§ [No. 1].
Clause 1, page 1, line 8, after ("Country-side") insert ("and National Parks").
The Commons disagreed to this Amendment for the following Reason:
Because the shorter title is neater and comprehensive.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I beg to move that the House doth not insist on Amendment No. 1 to which the Commons have disagreed. This was the Amendment carried into the Bill in your Lordships' House which would restyle the Countryside Commission, as it appeared in the Bill, the Countryside and National Parks Commission. I do not think it is necessary at this stage to enter into the argument, which we discussed certainly twice, and I believe three times, and I would simply draw your Lordships' attention to the Reason given by the Commons, which is that it is shorter and simpler to have the inclusive and simpler title rather than the longer one. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the House doth not insist on the Amendment (No. 1) to which the Commons have disagreed.—(Lord Kennet.)
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, I must, having originally proposed this change, take a moment or two of your Lordships' time to put it on record that I think that in disagreeing with our Amendment the Government have taken 273 a mean and, indeed, a spiteful action. After all, what did they do? The first thing the Government did was to sack Lord Strang and his colleagues, who had done excellent work on the National Parks. Now they refuse a suggestion that the good work which the National Parks did should be remembered in the title of the new authority. That was the proposal which was made and which found almost universal favour here before. I must say that I think that is a mean and potty decision, and I would say to Lord Strang and his colleagues that I am sure the country will not forget the good work which he and the National Parks Commission did, and also that they will note, mark and remember the mean action which the Government have taken.
§ Lotto BROOKE OF CUMNOR
My Lords, I should like in a word or two to endorse everything my noble friend Lord Swinton has said, and most particularly the tribute which he paid to the noble Lord, Lord Strang, and his colleagues. The significant history of this matter is that the Government were defeated in Standing Committee in another place on this issue. They were then defeated again on the Report stage in your Lordships' House. They support themselves with the argument that the existing National Parks Commission prefers the shorter name. In fact, the National Parks Commission, in their Report for 1966, said:It is important therefore that the name 'National Parks Commission' should not be withdrawn from public notice or that any question should be given that the cause of the National Parks will be allowed to go by default. The National Parks Commission have therefore strongly advised that the name to be given to the new Commission shall be the 'Countryside and National Parks Commission'.We know that since then the Government have managed to bring the National Parks Commission to heel, and the National Parks Commission now say that they would prefer the shorter name. But the Government have not been able to bring to heel the Council of the Society for the Preservation of Rural England; nor, so far as I am aware, all the amenity societies which re concerned with these matters, all of which would strongly prefer the name "National Parks" to be retained for this new body.
274 My noble friend Lord Molson, who took a prominent part in our debates on this matter, explained to me a moment or two ago that he had not been able to stay for this discussion because of the unexpected length of time the last business took, but he would wish me to speak for him. Indeed, he asked me to do so, and he said to me in the Lobby outside, a moment or two ago, that he thought this was a flagrant example of the Government's narrow-minded obstinacy.
§ A NOBLE LORD: If!
§ LORD MITCHISON
—the Opposition would have nothing to complain about. All the Government have done is to call the Bill by what they say is a neater and more comprehensive Title: and I think that is quite right. The Long Title describes it as:An Act to enlarge the functions of the Commission established under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949…
§ LORD MITCHISON
What is the complaint? The complaint is that they are giving the Bill a shorter Title. I should have thought this involved no insult whatever, but is a tribute, in which we should all concur, to the Commission established under the 1949 Act. As I have just said, the opening words in Clause 1 are:The functions of the National Park; Commission shall be enlarged in accordance with this Act and in future their name shall be the ' Countryside Commission'.Here we have what the Opposition choose to call an exhibition of spite and obstinacy because the Government prefer a rather shorter Title and do that by explaining that they are enlarging the functions of that Commission. With great respect, if no one can think of a better case against the Government than that then they are on very strong ground indeed.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I must emphatically reject the words that were used: that this was a mean, spiteful and 275 petty action on the part of the Government—words endorsed, to my surprise and regret, by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, in his observations on this matter. The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, regretted that the Government should refuse that the good works done by the National Parks Commission should be remembered in the title of the new body. There is no need to remember them, either here, there, or elsewhere, because the Commission are continuing and they will continue. The new Countryside Commission will continue to be responsible for the National Parks, as the former National Parks Commission were.
I differ from everything that has been said by Lord Swinton and Lord Brooke, with the one exception of their tributes to the work of Lord Strang, in which on behalf of the Government I most heartily join. Good work was done by that Commission. It is now time to enlarge their functions, and it would be totally unrealistic and (I say this after consideration) sentimental to insist on the retention of a lot of extra words giving rise to a whole mouthful of initials, the C.N.P.C., for the new body set up by this Bill who are to look after —and no-one has really doubted it, including the noble Lords who have just spoken—the entire countryside, including the National Parks.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, said the National Parks Commission had strongly advised against the change of title. I communicated to the House in Committee, on Report and, I think, probably also on Third Reading, the present attitude of that Commission, and I now have the opportunity to communicate the fact that the Chairman has again written to the Minister of State in the Ministry of Housing, expressing the Commission's view on the Lords Amendment which has now been rejected by the Commons. He wrote:It is the Commission's considered view that the short title, ' Countryside Commission' is preferable to ' Countryside and National Parks Commission'".My Lords, I never heard such strong words about such a small point. We all agree that good work has been done and continues to be done.