HL Deb 01 July 1959 vol 217 cc533-78

2.53 p.m.

LORD SILKIN rose to call attention to the Ninth Report of the National Parks Commission; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said; My Lords, the Motion which I am about to move has had a rather chequered career in this House. It has been fixed on no fewer than five different days; and I have to apologise to the House, because it no doubt has caused considerable inconvenience to those noble Lords who were to speak. The result of all these changes is that we have one speaker who has dropped out and, so far, one who has taken his place. I thought it would be right to have a debate on National Parks because during the whole of their existence there has been only one debate in this House, because they are arousing a great and increasing interest throughout the country, and because we are shortly to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the creation of the National Parks Commission. We are about to discuss the Ninth Report of the Commission, and it is an occasion for reviewing the position of the National Parks; their achievements, their failings, and their future.

Now the National Parks arose out of the Report of a Committee known as the Hobhouse Committee. This Committee recommended that we should set up some eleven National Parks throughout the country; and up to the moment ten of these National Parks have been created. The ten National Parks occupy something like one-eleventh of the area of England and Wales, somewhere about 5,200-odd square miles—quite a substantial part of England and Wales. Of the ten, three are in Wales and the remainder in England. Curiously enough, of the three in Wales, two are in South Wales and one in North Wales. The Act does not apply to Scotland, and that is a matter for great regret, because there are vast areas of extensive beauty in Scotland which most of us know very well, which ought to be preserved, whose beauty ought to be enhanced, and which the public of Great Britain ought to be able to enjoy to an even greater extent than they do now. There is a movement to extend National Parks to Scotland, and I hope it will receive en- couragement from the Government in due course.

The eleventh of the proposed National Parks is the Norfolk Broads. The Norfolk Broads have created certain difficulties which I do not need to dwell on to any extent; but there is an element of urgency about dealing with them, because they are sifting and gradually there is an encroachment on the waters—and, of course, the beauty of the Norfolk Broads does consist in their waters. I was never entirely certain whether the Norfolk Broads were quite appropriate as a National Park. It is undoubtedly an area of outstanding beauty: but, at any rate, it has been the subject of consideration by the Government, I know, and they are now looking at it in the light of the Report of the Commission on Inland Waterways. I hope that the noble Earl who is going to reply may be able to give us some information as to whether the Government have come to any conclusions about how to deal with the Norfolk Broads. Of this I am quite sure: that whether they are dealt with as a National Park, as an area of outstanding natural beauty, or in some other way, the problem ought not to be allowed to drift. If we allow the problem of the Norfolk Broads to drift, they will in due course disappear entirely.

I have referred to the National Parks. In addition, the Act itself provides for the creation of a number of areas of outstanding natural beauty. These are areas which, while they are not suitable as National Parks—not because they are any less lovely, but because they are not particularly areas in which large numbers of people can be suitably encouraged to congregate for the purpose of recreation—they are nevertheless areas which ought to be specially preserved, and whose beauty ought to be enhanced if at all possible. An increasing number of such areas have been designated during the ten years. In the South of England, we have had the Sussex Downs, the Kent Downs, the Surrey Hills, the Chilterns, and areas of that kind; and it is a source of great gratification to me personally that so many of these lovely areas, with which one is so intimately connected and which one visits almost weekly, are to be the subject of careful preservation. In the North, there is the Northumberland coast and a number of other similar areas.

Another feature of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act was the creation of a number of long-distance routes for pedestrians. The progress there has been rather slower. I realise that it is somewhat difficult to negotiate some of these paths which are in private ownership, because it is necessary to get agreements with the owners for access, but progress has been steady. None of them is complete, but the Pennine Way is well on the way; and there is a fine coastal path on the Pembroke coast and another on the Sussex Downs.

To-day we are considering the Ninth Report of the National Parks Commission, which is presided over with such distinction by my noble friend Lord Strang, who is here this afternoon. A great deal of their work has consisted of efforts to defend the National Parks from attack, a matter with which I will deal in a moment. But on the positive side they have done an immense amount of valuable work: in publicity; in building up a country code of behaviour; in putting up notices; in issuing literature; in encouraging the provision of facilities for recreation, including hostels and opportunities for campers; in dealing with litter, and, above all, in educating the public in the proper use of the National Parks. Obviously, unless the National Parks are properly used, they will defeat their purpose. They can become—indeed, very often after a Bank Holiday they do become—eyesores, places to keep away from rather than to go to. The Commission have done valuable work in educating the general public in the proper use of our national parks. I do not think that they would claim they have entirely succeeded but I think that if the noble Lord, Lord Strang, were free to speak—and I am sorry that he is not—he would be able to say that to-day the condition of the National Parks after a holiday is much better than it was nine or ten years ago.

One interesting feature about the National Parks movement is the large amount of voluntary work that is being done in connection with it and the large number of people who have been attracted to it. It is gratifying to find the great amount of enthusiasm that exists among so many people, particularly young people, about the National Parks. I should particularly like to say a word about the work of the voluntary wardens. There are wardens in all ten of the National Parks, doing a variety of valuable work. In the Peak National Park alone, for instance, there are 400 voluntary workers. In the Lake District the wardens particularly carry out work in litter-scavenging at Bank Holiday periods—though, as I have said, I hope that this will become gradually less. On the York Moors, they have made it their particular job to watch over the wild daffodils which are a feature of the Farmdale Nature Reserve.

A particularly interesting feature of this work is that for the last two years during the summer vacation a number of Cambridge undergraduates have carried out work in various Parks, clearing disfigurements—disfigurements which ought to have been cleared away by the Government, so that they are doing the work which Her Majesty's Government ought to be doing. They have cleared a disused gun-site in the Peak National Park and derelict buildings in Northumberland, and have cleared similar types of disfigurements in the Lake District and the Peak. Many others still remain, but we are gradually getting rid of them. If I may be permitted a personal note, it is interesting to note that the inspirer and leader of this group of Cambridge undergraduates is Mr. Michael Dower. Many of your Lordships will remember his father, the late Mr. John Dower, who was, in a way, the inspirer of the National Parks movement and who played a great part in bringing National Parks into existence. He was a member of the Hobhouse Committee and gave many years of his life to ensuring that National Parks would be set up. His mother, Mrs. Dower, is Vice-Chairman of the National Parks Commission, and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Strang, could testify to the great value she has been to them. I think that this is an interesting illustration of an hereditary interest in this voluntary work.

So far I have dealt with the credit side of the work of the National Parks Commission and with what has been achieved, but I regret to have to say that, on the other hand, there are a number of features which are less satisfactory—indeed, disquieting. The National Parks were not created as museum pieces, and it was never the intention that they should be sterilised, that they should become a sort of Williamsburgs—although I should like to see a Williamsburg or two, even in this country. I do not think it would be right to compare our National Parks with national parks in countries like the United States, Canada or South America, where they have unlimited territory. Nevertheless, we recognise that the National Parks have a living part in our social life, have to evolve dynamically and, therefore, that appropriate activities have to go on. The whole idea of a National Park is that it is something special. With your Lordships' permission, I should like to read one or two short extracts from the National Parks Act. Section 5 of the Act says that the intention is: …of preserving and enhancing the natural beauties of the areas specified… and these areas are those extensive tracts of country in England and Wales…[...] which…by reason of—

  1. (a) their natural beauty, and
  2. (b) the opportunities they afford for open air recreation, having regard both to their character and to their position in relation to centres of population,
it is especially desirable… to preserve.

That is the function of the National Park. As I have said, while we all recognise that developments have to take place, that people in the areas have to earn their livings and so on, we ought definitely to set our faces against any kind of development which conflicts with the conception of a National Park. I am sorry to have to say that in a number of cases the Government have permitted that type of development. I want to mention three in particular, because they have all taken place during the year which is covered by the Ninth Report of the Commission. First, there is the Esso oil refinery; secondly, the Angle iron ore stocking ground—both in the Pembrokeshire National Park: and thirdly, there is the Trawsfynydd nuclear power station in the Snowdonia National Park. I will not refer in any detail to the pylons and overhead wires which have done much to cause disfigurement in other National Parks, and which could at certain expense have been put underground, but I do want to refer to these three particular developments which, in my view, completely change the character of the National Park and are in complete conflict with their whole conception.

It seems to me absurd to create National Parks, to create the machinery of the National Parks Commission and special planning boards to look after them, and then for the Government to come along and do what is the equivalent of destroying their whole character. In the case of the last of the three I have mentioned, the Trawsfynydd nuclear power station, the decision was actually contrary to the opinion of the Ministry inspector who had been appointed to consider the case. I should like to read to your Lordships a few short extracts showing the views of the National Parks Commission on these matters. First, as to the Angle iron ore stocking ground, they say: We feel deep concern at the fact that a site in a National Park should have been chosen for this project. We consider it to be totally at variance with the right use of land in a National Park. Then, as to the Esso petroleum refinery, they say: We must express our keen disappointment at the Minister's decision. We recognise that he must have regard to other considerations than those with which we are concerned, but we very much regret his conclusion that the interests of the company must be met in full even at the cost of serious injury to the National Park.

Your Lordships may have seen a small, beautifully produced book called Our National Heritage, which contains a number of photographs of National Parks and areas of exceptional beauty. This book, which has been sent to me, and I imagine to all your Lordships, has been published by the National Benzole Company, Limited. I do not know the relationship between the National Benzole Company and the Esso Petroleum Company, but I imagine that there is some relationship between the two. So you have, on the one hand, the National Benzole Company doing everything they can to encourage people to visit the National Parks—in their cars, of course—and, on the other, the Esso Petroleum Company doing everything they can to discourage people from going to the National Parks—because an oil refinery is not exactly an attraction in a National Park.

I know that the Government have imposed a great many conditions to make this oil refinery and the iron ore stocking area as attractive as possible. The most experienced and eminent architects have been employed to camouflage the oil refinery (whether it is going to be made to look like a cathedral or a baronial castle, I do not know), but I do not know whether any architect can camouflage the smell of an oil refinery and make it smell like a perfumery, or otherwise change its character. It certainly is not in keeping with a National Park.

I recognise that the Government have done all they could to find an alternative site; but if we want National Parks we must make some sacrifice for them; and it may be necessary for industry to put up with the second best. I readily admit that probably the best site for an oil refinery or for an iron ore stocking place may well be the areas which have been selected. I suppose we ought to be thankful that they do not require Salisbury Cathedral or some such place. Nobody would dream of committing sacrilege by trying to use areas of that kind; and I would go so far as to say it is almost an act of sacrilege to take the National Parks for these purposes. If we believe in National Parks, we ought to do all we can to maintain and preserve their general character.

I want to say a word or two about caravans. The caravan to-day is rapidly becoming the poor man's hotel. Caravans have made enormous progress in recent years. I do not know whether your Lordships have seen some of the latest caravans, but they are very fine and attractive places in which to live, at any rate during the summer months. Many of them have private bathrooms, kitchen facilities, refrigerators and so on, and are most suitable for couples with not too much money to occupy on holiday. I think they are most appropriate in the National Parks, and I am glad to say that the National Parks Commission and the planning committees of the National Parks are giving a certain amount of encouragement, and a growing amount of encouragement, to these caravan owners. But they are still not doing enough. We want far more sites for these caravans than are at present available—and by that I mean suitable sites provided with water and all the necessary amenities. I believe that if we did that we should be rendering a great service and should be helping to use the National Park for the purpose for which they were created.

As usual, there is a criticism that the National Parks are not being sufficiently financed. The principle on which they are at present financed is that it is a responsibility partly of the local planning authorities and partly of the Government. Where considerable expense is required, however, the local authorities have found themselves unable to make the necessary contribution, and in a number of cases representations have been made to the Government for a larger share of the contribution. The more national these National Parks become, and the more people who visit them from outside the area, as is the case to an increasing extent, the more justified it is that the burden of the finance should fall nationally rather than locally. It so happens that the areas in which the most beautiful of the National Parks are situated are areas where the resources of the local authority are least; and with a little more finance we could go a long way.

Money is needed for the removal of unsightly buildings; for putting overhead wires underground, and for building in accordance with local style and tradition. For instance, in the Cotswolds it is almost a crime to build houses other than in the local stone and in the local character. We are destroying something that is, I think, unique in the whole world unless we maintain that character. But that type of building is expensive, and we cannot expect private enterprise, who would probably not get any more for their dwellings when they have built them by building them in the more expensive way, to incur the additional expense. If we want to maintain the character of that kind of area there must be some contribution, and even if it means creating a precedent I feel that it is a precedent which will be well worth while. Then we want more hostels and hotels. I would deny that these National Parks are to be solely places for young people. We older people should be able to enjoy them as well, and there ought to be encouragement for the building of places which are suitable for the older people as well as for the younger. Some of these matters may require legislation, and I hope whichever Government introduces the next series of measures will not hesitate to come to Parliament to ask for an Amendment of the National Parks Act in order to facilitate the purposes for which these parks were created.

I want to conclude by expressing the thanks of the whole nation to all those who have been concerned with making these National Parks so successful. First of all, the Commission itself, the Chairman and the various other members. They have shown an immense amount of devotion to their cause. In fact, if they had not acted as dedicated men and women we should never have reached our present position. The Park Planning Authorities, whether they have been joint or advisory, have played a great part. When I introduced the Act I thought that where there were several authorities concerned a Joint Advisory Committee was better than perhaps several committees from each of the local planning authorities, with a joint advisory committee responsible for the whole area. Both have been tried, and it would be difficult to say which has been more successful. The latter is the more difficult type of management, but it has been successful, again because of the devotion of those who have been concerned with it.

A great debt of gratitude—and I think we ought to say so—is due to all the devoted voluntary workers: the wardens and others, who have not been afraid to do the menial work involved in picking up arid disposing of litter from the National Parks, giving of their time and efforts, and so on. All these have played their part in the success of the National Parks during these ten years. They have been pioneering years. It has been an entirely new venture, and I think we can all look back with a sense of pride and of achievement to the work of these first ten years. We must be vigilant to ensure that the next ten years will not see this work undone, but that they will bring to full fruition the ideas of those who pioneered this conception—the preservation of the beauty of the country and the fullest opportunity for the people of our country to enjoy it. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.26 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that I express the view of noble Lords in every part of the House when I say that we are most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for introducing in the House this afternoon this topic of National Parks. I know that it is the conventional thing to thank the introducer of a subject of this kind, but I say it with particular feeling for two reasons. First, it gives us an opportunity, which I feel we ought to take, of expressing our gratitude to the National Park Commissioners, under the leadership of my noble friend Lord Strang, for the noble work they have done in the most difficult circumstances—indeed, the most frustrating circumstances, as I shall show. And, secondly, it is an opportunity for giving publicity to the cause of National Parks. In my experience, National Parks have suffered in the past and suffer at the moment, because there is not a sufficiently educated, intelligent, knowledgeable public opinion behind them.

I speak, if I may say so., from somewhat sad experience. For many years I was the Chairman of the Standing Committee on National Parks which was set up by the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, and the constituent bodies like the National Trust and the Commons Preservation Society. The object of the Standing Committee was to agitate for the creation of National Parks. I was at the same time President of the Friends of the Lake District, a post which is now occupied, I am glad to think, by my noble friend Lord Winster. The purpose of the Friends of the Lake District, as its title indicates, was to try to safeguard that great sanctuary and that great place of beauty.

The first item on its programme was to make the Lake District a National Park. I am not going to go into the frustrating history of those years: they were long years; they were arduous years. We interviewed Government Departments and Ministers; we wrote books and articles; we held meetings and we did everything we could to create a public opinion which would make the Government of the day, of whatever complexion it might be, set up in this country of ours a system of National Parks. If your Lordships will bear with me I will give two illustrations to show why we felt the matter so urgent. Before National Parks were introduced in the Act of 1949, believe me! to save a footpath or a remote moor, or a place of beauty in our island was fraught with the most intense difficulty.

Take the case of Eskdale, in the Lake country, which I know so well. In 1934, the Forestry Commission (about whom I shall have something to say a little later), with the taxpayers' money, purchased land in upper Eskdale. In 1936 they issued a White Paper saying what they were going to do with it. In a word, the plantations that they were going to make in that remote and lovely place were to destroy the whole of the natural beauty which had been for centuries associated with it. The Friends of the Lake District organised the most powerful oppositon, and presented a Petition which can be seen as an appendix to a wonderful little book called Afforestation in the Lake District by a great lover of the Lake District, the late Reverend H. H. Symonds, and that Petition represented every single phase of public opinion in this country.

A deputation went to the Forestry Commission. I had the honour of being a member of it, and it was led by the Archbishop of York, who made a very notable speech to the Forestry Commission, saying in effect that there is only one Lake District; destroy its beauty now and you destroy it not merely for this generation, you destroy it for ever, and we have a duty to generations that are yet to come. My noble friend Lord Beveridge used the expression about it to the Forestry Commission that the Lake Country is the very place for young people and for people of moderate means, and we have a duty to preserve it as a national thing just as we would preserve Westminster Abbey. The other speech to which I would make reference, because it adds point to what I am going to say in a moment, was by the poet Lascelles Abercrombie. He drew attention to a factor which has very rarely been on the lips of other men, the spiritual value that lay in the sight of natural beauty. The master of Trinity, Dr. Trevelyan, also lay stress upon the fact and quoted, "Without vision the people perish" and, "The sight of natural beauty is a great human need."

All these things were done before the Forestry Commission. With what result? That in order to preserve in that lovely land of Eskdale a few hundred square miles, we had to pay voluntarily to the Forestry Commission something like £1,480—a figure of that kind—to compensate them for not planting there and destroying the natural beauty of that area. An agreement was entered into in 1938 whereby the Forestry Commission agreed not to plant in Lower Eskdale and in certain parts of the Duddon Valley. The voluntary society of which I was the president had, by their subscriptions from their subscribers, to provide the money to the Forestry Commission. I thought then that that was entirely wrong, and it was one of the factors, and a very strong factor indeed, which made me a most earnest propagandist for the setting up in this country of National Parks.

The other incident, if it can be termed an incident, which has a slight bearing on what I am going to say in a moment is that in 1945 and 1946 the Whitehaven Corporation, in conjunction with a great industrial concern, Courtaulds, wanted to take water from that lovely lake in the western Lakeland, Ennerdale Water. As many of your Lordships will know, it is one of the most lovely, remote, solitary places yet to be found in this Island. They wanted the water for a commercial factory of Courtaulds which at that time was being erected at Sellafield. The Friends of the Lake District, the Society for the Preservation of Rural England and the National Trust all combined to oppose it, and we produced, if I may say so, a very powerful case against it.

There was an inquiry. We briefed counsel. The case which was put into the hands of counsel, in my judgment, was overwhelming. We showed that they could take the water from Ennerdale for their purposes without raising the level of the water at all. Your Lordships will appreciate that the trouble about making a lake into a reservoir, or building a dam, is that you get a difference between high water and low water, due to the accidental ratios between rainfall and matters of that kind. The moment you get low water round about the fringes of the lake you get a most unsightly band of bleached rock, mud, stones and things of that kind. So we said, "Here is a plan by which you can raise the level of the water and provide all the water you want without any injury to Ennerdale." We also provided a scheme whereby the water could be drawn from other places. With what result? The Minister of Health, who had the deciding voice in that day, turned it all down and said, "Ennerdale shall be made into a reservoir." But there are other powers in this world besides Government powers. For some reason, the industrial concern in question decided not to have their factory at Sella-field and to go elsewhere, so Ennerdale remained and was not made into a reservoir. I fear from the happenings which are going on in the North Country that Ennerdale is not yet secure; but we shall meet that when the moment comes.

I mention those two matters to emphasise as strongly as I can this point: that the only reason for the establishment of National Parks was, first of all, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has said—and it is enshrined in Section 5 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949—to preserve and enhance natural beauty, sometimes called our glorious heritage. That was the idea. When National Parks came we had agitated for three things among others. The first was the all-important matter of the preservation and the enhancement of natural beauty. We set out the usual arguments to the Minister then: that we were the most urban country in the world and that the difference in the pressure upon each square mile in our country as compared with that in other countries is colossal—over 700 persons a square mile here, 43 in the United States of America. One-third of our population lives in seven of our great cities. The natural beauty of our Island is of course very limited; land is very limited and the all-important question is how you are going to use it. Therefore, if you are going to preserve and enhance the natural beauty you must have some body powerful enough to override everybody else and to say, "Thus far shall you go, and no further".

I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, say that we should set our faces against any developments in National Parks which are contrary to the spirit of the National Parks Act. I quite agree, and I will inquire in one moment into what we can do. I do not want to be pessimistic in the smallest degree, but I venture to say to this House and to your Lordships that that which has been done and has now been in operation for nine years is such that we can never recall it.

In 1945—that is, four years before the National Parks Act—I was invited to deliver the Rede Lecture in the University of Cambridge, and, being so eager for the establishment of National Parks, I selected National Parks as the subject for that lecture in the Senate House at Cambridge. If your Lordships do not think it immodest of me, I should like to make one quotation from that lecture, delivered four years before the Act was brought in. I said: The great need is to make a sound national beginning and to make it now by the creation of National Parks, so that they may serve as a guide and stimulus and encouragement in that work of preservation which is the professed aim of Government and people alike. When National Parks are established, some, at least, of the growing dangers to the countryside will be overcome. The fairest places still left in these Islands will be secure from all assault arising either from accident or from design, and a very great contribution indeed will have been made to the happiness of millions in town and country alike. Your Lordships may think that they are glowing words—indeed, they were. They were sustained by the view that National Parks were quite near—it was 1945. And I added to it, as all my colleagues in the open air societies added to it, that the essential thing was the setting up of a statutory body, armed by the Treasury with money, armed by the Government with powers, that should be able to override all those enemies of natural beauty who were so prevalent in those days and are so prevalent now. The difficulty was never with the small man, and the difficulty to-day is not with the small man. The difficulty always was with the great Government Departments, the great statutory bodies; and it was necessary, in our view, to see that National Park Commissioners should have those overriding powers. Well, they have not got them. When I think of my noble friend Lord Strang and his colleagues on that Commission confronted with the difficulties which are enshrined in this Report, I cannot conceal my admiration for their courage and steadfastness in view of their great disappointment.

Is it conceivable that in 1959, with all the knowledge that we have of the precious character of our countryside, and how the Hobhouse Committee, to which the noble Lord referred, had spoken in the most moving language about how it was being eaten up, that the National Parks Commission should be writing these words: While welcoming the above statutory provisions on amenity"— your Lordships will appreciate that in many Acts of Parliament, such as the Electricity Act, a provision is inserted that the undertakers shall have regard to the amenities of the district— we nevertheless cannot hide our disquiet that the year has also seen the granting of Ministerial consents for three major industrial undertakings in National Parks"— then they are set out, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has referred to them. The paragraph goes on We fully realise that in reaching their decisions the Ministers of Housing and Local Government and of Power had to take into account factors other than those with which, under the duty specifically laid upon us by the National Parks Act, we are specially concerned, namely the preservation and enhancement of natural beauty. I would ask your Lordships to listen to this next sentence— But there is no disguising that their decisions will result in grievous damage to the landscape of two National Parks. We report at greater length…"— as they do in the paragraphs referred to. Then there are the expressions which were read by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, about the various schemes. The Report is filled with that kind of note, such as where the Commissioners have said" Do not do this", and "We object to this", but without the power to enforce it.

I am one of those who recognise very fully indeed that we live in a democracy and that people who live in the National Parks have their rights, which must be considered. It is not enough to say, "Make me a dictator and let me overrule everybody". Never have we contemplated that. Our original proposal—and I still think it is the proposal which holds the field, though there is not much chance, now, I think, of its ever coming into being—was: give the National Parks Commission the power to override, to say to the great statutory bodies," You shall not do it, and if you have a grievance about it go to the appeal tribunal that we set up". We considered most carefully the nature of the appeal tribunal. It was suggested at one time that it should be a Committee of the Cabinet. Upon inquiry, that was felt to be impracticable. It was then suggested that it might be a Committee of both Houses of Parliament. That was investigated and also felt to be impracticable. Finally, it was suggested—I think the proposal still holds the field—that a special Committee of the Privy Council should be set up and that gradually, over the years, a body of decisions would be gathered together which would be a perpetual guide all through the years. You would get, therefore, the decision made by the Commission, you would get your right of appeal, and everybody would be heard.

Incidentally, I should like, but it would take too much time to do it, to deal with all that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. Perhaps on this particular point I might interject this remark. Since the year 1956 the Commissioners have recommended that certain Amendments should be made to the Act of Parliament, and I hope that the noble Earl who is to reply to this debate will give us some encouragement on that matter. They are all set out in the Appendices to the Seventh Report and the Eighth Report, and one of them in the Seventh Report deals with the particular point that was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin—saying to a man in the Cotswolds area, "You shall build it only to this design", or "You shall build it only on this site", and "we all recognise that this is going to cost more than it would if this were not a National Park, and we feel that you ought to be compensated".

But the Commissioners cannot do it. By one of the sections of the Act they are precluded. Therefore, a long list of Amendments has been set out by the Commissioners to make the Act of Parliament the effective thing it ought to be, year after year; and at the end of this, the Ninth, Report, there is given the correspondence with the Minister of Housing and Local Government, in which he says how deeply he sympathises but there is no room in the legislative programme. I venture to submit to your Lordships that there ought to be; and I would ask the noble Earl who is dealing with this matter to represent in the strongest way possible that if we cannot go back to the ideal that we had in mind when the Hobhouse Committee reported, of giving the Commission overriding powers, we can at least consider the adoption of the Amendments—I will not trouble your Lordships with them—that are set out in the Appendices to the Seventh and Eighth Reports, and which are referred to again in the Ninth, to make the Act of Parliament a much more efficient thing with regard to finance and all sorts of other matters.

Perhaps I might say this, because it might otherwise seem impertinent. The Minister of Housing and Local Government, Mr. Henry Brooke, and I were associated for some years, until he took office, on the Court of the University of London, and my admiration not merely for his ability but for his complete integrity I cannot really express to your Lordships; it is deep and profound. Therefore it enables me to say that I think that the Minister of Housing and Local Government has not paid sufficient attention to the recommendations of this Commission. I say that with all respect, and I say it after full consideration.

Pages 69 and 70 of the Report, dealing with the nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd—I am sure that the local pronunciation is rather different from mine—are worthy of your Lordships' attention. At any rate, there was an inquiry before this nuclear station was set up in, of all places, a National Park. The Commissioners were represented by counsel and gave evidence. Then there was the decision-letter of the Ministry of Power dated July, 1958, and these words occur: The National Parks Commission represented at the Inquiry that there must be a strong presumption against the construction of large industrial buildings in a National Park, and that this presumption could only be rebutted if it were demonstrated that the station was required in the national interest and that no other suitable sites were available. What were they compelled to do? They were compelled only to submit, as a proposition: "You should not put it in a National Park. The only time you should put it in a National Park is if you are driven to do so as an absolute last resort, in the public interest."

Listen to what is said about the public interest: After considering the arguments and inspecting the site,…the Chief Engineering Inspector of the Ministry of Power came to the conclusion that the presence of a nuclear power station would not even irredeemably impair the amenities of the Snowdonia National Park; he…ecommended that consent be given. But mark that Mr. Buchanan, the Principal Inspector of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government—Mr. Brooke's Department: concluded that the question to be decided was whether the urgency of the power programme and the difficulty of finding sites for nuclear power stations were so great as to justify what he regarded as grievous damage to the National Park; his judgment leant strongly to the preservation of the National Park from such development, but in view of the important questions of national policy which arise in this case he did not feel able to make a formal recommendation. I do not want to be thought impertinent or, indeed, intrusive into a field in which I ought not to enter, but I venture respectfully and humbly to say that the Ministry under Mr. Brooke, the Minister of Housing, ought to pay a great deal more attention to the recommendations of the Commission set up by Parliament for the very purpose of preserving natural beauty.

I have kept your Lordships a long time and I will conclude in a few moments; but there are one or two matters on a rather brighter note that I should like to stress. There is not time for me to expound all that the Commissioners have done. Their beneficial work throughout this country is immense and we are immensely grateful to them. I remember going to Wales and having the great privilege of speaking with the Bishop of St. Asaph at a great demonstration against the hydro-electric schemes in Snowdonia. As a result of the noble work of the Commission the visitor to Snowdonia will not see any of those four hydro-electric schemes. They are out. In my own beloved Lake country, in what I regard as the loveliest vale in all England (and indeed Ruskin thought the same), the Vale of Borrow-dale, one will not see there what was once proposed, the overhead transmission lines. Thanks to the Commission the lines are all going underground, although I believe the same battle is going to have to be fought in Upper Borrowdale. I would again say to the noble Earl who is to reply to this debate, surely it should be settled on the highest level what generating and electricity authorities ought to do. It is no good putting into an Act of Parliament that they must consider amenity if, in fact, they never do so, and have to be forced to put such lines underground, lines which would destroy a lovely vale like Borrowdale, lone Borrowdale. A decision ought to be made upon that matter, and made, I think, at the earliest moment. There is another great thing the Commissioners have done. If one goes down to Dartmoor one will not now see the china clay workings which were originally set up at Lee Moor. They have been withdrawn. The immensely good work of the Commission cannot be overestimated.

I said that I would refer to the Forestry Commission once more. I am bound to say, though I do not want to be unjust—that is the last thing I want to be—that I cannot pretend to any love for the Forestry Commission. I see, for example, that they had a proposal which did not affect the Lake District. We have had enough trouble there and there is more trouble to come, but in Exmoor they proposed taking 15,000 acres of land for the purpose of plantation. The Commission said that that would completely alter the character and nature and the present wild beauty of the area, and the matter was finally referred to the Ministers. There were a number of discussions, and finally, after all that effort and struggle, with the Commission fighting very hard, the Forestry Commission withdrew their proposals, with the result that Exmoor was left free.

Let me therefore conclude by saying that, in view of all the Commissioners have done, it should be our bounden duty to give them every support in our power; and when they ask that the Act should be amended merely to give them more power to carry out what Parliament has asked them to do, it should be our first duty to see that they have that power and so are made much more efficient than they are now. I have always thought that the trouble about the National Parks was their administration. It was the decision—it is too late now to go back on it—to have them administered, so to speak, locally, whereas in truth they should be administered nationally. Naturally, when a local authority is concerned it has to consider the people living there, and the rates; and Park Planning Committees are confronted with problems of the gravest difficulty every day in making a decision against amenity, on the one hand, and, perhaps, rural electrification, water power, buildings or what-not, on the other. If, therefore, we could get a public opinion which strongly supported the Commission in all these matters, and if we could induce Government Departments to look with a more benevolent eye upon natural beauty, which it is the purpose of the Act to preserve, I think we should make very great advances.

I believe it to be essential that the Commissioners should have more staff. There are only 26 people in the buildings here in London, and the work all over the country is perfectly immense. They ought to have more money. The grants which are made from central funds ought certainly to be increased. Grants ought to be available from the Land Fund for all kinds of meritorious purposes. By such means as these the Commissioners would be able to do more. If one has the money and more power, one can do more. I believe also that one of the great needs is to provide money for publicity. My noble friend spoke on the question of litter and matters of that kind, and I warmly support his words. We have always said, and I repeat here, that National Parks must be preserved in their beauty, but they must be preserved for the enjoyment of the people. And this means providing the facilities for boating, fishing, cross-country walking, rock-climbing, camping and what you will. The powers are there, but the money ought to be available for these things to be done.

In my own National Park, the Lake District National Park, great steps are being taken in the provision of lay-bys, provision for cars and all sorts of other facilities, including facilities for people to have reasonable and comparatively cheap housing accommodation for the visitors. All this requires publicity; it requires a little more money. I noticed in the other place a Question addressed to the Minister of Defence asking how much it cost per week per person to maintain our present defence, and the answer was.11s per person per week for all the millions concerned. One-eighth of a penny a week given by them to the preservation and guardianship of natural beauty in our parks would provide all the money needed.

My Lords, I end as I began, by saying that I think the House owes a great debt to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, not merely for his introduction of this matter here to-day but for all his work for National Parks in days past. It is a very great pleasure to me to be able to say to your Lordships that I think it is our duty to support the Commissioners in their great work and to do it with a very ready hand.

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Lucan has asked me to change places with him and speak now, as he has to leave the Chamber for a short time. I acceded to this request with a certain slight reluctance, because your Lordships are only too well aware how difficult it is to follow a speaker so famous for his eloquence as my noble and learned friend Lord Birkett. But I do so with some pleasure, because not only should I like to congratulate all those whom he has congratulated, to add my little meed and tribute to the work they have done, but I am sure your Lordships would like me to congratulate the noble and learned Lord himself. His speech has indicated how important a part he took in the history of this movement.

If your Lordships will permit me a little reminiscence. I remember very well, and with considerable delight, the occasion on which I myself, I think with the late Mr. John Dower and some other member of the C.P.R.E., called upon him at his chambers in Queen Anne's Mansions to ask him whether he would take on this job of being Chairman of the Standing Joint Committee on National Parks. He agreed to do so, without very much pressure—indeed with an enthusiasm which he afterwards brought to all the work of the Standing Joint Committee; and I am sure that the eventual success, in so far as it has been a success, of this movement is in a substantial degree due to the excellent work which he then put in. I should also like to add to what has been said about, and to the tributes paid to, the Commission themselves, also, and particularly, the voluntary workers. I was especially glad that my noble friend Lord Silkin paid tribute to Mr. Michael Dower and the team of Cambridge undergraduates who have devoted so much of the long vacation

during the past two or three years to going into different parts of the country and removing the eyesores which were put there during the war years by the War Department and other Government Departments and which, as my noble and learned friend Lord Birkett said, ought to have been removed by the Government themselves long ago.

Undoubtedly this is an important subject, much more important than most people realise. I like to look back to the time when I first began to walk over the Lake District hills, a little after the noble and learned Lord, at about the end of the First World War. At that time it was possible to walk all day long and meet hardly anybody. To-day it is not possible to walk over the Lake District hills, or the Welsh hills, or the Peak District, or indeed anywhere else, without meeting large numbers of young people. This has been one of the great revolutions of the times: the enthusiasm among the young people for getting out on to the moors and the mountains. It has enabled us to be the first at the top of Mount Everest and to achieve many other important adventurous exploits of that kind which redound to the credit of this country in the world. That is all part of the movement of which this National Parks movement has been such a signal and important part. I have, with the noble and learned Lord, often regretted that more interest has not been shown in Parliament, in your Lordships' House and in the other place, in this matter. We are indebted to my noble friend Lord Silkin for bringing it before us again. He has done so before. He was the architect of the Act under which the National Parks Commission are working, and it is good that he should from time to time bring the work which they are doing before us and give us an opportunity to discuss it.

My noble friend Lord Silkin has drawn attention to the main points which arise in the Ninth Report of the Commission and I do not wish to take up a great deal of time by going over ground which he has traversed, and on which I had been prepared to speak, but there are a few I's I should like to dot and a few t's which I should like to cross. Before doing so, however, I should like to say, as I said on the last occasion (which I think was as long ago as 1953), that I approach this problem from a rather different angle from that of my noble friend Lord Silkin. I approach it from the point of view of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett. As I explained in 1953, I think the present Act went about the matter in the wrong way. On that occasion my noble friend Lord Silkin said that I was an extremist. I was putting before your Lordships' House the views of the Hobhouse Committee, of which I had the honour to be a member, and I am very glad that to-day the noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett, has come along and expressed exactly the same point of view about these matters. No one would accuse him of being an extremist, and I feel that he has now, so to speak, rescued me from the position into which I was put on that occasion by my noble friend Lord Silkin.

I was particularly glad that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett, emphasised, and emphasised so very clearly, how the work of the Commission, and indeed the work of the local authorities who have been given the job of administering this Act, has been hamstrung and hampered from first to last by financial considerations. I am glad that my noble friend Lord Silkin himself has now agreed that that is so, because on the last occasion he said that it was possible to get 75 per cent. from the Ministry, and that in many of these cases that was ample to enable the local authorities, the local planning committees and joint planning boards, to carry through the work which was entrusted to them. It is not; and I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett, has proved that so clearly that there is no need for me to rub it in. I think it is very clear that until these parks are regarded as National Parks, and the nation takes responsibility for the financial problems which are involved, we shall not really succeed in tackling this problem effectively.

I was glad also that the noble Lord drew attention in such forcible terms to the destruction that is being carried through, as is brought out so very clearly in this Report, in two of the most important National Parks in Wales, in the Pembroke area and in Snowdonia, as a result of the new atomic power station. It really is a ghastly thing, when you come to think about it, that in that beautiful country—in Snowdonia, particularly—this dreadful, unsightly atomic power station is to be erected. It appears quite clearly from this Report that this station may be—and indeed is quite likely to be—completely out of date within twenty years. But at the end of that twenty years it will be almost impossible to remove it; because, as we have already seen at Windscale, once one of these places is erected, and it becomes, so to speak; charged with this radio-active matter, the problem of removal is almost insuperable. It is almost impossible to find words to condemn an attitude of this kind—that the most beautiful countryside in England should be destroyed in this way by a monstrosity of this kind which may be completely out of date within twenty years or so and which it may then be impossible to remove.

My Lords, I also agree with the noble and learned Lord when he says that the Act goes about this matter in the wrong way; in leaving this problem to be handled by local planning committees, or joint committees of local planning authorities. What is needed is a strong national authority which would be in a position to negotiate effectively with Government Departments, instead of being in a position only to make representations. After all, if a chairman as gifted in diplomacy and as experienced in administration as Lord Strang (and the National Parks Commission are extraordinarily fortunate to have a man with a combination of qualities such as he has, if he will forgive me for saying this in his presence) cannot succeed in persuading these Ministers to alter their ways, then it is a poor look-out.

It seems to me that the case I have mentioned shows conclusively that we ought to have a much more powerful National Parks Commission, able to argue on a footing of equality with the Ministers in respect of matters which are concerned with National Parks. And there should be the possibility of an appeal, possibly to a sub-committee of the Cabinet, or to a committee of the Privy Council, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett, has suggested, because at the present time the Minister is the judge in his own case. The Minister of Fuel and Power has the last word in the case I am discussing, and although everybody knows that Lord Mills has considerable sympathy for the Open Air Movement and the National Parks Movement, in the end he has to look at the matter from the point of view of fuel and power, and has to give his decision on that basis. I submit that that is not right. The decision ought to be entrusted to somebody who can form an impartial opinion, and who would not have to look at it from the point of view of the Minister of Fuel and Power. Until we get that, I am quite sure that Lord Birkett is right in saying that we really have not got an adequate weapon with which to protect these lovely parks of England.

My Lords, there are one or two other points to which I should like to advert quite shortly. I should like to go back to what I was saying at the beginning, and to pay a particular tribute to a man who died this year, and whose name Lord Birkett mentioned—that is, the Reverend H. H. Symonds. Mr. Symonds was one of those personalities of whom it could be said that, so long as England can produce them, England is not too badly off. I knew him very well indeed. I sometimes quarrelled with him. He was a man who, when it was necessary, could stamp on anybody's toes; and could stamp very hard indeed. Sometimes he stamped on people's toes without a good enough reason; but, nine times out of ten, he had reason more than good enough. He was a great man, and we shall miss him very much. He and Mr. John Dower, Lord Birkett himself, and one or two other people—and the name of Sir Arthur Hobhouse ought also to be included—undoubtedly deserve the thanks of the nation for what they did in this movement.

There is one other matter, perhaps rather one of detail, on which I must disagree with Lord Silkin. He expressed the view that it did not matter whether there was a joint planning board or one of these joint committees to which a number of local authorities might refer a particular matter in order to get some advice. The National Parks Act provides perfectly clearly that joint planning boards should be set up, and it is only in cases where the Minister is quite satisfied that other arrangements are preferable that a joint planning board is not to be set up. Unfortunately, after the very first case, that of the Peak District, the Minister always found some reason for not setting up a joint planning board.

Lord Silkin said that it did not matter; that they both worked equally well. I do not see how anybody can read this Report without seeing that the National Park which has clone the best from the beginning is the one with the joint planning board—that is, the Peak District National Park. It gets two pages, almost all taken up by a very commendatory notice from the National Parks Commission. Many things, such as the voluntary warden system, were initiated by this Peak District Joint Planning Board, and much of the work of pulling down unsightly buildings was started in the Peak District. I should say that any impartial person coming to the reading of this Report must agree that a National Park with a joint planning board is in a very much better position to deal with these problems than, say, Snowdonia, where they have three or four planning authorities, with a sort of consultative committee from which they can get advice when they wish to do so. I wish that it were possible for Lord Strang to take part in these discussions, because I have not much doubt about the advice he would give is on this particular point.

My Lords, there are other noble Lords who wish to speak, and there is other business which your Lordships have to do later on this evening, so I will put my notes aside and content myself with saying that I am very much in sympathy with Lord Silkin's Motion, and I hope that it will receive your Lordships' acclamation.

4.18 p.m.


My Lords, my first duty is to say that I noticed that a very able member of the Commission who signed this Report had died since the Report appeared. I refer to Alderman Vaughan, who was affectionately known as "Billy" Vaughan. He was a very able man; a member of this Board and, I believe, also of the Forestry Commission. He was a man who made considerable contributions towards solving some of the problems; and he made them not looking serious or profoundly wise. When he began to chuckle one always knew that he was about to get to the root of the matter. I therefore thought it right to say a word or two about our regret at the loss of a very able servant, who has served in many parts of the life of this country.

Before I sit down I want to underline the point that Lord Silkin made concerning the warden service in these Parks. I want to underline it by saying that I got the impression that your Lordships' House probably thought that only Cambridge undergraduates were involved in this warden service. As a matter of fact, there are wardens—men and youths—from all parts of the country. I am pleased that this point was underlined by my noble friend Lord Silkin. Considerable notice is taken of another section of youth, as if they were the only representatives of youth in the land, but we have these young men giving up their week-ends to go into the Parks to help in seeing that they are properly conducted. At first, people are apt to leave gates open, to the annoyance and probable loss of farmers. These young men are doing a fine thing and I am glad that they have been given honourable mention in your Lordships' House to-day and in the Report. I am glad, too, that notice has been taken of the caravan experiment. Anyone who sees the caravan assemblies in some parts of the country will agree that the Commission will render a very real service if they can experiment with the size and positioning of these caravan gatherings and collect experience which will be useful to the local authorities.

In their speeches, my noble friends Lord Silkin and Lord Birkett drew attention to the fact that atomic energy stations are to be established in some of the parks. I am afraid that I have not the ability to be so selective in my language as they are, because I see this going much further than appears on the surface, and I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, the Minister of Fuel and Power, is here to hear what I have to say. From a notice I saw in The Times I understand that the matter of radioactive waste from these stations is still causing troubled minds, to put it at its lowest. The Times said: If the industry increases, so does the amount of radioactive waste which has to be disposed of safely and, if possible, economically. Proposals for new legislation are expected soon And it said that a Government pronouncement is to be made. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Mills, whether a statement is to be made this afternoon on this important matter, because if the newspapers have knowledge of these things, certainly Parliament ought to have knowledge of them.

I remember well the debate which took place on the National Parks Bill. I have never seen anything like it. Everybody agreed, and that is a rare thing in any Parliament. Conservative, Liberal and Labour were all one on the need to set up National Parks. There was an enthusiasm almost unparalleled in the ordinary way of Parliament. I have seen a good deal of the National Parks, as I was deputy for some seven years, and I can say now with much more authority than I could before that a fine piece of work was done by Parliament in establishing the National Parks Commission, with authority to safeguard the beautiful places in our land. The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, has given an able and elaborate description of some of these areas and of what is desired by those responsible for running them. But none of them ever thought that we should have the establishment of atomic energy stations in the National Parks, with the growing danger of radioactive waste and with all the nuisance that comes with industrialisation.

Your Lordships will forgive me for being a little personal. I was born in the Wordsworth country. My first sight was of the mountains with which his name has become associated and which, as I found later in travelling over the world, are almost reverenced by people in all parts of the world. When I was about eight years old—that is, something like seventy years ago—I had to leave that part of England and go into a county which I have learned to love and which holds my affection, in which I have done the greater part of my public work which, perhaps, has led me to stand here and address your Lordships this afternoon, but I have never forgotten the shock of seeing a great industrial county, with its pit heaps and clustered houses in the coal centres. I shall never forget that so long as I live.

These atomic energy stations are the beginning of the new industrial revolution, and if we allow them to be established in the National Parks, then we shall lay on future generations an even greater burden, maybe, than we have had to carry in the old industrial areas. It is not good enough to say that a local inquiry may be held and that at that inquiry it may be decided that an atomic energy station should be placed here or there. If it is the intention to deliberately industrialise these areas, to direct into these areas the new Industrial Revolution which is surely coming—even ordinary men and women can see that this is developing at an immense rate—then I say that it is not a matter for a local inquiry to settle; it is a matter for Parliament. Parliament ought to have the opportunity very soon of knowing what is the mind of the Government upon these matters, and of deciding whether they agree or not.

That is all I have to say. I am pleased to have had the opportunity of speaking in this debate and expressing my fear. I think I know the pulse of industry as well as any man living in this country: I have fought with it, lived with it and slept with it for seventy years, and I know the danger of these things. I remember going down to one of those beautiful places where the River Dove flows and seeing a water rat eating a salmon—I suppose people would say that the sooner the water rat is got rid of the better, if he feeds on salmon. But half a dozen of us stood watching him. He finished his meal, wiped his whiskers and dived again for another one. I thought that was a wonderful sight. That is the kind of place that is at stake in this matter. I hope the noble Earl who is to reply will be able to give an answer on the matter of the Bill or Order or whatever is supposed to be coming—at any rate it has been stated in an eminent newspaper—and also give us some comfort about this matter by telling us that the Government are not going to rely on local inquiries, because this is a matter for the nation and not for a few people in some distant part of the country.

4.33 p.m.


My Lords, I regret that owing to another engagement I was unable to hear my two noble friends, Lord Chorley and Lord Lawson, but I did hear the eloquent speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett. This debate relates specifically to the Ninth Report of the National Parks Commission, but what it raises is the far bigger abstract question of amenity versus development of civilised life. Lord Birkett was, I think, almost provocative in the uncompromising attitude he took up: that any change to a National Park area is for the bad. I wish I could feel as certain on the question as he and other noble Lords appear to do. I think it is a difficult question to decide as to where to hold the balance between the material necessities of a growing industrial country and the preservation of the right amount and the right kind of amenity. Ours is a thickly populated country, although not, I believe, the most thickly populated country in Western Europe. We have a limited area and a growing population which depends for its livelihood on an active industry, which must develop to keep pace with modern inventions. Our coal mines are being worked out, and nuclear power, oil refineries, and so on, are a necessity nowadays.

It is the unenviable job of the noble Lord, Lord Strang, and his Commission to try to save what can be saved of the natural countryside, and to resist, where they think necessary, industrial development; but it is for the Government to decide in the end what can or cannot be allowed. I think we should not forget that the intention of the National Parks Act was not to create great areas of natural country untouched by man, such as other larger countries can afford. The National Parks as designated include a considerable amount of cultivated land, arable land, villages and farmhouses, woods and reservoirs, and it seems to me that the right note was struck by the sentence in paragraph 53 of the Report which states: National Parks cannot be sterilised and remain for all time exactly as they were at the time of designation After all, the Parks as they were at the time of designation were probably much different from what they were a couple of hundred years before. The value of the National Parks, as it seems to me, is not to preserve something in its actual state in such a way that in a few generations it will become an archaism and something unnatural, in the nature of a folk park where you preserve a past and finished way of life. I do not think it was the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the Government that passed the National Parks Act that we should turn these great areas of our country into anything of that nature.

So I think it is unrealistic to protest at every operation of the Forestry Commission, because although our generation is accustomed to seeing bare hillsides, those hillsides may have been afforested long ago. I do not think it is reasonable always to protest against the building of a dam, because sheets of water and dams can harmonise perfectly well with the countryside. But when it comes to the developments at Milford Haven, then I confess that I come down on the other side. Here is a piece of England that is quite irreplaceable; the only deep-water estuary on the West Coast and the only piece of wild coast line. There, right on the coastline, on both shores of the estuary, we have large-scale industrial development. There, regrettably, we have lost something for good that can never be replaced. On the other hand, what we have got is an essential addition to our industrial equipment; something that we are told the Government are convinced is essential if the economy of the country is to prosper and develop. We have those quite irreconcilable considerations, and he would be a bold man who would come down unequivocally on either side.

One can express great regret, as indeed the National Parks Commission have done, when something of the sort has to be done; but let us not forget the other side, and let us not forget, either, the people of the area. If I might criticise the ideas of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett, it appeared to me that he was inclined to approve of the setting up of an all-powerful body that would override all other considerations. It seems to me that the machinery of the National Parks Act gives what is essential, and that is a voice to local opinion. We may think the local opinion is misguided, retrogressive and ignorant of the value of amenity; but nevertheless it should be heard. If the people of these very poor counties, thinly populated, with very low rateable values, think that prosperity is going to come through the introduction of some industry, and if they think it is for the good of their own population, they should certainly be heard and due weight given to their opinions.

On the other questions, I think we would all go all the way with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett. An amendment of the National Parks Act is overdue, and money is needed. Let us recognise the fact that we are getting our National Parks on the cheap. The amount of money spent on them is absurdly small. A sentence from a pamphlet issued by the Fabian Society recently on the amenity question is worth quoting. It says: There is a need for wider recognition that amenity values are part of the standard of living, and that it is unrealistic to allow weight to them only if this involves no cost I think that those words should be borne in mind by Her Majesty's Government.

I should like to turn now to one rather specialised side of the National Parks Commission, and refer to paragraph 7 of their Report where they say that they are studying the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Inland Waterways. That was the Committee which was set up by the Government to report on what could be done with canals and waterways. Its terms of reference included other matters, too, but the important thing for this purpose is that they considered canals which have no further use for commercial transport purposes. The Government issued a White Paper (Cmnd. 676) giving their decisions on the recommendations of this Committee, and they accepted the principle that these unwanted canals should be redeveloped—that is, should be converted for purposes other than commercial navigation and made the best use of for amenity, recreation and other purposes such as water supply, land drainage and the like. For that purpose, they have set up an Advisory Committee to deal with these canals one by one, by means of schemes for redevelopment.

The Government will, they say, welcome schemes for developing the possibilities for recreation and amenity, and they ask for the co-operation of all interests concerned—local authorities and voluntary organisations of all kinds, including, among others, the National Trust, which body is at the moment, I believe, negotiating in some particular cases with the Transport Commission. It seems to me that the object the Committee and the Government have in mind in connection with these waterways is closely in harmony—in fact, almost identical—with the object of the National Parks Act: to preserve and enhance natural beauty and promote enjoyment of it by the public. That is exactly what is required in the case of these waterways.

It seems to me that there is machinery almost ready to hand for these canals to be dealt with, under the provisions of the Act. Section 13 of the Act gives powers to local planning authorities as respects any waterway in the Park to carry out such work as appears necessary for facilitating the use of the waterway by the public for sailing, boating, bathing or fishing. That is all right, but, by the nature of them, National Parks are mostly in hilly country, and so not many canals pass through them. In fact, there is only one case, the Brecon Beacons Park, where a canal passes through it. In several other cases, however, there are waterways quite close to the boundaries of a National Park. There, it seems to me, there are possibilities. There is that beautiful canal stretching to within six miles of Buxton, almost in the heart of the Peak Park, called the Peak Forest Canal, accessible from the Potteries and from Manchester, where there is twenty miles without a lock up on the 500 ft. contour, with wonderful views. That would be an ideal adjunct to the Peak District National Park. The Lancaster Canal approaches within a mile or two of the boundaries of the Lake District National Park. There are others, too, that pass through what were recommended as, and may yet be, areas of outstanding natural beauty under the Act.

If you preserve these canals they will give means of access by water for people who wish to visit these places. They can go in their own boats. If you cannot manage to make a through route you can still allow boating facilities for people who visit the Park. The authorities could provide mooring and camping facilities and ensure the preservation of the waterway as an adjunct to the amenities of the Park. That could be done in one of two ways. The Commission could represent to the Minister that a certain length of canal should be designated as a detached part of a National Park. If the Minister agreed, the provisions of Section 13 of the Act would allow the Park Authority to incur expenditure to look after that canal. If that method were not favoured, it seems to me that it could be done under Section 14, where the Minister can acquire land, or under Section 12, where a local planning authority may acquire land.

In either case Government grant is payable, for the improvement of waterways for the purposes of public amenity, of 75 per cent. or, in exceptional cases, 100 per cent. In the same way, I believe that under Sections 87 and 88, which deal with the areas of outstanding natural beauty, the local planning authorities could apply those sections of the Act and thus deal with the waterways concerned. A very good example of that is the Kennet and Avon Canal which goes through the Marlborough Downs through very beautiful, unspoiled country. That seems to me a very good example of what could be done by this method.

I do not want to go into the matter at further length. Neither do I expect Her Majesty's Government to give me an answer, because I have not given them prior notice. But I do hope that this suggestion will be considered and that the Government may come to the conclusion, or indeed that the Redevelopment Advisory Committee may come to the conclusion, that this method offers a good chance of redeveloping these waterways which are going to be such a problem, so many interests being concerned and having to give their consent. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will cause the suggestion to be considered in due course. Meanwhile, I think we should express our thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for once again having brought this subject to your Lordships' attention.

4.53 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to mention two points which are, I think, causing friction between the visitors to the National Parks and the local folk. The first one is the question of litter, which has been mentioned twice. The National Parks Commission have done a great deal of good, and so have the various youth organisations, in educating the public to have respect for the countryside; but there is still a great deal of litter in some of these parks. When it consists of bottles, and so forth, it causes fires, and I am convinced that any money allowed to the National Parks Commission to carry out far more extensive advertising to educate the public further would be repaid by the number of fires avoided. The second point applies particularly to the North Yorkshire moors, where large numbers of sheep are killed on the roads by cars, some of which belong to the visitors. I think this also applies to the ponies in the New Forest. I wonder whether the National Parks Commisison are fully aware of the losses, which are causing great grief to the farmers, and whether they can do anything about it.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, is the father of a great deal of legislation designed to protect or improve amenity in this country. Your Lordships are always glad to hear him raise any of these subjects and give us an opportunity of discussing them. I should like to assure the noble Lord that the Government share fully his concern about the National Parks and also join with him in paying tribute to the work of the Commission, particularly its Chairman the noble Lord, Lord Strang, who we are very glad to see has recovered fully from his recent illness which prevented him from attending the late conference.

I should also like, on behalf of the Government, to add to the tribute which the noble Lord. Lord Silkin, paid to the work of the volunteers in the parks. He mentioned by name the team of undergraduates led by Michael Dower, whose father was the author of the Dower Report, and also the work of the voluntary wardens and their assistants, who do so much work in removing litter and in spreading interest and encouraging observance of the country code by visitors to the parks. There have been a good many complaints from farmers about careless or, sometimes, deliberate acts which have caused damage to crops or animals or farm property, and your Lordships, I know, will agree that the enjoyment of the parks does involve responsibility for leaving them unharmed for others to enjoy.

My own very small contribution towards the establishment of National Parks, unlike that of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was completely unfruitful. Before the war I served for a time on one or two Committees whose duty it was to try to work out plans for National Parks in Scotland, but when the noble Lord introduced his legislation for National Parks in England, people in Scotland decided that they did not want them. The noble Lord has told us that he regrets that, and I will not go into it. It is not because they do not want to preserve beautiful areas in Scotland, but because they think they can do it better without having National Parks. Anyhow, we in Scotland do not object to the English having their parks. We congratulate the noble Lord on his ten fine babies. The Government are doing their best to cherish them and bring them up, although we are glad to be given advice from child welfare experts in all quarters of the House.

The first thing which the noble Lord asked me about was the eleventh baby—that is, the Norfolk Broads. He said he would like to know what was happening about that proposal. Since he raised this matter in the last debate on the subject, the Committee of Inquiry into Inland Waterways, set up by the Minister of Transport under the chairmanship of Mr. Bowes, has made its Report and in it has referred to the problem of the Broads. The Committee thought that schemes for the reclamation of the Broads which involved very large sums of money were not justified but that the dredging operations should be extended. It made proposals for new administrative arrangements, and in the White Paper to which the noble Lord referred, published in February, the Government said that such proposals should be thoroughly explored between the interested parties before any decision was taken.

Both the Great Yarmouth Port and Haven Commissioners and the Joint River Board are interested in the administrative problems concerned, and local discussions are still going on. The discussions are being co-ordinated by the Clerk of the Norfolk County Council. Some people are in favour of the designation of the Broads as a National Park. Others are against it. I understand that the National Parks Commission propose to join in the local discussions at a suitable opportunity. At present these discussions are being conducted without the National Parks Commission, and the Clerk has agreed to tell the Commission when he is ready for them to come in. I understand that the Commission have never been greatly in favour of creating a Park in the Broads, but I have no doubt they will be interested in anything that can be done to preserve the amenities there.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, also asked me about "areas of outstanding natural beauty", as distinct from the Parks. Sections 87 and 88 of the Act enable the Commission to designate as areas of outstanding natural beauty stretches of beautiful country which, for one reason or another, do not qualify as parks and are administered by the local planning authorities. The Commission have recently announced a programme of designation of areas of outstanding natural beauty, and orders designating the Gower Peninsula, the Quantock Hills, the Lleyn Peninsula, the Northumberland Coast, Cannock Chase, the Surrey Hills and the Shropshire Hills have been confirmed by the Minister. A decision has not yet been given on the Dorset, Malvern Hills or Cornwall orders. The Commission are doing the preliminary work on orders for the Sussex Downs, the Forest of Bowland, East Hampshire, the North Devon Coast and the South Devon Coast.

The noble Lord also asked about long-distance routes. So far, six long-distance routes have been approved by the Minister under Section 52—namely, the Pennine Way, the Cornwall North Coast Path, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, the Cornwall South Coast Path, Offa's Dyke Path; and recently, only last week, they agreed the Devon South Coast Route.

I think we recognised and expected that the main matters of concern which would be raised by your Lordships in the debate to-day were the various major industrial developments—one at Trawsfynydd, where the atomic power station is being built, and the others in the neighbourhood of Milford Haven. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was good enough to let me know he would mention them. I think your Lordships all recognise, and the noble Lord himself pointed out, that when you add up the total area of the National Parks they come to over 5,200 square miles; that is, one-tenth of the whole area of England. And although, of course, that one-tenth of England does not contain anything like one-tenth of the population of England, it does contain a large number of people who have got to live—they cannot be expected to be walled off in a kind of stagnant museum, with no industrial development, no electric light and no modern amenities. It is the task of the Minister and of the Commission, as expressed by the Hobhouse Report, to see that the irreplaceable values for which these areas have been chosen are given due weight in the national balance; and one of the Minister's duties is to act as the final arbiter in deciding what are sometimes extremely difficult questions.

In his recent speech to the Conference of Park Planning Authorities at Bakewell, my right honourable friend showed that he was deeply conscious of his responsibility to safeguard the landscape from harm, and he gave an assurance that amenity always received due attention when the question of development was being considered. But there are cases in which development has to be permitted in the national interest.

Some of your Lordships may perhaps think it unfortunate that often the most suitable sites for modern industrial development, such as nuclear power stations, are in remote and beautiful country. When my noble friend Lord Lawson talks about the new Industrial Revolution, I do not know that we need think of this in terms of converting large areas of unspoiled country into areas which are completely industrialised. I think we have to think of probably much more scattered centres of industry. Remoteness is an asset to a nuclear power station, which, unlike other industrial concerns, does not need to be constantly supplied with raw materials after it has been constructed. But it does need millions of gallons of water for cooling daily, and even hourly. Therefore, these stations have to be built in close proximity to water. There are other geological conditions which have to be fulfilled and technical requirements which have to be met, and it is exceedingly difficult to find sites that will be suitable without selecting some part of the coast which is beautiful because of its isolation and its topography. I wish that it were possible to find sites which were not only remote, out of the way and sterile, but also ugly, but it is extremely difficult to find a site which fulfils all those conditions and, at the same time, has the necessary physical requirements for such an undertaking as a nuclear power station.

In the case of the Milford Haven scheme the difficulty was that the favourable tidal conditions and depth of channel necessary for our purposes were not available in uncongested conditions anywhere else in this part of the United Kingdom. Alternative areas were explored, but none of them could compare with the Milford Haven conditions. Tankers of 50, 60 or 100 thousand tons need a very deep draught and sheltered water for unloading their cargo. I think that everyone regrets that this beautiful stretch of water, which is so much frequented by yachtsmen, should also have to harbour tankers—although tankers can be magnificent vessels in their own way. But, faced with the need for oil and the vital part it plays in industry, and therefore in the national economy as well, the decision was eventually given to allow the development; and similar conditions were required and found for the Angle ore stocking ground.

But the Minister did not give planning permission without very carefully considering whether some alternative place could be found. As he said in his speech, he gives great weight to the National Parks and believes that every prejudice in their favour should be allowed before he makes his decision. What he said was: Whenever a decision to allow industrial development in a National Park is eventually given it is never the case that the beauty and remoteness have not been considered. The scales are heavily tipped in their favour from the outset, but sometimes there may be exceptional weight on the other side. I would again assure your Lordships that the presumption from which the Minister always starts is that, if at all possible, industrial development should not be permitted in the National Parks.

I would also suggest that there need not necessarily be a presumption that every kind of industrial building is necessarily ugly and an eyesore. The noble Lord; Lord Silkin, will remember that he had this Motion down a fortnight ago. I was lucky enough to be sent to Lisbon a day or two before, and, so that I might have time to look at what he was going to talk about, I took the Papers with me. Thinking about the matter, one of the first things I saw in Lisbon was the great warehouse at Lisbon Docks for the cold storage of perishable goods—a magnificent modern building of very fine outline, decorated with statuary and friezes. I should say that it is one of the finest architectural sights one could have, and I could not help thinking what a pity it was that all commercial buildings could not be of similar character.

The National Parks Commission and the Minister try to ensure that whenever industrial buildings have to be put up in a National Park area the services of a landscape consultant, and if possible a good architect, shall be employed. In the case of Trawsfynydd Power Station, long before there had been any public anxiety and before the controversy had begun, Miss Sylvia Crowe, President of the Institute of Landscape Architects, had been employed by the Central Electricity Generating Board to help them to select the best site for a building of this kind. The architect who designed it is Mr. Basil Spence. Your Lordships may have seen in this week's Sunday Times a short article with a photograph of that power station to Mr. Basil Spence's design. It is not for me to express any kind of judgment on it, but I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, will not feel that it is necessarily a hideous eyesore.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl whether he has ever seen the buildings at Windscale in Cumberland, on the edge of the Lake District?


I do not think that that is relevant to what I am saying.


My Lords, surely it is very relevant, because I should think that they are the most ugly buildings in England.


My Lords, it is only too true that many commercial and industrial buildings are ugly, but I am trying to say that it is not always necessary that they should be ugly; and we are trying to take these measures to have both landscape architects and structual architects brought in, in order that if, of necessity, these new buildings are set up in National Parks, they shall be put in the best possible setting and built to the best possible design.


My Lords, could the noble Lord tell me whether that was done at Windscale?—because if that is the result of all this care it looks as though it was impossible to design anything which was not hideous.


I was asking the noble Lord, so that he may judge whether it is impossible to design a building which is not hideous, to be good enough to look at Mr. Basil Spence's design for the atomic power station, which is the subject we are discussing in this debate. I am not going to express any opinion of my own about that, but I would ask the noble Lord to look at the photograph and to consider it.

The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, had some critical things to say about the Forestry Commission. The Report of the National Parks Commission mentions in paragraph 68 that they have been consulted by the Forestry Commission on proposals involving, in all, nearly 15,000 acres of land; and they mention the discussions which they have held with the Forestry Commission in which the Forestry Commission have been willing to take the National Parks Commission's advice. I believe that the Forestry Commission are invariably anxious to co-operate with the various local authorities in charge of the National Parks in order to decide where and in what circumstances woodlands are desirable from an amenity point of view. The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, referred to some old controversy which I believe took place twenty or thirty years ago in a very beautiful part of the country which I do not know; and I dare say he is right about it.


My Lords, will the noble Earl allow me to interrupt? One cannot deal with every matter of detail, but I gave the illustration of Eskdale to show the need for a controlling power. Before this debate I took the trouble to ascertain the position in Lakeland with regard to the Forestry Commission. On my advices, it is quite true that the Forestry Commission consult with the Planning Committee, but very rarely do they concede the Planning Committee's point of view. I would have said that in debate, but of course there is not time to say everything.


My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord has made that plain. Having no personal knowledge of the area with which he is particularly concerned I cannot speak about that area, but I have often found that in these questions of planting the public are actuated by sheer conservatism; and although conservatism is a good thing it is not always accompanied by a great deal of imagination——


Hear, hear!


I have often found, when I have been concerned in some planting operation, perhaps trying to cover a barren hill with trees, that there is an immediate public outcry—"Oh, the beautiful hill! How can you be such a vandal as to plant your hideous trees all over this wonderful, majestic, sterile, barren bit of ground?" Then, fifty or sixty years later, when the trees have become mature and have to be felled, there is exactly the same kind of outcry—" Ah, the beautiful wood! How can you cut down this beautiful wood?" I believe the reason is that the life of a tree is often longer than the life of a man, and human imagination is sometimes a little weak. If we really want to enjoy the beauties of nature we ought to try to picture the whole life cycle of vegetable growth and regeneration in our imagination. Nature is not stagnant. We ought to enjoy not only trees at all stages but the mental concept of the whole life cycle of a tree, even though we cannot follow it and perceive it in our own short lifetime.

The noble Lord also, like some others, talked of the possibility of putting cables underground. That is a very good thing, of course; but though it is sometimes not too difficult with low tension cables, with high tension cables it is not only very difficult but expensive. I am told that the cost of doing so is about £310,000 per mile compared with £22,000 a mile, which is a very great deal of money; and it is not always satisfactory. It is not yet quite certain whether the electricity is transmitted as efficiently underground as it would be overhead. But, of course, we are always glad to consider what can be done in that way.

In thanking the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, again for raising this matter I would assure him that Her Majesty's Government are very conscious of their duty of preserving and enhancing the beauty of National Parks. Every application for development within a Park, whether it is positive development to beautifying it, or action to prevent some undesirable development which will bring ugliness to the Park, will be considered most carefully, and planning permission will never be lightly granted in any case. Your Lordships may be assured that the problems of the Parks and the Park planning authorities and the National Parks Commission will always be carefully studied, and if we can do anything to ease any of their difficulties or to adopt any course they recommend it will certainly be done.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, this has been a most interesting debate, both to those who have spoken and to those who have listened, and the interest has certainly been added to materially by the eloquent speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett, for which we are all greatly obliged. I think the interest cannot be measured by the number of speakers who have taken part. This is not a particularly controversial subject, and it is difficult to create controversy and to make speeches where there is no controversy, and a series of speakers all saying very much the same thing becomes rather dull. So I want to pick on one or two matters upon which perhaps some difference of opinion has become manifest.

First, on the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett, I dislike crossing swords with him not only because he is probably right but also because he is one of the most brilliant advocates of the day; and therefore, whether one is right or wrong, one can usually be proved to be wrong. But my opinion is that he has misdirected himself about the functions of the National Parks Commission. His view is that they should have the right of decision on applications for development in the National Parks and that there should be an appeal to some such body as the Privy Council. I do not know whether he meant the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council or merely a body of Privy Counsellors selected ad hoc. It seems to me that there are two difficulties, two major difficulties, about that suggestion. The first is the one that I found in considering the provisions of the Bill. Can you really isolate one portion of the area of a local planning authority and say to them, "You must not plan this bit. You can plan the rest of your area, but this bit is going to be taken away from you entirely"? I think, apart from its practicability, you lose a great deal by the fact that you are depriving local people of an interest in the most interesting and beautiful part of that area.

The other point was the fact that at that time, in 1949, we had only just created these local planning authorities under the 1947 Act; and there was difficulty in saying to them, two years later, "You have been set up to do a job. We trust you to do a job; we trust you. But we cannot trust you to do this particular, especially difficult job, which we must take away and give to an alien body, divorced from your area, whom we regard as being more suitable to carry out this task than you are" That was an impossible position for anybody in charge of this matter to take up. There were strong representations, which were carefully considered; but in the end we felt that we had to leave this matter to the local planning authorities. We asked them, however, to set up special committees for the areas concerned and to include in those committees people nominated by the National Parks Commission. I think that that was a very reasonable compromise.

I come to the next point. I can understand the argument that it should be left entirely to the National Parks Commission—let them decide. But once a right of appeal is given, is there any reason to suppose that a body of Privy Counsellors would come to any materially different conclusion from that of the Minister himself, advised as he is by his advisers? After a public inquiry the Minister would have to consider exactly the same facts and the same evidence as the Privy Counsellors would consider. Assuming equal good faith on both tribunals, in the end a decision must rest on the criterion that you attach to applications for development.

I believe that the Minister and all Ministers have been most conscientious in trying to weigh up the various considerations: the importance of preserving the character and the beauty of the National Park as against the importance of the proposals that were before them. I think that they have not always given sufficient weight to the claims of the National Parks. Though I admit that they have given weight to them—they have said so and I accept that fact—I do not think' they have given sufficient weight. But I have no reason to believe that a committee of Privy Counsellors to whom this matter would be put would take a different view unless they adopted a different criterion. Therefore, although I fully understand the considerations which have influenced the noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett, to put this point, I do not think that in the end he would find himself any better off with the Privy Counsellors than he would with the Minister.

The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, has tried to reassure us of the interest of the Minister in the National Parks; and let us accept that. I would not altogether go along with him in his analogy of the very beautiful warehouse in Lisbon. I know Lisbon; I think I know it fairly well. It is one of the loveliest cities in Europe, and a very fine warehouse in Lisbon or outside Lisbon is in its proper place and fits in with the rest of the buildings, and there is no complaint. I agree with him that a warehouse can be made beautiful if there is a proper design for it. I do not think that the fact that it is in Lisbon, or outside Lisbon, is really material. I would ask him what he would think of a very beautiful warehouse on the borders of Lake Borrowdale. I think he would take a rather different view.


My Lords, I would rather have a beautiful one than an ugly one on the borders of Lake Borrowdale.


But would the noble Earl want one at all? That is the real issue. The issue I want to put before the Government is this: having made up their minds that here are ten areas which they have selected as areas of outstanding beauty, areas which must be preserved, whose beauty must be enhanced and where the people of this country are to be encouraged to come for enjoyment and recreation—having done all that, are they going to permit industrial development for these areas quite contrary to the character of the areas? Nobody is suggesting that there should not be any development at all. I made that quite clear in my opening remarks. There is development which would be quite appropriate for the area; but the kind of development that has been allowed in these areas in the last year, which I have illustrated, is wholly inappropriate to the character of the area. That is the complaint that I make and that is why I think the Government have not applied the right test.

The noble Earl says that it is very difficult indeed to find a suitable site. He set out the requirements, and I would not challenge what he says. However, there are cases where you must accept the second best. Let us agree that the particular areas chosen are the best and are the most suitable for the industry but they are not unique, and it may be that in certain cases we have got to make a sacrifice. I believe that these who have the cause of National Parks at heart—and they constitute a very large section of the population—would be prepared to make that sacrifice in order to preserve the character of these National Parks.

That is all I wanted to say. I should like to thank all noble Lords who have spoken, and I fully accept the sympathy which the noble Earl has expressed in the cause of National Parks. I hope that we shall have no more Trawsfynydds and Milford Havens, and so on, to discuss when the next Report comes along. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.