a very important incentive will be withdrawn from them, and they will possibly look in other directions for income. In my view what they will probably do, because they may well find it financially more attractive, will be to put their best efforts into the visitor trade. As a result the farming interests will be adversely affected and the country as a whole will suffer. I do not think this is at all an imaginary picture. A great many farmers, as your Lordships know, already take in visitors as a sideline, and it is imperative that the two interests should be kept in their right perspective.

My opinion is that with the local authorities providing the planning committees for these parks, dangers of this sort will be better guarded against—assuming, of course, that those who are nominated on these planning bodies to represent the national point of view are individuals of first-class ability, whether they be men or women, who are capable of stating their case in a clear and convincing way. I believe that, in this instance particularly, it will be quality and not quantity which will carry by far the greater weight. I had intended to say something about the powers of the Commission in relation to Government Departments and nationalised boards, but having heard the delightful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, I am sure that everything which can be said on that matter has already been said in the most convincing way. It is certain that if these national parks are to mean anything there must be no loophole of which any Government Department or nationalised board can take advantage in order to sidetrack these planning hoards or the Commission and so start development without early and continuing consultation. I realise that there may be occasions on which questions of security arise, but I suggest that that is an argument in favour of a small Commission. If you have a small Commission composed of really responsible individuals, I can imagine no matter of security which it should not be possible, even in war time, to refer to them.

Next there comes the question of access. I regard the provisions of this Bill as calculated to produce almost a revolution in the countryside. I am not saying that in any critical way, but merely to try to emphasise the tremendous and far-reaching effects of this measure as regards access, and the magnitude of the steps that will have to be taken if the provisions a the Bill are to work as intended. As many noble Lords have said, it will be largely a matter of education. I am not at all sure that on that score the Bill is not too complicated—at any rate as regards the individual rambler. How are the public to know what is access land and what is not? In many cases, of course, provided that they have read the Bill, it will be obvious to them which is access land and which is not, just as it is obvious which is open fell land and which is arable land, or whatever it may be. But that will not always apply. What about the woodlands? How are the public to distinguish between two identical woodlands, side by side, one dedicated and one not dedicated, one not access land and one a woodland which can be made access land?

The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, referred to advertisements, signposts and maps, and on the whole I thought he seemed to regard this problem as being easier of solution than I personally think it will be. I prefaced my last remark by saying provided people had read the Bill. I am sure that will apply only in the minority rather than in the majority of cases. Your Lordships will understand what I mean when I refer to the number of individuals one met last summer who made statements something like this—"Now that the Lake District is a national park we can go anywhere we choose." That is the view they hold, regardless of the fact that this Bill has not yet become an Act, and not knowing that the provisions in the Bill are quite different from what they imagine. If this Bill is to be made to work as intended, a great educational campaign will be required.

At this late hour I will not attempt to make any detailed suggestions for such a campaign, but clearly it must deal with the nuisance and danger of litter. Anyone who knows anything of the beauty spots of National Trust land, and what happened to them at week-ends during this last summer, will appreciate the importance of that. I do not in the least belittle the great work which the organised ramblers' associations have done in this connection, but the education which they give cannot touch more than a relatively small number of people. I am afraid that I am sufficiently pessimistic to feel that real success will not be achieved with an educational campaign directed simply to the adult population; it must also be directed strongly to the children in the schools, to the next generation, in order that they may be brought up to have an entirely different attitude to the countryside from that which so many people, admittedly through no fault of their own, have to-day.

These are one or two of the problems on this Bill that have occurred to me. Along with many others they need careful thought if we are to achieve that affinity of outlook between town and country which, though I believe it is growing, has to go a long way if we are to achieve the maximum production of food in this country and make national parks successful.

5.42 p.m.


My Lords, I did not intend to intervene in this debate because this is really an English Bill, though it is true that Part III, which deals with nature conservation, is common to Scotland. The noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, mentioned the fact that there probably would be a Scottish Bill. I have no doubt there will be—possibly the same hashed venison dish with "Scotland" tacked on in brackets. But still, there will be a Bill. There are one or two points I should like to mention. First there is the question of the functions of the Parks Commission as laid down in Part I, Clause 1, paragraphs (a) and (b). They are:

  1. "(a) for the preservation and enhancement of natural beauty in England and Wales, and particularly in the areas designated under this Act as National Parks or as areas of outstanding natural beauty;
  2. (b) for encouraging the provision or improvement, for persons resorting to National Parks, of facilities for the enjoyment thereof and for the enjoyment of the opportunities for open-air recreation and the study of nature afforded thereby."
I am going to suggest that though these two functions are obviously twofold, it is possible that they may conflict one with the other. I would respectfully suggest—and I speak from experience as a one-time Chairman of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board—that it would be wiser if in this Bill His Majesty's Government were to give the Commission the functions described in paragraph (b) only, and dealt with the functions under paragraph (a) in the same way as the Hydro-Electric Board, by setting up committees such as an amenity committee and an agricultural committee, who would have the power to pull up the Commission if they went farther than they should. As I know from experience, there is nothing so uncomfortable for the chairman of a Commission as to have a committee ready to pull that Commission up if they go too far. It is the only way to keep Commissions in order. I suggest that we should allow for some form of watchdogs to be kept, especially with regard to these two very important interests—namely, amenity and agriculture.

The second point I want to make is to support heartily what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, in regard to the suggestion that planning officers must have a knowledge of rural matters. We know from experience that some of the schemes that have already been set out have been made by townsmen. You cannot have a knowledge of such things as forestry and agriculture unless you have been born and bred in the country. You cannot gain that knowledge in a short time; it takes a lifetime. Therefore, the sooner we face up to this problem and try to attract men brought up in the country to act as planning officers in the rural districts, the better it will be for the country as a whole.

My third point, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, is the question of the right of supply of electricity to inhabitants versus amenity: the right of electricity for the man who lives in the district as against the right of amenity for Mr. Smith who comes up for his holiday from London. The point is that Mr. Smith does not live there and Mr. Jone, the inhabitant, does. We must try to marry the interests of the inhabitants in the supply of the ordinary common decencies of life with amenity wherever possible. Mr. Smith is used to turning on the tap automatically and Mr. Jones is only now getting these amenities. We must not stop them coming to him, because we will not keep him in the country if we do. Lastly, we have the Bill, and nobody agrees with its intention more than I do. It undoubtedly will become an Act, but I think that the perils of bureaucracy in action, initiated and carried out by townsmen, may have even a worse effect than the activities of the "hoodie crow" described by the noble Lord, Lord Harlech.

5.47 p.m.


My Lords, I have been much surprised during the debate by the little attention given to the actions of the War Department in connection with national parks. The matter was alluded to by the noble Lords, Lord Harlech and Lord Rochdale—namely, that the War Office has entirely escaped criticism. My mind may be prejudiced by the fact that the nearest public park to my own home is that of Clumber in Sherwood Forest. Clumber was made over by the Duke of Newcastle to the National Trust, and the National Trust have passed it over as a public park to the citizens of Nottingham, Lincoln, Doncaster, Sheffield and the surrounding districts. But the public have been unabie to enter upon the Park at all, because it is at present cumbered with corrugated iron sheds full of dangerous explosives. The War Department have taken very good care to keep the public out and the public have not been able to get in. I ventured to ask a question on this subject on June 29 and I received a most courteous reply from the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in which he said that, owing to the present shortage of accommodation, the storage of ammunition in Sherwood Forest would have to be continued for a good many years yet —and that in spite of the risk of fire which is daily present to us. I had the opportunity of seeing some of the forests south of Bordeaux, in France, during the last couple of months, and the scene of devastation was something fearful. I could not help thinking that if the same thing were to occur in Sherwood Forest, the situation would be much worse because of the explosives stored there.

There is a small society known as the Friends of Clumber in Nottinghamshire who like to have concerts in the beautiful church which was dedicated, but not consecrated, by the late Duke of Newcastle. These people are not allowed to go to the church unless they have car passes signed by the military authorities. Moreover, there is a small river, called the Poulter, which runs through the estate, and the military have erected barriers on the bridge and there is usually a sentry present to guard them. I think the Government, in connection with these national parks, should take steps to inquire what are the intentions and powers of the military authorities. I have not yet heard that any tank training is to take place in Clumber Park, but the tanks and the intention are in the near vicinity, and I cannot help wondering how long it will be before tanks are brought into the Park and the rights of home grown food are entirely ignored. I hope, therefore, that the spokesman for the Government, when replying, will be good enough to say something about the War Department and what are their intentions and their powers.

5.50 p.m.


My Lords, at this late hour I will confine myself to one aspect of this Bill—and one only. Having sat through almost the whole of this two-days' debate I would ask your Lordships' indulgence for a few minutes to deal with this matter. The noble Lord the Paymaster-General moved the Second Reading of this Bill yesterday with that charm and eloquence to which he has accustomed us. His courtesy to, and consideration for, those who may differ from him almost disarms criticism of any Bill of which he has charge in your Lordships' House. In common with so many of your Lordships I am in full agreement with the general objectives of this Bill, and I am the more sorry, therefore, to disturb the harmony created by the Paymaster-General yesterday. In fact, he fingered the keys of his recital of the various clauses of the Bill with such dexterity that when he came to Clause 6 he took an octave-stretch and passed over Clause 12 altogether, without even mentioning the licensing provision therein, contenting himself with the remark: I think that is sufficient for Part II of the Bill. He thus adroitly jumped the bars of the licensing provisions of Clause 12, without so much as a note of comment, so innocent was the subject deemed to be. I watched him as he approached it, and as he rushed on, but his massive presence and disarming smile were too much for me, and although he seemed—I almost thought—to look in this direction as he pursued his way, I had not the temerity to intervene and ask him to deal with it awn. When he came to Clause 54 the same thing happened.

I am glad, however, that my noble friend Lord Llewellin referred to the subject in his comprehensive speech this afternoon. I am only surprised that the point was allowed to pass unchallenged in the other House. Why should the Government once again throw this apple of discord into our midst? That they should thus take the initiative in providing for intoxicating liquor in the national parks, after all that has gone before, passes my comprehension. We threshed this matter out at great length in your Lordships' House, both on the Civic Restaurants Act two years ago and again on the Housing Act as recently as July of this year, as the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, has said, and in both cases the Government eventually gave way.

What is the position in the present case? There will be only three possible courses open if subsection (1) (a) of Clause 12 and subsection (2) of Clause 54 are enacted. Application will be permissible for a full licence—which is a general publican's licence—a restricted licence to serve drinks with meals, or no application at all. I want to ask the Government what is their intention in inserting these provisions for the sale of intoxicating liquor? Do they envisage a full licence, a licence with meals, or no licence at all in the national parks? As the Bill stands the door is left wide open, not only to restricted licences for liquor consumption with meals but for full justices' licences, with cocktail bars and all the rest. In other words, drink and still more drink! As I have said, we fought this matter out at great length on the Civic Restaurants Act two years ago, and again this year on the Housing Act, and in both cases, thanks to the kindly intervention of my noble friend the Leader of the House, coupled with the pertinacity and persuasive powers of my noble friend Lord Llewellin—in the latter case so ably supported by the patience and persistence of the noble Lord the Paymaster-General, now in charge of this Bill—the Government gave way and eventually met our point. Surely the Government cannot complain of our asking them to be at least consistent and not in the same Parliament make two different provisions to meet the same point.

There is no member of the Government for whom I have a greater regard than the Minister of Town and Country Planning; in my judgment, Mr. Silkin is one of the ablest members of the present Administration. I cannot do other than believe that he will be willing to reconsider this matter if it is put before him afresh. The provision of these national parks will make a special appeal to young people and it is, to say the least of it, exceedingly inappropriate, and as I think most reprehensible, to put temptation in their way by adding drinking facilities. Then again, these national parks will for the most part be in country areas, which are in so many cases notoriously over-licensed already per unit of population.




As has been said: It must needs be that offences come: but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh. And woe to that Government who put a stumbling block, or an occasion to fall, in the path of the youth of our land!

Why should this provision for the sale of intoxicating liquor be included in the Bill? I argued this matter at great length on the two previous occasions to which reference has been made, and I have no desire to delay your Lordships unduly now. But may I just say this? What was good enough for the Minister of Food in his Civic Restaurants Act, and for the Minister of Health in his National Housing Act, should surely be good enough for the Minister of Town and Country planning in this Bill. The Government having given way on the two previous occasions, and when, apart from the general Government assent, the Leader of the House, the Home Secretary, the Minister of Food, the Minister of Health, Lord Henderson and my noble friend the Paymaster-General, in charge of this Bill, were all in complete agreement, severally and personally, and the matter was carried in this House, I cannot bring myself to believe that my right honourable friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning will, after all, do other than fall into line with his colleagues and thus make easier the passage of this r on-Party measure now before your Lordships' House. In the meantime I support the Second Reading of the Bill, while retaining complete freedom of action in regard to its further stages.

5.58 p.m.


My Lords, as this interesting debate draws to a conclusion, I should like to say a few words about Scotland. I do not think a few words on such a subject will be inappropriate, because, although Scotland does not enter into the Bill, except as regards Part III, it would be correct to say that vast areas of the Highlands, and a very considerable part of the Lowlands, could be described as "areas of outstanding natural beauty," the term used in the Bill. In another place, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland explained why the main Part of the Bill did not apply to Scotland. The question of national parks is somewhat different there, and it would be desirable to be treated in a separate measure, which I hope may not be an exact copy of this measure but may take into account special Scottish features. But the measure now before your Lordships does deal with the conservation of natural life and in that part of the Bill Scotland shares. So the few remarks I have to make to-night will relate mainly to Scotland, but I have also one or two things to say which affect the country as a whole.

There was a most, interesting Report published in 1947 by a Committee known as the Scottish Wild Life Conservation Committee which I world commend to your Lordships as extremely interesting reading. This Committee recommended the steps to be taken for the conservation of wild life in Scotland, and it is on the Report of this Committee that Part III of the Bill is framed. I should like to ask the noble Lord who 'will wind up the debate, however, one question which is giving me some anxiety. The body which is known as the Nature Conservancy is a body which works under the Lord President of the Council. There is a good and important Scottish Committee under the chairmanship of Professor Matthews, and Dr. John Berry, that eminent biologist, has been made a director for Scotland. I am quite sure, therefore, that the Committee is a body which will be able to look after such interests in Scotland. What I am a little concerned about is the chain of responsibility. The Committee would appear to make their report to the Lord President of the Council. I would like to ask the noble Lord whether he can assure me that the Secretary of State for Scotland and his Departments are not by-passed, are kept fully informed of all that is done, and are given every opportunity of acting on the advice of this Committee.

The Report of the Scottish Wild Life Conservation Committee to which I have referred brings out clearly that it is not only the enjoyment and the recreational aspect of such reserves which have to be considered but that great material advantages will accrue to agriculture, to freshwater fisheries, to veterinary science, to pest control and, in another sense, to the education of children. Almost all these subjects are the responsibility of the Secretary of State and his Departments at St. Andrews House, the Department of Agriculture and so on. I would be grateful if the noble Lord, in winding up, would reply to this point.

I now raise a point which refers to the country as a whole. I need not unduly stress what has been mentioned by several noble Lords in the course of the debate, the control of pests in the reserves, except to say that in Scotland this will present a very real problem. We certainly do not want it to become a "hoodie crow" paradise, because that is one of the worst marauders with whom we have to deal; and it is important that steps are taken to deal with this danger. The problem of pests, of course, applies to the whole country, but I am particularly alarmed about the "hoodie crow." I do not see anything in the bylaws which gives me confidence to believe that any special steps are to be taken for keeping pests in control. I hope that matter may be looked into in Committee.

I should like to glance, too, at Clause 21. That clause deals with the establishment of nature reserves by local authorities. This is a point which refers to the United Kingdom. I note that the council of any county or county borough shall have power, in certain circumstances and in agreement with the Nature Conservancy, to secure the provision of land for nature reserves, preferably by agreement but in default of agreement by compulsion. I note also that under the next subsection that power can be delegated to a district council. I am a little concerned to know why such wide powers should be given other than to the Nature Conservancy itself. I can understand that they should have these powers, but perhaps the noble Lord will be able to tell us in a word or two what is the intention of passing these powers on to the smaller bodies, the county council and the district council. He may not be able to answer that question on this occasion, and if so we will return to it in Committee.

I confess to a little anxiety as to why these powers for the compulsory acquisition of land should be transmitted both to the county councils and even to the district councils. There may be an explanation, and if so perhaps the noble Lord can deal with it. I would like to ask, for example, whether, if land is acquired by the local authority, the charge would be a local or a national charge. That again he may not be able to answer now, and it will be a question we can take up again in Committee. I think it is of sufficient importance to be answered. I will say no more on this measure as a whole, except to extend to it the welcome it has been given in other quarters of the House, with the observation that there are certain Amendments which may be made and which may improve it. I trust that improved, as it may be, in its passage through this House it will speedily reach the Statute Book and will fulfil the purpose for which it is intended—to give pleasure to many of our people in this country and advantageous results to us in the valuable research work which can be undertaken.

6.6 p.m.


My Lords, I intervene for only two or three minutes in consequence of something which was said by the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, in that speech which delighted us all because it was so well informed. I refer to what he said on the subject of publicity. My interest in connection with this Bill is centred in the Lake District of this country, where all the happiest days of my life have been spent. I remember the Lake District in the days of its complete solitude. I must have seen it when I was young exactly as Wordsworth saw it, and its great charm was its complete solitude. It is a very small area indeed, and things have altered very much—it is not an area of solitude any longer. I can assure your Lordships that there is nothing dog-in-the-manger in my attitude about that. I have been delighted to see and to think that the Lake District has afforded such a holiday ground for the young men and women from those great grim industrial towns of the north.

But while I have been delighted to see that, it would be idle to pretend that in consequence of the greater popularity of the Lake District something has not departed from that area. The beauty and the solitude are not what they were. Therefore, I do reinforce the plea made by the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, that there should be no more publicity to drive more people to that district. I believe it to be completely unnecessary, because those who love the mountains and love the lake scenery are already finding and will continue to find their way there. There is no need for any publicity drive whatsoever, and I trust there will be no publicity of that nature in connection with the Lake District.

The other matter to which I wish to refer is that mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, about the conflict of interests which does and must prevail in the Lake District—the conflict of interests between those who love its beauty and those who have to make their living there. Of course, in that conflict of interests the national needs and the needs of the local inhabitants must come first, and the consequence is that we shall have to arrive at a compromise in this matter. Like all compromises, it cannot be entirely satisfactory to any of the three parties concerned. Now national interests have dictated the work of the Forestry Commission in the Lake District. I certainly am not going to open up that subject to-night, but I say without fear of contradiction that what has been done at Thirlmere, what has been done at the head of Eskdale and what has been clone in Ennerdale has undoubtedly destroyed the original beauty and character of those parts. That is an effect of meeting the national interest which I fully agree must be met. Then about the inhabitants of the districts. If the farmers want electricity, if they must have electricity, and if electricity means the running of pylons across the fells and dales, then I suppose the pylons must be put there. But let nobody suppose that a vital blow will not be struck at the beauty of the Lake District.

In fact, all I have heard to-day confirms what. I have felt for a long time. I regret to say that in this matter of the preservation of the beauties of England I am a pessimist. I fear that those of us who try to do something in that direction are fighting a losing battle. The country is too small. Perhaps in Scotland, where there are larger and more wild open spaces, we may be able to achieve what we desire and preserve what we love; but this country is too small, and I fear, as I say, that those of us who are fighting to preserve its beauties are fighting a losing battle. We have to face the fact, unfortunately, that there is money to be made out of the defacing of beauty, but no money to be made out of preserving it. In the long run those who for one purpose or another wish to despoil the beauties of our land will undoubtedly have their way, because commercial interests—and sometimes, of course, the national it terests—will prevail.

I am a little nervous of Government intervene ion in these matters. Governments have to compromise, and they have to take a rather utilitarian point of view. The noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, in his delightful speech told us of what had happened in the Yellowstone Park, where the bears so agreeably conform to the State or Federal-regulated hours for their appearances. I have heard of a visitor to the Grand Canon who was told by the guide of the numbers of millions of years which it had taken to form the Grand Canon. He said "Good Heavens, which Government department had the job?" I fear that in this country if there were ever such a thing as a Grand Canon the Government would be more likely to be found filling it in for some utilitarian purpose. Reference has been made to-day to the fact that wherever there is a beauty spot in this country either the Army seize upon it for an artillery range, or the Royal Air Force seize upon it for a bombing range—though why they should do so while Peacehaven is still left standing is more than I can understand.

6.13 p.m.


My Lords, I realise that at the end of a two-day debate there is much ground to be covered; but I think it was very well covered, in a conclusive manner, by my noble friend Lord Chorley. But there are a number of questions to which I should refer very briefly. Before doing so, I wonder whether your Lordships will permit me to correct a statement of my own yesterday which occasioned several noble Lords to interpose "No." I realised when I saw Hansard this morning the reason for that interruption. I said: A path is not intended as a short cut to somewhere. I omitted some prefatory words that I intended to use. What I intended to say was: To the country lover a path is not intended as a short cut to somewhere. As regards to-day's debate, the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, in opening the discussion after Lord Chorley had replied to the speeches made yesterday, told us that his welcome might be termed "encouraging or otherwise." At various points of the noble Lord's speech I jotted down what I was feeling about his welcome to the Bill. During the early part I put down "Not enthusiastic." At a later stage I wrote "Temperature falling rapidly." Later still I wrote "Temperature approaching freezing point"; and then "Temperature improving." That was the tone of the welcome we received from Lord Llewellin. All the questions he raised were, as he admitted, Committee points. As regards what would happen under Schedule A of the income tax, I shall have to defer my remarks to a later stage.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, was anxious concerning the danger of introducing artificial attractions in place of the natural attractions in the designated areas. I can assure the noble Lord that he need have no fear. It is not the intention of the Minister to do anything of the kind. He thinks the natural attractions themselves will be strong enough to draw the people. 1t was refreshing to hear Lord Hylton mention that he realised the power envisaged as reposing in the National Parks Commission. There has been a tendency throughout the debate to suggest that the National Parks Commission has no power because it is an advisory body. I agree that an advisory body never enjoys the same powers as an executive body: but it can exercise power; and I feel sure that in this Bill there are indications that this national body will exercise great power. I was very refreshed indeed to hear the noble Lord emphasise that he recognised fully what some noble Lords have perhaps not kept in mind, which is that this Bill follows the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act in its objects. These two Bills are undoubtedly very closely related. As regards the time-table, I am unable to say exactly how things will work out, but I am satisfied that the tempo will be somewhat slow. I cannot see much happening for many months, and not a great deal happening for many years, under this Bill. I am in entire agreement with the noble Lord that steps should be taken to see to it that planning officers have a knowledge of forestry and agriculture. I think that that is essential.

The noble Lord, Lord Harlech, gave me the utmost pleasure. He took me back in spirit to that part of the country where nearly forty years ago I went to look for a wife—Merioneth. He took me through Snowdonia, and I was delighted. I was amazed at the energy of the noble Lord in his speech. I remember him twenty years ago as a Minister of the Crown. At that time he displayed a great amount of energy as well as enthusiasm. I agree with him that Snowdonia is to-day, without any Act of Parliament, a real national park. I have myself enjoyed that park immensely. I do not think there is a mountain in Caernarvonshire or Merionethshire—including Snowdon itself—that I have not scaled. I agree that little damage has been done by visitors. The noble Lord referred to possible hydro-electric installations, and I agree that that is a matter of great concern in the whole of that area. More fortunate than my Leader, Lord Addison, who has had to spend much of his time in London of late, I spent a month of the Recess in Snowdonia. During that month I met many people and they were all much concerned about the future, and especially about the hydro-electric installations. I had the advantage of Lord Harlech in being able to discuss these matters with people in Snowdonia in their native language. Although they were concerned, they felt, on the whole, that although electric installations might well be necessary, when the buildings were erected they could be made to harmonise with local beauty; and they hoped that local stone and, if possible, local slates would be used.

The noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, gave a much warmer reception to the Bill than son-le other noble Lords. He emphasised that he was in favour of using the local planning authorities. I was glad to hear this. The noble Lord used what I thought was a very happy phrase when he spoke of the affinity of outlook between visitor and visited. That is essential to the success of this Bill. I agreed with him, too, when he referred to a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence. Lord Pethick-Lawrence was rather concerned about what this Bill was really going to do; and I think the answer was given by Lord Rochdale.

On the question of access, the Bill will revolutionise the countryside. It will mean a big change in the countryside and it is necessary that a certain amount of education should take place to enable the best use to be made of the advantages conferred. The noble Earl, Lord Airlie, was rather concerned that planning officers should have a knowledge of rural questions. I have already referred to that. I do not think that the noble Earl, Lord Manvers, need worry over-much as regards if is Bill and the War Department. The noble Lord, Lord Harlech, used a rather good phrase: "Watch the War Department." That was not enough for the n able Lord who later on said "Watch all Departments!" I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Manvers, that in so far as the beauty of the countryside is affected by any Department, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning will do what they can to safeguard the position.

I now turn to the noble Lord, Lord Rochester. If I may say so, I appreciated very much his kind references to myself. He was rather concerned that I had overlooked Clauses 12 and 54. If I did, one reason was that I knew he would not. When I saw those clauses in the Bill I said to the Minister: "Were these referenes to alcoholic liquor mentioned in another place?" He said: "Nobody raised them there." I said: "It will be raised in fie Lords. Lord Rochester will see to that."And, as your Lordships know, Lord Rochester not only raised it to-day, but promised to raise it on another occasion at a later stage of the Bill. Maybe he will be as successful then as he was on previous occasions—I say "Maybe": I cannot promise him any more.

There were references to Scotland by the noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, who put two questions to me. I have been able to obtain an official reply to both of them. The noble Lord asked' how the Secretary of State for Scotland would be kept in touch with the work of the Nature Coaservancy. The answer is that the Secretary of State for Scotland is a member of the Privy Council Committee which is charged with the supervision of the Nature Conservancy. That will give the noble Lord some consolation. His other question (an important question, if I may say so) was: What is the intention in conferring on local authorities power to make nature reserves? The noble Lord was worried because power was to be given to so small a body. There are four main points in the answer. First, the power is intended to be used for purposes such as the creation of small local reserves for educational purposes. Secondly, power to establish local nature reserves is to be conferred on certain local authorities in accordance with the recommendations of the Hobhouse Committee and of the Scottish Wild Life Conservation Committee. Thirdly, the power can be exercised by a local authority only with the agreement of the Nature Conservancy. Fourthly, compulsory purchase can be made only if confirmed by the Minister.

We all find ourselves in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Winster. I have covered as quickly as possible the whole of the debate without taking up too much of your Lordships' time. I feel sure that without a Division we can give this Bill a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

House adjourned at twenty-seven minutes past six o'clock.