§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Committee stage resumed.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
I should like to put in a plea for the liberties of a class of persons not in any way concerned with the high constitutional issues which the Committee has been discussing. I was going to speak for the liberties of that small class of persons who like to propel craft manually rather than mechanically. When my children were younger, and when I was younger, I spent many happy days upon the waters of the Thames, punting, canoeing and sculling small boats in company with my family. That pleasure is now denied to many of Her Majesty's subjects. Mechanically propelled boats, spreading enormous ripples that would overturn our shallower craft, have rendered the water of rivers, and I suppose of lakes also exceedingly dangerous to us whose quiet pleasure meant so much. I rise to express the fervent hope that the powers given to local authorities under the proposed Amendment will include a power to permit manually propelled craft and to prohibit mechanically propelled upon all waterways.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
While I have some sympathy with the last speaker, it is generally true that on all navigable waters the nagivation authorities have power to remedy the situation under their by-laws. Unfortunately, they do not always use them. After studying the two clauses which we are comparing, I markedly prefer that of my noble friend Lord Kennet. The clause proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, for example, says:Regulations for the control of vessels on any waterway",whereas my noble friend's clause says:Traffic of any description on any lake".I think that wording is better. Where there is a navigation, there is presumably a navigation authority which has power to make by-laws, and I think that these should be adequate.
What is more, a navigable waterway usually goes through the area of a large number of local authorities. For example, a local authority intending to regulate some aspect of navigation on the Grand Union Canal would probably find 1588 that it was regulating for a few miles here and a few miles there as the waterway zigzagged in and out of their area. That would be true of almost any legal navigation. A lake, on the other hand, is almost invariably either totally within the area of one local authority or within the area of at most two or three local authorities. What is more, in most cases there is no authority controlling the navigation on the lake. Therefore, I believe that my noble friend's clause is distinctly better.
§ LORD WAKEFIELD OF KENDAL
My noble friend Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government certain questions. There are three points I should like to raise, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will be able to give some information to the Committee on them. The first point is that it seems to me that there is a lack of consultation with the local authorities interested in the control of waterways. In the Lake District, in particular, there are local authorities other than the planning boards that have a great and deep interest in what is happening in the Lakes. For instance, as my noble friend Lord Inglewood well knows, the Windermere Urban District Council owns the bed of the lake. Therefore, it seems to me of great importance that with matters which affect the lakes—and no doubt there will be other cases of inland waterways elsewhere—and in which local authorities are concerned, there should be full consultation to find out whether there are any local or special needs and requirements which ought to be studied and considered. I hope the Government will look at this point and see to is that the anxiety of the local authorities concerned is allayed and that proper consultations can be arranged legally for full discussion of anything that may be done which may affect their interests.
The second point is that there seems to me to be a lack of advance publicity to proposals that may be made from time to time, and that there is a shortness of time for any representative body to air its views. As noble Lords know, it takes time, first of all, to appreciate and understand the effect of the proposals and, secondly, for those concerned representing various interests on local authorities to get together to discuss, assess and find out exactly the effects of those proposals. I think it is of great 1589 importance that as much advance publicity of proposals as possible should be given to all interested bodies so that proper consideration can be given to proposals and suggestions, which may have great merit in them, but which possibly may be opposed because they are not properly understood. I hope, therefore, that we can be given assurances that there will be adequate time for interested bodies and that there will be publicity and private information available for any proposals that may be made.
The third point I want to make is that it seems to me that here we are changing the function of the planning authority. The position in so far as the Lake District is concerned is that we have a planning authority that plans. It makes its recommendations about planning proposals. But as I see it, under this clause we are changing the functions of the planning authority so that it will become legislator, administrator and enforcement body. If that is taking place, that is an important change of policy and principle. I suggest that a planning authority has not the organisation available to legislate, administer and enforce. Surely that must be the job of the local authorities; that is what they are there for.
I hope, therefore, that the Government will have a further look at this, and will not require a planning authority to legislate, administer and enforce proposals. I hope that the planning authority, quite rightly carrying out these functions of planning, will not be required to do the job of the local authority, which is to administer and enforce and, as may be required, to produce by-laws for whatever it is required to control—public behaviour on the lakes or anywhere else. I hope that the Government will be able to give us some reassuring information on these three points.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
I should like to add a word or two in support of the observations which have just been made by my noble friend and, indeed, by my noble friend Lord Inglewood, as well. First of all, I would say that I support the general intention here, and on the whole I prefer Lord Kennet's version. I think there would be some difficulty if the point referred to 1590 by the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, was not covered: in other words, the limitation to lakes rather than the application to all waters. But following the point that has just been referred to by my noble friend Lord Wakefield, I am not sure whether the procedure here—I refer to matters like making by-laws, charging schemes for vessels using the waters and so on—is going to be adequate to carry the load that will be put upon it. I am entirely in favour of by-laws being made. It is essential to have some sort of navigation control and navigation inspectors in order to keep down speed and noise to an acceptable level, and particularly to take care of the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, that unless high-powered launches are kept down to a reasonable speed, any prospect of being able to row a row boat or punt a punt disappears altogether.
I am entirely in favour of the intention of the Amendment which to me seems broadly to be on the right lines. But I think there is a deficiency, in that the clause does not seem to provide for any form of public inquiry where, the bylaws and the charging scheme having been advertised, objections could be heard and a final deliberation taken. If I may compare this with the procedure on the Thames Conservancy where charges are to be raised, that has to be done by Private Bill procedure. All objectors then have full opportunity to make any objections they wish, and the merits are then decided by Parliament. Although lake navigation would not be on the same scale as on the River Thames, undoubtedly it would be, and is already, considerable, and I should think it would be necessary to have tome regularised form of procedure, where after proper advertisement, and so on, the matter could be fully investigated and objections heard before the by-laws and charging schemes were approved.
The general intention here is, I am sure, excellent, but I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, would look at these particular points before, the Report stage of the Bill. I am assuming that he has satisfactory answers to the important points made by my noble friend Lord Inglewood, but I think the point that I am making may be a deficiency in this clause and may reed further study.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
We are considering formally Lord Inglewood's new clause, but we have been talking also about the new clause down in my name, which we shall reach shortly. I propose to continue to do just that, as it seems to be convenient to do so, on the understanding that if I satisfy the Committee that my clause is the one that will go in, the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, will withdraw his clause. I shall move my new clause formally when we get to it, and we can then amend it, if we wish to do so, on the Report stage.
The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, asked what bodies had been consulted in the drawing up of new Clause 35, the one in my name, and whether we had met all the points which had been raised by one of these bodies. If I were to answer the noble Lord in that form, "Yes" or "No", and if not, which we have not, I should have to tell him which points we had not been able to meet in the representations which have been made to us by 24 other bodies. So I think I will not do that. Let us consider the clause on its merits.
I have been asked ten identifiable separate questions, to which I shall do my best to give answers. First of all, the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, asked: Would the local planning authority have power to make by-laws about the registration of vessels? Would it be open to them to make by-laws empowering them-selves not to register a vessel? I see the greatest difficulty about this. It could be done only on a "first come, first served" basis, or by reflecting it in the charging scheme in some way. I do not know whether it would be the wish of the Committee that it should be able to be done in this way. It seems to me that there are so many other powers which will be available for use in these by-laws, about which types of boat may be permitted on the lakes, at what speeds they may go, what noise they can make, and things of that kind, that to give the local planning authority power to make by-laws which would enable them to refuse to register a boat on sheer grounds of numbers—that is to say, that there are already so many other boats of the same type on the lake—might be a difficult thing to do. But I am going to say now what I shall say throughout: that I 1592 should be happy to meet the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, and the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, or both, or any other noble Lord who has spoken, between now and the Report stage to thresh out these matters, because they are detailed. I do not want to close any doors at this stage.
Secondly, there is the question of management—by-laws not to apply to waters which are owned or managed by certain bodies. It is true that all lakes, to some extent, come under the statutory jurisdiction of river authorities. Does this constitute management? No, it does not. The statutory right to abstract water and control the abstractions of water by others does not constitute management of the body of water for the purposes of the Bill.
On the definition of vessels, the Government did not think it necessary to list the kinds of vessels which might be covered by the by-laws, because subsection (1) of the new clause refers to "traffic of any description", and I am advised that this is wide enough to cover hovercraft, seaplanes and anything that human ingenuity could devise to get in, over or on the surface of a lake.
The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, inquired about the duty of local planning authorities to consult the owners of private lakes, and the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield, inquired about their duty to consult local authorities who had an interest in the area, or were in the area, but were not planning authorities. The bylaws which can be made under this clause have to be published, objections have to be considered, and the Minister has to confirm them. I am not sure that it would be desirable to write in whom the by-law making authority should consult before they publish. The wise authority will certainly consult as many people as they can, including certain owners of lakes and other local authorities having an interest in the lake. So I should be against putting a statutory duty to consult, in view of the fact that by-laws must be published while they are yet provisional. But this I will say. We shall be sending a circular on this Bill to all local authorities, and in that circular we shall advise them what classes of persons or bodies the Minister thinks they ought to consult before publishing their draft by-laws.
§ LORD WAKEFIELD OF KENDAL
Before the Minister goes further, may I ask him this question? Is it then intended that the planning board should make the by-laws, or is it intended that the local authority should make the by-laws, the local authority being the best person able to carry out and enforce such by-laws as may be made?
§ LORD KENNET
I was coming to that point, and I will do so now. The by-laws will be made by the local planning authority. They may under subsection (12) of the draft new clause be enforced by any local authority in the area relevant to the by-law. So I think there is a precedent here. Local planning authorities have been making by-laws under the 1949 Act all the time. The noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, is quite right in saying that the local authority may be better equipped to administer and enforce a bylaw, and in areas where that is so the local planning authority will be free to pass over to a local authority the execution of the by-law under subsection (12).
§ LORD WAKEFIELD OF KENDAL
I am sorry to interrupt again, but this perhaps raises a rather important matter. If the planning authority is to make the by-laws and the local authority is to be responsible for the enforcement, it may well be that the local authority will disagree with certain of the by-laws which the planning authority have made, and very considerable difference and difficulty may arise from such a situation. Those circumstances do arise. How are they to be resolved?
§ LORD KENNET
The local planning authority will have been advised by circular from the Minister to consult local authorities with an interest in the matter. The local authority expected to administer the by-laws once they are made certainly have an interest. The local planning authority may abstain from taking the Minister's advice and publish by-laws without consulting the local authority. In that case the local authority will no doubt object and the Minister will have to settle the matter. I hope that that answers the noble Lord's question.
I was next asked about compensation, presumably for the removal of existing rights, when by-laws remove existing rights. It seems to the Govern- 1594 ment at this stage that there is no reasonable justification for by-laws interfering with or removing private rights in respect of lakes, except for such purposes as prevention of public danger or public nuisance. In the case of motor boats, this might mean that, provided the mode of nagivation did not constitute a public danger all the by-laws would need to do would be to require that the noise emitted by those boats should not constitute a public nuisance. We are talking here about rights on private lakes. If that is all the by-laws can do on these, it does not follow that they cannot prevent the appearance of certain classes of boats on public lakes where at the moment there are no existing rights, or even where there may be rights but they have not appeared. It is a complicated matter, but I hope I have given sufficient explanation.
On the question of advance publicity for the draft by-laws, I think that this is related to the other point which Lord Wakefield raised. They have to be confirmed, and I can assure the House that they will not be confirmed with indecent haste. It is not often done by Ministers, and it will not be done in this case either. On the question of the right which Lord Nugent of Guildford inquired about, the right of public inquiry—that is, as opposed to the consideration of representations—this is a question which I should like to consider further and take further advice upon. For the moment I am not convinced that we should change the provisions in this draft clause, but it is obviously an important point, and perhaps if we could be in private communication about it between now and Report stage we could cover that matter, too.
This has been a lengthy discussion, but it is a lengthy and complicated matter. I believe that the new clause should give that degree of control to local planning authorities which they ought to have over lakes in National Parks. I hope that they are not going to use it in such a way that any other bodies will wish they had never been given it. I have no reason to suppose they will. I hope we have got the solution right. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, for the preparatory work he has clone on his subject. I hope he did not have to do a lot of work he would not have done if he had been perfectly confident that I was 1595 going to put down a new clause on my own. I always was; there was no question about that. But, at any rate, there was no harm in having the matter opened up earlier and getting people to think about it. I am grateful for what he has done about that, and I hope that the new clause, Amendment No. 35, will meet with the approval of the Committee when we come to it.
§ 4.26 p.m.
I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for his explanation of his clause, and I think I can say to him that I did not put an undue amount of work into this subject, in which I have in fact been interested for about fifteen years. I cannot claim the authorship of the new clause standing in my name which is appearing on your Lordships' Order Paper and having its third outing, because it appeared twice on the Order Paper of another place. Even if it has not attracted the support of noble Lords, I am sure that its repeated appearance has encouraged the Government to draft and put this clause in the Bill, which they were reluctant to do when the subject was first broached. I am very grateful, too, for the invitation to discuss various small points between now and the Report stage. I am sorry that I personally shall not be able to accept that invitation, because I shall be going abroad to-morrow for a few days—that is, unless the Government take my passport away.
With regard to the questions, on the first one I think I shall have to take advice as to whether, before the Report stage, my noble friends feel that some words should be added, in the interests of safety if nothing else, to give a power to refuse registration as well as a power to register. Everyone in the Lake District will be extremely grateful, I think, for what the noble Lord has said about the definition of the word "manage", which was not clear until he spoke. As for the question of the definition of "vessels", he has made it clear, I think (which was what the Lake District Planning Board wanted), that his definition is intended to be as wide as theirs, even though it is set out in less detail.
The last point is with regard to consultation. I did not mention consultation with local authorities because I assumed 1596 that in circumstances like this all local authorities consulted one with another. But I thought there was a danger that where the lake was privately owned and managed—and Bassenthwaite, for instance, is owned and managed by the noble Lord, Lord Egremont—so far as circumstances are like that, it is quite possible for by-laws to be made without consultation. I cannot agree with the noble Lord that it is a proper procedure in fact to draft these, as it were, in secret and then to publish them, so that the first opportunity which people have of knowing about them is when they are published. I think that we should look at this point again to see whether some duty to consult should not be inserted in the Bill.
§ LORD KENNET
The noble Lord will bear in mind what I said about the circular we shall be sending out.
Yes; but I like to think that when we are considering a Bill, which will be part of the law of the land, we see that words which are important in the interests of the individual are inserted in the Bill. However good the Minister's intentions may be about circulars, the Bill and circulars are two different things, and it is right that some things should be in the Bill and others should be in the circular. I should have thought that the duty to consult ought probably to be inserted in the Bill. I thought the Minister passed off rather lightly the question of compensation. I do not think at the moment it is a big issue, but it could become an issue, and I should like him to consider it further. I ought to have declared an interest at the beginning of this speech. I do not own any part of any lake, but I think it is right and proper to say that I own a small and not very valuable part of the shore of one lake, and the only part of that shore of mine which is of any value I let to Lord Egremont, for much below its real value. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD CHORLEY
May I intervene for a moment on this matter? It is obvious that it is the Lake District which is mostly interested in it. This matter is one which, as the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, has told your Lordships, has been very much in the minds of everybody who has been concerned with the 1597 Lake District over these last years. I speak as President of the Friends of the Lake District, an organisation who have been particularly concerned with this problem. I am sure they would wish me to say how much they appreciate this new clause which the noble Lord. Lord Kennet, is going to move and which he has explained. It is even longer than the one which was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, and it has been put down at rather a late date. So one has not had the opportunity of giving it the attention and study which it deserves, and which undoubtedly it will have in the Lake District from all the organisations concerned with this problem.
Therefore, while I would express my gratitude, and that of my friends, for this gesture on the part of the Government, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will appreciate that we may wish to put down Amendments or to ask further questions, and to present a further analysis, at the next stage of the Bill.
§ LORD MOLSON
There are just two small points that I should like to mention before this Amendment is withdrawn. I hope that on further thought the Minister will agree that there should be power to limit the number of registrations. I can imagine circumstances in which much of the amenity of a lake would be completely destroyed by there being an unduly large number. In my view, "First come, first served" is a reasonable principle which might well be applied in this respect.
The noble Lord expressed the hope that we had not gone to undue trouble in drafting our Amendment. Of course, it would not have been necessary for us to put down this Amendment, which was, as my noble friend has said, taken from the drafting which was done in another place, if the Government had put down their own Amendments a little sooner. I made a complaint the day before yesterday that a number of Amendments had been promised but had not yet been put down. I would draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the inconvenience which results when it is promised in another place that an Amendment will be put down for discussion here, and it is put down only rather belatedly for the Committee stage here or (as in the case of Amendments to which we are 1598 coming later) has not yet been put down at all. To have these matters discussed on Report here, when noble Lords are supposed to make only one speech, is no substitute for having them at Committee stage, when we can discuss them fully and also consult local authorities and other interests concerned.
§ LORD KENNET
In regard to the second point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, I would point out teat it does happen in a democracy that after a Bill has initially been discussed the Government become convinced on something about which they were not convinced at the time the Bill started on its way through Parliament. Any Government is faced with the dilemma: What shall we do? Shall we try to catch up with the Bill and take the right course of action, in which event we shall be late with the Amendment and therefore incur blame; or, on the other hand, shall we do nothing whatever about it and let the Bill go forward unamended although we are now convinced that a change should be made?
§ LORD MOLSON
The Parliamentary Secretary has quite misunderstood my remarks. Of course I agree about this and we much appreciate the fact that the Government have drafted this Amendment. But what is unsatisfactory is that it was put down only two or three days before it was due to come up for discussion in this Committee.
§ LORD KENNET
The noble Lore did not quite take the point I was making. The Amendment could not have beer put down earlier and yet take into account the discussions that were necessary with the 25 bodies to which I have already referred.
I find this unconvincing, because the Amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is not very different in substance from that of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood. In fact it is in no small measure drawn up on the arguments that produced the Amendment, both at Committee stage and at Report stage in another place. That being so, although I accept all his arguments I think in this particular case he could have put down this Amendment earlier.
§ LORD KENNET
If the Committee go on like this I shall regret ever thinking that we ought to try to catch up with this Amendment. I hope the Committee will agree that it was a good thing to have it put down and in the right form. I do not think anything can exonerate the Government from finding out for itself the views of various bodies—not even the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood. I hope our Amendment will be acceptable, despite its lateness.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved, after Clause 10, to insert the following new clause:
§ Extension of powers of rivers authorities to provide and control water recreational facilities and services
§ ".—(1) Paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of section 79(4) of the Water Resources Act 1963 (which specify waters to which river authority's bye-laws for prohibiting and controlling the recreational use of waters in their areas are not to apply) shall cease to have effect as from the passing of this Act.
§ (2) Section 80(6) of the said Act of 1963 (which limits the expenditure of river authorities on the provision of recreational facilities on inland waters subject to regulation by bye-laws made under section 79) shall also cease to have effect as from the passing of this Act and:—
- (a) subsection (2) of that section shall have effect as if the" Subject to subsection (6) of this section "were omitted; and
- (b) after subsection (4) of section 83 of that Act (which prescribed the amounts to be credited and the expenditure to be debited to the water resources fund) there shall be inserted the following new subsection:—
§ "(4A) References in this section to the new functions of a river authority shall be deemed not to include the exercise of the powers conferred on a river authority by section 80 of this Act."."
§ The noble Lord said: This is a new clause to which the river authorities attach some importance, and I hope it will prove to be another example of a case where the Government have become convinced during the passage of the Bill that this is an improvement which could be made to it. I should apologise for the complicated form of the new clause, by reference to other Acts of Parliament, but I think the effect of it is fairly simple. Broadly speaking, the effect of it will be to bring the effect of the Water Resources Act 1963 with regard to the powers of 1600 river authorities to provide water recreational facilities, or indeed to make bylaws controlling them, broadly into the spirit of this Countryside Bill some five years later.
§ I should say in passing that in 1963 the river authorities pointed out that the Act was rather tightly drawn in this respect, but their comment went unheeded. The effect of this Amendment would be to do two things: first, at present river authorities have a free hand, as regards the reservoirs they own or manage, to provide water recreation facilities. They have power to provide these facilities on other waterways—and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will correct me if I make any technical mistakes in this rather complex matter—if they provide facilities which are self-financing. In other words, the charges for boats, and so on, must raise sufficient money to pay for the facilities which the river authority provides. In practice, that simply is not possible. With the experience I have of the Thames Conservancy, I know quite well that what I believe to be the good facilities that exist on the Thames simply would not be there if the river authority had only the revenue from the registration fees. Much revenue has to be raised in other ways in order to make the navigation facilities good and comfortable in every respect.
§ What the river authorities are seeking by means of this new clause is a relaxation of the restrictions existing under the 1963 Act, so that they may use their other finances in order to supplement the revenues that they might earn from boat registration fees, and so on. They would not seek to do this by increasing their water charges in the charging scheme, but by an addition to the precept which they make on the local authorities through which their waterways pass. So in effect the ultimate burden would fall on the local people, as is the general structure of this Bill. I feel that this is a sensible Amendment which will enable river authorities to do more on waterways where they have navigations to develop further those navigations for the benefit of the community and generally in the spirit of the Bill. I beg to move.
After Clause 10, insert the said new clause. —(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)
§ LORD KENNET
I should broadly confirm that my understanding of the effect of this Amendment is the same as the noble Lord's. Noble Lords may like to know that this is identical to a new clause introduced in Standing Committee in the House of Commons, where it did not find favour. The effect of this Amendment is so much to increase the recreation providing powers of the river authorities as to put them into competition with the local authorities—or not necessarily to put them into competition, but to give them concurrent powers in certain circumstances in places with the local authorities as the main instrument of the policy embodied in the Bill. The Government remain convinced, as they have been throughout—and as I said on an earlier stage when we were talking about the relationship between local authorities and the Countryside Commission itself—that what I said then applies also to the relationship between local authorities and river authorities, that it was a difficult question to decide which body in which place should be the one to exercise the powers.
That question was decided, and as I believe rightly decided, some time back; it was decided that the local authorities should be the recreation providing bodies throughout, and that any functions accruing to other bodies under this Bill should simply be such as could not be exercised conveniently by the local planning authorities. One may think at once of the experimental functions of the Countryside Commission itself. The effect of this Amendment would be to extend the river authorities' powers for making bylaws about recreation to all sorts of other waters over which they do not have them at the moment; namely, tidal water, inland waters in relation to which navigation, harbour or conservancy authorities exercise functions, and certain lakes, ponds or reservoirs which do not themselves discharge into any other inland water.
The reasons against this Amendment are twofold. The first, as I have said, is that it is a sort of backdoor way of conferring the main functions on the river authorities as well as local authorities. The second is that the river authorities exist, after all, primarily for the conservation of water, and their by-law making powers and all their statutory 1602 powers are directed primarily to that purpose. They have certain secondary powers about providing recreational facilities. But this Amendment would even give them power to regulate recreation in places where the primary powers over the body of water were exercised by other sorts of bodies altogether, for instance harbour authorities, and in tidal waters and so on. In other words, for the same reasons as were stated in another place, I must advise the Committee against accepting this Amendment, not, I may say, because I think the river authorities would do it badly, nor indeed that it is intrinsically an undesirable thing that river authorities should do more provision of recreation, but mainly and overridingly because the Bill singles out the local planning authorities as the right ones to do the job wherever they can.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kenner, for his considered reply to this Amendment. He made one statement which I thick on consideration he will find not entirely correct. He said that the river authorities exist primarily for the conservation of water with only certain secondary powers for recreation. This simply is not true. River authorities are responsible for a vast range of functions in connection with land drainage, and it would be very difficult to develop these recreational facilities without having some regard to the application of those functions Land drainage includes such things as dredging, maintenance of banks and so on. These should be directly related to the use of rivers and waterways for recreational purposes. Then when we come to fisheries, river authorities are the statutory authorities for fisheries. It simply is not possible to consider developing recreational facilities on a river with navigation without considering the fisheries as well. I can assure noble Lords that the kind of conflicts that go on between fishery interests and navigational interests are unlimited, and to have one authority responsible for one and another authority responsible for another would make confusion completely confounded. The noble Lord really is not on good grounds.
I urge the noble Lord to look at this again. If he does not like the clause in its present state, we are willing to take it back again and get it into a state tie would like before Report stage. It really 1603 is not going to make a sound basis for what we all want to see in these country parks where rivers are concerned if local authorities are put in to try to operate over the top of the existing statutory responsibilities of the river authorities. I do not wish to repeat the arguments I have already made. I am sure I am right here. I urge the noble Lord to agree to take this back, and if he does not like my clause we can put down something that suits him on Report stage.
§ 4.47 p.m.
I am bound to say that I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, has said. I was convinced by the argument the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, adduced as to why this particular Amendment is not a good one, but I was not convinced by the arguments he adduced yesterday to reject a similar Amendment to bring river authorities into the Countryside Bill in a more comprehensive way. It seems to me that you cannot have a Bill of this kind, a great deal of which will be concerned with rivers and water, unless the river authorities have a much closer association with it than they have at present. The noble Lord pointed out a certain clause in the Bill which goes some way towards that; but it does not go far enough. Unless you get the co-operation of river authorities in a much better way than the Bill at the moment proposes, you will not get the water side of the Countryside Bill on the right basis at all.
§ LORD KENNET
The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, taxed me with error and inconsistency, and the basis of what he said was that there ought not to be one authority providing recreation on a given bit of water and another authority looking after the banks and fish. I hope that I do not misinterpret him. But his Amendment would have the river authorities looking after the recreation on certain bits of water, and harbour or conservancy authorities exercising other functions over those same bits of water. As between our two inconsistencies, perhaps there is not much in it. I would still maintain that the primacy of the local planning authority is a principle which must be maintained throughout the Bill. However, I do not wish even to give the appearance of not consider- 1604 ing anything enough, and once again, if the noble Lord would like to meet me between now and Report stage, to thresh out something which would be entirely free of the disadvantages which I have enumerated, and which, I must repeat, are in my view quite grave, I should be very happy to do so if he would consent not to press his Amendment to-day.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
The last thing I wish to do is to divide the Committee on a Bill which is broadly non-controversial. I want to see the Bill as good as possible by the time we have finished with it. I am most anxious to meet the noble Lord and, if we can, to find an answer. But I am not entirely happy about the terms in which he made his invitation, because it seemed to me to indicate that he could not concede my point of principle here: my feeling that because the river authorities are already responsible for a number of important functions on their rivers they should have a rather different status from that which the noble Lord wishes them to have. What I am asking—and this is the effect of my Amendment—is that river authorities should have a little more scope in order to develop the navigational facilities on their rivers. A number of them already have statutory responsibility for certain sections of their rivers. The classic example is, of course, the River Thames, and the whole of the navigational functions of that river.
I should like to ask the noble Lord whether, in his invitation, he is prepared to accept what I am asking for, which is a change of status in this relationship here which will make sure that, where rivers are concerned, the river authority will be joined in partnership with the local authority in making the country park. This is the point that I want to secure. I am sure it is a good one. If the noble Lord is willing to work out with me a structure by which, acceptably to him, that can be achieved, I shall be only too happy to meet him. But that is what I shall be asking for.
§ LORD KENNET
The Committee will not wish us to negotiate across the Table. I think I should not say any more than I have already said. The invitation is there if the noble Lord wishes to take it up: but the principle behind the Bill must be maintained.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
With some apprehension, but in order to show good will, I will withdraw this Amendment; but I warn the noble Lord that I shall expect some concession.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 11:
§ Conservation of natural beauty
§ 11. In the exercise of their functions relating to land under any enactment every Minister, government department and public body shall have regard to the desirability of conserving the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside.
§ 4.53 p.m.
LORD MOLSON moved to add to the clause:
and its flora, fauna, geological and physiographical features.
The noble Lord said: In the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, who has an important engagement elsewhere, I beg to move on his behalf Amendment No. 31. The object of this Amendment is twofold: first, to make the full scope and significance of this important declaratory clause and all its implications plain upon the face of it in the clause itself. It is not satisfactory that in order to find out what the clause is intended to mean it should be necessary to refer to the interpretation clause. Clause 44, some 30 clauses further on. The Government must bear in mind that in legislating in a matter like this it is intended to give guidance to all and sundry, not merely to skilled and experienced civil servants but to everybody in any way concerned with the countryside. Therefore it is extremely desirable that Clause 11 should be really intelligible and that all its implications and its scope should be seen by anyone who reads it without having to refer to a clause, Clause 44, much further on, in order to find out exactly what it means.
§ By extending the normal meaning of the term "flora and fauna" in this way in various parts of the Bill, there is at least a risk of some confusion between the functions of the Countryside Commission and those of the Natural Environment Research Council and the Nature Conservancy. They, too, are charged with the conservation of our flora and fauna as well as with duties of 1606 scientific research in connectior with them. But if in this Bill the Commission are to be charged also with a statutory duty to keep all these matters under review, some confusion and overlapping is likely to result. I understand that this has already happened in Scotland as the result of similar wording in the Countryside (Scotland) Act. We all agree that the Countryside Commission ought to have full regard to these considerations in their policies and administration, but I venture to doubt whether the Bill as at present drafted is the right or the best way of doing this.
§ My noble friend Lord Hurcomb raised these points on Second Reading, but on that occasion he was unable to stay until half past ten at night. Naturally, therefore, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, did not reply to those points, taking the line, which I think was not only justifiable but a great relief to those of us who were still here, that he would not answer all the points that had been made by Peers who were no longer here. This is a little more than a drafting point. I think the drafting is extremely important, but it is of even greater importance that there should not be any confusion between the responsibilities of the Countryside Commission and those of the other bodies to which I have referred, for looking after the flora and the fauna. I beg to move.
Page 12, line 35, at end insert ("and its flora, fauna, geological and physiographical features.")—(Lord Molson.)
§ LORD KENNET
I am in some doubt about this matter, because I simply do not understand how the Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Molson, proposes is going to clarify the dividing line between the Countryside Commission and the Natural Environment Research Council with regard to the protection of flora and fauna. I shall be most grateful, and perhaps the Committee will be, if he can explain how it will have that effect. I should like to know this to before I answer the noble Lord in regard to the Amendment.
§ LORD MOLSON
As the Parliamentary Secetary realises, I am moving this Amendment on behalf of Lord Hurcomb, who cannot be here. I think the point that he wishes to make is that the flora and fauna are the responsibility of the 1607 Countryside Commission in so far as they are concerned with the preservation of the beauty and the amenities of the countryside as a whole. The special scientific responsibility is imposed upon the other two bodies.
§ LORD KENNET
Yes, of course, that is so. It is so under the Bill as it stands. It would still be so under the Bill if the Amendment were carried. There is a possibility of confusion. I should like to address myself first to the general and informative question rather than have a discussion on the question whether the clause shall stand part. The Government have thought about this possibility of confusion. We do not know of any evidence that there is confusion or overlapping or duplication of functions as between the Commission and the N.E.R.C. They are both Government-financed bodies and I would advise your Lordships to leave this matter to the ordinary administrative controls of Government funds. The Treasury will certainly see to it that two Government-financed bodies are not doing the same thing.
To turn to the Amendment, Clause 11 refers to: the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside", while Clause 44, the definition Clause, says in subsection (4), that the conservation of "natural beauty" of an area shall include the conservation of "its flora, fauna, geological and physiographical features". We are inivited to carry that definition up into the main clause, the declaratory clause which governs all this. I think it would be a very eccentric person who, even for a moment, believed that the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside excluded all or any of the flora and fauna and geological and physiographical features. What else could it be made up of? That is what natural beauty is—just those four things. If anybody were so eccentric as to charge the Commission, or any of the public bodies we are talking about, with paying attention to one of those four things which was not, or ought not to be, included in the term "natural beauty and amenity" then the public body concerned could instantly turn to Clause 44, subsection (4). I would advise the Committee that it does not make any difference where we have the definition, whether in the definition 1608 clause or up in the declaratory clause; and for the sake of smooth reading one would rather keep this point of supererogatory definition where, to my mind it belongs—in Clause 44.
§ LORD MOLSON
I am much obliged to the Parliamentary Secretary for his courteous and full reply. I still think that when you are referring to the beauty of the countryside it is an advantage that you should say in the same clause what it is, instead of having this rather cumbrous method that in order to know exactly what is included you turn to the interpretation clause much further on. But I have moved this Amendment in order to obtain an explanation from the Government, and naturally I reserve the right of my noble friend to raise the matter again on the Report stage. Certainly, so far as I am concerned I do not wish to pursue the matter any further; and with your Lordships' permission I will withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON moved to add to the clause:
§ "(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section if it appears to a local planning authority in relation to any land in their area comprised in a National Park that it is expedient to make provision for the conservation of the existing character of any such land they shall, after consultation with the Commission, pass a resolution designating such land (herinafter referred to as an "amenity conservation area") for the purpose of this section.
§ (3) As soon as may be after the passing of a resolution under this section the local planning authority shall submit the resolution to the Minister for confirmation.
§ (4) Upon the Minister's confirming the resolution the local planning authority shall publish in a newspaper circulating in the area to which the resolution relates a notice stating that the resolution has been confirmed and the general effect thereof and after the date of the publication of the notice no person shall execute or cause to be executed any agricultural, afforestation or other operation which would alter the existing character of any land in the amenity conservation area unless at least three months before the works are executed but not more than six months before they are begun notice in writing of the proposed works has been given to the local planning authority.
§ (5) Where a local planning authority receive notice of any proposed works under this section they shall, as soon as may be, send copies of the notices to the Minister and the Commission, and to such other persons as the Minister may specify.1609
§ (6) If it appears to a local planning authority that it is expedient in the interests of conserving the character of any amenity conservation area designated and confirmed in accordance with the provisions of this section, and having regard to the interests of agriculture and forestry, they may make an order (hereinafter referred to as an "amenity conservation order") prohibiting as may be specified in the order the carrying out in that area of agricultural or afforestation or other operations which would alter the existing character thereof.
§ (7) An amenity conservation order shall not take effect until it is confirmed by the Minister and he may confirm any such order either without modification or subject to such modifications as he considers expedient.
§ (8) Provisions may be made by regulations under this section with respect to the form of amenity conservation orders and the procedure to be followed in connection with the submission and confirmation of such orders, in particular, requiring notice to be given to any owner and occupier of the land comprised in the order, for publicising the making of the order in a local newspaper, and for any representations made in accordance with the regulations to be considered by the Minister before the order is confirmed by him.
§ (9) If it appears to the Minister that an amenity conservation order should take effect immediately he may confirm the order provisionally without complying with the requirements of any such regulations with respect to the consideration of objections and representations; but any order so confirmed shall cease to have effect at the end of six months from the date on which it is so confirmed, unless within that period it has again been confirmed, with or without modifications, after compliance with those requirements.
§ (10) (a) The local planning authority shall be liable to pay compensation to any person having an interest in any part of the land comprised in an amenity conservation area in respect of any damage or expenditure caused by or incurred in consequence of the making of an amenity conservation order or in respect of the loss of income consequent on the making of such order;
§ (11) If any person contravenes the provisions of subsection (5) of this section or of any amenity conservation order he shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £100; and where a person convicted of either offence fails to take such reasonable steps as may be necessary to prevent any damage or further damage resulting from the offence, he shall be guilty of a further offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £20 for every day on which the failure continues.
§ (12) The power to make regulations under this section shall be exercisable by statutory 1610 instrument which will be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.")
§ The noble Lord said: This is an important Amendment, moved on behalf of the County Councils of Somerset and Devonshire. It refers particularly to one of the smaller National Parks, Exmoor, which has only some 170,000 acres. Owing to the development of agriculture, and especially to the encouragement given by the Ministry of Agriculture to the enclosure of land and the ploughing up of rough land, the area of the wild countryside of Exmoor is being 'educed at the rate of some 600 acres a year. The charm and beauty of Exmoor result especially from the impression of unspoiled, rugged wildness. There is, of course, a beauty of the carefully cultivated countryside, with ploughed fields and fences, and so on, but that is not the especial charm and beauty of Exmoor.
§ The two county councils which are responsible for it consider that they have been made responsible by Parliament for the preservation of Exmoor as it is. Lines of posts and wire fences have appeared where none existed before. The features of Exmoor which have been so universally admired by everyone who has seen them are the heather moors, with their colourings, and the steep-sided combes. It is, I am sure, an unintended result of the agricultural policy of successive Governments, and of the ploughing up grants that have been made in trying to increase the production of food in this country—and indeed to advance the interests of the agricultural community—that in the case of this small and beautiful National Park the effects should be gradually to diminish the special beauties that are associated with the name of Exmoor.
This problem, which I have mentioned here on previous occasions, was shown to the Minister responsible by the Chairman of the Exmoor National Park Joint Advisory Committee, and certainly the representatives of the two county councils gathered that the Minister himself was very much concerned at what he saw was happening. He said that he did not think a complete planning control of all forms of land use within National Parks was a practicable arrangement, at any rate at the moment, and that although more use could be made of Article IV directions, unfortunately he was not at all sure that
that would serve the purpose. He then went on to say something which gave a good deal of encouragement. He conclude by saying—and I quote his exact words:
This may well require legislation, and I shall ensure that all possible courses of action are thoroughly considered to see what measures should be incorporated in the proposed Countryside Bill.
§ This is an opportunity which the Government now have of carrying out their declared policy of preserving the amenity and beauty of the countryside. The agricultural legislation which is in force at the present time does not give to the Minister of Agriculture a discretion to refuse to pay a grant for the ploughing up of land on Exmoor which would have the immediate and necessary result of diminishing still more the small acreage of that beautiful wild part. This is the legislation which gives the Government an opportunty of giving effect to what the Minister said he would like to see done. Without going so far as to say that an express promise was made, I hope that the consideration that has since then been given will enable the Government either to accept this Amendment or perhaps to draft themselves another Amendment which will have the same effect. It is on behalf of the county councils concerned in the administration of Exmoor that I beg to move this Amendment.
Page 12, line 35, at end insert the said subsections.—(Lord Molson.)
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
As this Amendment does not affect in any way either the powers or the finances of the Countryside Commission, I hope that I shall be in order in expressing a view upon it. I am sure that my colleagues, as I, myself, on the National Parks Commission have very great sympathy with the objective which the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has in mind in moving this Amendment. We are deeply concerned to preserve the wild heather country in Exmoor and, indeed, on other moors as well; the same problem is likely to come up on the North Yorkshire moors, for example. But we are also deeply concerned to maintain good relations with the agricultural community. We can claim that in the last year or two we have improved relations with land- 1612 owners and farmers and with their organisations. In the first instance, we would rather approach this matter, not by way of giving power to the Minister to make an amenity conservation order, but by trying to pursue the possibility of making satisfactory agreements.
A later Amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, embodies a proposal which is aimed at exactly the objective which the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has in mind but which would not at this stage apply compulsion. It would make it possible for agreements to be made with landowners by which they would surrender their right to plough up land which has not previously been under the plough and, if they agreed to surrender this right, to receive suitable compensation. In the Scottish Act there is already a provision that where access agreements are made they cannot, as at present, be unilaterally denounced by the farmer. At present, a farmer who makes an access agreement can take out a parcel of land and say that it is to be excepted land and that he is going to plough it up. If he does this the other party to the agreement, the local planning authority, has no power to object.
The Scottish Act provides that this unilateral denunciation will no longer be possible, and that in the event of a farmer wishing to plough up the matter can be referred to the local planning authority. If the differences cannot be resolved the matter will go to the Minister of State—and this is laid down—who will have to weigh the amenity advantages against the possible agricultural gain in ploughing up. He will not decide the matter on purely agricultural grounds or on purely amenity grounds. In Scotland the situation is easier because the Minister of State deals both with agricultural matters and with amenity matters, and therefore has only to consult with himself. If some similar arrangement were made for England and Wales it would be necessary for the Minister of Housing and Local Government to consult with the Minister of Agriculture, the former advocating the amenity arguments and the latter countering with agricultural arguments.
The point I wish to make is that the Countryside Commission—or, at present. 1613 the National Parks Commission—are anxious not to alienate local communities of farmers and landowners. If we go as far as this, it may create fears among local agricultural communities which, though we know them to be groundless are likely to prejudice our relations with them.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
May I add a word to this short discussion on this interesting point, particularly because later, if all goes well, I intend to move Amendment No. 38A, in the name of my noble friend Lood Brooke? I sympathise with the objective outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, but I would say to them that Amendment 38A is aimed in a positive way at doing what Lord Molson wants, and at achieving what was envisaged by the noble Baroness; that is, to restrain farmers by agreement, rather than by compulsion, from ploughing up these areas. I feel sure that the noble Baroness is right in her general policy that good relations with both farmers and landowners must be, in the interests of everybody, an object of the highest priority.
I assure my noble friend Lord Molson that I sympathise with his objective. The moors of Dartmoor and Exmoor were the haunts of my childhood. I still see them occasionally, and I agree that if these areas are developed patchily it may destroy the natural beauty, and that it is in everybody's interest, if possible, to put a brake on this sort of thing. But if it could be done by agreement in this way, that would be infinitely preferable. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will feel that this is the right approach to achieve the end result which we all seek.
I am in sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Molson, in this Amendment, but I also agree with the other two contributors to this discussion. There is one other danger which occurs to me. It may not be a very real one, but it is something one must bear in mind. I am very reluctant to accept the idea of having special amenity areas. It is rather like having a beauty spot. If one has a beauty spot, then, by definition, anything else "can go to Hell." I have a grave fear that if we 1614 allow special conservation areas to be part and parcel of what we are doing in this Bill, we shall allow the rest of the countryside to be, to coin a phrase (I see that the noble Lord is not here) "Lind-grenised"
The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, yesterday made a passionate plea that the first object of this Bill must be that of recreation—the sort of fun-fair activities which could perfectly well be supplied in the town, and which he thought ought to be the first object of the Bill in the countryside. I do not agree. This is the sort of thing which the townsman wants to come out of the town to avoid. Therefore, if there is any danger of this kind of thing in having particular beauty spots and special conservation areas while the rest of the land may be allowed to become a fun fair, I deplore it. I do not think this is a very real danger, but it ought to be borne in mind.
§ LORD FOOT
I hope that this Amendment will be treated with the seriousness which I believe it deserves, and I hope we shall not dismiss it in a cursory or peremptory way. As the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has rightly pointed out, the Amendment is the product of the thinking of the Devon and Somerset County Councils which, through their Joint Committee, are responsible for Exmoor. The proposals contained in this Amendment have been worked out over a long period of time, and these responsible authorities are satisfied that it is only by having some provision of this kind that they will be able to prevent the progressive obliteration of the Exmoor National Park. Without powers of this kind, the Park Authority will not be able to exercise their duty of preserving the natural beauties and present condition of the Park, as they are required to do.
Moreover, I believe that the Amendment not only affects Exmoor but is important, as a matter of principle, from the point of view of all the other National Parks, particularly that from which I come, the Dartmoor National Park. I have been a member of the Dartmoor National Park Committee for some years, and I can still remember my surprise, in my early innocence when I was first appointed to the Committee, to discover that whereas we were put under the duty of preserving the natural beauty of the Park and promoting its enjoyment by the 1615 public, there were nevertheless yawning gaps in this control. In particular, we had no control over any forestry or agricultural activity.
We had no control over any agricultural activity, because that is excepted from the control, and we had no control over afforestation of what had previously been open land, because I understand that is not a change of use and therefore is not development. It came as a great surprise to me, in my innocence in the early days, to find that there were those great gaps in the Act. I think the author of what I believe is Section 84 of the 1949 Act, which says that in carrying out its functions a park committee must have due regard to the needs of agriculture and forestry, must have been an ironist, because so far as the ploughing up or the afforestation of open land are concerned, a park committee is simply in the position of a powerless impotent bystander.
The way in which we carry out our first function under the 1949 Act—that is, the preservation of the existing natural beauties of the park—is mainly by exercising our powers as the planning authority. In the main, the amenities are preserved by our refusing planning permission to applicants, where we think that permission will seriously interfere with the amenities of the park. But, of course, in the case of the farmer or the landowner who wants to plough up what had previously been open moorland, or in the case of the forester who wants to plant on what had previously been open access land, there is no obligation upon him even to make an application. He does not have either to seek our permission or to obtain our permission. There is no sanction. There is nothing in the world we can do but watch these things happening; and they are happening not only in Exmoor, where the threat is acute and urgent, but also in Dartmoor. Time after time during these last years we have had to stand back and watch moorland being ploughed up under our eyes, utterly without any power to stop it.
There is reciprocity in this, because while we, the statutory body charged with the preservation of the park, are required to have due regard to the needs of agriculture and forestry, there is no obligation upon the agricultural and 1616 forestry interests to have any regard to amenity. It is entirely a matter for the individual judgment and individual standards of the person who wants to engage in that sort of operation. Is it not entirely wrong as a matter of principle that the statutory body, which is charged with these duties under the Act, should be quite powerless over this great range of activity? As the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has already pointed out, the figures produced by the Devon and Somerset Committee indicate that the rate of erosion in Dartmoor by ploughing is something like 600 acres per annum.
One of the measures which one might have proposed is that for the future agricultural activities as a whole, and forestry operations, should come within the ordinary ambit of planning control, but of course that would have aroused every kind of opposition. This simple Amendment is nothing like so Draconian as that; nothing like as comprehensive as that. It is a very modest proposal indeed, and although the Amendment is rather long to read the sense of it can be expressed in a couple of sentences.
What the Amendment proposes is that a planning authority in a National Park should have the right to survey its Park and to designate particular areas of high amenity value, where it is of extra importance that preservation should predominate. Having done that, from then on anybody who wishes to engage in any operation in those designated areas must give notice of his intention to do so before he can start. Furthermore, the local authority is permitted to make an amenity order in respect of any part of the designated high amenity areas, and if that order is confirmed by the Minister—and indeed the designation of the area must, in the first place, of course be confirmed by the Minister—from then on operations which would affect the general appearance of that high amenity land cannot be carried on.
The area of Exmoor which might be made the subject of an amenity conservatiton order is in the neighbourhood of 33,000 acres. That is the maximum involved in the Exmoor National Park; something like one-twentieth of the size of the Park as a whole. All the ordinary safeguards to prevent an aggrieved person from being ill done-by are contained here. There are all the ordinary safeguards for 1617 the inquiry, and for his representations to be heard before any order is made.
So the sense of it is, first, that we want to apply this procedure only within the National Parks. Secondly, the land concerned is only a very small part of the National Parks. Thirdly, all the rights of anybody who might think himself disadvantaged or aggrieved are preserved, and he has every opportunity to be heard. Fourthly,we are providing that if anybody is financially damaged by reason of being denied the opportunity of pursuing ploughing or afforestation activities, then he will have the right to compensation. It is a very modest and limited proposal.
I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, has gone, because I wanted to say a word or two about what she said. I must say that I was disappointed in the attitude that she took—and I have no doubt that the Committee will pay considerable attention to the view that she expressed—that this matter could be more satisfactorily dealt with by an Amendment which is to be moved later in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor. As I understand it, the object of that Amendment is to say that if a landowner will enter into an access agreement with the local planning authority, once that has been done he cannot go back upon it and, from that time onwards, if the agreement relates to what is open country there is protection against the ploughing or afforestation of that land.
I suggest that there are two things wrong with that view. One is that it is entirely dependent upon the landowner originally being prepared to enter into an agreement; and if any landowner says, "No", there is nothing that anybody can do about it. The other mistake, if I may call it that, in that approach is that it is a cumbrous and illogical way of dealing with the problem, because what we are concerned with is the conservation of these areas of high amenity value to stop the change in the appearance and nature of the park and the moor. Surely it is a very illogical, roundabout way to try to do it through access agreements. We are not talking primarily about access here: we are talking about the preservation of amenities. I suggest that to try to do it in this roundabout way first of all will be ineffective if the landowner concerned will not co-operate and, 1618 secondly, is a very uncertain and roundabout way of achieving what is the real object in mind. I am sorry; I now see that the noble Baroness has merely changed her position. I did not realise she was still here. What I have been saying about her arguments applies equally, I suggest, to those of my noble friend Lord Henley, who took t1 e same view and thought that this matter could be easily disposed of.
It will be a matter of grave disappointment in Devon and Somerset and, I assure your Lordships, to all those people who have worked upon this Amendment for many years now and who have carried out very careful surveys, if this Amendment is discarded, possibly in favour of nothing, but possibly in favour of the subsequent Amendment, which I am quite sure the authors of this Amendment will not think meets their requirements.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
I should like to make four points very shortly. First of all, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Foot, that the subsequent Amendment which has been referred to really does not go half far enough. I do not think it goes a quarter of the way which is required, for the protection of this sort of land, although it is useful so far as it goes. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Foot, has completely proved that it would not really provide the protection which is needed in these particular areas.
I also thought that what he said demolished the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, that this was legislation for a particular National Park, and that that was wrong. It is quite obvious that this legislation would cover the situation in quite a number of National Parks, as indeed the noble Baroness pointed out. Having just complimented the Minister on providing an Amendment which can hardly apply anywhere except to the Lake District, and which dealt with the subject matter of an Amendment to which the noble Lord, Lord Henley, himself had added his name, it is rather strange that the noble Lord should take this view, because it is completely inconsistent. There is no other National Dark which is provided with lakes to anything like the extent of the Lake District, or which really requires the Amendment which the Government are proposing to 1619 give us for the protection of the lakes and the Lake District. I think that that argument just does not hold water.
Thirdly, I think it is quite clear—and what Lord Foot said really dotted the is and crossed the is to this—that however much one wished to get the farming community and the landowners on one side in regard to the management of National Parks, the element of disagreement, of enmity, which it is suggested would be raised among the farmers by the acceptance of this Amendment would be minute. I think Lord Foot made that point perfectly clear. Although I have the greatest sympathy with my noble friend Lady Wootton in what she said about trying to work in with the local people—I have seen that time after time in the Lake District—I do not think one ought to allow that to go too far and in effect to work up a bogey which hardly exists. In other words, I do not really feel that this is a serious objection to this Amendment.
What I do feel is a very serious point is this. It is quite obvious that, not only in the Exmoor National Park but in some other National Parks where there is this kind of land, if this is allowed to go on within a very few years there will be hardly any National Park left. We have seen from what Lord Strang has told us—and, indeed, it is something which those of us who have been in the movement know quite well—that if one were to come back in two years' time and say, "As a result of your not passing this Amendment in 1968 about half the remainder of Exmoor has already gone", and if one were then to ask for a new Bill, there would not be the slightest chance of getting it. It takes about ten years to get a Bill. As Lord Strang has mentioned, and indeed as we all know, time after time the old National Parks Commission came up with proposals for really essential amendments to the National Parks Act 1949, many of which we have now got in 1968—very nearly twenty years later. If we have to come back to ask for these clauses which Lord Molson is asking us to give him this afternoon, and have to get the Government to provide time for a Bill, there will obviously not be any real prospect of getting it. For these four reasons, I hope that this Amendment will be accepted.
§ LORD KENNET
I have been doing some sums. I think this may be a good moment to assess progress upon this Bill. We have got as far as Amendment No. 32, out of 78 Amendments. A couple of days ago we sat for seven hours, I think, and to-day we have already sat, with an interval, for three hours. We are still considerably less than halfway through the Bill. So I hope that your Lordships' Committee will not hold it discourteous of me, still less peremptory, if I give very shortly indeed the Government's view on this Amendment. It can be summed up thus. We must all have the greatest sympathy with the aim of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, as embodied in the Amendment, but I think we should all pay the greatest attention to the advice of my noble friend Lady Wootton, coming from a person holding her office, that to adopt this Amendment would be to go too fast. I shall end by saying that, if Lord Molson will withdraw this Amendment, when we come to Amendment No. 38A I shall turn what is popularly known as a smiling face on that part of it which covers the same subject matter as the Amendment now before the Committee.
§ LORD MOLSON
I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee unduly, but I am bound to say that I am extremely disappointed by the reply which the Government have given. In the first place, let it be noted that this Amendment is put forward on behalf of the County Councils of Somerset and Devonshire. Both those counties are predominantly agricultural. Probably the great majority of the members are much concerned to secure the franchise and support of the agricultural interests in those counties.
As the noble Lord, Lord Foot, has said, this matter has been under consideration by the two county councils for a long time, and therefore I do not attach very much importance to the arguments that have been put forward by noble Lords, and also by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, that this would be going too far and too fast. These are primarily agricultural counties, and they are asking for a clause of this kind. The alternative is really hopelessly inadequate. It gives no power to the Exmoor and Dartmoor authorities, or any other National Park authority, to take action in this matter. 1621 I can only say that to treat an access agreement—which was intended, under the Act of 1949, to give people the right to go on land without being trespassers—as a basis on which to exercise what is in fact, or should be, a planning function is a complete misunderstanding and a complete distortion of what the access agreements in the 1949 Act were intended to be.
In view of the attitude of the Government, I shall now withdraw this Amendment; but it will be in order to consult with the county councils concerned. I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Foot, who comes from that part of the country and has been concerned with the administration of Dartmoor, is perfectly justified in making the claims that he has: that, without an Amendment of this kind as drafted by the two county councils, what everybody agrees they deplore, the gradual destruction of the wild beauty of Exmoor and Dartmoor, will continue. With those words, and with the indication that I reserve the right to bring up this matter again on the Report stage, I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, whether Clause 11 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ LORD SANDYS
I hope I am in order at this juncture to make a few final remarks about Amendments 31 and 32 taken together. It will be remembered that on Second Reading it was said that Clause 11 was going to be printed as an illuminated text; and a very generous offer was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, that this should take place. Notwithstanding the fact that these two Amendments taken together would make a considerable addition to that text, I feel most earnestly that Amendment No. 31 especially is worthy of further attention. I was disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, told us in his reply than it would not make a bit of difference—and I think I am quoting him accurately—if the words "and its flora, fauna, geological and physiographical features" were left in or out. The tone of his reply rather indicated that this was an unimportant factor. But this is the main conservation clause in the whole Bill; so the noble Lord's reply would tend to indicate to me that this clause is 1622 thrown in as a sop to the amenity societies. I hope that he will be able to convince us that this is not so.
Amendment No. 32 is of especial interest to the counties of Somerset and Devonshire and I would not presume to be sufficiently knowledgeable of that area to embark on a further dissertation. But I would earnestly commend to the Government, in respect to Amendment No. 31, that the geological and physiographical features of the countryside are not dealt with sufficiently in other parts of the Bill although further aspects of conservation are dealt with in a later clause. For instance, it would mean to me that from the point of view of amenity and the needs of conservation there should be some restriction placed on such activities as the extraction of natural gas, water, all forms of minerals, stone, gravel, sand and other substances, removed from the ground throughout the United Kingdom. I therefore hope that Her Majesty's Government will attach due weight to Clause 11.
§ LORD HURCOMB
I apologise to the Committee for not having been in my place when the Amendment in my name was moved on my behalf by the noble Lord, Lord Molson. I should like to say two things. I understand the Government attitude that the interpretation clause deals with this matter; but my point is that in order to discover what a clause means one ought not to have to read 30-odd clauses on. When the clause is, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said, an important declaratory clause, then what it is meant to declare ought to be obvious on the face of the clause itself. I suggest to him that in that particular it might be helpful if he were to undertake to issue in due course to all concerned a circular pointing out what Clause 11 really means.
Dealing with the other point to which I have referred twice in previous debates, I believe there is a good deal of doubt in the minds of local naturalist bodies and other bodies as to what exactly are the functions of the Countryside Commission on the one hand and the Natural Environment Research Council and the Nature Conservancy on the other. If it is a statutory duty of the Countryside Commission to keep under review all matters relating—
§ LORD KENNET
I wonder whether the noble Lord will yield? I think that if he were to read in HANSARD the remarks that I made before he was able to be here, he would find that they covered this matter.
§ LORD HURCOMB
I will certainly accept that advice; but if the remarks do not seem to me to cover the matter then I shall feel free to raise it again.
§ LORD KENNET
Before the Motion is put, I should like to repeat the assurance that I gave on the Second Reading. Clause 11 is meant to apply to everybody and is meant to include all the words found in it and all the words found in Clause 44(4) which further defines it.
§ Clause 11 agreed to.
§ 5.47 p.m.
The noble Lord said: Clause 12(7) says:
Nothing in the said section 13 as extended by this section shall authorise the carrying out of any operation in contravention of section 34 of the Coast Protection Act 1949.
Evidently the Government Department and the drafter of this Bill thought it necessary to save the words of the Coast Protection Act in this clause. The position in regard to sea defences is that the local authorities are responsible for the urban areas, as it were, of the coast, and the river authorities are responsible for the non-urban or rural areas of the coast, especially the low-lying areas, which are thus included as coming under their functions as drainage authorities. Coast protection is divided between the two in this statutory fashion. My Amendment simply saves the Land Drainage Acts of 1930 and 1961 which cover the coastal areas not covered by the Coast Protection Act. I beg to move.
Page 14, line 23, at end insert the said words. —(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)
§ LORD KENNET
The proviso requires the local planning authorities to consult with any authoritieswhich under any enactment have functions relating to the waterway in question as the 1624 Minister may either generally or in any particular case direct.I can tell the Committee that the Minister intends to include river authorities and internal drainage boards in such a direction, and this will ensure that their interests under the Land Drainage Acts are safeguarded. That being so, I do not feel that this Amendment is necessary. It only makes clear that actions which are already illegal are not to be done by the planning authorities. One could sum up the Government's objection to the Amendment by saying that murder is also illegal but we do not put a stipulation in the Bill saying that it shall not be committed in the context of the Countryside Bill.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
I do not wish to be tiresome over a small point, but would the noble Lord then answer this quesion? Why is it necessary to put in the saving of the Coast Protection Act, which covers a limited part of the coast, simply the urban areas, but not to include a saving for the Land Drainage Act, which covers far more of the coast? Why is it necessary to put in one and not the other? I should be happy if the noble Lord took both out. Really, his answer about consultation simply is not an answer at all.
§ LORD KENNET
It is always an open question as to how far you should go in statutorily requiring consultation, because people always consult more than they are statutorily bound to do. If we were ever to approach the time when nobody ever consulted anybody unless he was statutorily bound to, and Parliament had always to ensure that it was a statutory duty to consult everybody who ought to be consulted, then our legislation would be congested indeed. I am not wedded to any particular way of ensuring that these consultations shall take place. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, has put his finger on an apparent inconsistency. Whether it is really one or not I shall want to study further, and I suggest that we add it to the agenda of the forthcoming meeting.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
Again I must assume that the Minister is going to be a little more forthcoming than he has been. My point is perfectly clear and I think that when the noble 1625 Lord studies it he will see that here there is a complete inconsistency. However, after the somewhat guarded undertaking which the noble Lord has given, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD KENNET
This is really a consequential Amendment on the one which was moved by my noble friend Lord Beswick yesterday about the Harbours Act, to ensure that nobody spends more than half a million pounds on creating harbours under the Countryside Bill without getting the permission of the Minister of Transport as he is bound to do under other legislation. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.
§ 5.53 p.m.
After Clause 12, insert the following new clause:
§ Lakes in National Parks: control of boats, etc.
§ ".—(1) A local planning authority whose area consists of or includes the whole or any part of a National Park shall have power to make byelaws for the prohibition or restriction of traffic of any description on any lake in the National Park.
§ (2) The power shall be exercisable for the purpose of—
- (a) ensuring the safety of persons resorting to any such lake,
- (b) regulating all forms of sport or recreation involving the use of boats or vessels,
- (c) conserving the amenity and natural beauty of any such lake and the surrounding area, and
- (d) preventing nuisance or damage, and in particular nuisance from excessive noise.
§ (3) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions of this section, byelaws under this section may—
- (a) prescribe rules of navigation and impose speed limits,
- (b) require the use of effectual silencers on boats or vessels propelled by internal combustion engines, and prescribe rules with a view to imposing limits on the noise or vibration which may be caused by any such boat or vessel,
- (c) prohibit the use of boats or vessels which are not for the time being registered with the local planning authority in such manner as the byelaws may provide,
- (d) authorise the making of reasonable charges in respect of the registration of boats or vessels in pursuance of the bye aws,
- (e) make different provision for different circumstances, and in particular may impose different restrictions in different parts of the lake and at different times or seasons.
§ (4) In acting under this section the local planning authority shall have regard to the fulfilment of the objects set out as respects National Parks in sections 1 and 5 of the Act of 1949, and, before making any byelaws, shall consult the Commission.
§ (5) Byelaws under this section shall not be made so as to extinguish any public right of way over any waters, but, except as otherwise expressly provided, any byelaws under this section shall apply to persons exercising any such public right of way as they apply to other persons.
§ (6) Byelaws under this section—
- (a) shall be of no effect if and in so far as inconsistent with any rules under the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 which are in force as respects the water to which the bye-laws apply,
- (b) shall not interfere with any functions relating to the water or land to which the byelaws apply which are exercisable by any authority under any enactment.
§ (7) This section shall not apply to any lake owned or managed by a river authority or by any statutory undertakers.
§ (8) Section 106 of the Act of 1949 (supplementary provisions as to byelaws) shall have effect as if byelaws under this section were byelaws under that Act.
§ (9) Subsections (1) and (2), and subject to the next following subsection subsection (4), of section 92 of the Act of 1949 (appointment of wardens of land for which byelaws may be made under section 90 of that Act) shall have effect as if the power of making byelaws conferred by this section was contained in the said section 90.
§ (10) For the purpose of securing compliance with any byelaws made under this section, a warden appointed under the said section 92 as applied by this section may enter upon any land, or go on any water, whether or not within the area where the byelaws are in force.
§ (11) Where two or more local planning authorities' areas consist of or include part of a National Park, the powers conferred t y this section may be exercised by them, or any of them, jointly, or may by agreement between them exercised by one local planning authority in the part of the National Park in the area of another.
§ (12) Byelaws made by a local planning authority under this section may be enforced by any local authority in the area of that other local authority.
§ (13) In this section "lake" includes any expanse of water other than a river or canal"
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.1627
§ Clause 13 agreed to.
§ Clause 14:
§ Access to open country: rivers, canals and woodlands
§ (6) Subsections (2) and (3) above shall not apply as respects, or as respects land held with—
- (a) a reservoir owned or managed by statutory water undertakers,
- (b) a reservoir owned or managed by a river authority, or
- (c) a canal, or a part of a canal, owned or managed by the British Waterways Board.
§ (7) The local planning authority, before making an access agreement or an access order under Part V of the Act of 1949 in respect of land outside a National Park which comprises—
- (a) all or any part of, or of land adjacent to, any river, or
- (b) all or any part of, or of land adjacent to, any canal other than a canal owned or managed by the British Waterways Board,
§ LORD KENNET moved, in subsection (6)(a), to leave out "water". The noble Lord said: The effect of this very small change is to exclude from the provisions of Clause 14—which is about access to rivers and canals—reservoirs owned or managed by all statutory undertakers and not, as it is at present drafted, only those owned by statutory water undertakers. This is meant to deal with the position of the British Waterways Board who own a number of reservoirs. The Board already have a policy about this which is set out and illustrated in The facts about Waterways published in 1965, and that policy is to permit the maximum possible recreational use of their reservoirs. There is here a complicated position between two Bills now before Parliament. I am sorry to bother your Lordships with the technicalities, but I think that the Committee would desire it.
Clause 47(6) of the Transport Bill provides that in future:
Without prejudice to the powers of the Waterways Board apart from this subsection, that Board shall have power to provide services and facilities for the use for amenity or recreational purposes (including fishing) of the
inland waterways and reservoirs owned or managed by them.
The Board will therefore, under the Transport Bill, be on a similar footing to statutory water undertakers under Clause 19 of this Bill, and in common with those undertakers should be excluded from the provisions of Clause 14 of this Bill on the ground that the question of public access is adequately dealt with by alternative means. Moreover, the British Waterways Board's reservoirs are nationalised, and the Board are provided by the Transport Bill with powers and finance to make them available for recreation, so there seems no case for a further subsidy under the Countryside Bill to this nationalised body which already has the duty and the grant to provide recreation. The Committee may like to be reminded that under the Transport Bill the British Waterways Board are going to get about £1 million a year for the provision of recreation on all their waters—that is, canals as well as reservoirs, which we are talking about in this Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 16, line 31, leave out ("water").—(Lord Kennet.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD had given Notice of his intention to move, in subsection (6), to leave out paragraph (c). The noble Lord said: This Amendment was a probing Amendment to find out why it was that access agreements to canals or waterways managed by the British Waterways Board were to be excluded. But having listened to the excellent explanation of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, explaining Clause 47 of the Transport Bill which provides for both a duty and a grant to provide this recreation, I already have my answer.
§ LORD KENNET
The effect of this Amendment is to require a local planning authority, proposing to make an access agreement or order in respect of land outside a National Park which comprises all or any part of or of land adjacent to any river,including any expanse of water through which a river, or some part of the flow of a river runs or any canalto consult with authorities exercising a statutory duty in respect of waterways 1629 concerned. This means that consultation must take place in respect of all the types of waterways and of the adjacent land—this is the point—to which Clause 14 applies. The subsection, as drafted, did not provide for consultation in respect of adjacent land to these expanses of water, and on further consideration the Government thought that it should. This is a simple Amendment, and I beg to move.
Page 16, line 39, leave out ("river") to end of line 42 and insert ("(including any expanse of water through which a river, or some part of the flow of a river runs) or any canal").—(Lord Kennet.)
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
May I make one observation? I should like to study what the noble Lord has told us. I think I am happy with it, but if I am not I am sure that he will be ready to consider any Amendment we might want to move on Report.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 14, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 15 agreed to.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT or GUILDFORD moved, after Clause 15, to insert the following new clause:
§ Access Agreements: Amendments of Act of 1949.
§ "—(1) In section 64(2) of the Act of 1949 after the word 'expenditure' there shall be inserted the words 'or loss'.
(2) After section 64(6) of the Act of 1949 there shall be inserted the following subsection:
(7) An access agreement may be made as respects land which was "open country" at the date when the relevant access agreement was made, to restrain its conversion to the status of "excepted" land as defined in section 60(5) of this Act and section 14 of the Countryside Act 1968, notwithstanding any provisions to the contrary therein contained.
§ The noble Lord said: I beg leave to move Amendment No. 38A which is a new clause. The merits of this Amendment have been discussed to a considerable extent, and therefore I think it would probably be for the benefit of the Committee if I am brief. I should mention by way of explanation that subsection (1) of the new clause is put in in order to remove the doubt whether the wording of Section 64(2) of the 1949 Act would 1630 allow payment to be made to a farmer or forester under the terms of an access agreement for any loss he suffered as a result of his restraint to make the fullest economic use of that land. Therefore we have put that subsection in the drafting.
§ The broad effect of the nevi clause would be, as has already been mentioned in the discussion we had on my noble friend Lord Molson's new clause, to enable the planning authority to make access agreements in consideration of the farmer or the landowner concerned restraining his farming activities by agreement on reasonable terms of compensation being paid to him. Where such agreements are made, it would achieve the end which all of us wish to see in such areas as, for instance, Exmoor, which my noble friend so graphically described. It would give farmers the necessary incentive to refrain from agricultural development and achieve what the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, rightly wants, which is an amicable relation with landowner and farmer, because it would be brought about by agreement. Although I recognise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, the new clause would largely cover the need we all feel here, and therefore should be acceptable. I beg to move.
After Clause 15, insert the said new clause. —(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I think that this Amendment does a little more than the noble Lord implied. It enables access agreements to be made between the local planning authority and farmers to cover a certain area of land. That can be done now, but at present if a farmer changes his mind during the currency of an agreement and wishes to plough up a portion of land covered by the agreement, he can do it unilaterally in spite of the agreement. The important part about this Amendment is that it prevents that unilateral decision on the farmer's side and makes it necessary that the matter should be referred eventually to the Minister.
I think that this is an extremely good Amendment. I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Foot 1631 is not here. He felt that we had dismissed rather frivolously the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, but I feel that this Amendment will give everything that the noble Lord, Lord Molson, wanted, if put into operation in Devon and Somerset. It also gets over the danger I always feel about making special areas.
§ LORD KENNET
The new clause is in two parts. The first seeks to make clear that a consideration covers loss. I am informed that there is no doubt at all that the clause as drafted does cover loss, and I think that the first part of this new clause is unnecessary. The second part though, both earlier and now, has met with a wide measure of acceptance. At first sight I think there is a great deal to commend it. When I have been able to go further into it and get better advice, I may well find that there are drafting and even bigger obstacles to doing it in the way suggested, but at the moment I do not know of any major obstacles. So, if the noble Lord would withdraw his new clause for the moment, we shall be able to discuss it between now and Report, and if nothing untoward happens I hope that the Government will be able to put down an Amendment covering the same ground on Report stage.
§ LORD MOLSON
I should like to have quite clearly from the Parliamentary Secretary an explanation of how far the Government are prepared to go. As I indicated earlier this afternoon, the farmer whose farm includes wild country is able to obtain certain subsidies and financial advantages if he improves that land. Are we to understand that in their anxiety to prevent the improvement of land in the National Parks from taking place, the Government are prepared to agree under this Bill that a farmer can be compensated to the same extent of financial advantage that he would have obtained had he improved the land? The Parliamentary Secretary looks a trifle puzzled. I will repeat it in other words. If a farmer could gain a certain financial advantage by ploughing wild country on his farm, are the Government prepared to put down an Amendment which will see to it that he does not forgo any financial advantage by leaving the land in its present wild, uncultivated state?
Why not? Because in this Bill already the Minister is entitled to do that in areas of special scientific interest, and under the 1949 Act he is entitled to do so in nature reserves. It would not seem to be going too far to add the same principle for the land about which the noble Lord, Lord Molson, is speaking.
§ LORD LINDGREN
Before my noble friend replies, I think this Committee ought to get down to a serious attitude towards this Bill. Noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Molson, have been saying all the time that the land and its beauty ought to be kept as it is at the moment. Footpaths should not be made; there should not be access; fellows should not be allowed to ride their bicycles, and now where there is a piece of land which they declare is of great natural beauty and somebody says that for his own personal profit he could improve that land on an agricultural basis, noble Lords are asking that he should get a subsidy to cover all the amounts he would have received if he had improved the land. The aim of this Bill is to give access to the countryside to the ordinary man and woman of this country, so that they may enjoy its beauty and indulge in healthy recreation. This is not a Bill to give subsidies to landowners, and I am surprised at noble Lords putting forward the arguments they have this afternoon.
§ LORD MOLSON
I would say, with all courtesy to the noble Lord, that if he had been in the Chamber during the long debate on this subject, he would not have made the speech he has just made.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
Before the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, replies, may I just make this point to him? Of course it is implicit in this new clause, which I understand the noble Lord is prepared to accept in principle, that there should be compensation. That is what we are asking for. Unless there is to be compensation for the farmer for 1633 not ploughing up land which he otherwise would do, there is no purpose in trying to get that done by agreement. This is the very essence of it. How much that compensation would be is anybody's guess. The noble Lord, Lord Molson, will know from his knowledge of agriculture that the development of land in these areas is not very profitable, even when there are subsidies as well, so the net profit would probably not be very much. Nevertheless, it is certainly intrinsic in this new clause that there will be compensation here for such an access agreement, which will mean (and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, for kindly amplifying my description) that there will be a binding agreement on the farmer that he cannot then farm once he has agreed to such an access agreement. But that would be the quid pro quo. I hope that, in principle, the noble Lord will accept this.
Before we have the reply, I should like to ask what is the matter with ploughing up a bit of derelict land, putting it back to good sound grass on which sheep can graze and letting the urban population see what goes on in the country, rather than leaving it derelict old Exmoor. There is another point. There is a world shortage of food. There is a lot of Exmoor and Dartmoor, and there are moors in Yorkshire and Scotland. Are we right in preventing the farmers from taking advantage of anything they can do with derelict land? I think this matter ought to be reviewed most carefully. I do not think that a nice field of corn or a lovely stretch of fresh grass is any eyesore; I think it is an amenity.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
I think the total area of Exmoor is about 12,000 acres. It is extremely poor, acid soil, and to plough it up would be quite uneconomic. Even if you got a heavy subsidy, it would be d completely uneconomic process. I cannot agree with the noble Lord who has just spoken that all land everywhere ought to be ploughed up.
§ LORD KENNET
We really must avoid getting into a general debate on agriculture. I was going to reply to this debate 1634 when I was interrupted by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, who said: "Why cannot the Government go so far?". All I had managed to say was that I did not think I could go quite as far as accepting all the interpretations that had teen put on this Amendment as something which the Government would forthwith do. Why cannot the Government go so far? Well, Governments never do go t tat kind of distance on an Amendment in Committee, which they have seen only that morning or the day before.
I return to what I said before. I am not undertaking to accept an) single element of subsection (2) of this Amendment. I am inviting the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, or the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, or both, to come and talc to me about the possibility of a Government Amendment covering the same ground as subsection (2) of the Amendment which is now before the Committee. I very much hope that they will do this, because I believe that something might be done. But I am afraid that I cannot possibly (I think the Committee will understand this), at such short notice, enter into any commitment whatever about what that will be.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
I must thank the noble Lord for his invitation, which I am glad to accept. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 16 agreed to.
§ Clauses 17 and 18 agreed to.
§ Clause 19:
§ Recreational facilities at water undertakers' reservoirs and other waters
19.—(1) Statutory water undertakers may, if it appears to them reasonable to do so—
(a) permit the use by members of the public, for the purposes of any form of recreation which the undertakers consider appropriate, of any reservoir or other waterway owned or managed by the undertakers, and of any land held with the waterway,
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "may, if it appears to them reasonable" and insert "shall, unless it appears to them unreasonable". The noble Lord said: 1635 I beg to move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor. This Amendment was moved in another place rather as a probing Amendment, and at that time the Minister of State replied that there was about to be a meeting between the Minister of State, the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the representatives of the British Waterworks Association to discuss these matters. It would, I am sure, be helpful to noble Lords on all sides if the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, could tell us what was the outcome of that meeting, and whether the statement which the B.W.A. were able to give with regard to the provision of recreational facilities, which is what Clause 19 is concerned with, was satisfactory. I beg to move.
Page 20, line 16, leave out ("may, if it appears to them reasonable") and insert ("shall, unless it appears to them unreasonable").—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)
§ LORD KENNET
The meeting between the Minister of State, myself and the British Waterworks Association has taken place. At that meeting the Association ran through the recent history of the opening of reservoirs for recreational purposes, which has been encouraging, in distinction to the less recent history, which was somewhat discouraging. A generation of reservoirs is now coming along which have been and are being planned for recreational use from the very beginning. Grafham Water and the Derwent Reservoir, in Durham, are examples of those already in use. Dray-cote is one that is being planned with full recreational facilities from the start.
The British Waterworks Association represented to us with some force that this Amendment—the simple reversal of the words—might make their task of convincing their members that recreation on reservoirs is a good thing not easier, but harder. They said their members might feel that an undue burden of proof was being put on them; that they were being "good boys", and might resent this, so that the task of modernisation of the views of these authorities—a task on which considerable amount still remains to be done; on this the Association agree with the Ministry—might not be speeded up, but might be slowed up.
1636 The Amendment in itself, in legal logic, does not make the least difference, because it is the same thing to say that somebody "may", if it appears to him reasonable, do something as it is to say that he "shall unless it appears to him unreasonable to do it. It leaves the judgment entirely on the person concerned. The Waterworks Association very much want it to be the existing way round, and for that reason I recommend the Committee to leave the wording as it is.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
The words of the Amendment put the onus on the statutory water undertakers to open the reservoirs to the public, while the words in the Bill do not. It is true that the legal case may be the same, but what I would call the plain English interpretation is quite different. After all, we have had some very unhappy experiences in the past of reservoirs being closed to the public. For example, we had the Manchester Corporation, with Thirlmere. It has always amused me that when you get public bodies owning land or waterways they always appear to be more possessive than private landowners. I could quote all sorts of instances, but I will not weary your Lordships with them. But I would support this Amendment. The words are far better because, as I have already said, they put the onus on the statutory water undertakers to consider the public, whereas the words in the Bill do not.
§ LORD ILFORD
I am willing to give way. I hope that the Government will continue to resist this Amendment. It is objected to very strongly by the water undertakings, and if the Bill is amended in the way suggested it will, I think, have the opposite effect to that which my noble friend intends: it would discourage many water undertakings from providing facilities on their works, which they are very ready to do.
It is the case now that water undertakings recognise that their works should 1637 be available as a public amenity for persons who desire to use them for recreation. But, of course, they have a paramount duty to which they must have first regard; that is, to ensure the purity of the water they supply. That must be their first consideration. The Bill, I think, deals very reasonably and fairly with this. I think that if the order of the words is reversed (and I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that the order makes no difference, or very little difference, to the meaning) it seems to put an onus on the undertakings which they rather resent. I am quite sure that your Lordships will encourage the organisation of recreational services of waterworks much more readily by leaving the Bill as it is, than by agreeing to this Amendment.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
I should not have intervened but for the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard. His statement in regard to the attitude of water undertakings was relevant thirty years ago. There was then the attitude—and I am sorry to say that in one or two instances there still is the attitude—of some water undertakers not to allow access. I have been one of those over the years in various sporting activities trying to encourage the various water undertakers to give access. We in this Committee to-night ought to pay tribute to the work of the British Waterworks Association, which is a kind of trade union for the various water undertakers, in regard to the propaganda they have put out among the water undertakers, and the success they have had with the water undertakers, concerning the facilities which are now being provided. Angling, canoeing, sailing, motor boat activities and water ski-ing are quite common.
My noble friend the Parliamentary Secretary made reference to Grafham Water. As Chairman of the Eastern Region Sports Council, I had the pleasure of visiting that reservoir only a week or two ago. It was a tremendous delight. Although it was a week or two ago, there was glorious sunshine and there were sailing activities, picnic areas, with motor cars and families having a glorious time. I think that if we can encourage the British Waterworks Association to carry on their good work, and to remember, too, that in association with Nature Reserve cer 1638 tain activities can also be undertaken in regard to sport, we should do so. I should like to pay tribute to the progre3s made in what is, after all, a comparatively short time in the access to reservoirs and their use for recreation and enjoyment.
§ LORD AMULREE
I was very pleased that the Government took the line they did. In talking of water companies one must remember that our first function is to provide wholesome water for the consumers. I think it is quite right that as many reservoirs as possible should be used for recreation, as the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, mentioned. I am sure the vast majority of those that can safely be used are used now. There has been a great change in the last twenty or thirty years, and I should not like to see this altered. I would much rather the clause were kept as it is in the Bill, and I am very pleased indeed to find the Government taking this line.
While I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, that the duty of water undertakers to maintain the purity of their water is paramount, the fact remains that with modern techniques of purification plant; it is quite possible to combine that service together with allowing a far wider measure of access and recreation than was the case not only thirty years ago, as Lord Kennet said, but also to-day.
I thought it was a pity when ray noble friend Lord Ilford said that the water undertakers would resent this onus being put upon them. Surely, onus is being put upon everybody else by this Bill The duty of additional access is being asked of everybody else, and I do not see that the water undertakers need look upon this as any particular onus. The noble Lord. Lord Lindgren, was talking about the way in which water undertakers, by and large, throughout the country are doing their best now to allow a greater measure of access and public enjoyment. But it is done under public pressure. Most of them would not be so keen on doing it unless there was public pressure, not least because the cost of either building or modernising a purification plant often represents a very large sum.
To be fair to Manchester Corporation, who have been criticised a number of times in this House—as often as not by me—their attitude is partly due to the 1639 fact that there has been no purification plant down the line from Thirlmere in the past, and to install and build a purification plant would cost a lot of money. So they have put off the day as long as they possibly can. There is now a plan to build a purification plant, but clearly it will take time to complete. But, having said that, partly to correct the record, I would add that I think it would be a good thing to amend the Bill in this way so that water undertakers realise that they are in exactly the same position as everybody else under this Bill, and that they should try, so far as they can, to allow greater access.
§ LORD CHORLEY
I should like to add a word to this debate, because I have been very interested in this matter of the opening of Thirlmere and the early Manchester Waterway, and their reservoirs. While I agree there has been considerable improvement up and down the country in recent years in opening up reservoirs, there is still a great deal of truth in what the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, said about it. Progress has not been anything like so great as it ought to have been. Manchester are always very forthcoming, when they want Parliament or the Minister to help them to get some more water, in promising what they will do; but as soon as they have got the water they are very slow about implementing these promises. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said, quite properly, that it is an expensive business. But surely there should be some method of seeing that the water undertakings do in fact get on with this job.
We are squabbling here between one set of words and another, but when this Bill goes from us it will still leave the position, in effect, at the discretion of the waterworks companies, and in my view there ought to be some impartial authority which will go into the question and give a ruling about it. The present situation, in spite of the improvement, is far from satisfactory.
§ LORD KENNET
Manchester never promised to do anything about Thirlmere. They promised to do something about Haweswater, and their plans to do 1640 it are well advanced. I have just received some news which is relevant to this point, and which I should like to give to the Committee. It is that discussions between my Department and the British Waterworks Association have been continuing at official level, and there now seems to be a good chance of a new procedure being set up. It is subject to ratification on the Association's side, but the Association's officials think that it would be a good idea. The procedure is that the Association should carry out an annual review of the extent to which their members had opened their reservoirs to the public for recreation; and should make a report on the results of this review to the Minister. If this arrangement comes to fruition it should help things along wonderfully.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
May I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for his original answer which prompted this interesting debate? It is clear that although water undertakings have done a great deal in recent years there are still anxieties on all sides of the Committee that more should be done. I realise, and so does my noble friend Lord Brooke, that many of the earlier reservoirs were not designed to be opened to the public for recreational purposes; and as my noble friend Lord Inglewood has said, the construction of an adequate purification plant involves very great cost, which would throw a higher charge on all water consumers. Although I should not like to say that that was the reason for their not proceeding, it does give some explanation of why, sometimes, these large undertakings proceed slowly.
Certainly the pattern which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, gave us of the reservoirs which are being built to-day—and, indeed, which are being planned to-dayindicates that they are normally planned for recreational purposes from the start, and I am sure this is right. I am happy to hear of the further activities of the British Waterworks Association. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has just told us that they propose to set up a system of an annual review in order to find out exactly what their members are doing, and I think this will go some way to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, in his anxiety. My noble friend Lord Brooke and I do not wish in any way to 1641 discourage the water undertakings from the good work they are doing. We wish to encourage and support them, and in that vein I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 19 agreed to.
§ Clause 20 [Provision of facilities by Forestry Commissioners]:
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved, in subsection (2), to leave out paragraph (a). The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I discuss Amendment No. 41 at the same time. This clause deals with the provision of facilities by the Forestry Commissioners and in subsection (2) it sets out a number of facilities that the Commissioners may provide. Subsection (2)(a), which my first Amendment seeks to omit, says that they can provide accommodation for visitors and paragraph (f) says that they can provide shops "in connection with any of the aforesaid facilities", the other facilities mentioned being camping sites and caravan sites, places for meals and refreshments, picnic places, and so on. All that seemed to my noble friend and me to be perfectly reasonable, but we rather doubted whether the Commissioners should be empowered to provide accommodation for visitors, which presumably means hotels, and so on. Would the Commissioners really want to do this? Similarly, would they really want to set up shops in connection with any of these things? It is a matter of degree and of judgment, but it seemed to us that this was going rather further than prudent judgment would suggest was right, and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will be able to explain to us circumstances in which these additional facilities would be necessary. If not, I feel that the Bill would be better without them. I beg to move.
Page 22, line 7, leave out paragraph (a).—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)
May I ask whether the Forestry Commissioners have asked for these powers or whether it is something put in the Bill in line with the general policy of the Government to 1642 give commercial powers of various kinds to the corporations acting in the public sector? I think it would be useful if we could have that information.
§ LORD KENNET
It seemed to the Government that the Forestry Commission ought to have these powers on simple, common-sense grounds. One can imagine the Forestry Commission setting up virtually a country park in one of these forests, with camping sites and access arrangements, and everybody will have a pleasant time; but the campers in their tents or caravans., or even people walking, may want to buy things of the kind that campers do want to buy, such as paraffin or a bar of soap. They may want to go and have a shower. Probably the provision of a room with showers would be "accommodation"—I am not quite sure whether it would be accommodation or facilities. At any rate, that is the kind of thing the Government had in mind.
The power to do this is precedented in the Countryside (Scotland) Act. There the Forestry Commission asked for it because they thought it would round off the package of powers to provide what would be right and proper. I do not think the Committee need worry about the Forestry Commission going into the hotel business on a vast scale, o opening a chain of stores. They will continue to be the Forestry Commission, but they want these powers in order to make things nice for everybody.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
I thought the noble Lord was very good on the public convenience part, which is paragraph (g), but I feel unconvinced about the need to put in accommodation for visitors, because I do not believe the Forestry Commissioners will ever want to provide this.. A heavy capital cutlay would be involved and I doubt the wisdom of including that provision in the Bill. I agree with the noble Lord that campers will want toilet facilities and showers and it is most desirable that these should be properly provided, nut I still boggle at the idea of accommodation for visitors. Nevertheless, I will not press the Amendment. I shall be content to leave the thought with the noble Lord that the Bill would make more sense if he took this provision out before the Report stage, because I am quite sure the Forestry Commissioners will never do 1643 this. With those words, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
THE EARL OF MALMESBURY moved to add to the clause:
() The provisions of subsection (2) above shall not apply to any land for the time being forming part of the open waste lands of the New Forest.
§ The noble Earl said: In view of my remarks during the debate on the Second Reading in my capacity as Official Verderer of the New Forest, I can explain this Amendment quite shortly. Its effect is to prevent the Forestry Commissioners from exercising the wide powers of subsection (2) on any land in the New Forest which it is the responsibility of the Verderers of the New Forest to administer. The reason for this is that the clause as it stands is in direct conflict with the principle contained in the New Forest Acts, 1877 to 1964, namely, that in matters of this kind nothing should be done on the open waste lands of the Forest—that is, the lands over which common rights exist—without the agreement of the Verderers.
§ It is considered that to some extent the clause extends the powers already available to the Forestry Commissioners under Section 18 of the New Forest Act 1949, as amended, and these additional powers would be useful. However, so deeply do the Verderers feel about the principle at stake—and one must remember that the New Forest would not have endured over the centuries if principles had been lightly abandoned—that they would rather that these useful powers were not available than that they should be exercisable without their agreement. This, they feel, might be the thin end of a very large wedge indeed. I would go further and say that if it would make this Amendment any more acceptable, the Verderers would be prepared at their own expense to promote further legislation to confer these additional powers upon the Forestry Commissioners within the existing New Forest code. I hope that this reasonable request to maintain the Verderers' existing powers of control will be sympathetically received. I beg to move.
Page 22, line 47, at end insert the said subsection.—(The Earl of Malmesbuty.)
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL
I should like briefly to support the noble Earl. As the Committee will know, the Verderers of the New Forest have a very proud and long record; I think they go back to the days of King Canute. Their interests include the forestry interests in the Forest coupled with the Forestry Commission, the rights of grazing of those in the area, and preservation and care of the Forest, tasks which I think they have carried out exceedingly well, for all the present pressures on development in the Southampton area. Last, but not least, they are concerned with the public enjoyment of the Forest. I remember that in 1964 they put forward a New Forest Bill. It was then stated that in one year alone the Verderers' staff had to pick up 23,000 milk bottles left by the public. They provide picnic areas, caravan sites and camping, and it is within my knowledge that they have provided a draft plan for further amenities for the public. I believe they have a very strong case for exclusion from this Bill. There is one other point, and that is that the National Trust are excluded from the Bill and the National Trust have certain lands in the Forest. I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that there could be a conflict of interest in this matter.
§ LORD KENNET
The Forestry Commission have no intention whatever of exercising these powers in the New Forest, at least without the agreement of the Verderers, and the Government have every sympathy with the Amendment. I should like very much to accept it, but I cannot because it would hybridise the Bill, with undesirable consequences which the Committee will understand. What I can do is to give an assurance that the Forestry Commission, in exercising the powers given to them under Clause 20(2) of the Countryside Bill, will not in the New Forest do so without the agreement of the Verderers. I can also confirm that the Government will raise no objection if later on the Verderers should wish to have a Private Bill introduced with the object of amending the New Forest Act 1949 so as to give statutory force to this undertaking. I hope, and have reason to believe, that this should satisfy the noble Earl and that the Amendment, with all its risks of hybridisation, will not be insisted upon.
§ LORD MITCHISON
Some years ago when I was in the Ministry then concerned with these matters I went and had a rather detailed look at the New Forest with this particular point in mind. I quite agree with what has been said about the delicacy of the diarchy between the Verderers and the Forestry Commission. On the other hand, I hope that no question of consent, no procedural difficulties, are going to prevent something from being done in the long run. The reason is this. The New Forest draws visitors from a number of large neighbouring towns. They come and want to stay a little, and there are some facilities for staying, as the noble Lords who have spoken will know, but they are insufficient. The difficulty that I saw was not any question of jurisdiction or anything of that sort. It was quite frankly a question of getting money out of the Treasury, and I hope they will get it.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
I am most grateful to the noble Lord for the assurance I have been given. I am most grateful for the support the New Forest Verderers have had from the Committee, and I can only say it will give a great deal of pleasure to the Verderers when they know of the reply. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 20 agreed to.
§ Clauses 21 and 22 agreed to.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON moved, after Clause 22, to insert the following new clause:
§ Maintenance of trees
§ ". In section 89(1) of the Act of 1949 reference to the planting of trees shall include reference to carrying out such work and doing such other things as appear to the local planning authority expedient for the maintenance and well-being of trees and their environment."
The noble Lord said: This is a small Amendment and I am moving it in the same form in which it was moved by the Member for the High Peak in another place. Really it is in order to obtain a further explanation as to why the Parliamentary Secretary in another place regarded it as unnecessary. The Act of 1949 provides that a local planning authority—this is in Section 89(1):
…may plant trees on land in their area for the purpose of preserving or enhancing the natural beauty thereof…
The Amendment I am moving s2:eks to ensure that the same power and the right to receive grants in respect of it shall continue for a reasonable period after the planting of the trees in order to ensure the maintenance and well-being of the trees and their environment. The Parliamentary Secretary in another place referred to grants continuing for five years. I should be glad to know whether, on further consideration, that has been found to be possible under the Act of 1949. He said that it was extremely desirable that trees should be properly maintained and he talked about five years, and said that the cost of maintenance could then be provided by thinnings. But in the case of trees planted particularly for amenity purposes—which may be only small clumps and so on—there virtually are no thinnings.
§ All I am seeking to obtain from the Government is an assurance that, where it is necessary to maintain the well-being of trees that have been planted for amenity purposes by planning authorities, they are satisfied that the present powers are adequate, and that they still remain of the opinion, upon which some doubt has been cast, expressed by the Parliamentary Secretary elsewhere that an Amendment. of this kind is unnecessary. I should be glad to know whether that is so, because certainly the argument about thinnings does not apply in the ease of trees planted for amenity purposes. I beg to move.
After Clause 22, insert the said new clause. —(Lord Molson.)
§ LORD KENNET
Yes, the Government still are of the opinion t the Bill is all right as it stands. I should like to go into this question a little. The power to plant trees embraces all the processes incidental to the establishment of trees, such as soil preparation, fencing, weeding, et cetera, which one would expect because it comes before planting, but also trimming and the replacement of trees which fail to take. This process continues over a number of years, and the powers have been used to plant trees and ensure their satisfactory establishment, and to carry out the associated works, including the replacement of failed plantings and the trimming and thinning and pruning of the young trees. Five years is the usual time, and 1647 the same five-year policy which was hitherto applied to National Parks and areas of natural beauty is now going to be applied throughout the country. I am informed that the work that you have to do to keep a tree or to keep plantations of trees healthy beyond the fifth year of life is very little indeed and therefore the costs are little, and it is not worth continuing a grant year after year, ad infinitum, because of these minute tapering costs.
I am not quite sure that it is right to say that amenity facilities will never give rise to any thinnings or saleable thinnings. It could still be that it would be most amenitous to plant young hardwood and conifers mixed, and then to cut or thin the conifers at a certain stage and sell them for Christmas trees. Then you would get a better amenity as the trees grew bigger. I should not like to go too deeply into this matter, but I confirm that the Government are still of the opinion that the five-year rule spread over the whole country under this Bill will be all right.
§ LORD MOLSON
I am much obliged to the Parliamentary Secretary for his reply, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 23 agreed to.
§ Clause 24 [Signposting of footpaths and bridleways]:
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ EARL HOWE moved, in subsection (1), after "bridleway" to insert "or road used as a public path". The noble Earl said: I beg to move Amendment No. 44, and I hope that your Lordships will agree to consider with it the following Amendments to Clause 24, since they all seem to follow exactly the same pattern and are consequential on Amendment No. 44. The purpose of these Amendments is to provide for "roads used as public paths" —and I gather that the proper definition of a "road used as a public path" is "a green lane for vehicles and signposted cart tracks". This occurs mostly in the North; they are not seen so much in the South, around London. The Amendment provides for roads used as public paths to be signposted as such as well as footpaths and bridleways.1648
The Report of the Worboys Committee on traffic signs states that:
Throughout the country there are many old roads which have fallen into disrepair, and some have been signposted by highway authorities as footpaths or bridleways. In the main, these are the roads used indicated as roads used as public paths' on the latest Ordnance Survey maps. Whilst it is still legal for motor vehicles to use these roads, the footpath or bridleway signs tend to indicate that they are reserved for pedestrians or horse-riders, who we understand have sometimes expressed resentment at their use by motors.
I know that the Gosling Committee recommends a survey to decide whether the roads used as public paths should be designated as unclassified roads, footpaths or bridleways. But what worries me is how long it will be before this particular survey is completed. I am hoping that information will be provided concerning the Government's intentions in this respect, and that assurances can be given that interested organisations, especially the Royal Automobile Club and the Auto Cycle Union, who are keenly interested in this work, will be fully consulted before any action is finally taken, since any reclassification of "roads used as public paths" will have a serious effect on the facilities available for motorists and motorcyclists, both for general and motor sporting purposes.
§ As there will presumably be considerable delay before any survey is completed, it might seem desirable in the meantime to signpost "roads used as public paths" to avoid confusion, and in this context I suggest that the use of the "roads used as public paths" may avoid the necessity for motor vehicles participating in motor sporting events' to use roads passing through villages. This helps to reduce any inconvenience to residents in the area, and is also in the interests of road safety. I hope that the Minister will accept this Amendment, which should prove helpful in the final structure of the Bill. I beg to move.
Page 25, line 16 after ("bridleway") insert ("or road used as a public path")—(Earl Howe.)
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
I hope that the Government will not accept this Amendment. It seems to me that it is calculated to bring motor vehicles on to these green ways which have long been used as 1649 carriageways and are used a great deal by pedestrians, by hikers and cross-country walkers, and also by those who like to go about the countryside on horses. These green lanes are often soggy and tiresome places anyway for a motorist, but to find a series of motor cars coming along one is most disturbing; and in the interests of the motorists themselves they ought not to be invited to go along these places by the putting up of signs such as this Amendment calls for. I hope that the Government will not give way to this rather subtle scheme for enticing motorists on to the green ways of England.
§ LORD MOLSON
I am bound to say that when I read this series of Amendments I could not quite understand what they were intended to do, and I am not sure that I am entirely clear even after listening to the speech of the noble Earl. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will make one thing quite plain: that this is not a covert way to make footpaths or bridleptiths available for the use of vehicles.
§ LORD KENNET
The trouble about this, as the Committee knows, is that these are a dwindling class, and the Govennment are i n doubt whether it would In right to attract the signposting provisions on to a class of roads or paths which we hope are not going to be there in the not too distant future. The Gosling Committee recommend that the whole category of roads used as public paths, as defined in the 1949 Act, should be abandoned, but of course, it is not always certain precisely which of these green lanes are "roads used as a public path", and there has to be a work of identification. Then, after that, once it has been determined that such-and-such a road which is used as a public path is to cease to be one because the whole category is to be abandoned, it must then be decided whether it becomes a road, an unmade road, with ordinary traffic rights on it, or a footpath or a bridleway.
The Government intend to introduce provisions requiring the surveying authorities, which are generally county councils, to survey their roads used as public paths, which are already on their definitive maps, so as to establish whether or not there are vehicular rights along them, and then to divide them up into 1650 these three categories. I think it would be undesirable, in the meantime while that work is going on, to make it obligatory to signpost these categories of ways, and so I recommend that this Amendment should not be adopted. I hope that the noble Earl will agree to withdraw it. In the not too distant future it will turn out not to have been necessary, anyhow, because they will all haw been reclassified as something else.
§ EARL HOWE
I thank the noble Lord for his reply. I should like to stress that the noble Lord said on Second Beading that there would be no discrimination whatsoever against those who wished to use these National Parks on motorcycles or motor cars. I listened to that very carefully, and was very pleased to hear it. These are green lanes which were originally defined as lanes for the purpose of vehicles proceeding up them or down them, and all I was trying to find out, as I think the noble Lord appreciated, was whether, when access given to different sections of the community, motorists and motor cyclists also have that same right. That is only fair play, and I am sure that every one of your Lordships is interested in that.
I was pleased to hear the assurance that when the survey is completed there will be paths—if I may put it that way—provided for the use of motorists and motor cyclists. I understand that that is to be the case, and for that I am grateful. As I suggested earlier. I do not think I can expect more than that the motorist and motor cyclists will have this opportunity, and also that the interested organisations, such as the R.A.C. and the A.C.U. will be consulted on any measures of this nature.
§ LORD KENNET
I do not think that it can possibly be represented is discriminating against motor cyclists, because, after all, motor cyclists are not the only people who can read signposts—walkers, cyclists and everybody else, also use them. If there are no signposts on a given class of road, those who suffer inconvenience are as much cyclists and walkers as they are motor cyclists and motorists.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 24 shall stand part of the Bill?1651
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
May I say just a word on this clause? This is a very valuable clause. The number of people who go about the countryside at the present time as walkers is very gratifying, and certainly the outdoor healthy recreation which these footpaths provide is tremendous. Unfortunately, these town people are often in considerable difficulty in finding their way about. Some local authorities have already adopted a wise and go-ahead policy of signposting, but others are abysmally behind, and from that point of view this clause will make a substantial contribution towards the amenities of the countryside.
The Commons and Footpaths Society, which is naturally very concerned at the use of these footpaths, is very pleased with this clause, and I think that will be the general view of walkers and hikers about the countryside. It may be that some people will feel that if this policy were carried out 100 per cent. it would lead to its being rather overdone; but no doubt a certain amount of discretion will be exercised by the authorities concerned, and I am quite certain that, on the whole, this clause provides a very valuable amenity for the countryside.
§ LORD MOLSON
Before this clause is disposed of I should like to make a few remarks on the general confusion about terminology. I am very much obliged to the noble Lord the Parliamentary Secretary for his assurance (if I correctly understood him) that there is to be some further interpretation of all these descriptions of areas over which passage is possible. There is a great deal of confusion over this matter. Some reference is made in different parts of the Bill to the Highways Act, and of course the Highways Act has pages of definitions about these.
The Amendments which we have just heard discussed by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, brought up the fact that there are several of these roads (and when I say "roads" I include also paths, passages, and so on) as the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said, where there is great danger to foot people. They, of course, wish to circulate in comfort and safety in the countryside, but at present they 1652 are at the disadvantage of not knowing where they have a right to pass without disturbance from horse riders or of pedal cyclists and even, it is now suggested, motor-cyclists. Great concern is felt among members of the Footpaths Association. I recognise that horsemen have every right to pass where that is properly authorised, but the restriction as it stands now is quite definite. It is because of what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has said at this stage that I raise the point now, and I have been encouraged to hope that he will give us further definitions later in the progress of the Bill.
§ LORD SANDYS
I should like to echo the warning given by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, about the possible proliferation of signs in the countryside. I am perfectly certain that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will agree that this is highly undesirable. Nothing has been more unattractive of recent years in the countryside than the use of all these signs without discretion, and unnecessarily where the needs of safety are not best met. I hope that special attention will be given and that, if necessary, a circular wil! be issued on this subject, because the proliferation of signs, especially in the villages, has become so outrageous as to need almost special direction.
§ Clause 24 agreed to.
§ Clause 25 [Duty to maintain stiles, etc., on footpaths and bridleways]:
§ LORD BESWICK
I beg to move that consideration of Clause 25 be postponed until after the other clauses and Schedules.
§ Moved, That consideration of Clause 25 be postponed.—(Lord Beswick.)
Before we move on to the next clause, would the noble Lord say which other clauses he proposes shall not be discussed this evening? What are we going to deal with next? Are we going to discuss Amendment 54A? And are we going on to pedal cycles or not, or are we going to stop at seven o'clock?
§ LORD BESWICK
It was never the agreement that we should stop at seven o'clock. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, is not here; the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, has had to leave, and it is simply 1653 to meet their convenience that we "leapfrog" Clause 25 and carry on with other Amendments. And I hope that we can make progress until about eight o'clock, when we go on to the Motion.
Is not this very unsatisfactory, when it had generally been understood that we were going to stop this evening at about seven o'clock? Over the last two or three hours noble Lords will have calculated which points we were going to reach to-night, and some noble Lords who are doubtless interested in clauses will have gone away on this basis. It was so clearly understood by everyone concerned that I think it is unreasonable to suggest now to this thin Committee that we should carry on.
§ LORD BESWICK
What was most clearly understood was that the House, when we considered this matter earlier on, wanted more time. It was pressed upon me most firmly when we had the discussion on Tuesday that the House wanted more time in Committee. We therefore provided another day for consideration of the Bill in Committee. It is, however, the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, who was going to move the Amendments in his name, has had to leave. Therefore I am suggesting, for the convenience of other noble Lords, that we postpone consideration of Clause 25. If we move on, then I hope we can make some progress, and adjourn the Committee stage at around 8 o'clock until Monday. We shall otherwise be likely to go to a rather late hour on Monday, and I was anxious to relieve the strain on Monday.
I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood. We do not all have residences in London, and it is not easy to make one's plans if one understands that a debate is to last a certain time and then the whole programme is upset. It has nothing to do with the absence or presence of any particular noble Lord.
I have just heard that the Government are proposing to put down a new clause covering the same point as is made in the Amendment in the name of the noble Lords, Lord Henley, Lord Molson and myself. May I ask what is to happen with regard to that?
§ LORD BESWICK
Perhaps I can help on that. If the noble Lord is thinking of Clause 28, which we are unlikely to reach to-day, it was urged on my noble friend that if it was possible to provide the Government Amendment by the time we reached Clause 28 the Amendment should be put down. It has not been found possible to put down that Amendment today, but if we sit again on Monday then the Government Amendment will be down. Going on the admirable suggestion of the noble Viscount on Tuesday, it was thought that we should postpone consideration of Clause 28, if reached—which seems unlikely now if we adjourn at 8 o'clock—but that if we reached Clause 28 before 8 o'clock, and assuming it was for the convenience of the Committee, we should adjourn consideration of that until the Government Amendment is down on Monday.
§ LORD BARNBY
Where do we stand now? I understood that there was a Motion that we delay further consideration of Clause 25.
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (LORD ROYLE)
I had collected the voices on that Motion, but we have allowed it to go a little further. Therefore I will put the Question again.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and consideration of Clause 25 pos poned accordingly.
§ Clause 26 [Ploughing of footpath or bridleway.]:
§ 7.13 p.m.
THE EARL OF KINNOULL moved, after subsection (7), to insert:
() The council of any county district or parish within which the land is situated may take proceedings in respect of an offence under the said section 1l9(2).
The noble Earl said: This is a parish council Amendment and is, I think, important. I hope that the Government will give it sympathetic consideration. Clause 26 deals with the ploughing up of footpaths and the rights of farmers in this matter. The purpose of my Amendment is to allow parish councils to prosecute under Section 119(2) of the Highways Act 1959. The present obligation of a farmer, set out in subsection (2), is that the occupier
shall give to the highway authority … not less than seven days' nolice of his intention to plough it".
And by subsection (3) the occupier of the land is required to return the footpath as soon as maybe after the ploughing is completed. Under Clause 26 of the Bill this has been clarified to a period of within six weeks.
§ There is strong evidence that the position in which farmers must give notification of the ploughing up of footpaths has been abused. I am told that in 1965 there were only 100 notifications throughout the country. The people who are most affected by this are the parishioners or people living in the area. I am also told that there have been occasions when people have objected and have advised the county council, but that the council have taken no action under their powers of prosecution. Therefore, I suggest in the Amendment that parish councils should be allowed to prosecute and that they are the bodies most liable to do so. This is an important small Amendment, to which I hope the Government will give sympathetic consideration. I beg to move.
Page 28, line 7, at end insert the said subsection.—(The Earl of Kinnoull.)
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
I am all in favour of the clause as it stands in the Bill because it means that farmers or landowners who plough up footpaths illegally will quickly be brought to heel. But I do not see how I can possibly support the Amendment because it would authorise a parish council to take legal proceedings. What is a parish council? It is a collection of nine or ten very respectable gentlemen who live in a village—most of them, incidentally, farmers, but that is beside the point. Under this Amendment they would be required to take legal proceedings. They would have to engage solicitors, and probably would have to brief counsel. Yet under the Statute the power of parish councils to levy a rate is restricted to something like 2d. in the pound. They have no accumulated funds on which to draw, and in most cases they have no legally qualified clerk to guide them through this sort of legislation. I am quite sure that if an Amendment such as this were adopted, it would cause confusion in many parts of the countryside. Let us leave it to the highway authority 1656 and other higher authority to take this action. We will see that it is done with proper legal advice and will see that it is carried through effectively.
§ LORD KENNET
The question whether the parish council, as well as the highway authority, should have the right to prosecute is one which raises the question of efficiency—the question almost of agricultural efficiency. If the farmer has to give notice of his intention and make a return on a form not only to the highway authority but also to the parish council, it may have the effect of making him less likely to fill up the form at all. At the moment not all returns which should be made in this respect are actually made, and to require a farmer to do it twice over may make the position even worse.
This is not a matter on which the Government feel strongly. My advice to the Committee is that the Amendment should not be carried, because in the large majority of cases the parish council will not have the resources; and where there ought to be prosecution the highway authority will usually undertake it. In view of these two objections against the Amendment, I hope that the noble Earl will feel inclined to withdraw it.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL
As I understand it, there are two arguments against the parish councils being allowed to prosecute. The first, as the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, said, is that they do not have the resources, and, secondly, they do not have the qualified stall. I should have thought they could apply for legal aid in this matter. Also, there seems no reason at all why they should not submit their case to the clerk of the county council to take action. As regards the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, about the efficiency of farming, how many footpaths cross farmers' land? I am a practising land agent and I know of quite a number of farms, but I do not accept the argument that there would be damage to the efficiency of farming. In the case of a planning application, certain county councils ask one to notify the parish council. I see no reason why one should not notify the parish council about ploughing up a footpath. It is a very important right which the public have, and parish councils should have that right. Even though there is a small Committee to-night, I ask your Lordships to accept 1657 this Amendment because I think it is important.
§ LORD KENNET
My advice to the House would be not to accept the Amendment. But it is not a matter on which the Government wish to override the wishes of the Committee, and I am not at all sure that it is worth having a Division. Would the noble Earl agree to withdraw the Amendment if I take it away and consider the point at greater length?
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL
Yes, I am quite prepared to do that, because it is an important point. In that case I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 26 shall stand part of the Bill?
On this occasion I am like the Government; I have been very slow with my Amendment and I did not succeed in getting on the Marshalled List an Amendment which I wanted, suggesting that we should omit Clause 26. It seems to be such a complicated procedure for doing a relatively simple thing that Parliament ought to be able, in its wisdom, to devise something which is simpler yet fair to all parties. The noble Lord is asking us to agree to this clause which covers about a pageand-a-half of the printed Bill. It is something which concerns not just a few people in this country, but a very large number of people who go to the countryside for recreation.
When I first saw this clause I wondered why it was necessary to have a clause of such complication and why the present state of the law was not considered satisfactory. I made some enquiries and was told that the real difficulty about the present procedure is the time factor, which I think the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, mentioned. A vague phrase such as "as soon as may be" is used, which is not really the right wording to find in a Statute. But, be that as it may, I do not think there was any good reason for recasting the whole procedure in this somewhat complicated way. If noble Lords read the clause and understand even the parts which are not references to other Statutes, they will see that a great 1658 deal of detailed work is put on the shoulders of the local authorities. A great deal of time of officials is going to be taken up doing very small jobs which ought not to be done through a procedure organised by the administration of the local authority but by ordinary common sense as between man and man.
Before we part with this clause, I ask the noble Lord to tell us fully, and so that we can all understand, why it is necessary to have it at all. It will not be enough for him simply to say that it has happened in the past. Quite a few footpaths have disappeared. What we have to be sure about is that no more footpaths disappear, because we all agree about that. What I particularly want to know is why we must have this new procedure simply to overcome some difficulty which is supposed to be concerned the main with the time factor.
The noble Lord has just shown himself very willing to meet representations on the footpaths question, and although he would not accept the Amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Kinnoull he said that he was prepared to look at it again. After he has explained what he is trying to do in this clause, may I ask him to say whether he would be prepared to consider a new clause on a much simpler basis, which I am sure could be drafted by experts both within and without the Department? if something that sort could be achieved, then we should have taken a great step forward. But there is a real need for us to be given to-night a full explanation of why we must have this long and complicated procedure involving a great many individuals and visits and inspections, in order to do a relatively simple job which people in the countryside ought, by and large, to be able to do by common sense.
May I add my support? I think that this clause as it stands will defeat its object. The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, liked it because he felt it would bring to heel a recalci rant plougher-up of footpaths. I do not think it will. It will end with nothing at all happening. So I hope the Government will look at the clause again, at the same time as they look at the Amendment of the noble Earl. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, wanted the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, to explain in full what the clause meant. I shall be very surprised if he 1659 can do so, and my advice to him is not to try but just to say that he will have another look at it next week.
§ LORD KENNET
I am sorry to disappoint the Committee. We really cannot start again on this clause at this late stage in the hope that some body of experts can find something simpler in time to put it into the Bill. The Gosling Committee was set up precisely because it was felt that there should be a body of experts to tackle this extremely complicated matter. They did so, and recommended that the problem could not be solved without these complications; and that recommendation, coming from a distinguished and skilled body which had examined the matter in depth, was accepted by the Government. That is why the clause is so complicated.
The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, asked why it was necessary to do anything. It is because the existing provisions, to which we should revert if we took out this clause, proved ineffective because the requirement to restore the path had no time limit and it was difficult for the highway authorities to do anything. If a highway authority went along and said to a farmer, "You must restore that path", the farmer could say, "I do not have to restore it within any special time". Naturally, the highway authority would become depressed about the matter and let it go, because it was difficult to insist. Generally, the opinion throughout the countryside was that footpaths were being ploughed up and not restored, and that gave rise to protests. What did the Government do? They surveyed the law and asked the right qualified expert people to see how it could be put right. The Gosling Committee came up with the recommendation that the Highways Act should be amended to require the restoration of the path within 21 days of each cultivation, or to allow a highway authority to consider an application for a temporary diversion or closure, and where an application for temporary diversion or closure was refused, to require the path to be made good—
§ LORD KENNET
I hope I am quoting it accurately. It will be as quick for the noble Lord to look it up himself as for me to find it. Where the application was refused, the authority should be able to require the path to be made good within 21 days of cultivation, with the restoration period being extended by a further 21 days if the highway authority considered it reasonable to do so. So it is 21 days or 42 days, according to what they think reasonable. This clause which the noble Lord seeks to delete is based on those recommendations.
The Government decided to vary the periods of 21 and 42 days then suggested for the restoration, and to substitute one period of six weeks, which seemed simpler. It is a long clause, but that is the outline of it. One drafts things at length to look after everything. I repeat that the hopes of getting a simpler or more generally acceptable provision out of the body of experts in a few days, when the Gosling Committee came up with this one only after many months, seem to me slender indeed, and I hope the noble Lord will not seek to persuade your Lordships to delete this clause.
I think it is very often dangerous to take the advice of a lot of experts and to consider that the last word. What one wants here, surely, is common sense. The noble Lord used the phrase, "general opinion throughout the countryside". I should have thought that general opinion throughout the countryside was that this clause was quite unworkable. I wonder whether, since it was published as part of this Bill, he has received any great enthusiasm for it, not only from the agricultural interests but from the associations of local authorities who will be responsible for working it. I should be very surprised if he had had enthusiasm from that quarter.
§ LORD KENNET
The noble Lord is quoting that which I did not say. I did not say that there was a general feeling throughout the country that this clause was a good one. I do not suppose it is very widely known throughout the country yet. What I said was that there was a general feeling throughout the country that the old provisions of the 1949 Act were not working out very well because so many footpaths were being ploughed up and not restored.
I apologise to the noble Lord. I did not want to give that impression, and I certainly do not wish to misquote him. But it seems to me that at the end of the day we come back to this time factor. Surely it would he possible for us to amend the existing law by merely putting in a figure of so many weeks or so many months and saying that that shall be the obligation on the farmer concerned unless he obtains authority for an extension from the local authority. When you think of the various crops which may be grown in any particular field it is of course difficult to say that, irrespective of the crop, it shall be completed within a certain time, and to make it apply to them all. That obviously would be a foolish thing. But I should have thought it possible to choose a figure which was generally applicable and then to have the provision that when there was reason for an extension the man concerned must go to the local authority, where he would no doubt get it without difficulty. That would then save all concerned from having to learn a new and complicated procedure, and would certainly save a good deal of expense, as well as time, which the noble Lord is surely putting on the shoulders of local authorities, who I should think have enough to do already.
§ LORD AIREDALE
May I just draw attention to an anomaly in the drafting of this clause? It begins, "Subject to subsection (2) below". That is not a reference to the subsection (2) which is mentioned a few lines later on, for that is a reference to subsection (2) of a section of a different Act of Parliament. It is, in fact, a reference to subsection (2) of this clause. Likewise, when you come to subsection (4) it refers to "subsection (2) above", and that is a reference to subsection (2) of this clause. When you get to subsection (8) it does not refer to "Subsection (1) above", but to "Subsection (1) of this section", and that is correct. If we can have consistency in terminology, that will avoid confusion. It will avoid people thinking that the subsection referred to is a subsection of a 1662 different Act of Parliament, which it is not. I therefore hope that this clause will be looked at before the next stage and that we shall have a drafting Amendment down, because it is rather confusing as it stands.
§ LORD KENNET
I have no doubt that the draftsman will pick up the noble Lord's remarks and will do whatever is necessary.
§ Clause 26 agreed to.
EARL ST. ALDWYN
I wonder whether this would be an appropriate moment to adjourn the discussion of this Committee. The next Amendment is one which will take a considerable time; and on the clear understanding that your Lordships should agree that no matter what the hour the Committee stage will be concluded on Monday, I hope the noble Lord will agree to move the adjournment of the Committee.
§ LORD BESWICK
Bearing in mind that the principal actor in the next drama is not here, may I say that I understand the force behind the suggestion, but what particularly appeals to me, of course, is the latter part of what the noble Earl has said: that, come what may, on Monday we finish this Bill. I hope that those noble Lords who thought that we were being unduly harsh in suggesting that we sat until eight o'clock will understand that in suggesting that we sat until this late hour of eight we were only trying to meet the appeal of noble Lords when they stressed on Tuesday most emphatically that they would like to have more time to consider this Bill properly. It was with the intention of providing that time that I suggested we shoul I sit rather later this evening. However, whilst agreeing that this is a convenient moment to adjourn, it is on the understanding that we this evening determine that on Monday we shall finish the Committee wage. I hope, too, that noble Lords will not think that we have been unduly harsh in allocating another day for the Report stage on Monday the 20th. With those words. I beg to move that the House do now resume.
§ Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed