HL Deb 18 May 1966 vol 274 cc1005-80

4.27 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, may I, with your permission, return to the countryside? It is with great diffidence that I get to my feet for the first time after, I am ashamed to say, six years in your Lordships' House. It is particularly difficult in that I follow three such extremely competent speakers. I had hoped to be able to prepare a speech packed full of arguments, facts and figures, like the ones we have heard; but, unfortunately, I returned from Belgium, where I have been with a party of splendid ex-Servicemen, only on Saturday last to discover that this debate was taking place to-day. I have not really had much time to prepare my speech, but at least this means that I shall not detain your Lordships long.

I also believe that in a maiden speech one should avoid controversy, and although for an Irishman, as I am, this is always difficult, I will try to do so. For these reasons I ask for all the kindness customarily extended on this occasion. I think it would be right for me to declare an interest in as much as I am chairman of two small development companies. I should like to thank the noble Viscount for initiating this debate, which must be of very great interest to this House, and I should like also to thank him for his help and advice to me personally on this occasion.

My Lords, we have heard a great deal about the number of laws under which the countryside is administered. I think myself it is of vital importance to regard the problem of the countryside in human terms. If I may, I should like to deal briefly with three categories of people in relationship to the countryside: first, the townspeople who want to relax and have holidays there (and in this category I might include overseas visitors); secondly, the countryman who works there; and, finally, what I might call the new countryman who has to live and work there because of the population increase. I am sure we all welcome the reconstitution of the National Parks Commission, together with the new powers which will be bestowed upon it. The Commission has done some fine work in the past, and this extension of its duties would seem to be an excellent development.

I am sure noble Lords would approve in general the proposals set out in the White Paper; but I should like to make one or two points on them. I am a little worried that we may be erring on the side of separating the country into holiday places and working places. There are now so many societies, all no doubt doing excellent work, that I see a danger of our getting into a sort of protective straitjacket if we are not careful. I fear that the countryside may become too artificial and over the years lose contact with the real life of the country. I am a great believer in organic growth, and I think we have discovered in some of the new towns the mistakes that we might make in the country, inasmuch as it is almost impossible to create a new town at the drop of a hat. I should like to see, perhaps, a little more integration between rural working life and the amenity land. I would go so far as to say that, provided competent architects, including landscape architects, were employed, limited development in these areas might be a benefit, not only by forming a more living entity but even æesthetically.

I feel very strongly on this point, but I realise that I am on rather dangerous ground. People are frightened of development, I think because there have been some unfortunate mistakes made even after the Town and Country Planning Act came into force. What I should like to sec is more æsthetic control built into the Act. By this I mean local authorities being compelled to take expert advice on all major developments, and, as a corollary to this, the relaxing of the other function of the Act, the designation of land. Some such arrangement might remove some people's fear of development, and would enable us to develop more organically and retain in country areas a living and vigorous society.

Of course, the major problem for this category of person is transport, and I am not competent to speak on that, but I welcome the imaginative idea of forming country parks—I do not know that I particularly like the term—as a means of easing this transport trouble. I should like to ask whether British Rail has ever considered running a special holiday train. I have in mind a relatively expensive service, to include eating and sleeping accommodation. Some of our loveliest countryside can be seen from the permanent way, and it should be possible to plan routes to include National Parks, historic houses and towns. I do not suggest that this would greatly ease the road traffic problem, but everything helps, and such a scheme might have great appeal for overseas tourists. Before leaving this subject I should like to refer to the importance of the modernisation of country hotels. A certain amount has been done, but the poor things have been rather hard hit by recent legislation, and I hope that the importance of the part they play will not be overlooked.

I should like to take my next two categories together. I welcome very much the arrival of light industry into rural areas. It must make for the prosperity of the country and give greater security of employment to many who were dependent almost exclusively on agriculture. However, the main problem here must be the increase of population, about which I fear that in the past I have taken a somewhat ostrich attitude. We shall have to house many more people in the country and find industrial employment for most of them. This will mean further demands on agricultural land, and what remains will be required to produce that much more food for an increasing number of mouths. I am sure that our agricultural industry will respond to this new challenge. But I think that already there is a possibility that we are over-using our land, and this is a very real long-term danger.

My Lords, it is quite beyond the powers of my imagination to see the long-term solutions to these problems, but at least everything must be done to economise in the use of land; and I am frightened that we are not at present, as a nation, sufficiently aware of this. When driving in the country I was appalled to see the outcrop of apparently permanent new bungalows. It may seem so obvious as not to be worth saying, but we must learn to build upwards in our rural areas. Flat dwelling, for some reason, has never been popular in the country, but it has to come, and unless we start now time is not on our side. Another help might be to build bungalows and small houses of a temporary nature, so that when the extent of this population problem can be more accurately known, at least sites would be readily available for upward development.

My Lords, having got this far, I feel that I can tell you that at a young age I fell into an empty swimming bath, and if my remarks have not been as lucid as those of some other noble Lords I hope you will understand and forgive me.

4.36 p.m.


My Lords, it falls to me to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Ypres, upon his maiden speech. If I may say so, it was a very well-balanced one. Those of us who tend to look primarily to the protection of amenity in the countryside are sometimes in danger of overlooking the need for development, even in the remoter parts of the country. I very much agree with the noble Earl in his view that development need not be bad. There is really no reason why every new house put up in a village should be an eyesore, and if competent architects, of whom there are plenty, and landscape architects, who may perhaps be rather scarcer on the ground, are employed, much of this development could itself add to the amenity of the countryside. I am sure that in future the noble Earl, Lord Ypres, will return to his point, and I hope he will not allow six years to elapse before he addresses your Lordships again.

My Lords, the Motion of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, has been on the Order Paper for a very long time, and those of us who are interested in the countryside are very grateful to him for having brought it forward now. I think it is high time that the attention of your Lordships' House should be drawn to the problems of the countryside, for a great deal of effort has been expended in the last few years on drawing this problem to the attention of people at large. It is now three years ago that the first Nature Week was organised by the Council for Nature. In November last a resumed meeting or Conference on the Countryside in 1970 was convened in London and it was sponsored by the Council for Nature, the Royal Society of Arts and the Nature Conservancy. A fortnight ago we had the Observer Wild Life Exhibition, again very largely sponsored by the Council for Nature, and it was visited by nearly 100,000 people. I mention that figure because it shows the interest that has already been aroused in the countryside and the educational process which has gone on in recent years among all sections of our population in creating an interest in country life and country ways and the appearance of the country itself. All aspects of the countryside—its use and its misuse—were covered by the documentation of the Conference held in November last. Most of that documentation is, I hope, in the hands of those of your Lordships who are particularly interested in these problems.

Perhaps I may be allowed to refer to the Study Group over which I presided, and which dealt with the subject of legislation. On this Group there were representatives of the County Councils Association, the Country Landowners' Association, the National Farmers' Union, the town planners and other representative bodies. As a Group, we were unanimous in making scores of recommendations for legislative or administrative action, which we presented with some confidence as measures or steps which can and ought to be enacted, or on which action ought to be taken now. It is true—and here I agree with the noble Viscount who moved the Motion—that a great deal more could be done by the vigorous use of powers which already exist, which in far too many cases are left dormant, both locally and centrally. On the other hand, my Group came to the conclusion that there are also a great many directions in which legislation ought to be enacted just as soon as Parliamentary time can be found for it. On the subject of Parliamentary time, I know all the difficulties of Governments. But I wonder whether I am too bold in thinking that if the Gov- ernment were to produce a Bill for introduction in your Lordships' House, where these questions are so well understood, they might find their difficulties less and their progress quicker than they may at present anticipate.

Mention of legislation brings me to the Government's White Paper. It contains much that is wholly admirable. I may perhaps be allowed to say that its authors had the advantage of the 1970 Conference and all the preparatory studies which went to the preparation for that meeting. We know that the Minister took these recommendations into account, because he was good enough to come and address the Conference. If the White Paper contains so much that is admirable, it is also marked, and some people would think marred, by considerable gaps and omissions. A general criticism which I have heard is that in its opening pages it is unduly obsessed by the need to give townspeople somewhere to go, somewhere to play and something to do. All these needs are pressing and legitimate enough. But the people who live and work in the country, and whose interests in the country are rather wider than those of mere recreation, have also to be considered.

I agree entirely that the idea of Country Parks, whatever one may think of the name, is imaginative—and nothing more complimentary can be said of anything nowadays than that it is imaginative—constructive and valuable in making a positive contribution to the problem of finding outlets for town populations. I agree with the noble Viscount that it seems pathetic that townspeople are content to picnic almost on the verge of an arterial road. But if one goes 20 or 25 miles out of London, one can, at any rate, with luck, see a horse or cow in a field; and there are thousands of town children who never have that pleasure.

I do not think one should decry the fact that many of these areas may be in quasi-urbanised surroundings. I think they will make a practical and constructive contribution to the problem of finding outlets for the urban populations, and at the same time they will have a valuable function in relieving the pressure on the wilder and more remote places. That whole part of the White Paper, to which I know Mr. Willey himself attached great importance, seems to me to be extremely well conceived.

If, as I hinted just now, one misses any adequate recognition in the opening parts of the White Paper of the positive value and beauty of the natural scene itself, and of the wild life to which it is the background, I feel a good deal comforted by what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and by his sympathetic approach to that aspect of our problems. President Kennedy, in a striking pronouncement not so long ago, said he looked forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty, and which will protect the beauty of our natural environment. I hope that Her Majesty's Government also will be bold in their approach to the future of the countryside, and will not be afraid to say that they mean to protect it. As I have said, I draw considerable comfort not only from the words, but from the tone, of Lord Kennet's speech in that regard.

One special point in which I think there is a good deal of disappointment is that more real power is not to be given under the terms of the White Paper to the National Parks Commission in the process of widening its scope. I am glad that its scope is to be widened and that it is to be re-named the Countryside Commission. But the White Paper says that no immediate major change is proposed in the administrative arrangements within the National Parks. Impressed by the weight of public opinion in favour of joint boards for parks which cover more than one county, the Government still can only bring themselves to hope that the planning authorities concerned will consider seriously the possibility of a change. Surely we have advanced further than hoping that someone will consider seriously a possibility.


Perhaps the noble Lord would read the next sentence. It is quite short, and I will remind him of it: The Government will consider whether it would be desirable to exercise their power to revoke existing arrangements if further experience showed this to be required.


That is fair enough, but it is going into a more and more dim and distant future.

Then the Countryside Commission is to advise the Government and the local authorities. It is to stimulate education; it is to act as a clearing house; it is to provide liaison; it is to arrange for research—and I think it may also carry it out. Why not give the Commission more of the powers which the National Parks Commission itself has been demanding for years past, as set out in its Twelfth Annual Report? Another gap is the omission to provide adequate protection for sites declared to be of special scientific interest under the Act of 1949, in regard to which urgent matter the 1970 Conference made simple and practicable proposals, including provision for compensation where landowners were asked to refrain on a commercial basis from full exploitation of a given site.

I do not want to stress unduly the things which we hoped to see in the White Paper but which are not there, and I most heartily support the Government in the positive steps which they indicate. There are, for example, the proposals for dealing with footpaths and bridlepaths, for encouraging the planting of trees and woodlands, and for securing greater access to inland waters. In the matter of access to inland waters, I agree with the view the Government take, that water authorities have been far too restrictive in allowing people to have access to gathering grounds, or even the margins of reservoirs. I think there will possibly be a good deal of conflict of interest between the users of inland water spaces, lakes or reservoirs for active recreational pursuits, and those who want them to be kept as nature reserves, or who want to use them for fishing. Water ski-ing and fishing are not really compatible interests. A great deal of thought is being given to this matter in many areas, and particularly the West Midlands, where the needs for recreation are obviously great. I have little doubt that a solution can and will be found by some allotment of the water spaces to particular interests, not altogether exclusive, but not affording that multiplicity of use which a few larger sheets of water will admit. That should be a soluble problem.

To sum up my views on the White Paper generally, I would urge Her Majesty's Government to be somewhat bolder, and even better in their Bill than they have been in their White Paper, and to include more of the detailed points to which the groups reporting to the Conference on the Countryside in 1970 gave such close attention. There is a large measure of agreement as to what can and should be done, and even if we have to wait a year or so for the legislation, what impresses my mind is that, having got it, we shall probably wait another thirty years for another Bill covering anything like the same ground. That seems to me a strong argument for putting in now everything that can be reasonably included.

I welcome, of course, the more generous assistance promised to local authorities, and especially to the county councils, in promoting the better use and enjoyment of the countryside. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, that the county councils, in particular, can do an immense amount if they have public support, public opinion—and an educated opinion at that—behind them. Many of them have already pioneered the way. He mentioned, I think, Cumberland and the famous gullery of Ravenglass. But Lincolnshire, right on the other side of the country, was also a leader in safeguarding a place of great natural interest and importance; and in various ways many other counties could claim to have taken enlightened views. The county of Hampshire, for example, has always taken enlightened views on this subject, and I well remember when, a great many years ago now, the county surveyor told me that it would be more than his life was worth to tar a road anywhere near the Test or the Itchen.

May I conclude by emphasising the international interest of whatever action we take here? I have long been associated with those concerned in the conservation of nature in many European countries. The countryside is shrinking, not only in Britain but in Europe as well. If any of your Lordships have been on the Adriatic Coast, for example anywhere in the neighbourhood of Ravenna, and seen what has happened to the Comacchio marshes or the pinewoods of that famous district, you will see how many miles of territory can quickly cease, in the space of a few years, to have any natural interest or scenic appeal.

As—I suppose I ought to say if—this country moves closer to the Common Market, conservationists, naturalists and lovers of the countryside should make an effort to move closer to Europe as well. At present, Britain is leading the world in conservation, and in these days there are not so many things in which we can claim to be leaders. What we do to conserve our own countryside is watched, not only in Europe but by the rest of the world, and in particular in the emerging countries in Africa, where much that we did to establish National Parks and Reserves is now being carried on successfully, generally with some technical assistance from ourselves.

The Council of Europe has decided to nominate 1970 as "Conservation Year", and is informing Governments and voluntary bodies of this fact, and asking them to start planning for it. I welcome this news. The British President of the World Wildlife Fund, the Duke of Edinburgh, said: This acknowledgment of the importance of conservation by the Council of Europe, whose members extend from Iceland to Turkey, should put new heart into all those who have worked so hard for so many years for this cause. It should also do much to encourage the public to accept conservation as a reasonable and a valuable contribution to the welfare of mankind. In April, the first European diploma for Nature Conservation was presented by the Council of Europe to the Peak Park Planning Board, and the Council's Director of Economic and Social Affairs said: Following the example of the United Kingdom, which leads Europe in conservation, we are moving away from the old concept of nature protection towards the proper management of natural resources and respect for the environment as a whole. That, my Lords, is the crux of the matter: the proper use of our land and our natural resources. I think the debate in your Lordships' House this afternoon will have made a further step forward in the education of our public; and it is the support of an educated public that is necessary, both to the Government and to the local authorities, if they are to be strong enough to act on the lines we would all wish.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, I would ask you to bear with me for just a few minutes, this being the first time that I, too, have addressed your Lordships. I believe there was a Question in another place only yesterday about the cost of a butterfly farm. Judging by the number circulating round here at the moment I think I could probably do equally well, and at a smaller cost! I would also declare a small interest in that I live in the countryside, and therefore some of its problems are my own. This is a large subject and I make no apology for covering only a small part of the problem, and I have no wish to keep your Lordships here until the proverbial cows come home.

I think it is generally agreed that at week-ends one sees a veritable flood of people in cars and trains rushing out of towns and cities, not only to the coastal resorts but also to the ordinary, old-fashioned countryside. This is the right of every Englishman, and although they go to the countryside for many reasons, some perhaps with better intentions than others, they should always have this pleasure and be allowed to enjoy it. It is not such an easy thing to do nowadays.

I welcome very much indeed the Government's White Paper on Leisure in the Countryside, which advocates large recreational areas within easy reach of our cities, although I must admit that paragraph 50, which suggests that we must have more caravan sites, I do not find easy to agree with wholeheartedly. They are a blot on the landscape and very ugly, although I realise that some are necessary. Although some people obviously will never want to use these country parks, because they wish to be on their own, it is fairly obvious from the number of people who always picnic where there are already a great many others, and often by choice alongside a main road, that they would welcome a large designated area for recreation which would be properly staffed and maintained, although possibly women might have to be employed due to the high cost of insurance stamps these days.

This is not a new idea, but it is one which could be developed very easily and expanded through the years as required. Some might have more facilities for organised sport, while others would be there solely for picnickers and for children and dogs to exercise. The Green Belt could obviously be used as well, and any necessary buildings camouflaged. There seems to be general agreement for this type of proposal by Members of your Lordships' House and Members of another place, and I hope sincerely that the agreements reached and the ideas put forward can be implemented with less than the normally accepted delays. The National Parks Commission, although going through some internal changes, I believe is going to help in this type of work to a great degree, but it needs more moral support in order to carry out its work properly.

Another extremely serious problem which is causing some concern is the growing need for houses and buildings and the consequent reduction of farming land. I do not claim to be an expert in town or country planning, but it seems to me that there are far too many cases of apparently haphazard extensions to existing towns or villages and not nearly enough thought is put into the possibilities of starting a new village or a small town in an area where the agricultural value of land is not so high. I submit to your Lordships that, although a certain amount of extension to existing towns is necessary, this is not always so and good farmland is often swallowed up. There have been cases of large extensions being made to existing small towns without any apparent regard to the recreational needs of the new community, or to the requirements for the social services. We have all seen some areas where town after town and village after village is virtually joined together in what I believe is termed an "urban sprawl", and the driver of a car seeking some open space has to go further and further afield through row upon row of houses.

In East Anglia, where I live, there is a particular problem, for the Industrial Revolution passed by East Anglia, but many industries are now coming there and the expansion to-day is enormous. Of course, there must be a sensible balance between well-planned and necessary building and the conservation of the countryside. Perhaps in East Anglia more than anywhere else there is a need for a stronger feeling of regional development; not a series of conflicting ideas from each town or village, nor indeed direction from Whitehall, but a voluntary feeling of wanting to expand as a whole entity. This is surely the best way to combine the most modern methods of building, and to blend them in to an existing countryside, leaving a great part of it unspoilt for those who go there for peace and quiet.

The Royal Fine Art Commission, in their 19th Report, which doubtless many of your Lordships will have read, quote a particular problem arising out of controversial plans for a housing estate in the Constable country. This has been argued since 1962 and I believe is not decided yet, despite Ministry opposition and also the agreement of the three county councils concerned, designating the area as one of great landscape value.

The April edition of the Quarterly Review, a magazine which is probably also seen by your Lordships, stresses the need for national leadership and action for preserving the countryside. In spite of admirable bodies such as the Conservation Corps of the Council for Nature, the County Naturalists Trust and many others, still not enough is actually being done, either for the countryside itself or for the people who would like to use it for recreation. So, my Lords, I should like to say that I fully appreciate the many conflicting opinions which make decisions most difficult for the Government or anybody else. It is impossible to please one and all, but I hope that even those of your Lordships who prefer to live in our towns and cities will actively support the preservation of our countryside and the increase in recreational facilities.

5.7 p.m.


My Lords, what a pleasant, forthright speech that was! If I had to pick a bit out of it, what I liked particularly was the reference to East Anglia, and what I thought was the foresight and broadsight that was shown by the noble Lord. I earnestly hope—and I am sure I can speak for everybody in this House—that the noble Lord will come here and speak again. Whether he will make as good a speech as he made this time I do not know, but he will find it very hard to beat that first one.

I did not intend to speak on this subject, other than to say a word or two about regional development, which appealed to the noble Lord who has just spoken and also to the noble Viscount to whom we owe thanks for initiating this debate. I am not standing up here to whine at being sacked. I have been sacked on account of age, and my age would have been the same in whichever Ministry I was serving, but I am rather sorry that the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources is having (shall we say?) a forcible adoption by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government—or would "a shotgun marriage" be the better term? I feel rather more strongly about it than the Minister under whom I served very happily for a couple of years or so. Of course, I can see the reason for it. The reason is probably inevitable in view of the present character of our planning arrangements; and I am glad they are going to be reviewed.

The difficulty is to keep together within the framework of regional development the decisions that have to be made by our local authorities, which are of course the planning authorities. When the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources was first formed, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister defined its duties as To participate in the formulation of the national and regional plans, for which my right honourable friend the First Secretary of State has overall responsibility. Later on in the same statement, as regards the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, he defined the duty of that Minister in these words. He was: to see that policies in regional plans were implemented by the local authorities". That is a statement of functions, and it has proved, no doubt, very difficult to carry out, but the effect of the present change is to leave the question of the countryside, which is what we are talking about to-day, in the hands of a Minister who certainly has responsibility for local government but also has the responsibility for housing and to dissociate it, to some extent, from the Department of the First Secretary of State, with which, as your Lordships will see from what I have just read out, it was first intended to associate it.

I think the really important point we must all bear in mind about the countryside is what the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, called development. When we felt after the war that the overcrowding in our conurbations must be relieved by the building of new towns, those new towns were originally formed either as specific industrial centres—those were few—or mainly for the relief of particular conurbations. There was a ring, for instance, around London, and the others can be found to have relations in the same way to the very big towns nearby. I think that is taking a narrow view of the possibilities of the country, and I prefer what was said by the noble Lord just now (I think in another maiden speech, as it happens), that one ought to consider the possibility of starting new centres in the countryside itself and being sensible about the extent to which they are allowed to interfere for instance with good farming land or the like. This is something which in fact the Forestry Commissioners, who were for a time under the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources, have been doing for a long time past. There is a good deal to be said for the view that in some parts of the country, perhaps notably in Scotland, these forestry settlements may provide the kind of rural centre which is rather difficult to imagine otherwise.

I think the same thing could be done with rather larger towns, and one goes from that to the connection between this and the development of industry in this country. I am quite sure that we shall find as we go along that we have to get our new industries and specific developments of our old industries out of the big centres and into the rest of the country. There is no reason to spoil the country in doing this if you know what you are doing and are sensible and reasonable about it. It was because of that sort of association that I welcomed the original idea to keep a close touch between the Minister of Land and Natural Resources and the First Secretary of State, who of course had the overall responsibility for the regional plans with which we are particularly concerned now.

I do not want to take up time; I intended to make a short speech. One of my noble friends in the House sent me a most delightful note saying, "For good- ness sake!, do not talk too long, because there are so many waiting to speak". I do not know whether I have followed that exhortation. At any rate, I am going to wind up fairly quickly. I believe everybody has welcomed the Government White Paper and I consider it is a very remarkable performance. If the kingpin in it is the development of the National Parks Commission into the Countryside Commission, for that is what is really intended, it none the less contains a whole number of other proposals which are useful contributions to the general problem. I do not think there is very much to be added to it at present. White Papers are not the end of all things. I would remind noble Lords that this is not a White Paper about the countryside; it is a White Paper about leisure in the countryside. Therefore the cast of it is slightly different from what it might be if it were rather more ambitious.

May I add this about it? On timing, I believe your Lordships would feel that urgent measures for social needs must come first under any Government. I think, too, that your Lordships would remember that since 1949 pretty continuously the National Parks Commission has been asking for a larger and larger extension of its powers. Nothing has yet been done except the issuing of the White Paper. I hope the matter will go further as quickly as may be. But surely it must wait on two other things: one is the review of local government which is going on at present, and that seems to me to have a very large bearing on it; and the second is the reorganisation of the financial relations between the Government and local authorities. Both of those matters come so obviously into the proposals in this Paper that I fully understand why it was thought necessary to wait for them, for that if for no other reason.

Lastly, may I mention the commons? Nobody happens to have done so. One-and-a-half million acres of ground, or thereabouts, are at this moment being registered as commons. The question about this is quite clearly going to be in which cases the agricultural value of the commons and in which cases the amenity value of the commons predominates. Up in the North of the country there are some very clear cases where, whatever you do about amenity, probably the agricultural value is more important. But down South, in Surrey where there are a number of commons, it has long been recognised that you must regard their proximity to London and the value to the inhabitants as more important. This is what is called a clash, and I have noticed in all the speeches there was clash after clash, or when there was not clash after clash there was balance after balance. We mean the same thing by both these terms. We are generally agreed on the kind of thing required but we are puzzled as to the best means of doing it in a very complicated and changing civilisation, in which one outstanding balance is the proper balance between town and country and another is between agriculture and forestry—and I could go on.

When you get a clash or a balance you are very often dealing, as in this case, with a comparison between incomparables and a balance between imponderables, and when you reach that position there are only two things to do: one is to toss up, and the other, in a democratic country, is to find a competent Minister to settle it. I rather wish we had been allowed to keep the Ministry of Land for this sort of purpose; I think it could have been useful. But there it is, and I bow, as one must bow, to the practical difficulties of the situation. I see that quite clearly and if I had been my right honourable friend the Prime Minister I should probably have felt forced to do the same thing. But one sees a Department which was great fun and very interesting disappearing, recognising that it has to go but rather sorry it is going.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, before I make the few remarks that I have to make, may I add my congratulations to those expressed already by the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, on the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Newall? I thought it an excellent maiden speech and, like Lord Mitchison, I hope that we may hear many more such speeches from the noble Lord.

The few remarks that I have to make are made principally on behalf of the Association for the Preservation of Rural Scotland, in which body I have the honour to hold office. I am glad that a compatriot of mine has introduced this Motion in such an excellent manner, and I am extremely glad, too, to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that Scotland is to have priority in legislation in this matter of the Countryside Bill. I always press the point because I think we must never forget that our scenery in Britain, and particularly in Scotland, is on such a small scale compared with Continental scenery that, however unobtrusive the objects which are put up, they damage our scenery much more than would be the case in the Alps or in European or Continental countries, where they would be hardly visible at all. Our Association warmly welcomes the establishment of a Countryside Commission. We hope that it will be a body of really strong standing. It must have teeth. It must, I think, have a status equivalent to that of the Forestry Commission, for example, and, of course, it must have an independent chairman, and members who really know their job.

There are three overall points that I want to mention, which I think will help towards the preservation of the beauty of the countryside. The first concerns hedgerow and farm timber, a subject which I think has not so far been mentioned, although I believe that in the White Paper there is some mention of trees. In 1955, a Forestry Commission committee sat for two years, under the chairmanship of Lord Merthyr, and most forcefully stressed the fact that, owing to new agricultural techniques, hedgerow and farm timber was being ruthlessly cut down to allow the entry of agricultural machinery. That was in the natural course of events. But the Committee also stressed that there must be some national policy to plant up the land and replace the timber which was being felled. So far, I am afraid, little has been done. I hope that more will be done in the future, because this shortage of trees has certainly had an adverse effect on the landscape. I must apologise for my fervour, but I am an absolute tree fanatic. I think we cannot have too many trees. They hide a multitude of sins; they help the preservation of wildlife which it seems is so rapidly becoming exterminated; they give shelter from the wind, and amenity, not to mention, of course, timber potential.

My second point concerns the Scottish law on litter. In the matter of legislation against the spread of litter Scotland is at a great disadvantage. I am afraid that this is another injustice to Scotland, but it is the fact. As the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross knows only too well, in Scotland two witnesses are needed in order to bring a prosecution, whereas in England I think that anyone can initiate proceedings with regard to litter. Anyone in England can arrest a man. In Scotland it must be a police job. The matter has to be taken before the procurator fiscal. This entails a good deal of trouble, and I am afraid that Scotland is not at the moment free from litter. Cannot the Act be amended? We had little encouragement about this from the Scottish Office at the conference in Edinburgh. I often wonder whether it would be possible to amend the 1958 Act in order to favour Scotland a little more.

My last point is a short one, but I believe that no-one has yet mentioned it. Cannot our architects think a little more about building techniques applicable to the country and not to the town? It seems to me that perhaps a little more imagination is called for. It may cost a little more money, but the cheapest is not always the best, either from the utility or from the aesthetic point of view. I believe that this is something worth considering. I hope that our architects will be able to think up some new forms of building in order greatly to improve the look of our countryside, with more and more people going out to enjoy themselves. My Lords, that is all I have to say.

5.27 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise for having been absent during some of the speeches, and I must apologise for the fact that I shall have to leave the House early. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, who has provided us with an opportunity to discuss this problem suggested that we could devote time profitably between now and the time legislation is introduced. I should like to make one suggestion in that direction. We have a Minister for Sport, who has limited powers. What we shall need before we are much older is a Minister for Recreation, with full Cabinet status, if this job is to be done thoroughly. By that I mean if we wish to preserve the interest and virility of the youth of this country. In war this country's youth has proved itself adequately twice in this century. Youth must have an outlet spiced with some physical danger. Youth is our real capital. The most modern factory packed with machinery is sterile without the people who run it, and those who run it must be protected against the stresses of modern industry, because they are our real capital.

In Canada, the United States and Germany, people employed in the towns work hard during the week and spend their week-ends in the country. They think nothing of driving a hundred miles or more to a mountain camp or lake. They work all the harder to earn the money to spend on these regular weekend excursions. We could learn quite a serious lesson from that. If, as the White Paper says, our population increases by 19 million by the end of this century, the problem of leisure is going to be a headache. We can be assured that the highly skilled, technical sophisticated type of worker will require facilities such as those enjoyed by the leisured classes of 35 years ago. In his case it will be a real need and a psychological necessity.

Men who spend the whole of their week in industries whose tempo is governed by the pace of machines, need release from this bondage and an opportunity to indulge in a variety of pursuits best suited to themselves to achieve relaxation. I find my relaxation in sailing. There is some thrill about seeing the nose going down into a trough in a force 6 wind. This is where the spice of danger comes in. One must have it as an outlet. The word "leisure" does not convey the right picture in this case. Recreation in its other meaning, "to renew" is more appropriate.

The stresses built up by the need for utmost concentration in modern industry demand recreation, and as we develop new skills and automated production the need for two or three days' recuperation each week will become greater. We cannot rely on watching football matches on the "tele" as the sole means of recreation and not suffer deterioration. Some are lucky in being able to find relaxation in gardening or a never ending sequence of "do it yourself" jobs. Others of us, an ever increasing number, feel we must "get away from it all" into a different environment. Many are attracted by any pursuit which brings us closer to the forces of nature: camping, sailing, climbing, fishing, or one of several other occupations.

The introduction to the White Paper mentions the Government's concern about the growing need to site new towns near to open spaces. To use a modern expression, one cannot agree more. Better understanding between management and labour will, one hopes, surely extend to the taking of a more active interest in the holiday pursuits of all employed in industry. Many hundreds of thousands work hard during the whole year in order to save money to holiday abroad. How many realise that what they spend has first to be earned by exports? I think the Government should give this fact publicity. Holidaying abroad is becoming something of a status symbol. Sooner or later decisions in regard to the location of industry will have to take into consideration proximity to the new country parks, and the sooner the better.

There is also the need to regulate holiday periods by phasing. I should like to know what percentage of the employed population could take holidays at any time from May to the end of September. The sight of hundreds of thousands trying to cram themselves into the West Country over a period of six weeks is tragic. They look forward eagerly the whole year to a fortnight away from it all, and they find themselves tied up in intolerable traffic jams and having to sleep in some layby, with the noise of traffic about them all through the night. This happens year after year in Cornwall where I live. Do we not need some degree of education on how to spend these precious two weeks? Here I think Government publicity departments could help in cinema programmes and on television. People tend to follow each other like sheep because they know no other way. Much as we might resent it in our stubborn British natures, especially if we are ancient Britons, we may yet welcome the planning of facilities for leisure by a wise and benevolent Government. By planning I mean planning first on a national scale and then on a regional one, from the regional councils to the local government.

There is another phase to be considered. We have to conserve our land, and it may be that the activities developed in our National Parks and new country parks could whet appetites to travel to Canada or other Commonwealth countries for the type of holidays which have been enjoyed in those countries for many years. It is quite different from being stuffed into a boarding-house, waiting for a bingo session to start. The Canadians are a very good example. They owe much of their virility to the way they plan their leisure. It might be a good cue for industrialists who are seeking new incentives or bonus ideas to provide sports holidays free or on reduced terms, especially if they are concerned with export to the country chosen for the vacation. The problems of adequate recreation must be regarded now as seriously as any one of the problems of industry because they concern efficiency in industry.

My Lords, I like to drop at least one danger per speech, and this one concerns the machinations of crank elements in the various preservation societies. We have to earn wealth in order to earn leisure. All wealth originates from the earth. I refer especially to minerals. Recently there was an outcry against mineral exploration on the edge of Dart-moor. We need tin and copper desperately, and the area on the edge of Dartmoor occupied by a tin mine would be lost in the vast expanse. We need to study our priorities in this matter. The siting of country parks should not sterilise the means of earning the wealth which enables us to live. We have time to consider all these matters between now and the time when legislation is introduced. Let us use that time intelligently, and we shall reap a great reward.

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, my intervention will be but brief, and I must say that I am one of those who must offer apologies to the House because I shall not be able to remain until the end of the debate. I want to confine my few remarks almost to one topic, the topic of National Parks, and in particular the Lake District National Park. The talk we hear to-day about multiple land use and other planning jargon is novel to most of us, but the effects of receiving large numbers of tourists and holidaymakers in particular areas has long been understood in certain parts of this country which have been much favoured by holidaymakers and those seeking relaxation in the countryside, and the Lake District is one of those areas. People have wandered where they would, the problems of access have never presented any great difficulty, and I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, that I am not one of those who think that the problem of access is going to make such great difficulties in hill areas with the established farming practices and farmers.

But things are changing fast—they never of course stand still, but they are certainly now changing fast. The main cause of much of the change is the number of motor cars on the roads, and this will soon be accentuated still more with the construction of further lengths of motorway. The old-established holiday areas in this country are likely to be overrun by sheer numbers of visitors. This has been mentioned in reports over the last few years, but the danger is now very imminent. Such areas will not be ready to absorb the number of people seeking to visit them, and if this happens their character must be changed—changed, I fear, for the worse. So I say—and I say it with all sincerity—that the English Lake District to-day is in danger. It is in very grave danger, and it could be changed greatly in a decade. Were that to happen, we should have the position that the same generation which has created our National Parks would have witnessed the destruction of its finest child.

What should we do about this situation? I am very glad that the Government are to have a new look at the National Parks Commission and the other authorities responsible for individual Parks. In saying this, I wish in no way to be disparaging, but after nearly twenty years of working we can see more clearly than was possible at the time the National Parks Commission was set up (and I can remember sitting in another place on the Committee which dealt with the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Bill), and it is time in the normal course of administration to have another look.

But what ought we to do? What, perhaps, ought to govern us? First and foremost, I think I should like to under- line the principle which has already been mentioned several times: that our preservation policy must not be negative. Life must go on in these districts. There must be agriculture, forestry; not only should existing industries continue, but new industries must be created, industries that are in scale and keeping with the particular areas. Then we must look for more effective administration—not just administration on paper—at both central and local government levels. Also, I think we must avoid confusion by Regional Economic Councils, which are not answerable to the electorate and are apt to give themselves the most absurd airs, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, has said. We should be careful, too, that, if possible, the writs of rural development boards should not run within the National Parks; otherwise, the National Parks will be burdened with so many organisations that we shall never be able to make and implement the right decisions in time. As for the financial aspect, it is interesting to think how long we have been parsimonious over this question of the provision of finance for the National Parks. In the National Parks Annual Report there are no pages telling us about finance, for the good reason that they have no money to tell us about. That, I am sure, we must rectify. Spending large sums of money does not mean that we necessarily achieve improvements, but it is the case that we have been over-parsimonious in the past.

Perhaps the biggest question of all is that of highways and communications. Here may I say that the Germans have much clearer ideas and a much better policy than we have here, in that they not only control but also guide motor traffic within their National Parks. I have recently seen something of this, though to-day is not the occasion to expand on this theme. I would only commend a study of these German methods and experience to Her Majesty's Ministers as a matter of urgency. Here at home, National Parks planning policy and highway policy seem confused, if not, unhappily, divorced. In the Lake District, if I may cite that example again, the Lake District Planning Board is very weak, if not actually impotent, over the question of communications. There are three county councils concerned, each with a separate highways committee, a separate surveyor and separate staff, and each responsible for its own area. Although they try to co-ordinate what they do, they certainly do not succeed as completely as one would like.

I believe that at the present time there is under way a comprehensive survey, which will show through-roads and minor roads which are proper in a National Park, to serve both the area itself and the surrounding areas. But to-day we have the most haphazard things happening. It seems that the two great guiding principles of the three county councils and their committees are road safety and traffic flow. These are both admirable principles, but the emphasis on them means that every road, main road or minor road, is, in turn, made wider and straighter, and every small lane leading up the remote valleys is gradually pressed further and further up those valleys, destroying the quietness and peace which people come a very great distance to enjoy. All too little attention has been paid to date to car parks, to turning places—and they are very important—and, also, to restrictions on motor traffic on those minor roads. Here again Germany is ahead of us. I welcome paragraph 59 in the White Paper which refers to this topic. I only hope that the Government will see what they can do to put it into practice.

Planning is too often seen by local people as something entirely negative. "No" is said to every application by a humble individual—or so it seems to them—to build a house. Many people do not understand the principles of law behind the National Parks. They think that the planning authorities are entirely negative. Then they see what they believe to be a different law for the rich from that for the poor. They see rich and powerful bodies such as Manchester Corporation, to whom the Minister of Housing and Local Government now proposes to give authority to draw water, not from one but from two lakes, even though alternative supplies are available, and in spite of the clear decision of your Lordships' House three years ago. I should be ungenerous if I did not say that I welcomed the attempt to limit the damage by what are called "safeguards", but I am sure that, when noble Lords and Her Majesty's Ministers examine these safeguards carefully, they will see that occasions could arise when they would not amount to very much. We cannot afford to give away the English lakes two at a time, which is what Her Majesty's Government are now proposing.

I say here that I am surprised, and people who live in the North-West of England are surprised, that the Minister of Land and Natural Resources has not resigned on that decision, and that he should apparently support this wholly bad principle. I can only say that this decision will undermine public confidence in any fine words. I would commend to your Lordships the evidence given at the public inquiry in Kendal last summer, not by any private individual but by the National Parks Commission. It is published as an appendix at the end of their last report, and I stand by everything in that evidence.

My Lords, I should like to end on a general note. What we decide in the immediate future could well make or mar the pleasure of millions of our fellow citizens of this and successive generations. So we must take the right decisions and take them now, because time is not on our side. In a famous debate on an allied subject in your Lordships' House not long ago, the phrase was used about the Lake District that it is so small, so lovely and so vulnerable. I would say to your Lordships, as my last sentence, that mistakes once made cannot easily be repaired.

5.48 p.m.


My Lords, in self-defence I should say that, although the list of speakers does not show a little "M" after my name, this is the first time that I have had the honour of addressing your Lordships' House. I live in Worcestershire and my house is 27 miles from the centre of Birmingham. I do not want to be parochial about this, but, after all, the problems of living in the shadow of a conurbation are common to many places in this country, and will become more widespread still. The population is flooding into the countryside, many into the villages, and the point I want to talk about is the urbanisation of these villages. "Urbanisation" is an ugly word for an ugly thing. The villages are bursting their seams. The developers come along and buy, perhaps, five little parcels of land around the villages. One may buy six acres; one may buy one acre and so on; and they plant down little bits of housing estates. These have nothing to do with one another, and differ in no respect from the estates with which the developers are surrounding the towns.

I am sure your Lordships will agree that the main purpose of planning is to maintain the contrast between town and country, between the sophistication and busy-ness of the town, and the simplicity and tranquillity which one hopes to find in the countryside and the villages. This is not a mere sentimental idea; it is an important matter—in my opinion, at any rate—in getting the right balance of life for the whole nation. Every townsman needs the country, every countryman needs the town; but this contrast between town and country is being blurred by the urbanisation of the villages.

Now to urbanise a village is surely to destroy the sort of picture one has in one's mind of the English village: a place of settled tranquillity, a place where the countryside seems to be permeating the village. Of course, I know, as your Lordships know, that the character of the English village has changed a lot in the past thirty or forty years. As a rule, the village is no longer a self-contained entity where the inhabitants expect to find their work and their play. The village around us, at any rate, now consists largely of commuters who find their work in the neighbouring town. In passing, I would say that my experience is that commuters can be of great value to a village by bringing in fresh ideas and, very often, by taking leadership in village affairs. It may well be said that, with life as it is in these modern days, a sense of tranquillity, such as I have suggested in a village, is no longer appropriate and that, if it were appropriate, it could not be achieved. My Lords, I would say not only that it can be achieved but that it must be achieved if we are to retain this precious contrast between town and country.

I am not suggesting for a moment that we should sentimentalise our villages. Nothing could be worse than "yeolde", and all that. Nor am I suggesting that we should ape the past and deck out the village with old-fashioned houses designed after the manner of our fore-fathers. Already in patches in the country one can come across modern villages built by architects with modern materials in the modern manner, and to me, at least, these places, built with the sensitiveness, the skill and the subtlety which the architects can use, are places of real delight. I want to see many modern villages to accommodate our modern population, many of whom want to live in a village if they can. I want to see them built on virgin soil, or built as modern neighbourhoods clustered around existing old villages. I want to see them developed as a whole and not piecemeal, and developed so as to give back this sense of tranquillity to the village.

I know that this is a tremendously difficult thing to do. I know that the planning problems are very difficult indeed. It is difficult to get a sufficient area for any comprehensive development, even of the size of a small village. It is difficult to decide which villages should be added to, and which should be left alone. Above all, there is this supreme difficulty innate in planning, that good planning, such as is being done in my own county, must be a deliberate affair, and meantime, while the plan is being prepared, the pressure increases every day—and the pressure of the developer is very hard to resist when one knows how many people are waiting for houses.

In the meanwhile, we can at least have much stricter control, surely, over the layout, particularly, and the design of these developers' additions to the houses; and we can have stricter control, I should have thought, over what one might call the trimmings of a village—all those posts, overhead wires and transformers; those hideously clumsy British Tv ariels, so far less tidy than what one sees in America or on the Continent; those curly concrete lamp-posts which Sir Hugh Casson once described as "swans carrying carpet beaters"; and, above all, I think, those concrete kerbs with which the road men love to decorate our country lanes and our village streets. Nothing urbanises the country more than making a country lane look, or trying to make it look, like a main road. I have spoken about controlling a village, and the idea of controlling a village may not meet with everyone's favour, but I am sure your Lordships, at any rate, will agree that, in the past, most of the best villages have grown up through the years under the strict control of the Great House or the Lord of the Manor.

To sum up, I want to see this country lead the world in modern village design, just as it has led the world in village design in the past and as it is leading the world now in our New Towns. But this is not purely a planning problem, because at the bottom of every planning problem there is a personal, human problem. I want to see the contrast between town and country kept for the sake of every human being, because we all need it; and I want to see the object of planning carried out: that is, the enrichment of all our lives by the production of the finest physical environment we can make in this country.

5.58 p.m.


My Lords, we have had several maiden speeches this afternoon, and noteworthy ones, and it falls to me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, on his maiden speech. I think the noble Lord speaks with a good deal of architectural knowledge. Architects are very much in demand in the planning world to-day. They are rare: and if the noble Lord will avoid being pressed into local government service, at least I think we should be extremely grateful to him for giving us his expert views on the sort of subjects we have been discussing to-day. Certainly, as a village dweller myself, I was most interested in what he had to say about the development and preservation of old villages.

My Lords, I find this subject a very much easier one to talk about in general terms than to try to think out exactly what you mean to do and how you mean to do it. I approach this matter partly as an owner and partly, I must admit—perhaps I ought to say this with considerable diffidence in view of, I will not say the attack, but certainly the aspersions cast on them—as a member of a local authority and an erstwhile chairman of a county council. I put it in that order because I have so often found that what we now call the problems of the countryside are problems which at least the larger landowners used to deal with almost as a matter of general routine, but which, for one reason or another, have now become local authority problems and, indeed, national problems.

At one time the landowner was the planning authority, the housing authority, the agricultural authority and a good many other things, too. To some extent he still is. Whatever the verdict of history may be on how landowners perform their duties, at least few works on town planning fail to pay some tribute to what they have done to preserve the countryside. In regard to their relations with the public, this is perhaps a little more controversial, but at least those who think that a rural landlord is concerned only with the maintenance of his rents and the preservation of game—two very good objectives, I agree—will be surprised to find what a landowner is supposed to do to-day.

In my property, which extends to include part of the South Downs, I have a gliding club—and I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, that I encourage this because I agree with him that some form of more exciting pursuit ought to be supplied to the younger members of our society—I have two car parks, or places where people can park cars; I have a rifle shooting range; I have a hill climbing track, and I provide room for perhaps half a dozen Boy Scout camps and Girl Guide camps every year. Although I charge a modest rent for some of these facilities, I should be better off if I had none of them at all. I have had to turn down one or two propositions. I have had to turn down a proposition that I should restrict a large area of agricultural land, by quite severe agricultural restrictions, in aid of some rare orchids and other flowers. That obviously would have been quite impossible. Then, I have had to turn down a request for a motor-cycle scramble (which would have been against the by-laws) and I have turned down at least one application for the formation of a nudist colony. In spite of these, I am not aware of any seething indignation at the restrictions I have placed on my property, and I think that goes for most of my neighbours, too. I have no caravans, though many other people have. In fact, there are so many caravan sites in my county that the planning authority has frequently had to intervene in the interests of the amenities.

There is altogether a great deal being done by private enterprise and private initiative to give enjoyment and entertainment in the country to people from the towns. I was glad to hear my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross express the sentiment, with which I agree, that where things are working well it is just as well to leave them alone. But I should be the first to agree that in some ways things are not going too well, particularly in view of certain changes. There are some landowners who, following the break-up of the big estates, take a more rigidly commercial view of their property and do not see the point of entertaining the population unless it is profitable to them. But much more important are the changing habits of the public, particularly in the matter of the motorist which has been referred to frequently to-day.

We are accustomed to regard the enormous number of motorists as a problem of the highways and towns, but they are becoming equally a problem of the countryside. My two modest car parks can easily hold, say, 100 cars; but when I am faced with 200 or 300, as it looks as though I shall be, entirely new problems arise. I am then not only concerned with the accommodation for these cars but also with the risks, that are increasing, of interference with agriculture, of litter, of the risk of fire, and even that of the occasional act of hooliganism. I really should have to consider very carefully, if this goes on, whether either to spend a good deal of my own money or to restrict access to the Downs. That is the most I can do under the law, and both of these courses I should be averse to taking. I think this problem of the car is for many parts of the world getting beyond the power of the landowner to deal with. There may also be other matters. I do not know how far the Boy Scouts, the Girl Guides and the cadets and boys' clubs find it difficult to get free accommodation for their camps. Certainly they ought to have it. But I cannot accommodate all those who ask me to find space for them. Again, this may well be a matter beyond the scope of the ordinary landowner.

My Lords, how far can the local authorities be expected to succeed where the landowner fails? It seems to me that they have certain advantages and certain disadvantages as compared with the landowner. The advantages are, as has been pointed out, that they have very large powers to do almost anything mentioned in this White Paper. They can preserve land; they can acquire land for access; they can make new footpaths; they can make car parks, and so forth. On the other hand, they have certain disadvantages. To begin with, these powers, which are very extensive, do not belong to one authority in a rural area; they are divided between county councils, district councils and borough councils. That makes co-ordinated planning more difficult.

Then, too, all local authority control is apt to be far more cumbersome, far more legalistic and far, far more expensive than control by a landowner. I will take a simple example. A landowner can preserve trees simply by saying that they are not to be cut down. A local authority must proceed by a tree preservation order, a legal document of considerable complexity, which has to be confirmed by the Minister and which, in certain cases, carries the right to compensation.

There is also the question of precedent which does not affect the landowner but which comes very much into the picture where a local authority is employing ratepayers' money. Again I will take a particular example. When Lord Bath decided to embellish his estate with a number of lions he, no doubt, had a number of unusual and original problems to solve, but he was not concerned with the precedent he was setting to any other landowner. It is almost unthinkable that a local authority should wish to emulate the noble Marquess in this way. But if they should so wish, I am sure that eventually somebody in Whitehall would say, "If these people are to have lions then everybody must have lions, and really we cannot contemplate that." I can only hope that, although individuality and originality are not encouraged in local government circles, it will not prevent the Greater London Council from proceeding with its butterfly farm which I think is a good and interesting thing.

My Lords, I think that despite the difficulties—and the question has been referred to quite a lot this afternoon—local authorities are not using the powers they have, and I think it would be interesting to inquire why. Are they hostile to any of the Government's ideas? Is the question of co-ordination of planning too difficult? Or is it simply a question of money? I suspect that it is a mixture of all three. Take preservation for example. Since the 1947 Act, this really ought to be a very easy matter. Before 1947 it was very difficult because of the immense compensation one had to pay. Nevertheless, in my county all the authorities did pay very large sums in those days. I think that my own authority paid something like £80,000 to get agreements with the landowners to keep the South Downs free of building. Many of the owners came in without claiming compensation, and in those circumstances I must confess that it is with somewhat mixed feelings that I received an invitation to subscribe to Enterprise Neptune and indeed to sponsor some part of the scheme.

I can well understand that where you want to provide facilities and have car parks or recreation centres money has to be spent. But surely not a penny need be spent to save the coast from building. I must confess that I think the National Trust has not done very much to illuminate this point. I think that they are rather apt to claim that planning has failed, and as often as not to illustrate that statement with photographs which obviously refer to development which took place before 1932, before any planning legislation was available. I do not believe that planning has failed. I believe, however, that some planners have failed, and as the Government are supporting this enterprise I feel we ought to be given rather more explanation than we have had as to why planners have failed in these particular areas, and why, in view of the very wide reserve powers which the Minister has with regard to county development plans, they have been allowed to fail. There is a much greater excuse for local authorities failing in other directions. Until this White Paper, no lead has been given by any Government and we have more or less been left to our own devices.

Then we come to the question of money, and here it is quite common to accuse local authorities, as they have been accused this afternoon, of taking a parochial, a parish pump point of view about matters which may have long-term advan- tages to them. That may be so, but I think we should be lacking in imagination if we did not recognise that, in their present semi-mutinous condition, ratepayers are not very ready to give large sums of money to any project which does not bring any return to them and from which they, apparently, get very indirect benefits, particularly when it is called a free service. I would draw a distinction between projects which are obviously of advantage to local inhabitants, such as the provision of new open spaces near towns, and provision for motorists who may come from any part of the country and are in a somewhat different category. Here I think that local authorities should be helped from central funds as they are in relation to the roads.

My Lords, may I turn finally to a type of land which has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, but not, I think, by anyone else; that is, common land which is not controlled at the moment either by local authorities or by owners? I think that the Government are to be warmly congratulated on bringing in the first stage of the implementation of the Royal Commission Report which, I must remind your Lordships, was presented in 1958. I hope that they will go on to implement it. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, that there are far too many acres of land, particularly in the South of England, which are so overgrown that they are of no real use to owners, commoners or the public. And the sooner they are brought under some sort of control, the better.

There are other problems in relation to these commons—at any rate (I do not know whether your Lordships would consider it a problem), some people find the problem of gipsies very acute. I know that in Parliament there is a school of thought which regards gipsies with a sympathetic and even a romantic attitude of mind, but I do not find that attitude ever present in the ordinary agricultural community. There, gipsies are looked on in a very different light, as an unmitigated nuisance, partly because of the litter they leave and partly because of some of their alleged acquisitive habits. So strong has been the feeling in my part of the world that local authorities have been forced to take action, which they have done, rather characteristically, by first seeking to define what a gipsy is.

To think of a statutory register of gipsies is to contemplate a task which would be difficult for any experienced Parliamentary draftsmen. In my part of the world they have now become itinerant, or travellers; and, again characteristically, the approach of their local authority is to make them less itinerant; to house them; to turn them into good ratepayers, paying their insurances, possibly having poll tax paid for them and generally becoming conforming members of the Welfare State. I do not know how far this will succeed, but meanwhile, any ideas about gipsies would be very much welcomed by my authority.

My Lords, the White Paper has not been out very long and I am sure that it has stimulated a great deal of thought. I am sure that, in time, a lot more information and many more interesting suggestions will emerge. My own belief is that progress will be made. It may be a prejudiced attitude, but I think that we should leave as much as we can to private enterprise. We must remember, when dealing with local authorities, that every Party has sympathised with the burdens on the ratepayers, but no Party has yet done anything actively to relieve them. They are still as heavily burdened as ever. Finally, my Lords, I hope that they will take up this question of commons. Subject to those points, I am perfectly ready, both as an owner and as a member of a local authority, to receive stimulation by the Government or by anybody else.

6.18 p.m.


My Lords, I must first apologise to your Lordships' House because I cannot stay to the end of the debate. I have explained the position to my noble friend who introduced this very interesting debate, and also to the noble Lord the Minister, who received my explanation with his usual kindness and understanding.

I live and belong to an area where people are vitally concerned with the matter under discussion, the Northern Highlands of Scotland. Tourism of the right kind can play a major role in the struggle to halt depopulation and bring prosperity in many Highland districts. Although tourism is not, and must not be regarded as, the sole solution of the Highland problem, we deplore the weakening effect that the new selective employment tax will have upon an industry which is playing such a significant part in our economy. We in Ross and Cromarty have certain reservations about whether the Commission is necessary; but, unlike some of our Northern neighbours, we have no objection to the formation of National Parks. In our view, however, many of the functions proposed for the Commission could well be undertaken by the local planning authority, provided that the necessary finance was made available.

Further clarification is needed to establish the relationship between the Commission, the local planning authority and, last but not least, the Highlands and Islands Development Board. We also want assurance that a county as deeply involved as we are should have adequate representation on the membership of any Commission. At present, the functions of the Commission, the local planning authority and the Highlands Board seem in too many cases to overlap. For example, "safeguarding employment in the countryside" is surely a duty of the Highlands Board. On the other hand, where the Commission undertake to ensure, and where possible to enhance, the beauty of the countryside, this is wholly admirable.

Thanks to the Welfare State, hundreds of thousands of people from the towns and cities of Britain can now get into their cars and find their way into distant parts, where they can find space, fresh air and peace. But such are the numbers that, without some regulations, the space and air can be contaminated and peace be "but a memory". This results in the unfortunate antagonisms which so frequently arise between those who get their living from the land and the too often ignorant swarms who descend upon it. For this reason there is a good case for some form of national warden service; not a police force, but a service which could do something to direct and guide the visitor, and to protect the inhabitants from the damage and destruction that is too often perpetrated by some.

The undesirable tourist is in a minority, but we could wish that this minority were even smaller. It can, and does, cause appalling destruction. We find gates left open, so that stock stray; fences broken down; picnics in standing corn crops; damaging fires; stones from dry stone dykes stolen to make crazy paving in some surburban garden; peats stolen from the stacks—not to mention the trail of litter, broken glass and tins left to poison or maim stock and, in the case of glass, people. Regrettably, the litter bugs are by no means confined to our visitors. Clearly, some control is essential, at least until such time as our schools will educate their pupils, not only to gain higher positions in the materialistic "rat race", but also to respect the better aspects of civilised behaviour.

It is unfortunate that in this respect the people of Britain are at the bottom of the league when compared with the other citizens of Europe.

The formation of caravan parks at terminal and transit sites is a good idea, if properly carried out; but, as I have pointed out in your Lordships' House on a previous occasion, there is a growing health hazard involved. The number of caravans on any one site is limited by law in relation to the sanitary facilities available at that site, but the number of additional tents on the periphery outwith the site is not. This results in the sanitary arrangements becoming quite inadequate and unable to cope with the additional users. Legislation is needed here, since in the great areas of the Highlands the local authority has neither the manpower nor the finance to enforce local authority by-laws to deal with this problem.

My Lords, let me end by saying that, as a member of a county council who are to a great extent the trustees of some of the most beautiful country in the world, we welcome and encourage the visitors from the great conurbations, and we hope that they can share the beauty in which we are lucky to live; but, at the same time, we have an equally important duty to protect our heritage, and all that it stands for, from destruction.

6.25 p.m.


My Lords, the Motion moved by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross is set in such wide terms that it is difficult to deal with more than two or three aspects of some of the questions that he has posed. I should like to endorse everything that my noble friend Lord Cromartie has said about the need to educate the public to preserve the countryside. If you go abroad at this time of the year to Germany, Switzerland and other countries, you will see trainloads of school children being taken up into the mountains or into the parks and so on—the Black Forest, and other areas of great beauty—by their school teachers. The whole school, including the teachers, spend a day in the country, and the teachers are responsible for teaching the children how to behave once they are in the country. I believe that nothing like enough is done in this country to educate children and young people in what they can and cannot properly do on their outings. If this were inculcated into the young people of this country in their early years it would make for a great improvement in their behaviour. I commend that to the Minister who is going to reply to this debate.

A few days ago I had the advantage of listening to the Minister of Housing and Local Government lecturing members of rating authorities in the South-West of England. He was speaking in the City of Bath. Among other announcements, the most important, I suppose, was the one about the five cities he had chosen for a survey in order to preserve the ancient and more beautiful parts of the cities. Those cities are Bath, York, Norwich, Chester and Chichester. He said that he deplored what he called the seepage of the town into the country. This is a point that was referred to by my noble friend Lord Hampton in his speech. This seepage, as has already been said, produces that frightful amount of "subtopia" that we all hate so much. "Subtopia" is produced by two or three factors. It almost always occurs on the fringe of a great city or town. This is because the city authority push out their dumps, their junk and their refuse disposal plants as far away from the centre of the city as possible. They, therefore, leave it on the boundary. At the same time, the local planning authorities, the county councils, tend to pay less attention to the fringe of their great cities than they do to the middle of their agricultural areas.

It is at this point that the planning authorities, both of the cities and of the counties, ought to make their greatest effort to see that this sort of spoliation does not occur. The reason why it occurs is because cities and county councils, as local planning authorities, are often on unfriendly terms with each other. The city is always wanting to spread into the county, and the county is always trying to keep the city within its limits. But unless the two authorities really co-operate, not only once but continually, to prevent a "subtopia" around the fringes of the city, then that problem will not be solved. In my own county of Somerset we take tremendous trouble on the fringes of Bristol City and Bath City, so that the green fields shall run up to the city boundaries. After nineteen years as chairman of a county planning authority, I am quite sure that this problem could be solved if the county planning authorities were as strict on the city boundaries as they are in the middle of their own counties.

I want to mention only three other points, because the hour is getting rather late. I should like to refer to the White Paper we have been discussing this afternoon. Many of its proposals are excellent, and I am quite sure that the planning authorities will do what they can to implement them. But, as my noble friend Lord Gage has said, this is a question of money, and I am sure that Ministers opposite know that as well as we do on this side of the House. Every one of these proposals requires the expenditure of ratepayers' money, and at the present time the ratepaying authorities of this country are tremendously overburdened. I know that, because, two days ago, I was at a meeting of the spending committee of my own county council. We expect a very large increased rate for the next year, on top of the very large increase for the present year. If the Government are not going to help in reducing the burden on the ratepayers, then the proposals in the White Paper will not be carried out? Of that I am quite sure.

Country Parks are mentioned in the White Paper. They would be a most desirable thing, but we already have a good many of what can be called Country Parks, in addition to the fact that Lord Gage, in his county, is a National Park in himself. We could establish these Country Parks, and administer them, but it would cost a tremendous amount of money. The product of a penny rate in Somerset is about £100,000 a year. We could spend much more than that on establishing, buying, or leasing a Country Park. We should then have to fence it, provide a warden service, car parks, restaurants, lavatories, and the whole shooting match. It can be done if the Government will provide the money, but I do not think that it will be done from the ratepayers' money.

Before sitting down, I should like to refer to the subject of National Parks. They have done extraordinarily good work, and I am sorry that the Chairman of the Commission is no longer in his place. I agree with everything the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said before he left the House. In Germany and in Switzerland one can find much better arrangements for parking the motor cars of tourists. Many of the mountain paths in the Black Forest, the Bavarian mountains and the Swiss Alps are barred altogether to motor traffic. When you get to the barrier you have to get on your feet.

Restrictions of that sort are tremendously unpopular in this country. Hardly anybody, except certain ramblers, boy scouts and girl guides will get on their feet, walk up a mountain and have a picnic at the top. People want to take their motor cars to the top of the mountain, or to the head of the lake, in the Lake District; then get out, have their picnic, perhaps turn on the wireless, and get into their motor cars again and go home. I do not think that is possible with the increasing number of motor cars now using the National Parks every day, particularly during the holidays. I believe that there will have to be restrictions on the roads in the Lake District, and maybe on Exmoor and Dartmoor, and probably in Snowdonia, beyond which a motor car will have to be restricted. That will mean the provision of very large car parks, and all that goes with them.

I should like to ask the Government one rather technical question about National Parks. As I have not given notice of the question, I do not expect an answer to-night, but perhaps I could be given one at some time in writing. We all know the two principal objects of the National Parks Commission: to enhance natural beauty, and to provide increased facilities for recreation, and so on. That appears from the first two or three sections of Lord Silkin's National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949.

It is not until you get to Part VI of the Act (and I think very few administrators of National Parks have ever reached Part VI of the Act, because it is a long way on), headed "Protection for Agriculture and Forestry," that you read as follows: In the exercise of their functions under this Act it shall be the duty of the Commission"— and I hope noble Lords opposite will bear these words in mind: it is not optional— the Nature Conservancy and local authorities to have due regard to the needs of agriculture and forestry. For many months there has been considerable trouble in a good many National Parks about "due regard" being given to the needs of agriculture and forestry, because the National Parks Commission and the local committees say that their first duty is to the enhancement of natural beauty, the enjoyment of leisure and so on, and that, after that, comes any "due regard" to forestry and agriculture. But that is not what the Act says. The Act says that they shall have regard when considering the whole of their duties.

I mention this point because it has led to considerable trouble in one National Park, where the farmers plough up the heather, which in the summer is a great feature of beauty on Exmoor, Dartmoor and the Midlands—all the Parks have heather—and reseed it to grass. Such action, of course, greatly improves the agricultural production from these Parks. But the Parks authorities are furious. They say, "You are destroying the National Park; you have destroyed the heather, and what is a National Park without heather?". I hope this matter can be solved between the two Ministers concerned, the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, because these interminable quarrels cannot be allowed to go on without some decision being reached in the matter.

Finally, there is the point about forestry. Are woodlands to be administered solely from the point of view of amenity in the National Park? The National Parks Commission and many of the committees and boards say, "Yes". They say, "You must manage your woodlands for the enhancement of beauty"; but if the enhancement of beauty consists solely in growing scrub oak, how can you reconcile that with the duty of the woodland owner to work his woods in an economic manner? There is a real difficulty in this connection, and this again is a matter which I think the two Ministers concerned must settle between themselves. lf, in the national interest, the old oak scrub is to remain—forever, not for to-day or to-morrow but forever—then surely the owners of these scrub lands must be compensated for not being allowed to use and replant them economically. The same may well go for the farmers, who want to turn their heather into productive grassland. If, in the national interest, heather is to predominate, then in my opinion, and in the opinion of many people in this area of Exmoor and Dartmoor, the farmers must be compensated for allowing their land to remain permanently under heather.

In conclusion, I should like to say just this. The landscape of England, the landscape we know to-day, is not a thing of very ancient existence. At this moment I am not talking about Scotland or the North of England, but the landscape in the Midlands and the South of England—shall we say South of Trent?—and it is not something of very ancient existence. It was not until the Enclosure Acts of the 18th and 19th centuries that the hedges, hedgerow timber and small fields came into being. Before that, as your Lordships know better than I do, there was a system of open fields. There were open fields and small enclosures by the riversides where the animals grazed. I think that we are going back to that pre-enclosure landscape and I do not think it is any good the societies who talk about the preservation of rural England, and do so much good in doing so, wanting to retain that landscape that only originated nearly 200 years ago.

This is an age of technology. Noble Lords opposite tell us that frequently. Well, agriculture has become technological; agriculture uses machinery, and that must have large open areas in which to operate at its most economical. That means that the hedge and the hedgerow timber and much else will disappear from the landscape that all of us in this House have been accustomed to look at from our childhood—and, of course, how much we enjoy it! All the great landscape painters of this country have painted it, including Gainsborough and Constable. But I am afraid we must face the fact that however much we wish to protect that sort of landscape, it is not going to be with us by the end of this century.

6.46 p.m.


My Lords, I, for one, have always thought that this great influx of townspeople to the country is a good thing from the point of view of the national character because environment is important, and I have always thought that the more people from the towns can see the beauties of nature the more of that healthy outlook they will have. It is for this reason that I welcome this White Paper. In fact, one of my prized possessions, which unfortunately has now been stolen, was a cup presented in the 19th century to my grandfather, inscribed, from the working classes of Belfast, in gratitude because my grandfather allowed them free access to the deer park. It was an area of about 750 acres.

I should like particularly to draw attention to the White Paper, although I quite understand that this debate is not specifically on the White Paper. The object of the White Paper is set out in paragraph 3, and it is to reconcile the growth of the population with agricultural production in the country. Probably that is the most important point. Another important point is in paragraph 5. It is that townspeople ought to be able to spend their leisure in the country if they want to, but the problem is for them to enjoy this leisure without harm to those who live and work in the country, and it also goes on to say that it must be done without spoiling what the townspeople go to the country to see.

I think that a great number of young people who go out to the country at weekends do not really go to seek the country; they go to have a thrill, which is very natural. They want the thrill of speed on a good motorway. They like to roar along on their motorcycles, probably to the discomfort of many other townspeople who really want to go to the country in order to enjoy the country. I was wondering, when these Country Parks come to be established, might it not be possible near the very big conurbations—obviously we could not have it in a Country Park—to have some form of racetrack where these young men could ride round without roaring about the countryside? I think that might be taken into consideration.

I should like first of all to speak about my experience in the Highlands regarding this great increase in tourism. As we are told in the White Paper, we have at the moment 9 million cars but by 1980 we are going to have 26 million. Under the Access to Mountains (Scotland) Act (or it may be Access to Hill Land; I am not sure), any member of the public can wander anywhere in the Highlands on unenclosed land. From the point of view of farming, we have found that as tourism has increased we have had a lot of trouble through livestock treading on broken bottles, even chewing broken bottles. You often see a Highland cow or Aberdeen Angus chewing a bottle of orange squash—it looks extremely funny. Some hikers who camped on my land had an unfortunate experience because one of my bulls took a dislike to their tent and drove them into the loch. Fortunately a fishing tenant of mine was on the loch and he saved them; otherwise it might have ended in disaster. But this Shorthorn got inextricably tied up in the tent ropes and went charging about the hill for two or three days with a frying pan hanging on him. Of course, the cows took great exception to this and he got in a very bad temper, and in the end he had to be destroyed. We do have these problems in Scotland. Under the Access to Mountains Act I really cannot see how we can avoid it. I wonder whether we could perhaps restrict the Act to areas of great natural beauty. To apply it over the whole country can lead to these complications.

My noble friend Lord Colville of Culross hit the nail on the head, I think, when he was talking about remote and beautiful places. I know one very beautiful glen in Argyllshire. They are now building a new road. The old road was extremely attractive and wound around and went over beautiful old stone bridges. Now they are building almost a racetrack right through the glen, dead straight, and having concrete bridges. It spoils the whole beauty of that glen. If people want to go to beautiful places I am quite sure they do not want to drive along at 70 miles an hour. They would far prefer to wind around all the nooks and crannies and over the hump-backed bridges.

Local authorities, I think, show great lack of imagination. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, mentioned tree preservation orders for instance. Tree preservation orders are an excellent thing because, owing to taxation, so many of the big estates are broken up, and when they are broken up farmers and speculators usually try to cash in on everything, and they cut down all the timber. Tree preservation orders are a good thing, but the trouble is that in the councils, speaking from my experience, a great many people on the tree preservation committees cannot tell the difference between an oak and an ash. It is essential, in these committees and in this wider Country Commission which the Government are proposing to set up, to have far more country people on them, people who have been born and bred in the country, and their forbears before them. I should like to make that point because it is important.

The grant proposed to be made in the White Paper to the local authorities for enhancing areas of natural beauty is 75 per cent. I rather tremble when it says that local authorities are to be responsible for enhancing natural beauty. With due respect to local authorities, and a great many civil servants, they really have very little idea of what enhancing natural beauty is. You can enhance beauty by planting trees, but it has to be done extremely carefully. If you take the area in Perthshire called the Sma' Glen, the local authorities have constructed a public lavatory there. Is that really enhancing natural beauty? I should say not. I think it was quite unnecessary.

When we come to Country Parks, which, as I have said, are an excellent idea, if you can reduce the travelling time of the townspeople to an area of recreation it is obviously of great help to them, because it must be extremely frustrating, most exhausting, for people to drive for 50 or 60 miles in an almost incessant queue the whole way. If we can have these Country Parks close to great urban populations I am all for it; and I should even go so far as to say that I am for compulsory powers. But of course it would be far better, as the White Paper points out, if the landowner, in many cases by special arrangement with the local authorities, could manage the area that has been designated. I was rather surprised to read that in a White Paper produced by a Socialist Government, but, it is said, power mellows. However, I do not want to go into that.

Where we have tremendous scope in this country is in our waterways. We have all these canals, we have a number of reservoirs and we have beautiful lakes. In a great many cases, by extensive stocking of coarse fish, and in some cases, in suitable areas, trout, I think we can create a tremendous amount of recreation for people. Angling does not really clash with sailing or canoeing. Nor does it clash with the observation of wild life. What it does clash with is water ski-ing. I would suggest that water ski-ing behind powerful speed boats is restricted to the centre of our largest lakes, or to the sea, because it can be most damaging to fish and wild life, and the water can also be polluted by oil.

I would add a word about the Forestry Commission. Some years ago, through Questions in your Lordships' House, I campaigned to get the Forestry Commission to allow horsemen to ride through their woods. I am glad to say that that is now allowed. The Forestry Commission have really opened up their woodlands, and I congratuate them on it. In their planting they are still inclined to plant conifers in straight lines. By all means, have a straight fence but I think it would be far better not to plant conifers up to the limit of the fence but to allow for a gap for the regeneration of natural birch, hazel, and scrub oak, so as to break the severe line which is extremely unattractive on a hillside.

Another paragraph which I was extremely pleased to read was paragraph 55, on the subject of eyesores. It will be an excellent thing if local authorities can get grants to remove eyesores, for we still have a great number of eyesores left over from the war—nissen huts, and things like that. In regard to dumped cars, I think every council ought to collect them—if I they get these grants presumably they can—and then they should take them to a central depot for transporting to the nearest car-crushing plant. It is an absolutely horrible sight to see, as one does, these cars abandoned all around the countryside.

I do not think there is any more I want to say, except that I would agree (which probably will surprise the noble Lord, as I have never agreed with him before) with the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, about common land near to large towns. A great deal of this common land is chalk land and is not really good farming land. I suggest that priority be given to the public and that agriculture takes second place. My noble friend Lord Gage was, I think, not right about gypsies. I think he failed to differentiate between the gypsies and the tinkers. They are quite different people. The proper Romany gypsies are, on the whole, honourable people and are most charming. I think my noble friend was perhaps right in what he said about tinkers.

We in England have a most beautiful country and it is up to us to try to preserve what remains of it. A great number of big estates have been broken up, through no fault of their owners, but through taxation. Landowners have, on the whole, left England a great heritage of beautiful parks and beautiful timber, and it is up to us to try to protect what remains of it from the speculator.

I would end by saying that I thank my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross for introducing this Motion; but I cannot congratulate all the maiden speakers, because, I regret to say, I have not heard them. Some time ago I was taken up, on a programme which has now been abandoned—perhaps it is just as well—called "B.B.C. 3" or "That Was The Week That Was", because I congratulated a maiden speaker whose speech I had not heard. But I had heard from somebody else what an excellent speech it was. Therefore, I dare not now congratulate any maiden speaker whom I have not heard. I would conclude by saying that I hope that the Countryside Commission referred to in the White Paper will not be long delayed. It is unfortunate that we cannot have the Bill this Session, but I hope it will soon become law.

7.7 p.m.


My Lords, although my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard is unable, as he humorously said, to congratulate some of the maiden speakers, I have heard some of them and, in particular, I should like specially to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, on his most interesting speech. Lord Hampton's family and mine share a mutual boundary. Our families have lived in the same part of Worcestershire for over four hundred years. Our roots there go deep. The House will not, therefore, be surprised at his enormous interest in this particular problem. Of course, at the same time, it will be aware that Worcestershire is threatened with an influx of a quarter of a million new population from the Birmingham area. Therefore, his knowledge, his great experience and his wise advice are especially well received, particularly in the county of Worcester. We in your Lordships' House will look forward to hearing Lord Hampton on many occasions, because, uniquely, he has followed three careers. He has been a sailor, an architect and an author. Fourthly, he has been a broadcaster. He is a man of many parts, and we have listened with great interest to everything he has had to say this afternoon.

I should particularly like to add my own personal thanks to the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, for introducing this Motion. It has given the opportunity to three maiden speakers to address the House. It has further given the opportunity to those who do not speak very often, such as myself, to bring such little knowledge as we have to this House. We are particularly grateful to the noble Viscount, because his Motion has allowed the younger element in your Lordships' House to express their views; and it is noteworthy, I think, that among the speakers this afternoon there are many of my generation who have brought their views forward. Perhaps I may venture to suggest that it is because we are particularly alive to the fact of the inherent dangers of the population explosion during our lifetime. We are only too well aware that, in the opening paragraph of the White Paper, we are told that we shall see 19 million more people in this country by the year 2000. It is a very sobering thought, and it is even more sobering to know that in the short run to 1980 6 million more people will treble the number of cars on our roads—9 million at the moment, 26 million in 1980. Therefore, the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, "No cars in the countryside", which was postulated as a suggestion rather than in serious deliberation, is particularly apposite.

It is sometimes suggested that debates in your Lordships' House are not a true reflection of public opinion, but of course this argument entirely falls to the ground when so many of your Lordships are in their own counties the elected representatives of local authorities. We have heard the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, and many other people who have many years' experience as chairmen of county councils, chairmen of planning committees and in holding similar high offices. For my part, I am a parish councillor; I bring the views of a much lower echelon in the sphere of local government. Nevertheless, it is a step on the ladder.

Turning to the Government White Paper, I feel that even in the first paragraph there is an apparent contradiction in what is said: The problem is not primarily one of finding land for new buildings; the task is to site them and design them so that cities will in themselves be pleasant places to live in. The contradiction is even further emphasised when we look at one of the original Studies; and naturally the West Midlands Study, which was published last year, is of special interest to the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, and others, including myself. On page 43, paragraph 128, there is the headline: Land, not constructional capacity, the region's real problem. Then, later, the paragraph says: The special problem of the West Midlands is in deciding where the houses are to be built". It is, of course, a question of land shortage, and the announcement this afternoon from the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that there is to be a Government grant for derelict land was very welcome. We shall find out no doubt at a later stage precisely how this grant will apply—whether it will be available for reclamation of land on the seashore, or whether specifically for industrial wasteland, or whether voluntary organisations will be permitted to apply for this grant and use it along the lines the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, postulated earlier in the debate to-day.


My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord to say, for the record, that the grant goes to local authorities.


I am most grateful to the noble Lord. It is of particular interest that this grant will be available for derelict land.

In paragraph 161 of the same West Midlands Study there is the remarkable announcement, in regard to a recent survey initiated by the Minister of Housing and Local Government, that on the basis of existing information it is estimated that there are about 15,000 acres of such land in the West Midlands, or about one-tenth of the total for England and Wales. Is this not a very large area of derelict land? Could it not make a significant contribution to the housing needs of the area? I was much disappointed to read later in the Study that derelict land is nothing like so useful as has possibly been suggested. To quote from page 43 of the Study: A fifth reason is that many pockets of conurbation land are in practice having to be wasted because they have been left damaged, derelict or isolated in old industrial areas or between part-used or unused old canals and railways". It is, of course, a question of the heavy cost of converting this land, but nevertheless this will be a very important subject for local authorities to consider, and it will be well worth while their examining the problem, even if the proposal is rejected later; at least the problem will have the chance of being examined.

In regard to the Conference on the Countryside in 1970, views have been expressed from many varying standpoints, by the Nature Conservancy, by the land owners, and so on, but I would seek the permission of the House to quote the words of the President of the National Farmers' Union, Mr. Williams, who stated: Inevitably, at a conference where representatives of all these interests and scores of others are present—and vocal—we tend to lose sight of one basic fact, and it is against this basic fact that all our deliberations should be set in perspective; namely, that the prime function it our countryside is to grow food, to grow It well, in abundance and efficiently; to grow it in the face of incessant economic pressures; to grow it with the aid of every managerial skill, every technical improvement and every mechanical aid which the second great agricultural revolution of the past twenty years has both provided and demanded; and finally to grow it so that the producers can earn a just reward for their efforts and their investment, and by so doing ensure to the urban masses of this highly industrialised island an adequate supply of home-grown farm products upon which they are bound to become more dependent as the years go by. Not only as the years go by, for in the course of this present strike it will show itself to the same marked degree as it did during the Battle of the Atlantic.

Many speakers have mentioned the question of the urbanisation of country roads. I do not feel that it would be beneficial to go further into it, other than to say that the introduction of Warboys signs to this country has not been broadly in the interests of the rural communities. In the case of our own village, a beautiful black and white Worcestershire village, the approaches are littered by no fewer than 25 new signs. I feel that they comprise an enormous amount of clutter; they are ugly and ill-placed. Surely, in order to bring us in line with the Continent in regard to direction-finding means, these signs could to some extent have been modified with great benefits to all.

In regard to what is technically referred to as "street furniture", by which I mean lamp-posts—and the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, has referred to a particularly abhorrent variety of curly bracketed ones—these are, for the most part, very liable to besmirch our villages in the next few years, because, as time goes by, the increase in population is likely to demand more and more street lighting. The urbanisation of our villages is one of the inherent dangers of this present situation.

We have been highly amused with the comments of my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard in regard to litter and all the special problems of the disposal of very large and bulky items such as cars, refrigerators and so on. Only last week I removed one Elsan, one wheelbarrow, three coils of wire and sundry equipment within my boundaries, and I have no doubt that some objects will be there at the week-end when we return. It is a great misfortune to this country, that skeletons of cars and machinery of all types are being discarded so lightly throughout the land, and, unfortunately, the magistrates look upon this practice somewhat lightly at the present time. I would suggest that perhaps it is worth re-examining the litter laws, because at the moment the maximum fine is £10. One might suggest that for very large and bulky items the maximum is doubled, trebled or quadrupled, particularly in the case of later offences.

Finally I should like to quote a prominent landscape architect, Miss Sylvia Crowe, whose views are looked upon with considerable interest by local authorities, and who wrote recently: The basic failure of this century's landscape is the inability to reconcile a scale based on machines and mass production with a scale based on organic growth, human individuality and natural land form. If those who study this debate are able to learn or draw some conclusion to the benefit of their surrounding region and of the countryside in general, then this very useful afternoon will not have been in vain.

7.23 p.m.


My Lords, the hour is late and I will be as brief as I can, but I should like to start by saying how grateful we are to the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, for putting down this Motion to-day. I understand that during the course of the night his wife added to the population of this country by one, and I am sure that the House would wish to congratulate him.

The timing of this debate is extremely important and I hope it will draw attention to this whole subject. The theme of this debate, "Problems of the Countryside", could be stretched to include almost anything from Colorado beetles to the pressing and most powerful problem we have before us of the selective employment tax. But I should like to confine my remarks entirely to the White Paper, Leisure in the Countryside, which other noble Lords have already discussed at length.

I would say, first, that in my opinion it is an extremely good White Paper and I think it is badly needed. I hope it will not be too long before legislation is able to follow it. The problem of traffic in the countryside is becoming more urgent every day. I have often wondered what the traffic policeman must feel like, when he sees the sun streaming in through his windows on a Sunday morning and knows that he is in for a really hard day's work. The fine weather which we hope to get at week-ends brings motor cars to traffic jams as readily as wasps are attached to other sorts of jam. Indeed, Professor Parkinson might well have invented a law which read as follows: There will always be enough new cars put on the road to overtake road improvements as fast as we are able to make them. Secondly, I think it is a most excellent thing that people are now using and valuing this wonderful countryside which we have in England. During the 13 wasted years of Tory Government there was a minor revolution, because during that time most families acquired a car which they did not have before, and they are wanting to use it in their leisure hours. I do not know whether in the next 13 years, if we are in for 13 years of Socialism, this problem is liable to get worse or better. However, I have no wish to talk politics to-night and will leave that said.

I think that, in most cases, the countryman has suffered this invasion from the cities remarkably well. The vast majority of townsmen who visit the country respect and value it, and it is only a small minority who, mainly through ignorance, leave behind them a bad reputation, a mass of litter or the memory of their transistor radios. At the same time, I am very relieved to see that early on in the White Paper, in paragraph 3, there is full recognition not only of the part that agriculture plays in the economy but also of the necessity of realising that farmers have to face problems with this increased use of the countryside.

There are some who advocate that land near cities—for instance, in green belts—should be freely open and available to all at all times. Apart from the loss of productive land which that would entail, and perhaps the cost of compensation to rural interests involved, I wonder whether those people who advocate this realise what the land which would have to be so abandoned would come to look like. In a very few years indeed it would revert to a most unholy mess—unkempt hedges, fallen trees and fields thick with thistles and all sorts of weeds. This is not, I believe, the country which we want to see or which the public wants to see. So I welcome very sincerely the solution proposed of Country Parks, which is mentioned in the White Paper. It is extremely sound. In fact, the idea has been in the minds of many people connected with the land for a very long time. Some of these parks exist already unofficially, and I do not think there are many stretches of land near large cities where it would be difficult to create these parks.

I should like to make a few suggestions for these Parks, but as they are intended to, and rightly will, vary so much, generalisations may not be very helpful. I believe, first of all, that it is essential that where size warrants such a course there should be some sort of warden service, either full-time or part-time, appointed to supervise them. In any picnic area which we now have in this country, it is only too obvious that the noble Lord, Lord Beeching, was right when he is alleged to have said, "The British are a filthy people". We have all felt indignation at the litter which disfigures not only every beauty spot but every lay-by or gateway beside the road. I have even seen a Member of your Lordships' House throw a cigarette packet out of a car widow.

Litter itself is one of the biggest aspects of the whole problem, and despite the Litter Act it is still a serious problem. I should like to quote a neighbour of mine who some years ago put a notice in one of his woods which read as follows: You may picnic here, but if the wood is left untidy the privilege will be withdrawn. To some noble Lords this may sound extremely feudal, but I would only say that I understand there has been no litter since that notice was put up. I believe that in Canada they have a system which would merit consideration in this country, and that is that on entry to a National Park or similar place you are given by the warden some form of paper bag, not unlike that which they give you in an aeroplane in other circumstances. You fill this with the litter from your picnic and put it into an incinerator or something like that as you leave the Park.

A warden service would do a great deal to keep the Park in condition so that the maximum number of people could enjoy it; and that, after all, is what we are after. The friction between the visitors and those who have to live and work in the countryside could then be lessened. The whole matter is one of compromise, but a control of some kind by someone is essential. In the Northumberland National Park near where I live, in the very beautiful Ingram Valley to which large numbers of people go on fine week-ends, there used to be not only terrible and thoughtless damage to farming and other interests but the litter and filth which was left behind apparently beggared description. A warden service was installed some few years ago, and I understand that there is now none of this trouble at all. Relations between public and agriculture are extremely happy, and the experiment has been an outstanding success.

Secondly, I do not believe we should strive to create too much in some of the smaller Parks. I believe that a recent survey showed that nearly 90 per cent. of those who visit the country in cars do not leave the car or its immediate vicinity during the whole time that they are out in the country. What these people want is somewhere where they can get off the road for picnicking, and so forth. They are at the moment, as other noble Lords have said, having to use all sorts of uninviting and dangerous road verges, lay-bys, et cetera, simply because there is nowhere else to go. I do not think we need to build elaborate tarmac car-parks at vast expense; nor do we need expensive road works. Very often we can simply remove a fence which leads to an area of trees or woodland, or we can provide some rough track from the highway which would be perfectly adequate. But I think that if this sort of thing is done all that is essential is that the boundaries of such places should be fairly clearly defined and properly fenced.

My Lords, on the financial side of the White Paper one point disturbs me. Paragraph 21 says that councils will have power to contribute to the cost of Parks which lie outside their own boundaries. I do not like this permissive attitude. My experience of this kind of thing is that the larger conurbations, or city or county borough councils, will find reasons for not contributing to these Parks—and we know that at the present level of rates there are plenty of reasons for not con-tributing. We must remember that the people who are going to use these Parks will come from the larger cities; and the cost will fall far too heavily, in my opinion, on the county councils. I agree entirely that they are the right people to create the Parks, but I would ask the Government to see, when the time comes, whether there are some means whereby the urban authorities can be forced to contribute as much as the county councils themselves will have to contribute.

A smaller question arises, to my mind, on finance. The 75 per cent. grants which are now proposed are extremely welcome and are an excellent idea, but I would ask the Government to consider making them available not only to planning departments with a National Park in their area, but to all county councils; and not only available for such services as wardens, and similar services which they provide, but also to the office staff which they will have to recruit in order to carry out this work. Most county planning departments are very understaffed and over-worked, and I believe that help in this direction would be a very valuable thing.

My Lords, I should like to make a further point about mineral workings. I speak mainly from the experience which I have had of opencast coalwork, which has been the scourge of the North-East coast for the last 25 years. When sites are worked in future for opencast coal—and I think that will be done largely on land owned by the Coal Board—I would suggest that the restoration should not always be back to agricultural land. To restore agricultural land has its own serious, disastrous problems, and the landscape which is re-created is by no means beautiful. I believe not only that the Coal Board has a chance which nobody since the Almighty, or perhaps Capability Brown, has ever had of completely re-creating new tracts of landscape, but, also, that it would be much less expensive if we did not have to restore the land. We should be left with something like a vast hole filled with water for boating and other purposes, and a mountain of rock which came out of it, which could in due course provide a valuable natural feature of the landscape. I should like to suggest that this sort of thing is something we might seriously consider.

On the question of trees, we have had speeches from many experts on this subpect this afternoon, and even (if I may quote the noble Earl, Lord Haddington) some fanatics. I am not happy that, in paragraph 51 of the White Paper, the Government propose to ask local authorities to embark upon an extensive programme of tree-planting. I do not think that local authorities are equipped with the experience, knowledge or resources to do this. I think my own county's experience of tree-planting has been disastrous, in that none of the trees grew. I agree this planting should be done, but surely we have a State Forestry Service in the Forestry Commission. It seems to me that the Forestry Commission should be asked to undertake this sort of planting on a national basis, and that it should not be left to local authorities.

I have one further point, the matter of eyesores. I am very pleased to see that in paragraph 55 the Civic Trust's forthcoming campaign has been mentioned, and I am delighted to hear that the Government will do all they can to help it. But we have found lately in my part of the world that there will be a need for serious co-operation with a body known as the National Federation of Demolition Contractors. I hope that, when the time comes, these people can be persuaded to be co-operative where necessary. I should like to end by repeating that I think all landowners, farmers and everyone connected with the land will welcome this White Paper, and we shall welcome the sensible and controlled use of the country which is envisaged. Like other noble Lords, I hope that legislation will not be long in following. Perhaps I can best sum up the attitude of the modern, enlightened landowner to-day by saying that it is no longer one of restriction but, rather, can be typified by the slogan, "Trespassers will not be prosecuted; they will be charged half-a-crown".

7.35 p.m.


My Lords, we are coming towards the end of what has been a fascinating debate on the countryside, covering most subjects pertinent to the countryside, from butterflies to bulls.

I should like to begin by congratulating my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross on having had the wisdom to introduce this Motion to us, and on opening it in a brilliant speech, in spite of his preoccupations of last night—and I congratulate him on the birth of another son.

The debate has also been marked by three notable maiden speeches. The first was by the noble Earl, Lord Ypres, who said that he was an Irishman. Perhaps it is a happy thought that your Lordships should have an Irishman in the House when the other Irish Peers are trying at the moment to force their entrance. We also had an extremely useful contribution from my noble friend Lord Newall, who spoke to us with expert knowledge of East Anglia, and another very interesting maiden speech from a more bashful "maiden", Lord Hampton, whose name was not designated with the usual "M". Again it was a speech of great interest, based on his expert knowledge of architecture and his particular interest in English villages. It would be invidious for me to mention any other of your Lordships who have spoken, but each one has contributed from his own expert knowledge. Some of your Lordships have spoken with special interest in a particular area, others with very special knowledge of local government or national Government. Others have given long service to voluntary societies and organisations concerned with the countryside. The interest in this subject is shown by the number of your Lordships who have taken part—although, in fact, there might have been many more, because I imagine that there is hardly any Member of your Lordships' House who has not some interest in the countryside, if not a particular axe to grind.

The difficulty in considering the use of the countryside is that people view it through so many different eyes. The countryman looks on it as an area for the rearing of animals and the growing of crops; the townsman often looks on it as a patch of grass off the road where he can have a cup of tea and leave his litter. We should not forget, my Lords, that there are, and certainly have been, people who positively dislike the countryside. Congreve was one. He wrote: I nauseate walking to the country diversion. I loathe the country". Sydney Smith: I have no relish for the country; it is a kind of healthy grave". But most of your Lordships who have spoken in this debate, representing certainly majority opinion in the country, prize the countryside, and for the reasons that were perhaps best summed up by William Penn when he wrote: The country life is to be preferred, for there we see the works of God but in cities little else but the works of men". Unfortunately, the indisputable fact is that at the moment the very existence of the countryside is threatened by "the works of men." In this country, my Lords, land is very scarce. In the whole of England, Scotland and Wales, including all the wild moorlands of Scotland, there is only one acre of land per head of the population compared, for example, to the United States of America, where there are twelve acres per head of the population; and even that one acre is threatened.

First there is the population growth which has already been mentioned: 19 million more people by the year 2000. Then there is the vast increase in motor cars, coupled with increased leisure: 17 million more cars by 1980, and more leisure for people to use them to visit the countryside. Then there are the demands of industry. In Wales, for example, the Milford Haven area, one of great natural beauty, is now a centre for oil refineries and oil storage tanks; there are great steelworks growing up, like the Richard Thomas & Baldwin works at Newport; and there are the electricity generating stations. In the South-East alone over the next twenty years I believe we shall require something like 90 new generating stations the size of Battersea power station. Then there are the atomic power stations on various parts of the coast.

It was in the face of this threat that the first Conference on the Countryside in 1970 was called by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1963. I think we all owe His Royal Highness a real debt of gratitude for having set an initiative of that sort going and for getting together such a large number of organisations interested in the countryside. Perhaps the most significant effect of this Conference on the Countryside in 1970 and of the subsequent conference that completed its de- liberations last year is that it has welded a triple alliance between the nature conservationists, the amenity and rural preservation movement and the outdoor recreational interests.

Bodies like the Nature Conservancy, the National Parks Commission, the Forestry Commission, the National Trust and the Central Council for Physical Recreation, get together with other interested parties, including those responsible country dwellers and farmers, and exchange views on the problem. About 160 organisations took part in the 1965 conference and I think the conference is to be congratulated on having crystallised the problem and emphasised the urgency of action. Now the Government have given us their thoughts in their White Paper Leisure in the Countryside, and, like other noble Lords, I would certainly welcome this White Paper although I must express some disappointment that it is not to be implemented a little sooner. In fact, we do not know when legislation will be introduced.

Unfortunately, as in other fields in which I am interested—the universities, further education, sport and the Youth Service—the National Parks Commission has suffered from the financial freeze. The National Parks Commission, I believe, has done most useful work in the past; and I am sure that we should congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Strang, on the way in which he has chaired it. It had ambitious plans for a new technical group under the principal planning officer and these plans had to be postponed because of the financial freeze. There was also the embargo on capital expenditure under the National Parks Act. In these conditions no progress was possible, but I hope now that the freeze is ended we shall see further progress on the lines envisaged in the White Paper.

I certainly welcome the fact that the National Parks Commission is to be enlarged into a Countryside Commission and that they are to be given additional staff. But I am sorry that the additional powers for which they asked are not to be given them. One of these, the power to purchase and manage land in the National Parks, is, I believe, important. So often an opportunity is lost by the reluctance of local planning authorities to incur expenditure which falls on the ratepayer. If the Countryside Commission (or, as it now is, the National Parks Commission) had the power to purchase and manage land it would be of great benefit. I also welcome the statement in the White Paper that there will be close co-operation between the Countryside Commission and the Sports Council. I am sure that is right and that it will not be difficult to accomplish on a national basis. But in the field of outdoor recreation I believe it will be the regional sports councils that will play the most important part, particularly as the secretary in each regional council is the regional representative of the Central Council of Physical Recreation. They will be in an excellent position to assess the recreational needs of a region, including both urban and rural areas. I hope that the Countryside Commission will also be in close liaison with the regional sports councils although, as I understand it, the Countryside Commission does not have a regional organisation. I hope something will be evolved to keep them in close touch.

One of the most significant recommendations in the White Paper is that relating to the Country Parks. Like other noble Lords, I must say that I found this at first sight to be rather an unattractive proposition, but on second thoughts I think it is a wise one. There is certainly no doubt that the demand exists and will grow. In fact, of all forms of outdoor recreation (if one can call it recreation) that of taking out a car and stopping by the roadside for a picnic is the most popular. It should in the long run be in the interests of those who love the natural beauty of the countryside and of farmers that there be provided areas where those who wish to visit the countryside for an afternoon can get off the roads and off the farmland. I am sure that the land need not necessarily be sterilised in these parks. We have already areas like the Forest of Dean, which is an excellent park and which can be used for forestry at the same time, and areas like Richmond Park, where sheep can graze at the same time as it is used for public recreation.

Like my noble friends Lord Colville of Culross and Lord Ridley, and like the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, I foresee difficulties between counties and county boroughs in the provision of these Country Parks because, almost inevitably, it will be the county borough whose citizens will be interested in using the park, but it will be in the area of the county that the park will have to be provided. I know there is mention of liaison between them in the White Paper, but I personally was much more attracted by the proposal of the Town and Country Planning Association which suggested joint committees or boards of local planning authorities for each urban region, and their further suggestion that possibly a Government grant could be available to such joint committees on preparation of an agreed regional recreational plan. If I understood him aright, I believe the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that this proposal, or something like it, was under active consideration. I am glad to hear that.

There is one other point I would echo which was made by my noble friends Lord Colville of Culross and Lord Gage. It is that wherever possible private enterprise will be encouraged to participate in the provision of facilities in these parks. This will not only save the taxpayers' money but will yield a return on public investment. Water sports are becoming a popular and growing recreation in the countryside. These, too, have been mentioned in the course of the debate. There is only one point I should like to make on this matter. Various noble Lords, among them Lord Hurcomb and the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, mentioned the incompatibility of some of these water sports and difficulties in allowing them to take place at one time on one stretch of water. I am informed by the Central Council for Physical Recreation that they have in draft form a code of conduct for water users, prepared by them in consultation with the governing bodies of water sports. When it is published, this will stress the need for co-ordinating or time-tabling the activities by mutual arrangement to accommodate the different types of water sports. This is an example of what can be done by co-operation between different recreational interests to secure the maximum use of available facilities.

My Lords, there is one paragraph in the White Paper, paragraph 31, which states very sensibly that New reservoirs should present no problem. Arrangements … should be made at the planning stage … but I am a little disturbed at an incident which has come to my notice where this does not seem to be taking place. Unfortunately, I have not been able to give the noble Lord notice of this and I cannot expect him to comment on it. I have only just been informed about it myself, but the noble Lord may think it worth while looking into. It is a case where Nottingham County Borough Council is seeking planning permission from Derbyshire County Council to construct reservoirs in Derbyshire, and the Derbyshire County Council made a request that recreational facilities, including facilities for sailing, should be provided on these reservoirs. The Nottingham County Borough Council turned down this request and it was referred to the Ministry.

Only recently a Report was issued by an inspector of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government—and I think it is rather unsatisfactory—that he does not consider that planning permission should be conditional upon the reservoirs being made available for recreational purposes. He goes on to state: The Corporation's decision and the representations made in connection with the use of reservoirs for sailing have been noted. He adds that the Department have no strong views on the subject. My Lords, I think that they should have strong views on the subject, if the White Paper and its provision are to be made effective.

A brief word, my Lords, on the importance of preserving the coast. It was in our Election Manifesto that we were going to set up a Coast and Countryside Commission, emphasising the importance we attach to the preservation of the coast. I have no doubt that the Countryside Commission is a shorter title, but. I hope that it will also comprehend the preservation of the coast. May I say a quick word about eyesores, because this is particularly interesting to anyone who comes from the mining valleys of South Wales. There we have a number of eyesores in the shape of disused pithead gear and derelict buildings which I hope one day may be removed. Unfortunately, in my own area the biggest eyesore is a modern factory which turns out smokeless fuel called "Phurnacite" and which discharges most of its smoke in the valley and offends the sense of smell rather than of sight; but I imagine that no ground could be given for its removal.

Like the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, I welcome very much the work which is being done by the Civic Trust, particularly in South Wales. They produced a most stimulating Report of what could be done in the Rhondda Valley which is well worth reading. Incidentally, most of your Lordships who read the Western Mail this morning will have seen the attempt which is reported to solve the problem of the countryside by selling tins of Welsh air. I gather that the firm concerned has now discontinued this line.

The problem that confronts us is frightening in its scale and urgency. Action is required without delay, yet in Whitehall there is still a profusion of Ministries more or less interested in the question of the countryside. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, did not seem to be disturbed about this fact, but I think it needs a lot of very careful thought about how the Ministries could best be organised to cope with this vital problem. Now we have the White Paper which is good, so far as it goes, but still we have no news of any legislation to follow it up. I wonder whether in some ways it is sufficiently far-reaching. The Countryside Commission is left without some of the powers and resources which I believe it needs. I do not believe that there is adequate provision for regional planning for recreational resources around urban areas, and I do not read into it any urgent action to preserve our coasts. What we need, my Lords, is bold and imaginative action now to preserve and extend the beauty of our coast and countryside.

7.56 p.m.


My Lords, my intervention will be very brief, no more than a few minutes, and I apologise for the fact that I have to go before the end of the debate, as I have another engagement at a quarter-pasteight. There are two questions I should like to ask the Government as a result of wanting to underline what noble Lords have already said in this debate. The first is with regard to litter. Being Bishop of Southwark, which means South London, this question comes very close to me—the appalling problem of litter in the Metropolis. I could single out many instances but I will single out merely one.

I happen, in the summer, to like bathing in the early morning, and I go to a bath not far from Bishop's House. I used to enjoy it, but now I find so often that I am treading on cigarette cartons and ice cream cartons that I wonder whether it is worth while. What worries one is when one takes guests from other countries. I am thinking of a party of Americans who said that this bath was the most unhygienic swimming bath they had ever been in. It certainly does not bring credit upon our country. If one talks to the authorities, they say, "What can we do?", and I have every sympathy with them. I believe that until the Government alter their provisions, there is not very much that can be done. That is the question which I put to the Government: what are the Government prepared to do about the "litterbugs"? Are they prepared to take stronger action?

I suppose that I travel about 14,000 or 15,000 miles in my car in South London each year, and going from parish to parish I have noticed an increase in the number of cars that are just dumped on the side of the road. When I was in Surrey last Saturday, there, in one of the most lovely places, in a glorious wood just carpeted with bluebells, were these motor cars. The same thing is happening opposite my house in Streatham. Noble Lords who live in South London could not only repeat what I am saying, but could give much better evidence than I am giving. I ask the Government, "What are you going to do?". It is unrealistic to say that people can take their cars to a garage. They will not do so. There have to be depots, which are known, where these cars can be left. Otherwise we shall be left with this problem which is a sore on London and no doubt on many parts of England. I say to the Government, "What are you going to do about this? Here you have these ramshackle, decayed motor cars littering the streets, the hills and the country lanes in South London and Surrey, and doubtless elsewhere. What are you going to do to clear up this mess?".

7.59 p.m.


My Lords, I must start by complimenting the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, upon initiating this debate; and I understand now that he is to be congratulated on another little Colville. If this one turns out to be as good as his father, he will not be too bad. The only thing that worries me is, when I think of Gilbert and Sullivan, that he will Turn out to be a little Conservative. He will be born that way, which will rather worry me; but if he is as good as his father he will consider these things for himself and eventually find himself on this Bench.


On this Bench, I hope.


Well, on that Bench: but in Opposition, do you think? Never mind. The noble Viscount's speech was an excellent one, and we are grateful to him for his continued interest in this matter. He has shown for a number of years now, although a young man, interest in the countryside and in planning, and we are delighted with this.

Despite the fact that we have had nineteen speakers, there has been pretty well a unanimous welcome for the White Paper. It is, I think, an excellent White Paper, and, as I say, the House has welcomed it. My job in answering the debate is an impossible one. Really, to answer every point that has been made in the debate would take me hours, and I am sure the House would not welcome that. The speeches of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, and the noble Lord, Lord Henley, preceded that of my noble friend Lord Kennet, and his excellent speech not only answered their points but, to some extent, forestalled some of the other speeches that were made during the course of the afternoon.

A number of noble Lords have deplored the delay in the introduction of the legislation which will flow from the White Paper. To some extent, I deplore it myself. But I welcome the fact that this delay will enable the responsible Ministers to study thoroughly what has been said in this debate before actually introducing the legislation which will be based upon the White Paper. There is, therefore, some little advantage in this delay which so many noble Lords have deplored.

The noble Earl, Lord Ypres, need not have apologised for the shortness of time spent in the preparation of his speech. It was competent and—what we always welcome in this House—he had something to say. It does not always follow that when people get up in this House with a bunch of notes in their hand they really have something to say. But the noble Earl certainly had. He pleaded for more integration between town and country. I understand particularly, and sympathise with, the point he made that everything that is done in the countryside—and people will live in the countryside—should he done with competent and sensitive landscaping and a great deal of architectural care, so as to ensure that the new buildings fit into the countryside and that the countryside is an organic whole. This I appreciate, and I think the noble Earl is absolutely right to stress it.

The question of whether British Railways have ever considered holiday trains visiting beautiful places and houses is one to which I do not know the answer; but I am sure that they will now think of this in the light of what the noble Earl has said. At least, I hope they will, and it will be my job, to some extent, to call their attention to it. The noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, just looked at me in a rather deprecating fashion when I said this. British Railways will look after themselves, in so far as they are able in this connection.


My Lords, one of the most beautiful lines on the railway is what is known as the Mallaig extension, in the Highlands. We tried all we could to make this popular, and the amount of traffic is most disappointing. I am afraid that you will not cure the railway deficit by this means.


My Lords, I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Ypres, was not thinking about the railway deficit but was thinking in terms of getting people to the countryside in circumstances which he thought might be enjoyable. But this is something to be looked at.

The noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, Vice-President of the Council for Nature, talked about some of the gaps and omissions (perhaps an omission of tone rather than anything else) in the White Paper on Leisure in the Countryside. He felt, it seemed to me, that the stress in the White Paper was on the use of the countryside by the townsman, rather than a consideration of the countryside as the countryside, partly for the people who live in it and partly for the people who turn out from the town to enjoy it.

The noble Lord also mentioned, to some extent, I thought, the dangers to the countryside. We feel that these need no stressing. The two conferences on The Countryside in 1970 revealed how serious was the threat to the countryside by this pressure which is coming out from the towns. Some would say—and I think I should agree with them—that this is the most immediate threat of all: namely, the threat to the countryside caused by the use of the car, the pouring out at week-ends of people into the countryside. What we have to do, and what the White Paper attempts to do, is to ensure that this pouring out does not spoil the countryside: that the people who come out from the towns will have an opportunity of enjoying a comparatively unspoiled countryside, but, nevertheless, will still be able to get out there and put their cars in places which will not be too obvious: not on great patches of tarmac, but, if possible, hidden in places which, I am sure, judging by experience abroad, can be created by imaginative country planners. This has been mentioned by a number of noble Lords to-day, and I agree with everyone who has suggested that this is a distinct possibility.

The noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, hoped that we should be bolder in the Bill than in the White Paper. As I said just now, the delay in the introduction of the Bill that will flow from the White Paper gives us an opportunity to study this debate, and particularly the words of the noble Lord who is so knowledgeable on this whole subject.

He stressed, too, as did a number of other noble Lords—and I think this is most important—the necessity for educating public opinion and people on the use of the countryside. I must say that I would praise the work of television in this connection. Much that they have done in their nature and other programmes has helped people to sit down and watch that little box in the corner, and occasionally to go out at week-ends to appreciate what the countryside is all about. So many of them did not know. So many of them have had no experience of the countryside. I remember that lovely story of the boy who was evacuated to the country during the last war—he was a very small boy, it is true—who looked over a gate at a field of barley and said: "Blimey! what a lovely field of shrimps." Anybody who knows anything about barley will recognise the resemblance. But clearly he wanted a lot of education in the use of the countryside. Then there was the other little boy who was evacuated to the countryside, who, having attempted to milk a cow, wrote in an essay: "It is wrong to say that a cow gives milk"—as anybody will know who has ever tried to milk a cow.

It is true, as the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, said, that the majority of the people respect the countryside. But there are always the few who do not. Somehow we must educate them on the preservation of the beauties of this land which happens to be ours. Incidentally, if we cannot educate them, we might have to tighten up the legislation for dealing with litter, as suggested by the right reverend Prelate. He was talking about the towns and the towns certainly do not come into this debate to-day: we are talking about the countryside. But something of the same sort applies.

What I dislike very much is the dumping of litter in the countryside, this shocking lack of appreciation and the destruction of beauty by throwing away cartons. Another thing that worries me is that the packaging is getting much too good. Much of the old packaging had within it the seeds of its own disintegration. To-day, the packaging is of such a nature that, thrown away, it will remain for ever; it is not likely to disintegrate. This is something which worries me, although I like a nicely packed article. I should like to devise some way in which it would be possible to pack an article so that the packaging will serve its purpose for a limited period of time, and then somehow disintegrate. This would solve part of our problem.

The noble Lord, Lord Newall, entertained the House to some extent with his opening remarks when he talked about the butterflies that were worrying him in his stomach. These are inevitable, I suppose, in a maiden speaker. I must admit that when I made my maiden speech in the other House I was not worried by butterflies: the things I had in my stomach were bats. They were very much larger, and worried me very much more. The noble Lord told us of his dislike of caravan sites—and I dislike them, too. But what I hate much more is the development which took place before we took powers to deal with it: the first uncontrolled rash of these things which still remain because it is impossible to find enough money to buy them out. They are really terrible.

Two noble Lords, both from Wales, deplored that hateful sight one gets when running along the coast of North Wales, the caravan sites which stretch from Pwllheli right back nearly to Chester—horrible things! But now we have a possibility of dealing with these, and I hope that local planning authorities, in particular, are paying exceptional attention to the siting and hiding of these sites. I know a place in Cardigan where there is a caravan site beautifully hidden by the surrounding trees, and where all the amenities are provided. This is a first-rate controlled development of a caravan site.


My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that perhaps alteration of legislation is necessary to prevent local planning authorities from giving their consent to the placing of more than, say, ten caravans on a site? The trouble arises when the local planning authority gives its consent, and the Minister can do nothing about it. This is what is happening.


My Lords, this is a point which must be borne in mind. Of course, local planning authorities must not be deprived of their powers. They ought to know their areas, and they ought to know how to plan the country which they control. Where there are failures, it is the job of the Minister to some extent to bring a little gentle pressure to bear on them to do something about it. The noble Lord, Lord Brecon, was Minister of State for Wales. If this happened in Wales, I hope that he stepped on it very firmly.


My Lords, I said that if the local planning authority gives the consent in the first place, then the Minister can do nothing about it unless he has called it in. If he has not called it in when he has heard about it, then he can do nothing at all about it.


I am no expert on planning law. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, is, but I will not ask him to intervene now to get me out of my difficulty. Not knowing all about planning law, the only thing I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, is that I shall be happy to write to him on this point, after making some inquiries of my right honourable friend who is responsible for it.

The noble Lord, Lord Newall, like the noble Earl, Lord Ypres, referred to the necessity for the care of landscaping and architectural design. Like the other maiden speaker, the noble Lord referred to the care which must be exercised in the development of villages so that they do not lose their character, although they must grow to some extent. The noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, deplored the forcible adoption by some other Ministry of the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources. He referred to the fact, as he said, that he was sacked. I must admit that when age decides that I must go, I hope, like him, that I shall not stay away from the House and sulk in my tent, because he comes here and gives us the value of the exceptional knowledge which happens to be his. He referred to some of the work that is being done in connection with afforestation and the creation of forestry schemes. Anyone who has seen these in Wales, and knows of the development in a part of Scotland (the name of which I cannot pronounce, although I can pronounce most Welsh names), will realise that the Forestry Commission are exceptionally careful to try to develop villages which ensure to some extent that our rural areas are not being completely depopulated. I am sure all this is worth while.

The noble Earl, Lord Haddington, complained about inaction on the recommendations of the Merthyr Report on Hedgerow and Farm Timber. There are proposals, of course, in the White Paper for grant-aiding tree-planting by local authorities, and this should go a long way towards meeting the point which the noble Earl made. I hate to see hedgerows disappearing. The farmers are almost bound to remove them in the interests of the use of the capital equipment which they have had to buy at great price. But I hate the thought of our hedgerows disappearing and, with the hedgerows, the trees that make the beauty of our countryside.

So I appeal to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and others who farm anywhere, not to do too much of this, if they can avoid it. Do not cut too many of these trees, and do not do too much about removing the hedgerows in the interests of being able to drive a tractor straight over 50 acres, as against, perhaps, the 30 acres over which they ran before. I agree that there is something in the point about trying to ensure that we maintain our hedgerow timber. There is, of course, a study going on at the moment, and I hope that something will emerge from this to see whether any further powers are necessary to try to safeguard hedgerow timber and to secure that, where it happens to be cut down, something is planted in its place, whether in clumps or by some other method.

The noble Earl, Lord Haddington, asked whether Scottish litter law could be simplified, for example, to dispose of the need for two witnesses. The difficulty here is that the law of Scotland requires two witnesses, I think, in every case and it is not subject to the Litter Act. I have been informed that is so, but if I have made a mistake about this I will correct it.


I do not know.


If the noble Viscount does not know, I feel happier about it.

The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, apologised for his inability to remain here. Some noble Lords did remain; quite a few who spoke did not, which I always think shows a certain amount of discourtesy to the House. I shall not name who did and who did not, but I hope my words will come to the notice of some who, as it were, came in under their own steam, blew off steam, and steamed out into a tunnel from which they have not since emerged.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Newall asked me to apologise to the noble Lord, so at least he may be acquitted.


I was not going to mention names in this connection, although the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, did tell me he would have to leave early, as did the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, talked about his dislike of the Minister's statement on the use of Ullswater by Manchester. I do not want to go into this question too deeply, because I think we shall have a chance of discussing it later, and all I would say now is that the Minister was very careful in his consideration and did everything in his power to ensure that the least possible damage was done to the Lake District. But I agree to some extent with the noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, who said that somehow we have to go on living in this island of ours, and Manchester of course must have water, but so far as possible we must try to avoid spoiling this beauty we have inherited.

'The noble Lord, Lord Hampton, another maiden speaker, talked about the population flooding into the countryside and he, too, spoke about the danger of destroying the character of villages. He is especially able to speak in this way because he has written books on villages and is exceptionally knowledgeable about them. Pressure for development in the countryside comes not only from the needs of holiday makers and visitors, but from the increasing number of people who want to live there. In the last fifteen years there has been a striking increase in the population of villages and small towns within commuting distance of the larger centres of population. These pressures are likely to grow with more efficient public transport, more cars, and better standards of services, such as water, electricity, and sewerage disposal in the villages. All this is bound to lead to an increasing population there. I think we all frown on the building of isolated houses in the countryside. No doubt we should all agree that it is best to develop around a village, provided that we do not destroy the essential character of the village itself. This is a problem needing a sensitive approach—and I stress the word "sensitive".

I scarcely like to mention anything which the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, said because I always fear his knowledge of planning matters. I am sure he is as knowledgeable as the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, in these things; both of them have exceptional knowledge in this planning field. On the question of the Enterprise Neptune, although I could answer the noble Viscount at some length, perhaps it would be preferable at this late hour if I wrote to him on this and any other point which I feel demands an answer. He will know and realise that what I said at the outset of my speech is correct, that these speeches will be studied in readiness for the preparation of the legislation which will follow.

This has been an excellent debate. There are so many noble Lords, some who are still here, whom I have not answered, including the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, and the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard. I was not quite sure about providing race tracks for young "ton-uppers" (I believe that is the modern name for these boys who want to "do the ton", which I gather is 100 miles per hour), but he, too, spoke about litter and about forestry; about afforestation and its dangers if it is not properly done. I am glad to say that the Forestry Commission are alive to this problem, and I am sure will give careful thought to everything the noble Lord has said.

The noble Lord, Lord Sandys, struck a responsive chord in my heart when he talked about cars being dumped, and litter of that sort in the countryside. I have often thought that if T. S. Eliot were writing to-day an epitaph on our civilisation as we know it now, he would not say And the wind shall say: 'Here were decent godless people: Their only monument the asphalt road And a thousand lost golf balls'. If he were writing our epitaph to-day I rather think he would say: And the wind shall say: 'Here were decent godless people: Their only monument the asphalt road And a million million dumped cars'. This is something which I shall not talk about to-night. My noble friend Lord Mitchison answered two debates upon this very subject, and I will only refer noble Lords to that and to the fact that we are conscious of the problem of the dumped car. Certainly I am; and I am sure that whoever travels through the countryside is.

As I said just now, the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, told us something of the respect that most townsmen have for the countryside. He urged us—and I have already said that I thoroughly agree with him—that we ought to be careful, in the provision of car parks, not to have huge tarmac spaces that would spoil the appearance. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, made, as usual a thoughtful speech which the House thoroughly enjoyed. He said that Congreve had told us that he "nauseated" the country. If most people agreed with Congreve there would be no problem of leisure in the countryside; but the fact is that they do not. But the noble Lord praised, as I do, the initiative which brought about the Conference on the Countryside.

My Lords, there is a great deal more that I should wish to say, but there is no more that I am going to say, except that we must all try all the time to preserve the heritage which is ours, and to ensure that it is passed on to our children, including the new little Colville.

8.29 p.m.


My Lords, it is no formality for me to-night to thank those who have contributed to this debate. If I may say so to my noble friend Lord Hylton, I hoped that noble Lords would take up specific parts of this subject, and this is the very reason why I drew the Motion so widely. I think that has been done. Of course, it is again no formality, but with a real sense of gratitude, that I thank the three noble Lords (the noble Earl, Lord Ypres, is here, and I hope that the others may read my thanks) for their remarkable maiden speeches which have greatly em- bellished this debate. I would also say, "Thank you", on behalf of my wife and myself, for the kind remarks on the addition to my growing football team. I think it will require very severe measures now to prevent one or other of them succeeding me in this House, although I do not know where they will sit.

Perhaps the Government will have received some help from this debate. It must be remarkable to have had a debate in which noble Lords from every corner of the British Isles have come to speak, as they have done to-day; and, at the last moment, a representative of the Lords Spiritual as well as the Lords Temporal. I think that at least a message can go forth, from this House at any rate, and I hope from the rest of Parliament, that we here are in broad agreement with what has to be done in the countryside, as the various conferences have been, so that one more step has been taken towards unity of action. We do not need papers, either here or in the countryside. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.