§ 8.1 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Kennet.)
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD CHAMPION in the Chair.]
§ LORD KENNET moved, after Clause 26, to insert the following new clause:
§ Riding of pedal bicycles on footpaths and bridleways
§ ".—(1) Any member of the public shall have, as a right of way, the right to ride a bicycle, not being a motor vehicle, on any footpath or bridleway, but in exercising that right cyclists shall give way to pedestrians and persons on horseback.
§ (2) Subsection (1) above has effect subject to any orders made by a highway authority, and to any byelaws.
§ (3) The rights conferred by this section shall not affect the obligations of the highway authority, or of any other person, as respects the maintenance of the footpath or bridleway, and this section shall not create any obligation to do anything to facilitate the use of the footpath or bridleway by cyclists.
§ (4) Subsection (1) above shall not affect any definition of "footpath" or "bridleway" in this or any other Act.
§ (6) It is hereby declared that sections 9, 10, 11 and 13 of the said Act of 1960 (offences connected with riding of bicycles) apply to footpaths and bridleways as being highways which are "roads" within the meaning of that Act.
§ (7) Section 12 of the said Act (regulation of cycle racing on highways) shall have effect as if the expression "public highway" included a footpath or bridleway, and subsection (4) of that section (which defines a public highway as not including a footpath or bridleway) shall cease to have effect."
§ The noble Lord said: This is the Amendment which I promised to the House on Second Reading about pedal cyclists on footpaths and bridleways. This matter attracted a great deal of attention in the other place, and a good deal of interest among the public and in the Press. We have found it extremely difficult to get it right. The Government feel that the new proposals are the right 112 ones, and I think it will be best if, rather than go over all the arguments again, I tell the Committee what the effect of the Amendment would be.
§ The main provision in the Amendment is that the public would acquire a right to ride a bicycle on any footpath or bridleway. The provisions would also protect the rights of walkers and horse riders by requiring cyclists to give way to pedestrians and persons on horseback. This seems to be a more sensible phrase than the one which the other place did not favour, about actually dismounting, and being liable to pay a fine of £20 if you did not. You can give way in several ways, and this requires cyclists to do the sensible and courteous thing to the already established users by right of bridleways and footpaths. The Amendment also excludes motor vehicles. It clearly applies only to cyclists.
§ Subsection (2) of the clause preserves the effect of traffic orders. Subsection (3) prevents possible increased standards of maintenance being required because of use by cyclists; in other words, footpaths and bridleways carry on on exactly the same provisions and standards as before, although cyclists are using them. Subsection (4) maintains the present definition of footpaths and bridleways, so that we are talking about the same types of path.
§ I think the only other provision that I should point out to your Lordships is subsection (7), which amends the Road Traffic Act 1960 in order to include the footpaths and bridleways we are talking about in the definition of a "highway" so that racing can be controlled on it by the requirement that it must be authorised. With that brief explanation, I commend the new clause to the Committee, and hope that it will meet the bill. I beg to move.
After Clause 26, insert the said new clause. —(Lord Kennet.)
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
The history of this matter is that on Report stage in another place the Government produced a new clause which after debate was found to be so entirely friendless that the Parliamentary Secretary, who was in charge, decided to withdraw it for further consideration. I am sure that his action was right. I must say that it 113 would have been helpful if the consideration could have been given by the Government quickly enough for this substitute clause to be tabled immediately after the Second Reading in your Lordships' House, because we should then have had rather more time to examine something which we knew was coming to us as a result of the inadequacy of Government drafting, and indeed inadequacy of Government policy in another place. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will appreciate that this new clause has not been on the Marshalled List for many days, and therefore I must ask a number of questions about it. I will not, however, go so far as to follow the example of honourable Members of both sides in another place who urged that the Government clause should be withdrawn.
If I understand this clause rightly, it is an attempt to provide by Statute for pedal cyclists on footpaths and bridleways rights of way which have hitherto been rights of way only for pedestrians and persons on horseback. It does this by laying claim under this Bill to a right for cyclists to pass over every right of way which hitherto has been open to pedestrians or those on horseback, unless a by-law is made under subsection (2), which may restrict the right of the cyclists. This is establishing an extensive new claim for pedal cyclists against the owners of the land, and if this claim is to be granted I think we need to examine for a minute or two what safeguards there are. Let me hasten to say that I want cyclists, as well as pedestrians and those on horseback, to enjoy the countryside. But, as I say, this appears to me to be a substantial change in the law, and we need to examine it.
Is this likely to lead, for example, to the enlarging of footpaths? One may have a footpath across a cornfield which has hitherto been used only by pedestrians. Cyclists are now to have a statutory right to ride through the corn. They can hardly mount or dismount, as they may well be required to do by subsection (1), without getting either their cycle or their feet into the corn and beating it down. This is bound to be a matter of concern to farmers, and I am anxious to discover whether the Government have thought out all that is involved in this. Secondly, subsection (2) enables the high 114 way authority to make orders, and it empowers somebody unknown to make by-laws. It is not clear to me, on the face of the clause, under what powers these by-laws are to be made, of what right of representation there will be to those who may either object to the making of a by-law or think that a by-law should be made and wish to prod those concerned into action. It appears to me that the clause is incomplete in this respect.
Then we come to subsection (3), which says:The rights conferred by this section shall not affect the obligations of the highway authority, or of any other person, as respects the maintenance of the footpath or bridleway…But it does not indicate what is to be the position of the landowner who under Clause 25 has been subjected to certain statutory obligations to keep stiles and gates on footpaths and bridleways in order. If there is to be constant carrying of cycles over stiles, or through or around gates, this is liable to cause additional expense on maintenance. It appears to me that the position of the highway authority is specifically protected under subsection (3), but the position of the landowner who has these responsibilities for the maintenance of the stiles and gates under Clause 25 does not receive attention here.
I ask those questions, not because I want to see this clause out of the Bill, but because it is most important that if we are having a new clause we shall get it right and make sure that it makes proper provision in all respects. The Government will grant that they have not been wholly successful in efforts to solve this problem, and, as I say, none of us has had many days to examine this matter, which is a substantial new departure in the law. It therefore seems to me right that the Committee should ask questions of the Government about it.
§ 8.12 p.m.
Those of us who get our living from the land view this new clause with very great alarm. On the one hand, we feel very much that the bicyclists have a raw deal in the modern world. They cannot bicycle with comfort on the roads, and there is nowhere for them to go. I have felt this about my own children. When I was a child I 115 bicycled everywhere. Now, I dare not let my children go on to the road until they are virtually grown up, for fear of their being killed. So one feels sympathy for bicyclists. But here the Government are acting at the expense of those who earn a living off the land in enlarging rights against us, which I feel could lead to very great financial loss.
I know that at the moment bicycling, unlike most other forms of sport, is diminishing, but I do not think that this trend will necessarily continue. There are all sorts of bicycling sports, such as "scrambling", in the countryside which are going to increase. It is a very attractive sport to pursue, and in fact I hope that it may increase. But if the Government are going to enlarge these rights against one section of the community they must do something else about it. I was very struck when the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, was speaking half an hour ago on the Justices of the Peace Bill and used certain words. I was so struck by them that I wrote them down. She said, "Modern legislation seeks to afford protection to individuals who are at risk". We in the country are at risk by this enlargement of the roads against us; we really are.
I do not want to go over all the arguments that were put forward, almost ad nauseam, in another place on this particular clause. All of us know that stiles must inevitably be worn out and damaged as a result of the way the pedestrian uses them. As the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, says, fields of corn must inevitably be damaged. There is only one way for cyclists to "give way", and that means that people walk through the corn. Fields which are pleasant for the ordinary person are going to be "chewed up" by bicycle wheels. This kind of thing will happen. It is not only the interests of the owner of land and the occupier which are at stake. Also at stake are the interests of the people who go into the countryside to enjoy the countryside quietly.
The by-laws clause will not really help at all. Who is going to persuade a local authority to go to the trouble of making a by-law to do what is required by this clause? It just is not "on". It will not happen. The noble Lord looks quizzi- 116 cally at me when I say that it will not happen. Nevertheless, I am certain it will not happen, except in certain cases where it would be scandalous if it did not. More than this will have to be done if it is going to help us at all. I feel that unless something is done with regard to compensation here the good will of a section of the community will be lost, and this is what we want to avoid so far as this new Bill is concerned. I hope that the Government will think about this problem. They are not really aware of it at all. I made this point on Second Reading because I felt that it had not been made sufficiently on Second Reading in another place. The point is that by this clause the Government are enlarging the rights of one set of citizens against another, yet are doing nothing to compensate for the loss that will be caused.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
I should like to point out that on bridleways cyclists should give way to pedestrians and persons on horseback—but will they? I very much doubt whether the average cyclist will read this Bill, or reads the law, and I can foresee quite a number of rather nasty accidents if cyclists come round a corner on a narrow path and confront somebody on a high-spirited horse. Probably the cyclist will be badly kicked, and there might be a nasty accident. This Amendment will create all sorts of complications. On the whole, I am all for allowing cyclists as much free range as possible, but I should like to point out that difficulty.
I think I must go a little further than noble Lords who have spoken from this side, because it seems to me that we are now reaching a new principle with regard to access to the countryside. In the past, there have been carriageways, bridleways and footpaths, and it is very important that the traffic on these different routes should be kept distinct. We know that we may get motor cars for scrambling, or something of that kind, on carriageways. We know there will be pedestrians or horse traffic on a pathway. A man riding a horse and a pedestrian are much more on terms with each other than a man riding a bicycle and a pedestrian, or a cyclist and a man riding a horse. If 117 horses are allowed on a pathway, it will soon be in a condition which will make it rather difficult for foot passengers. That is why I think horses are not allowed on footpaths and must go on bridle paths.
If we allow bicyclists on footpaths we will encounter exactly this sort of trouble. They will churn up the ground so that it will be uncomfortable for the pedestrian to walk upon it. Also, if we have horses on bridle paths, they are not going to make a surface on which one can ride a bike. What will happen is that either the horse or the bike, or both, will diverge very widely from the path they are using, and this enlargement of the path may be quite dangerous.
I should like to take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, because it seems to me a very important one. In everything we do in this Countryside Bill we must try not to set town against country. I should have thought that if you are going to have horses, bikes and pedestrians all trying to use the same track, this is just the kind of situation that will get rid of all the good will; this is what is going to cause the rows. If people are asked to lift a bicycle over a stile (I know that this point has been argued in another place, but it is nevertheless still true) they will not do it more than once or twice. They will make a gap in the hedge next door. What will happen is that we shall have to put up opening gates, and we know what happens when we do that—they are opened and left open. Footpaths are used by persons who can climb over a stile, but you really cannot get people to lift bicycles over stiles. Therefore, we shall not have stiles; we shall ultimately have gates, and in this way we shall have made another principle.
I think that this is a much more serious new clause than it is thought to be. I am afraid that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is optimistic if he thinks we are going to take this quite so easily as he envisaged.
§ LORD BARNBY
In the first place I must admit that, anticipating a rather late sitting, I took some refreshment and therefore missed hearing the Parliamentary Secretary introduce this Amendment. I apologise to him and, of course, I am at some disadvantage. However, I was 118 able to listen to my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor, who drew attention to the many considerations facing us in regard to this Bill and the caveats which have to be entered. I sympathise with the Parliamentary Secretary for it is extremely difficult. If the principle is to endeavour to give some further consideration to cyclists—and I am not violently against that—it is extremely difficult to do it by means of legislation, and I associate myself with the remarks made by my noble friend with regard to the difficulty of surmounting obstacles. Also there is the question of the gate that swings to automatically, and if somebody is cycling along die path and another person comes in the opposite direction on a horse there may be a mix-up. Who would be liable for any injuries caused or for damages in the event of an accident of that kind? Much of the difficulty of interpretation appears to be in regard to what is to go on the particular type of passage. I will not enlarge on that now, but I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to find some way of elucidating that difficulty, and I look forward to hearing his answers; to the questions put by my noble friend Lord Brooke.
I would draw attention to a point in subsection (1). In line 3 "any footpath or bridleway" presumably means any kind of passage, whether it is on normal land, common land, or anything else; but that is not defined. Then, again, the words "shall give way to pedestrians and persons on horseback "seem to suggest that the people on horseback may go on both. I am sure that that is not the intention of the Parliamentary Secretary, so I will presume to suggest that there should be inserted after the word "and" in line 4, the words "on bridlepaths to persons on horseback". Further down, in subsections (4) and (6), there is again the difficulty about the definitions of "footpath" and "bridleway". They are clearly defined, but of course we have to look at the Road Traffic Act.
§ LORD KENNET
I perceive that the clause raises various doubts in the minds of noble Lords, but I have been thinking as hard as I could while your Lordships have been speaking and I hope to be able to allay these doubts. It seems to me that this is the best way to do it. 119 I readily admit that the way suggested in another place was inferior to this way, and it seems to me that the chances of finding a better way are very low. Before I give my reasons I would apologise to the Committee for the short time which has elapsed between the tabling of this Amendment and this Committee stage. I expect I shall have to repeat that apology later in regard to other Amendments, and I can only say that it is a well-known fact of Parliamentary life that towards this time of the year things get hectic. I hope your Lordships will bear in mind the seasons in Parliamentary life. It has always been so and I think it will be so for many years to come.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, asked whether this provision will lead to the widening of footpaths. Of course it will not legally lead to their widening. It is certainly true that a cyclist may go over the edge of the footpath; so may a pedestrian, especially if three or four are walking abreast, and so may a person on horseback on a bridlepath. It seems to me there is no reason why this provision should lead to any greater de facto widening of footpaths than already exists. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, asked who is to make the by-laws and what representations may be made to that body. They will be made by local authorities under the Local Government Act 1933. On towpaths they will be made by the British Waterways Board. In both these cases the draft by-laws are to be advertised and may be objected to, after which they will be confirmed or otherwise by the Home Secretary. I hope the fact that these are like most other by-laws in adjacent fields of law will convince the Committee that there is nothing wrong with that part of the provision.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, raised the bogy of the constant carrying of bicycles over stiles and asked whether it would not impose a further burden on the landowner in maintaining the stiles. I think one should use common sense in this matter. If there are a number of stiles on a footpath, cyclists will not want to use it. If they have to dismount every 100 yards or so that is not the path they will use. The more stiles there are on a footpath the fewer cyclists there will be on it and therefore there will not be a great increase of maintenance to be car- 120 ried out on that footpath. Nevertheless, I think we might return to this topic at the end of the day, when we come to the Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, was not able to move the other day and as a result we postponed it. It is an Amendment to Clause 25, which refers to the criteria governing the I judgment of the local authority in making demands of landowners for the maintenance of stiles, gates, and so on. I hope to be able to meet the noble Lord's point on that Amendment, and if things go as I hope—and as I know he hopes— I submit that that might have a relevance to the clause we are now considering.
The noble Lord, Lord Henley, asked whether the local authorities will make by-laws and who will persuade them to do so. In common political judgment I would say it will be the land owning members of local authorities who will persuade them. That is what usually happens and I expect it will happen in this case. In those parts of the country where there is a strong, legitimate farming interest in the countryside the farmers will be well placed to see that the bylaws are made, and in other parts of the countryside it will not matter so much if the by-laws are not made.
The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, asked whether the cyclists will give way. We might say that they should give way, but will they do so? I have no doubt that most will, but some will not. However I would point out that exactly the same situation prevails at the moment, when cyclists are not allowed on bridleways and footpaths. That law is not well-known. I have never had the least compunction about cycling on footpaths and bridleways, and in point of fact I do not think I actually knew that I was not allowed to until I began to look into this matter. I think the observation of the law is likely to remain at about the same level as at the moment, and therefore there should not be a deterioration from the point of view of the landowner if this provision is adopted.
We should not forget that in this case there are two provisions for regulating what goes on and what the cyclist may or may not do on the bridleway and foot-path. First of all, the local authority may make by-laws about it and they will 121 be subject to confirmation by the Home Secretary. Secondly, the highway authority can also make traffic orders about it, and these will be subject to confirmation by the Minister of Transport. Here is a belt and braces, and I do not regret it because I agree that it is a most important matter. I can give the House a pledge that the Minister of Transport will not approve traffic orders permitting cycle racing on footpaths and bridleways. I think that ought to remove one legitimate fear which may be exercising the Committee.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, said that he did not want this provision out of the Bill; he did not want the Government to withdraw it. Other speakers would rather the Government withdrew it altogether and maintained the present law whereby cyclists are not allowed on these paths at all. I think to withdraw it altogether and leave things unchanged would be to lean excessively against the interests of new classes of users and enjoyers of the countryside. Of course it increases the problems for the farmer and landowner, but I think the net addition to the problems they face will be so very small that the farmer and landowner should agree to accept them, bearing in mind that they can be represented on the bodies making the by-laws. Suppose the Committee were to take another view and say that although it will be desirable to permit cyclists on bridleways and footpaths this is not the way to do it and some other system ought to be adopted. I should be the last to say that one could not think of anything better, but no noble Lord has proposed an alternative system which would be better.
The first alternative system of doing it would be the creation of an entirely new category of paths; you might call them cycle paths and say that on these cycle paths the cyclist shall be allowed to go and on other footpaths and bridleways he shall not be allowed to go. We should then require the highway authority to redesignate a lot of existing bridleways and footpaths as cycle paths. We should then have to face the question with regard to the newly designated class of paths, the fourth class: shall pedestrians and persons on horse back be allowed to go on them or not, and, if so, who gives way to whom? This 122 would be excessively rigid. I think this is the right way, because this is precisely the effect that will be achieved by the provision now before the Committee.
If we were to make a new class of cycle path the highway authority would have to choose which were the cycle paths. This is what they will be doing. They will be making traffic orders and the local authorities will be making by-laws to determine which particular path in what circumstances shall be used in which way by whom. I think to go further into it would be wrong for Parliament and the central Government. It is right for the local authorities to go further into it, and this is the effect of the clause, to leave it to them in making the by-laws and traffic orders which will affect the situation in detail en the ground according to local needs. I hope that what I have said will convince the Committee that this is the best v/ay of doing it, and once again I commend the Amendment to your Lordships.
Before my noble friend Lord Brooke decides what to do, may I say this? The thing that worries me is that bridleways and foot paths are put together in all this. I should have thought there was a distinction between them. It is not a question of making a new category and calling it a cycle track. I do not think this is a matter only for landowners and farmers; I should have thought that pedestrian associations would be worried by this Amendment. The noble Lord said that if there were many stiles the cyclist would not use a path. I am not quite sure that I wholly agree. I think the cyclist might say, "We have a right to use this path, and there should not be so many stiles". How far they will get, I do not know. I should have thought a compromise would be to allow the cyclist on the bridleways. These already have horses on their; you will not get cars, but you can have bicycles and horses. These are nearly always broader paths, and if they are used much by horses I suspect that there are not many stiles on them, because not everybody who uses a horse is able to jump over stiles and would rather have a gate. If cyclists are allowed on to the footpaths there is no reason why horses should not be allowed. I should have thought it is a pedestrian interest which is going to be breached here.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I think the whole Committee appreciates the care with which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, obviously listened to the debate, and the thoroughness with which he has sought to answer the points. I doubt, however, whether he has wholly satisfied any of us. For my part, I would not urge my noble friends to vote against this new clause. I think there is a problem here, but I would rather we all put our heads together to find a satisfactory answer to the question raised. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was good enough to apologise to your Lordships for the short period of notice we received before we had to consider this Amendment. My concern is that we are now to have only a short period between Committee Stage and Report, because I have heard rumours that the Report stage may be put down for this day week. I think there is a good deal of work to be done on some of the provisions of this Bill, and as we are all approaching it in a constructive spirit it would be a pity if we did not have a rather larger gap between Committee and Report in which we could think out how the blemishes in the Bill can be removed.
The noble Lord has helped me over a number of points that I have raised. It may be that he misunderstood what I was saying about lifting bicycles over stiles—perhaps I did not express myself clearly enough. What I had in mind was exactly what my noble friend Lord Waldegrave has expressed. We are by this clause turning footpaths into footpaths plus cycleways. The rambler raises objections when he finds a footpath blocked by barbed wire. I think that in future the cyclist will raise objection if he finds what he considers by law to be a right of way for him blocked by a gate or stile. He will ask the reason for it and, offended if he cannot ride straight through, he will sooner or later make a hole in the hedge. I am not suggesting that everybody will do this, but one day a cyclist will come along and will barge through the hedge with his cycle; then there will be a gap, and that will be enlarged. It seems to me that we ought to consider whether we can give the landowners and farmers more protection against this.
Moreover, while the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has helped me by making ref- 124 erence to the Local Government Act under which these by-laws would normally be made, he will recognise that there will be an initial period when there will be no by-laws or restrictions under subsection (2) because they will not have been made by the time this clause comes into operation. Quite a lot of ill-will and quite a lot of damage can be caused during this initial period before any bylaw or order is made restricting cyclists from using paths which they quite clearly ought not to be allowed to use because they are not suitable for cyclists. That is another aspect of the matter to which I think we must give attention, and we need some time to think these things out.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was good enough on Thursday, when I was not able to attend your Lordships' House (and I should like to express my sincere apologies for that fact), to make an offer to discuss with my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford and myself an earlier new clause in my name which was moved by my noble friend. Perhaps that opportunity could be taken to discuss this clause further. It may indeed be that other noble Lords who have spoken would like to join in this discussion. As the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will see, my approach is a constructive and not a destructive one, and I do not think that this clause as it stands is satisfactory.
§ LORD MOLSON
I should be prepared, broadly speaking, to accept the clause as it has been moved by the Government. I think they have made a genuine effort to meet the different interests concerned. I do not take any particular line about it. The Council for the Preservation of Rural England includes pedestrians and cavaliers and cyclists. I should like to suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he might look at this clause again. The Government have shown broad-mindedness in looking at it when it was criticised in another place. I wonder whether it would not be wise to include only bridleways, towpaths, long-distance routes and other paths specifically so designated by local authorities. I think there is a real danger that footpaths, which ought to be confined to pedestrians, may be included under the wording of this clause. But I think that the Government have made a real effort, and I am trying to make 125 a constructive suggestion which might meet some of the criticisms that have been made by my noble friends.
§ LORD KENNET
Perhaps I can shorten the debate by speaking again. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, asked, "What about the period after this Bill comes into effect, and before the by-laws are made?" As a matter of fact, there are already a good many by-laws affecting this matter, because even without this provision cyclists have been using footpaths in various parts of the country. That is a point which constitutes a problem. Lord Molson made an alternative suggestion as to the definition of the type of path over which cyclists should have a right of way under this Bill. These are two concrete suggestions, both of which I recognise are made in a constructive spirit. That being so, I should like to take a day or two to think about this again, in the hope of being able on the Report Stage to put down something after consultation with both noble Lords. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ LORD BARNBY
Before the noble Lord withdraws his Amendment, may I point out that much has been said in the earlier stages of this Committee about the need for an equitable balance between different considerations. It seems that in this case there is some doubt as to the rights of different users, and before we leave this Amendment—and we all appreciate the attitude and the readiness of the Parliamentary Secretary to give it consideration—I should like to reinforce the remarks of my noble friend Lord Waldegrave regarding the position on these footpaths. He emphasised the rights of people on foot. In this case I am going to urge consideration for horsemen. Perhaps when he makes further explanation on this Bill the Parliamentary Secretary may be able to say what is the position with regard to horsemen riding on footpaths. All of us who have ridden to hounds know that people ride on footpaths. That is an offence in many ways. It is that sort of confusion which I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will think about.
§ LORD KENNET
Perhaps I should say that the rights of horsemen are not in any way affected by the Amendment before the Committee.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.126
§ Clause 27 agreed to.
§ Clause 28:
§ Traffic regulation orders for special areas in the countryside
§ (2) The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 shall have effect as respects such roads as if the list of purposes for which a traffic regulation order may be made under section 1 of that Act as set out in the paragraphs of subsection (1) of that section, included the purpose of conserving or enhancing the natural beauty of the area, or of affording better opportunities for the public to enjoy the amenities of the area, or recreation or the study of nature in the area.
§ 8.46 p.m.
LORD MOLSON moved to add to sub-section (2):
or of preventing interference with the quiet enjoyment of the area by the public.
The noble Lord said: Clause 28 is a clause of really great importance. It extends the wide powers of traffic regulation outside Greater London contained in the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1967 to include amenities. My friends in the Amenity Movement feel that the clause goes a long way, and I am moving to insert at the end of line 42 the words:
or of preventing interference with the quiet enjoyment of the area by the public.
I do not apologise for having put down I this Amendment again for debate, despite the answers that were given in the Committee stage by the noble Lord's colleague, Mr. Skeffington, the Parliametary Secretary in another place, when this I Amendment was discussed. Through the mouth of Mr. Skeffington, the Government said:
In view of the concern expresssd, of which we always take careful note, we shall certainly look at this again.
Then, on Report stage, it was put down again, this time by a member of the Opposition—I think on the first occasion it had been put down, or at any rate supported by, Mr. Jackson, the Member for the High Peak—and Mr. Skeffington said:
We have had another look at this and have consulted the Minister of Transport, who has had a great experience of these; regulations in different conditions.
He made it quite plain that, in the view of the Government, this clause enables regulations to be made so that in National Parks it will be possible to ensure that
traffic is strictly regulated in order that it may not be destructive of the beauty and quietness and amenity of the countryside.
§ In view of the pressure which has been brought to bear upon the Government that they should not impose restrictions which will preserve the peace and quiet of the countryside, I thought it as well to raise this matter again, in order that the Parliamentary Secretary can make it quite plain here that it is the intention that in National Parks, whither people go to enjoy bird-watching and the study of nature and all the charm of rural seclusion, these traffic regulation powers, which are so wide in their extent, will in fact be used for the purpose of preserving the enjoyment of those people who go to the countryside to enjoy the quiet. This is really a probing Amendment, but I think it is of sufficient importance for me to move.
Page 28, line 42, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Molson.)
§ LORD KENNET
I can give that assurance in terms. Let me explain why: first of all, because this Bill itself, in the same clause, says that a traffic regulation order can be made, among other reasons, for the purpose of conserving or enhancing the natural beauty of the area— which does not touch on what we are concerned with now—or of affording better opportunities for the public to enjoy the amenities of the area. It seems to me that if you suppress unwelcome noise it is beyond doubt that you provide better opportunities for the public to enjoy the amenities of the area.
But that is not all. In the Transport Bill which will be coming shortly before your Lordships, there is at present a provision, and I hope it will still be there when it comes here and still be there when it leaves this House, which again provides a new reason for making a traffic regulation order. The wording is slightly different; it is "shall preserve or improve the amenities of the area through which the road runs". So in this Bill we have "better opportunities for the public to enjoy", which introduces the concept of improvement, and in the other Bill we have the preserving or improving of the amenities of the area, 128 which once again includes the concept of improvement and which not only keeps things as good as they are but aims at getting them better. Each of these provides a major departure, a major addition to the existing reasons with which traffic regulations have hitherto been concerned—traffic movement and road safety. So my advice to the House is that this Amendment—and the noble Lord said he would not press it—need not be carried into the Bill in order to achieve the effect that the whole Committee desires, because it is already achieved first by this Bill, and it will be reinforced by the Transport Bill shortly.
§ LORD MOLSON
I am much obliged to the Parliamentary Secretary for his reply, which is entirely satisfactory, and I have much pleasure in asking leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.54 p.m.
EARL HOWE moved, after subsection (2), to insert:
() No traffic regulation order shall be made for the purposes described in subsection (2) of this section if it would interfere with the reasonable requirements of members of the public as users of traffic of the description proposed to be restricted whether as residents in or visitors to the area affected by the order. The authority having power to make any such order, before proposing to do so, shall consult with organisations representative of the users of the vehicles which would be affected by the restrictions.
§ The noble Earl said: I also should like to apologise, as my noble friend, Lord Barnby, did, for being absent when the Parliamentary Secretary made his speech, but I was also taking refreshment—not enough, in the short time available, but it was something. If the noble Lord the Parliamentary Secretary has already given certain assurances that I am going to ask for now I apologise to the Committee, but the object of this Amendment is to make sure that the proposed powers to make traffic regulation orders for special areas in the countryside will not be exercised in a manner which will interfere unreasonably with the rights of vehicle users, whether residents in the areas or visitors to them (including, in I some instances, participants in motor I sporting events) and also to ensure that organisations representing affected vehicle users will be consulted before proposals are made for such Orders. I know that 129 certain assurances have been given by Government spokesmen in another place.
§ I should like some assurance that exercise of these powers within the limits described will be suitably controlled by the Government to prevent unnecessary or unreasonable restrictions being imposed upon motor vehicles users. For instance, if a landowner is willing to permit his land to be used for motor sporting purposes, it would be unfair, to my mind, to prevent this by restricting vehicular access on roads leading to the property. Would the landowner's invitees be covered by any exceptions from any restrictions affecting traffic generally? Would this extend to participants in and spectators at a motor sporting event?
§ Moreover, some of the speakers during the debates so far seem to have given the impression that the need for realistic policies relating to the provision of facilities for vehicles in such areas is not appreciated in all quarters. This Amendment stresses the importance of adequate control by the Government to ensure that satisfactory constructive policies will be adopted rather than restrictive measures which will seriously limit access to such areas, especially prejudicing the interests of those unable to walk long distances, such as the elderly and families with young children, and often adversely affecting the economic prosperity or such areas which may be largely dependent on tourism.
§ Again, I hope that adequate assurances will be given that officials of the Department of Housing and Local Government concerned with the Bill would consider it helpful to discuss the matter with the Royal Automobile Club and the Auto-cycle Union representatives appointed by the Ministry of Transport to operate these regulations, and possibly the Sports Council, before proposals are made to make traffic regulations or to make regulation orders within these powers, not only in regard to the general effect on the interests of motorists and motor cyclists but also with special reference to the effects on motor sport of which the Royal Automobile Club and the Autocycle Union are the controlling bodies.
§ I think it should be recognised that policies relating to the preservation of the countryside and the provision of recreational facilities must make adequate pro- 130 vision in accordance with public opinion for the requirements of those using motor vehicles. It is known that the Sports Council recognises the importance of motor sporting activities, and I hope that its liaison with the Countryside Commission will help to secure satisfactory developments in this respect. This Amendment in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Chesham is really a probing Amendment. I have the backing of the Royal Automobile Club, of which I am a member of its Competition and General Committees, and I am hoping that I may get some assurances. I beg to move.
Page 28, line 42, at end insert the said subsection.—(Earl Howe.)
§ LORD MOLSON
Whether the Amendment which my noble friend is moving is a reasonable one or not depends upon the interpretation that he puts upon the word "reasonable" in his Amendment, about the "reasonable requirements of members of the public". I need not labour what I said on the previous occasion, that it is quite definitely the purpose of those who are supporting the Government in this measure that there should be traffic regulations in order to prevent motor-cycle scrambles in the middle of National Parks, and to prohibit the use of Land Rovers for going, shall we say, in the Lake District from one valley to the next in order to test whether or not a new mechanical contrivance can get over from one valley to another.
I think it is just as well, when an Amendment of this kind is moved, to make it quite plain that it would be quite unacceptable to some supporters of this Bill if the Government gave an assurance which was as wide as to meet many of the suggestions that have been hinted at by my noble friend. One of the great virtues of this Bill is the powers that it gives for the provision of country parks, where people who enjoy gregarious and noisy outdoor sport will be able to go to enjoy it without being a nuisance to other people whose country tastes are of a more quiet and peaceful kind. I think there should be room for both. I think this is a well drafted Bill and that it will, I hope, be administered in such a way that the motor-cycle scramblers and other people interested in these 131 motoring sports will have scope in appropriate parts of the country; but I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will not in any way go back upon the assurances that he has given on the last Amendment in order to meet the claims of my noble friend.
The Royal Automobile Club and the Automobile Association are members of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, and they have shown themselves to be most reasonable and broadminded in these matters. I wholly accept that there are places where motor sports, and even motor-cycle scrambles, should be authorised and should be enjoyed, but it is very important to make it quite plain that this Amendment, if it were accepted, is not intended to provide for noisy recreation in places where it is hoped that there will be peace and quiet.
§ LORD KENNET
It is not my intention in any way to go back on the assurances that I gave in connection with the last Amendment. I think there may be some confusion in the mind of the Committee here. The Amendment to Clause 28 which we are now considering deals only with traffic regulation orders on roads, and so it does not touch on the equally important or more important question of what goes on off the roads.
One is anxious to reconcile the needs of those who want peace and quiet in the countryside with the needs of those who want to get home, or wish to visit friends, or to do some reasonable thing which would not annoy anyone else. I give the Committee the fullest assurance that no orders will be approved by the Minister of Transport which deny the right to anyone to get to his own house, or to his friend's house, or to keep on using the road in a way for which the road was provided. The Minister of Transport will make regulations about this new traffic control order-making power under the Transport Bill when that is through, and will issue a circular. These regulations will be the place for laying down the law as to what is to be done about this, and that circular will be the place for giving detailed advice to highway authorities on what to do in this or that circumstance. There is no danger that residents will be denied access to their own property through 132 the imposition of a traffic regulation order on the grounds of amenity, and local authorities will have a statutory duty to maintain access to premises by virtue of Clause 145 of the Transport Bill. I know that it is not much use mentioning a clause of a Bill before it has reached this House, but that is where it is to be found unless it is changed in the House of Commons beforehand.
It is already standard practice for local authorities about to make one of these orders to consult the chief officer of police and any other bodies or organisations they may think fit before making the order. Among those bodies the A.A. and R.A.C. are invariably consulted, and they will continue to be consulted in the case of orders made for the purpose of enhancing amenities, just as they have been so far with orders made for the purposes of improving the safety of the roads. So the rights of consultation and the rights of objection to draft orders will be in no way diminished by the Countryside Bill.
§ EARL HOWE
I thank the noble Lord for giving me certain assurances. I had thought that the noble Lord, Lord Molson, was an opponent on this Amendment, but I am very happy to feel that he has gone along with me to a certain extent. I also am a member of the C.P.R.E.; I am chairman of a county branch so that I have similar feelings to the noble Lord's. I assure the noble Lord that motorists and motor cyclists have no intention of spoiling other people's enjoyment of beautiful parks. I am pleased to hear that the R.A.C. and the A.C.TJ. will be consulted. In fact the A.A. are not the controlling body of motor sport in this country; it is controlled by the R.A.C. and A.C.U. and is nothing to do with the A.A. at all. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.4 p.m.
LORD KENNET moved, after subsection (4), to insert:
(5) Subject to the following provisions of this section, section 1 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967, as applied for the purposes set out in subsection (2) above, shall have effect so as to authorise the making of traffic regulation orders as respects Crown roads, and orders (hereafter also referred to as 'traffic regulation orders') may be made under subsection (3) above as respects Crown roads.
(6) The consent of the appropriate Crown authority must be given before a traffic regulation order is made as respects a Crown road.
(7) A traffic regulation order made as respects a Crown road, notwithstanding section 97 of the said Act of 1967, shall not apply to vehicles or persons in the public service of the Crown except so far as is expressly provided in the order, and the inclusion of any such express provision in an order not made by a Minister shall require the approval of the appropriate Minister.
(8) If a traffic regulation order is or is to be made as respects a Crown road, the local authority concerned may, after consultation with the appropriate Crown authority, place and maintain, or cause to be placed and maintained, such traffic signs of any type prescribed, or authorised, under section 54 of the said Act of 1967 as the local authority may consider necessary in connection with the order.
The powers conferred by this subsection shall be exercisable subject to and in conformity with any general directions given under section 55(1) of the said Act of 1967, and any other power conferred by the said section 55 to give directions to a highway authority shall include power to give the like directions to the local authority concerned as respects the Crown road, but after consultation with the appropriate Crown authority.
§ The noble Lord said: At this point I should like to repeat the apology I made earlier about the short time available to noble Lords to consider this Amendment. This is the long-promised and long-awaited Amendment to bring Crown roads under the traffic control order-making provisions of the Countryside Bill. At present considerable areas of National Parks, and particularly that of Dartmoor, are owned by the Crown and used by the public. Tourist traffic using roads on Crown land has posed exactly the same problems as on roads in National Parks which are not Crown land. So after reflection and consultation the Crown Departments concerned and the National Parks Commission are agreed and are in favour of having these roads brought within the ambit of traffic regulation. This should simplify problems of traffic control and, in effect, achieve the same situation there as we shall achieve in other National Parks.
§ The Amendment which I propose to the Committee achieves this. It provides that traffic regulation orders can be made applying to Crown roads in the specially designated areas of countryside under the relevant sections of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 or by the Minister under the Countryside Bill which is now before the Committee. It 134 provides that before a traffic order for a Crown road is made, the appropriate Crown authority must give its consent. It provides that these orders shall apply only to Crown vehicles and servants to the extent provided in the order This is analogous to the right of the person who happens to live in a country park to get home along a road, even if there is a traffic control order on it. It provides for the erection of traffic signs to indicate a traffic regulation order by applying provisions already existing in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967. The rest is definition. I will not weary your Lordships with it. I think this achieves the effect desired by all sides of the Committee.
Page 29, line 20, at end insert the sail words.—(Lord Kennel.)
Speaking on behalf of one of the Crown Duchies, the Duchy of Cornwall, I may say that we welcome this new clause and feel that it will be effective. This Amendment is a rather good example of the difficulties under which some of us are working in regard to this Bill. I first heard that there was to be a new clause coming up on Report stage. I have a draft clause which I know in detail is satisfactory to the Duchy which I represent, but I had not seen this Amendment until this morning, and I hope that it is all right. It is very difficult to have to take action on a new clause when one has not been able to consider the matter or when one's advisers have not been able to see whether any amendment is necessary. Subject to that, I do not wish to seem ungracious, since the noble Lord has been very good to the Committee this evening and I should like on behalf of the Duchy of Cornwall to say that we welcome this new clause.
§ LORD MOLSON
I am at an even greater disadvantage than my noble friend Lord Waldegrave who has seen a draft of the clause. I saw it only this morning and I have not had an opportunity of consulting the Dartmoor Protection Association or any of the other people primarily concerned, but I have given to it the best consideration I could since this morning, and I think that it completely fulfills the promise made by the Government in another place. I am very 135 appreciative of what has been done, despite the fact that I must reserve my position if, after further consultation, I find that it does not meet the wishes of some of those for whom I speak in this House. I think that it is satisfactory, and I again repeat my gratitude to the Government.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 29, line 21, at end insert—
("'the appropriate Crown authority', in relation to any land, has the same meaning as 'the appropriate authority' as defined by section 101(11) of the Act of 1949.").—(Lord Kennet.)
§ Amendment moved—
Page 29, line 24, at end insert—
("'Crown road' means a road, other than a highway, to which the public have access by permission granted by the appropriate Crown authority, or otherwise granted by or on behalf of the Crown, and
local authority concerned', in relation to a Crown road, means the authority having power to make an order as respects that road under section 1 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 as extended by this section,").—(Lord Kennel.)
§ Clause 28, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 29 agreed to.
§ Clause 30 [Exchequer grants for countryside]:
§ LORD KENNET
As the Bill stands at present, grants for tree planting and the acquisition of land for it are confined to National Parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. Throughout the Bill the general purpose has been to extend the powers of grants hitherto associated with those restricted types of areas to the whole countryside. This Amendment remedies the omission in the present text of the Bill and brings it into line with what was promised in the White Paper by extending these grants also to the whole countryside. I beg to move.
Page 31, line 13, at end insert ("and expenditure in or in connection with the acquisition of land for the purposes of the functions conferred by the said section 89(1)").—(Lord Kennet.)
§ Clause 30, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 31 and 32 agreed to.
§ Clause 33 [Protection for interests in countryside]:
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
moved to leave out "and forestry" and insert, "forestry and the minerals industries". The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to ensure that due regard is paid to the needs of the minerals industries, in the same way as, for instance, those of the agricultural industry. As the legal definition of a mineral undertaker is:any person engaged in the winning and working of minerals by way of trade or business in, on or under land, whether by surface or underground working".and agriculture appears to consist in the working of land, I trust the Minister will agree that there is a certain amount of logic in what I am now trying to put forward.
I should agree with some noble Lords who felt that mineral workings were, by their very nature, unpopular locally, but that should surely not mean that their interests should be totally disregarded. I believe the Minister cannot say that mineral works are covered by the phrase in Clause 33, which says that due regard must be paid to the economic and social interests of rural areas. I have three reasons for saying that. First, the actual output of minerals in a rural area is likely to be used in an urban area; secondly, the extractive industries are not labour-intensive; and, thirdly, the rate-support grant system means that it makes little difference to the rural areas whether they get the benefit of rates on mineral production or not. The Minister must surely bear in mind that minerals can be worked only where they are found, and the necessity for working them in a particular locality can be decided only on a national basis.
The specific reference to agriculture and forestry in Clause 33 as at present drafted could well be interpreted by some 137 conservationist bodies as meaning that the factors of agriculture and forestry are of overriding importance, thus providing an automatic ground of objection to any application for planning permission to work minerals. I feel, too, that the volume of objections is likely to increase, and this could no doubt influence local authorities and, possibly, inspectors in their decisions. In order to redress the balance, I sincerely hope that the Minister will be willing to accept this Amendment so that the minerals interest is taken into account under this clause at the same time as other interests. I beg to move.
Page 33, line 45, leave out ("and forestry") and insert (", forestry and the minerals industries ").—(Lord Merrivale.)
§ LORD MOLSON
I hope that the Minister will not accept this Amendment. It is already clear from Clause 33 that all the bodies concerned must paydue regard to the needs of agriculture and forestry and to the economic and social interests of rural areas.There is no need to refer particularly to minerals. They are already included in the economic and possibly the social interests of rural areas. In so far as the Act of 1949 and this Bill are seeking to preserve the beauty and charm of the countryside, it is natural that there should be provision that due regard should be paid to agriculture and to forestry. It is implicit in what is said in this clause that due regard will also be paid to the winning of materials. I hope that not more than due regard will be paid. There is no doubt that the winning of minerals is one of the greatest causes of the defacement of the countryside; and therefore it would be completely wrong, from the point of view of the general purpose of this Bill, to make special provision for it.
§ LORD KENNET
I am going to advise the Committee against this Amendment. Let me say first of all that I think the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, about minerals having to be won where they are is a very strong one. This gives the extractive industry, the mineral industry, a prima facie claim to figure in this clause along with forestry and agriculture, because you cannot 138 have forestry anywhere except in the I countryside, you cannot have agriculture anywhere except in the countryside, and you cannot extract minerals anywhere except where they are, which is usually in the countryside—and when they happen to be under towns it is not convenient to extract them there, for obvious reasons. I hand the noble Lord all that; and these are very strong points. But there are two points which seem to me to outweigh them.
First of all, there is the fact that although agriculture and forestry are economic, wealth-generating activities, and although they can take place only in the countryside, yet they are precisely what the countryside is made up of. What is the countryside if it is not agriculture? What is the countryside if it is not forestry? This is what has made the countryside what it is; and this is still what makes it what it is for the great majority of the acres in our country. Secondly, although minerals must be mined where they are, yet there are other things which can be done only in the countryside and which do not, and in my sub mission should not, figure in Clause 33. If you have to build a road or a motorway between two cities, you can build it only in the countryside. If you have got to make a reservoir, you can make it only in the countryside. Yet I do net think the Committee would think it wise to add in this clause a "due regard" provision about roads and reservoirs.
One can go further than this. It may be that in the future we shall have hover-trains and monorails between the more closely built-up parts of our country; and they, too, can be built only in the countryside, because once again they have to join cities, or cities and airports. I do not think the Committee would wish to add a saving provision for them in this clause. In the last resort I would even go so far as to mention houses themselves With our increasing population, apart from slum clearance and the replacement of old towns, houses can be built only in the countryside. That is what town expansion means; that it what New Towns mean. Yet I do not think the Committee would feel that the purposes of this Bill would be best served if we added a provision that authorities must have due regard to the interests of new housing.
139 So, all in all, I would sooner group the extractive industries, for all their special claim, along with roads, reservoirs, hovertrains, monorails and housing, on the side of the fence which does not get mentioned in this clause, and leave the clause as it stands, mentioning simply forestry and agriculture, which are the very stuff and fabric of the countryside. So I would recommend the Committee not to accept this Amendment, for all the good reason there is behind it.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
I thank the noble Lord for his answer. I was hoping he would deal with one point, and it is this. There was a very definite statement made by my noble friend Lord Molson that, in effect, the interests of the extractive industries, the minerals industries, would be covered in this clause by the words,the social and economic interests of rural areas".Before I act one way or another, I should like the Minister to confirm that point, whether in fact the minerals industries are covered by these words.
I think, too, that my noble friend Lord Molson has rather overstressed the idea that the minerals industries would deface all our countryside. On the other hand, I think he rather minimised the importance of our extractive industries. We live by our industries and our exports, and I do not think one could minimise the importance to our country of, for example, the cement industry or the china clay industry. I feel that to some extent the Minister has failed to bear in mind the interests of those industries. I appreciate that this Bill is primarily concerned with amenities; but I think that the industrial aspect should perhaps be considered a little more than it has, because the industrial interests of this country will be affected by the Bill. I would end by asking the Minister whether he would reply to the point raised by the i noble Lord, Lord Molson, on this question: that the interests of the minerals industries are covered by the "economic and social interests" mentioned in the clause.
§ LORD KENNET
I meant my silence to indicate consent. It is clear that the minerals industries are covered by this part of the clause, "the economic and 140 social interests of rural areas" in two ways: first, because the industries themselves directly generate employment and wealth in the immediate locality; and, secondly, because by producing the materials and selling them at sensible prices to town and country dwellers alike they thereby contribute to the creation of national wealth as a whole which is enjoyed, on rising standards, by rural dwellers as well as town dwellers.
§ LORD KENNET
Perhaps I could make it clearer. It is not an assurance that anybody will or will not do anything, which is the usual form of ministerial assurance. I was not asked for that. I must not trespass on the rights of the courts to interpret Statute law. I cannot imagine people differing from the interpretation that the extracting industries are covered by these words.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
I am grateful to the Minister for that assurance. There will be other opportunities to raise this matter again if need be. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 33 agreed to.
§ Clauses 34 to 36 agreed to.
§ LORD MOLSON had given Notice of his intention to move, after Clause 36, to insert the following new clause:
§ Amendment of 1962 c. 38, s. 3
§ ".The power of the Minister under section 3 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1962 to authorise or require local planning authorities to delegate certain functions under that Act shall not be exercisable as respects functions relating to a National Park or to land in a National Park."
§ The noble Lord said: I understand that this matter has been raised in relation to town and country planning in another place. It was also debated on this Bill in another place, and I understand the assurances given by the Government were reasonably satisfactory. Therefore, without necessarily undertaking that I shall not raise it at the Report stage, I do not propose to move this Amendment.
had given Notice of his intention to move, after Clause 36, to 141 insert a new clause dealing with National i Park Wardens. The noble Lord said: This Amendment, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Inglewood, Lord Molson and myself, we do not propose to move because the Government Amendment No. 64Z, so far as we can see, satisfies all our requirements. I say "so far as we can see", because your Lordships will have heard the words of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, at the beginning of this evening's debate to the effect that he had done his best to find out whether all our points had been covered. On the face of it they appear to have been covered.
§ Clause 37 [Power to make byelaws and related provisions about wardens]:
§ 9.25 p.m.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
moved in subsection (1), after paragraph (c), to insert:() any land across which a footpath or bridleway runs, as respects which land the owner of it has consented to the application of the powers contained in this section to the land.The noble Viscount said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor, and hoping that I shall say to the Committee what he would have wished to say, I beg to move this Amendment.
It aims to extend the by-law-making powers and warden control of local authorities to land to which access is lawfully gained by means of footpaths or bridleways and where, as a result, trespass occurs and damage is done to the land and the fixed equipment on it. The initiative would be taken by the owner of the land who wished to have some by-law and warden control. This additional enabling power safeguard would, I hope, appeal to the owners of land in and near to urban development, access to which is lawful by means of the proper use of public rights of way, which leaves the land open to unlawful trespass and damage.
The greatly increased leisure use of public rights of way through private land is shown to give rise to increased damage to fixed equipment, and I am bound to say that in my experience of public inquiries up and down the British Isles I have heard this said many a time by those who live near urban development. Nevertheless, as worded, the Amendment leaves the local authority with an absolute 142 discretion whether or not it is going to accede to requests for by-law and warden control. On behalf of my noble friend, I beg to move the Amendment.
Page 35, line 8, at the end insert he said paragraph.—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)
§ LORD KENNET
This is a very wide extension of the 1949 Act by-law-making powers which are confined to National Parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and access land. There is a lot of the country which is not that, and I think that in view of the enormous square mileage of the country which is to come in, and in view of the fact that it will include, as the noble Viscount said, quasi-urban or nearly urban areas (and it would probably include actual urban areas where there were footpaths) I think that the Committee should consider the enforcement problem.
Suppose local authorities choose—and I take the point that a local authority does not have to do so—to use this power outside the National Parks and A.O.N.B.s and access land who is to enforce the by-laws they make? The police cannot do it. We have been into this, and it appears to be out of the question. With everything else that they have to do at the moment, and with the present manpower shortage, it would not be reasonable to expect the police to take on this duty as well. So we are forced back on to the question of wardens. Should local authorities recruit wardens to do it?
It has not been possible for me to find out the exact mileage of footpaths and bridleways in England and Wales in the areas which would be covered by the Amendment, but it would certainly run into many hundreds of thousands of miles. If only a small fraction of this were to be covered by by-laws under the provision suggested by the noble Viscount, and even if many of those by-laws would be largely unenforced, I think that one would have to expect a large increase in the number of wardens. The gross cost of a paid warden is about £1,200 a year, so that even if local authorities were to appoint a number of wardens in the low hundreds to do this, as they might have to for all these hundreds of thousands of miles, it would mean quite a sizeable sum in the total 143 moneys available for the whole of the countryside expenditure.
On those grounds I would advise the Committee not to adopt this Amendment. But I do not want to be rigid about it. I have already said that I shall consider so many things, and have invited so many noble Lords to meet me about them, that I am anxious not to do that again, unless there is a very strong feeling in the Committee that something like this should be introduced. So my advice is not to accept this Amendment, but I should not wish the Committee to divide on it. Sooner than that, I would consider the Amendment.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I wish to apologise to the Committee for not having been in my place when this Amendment was reached, a little earlier than I had expected. I was trying to get some physical sustenance after sitting in the Chamber for six-and-a-half hours continuously. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross for having moved it on my behalf.
I do not wish to press this Amendment in its present state. No doubt it is capable of improvement, but I think that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is making an excessive case against it when he calculates the immense cost that might be involved. This would only be effective where both the owner of the land and the local authority—the by-law-making authority—were in agreement that it should be done. Where they are both in agreement, it seems to me a pity that it should not be possible to do it. Under this Bill there will be wardens in many places, but I certainly was not envisaging that this would happen on a vast scale, leading to the employment of hundreds of wardens. I was putting it forward rather in the belief that there might be cases where a power of this kind would be valuable and acceptable to both local authority and landowner. If the local authority thought that it was going to be difficult or expensive, they would have nothing to do with it, and I can imagine that a considerable number of owners would not be interested. But it seems to me a pity if we let this Bill go without making a provision for those cases where this kind of power would be valuable.
144 I do not want to press this to a Division, because I do not think that it is a matter on which there should be controversy. On the other hand, I am not disposed just to withdraw it and let it be. If the noble Lord will say that he will consider this matter further and perhaps discuss it with me, I will be happy to withdraw it. If, of course, noble Lords get up and say that they do not want any more to do with this, I would have to accept that situation. Frankly, I cannot see that the acceptance of some kind of provision of this kind would do any harm, bearing in mind that no local authority would be compelled to commit itself if pressed to do so by a land owner or farmer. I hope that the noble Lord will go so far as to say that he is ready to examine this further and perhaps have a discussion with me, as in all the other matters which we have agreed to discuss.
I hope that the noble I Lord will not forget that even if this costs a certain amount of money, a certain amount of money must be spent if this Bill is going to work. The noble Lord maximises the cost of this and minimises the costs to individual landowners and occupiers. He cannot have it both ways. He cannot have it on the cheap, paid for by landowners and occupiers, and then say that he cannot safeguard their interests by providing a warden service because it will be too expensive.
§ LORD KENNET
I will certainly agree to reconsider this matter and talk with the noble Lord about it, if he so wishes, between now and Report.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 37 agreed to.
§ LORD KENNET moved, after Clause 37, to insert the following new clause:
§ ".—(1) A local planning authority whose area consists of or includes the whole or any part of a National Park may appoint such number of persons as may appear to the authority to be necessary or expedient to act as wardens as respects any land within the National Park to which section 193 of the Law of Property Act 1925 (Common land) for the time being applies, whether or not within the area of the local planning authority.
§ (2) Before a local planning authority first exercise their powers under subsection (1) 145 above as respects any land, they shall, if practicable, consult the person entitled to the soil of the land.
§ (3) The foregoing subsections shall be construed as one with section 92 of the Act of 1949 and shall be subject to subsection (4) of that section (saving for interests of landowners).
§ (4) The purposes for which wardens may be appointed by an authority under the said section 92 (as amended by this Act) as respects any land or waters are—
- (a) to secure compliance with any bye-laws, with the provisions of the Litter Act 1958 and with any requirements imposed by or under section 193 of the Law of Property Act 1925,
- (b) to advise and assist the public, and
- (c) to perform such other duties (if any) in relation to the land or waters as the authority may determine.
§ The noble Lord said: This is another long-awaited Amendment about the appointment of wardens. I do not think the committee will wish me to run through the rather long history of this matter in another place. Various attempts to get it right were made, and none met with general consent. I will go into that later if any noble Lord wishes me to, but for the moment I will confine myself to the effect of the proposed new clause, which is to empower local planning authorities in National Parks to appoint wardens to operate on commons within the Parks, subject to Section 193 of the Law of Property Act 1925; that is, commons to which the public have a de jure right of public access. At present, such commons are excepted land and, therefore, not open to access and may not be wardened.
§ In the Lake District National Park especially there are large areas of what are called, in the jargon of Section 193, "commons"—that is de jure access commons—within the Windermere and Lakes Urban District Council area, and this has inhibited the planning board from making arrangements to secure proper public behaviour on these commons. Subsection (2) of the proposed new clause provides for consultation with the owner of the common. In certain cases, of course, the owner may be the local authority, and therefore that eases the consultation problem. The purposes for which wardens may be appointed are set out in subsection (4), and I think the Committee would expect. I think the purpose of the clause is self-evident, and 146 I hope that it will commend itself to the Committee. I beg to move.
After Clause 37, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Kennet.)
§ LORD MOLSON
I should like to express our appreciation to the Government for drafting and moving this clause. It is on the general lines that were put forward by a number of National Park authorities in the other place. It took the Government a little time to make up their minds to accede to the requests that were made, but they have now done it, and done it, so far as I can see, very handsomely.
§ LORD CHORLEY
I am glad to know that my noble friend Lord Molson is quite satisfied with this. The new clause has only just been put down, and it has not been possible for me, at any rate, to ascertain the views of the joint planning board for the Lake District and the other National Park authorities who are concerned in this matter. I mentioned at an earlier stage the tremendous enthusiasm of the warden service ii the Lake District. This has been carried on in the Lake District in a way which has been of somewhat doubtful legality because of the provisions of the 1949 Act. It is not peculiar to the Lake District, because a number of other National Parks have been in the same position. It has been found sensible, in all the circumstances, not to enter into access arrangements with the landowners.
In the Lake District particularly, the landowners have been most generous. They have given free access over the fells to walkers and climbers for many years, and it was felt reasonable that this policy should be adopted by the planning hoard. It had the disadvantage that the provisions of the 1925 Act were not applied, and undoubtedly this gave rise to some legal difficulties. On the face of it, it appears that the proposal in this new clause covers the situation. But it is a complicated position, and I should like to reserve the right, if on further study some defect should be found in this proposal, to bring the matter up again at the next stage of the Bill, and possibly put down something by way of Amendment
§ Clause 38 agreed to.147
§ Clause 39 [Power to amend local Acts concerning local authorities]:
§ LORD KENNET
This Amendment fulfils a promise made at the Commons Report stage and provides that in making an Order under this Bill the Minister shall not repeal or amend any enactment so far as it relates to a water undertaking of a local authority. I think the purpose of the Amendment is self-evident; I believe it is uncontroversial, and I commend it to the Committee. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 37, line 32, at end insert—
("() shall not repeal or amend any enactment so far as it relates to the water undertaking of a local authority").—(Lord Kennet.)
§ Clause 39, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 40 agreed to.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE moved, after Clause 40, to insert the following new clause:
§ Designation of areas of outstanding natural beauty
§ ".—(1) This section has effect where the Commission makes an order under subsection (1) of section 87 of the Act of 1949 designating an area for the purposes of that Act as an area of outstanding natural beauty.
§ (2) Notwithstanding anything contained in section 87 of the Act of 1949 the Minister may not confirm an order under subsection (4) of that section nor vary an order under subsection (7) of that section so long as any representations made under subsection (2) of that section and not given effect to by the order as submitted to the Minister have not been withdrawn unless—
- (a) if the representation is made by a local authority he has caused a local inquiry to be held, and
- (b) in any other case he has either
- (i) caused a local inquiry to be held, or
- (ii) afforded to any person by whom any representation has been duly made and not withdrawn an opportunity of being heard by a person appointed by him for the purpose,
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move the new clause standing in my name on the Paper. The purpose of this clause is to ensure that objections to the designation of areas of outstanding natural 148 beauty are properly considered. For instance, mineral undertakers have found in the past that such designation by the Commission has created difficulties when they have come subsequently to apply for planning permission to work minerals in the area, in spite, I believe, of Ministerial protests to the contrary. Consequently, in the past the mineral undertakers have in their own protection made representations against proposals for designation. But they have been ignored by the National Parks Commission, which at present is required to consider only objections from a local authority. Also, I believe that the psychological effect of designation is to stimulate local objections to proposals to work minerals. I would add—I believe this is true—that planning permission is generally given, but after considerable and unnecessary delay.
§ I should like, for the Record, to give your Lordships two examples, one of a refusal of planning permission, and the second of an objection to the inclusion within a designated area of a quarrying area which was providing the raw materials for three existing cement works. The first example which I quote to your Lordships concerns a mineral undertaker who has a lease on gravel-bearing land in the Cannock Chase area of outstanding natural beauty. The lease ran from April 15, 1939. Following the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act application was made for planning permission, which was given for a 20-year term which will expire on December 31 this year. The gravel deposits are not exhausted, and application has therefore been made to continue working by deepening the existing pit, possibly another 42 feet to about 150 feet. But I should like to stress that no extension of the surface worked is involved.
The Committee of the statutory county council which is responsible for the administration of county council land for public access has objected to the proposal for continued working, giving as its first reason that—and I quote:
the site is located within the Cannock Chase area of outstanding natural beauty adjoining the attractive village of Brockton and continued working of the quarry will form an increasingly damaging scar on the landscape and injuriously affect the amenities of the area.
That in spite of the fact that there will be no extension of the surface worked.
§ The second example I should like to quote concerns the Sussex Downs area of outstanding natural beauty. Here, representations were made on November 26, 1959, against the inclusion of a chalk-quarrying area owned by a company, part of Which was already being excavated and part forming reserves to ensure the continued supply of important raw materials for production at the adjacent Shoreham cement works. In February, 1962—that is, a full two years after the original representations—and following various reminders, the case was turned down. The company was told that it had been forwarded to the Minister along with the draft designation order, but no opportunity was given for discussion of the representations. Then later, when revised proposals for the Sussex Downs area were publicised in December, 1964, representations were again made and were again turned down without discussion. It is the lack of discussion about which I am complaining.
§ I also understand that when assistance is sought from the Minerals Division of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government the invariable answer is that designation will not affect the working of minerals. I am wondering whether in future that will still be true, in view of the assurance given by the noble Lord on Second Reading, when he said that in those areas of outstanding natural beauty amenity must be the overriding consideration. For that reason I am wondering whether, when this Bill become an Act, the Minerals Division of the Ministry will be able to give a similar assurance. Perhaps the noble Lord can answer that point.
§ Under these considerations which I have mentioned, will the Minister not agree that there should be the right to a formal hearing of objections to proposals for the designation of areas of outstanding natural beauty, and that there should be reference to the Minister of the inspector's report? In conclusion, I would add that the Confederation of British Industry believe that a full public discussion, when objection has been made; to an application for designation, would often result in an assurance that supplies of raw materials for what can be, in effect, very costly works will not be 150 prejudiced and therefore much of the delay later on could be saved. I beg to move.
After Clause; 40, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Merrivale.)
§ LORD KENNET
The objections of the noble Lord to the present procedure have not been based on any assertion that areas of outstanding natural beauty are declared when they are of insufficient outstanding natural beauty, but on the ground that the representations of the mineral industry against the establishment or enlargement or inclusion of certain places in those areas have not always been heeded. I think we need to keep a sense of proportion about this. The question at issue is whether or not it is of outstanding natural beauty. In regard to this question the mineral extractive industries have no special expertise which they can bring to bear or the subject.
When there is a proposal to designate an area of outstanding natural beauty the National Parks Commission are required to consult the local authorities concerned, to publish a notice of the Commission's proposals and to consider representations. In forwarding the order to the Minister for confirmation the Commission are required to forward any observations made by a local authority, and any representations made by other parties to which effect is not given in the order.
So, if the Commission cannot satisfy the mineral extractors by varying their proposals, they must tell the Minister they do not propose to satisfy them and the Minister will think about it at his level. This means the Minister is aware of sustained objections. He is not required to cause a local inquiry to be held, and I would recommend the; Committee not to insert a requirement that he should in future cause a local inquiry to be held. The reason is that the interests of the mineral extractive industry are touched for the first time only when the question of planning permission arises. In the designation of an area of outstanding natural beauty nobody's rights are changed. This is merely a line on the map in which certain values and, hitherto, certain grants are to prevail. Even the grants in future are to be spread 151 over the countryside. Nobody's rights are touched until the question of planning permission arises. If the mineral extractor is refused planning permission, he then has a right of appeal to the Minister, and that is the time for the Minister to take into account the needs of the mineral industry, if the local authority has not already taken this into account by granting permission in the first place.
I do not think the noble Lord would go so far as to say that in settling the question, in issuing a decision on the planning appeal, the Minister should not take into account the fact that the appeal related to an area of outstanding natural beauty. He does, and should, and I cannot believe that the industry would wish otherwise. It seems to me that if the full protection for the economic rights of this industry can be obtained at the moment when a planning application is made it is a needless duplication to write in anything about a public inquiry and public discussion in the designation of these areas.
There are analogies to it in the Civic Amenities Act which this House passed not long ago, in which there is a proposal for conservation areas. There is no appeal against that. There is no public inquiry against or about designation of conservation areas. When there is an appeal and a public inquiry is when anybody is ordered to preserve his house against his will, because it touches his individual rights. This is the same situation that applies to the mineral industry in an area of outstanding natural beauty. I hope that the Committee will be content to leave the law unchanged and that the mineral extractive industry will be content to defend their rights and plead their case when their rights are in question and the matter is susceptible of a decision.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
I am grateful for the considered reply of the Minister, which I shall read with great interest; and perhaps I shall revert to this matter at a later stage. There is a point he did not touch on. He said that the interests of the extractive industry were considered, but he did not say anything on this question of undue delay and also about the considerable expense. Could he look into 152 this question of undue delay, which does arise? I agree that in the end planning permission is given. There is a difficulty about objections being considered when they are put forward by the mineral industries, but I think their main concern is this question of delay and lack of public discussion. Could the noble Lord say anything now, or at any rate consider it for a later discussion on another Amendment which I might put down?
§ LORD KENNET
If the noble Lord will send me examples of delay in reaching planning decisions in the case of the mineral extractive industry which he believes have been more extensive than the normal delays encountered by industry in general in seeking planning permission, I will go into them. But so far he has not produced any evidence that the mineral industry is worse off than others.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
I will certainly look into this and supply whatever information I can. With that assurance, kindly given, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 41 agreed to.
§ Clause 42 [Crown land]:
§ LORD MOLSON
had given notice of his intention to move in subsection (5) after "25" to insert "and section 28". The noble Lord said: In view of the Amendment put down by the Government which the Committee has accepted, I do not move this Amendment.
§ Clause 42 agreed to.
§ Clause 43 agreed to.
§ Clause 44 [Interpretation]:
§ Clause 44 agreed to.
§ Remaining clause agreed to.
§ Schedule 1 agreed to.153
§ Schedule 2 [Procedure for taking common land]:
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR had given Notice of his intention to move to leave out paragraph 3. The noble Lord said: In view of the explanation given by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, when we were discussing the Motion, That Clause 9 shall stand part, there is no need to move this Amendment.
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
moved to leave out paragraph 5. The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 69, for two reasons. The first is that this paragraph does not seem to make sense. I have compared it with the Commons Hansard. Perhaps I should mention that this Schedule was moved into the Bill at short notice at a quite late stage in another place, so there was little opportunity for all Members there to examine it in detail. May I read it to your Lordships to see whether your Lordships can understand it better than I can, It says:No restrictions apply to commons generally, or to any particular common, contained in or having effect under any enactment, and no trust subject to which the common land is held, shall prevent a local authority from taking part of common land in accordance with this Schedule.If this paragraph said:No restrictions which apply to common generally,orno restrictions applying to commons generally",I could read it in a way that would make sense. But I cannot help thinking that something has gone wrong here, and I hope I am not infringing Commons privilege in saying that the trouble really arose in another place, because I can assure your Lordships that this precisely repeats the words which were printed in the Commons Hansard. Perhaps the noble Lord will look into that. If he can read that out to your Lordships in a way which makes sense—
§ LORD KENNET
Before the noble Lord goes on to the substance of his Amendment, may I say that I cannot read it out, but I can tell him what was the intention of the Government in these circumstances. It was to overcome any 154 statutory restriction on trusts which night otherwise prevent a local authority from taking part of the common under Clause 9. But I will look into the drafting.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I am grateful to the noble Lord. Considering that Parliament is most careful about watching matters referring to common land, and because this was moved into the Bill at such a late stage in another place, I thought it right to raise this question, quite apart from the drafting. It is a most surprising and sweeping provision that no restrictions which apply to commons generally—I think that is what it means—or to any particular common shall prevent a local authority from taking part of common land in accordance with this Schedule. This means that whatever restrictions may originally have been imposed, or whatever trusts were drawn up subject to which the common land is held, we are providing that they shall be swept aside.
This is a sweeping decision in every sense. It may be right, but I think Parliament should take note of it and should be aware of what it is doing. I realise that there is a case for Clause 9, and that this Schedule is really the deailed; implementation of Clause 9, but I think I it would be wrong if your Lordships allowed this to go through without drawing attention to it and without asking the representative of the Government whether it is really essential that this far-reaching provision should be made.
Page 44, line 43, leave out paragraph 5.—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)
§ LORD KENNET
Further on the drafting point, it is, of course, a printing error. It is not true to say that no restrictions apply. Perhaps they do. That is what the subsection is there for. It should read, "no restrictions applying", and then as before. The error will be rectified. I agree with the noble Lord that I the need for this power is not self-evident. That is so because the restrictions, covenants, trusts, and so on, which one would empower the local authorities to override in the context of this Bill are invariably, I think I am right in saying, to the effect that the common shall be kept open and shall be for the enjoyment of all. The intention of most 155 owners of commons is the very same. Indeed, there are manifold legal obligations on them to do precisely that, but the Government have still thought it unavoidable to give local authorities compulsory purchase powers over small parks and commons in order that they may do things on them which might, at first sight, appear to conflict with the intentions of the owner, or the owners and the law governing commons, in that they might enclose a minute portion of a common. For instance, you cannot build public lavatories without enclosing a few square feet of common, and it may be that in a multiplicity of commons owners a tiny handful of them, or one or two, might object to this out of sheer cussedness.
All the Schedule does is to ensure that these powers shall run, even in the case of commons where there are old covenants and restrictions of one sort or another. The overriding purpose of the local authority in these cases will be, as in all other, to increase and improve the access of the public to all commons, and the view of the Government is that the creation of compulsory powers is as much justified in the case of commons subject to old trusts and covenants as it is in other commons, a view that the Committee has already accepted.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Whether Schedule 2 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ LORD BARNBY
I wanted to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he would find it convenient to give some additional explanation on paragraph 2(4) of Schedule 2. There appears to be some confusion as to how this shall work. There are in the Bill many clauses which have suggested action in various directions which would involve the question of an appeal to the Minister. Paragraph 2(4) of Schedule 2 definitely outlines how the Minister shall give his decision, et cetera, shall take all steps to give the necessary information, or shall cause a public inquiry to be held. Now it is certainly right that the Minister should 156 protect himself by taking care that he gets every kind of representation before he gives a decision, and that is provided for. That would not be any hardship to anybody.
But the owner of land who might be affected is here subjected to uncertainty as to the decision of the Minister after he has given each person making such a representationan opportunity of appearing before and being heard by a person appointed by the Minister for the purpose…That is clear procedure, and it goes on to say: "or cause a public inquiry to be held". Presumably, the owner of the land will be the one to be subjected to some action which the Minister contemplates or which somebody appeals to him to take, and it would appear that the owner of the soil will have to pay the costs of defending himself against possible demands in certain circumstances, when the Minister will want to satisfy himself as to the propriety of such action.
§ LORD KENNET
I am not sure that I take the noble Lord's point, but it is beyond doubt that a compulsory purchase order cannot be made under this Bill if there is an objection to it from a person having a locus to object and if that objection is maintained, without there being a public inquiry. Does that meet the noble Lord's point?
§ LORD BARNBY
I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for that explanation, but he has not made clear who pays the costs of the owner of the soil in his defence against any proposed action.
§ LORD KENNET
It is not a defence against a proposed action; it is an objection against a proposed action, and in the normal case the objector pays his own costs.
§ LORD BARNBY
If the Parliamentary Secretary is satisfied, I would only say that I am trying to be helpful in seeking an interpretation of something which may cause confusion. Perhaps at the next stage the noble Lord may see fit to add something to the provision.
§ Schedule 2 agreed to.157
§ Schedule 3 [Public Rights of Way]:
§ LORD BARNBY moved, at the beginning of Schedule 3, to insert:
Section 193 (rights of the public over commons and waste lands)
It is hereby declared that the right of access of any land specified in this section is a right of access on foot only.
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment seeks a clear-cut definition of something which has produced a great deal of confusion. It is brought about by the nebulous wording of the Law of Property Act 1925, which was not made clear when the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 was drafted. As a result, the definition is uncertain, because access granted by the 1925 Act to the public to commons did not indicate how this was to take place. It was not made clear whether it was to be on foot, on horseback, in a vehicle, or whatever it may be. As it stands, it appears that the 1925 Act is not taken into account and clarified in the 1949 Act. For that reason it is now suggested that a clear interpretation should be given.
§ Considerable reference has been made during the proceedings of this Committee to the definitions clearly set out in Section 27 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, which define a footpath, a bridleway and so on. There has also been reference to the Gosling Committee which made clear its views. It was said in another place that the Government accepted in principle the need for definition, and it was therefore thought likely that a Government Amendment would be introduced into the House of Lords to give effect to the recommendations. That was said on February 20, at column 1103 of the Commons OFFICIAL REPORT. But it does not seem that that promised Amendment was introduced, unless there was an intention of some definition tied up with the Amendment moved by the Parliamentary Secretary with regard to passage on wheels.
§ I shall refrain from taking up the time of the Committee by referring to the Report of the Royal Commission on Common Lands, which gives a great deal of information, but I would remind your Lordships that in the area of com- 158 mons there are a lot of forests, woods, barren lands, open lands and, of course, areas of special scientific interest. The commons are owned in turn local authorities, by the National Trust and by private individuals, and there appears to have been a lack of uniformity in their treatment. Local authorities have power to make by-laws, but the National Trust is in a different category. In the case of certain commons, such as Esher Common, the Minister appears to have issued an order forbidding passage on horses.
§ I am given to understand that there is a legal difference between "access" and "passage". It is very difficult for the lay mind to understand how one can have access to, without also having passage on, a common if one is going to have any use for it. That was certainly envisaged by the Gosling Committee when they made their recommendations to the Minister. The present misfortune for both people on foot and horse riders, is that they are in ignorance about what is permitted with regard to commons. Footpaths are considerably "chewed up" by horsemen, and in many areas there is asperity of feeling between people who want to use a certain footpath. It would be to the benefit of all, as I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will agree, if no uncertainty were left in this legislation which might tend to produce contention between different users of commons. Because it seems so clear that there is need for this definition, I shall not make the further points which might be of interest to the Committee in coming to a decision, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to accept this Amendment and dispose of the present unfortunate situation.
§ I beg to move.
Page 45, line 15, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Barnby.)
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I hope the Government will be able to help my noble friend, and indeed the Committee, by clarifying this matter. On a new clause moved by the Government earlier this evening and then withdrawn, rights of way for foot passengers were about to become rights of way for cyclists. 159 Now we are discussing a separate but related issue, the right of access to common land. That unquestionably means in all cases, I believe, right of access for pedestrians. Does it mean also right of access for persons on horseback? Does it mean right of access for cyclists? Does it mean right of access for people with certain types of vehicle?
§ LORD MOLSON
It is of course the case that only the courts can decide exactly what is the meaning of a Statute, but it has been the task of the Commons Preservation Society over a large number of years to advise the owners of commons and of commonable rights, and they have for many years, ever since the passing of the Act of 1925, given the advice that the rights of the public as regards access to commons under Section 193 applies only to access on foot. I hope, therefore, that the Government will confirm that they take the same view.
§ EARL HOWE
As to the question of the right of access by people on foot, I am afraid I must dissent from that. I feel that if right of access is to be given it should be given to all members of the public, whether they are on foot or on a motor vehicle. I suggest that if access is to be given, it might be given to a motorist to park his vehicle within 15 yards of the highway. I gather it follows the general pattern of the law that this should be permitted—and possibly at a greater distance than 15 yards. Also, I think the Royal Commission on Common Lands gives some justification for this kind of action.
§ LORD KENNET
This is a difficult situation, because the advice available to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government is exactly the opposite to that which has been given by the Commons Preservation Society, and therefore, presumably, to that given to them by highly-qualified lawyers. The advice which my Ministry has been able to obtain is that the famous Section 193 includes horses. How much does this matter? The noble Lord has said that there is confusion about this and that it ought to be cleared up by an Act of Parliament. Of course, one is always emotionally inclined towards clearing up confusion, but I verily believe that in this case it is not so im- 160 portant whether one should do that or not, because the owner of a common— it may be a local authority, it may be a private person or it may be any number of different sorts of people—has the right under the present law to apply to the Minister for an order under that same section, Section 193, to impose limitations and conditions on the exercise of the rights of access, or indeed to limit the extent of the land to be affected by those rights. Quite a number of these orders of limitation have been made over the years doing precisely this—restricting the riding of horses to specified parts of a common, or to specified parts on it. I believe the noble Lord may be familiar with the facts I am giving to the Committee, since he has himself applied for such an order very recently, to which there have been objections and into which there must therefore be a public inquiry.
I would advise the Committee that this situation is a tenable one. There is doubt in the law, but if it is felt by the owner of any common that there are too many horses on it and that they are spoiling it for other people, or that they are chewing up the grass, or whatever it is, all he has to do is to apply to the Minister for an order, which will instantly clarify the matter. The Minister will either make an order, in which case there will be no horses, or he will refuse to make an order, in which case it will become more likely that the horses are permitted everywhere—a great deal more likely, I would say. Of course, one may say that there has perhaps been something not quite serious in what I have been saying, and that Parliament must always seek to clarify confusion. I would agree with that: in the long run it must. But I hope the Committee will take the view that this is not the Bill to do it. Major legislation is coming forward on commons. It is an absolutely colossal subject, far wider than the confines of this Bill which simply seeks to spread grant over the country and to provide for access orders in particularly difficult places. The whole of the commons legislation has to be cleared up. It is a major task; but it will be done. I think that the overall clarification that the noble Lord desires—and I can see his reasons—should be produced within the context of commons legislation in 161 general rather than under a Countryside Bill, given that the owners of the commons already have a perfectly good administrative recourse in the meantime.
§ LORD BARNBY
I am obliged to the Minister for his explanation but I must admit it is quite disappointing. He adopts the attitude of contemplating a continuation of confusion. Many passages in the course of this Bill have brought vividly to light the need for clarification and definition; and, in the absence of this, a great deal of the value of what has been legislated is thrown into confusion. I cannot refrain from asking the indulgence of the Committee to make some remarks about common lands. The noble Lord himself admits that this is a very wide subject and perhaps, at this stage of the Bill, it is a pity that time has to be taken up on it. But so great will be the disappointment to pedestrians and riders at what the noble Lord has said that I say, with the greatest regret, that I cannot let it pass without inflicting on the Committee some views on its broader aspects.
Let me remind the Minister that common land in the country extends to over 1 million acres. There are an enormous number of commons. Does he suggest that each one is to be interpreted by special order on application to the Ministry? Who is to pay the cost of it? That is a point that I raised earlier. I admit, as I did on Second Reading, that while I am discussing the broad question I have a particular interest in that I am responsible for a common and, as the owner of the soil, I am familiar with these conditions and see them in practice. With that knowledge I say that what the noble Lord suggests— that any case that arises throughout the country on the conditions of a common has possibly to be the cause of a hearing by the Ministry which may take six months of a year to resolve—produces a great deal of confusion and discord over what is permissible in one community and not in another.
I think it unfair to the community that the Minister should presume to put that kind of legislative handicap on the whole of the country as it affects commons, distributed as they are so widely. I would remind the Committee in regard 162 to the interpretation of this Act that there are places where the commons are on heavy London clay, with tracks quite impassable in the winter and wet weather but baked hard and deeply cracked in summer. This is the sort of place we are talking about, where the conditions are quite chaotic and pedestrians find themselves condemned to use what the Act calls footpaths but which are in reality only rides for horsemen. Speaking as one who has been associated with horse riding all his life, I speak with feeling for the horsemen. They are ignorant about where they can go and what they can do.
I wonder whether I might interrupt the noble Lord. I think he has missed the point of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was sympathetic to the difficulty which the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, was in, but he pointed out that the whole question of the law on commons is in a state of hopeless confusion and the subject of an inquiry from which we all hope that some legislation will come which may help the noble Lord, Lord Barnby. That being so, I think that possibly the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, has said enough.
§ LORD BARNBY
With due respect and thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for the homilies he addresses to me and the advice he has given, I should say that is exactly the point I made. It is this absence of definition. I ask for a simple definition.
§ LORD BARNBY
I must ask the permission of the Committee to read a line from the 1925 Act and remind the noble Lord of Section 193. The rubric is:Rights of the public over commons and waste land.and the section states:Members of the public shall, subject as hereinafter provided, have rights of access for air and exercise.…I should have thought that quite simple phraseology. But how are the rights to be exercised? Do you go on foot; on a horse; on wheels?
163 It would be the simplest thing to insert a definition, and I must remind the noble Lord the Parliamentary Secretary that if that Amendment were adopted it would mean that the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 would immediately become effective. Under Section 127 that clearly defines what is possible for a bridlepath and what is possible for a footpath. The Gosling Committee recommended that that should be adopted. Surely I am not doing anything unreasonable in pressing that the Committee should ask for an interpretation and acceptance by the Minister of what has been recommended by the Gosling Committee, which was set up, as the Minister said, to advise him on these difficult matters. Because of that I would remind the Committee also that the present legal position, as I am informed by the Footpaths Association, who are the official and best-informed organisation in the country on the matter, is that horse riding on a public footpath is a trespass against the owner of the soil, but it is not a criminal offence. That is one of the difficulties, there is no definition and no understanding—
§ LORD KENNET
I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, would confine his remarks to the Amendment before the Committee, which is about riding horses on commons.
§ LORD BARNBY
I can only repeat that I thought I was dealing with the Amendment; and there was no way of explaining it except by bringing in all that. I hope that the noble Lord may yet give consideration to this point and that on Report stage he may be able to give us some definition, because it seemed that, although in another place some Amendment on this subject was promised, it has not yet come. In that belief I thought it would be simpler for the noble Lord to agree to these words which would correct the legal difficulty with regard to the Law of Property Act 1925. I assure the noble Lord that it is a pretty widespread complication, and I hope that before Report stage he may be able to reconsider this. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.164
§ 10.30 p.m.
LORD CHORLEY moved, in Part I [Miscellaneous Amendments, Act of 1949], after the proposed amendment to Section 33, to insert:
("Section 37 (Powers of Minister to expedite survey)
The power of the Minister in section 37 to expedite the preparation of maps and statements shall include the power to direct a surveying authority to prepare a revised map and statement in draft form where the period referred to in section 33(3) has expired and where, after consultation with the surveying authority, it seems to the Minister that because of changes since the relevant date the definitive map, or the las preceding map prepared in definitive form, as the case may be, is no longer a reasonably accurate record of public rights of way in the area of the authority.")
§ The noble Lord said: We now come to a part of the Schedule which deals with Amendments to the 1949 Act. The Government are asking for an Amendment to Section 33. I wish to ask them to take rather more rights than they have at present under Section 37 of the Act. This is a section which the Commons and Footpaths Preservation Society have found rather defective in operation and which they, and those who work with them, feel could with advantage be amended. It is a rather technical matter and I hope your Lordships will forgive me if a stick closely to the brief with which I have been provided.
§ The present position is that the surveying authority has to prepare a revised draft map within five years of the relevant date of the previous definitive map. Rather unexpectedly, the relevant date is not the date on which the definitive map was published, but the date on which the original draft map was published. In nearly all cases, this was a date shortly after the passing of 1949 Act, usually during the years from 1950 to 1953. The procedure in reaching the definitive stage has been so long in many cases that the definitive map is completely out of date before it is published. The definitive map published to-day— and these maps are still being published —reflects the footpath pattern of no less than 15 years ago and therefore revision has become urgent. The revision procedure is much quicker than the original procedure. The Bill, by Schedule 2, Part II, will make it still quicker. Counties which have done the revision already frequently manage to do it in 165 from one to two years. Hampshire is a good example. Thus the really useful document is not so much the definitive map as the revised definitive map, because, since this can be completed in as short a time as from one to two years, it means a fairly recent relevant date.
§ In view of the great value of the revised maps, it is extraordinary that the Minister has no power to expedite publication of these maps. The need for such powers has become evident during recent years. It can be illustrated by the case of the Yorkshire East Riding, in respect of which, by means of a Question, I succeeded in stimulating the department to take action. The Council published its draft map in 1953. Then it did absolutely nothing, until it was spurred on by the Minister, who directed the publication of the original map in 1966 and the definitive map in 1967. Under the expedited procedure, only non-controversial paths have been shown on the East Riding definitive map. All disputed paths have been left to be determined at revision stage. Yet there is nothing to oblige the East Riding Council to commence the revision state. The Minister has no power to do so under present law. It is that situation which we ask to have remedied.
§ Again, there are counties which reached the definitive stage some time ago, and they have taken no steps since then towards commencing the important review stage. These counties include Herefordshire and Oxfordshire, both of which published definitive maps in 1961 and have done nothing whatever since. I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs, and that the Minister ought to have power to spur them on and stimulate them. This is the object of the Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 45, line 46, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Charley.)
§ LORD KENNET
So far as we know, there are only two counties where the definitive map is really out of date and who are not going as fast as they should with the review. I do not want to make a meal of this point, but we in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government would be just as happy chasing a couple 166 of counties at any one moment rather than having the sledgehammer powers of default to order them to get on with it. In other words, I would advise the Committee that it is not really necessary to extend the default powers, which are always slightly unpopular, and are to be taken only in cases of crying need. I do not think the evidence suggests that this problem cannot be solved by other means.
§ LORD CHORLEY
I am very disappointed with that reply. From what the Minister has just said, one would think that this was a very minute problem in which only one or two counties are engaged. But this is not the case. During the last year or two I have put down quite a number of Questions, and they have by no means covered all the defaulting counties. I am surprised that the Minister should, in effect, refuse to have these powers conferred upon him. I do not think he realises how unsatisfactory the position is. I do not wish to press this Amendment at the present stage, but I should like to collect a dossier, as it were, and perhaps return to the matter at the next stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD MOLSON
Before the noble Lord withdraws the Amendment, I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he agrees with the statement of the facts made by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley. If it is the case that these local authorities are under an obligation to produce these revised maps and are neglecting to do so, are we really to understand that the Minister prefers not to take powers to require them to carry out their obligation?
§ LORD KENNET
Let us go into detail on this, after all. The noble Lord quoted, I think, three authorities which were late in preparing their maps—I assume the noble Lord's agreement Two of them, I think he said, were two years late—that is, they have to produce the revised maps five-yearly, and they have gone seven years—and the third authority is later than that. A further question arises. If an authority is late in doing its review, one must consider now much it matters; that is, how much evidence there is that the existing definitive map is out of date and inadequate. I am 167 advised that there are only two definitive maps in the whole country (the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, mentioned one of them, but there is another) which are clearly out of date. In one of these two cases the review is already under way, and in the other is about to be dealt with urgently.
I can only repeat that I do not think this is a case where the Minister should go out of his way to seek default powers. But it may be that the Committee will feel that he is not going out of his way to acquire them, and why should he resist them? I should not like to resist too hard if the Committee thinks that the Minister should have these powers. I think it would be illogical for me to refuse to do anything about it, even if the evidence is that it is not necessary. After all, if the Minister takes them, he does not have to use them.
§ LORD BARNBY
In the course of moving his Amendment Lord Chorley referred to the obligations of county authorities. Section 27 of the Act of 1949 directs them clearly to prepare a draft map for their area showing thereon a footpath or a bridleway. Is it to be understood from what the Minister said regarding the maps clearly setting out bridlepaths and footpaths that the interpretation of the Act as to a bridle path or footpath is to continue to be invalidated by the uncertainty of the Act of 1925? Are we to have the chaotic position that, in spite of the provision of maps by the county council, they are invalid? What is the good of spending money on producing them?
§ LORD KENNET
The noble Lord asked me whether it was to be understood that these maps were to continue to be invalidated by the uncertainty attaching to Section 193 of the Law of Property Act 1925. My answer to him is, No, it is not to be so understood.
§ LORD BARNBY
But with due respect to the Minister, they are in valid now—is this not so?—by virtue of the Act of 1925.
§ LORD CHORLEY
When we remember that this duty was first placed on local authorities nearly twenty years ago now, surely we must realise that some rather greater stimulus towards getting on with their duty is required. However, having said that I reserve the right to return to this matter at a later stage, in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 10.42 p.m.
LORD CHORLEY moved, in paragraph 4(5), after "authority", to insert:
publish in the London Gazette and in one or more newspapers circulating in the area of the authority a notice stating his intention to make such a direction and shall".
§ The noble Lord said: Here, I am asking for rather more rights for the public, so that they may be made aware of decisions which very much affect them and of which at the present time they are unaware. Moreover, no provision exists to provide them with the necessary information.
§ I think the matter can be explained most clearly and succinctly by taking the two distinct cases which may arise. First of all, we have the case where the authority publishes a map omitting what a local amenity society believes, on the evidence before it, to be a public footpath. The society then makes representations to the Minister under Schedule 3, Part II, paragraph 4(1), and if the Minister decides that the society's representation is correct, under paragraph 4(5) he must give notice to any person who is "adversely affected". That is the phrase which is used: "adversely affected". This obviously includes, and everybody will say rightly, the landowner. So that the two sides which are affected—that is, the local authority and the landowner— can then put their views and have the matter properly cleared up. That is very fair and reasonable.
§ However, when you come to look at the reverse of the situation it does not work the same way: what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander. The authority publishes a map including a path to which a landowner objects. The Minister decides that the landowner is right, and he then has to decide who are the persons who are "adversely affected" (the same phrase being used, 169 of course) under paragraph 4(5)—this your Lordships will find at the top of page 49. In fact, the persons "adversely affected" are in this case the general public, the people who have taken the right to use the footpath. Unless there is provision for advertisement, members of the public, and local voluntary bodies of which they are members, and which are concerned with these matters, will have no standing whatever, and will in fact have no knowledge of what has happened: that a path which they had believed to be safely put upon the map has in fact been challenged by the landowner and the challenge has been allowed by the Minister.
§ It is true, of course, that under the existing wording of the paragraph the Minister would have to notify the authority, but that is quite insufficient from the point of view of those people wishing to use the path and of the various societies which are interested and concerned in the matter. And the object of this Amendment is to enable all those who are concerned in this way to know what has happened, so that they can make representations. The wording used is similar to that which is used whenever notices have to be issued, and I think it is sufficient and satisfactory to meet the case. I hope that the Minister will be rather more forthcoming on this occasion. I beg to move.
Page 49, line 4, at end insert the said words.— (Lord Chorley.)
§ LORD KENNET
In my view there is a lot in what the noble Lord has said. I am not quite sure that I followed all his reasoning in detail, but if he would be kind enough to withdraw his Amendment and come and talk to me about it, I should like to investigate the possibility of putting down something to the same effect on Report.
§ LORD CHORLEY
I am grateful for the Minister's reply, and in view of it I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule 3 agreed to.
§ Schedule 4 [Local Authority Committees and Joint Boards]:170
§ 10.48 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON moved, in paragraph 4(1), to leave out "Not less than one-third" and insert, "The Chairman and not less than one-half". The noble Lord said: This is similar to an Amendment that I moved in 1949 in another place, when the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was piloting his National Parks and Access to the Countryside Bill through that House. If National Parks are really to be National Parks, and to follow national policy, then the committees which are responsible for their administration should be to a larger extent representative of the national interest, and the national representatives should not be in a small minority, as they are at the present time.
§ This has become an increasing cause of friction and irritation during the last twenty years, and in a number of cases —not, I think, in the case of the High Peak National Park or the Lake District, but in a number of the other National Parks—the policy has been limited and controlled by the policy of the local authorities. When National Parks were originally set up it was not the intention that this should be so, although I admit that this provision was contained in the original Act. Therefore I take this opportunity of again arguing that there should be a small majority representative of the national interest. I beg to move.
Page 51, line 21, leave out ("Not less than one-third") and insert ("The Chairman and not less than one-half").—(Lord Molson.)
§ LORD KENNET
I welcome the appearance once again of this old friend in our debates, because its very appearance in this Chamber will remind the public and all those concerned that the National Parks are indeed National Parks; that is to say, that their importance transcends local considerations, although it can never be separate from them or living above them on a different plane altogether.
Having said that, I wonder how much further the Committee would wish me to go. The Amendment as it is framed would take the National Parks out of local government altogether for planning purposes but would leave many of the functions which will be in question on the rates. I think probably the noble Lord would agree that the Amendment 171 must fall on the fact that it places the Parks in national power but does not place all the expenditure on the Exchequer; and this would be an unacceptable compromise between true national control and the present local control mitigated by a strong national element.
§ LORD MOLSON
This Bill has progressed a long way through Parliament and it is based upon a White Paper. This principle for which I am contending has been consistently rejected all the way through, and while I still maintain it is a right one I will not press it any further upon your Lordships tonight. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 10.52 p.m.
LORD GRIMSTON OF WESTBURY moved, in paragraph 4, after sub-paragraph (2), to insert:
() At least one of the members of a joint board or joint advisory committee or a planning committee or sub-committee of a planning committee referred to in sub-paragraph (1) of this paragraph, who is appointed by each county council, shall be a county district councillor from a county district wholly or partially included in a National Park.
§ The noble Lord said: My noble friend Lord Gainsborough has asked me to move this Amendment on his behalf. Whatever happens with regard to old friends, which we have just been discussing, I think there is no doubt that there is no provision for district councils to appoint representatives, and such councils within the National Parks feel that their views go unheard for want of representation and because all too often members appointed by county councils do not live within the National Parks.
§ This Amendment is put forward by the Rural District Councils Association, of which my noble friend in whose name this Amendment stands is President, and supported by the Urban District Councils Association. I think it is a modest one. It does not ask for separate representation for urban, rural or borough councils, and it does not preclude a county council from appointing a county councillor who is also a district councillor. What it does ensure is that at any rate one local authority representative will be a district councillor within a National 172 Park and so able to speak for the inhabitants of the Park in a way which county councils in parts of the county distant from the National Park would be unable to do. All the Amendment seeks is to ensure that a limited number of district councillors are elected to Park authorities from councils within the National Parks so that the views of the inhabitants within the Parks are given proper attention.
§ In these days I think there is a widespread feeling—one sees evidence of it in the Scottish nationalism and so on— that many matters closely affecting people in areas are discussed and controlled at a great distance. I hope that this modest Amendment to bring in district councils in this very modest way will go some way to alleviating that feeling, and I hope that the Amendment may be favourably considered. I beg to move.
Page 51, line 38, at end insert the said subparagraph.—(Lord Grimston of Westbury.)
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I attach a great deal of importance to this Amendment which my noble friend has moved. I think it is not only in the interests of district councils that we should move something like this into the Bill but also in the interests of the National Parks and the public generally. Perhaps I may remind the Committee, even at this late hour, that the original theory was that the two-thirds of the members of these committees who were to be appointed by the county council were to represent the local interest, and the other one-third, who were to be appointed by the Minister, were to bring in the wider national considerations.
Unfortunately, it has not worked out exactly like that, because it has not always been secured by the county council concerned that their representatives are truly local representatives of the local interests of the Park itself. I know that there are notable exceptions to this. In the case of the Dartmoor National Park Planning Committee, for example, the Devon County Council secures that the purpose of this Amendment is most generously met. The Devon County Council ensures that among its nominees to the committee there are always at least one urban district councillor and one rural district councillor from 173 councils within the Park. That shows that it is perfectly possible, and that my noble friend is not asking for anything unreasonable.
But if one can contrast with that the situation in the Yorkshire Dales National Park Planning Committee, I believe I am right in saying that out of the 12 members appointed by the county council, only two are resident in the National Park. Yet these are the people who, under the theory as presented to Parliament in 1949, were to be the people who on the Park planning committee were to represent the specifically local interest. It so happens that of the six nominees of the Minister only one is resident in the National Park. I am not taking exception to that, because under the theory which I have outlined, and which has been accepted by Parliament, it should be the duty of the county council and not of the Minister to ensure that there was local representation.
It seems to me that if the Committee were to accept this Amendment, or something on the same lines, we should be achieving a quite definite purpose. We should be going far to ensure the achievement of the original purpose that was set before Parliament nearly twenty years ago. By this Amendment we should guarantee that at least one of the members of the planning committee appointed by the county council was a member of either an urban district council or a rural district council situated within the Park. That person could ensure that the strictly local aspects of all matters were fully considered by the planning committee.
I think your Lordships are already agreed that it is desirable that this legislation should work in a way that will create the maximum of good will rather than generate suspicion. I ask your Lordships to believe that it does generate suspicion if hardly any members of the Park planning committee, which has such considerable planning powers over a National Park, are in fact resident in the Park. I would strongly commend my noble friend's Amendment as a way to correct this defect.
§ LORD KENNET
I am not sure whether I heard the noble Lord aright, but when he moved the Amendment I think he said that there is no provision 174 for one or more of the members of a board to be a district councillor. I am sure he did not mean to say that. If he did, he would not have been right.
§ LORD KENNET
The position is that there is no obligation that one should be. Let me say, first, that the Government entirely agree that the immediate local interest should be fully and properly represented on the board or joint committee. Whether or not it must always be done by a district councillor I think is an open question. It might well be done by a county councillor who lives right in the middle of the Park; it might be done by a county councillor who was also a district councillor. There are any number of ways in which it could be done. Lord Brooke gave the example of the Dartmoor Board where they already do it, and this seems to be a great success. What we are talking about really is whether to proceed by compulsion or by exhortation to ensure that this is done. On the whole, I think that the Committee ought to be chary of accepting powers of compulsion, ought to be chary of imposing upon the boards or councillors as constituting the boards, the duty of doing it this way rather than that way, and also of telling them that they must do it rather than urging them to do it.
Now when the Bill is through, as I have so often had occasion to say, the Minister of Housing and Local Government is going to issue a circular; and if the Amendment is not carried tonight he will most certainly make this very point in the circular. Therefore, my advice to the Committee is that, for the sake of lightness of touch, and in order not to stimulate resentment amongst those interests which might be against doing it by force (although I am sure that nobody will be against doing it voluntarily) it will be better to put it in the circular rather than in the Bill itself.
§ LORD GRIMSTON OF WESTBURY
I thank the Minister for what he has said. It is obvious, I think, that he views the object of this Amendment with sympathy. I am not sure that I entirely agree with him in this case that it should be done only by persuasion, followed up by a circular, which may or may not be 175 observed. But I wonder if he would give an undertaking to look at this again between now and the next stage, and perhaps have some discussions about it. If he would be ready to do that I would gladly withdraw the Amendment at this stage. In spite of his sympathetic attitude I cannot say I am entirely satisfied with what he has said.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I confess that I am not satisfied, although I know that the noble Lord the Minister is doing his best. Nineteen years have passed since the original Act reached the Statute Book. I believe I am right in saying that for nineteen years successive Ministers have been urging county councils to pay attention to the idea embodied in this Amendment, and with certain honourable exceptions, of which the Devon County Council is one, the encouragement has fallen on rather stony ground.
I entirely understand my noble friend's suggestion that, instead of pressing this now, he should ask that further consideration should be given to it between now and the Report stage of the Bill, but I hope that if he does withdraw the Amendment it will be appreciated by the Committee that this is a change which must be brought about, and that mere repetition of the general urgings by the Minister to various county councils to do this will not suffice. Frankly, I should like to see this written into the Bill, but I appreciate that there is another stage, and maybe it can be done by agreement when we come to the Report stage.
§ LORD KENNET
While it is true that this issue has been around for nineteen years and the district councils have
wanted compulsion for nineteen years, the county councils have resisted compulsion for nineteen years, and I think there is little more to find out about the situation. No doubt concrete evidence of matters which have been misplanned because of the absence of district councillors from planning boards might cause the Government to take a different view. But for the moment, if the Committee will allow me, I think I should perhaps quote a letter which was written by the Minister of State to the Rural District Councils Association after a series of meetings which he had with them recently. In that letter he said:
In view of what it has been found possible to do in some parts of the country under the existing legislation, we have it in mind to commend the practice of including district council representatives among the members in one of the administrative circulars that in due course we shall issue.
§ I am now telling your Lordships that we will put it not in one of the circulars, in due course, but in the circular about this Bill. And I doubt very much whether it would be realistic to hope that we can remove this long conflict between the county councils and the district councils as quickly as necessary to get something in at the Report stage, although having said that, I would add that I shall never refuse to meet any representative of any local authority association on any point.
§ LORD GRIMSTON OF WESTBURY
I am sorry, but I think in view of that statement we should come to a decision, and I wish to press the Amendment.
§ 11.4 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 74) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 21; Not-Contents, 16.175
|Albemarle, E.||Denham, L. [Teller.]||Redmayne, L.|
|Barnby, E.||Glasgow, E.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Bessborough, E.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Ilford, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Jellicoe, E.||Thurlow, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Mills, V.||Vivian, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Bowles, L. [Teller.]||Hill of Wivenhoe, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Champion, L.||Hilton of Upton, L. [Teller.]||Rowley, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Kennet, L.||Segal, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Molson, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 11.13 p.m.
LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, in paragraph 4, to add to subparagraph (3):
and in making appointments the Minister shall have regard to the importance of ensuring that each such joint board, joint advisory committee, planning committee or sub-committee of a planning committee, as the case may be, shall include persons with practical experience of agriculture and forestry.
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment deals with a different point, because the Amendment which we have just been discussing refers to appointments by a county council, whereas this one refers to appointments by the Minister. I am urging in this Amendment that, in exercising his right to appoint one-third of the members of these various bodies, the Minister shall have regard to the importance of ensuring that each body includes persons with practical experience of agriculture and forestry. Again, I have no doubt that this was part of the original idea of the 1949 Act; that is to say, that each of these bodies, whether a joint board, a joint advisory committee, a planning committee or a sub-committee of a planning committee, should include people with practical experience of agriculture and forestry.
§ I think we are all agreed, and have been agreed for twenty years, that the administration of the National Parks should not be such as to freeze the life of the Parks. The people who live in the Parks are just as important as the visitors, and a large proportion of the people who live in them are dependent for their living on agriculture or, to some extent, forestry. It has given me concern—it gave me concern when I was the responsible Minister—that among persons appointed by the county council to these various bodies, there did not always appear to be enough persons who were concerned in farming or the management of woodlands. As I said on the previous Amendment, it was the original concept that the Minister's nominees should be those who would supply the national element and ensure that on the appropriate Park board or committee national considerations relating to the whole idea of a 178 National Park were well represented. But as things have worked out, it has regrettably occurred that we have had some of these local bodies, with most important administrative responsibilities towards National Parks, which have not had included among their numbers a sufficient representation of agriculture and forestry—two occupations which are at the heart of the life of most of the National Parks.
§ One may well say, of course, that there are other interests which are important; that not everybody in a National Park lives by agriculture or forestry. But I venture to submit to the Committee that these are the main industries of the National Parks, in so far as they have industries at all, and I think it would be very regrettable if one continued to have any of these administrative bodies for the National Parks on which agriculture and forestry were unrepresented. It seems to me that it is time we laid down in a Statute, now that we have the opportunity of legislation, that each of these bodies, whether a joint board, a joint advisory committee, a planning committee or a sub-committee of a planning committee, should include persons with practical experience of agriculture and forestry. It is of course thoroughly desirable that the county council or county councils setting up the body should look after this themselves, but if in any instance they fail to do so then I suggest that Parliament should make it clear that it becomes a duty of the Minister to make good that defect and, in choosing his own appointees, to ensure that practical experience of agriculture and forestry is represented on the body concerned. I beg to move.
Page 51, line 40, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)
I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, that agriculture and forestry together are the single most important thing, so far as industry goes, in the National Parks. Indeed, I think it would be almost inconceivable if some of the representatives on these joint bodies were not highly expert in agriculture and forestry. Nevertheless, I sometimes think that the interests of any particular subject like agriculture or forestry can be best served by people getting on to these bodies not 179 necessarily because they are experts in agriculture and forestry but because they are something else—because they are county councillors, or what you will— and that in the long run this is where the right kind of influence (and I am speaking now for the agricultural and forestry influence) can most effectively be applied.
I voted against the last Amendment because I thought that it was constricting; that if you try to make room on every kind of committee for every interest you end up by having a committee which is really not so good as it would be if you left it entirely open to put the right people on it. I take the same view here. Nobody can have been stronger in trying to argue, as it were, the lobby of the agriculture and forestry interests throughout this Bill than I have, to try to see that fair play is done within the context of this Bill, which in every other way I regard as an extremely good Bill. So I feel I am on fairly sure ground in saying that, because I have argued their interests effectively, I am in no sense running away from them here. I think that their influence would be better felt by not making it statutorily essential for them to be put on to these bodies, but to let them get on in their own way, and possibly in other directions, as it were.
I think there can be a certain amount of misconception here. I think that there are people who have the interests of the National Parks at heart who feel that their natural enemy, so to speak, is the farmer or forester in the Park; that everything that he wants to do is to restrict the access of people to the Park and that he does not like people wandering over his fields. Of course, there must be always an element of this; but I would support the Amendment that it should be the duty of the Minister to see that there are sufficient expert agriculturists and foresters on the Committees, not because those are hostile to the purposes of the Park, but because it is only by having expert and skilled advice on the Parks that you can ensure that proper and sensible agriculture is done and undue restrictions are not brought about. The Park should be a vital living thing, not a museum. If it is to be more like 180 a zoo than a museum, if things are to be alive in it, you must have agriculturists and foresters on the Committees.
§ 11.22 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
Once again, the question is between statutory compulsion on the Minister to do this and on relying on the Minister to do it anyway— which he has said in Parliament that he will do, and I have repeated it here and will repeat it again. He will do it. I think the Committee should be swayed by the words of the noble Lord, Lord Henley, about this matter which I think put the issue better than I could have put it from the Government Benches. There are two fundamental objections to doing it in this way, two objections to putting a statutory duty on the Minister; and, of course, the objections do not apply to leaving the matter to be done by common sense and by the kind of balancing act which all Ministers are used to doing without statutory compulsion.
The objections which apply to putting this in the Bill are the following. First, forestry and agriculture, though infinitely important, are only one group of interests among several which are concerned with National Parks. If the Minister is bound to see to it that foresters and agriculturists get on the Committees, then we must logically write into the Bill provisions that will bind him also to see that the amenity people get on, that representatives of the users of the National Parks get on. I am not sure that we should not also see that those capable of protecting the scientific interests of the National Park areas get on. In other words, once you start telling a Minister that such and such a person must be there, you must go on to say that all relevant people must be there and that they are as follows.
The second reason against doing it this way is that throughout the history of these provisions successive Ministers have always set their faces against having delegates on these planning boards. The noble Lord may argue that he is not asking for delegates but only for people with experience. That is true. That is what his Amendment says. But let us think what will happen. We must imagine that the county council has not provided an agriculture or forestry person. Then the Amendment of the 181 noble Lord, Lord Brooke, comes into effect and the Minister is bound to remedy the defect. It is all there in the Statute. He must do it the proper way.
The first thing he does is to get his right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture to approach the National Farmers' Union for their suggestions about a suitable person. If he did not do that, the farmers might complain that they were not consulted on the exercise of his statutory duty to put an agricultural person on the board. He does that; and the N.F.U. comes up with the best man that they can. Now this man knows he is the candidate of the N.F.U. for the job. I think one is bound to admit that such a person will become a delegate for particular interests on the planning board.
Hitherto the practice has always been that the Minister's appointees have been chosen because of their merits as individuals and the contribution they could make to the running of the National Parks, and particularly because of their lack of local involvement and their ability to see national rather than local considerations. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, may say that the persons with agricultural experience that he has in mind could well not be local people and not be bound by parochial considerations, but I think they would still feel themselves bound to act solely, or at least overridingly, with regard to the farming interests—that is what they would have been put there for—and we should be back with the delegate situation which successive Governments, I think rightly, have always avoided.
During the Second Reading debate I quoted, and it may be worth while to remind the Committee of it again, the letter sent by the Minister of Housing and Local Government to the National Farmers' Union on January 31 this year. He said:It seems to me that the best course will be for me to give an assurance in the course of debates on the Bill that the Minister, in making appointments to the planning committees and Joint Planning Boards should bear in mind the need to redress any imbalance there may be, having regard to the known qualifications and interests of the elected members.That assurance I gave in similar terms on Second Reading and I repeat it now. The Committee may care to be reminded that an Amendment in rather similar 182 terms was tabled by Mr. Rippon in the Standing Committee of the House of Commons and was withdrawn in the light of the assurance which I have just repeated here. All this being so, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, may agree to withdraw his Amendment. The effect will be achieved by the terms under the assurance I have given that the Minister will redress any imbalance which appears from among the elected representatives.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I am obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for what he has said, and I am sure that my noble friends will be also. With respect to him I think that his first counter argument was more convincing than his second. There is, of course, a difference between the situation under this Amendment and the situation under the previous one. In the previous Amendment we were seeking to ensure that the county councils concerned did something, and it was because of my fear that all the county councils might not take notice of the communication they received from the Minister—and they would be within their rights not to do so—that 1 supported the Amendment so as to write something definite into the Bill. Here it is a question of action by the Minister. Naturally, I accept everything that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has said about the Minister being pledged, by one means or another to secure the result which I, by this Amendment, would have sought to move into the Bill. I accept what he has said; I have no doubt that that promise is given in full sincerity; and therefore I feel that it would be right to beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.
§ Schedule 5 [Repeals]:
LORD MOLSON moved, in the proposed repeals to The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, to insert:
In section 8(2) the proviso.
In section 8(3) the words "or while a direction under the proviso to the last foregoing subsection is in force as respects any such authority".
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move to insert the words in the Amendment The 183 effect of the Amendment is to insert them in the list of provisions of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 which are repealed under this measure. It was always the intention that in the case of National Parks which cover part of more than one county it would be normal to have a joint board. In the original Act the Minister was given power to dispense with the formation of a joint planning board in a multi-county National Park, leaving the constituent parts of the Park to be planned and administered separately by several county councils, with a joint advisory committee as the only unifying factor.
§ In the Peak District and Lake District National Parks joint boards have been established, and I think that it would be generally agreed that they are the most satisfactorily administered of all the National Parks. In Snowdonia, where there are three counties; in the Yorkshire Dales, where there are two; in Exmoor, where there are two, and in the Brecon Beacons, where there are three, the Minister has used his power of dispensation. It was originally intended that this power of dispensation should be used only where there were special circumstances—that was, where a Park lay predominantly in one county and only a small part of it lay in another. In practice, it has been used by successive Ministers of Housing and Local Government in response to pressure from local authorities fearful that the administration of a National Park might prove too national for their comfort. It is the considered opinion of the Standing Committee of the C.P.R.E. on National Parks that in no case has greater efficiency resulted.
The present Government admitted in their White Paper on Leisure in the Countryside that the present state of affairs is unsatisfactory. In paragraph 13, they said:
No immediate major change is proposed in the administrative arrangements within the National Parks.
And because of that sentence I am apprehensive that the Parliamentary Secretary may not welcome my Amendment. The paragraph goes on to say:
The Government have, however, been impressed with the weight of opinion in favour of joint planning boards for those Parks which cover more than one county. They hope that
the planning authorities concerned will consider very carefully the possibility of the change. The Government will consider whether it will be desirable to exercise their power to revoke existing arrangements if further experience shows this to be required.
§ I voted against the provision for ensuring that representatives of district councils should be selected to serve upon these committees and boards. I believe that it is generally in the interests of the sound administration of the National Parks that these should be in the hands of people who take a broad view of their responsibilities. I believe that it is desirable that they should have a staff of their own and should not be unduly under the influence either of the local authorities or, still more, of the local ratepapers. I move this Amendment in order to deprive the Government of the power to grant continued exemption from the purpose of the Act of 1949 to have joint planning boards. If the Government are not prepared to go so far as to accept this Amendment, I should at any rate be glad to hear that they have given further thought to their own paragraph 13 in the White Paper and to bringing some pressure to bear to ensure that there are joint planning boards in all National Parks and not just the two I have mentioned. I beg to move.
Page 52, line 12, column 3, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Molson.)
§ LORD KENNET
Once again, this Amendment seeks to remove a freedom of action from the Minister. I would remind the Committee that if we leave the law unchanged, the Minister is perfectly free to impose a joint board on any group of county councils which does not have one at present. He can direct it to be set up. The Amendment would simply force him to direct it to set up forthwith, whether his judgment was that it should be set up or should not be set up, and even whether his judgment was or was not that it was going to be set up anyhow without his having to use his powers to enforce its setting up.
My advice to the Committee is that we should not put this in the Bill—and I do not think the noble Lord is going to press the Amendment—because several things are coming forward from the Royal Commission on Local Government. We have already got the recommendations for Wales—and I know that 185 Wales will be uppermost in the minds of some noble Lords. We have the Report on Wales; this will be followed by a decision on English local government; and we want to get a bit of experience of the Countryside Bill itself in the National Parks. This matter— and by "this matter" I mean the desirability of the Minister's exercising his present powers to compel the setting up of a joint board—is under continuous review. The situation outlined in the White Paper is not really changed. If the Government had the power at that time to do so, they still have the power. No immediate major change is proposed in the administration, and the Government are considering now, as they were then, whether it would be desirable to exercise this power in this or that case.
Having said that, I should say that I think the establishment of some objective criteria of efficiency in National Park planning boards, and in single county National Parks, too, by which the performance of different boards could be judged would be an interesting exercise. When the criteria had been established the performance of different boards could be tested against them and a body of opinion might develop which would enable the counties themselves which adhered to their independence to modify their views, if they so wished, about what ought to be done.
§ LORD MOLSON
In view of the "unsatisfactory" nature of that reply, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule 5 agreed to.
§ Clause 25:
§ Duty to maintain stiles, etc., on footpaths and bridleways
§ 25.—(1) Any stile, gate or other similar structure across a footpath or bridleway shall be maintained by the owner of the land in a safe condition, and to the standard of repair required to prevent unreasonable interference with the rights of the persons using the footpath or bridleway.
§ (4) The highway authority shall, in exercise of the powers conferred by subsection (3) above, contribute not less than one quarter of any expenses shown to their satisfaction to have been reasonably incurred.186
§ 11.38 p.m.
LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, in subsection (3), after "contributions" to insert:
of such amount in each case as they shall, having regard to all the circumstances, consider reasonable".
The noble Lord said: We now revert to the postponed Clause 25, and I am grateful to the Government for having moved to postpone it so that I could be present to deal with these Amendments. This clause, as the Committee will remember, concerns the duty placed on the owner of the land to maintain stiles and gates on footpaths and bridle-ways. The point at issue here is the amount of contribution that the highway authority shall make towards the cost of that maintenance. Subsection (3) of Clause 25 says:
The highway authority shall have power to make contributions towards expenses incurred in compliance with subsection (1) above",
And subsection (4) says that the highway authority's contribution shall be not less than one-quarter of any expenses shown to their satisfaction to have been reasonably incurred. This matter was debated at some length on the Report stage in another place, and the Minister of State, speaking for the Government, said at column 1173, on the 9th April:
If hon. Members think it would be helpful, I would be prepared to consider introducing in another place a wording … that the authority shall make such contribution as in all the circumstances appears to be reasonable, or words to that effect, and then provide for a minimum contribution of 25 per cent.
The Government did not put down an Amendment that required the highway authority to make a contribution of such amount as they shall consider reasonable, and therefore I tabled this Amendment. It seemed to me necessary that the Bill should contain a definite indication to the highway authority that this is intended to be a flexible provision as regards their contribution, and that the 25 per cent, minimum is not to be in fact a fixed figure. Unless we make some Amendment of this sort in the Bill I can hardly see how any owner who was dissatisfied with receiving the minimum of 25 per cent, would have any ground on which he could challenge the highway authority's decision. All he could do would be to point to what the Minister
of State had said in the House of Commons, which of course is not part of the law.
The matter was further debated on that occasion, and the Minister of State finally (in column 1186) advised the House to accept a Government Amendment that was tabled, and to reject an Opposition Amendment to the Government Amendment. Then he went on:
If that is done, there is my undertaking to move in another place an Amendment to amend the wording of subsection (3) in the words I have indicated.
All I am doing now is to put down the Amendment which I understood that the Government had already promised to table here. I can perhaps facilitate proceedings by saying that if the Government are prepared to accept this Amendment, either in this particular wording or at any rate in principle, I will then shorten the proceedings by not moving the subsequent Amendment which is designed to raise the minimum from one quarter to one half. I can see that if the second Amendment were carried it might be open to challenge as an infringement of Commons' Privilege. But I cannot think there is any such objection to this first Amendment of mine, which appears to me to be carrying out an undertaking given by the Government; and it is in that friendly spirit that I move it.
Page 26, line 29, after ("contributions") insert the said words.—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)
§ LORD KENNET
It may shorten the debate if I say instantly in the same friendly spirit that I accept this Amendment.
§ LORD BARNBY
I am grateful to the noble Lord for having agreed that we should, to use his own phrase, "leapfrog" this clause, because I was anxious to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, was going to say about it. The Minister has certainly been patient and forthcoming in his definitions throughout the course of the Bill, but I am just going to encroach once more on his patience and ask him in regard to this clause, which I should have—
§ LORD KENNET
I wonder whether the noble Lord heard what I said. I am 188 recommending the Committee to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD BARNBY
I thought we were dealing with the Motion, That the clause shall be agreed to? I beg your Lordships' pardon.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 25, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?
§ 11.45 p.m.
§ LORD BARNBY
This clause, together with Clause 24, seems to impose requirements which involve some expenditure by the owners of the land. I refer particularly to Clause 25(1). As this seems to be in similar strain to the clause on signposts, may I ask the noble Lord whether it is to be understood that this land also includes commons, because those of us who have made a particular study of commons realise that this can put considerable obligations on the owners. So often commons are immediately contiguous to towns, and therefore there is need for indications as to the paths and where they lead. If signposts are put up by the owner of the land, as is suggested here, and they are continually pulled down, is it to be understood that some of the cost of replacing them can be recouped under this clause? And as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, has expressed the belief that the authority's contribution ought to be one half and not one quarter, is it to be understood that this includes common land as well as any other land?
§ LORD RAGLAN
I am sorry that my noble friend so readily accepted the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, because I am opposed in principle to Clause 25(1), where it says that the footpath or bridlewayshall be maintained by the owner of the land in a safe condition".I know that in opposing this principle I shall lay myself open to being called merely a reactionary land owner, but I do not mind being accused of that when it is my belief that my reasons for opposing it are both logical and fair.
I believe there is some misapprehension about the reasons for which most footpaths came into being. The vast majority were not created by the general 189 public. They were used by people who lived and worked in the locality, and some of them were access paths to fields or to wells. Others were used by the local population for all sorts of other business, such as going to their work or to the "pub" (I include going to the "pub" as business) and, most importantly, many footpaths came into being at a time when it was legally compulsory to go to church.
I am sorry to make a speech at such a late hour, but I think it is an important point. I have a farm where there was once a Quaker meeting house, and the 1921 ordnance survey map shows no fewer than nine footpaths going to this house. As my noble friend Lord Chorley mentioned, under the 1949 Act a great many of these footpaths were abolished, but the ones which are left, certainly in the area around my farm, follow exactly the same lines as the paths laid down centuries ago. They are of course the same paths, but now they are to be used, kept open and maintained for an entirely different purpose from that for which they originally came into existence. They are not to be used by and maintained for local people going on their business. They are for the public in general and for tourists in particular. They are no longer just local footpaths but public highways, and under this Bill the landowner would be required to maintain part of a public highway. If he did not maintain it he would be required to be charged quite a considerable part—we do not know how much—of the cost.
As a dweller in some very lovely countryside, I welcome ramblers, and I am glad townspeople and strangers can look at it and get pleasure from it. But I and all other landowners will be placed in this position. The Bill is saying, in effect: "You will open your house to tourists. You may not charge a fee, but you must keep the carpet clean, and if you do not keep it clean and in good condition we will have it cleaned and mended and charge you part of the cost."
I must emphasise the difference between maintaining a path and stiles for the convenience of the local inhabitants and keeping them for general tourists. For one thing, I feel—perhaps I should not—much more of an obligation to the 190 local inhabitants than I feel for tourists; and for another thing the regular user of a footpath knows its weaknesses and dangers and looks to them, and perhaps does something about them from time to time. But under this clause, so far as I understand it, a hiker strolling along the road with a pack on his back and a map in his hand can demand the proper upkeep of some footpath which he has never seen before and which he may never use again. He is even less likely to want to use the footpath again if, under the combined weight of his sturdy body and a 75 lb. pack, the stile breaks and he breaks his leg. The landowner is liable, and it is a very unfortunate situation for him to be in. I do not think he should be liable.
I suggest to your Lordships that a footpath is a public highway or it is not a public highway. I have several stretches of public highways on my land used by public vehicles. In law and in theory I own the land underneath, the tarmac, but I am not responsible for the upkeep of it, and nobody expects me to be. I see no reason in principle, in fairness or in moral obligation, why a landowner should be expected to maintain a public highway because it is called a footpath. The owner or occupier is merely being turned into a kind of charity for the benefit of the Ramblers Association and others like them. In my opinion, if the general public wish to use footpaths they should be prepared to pay entirely for their upkeep. As your Lordships know, the occupier is already at a disadvantage in that he cannot put a bull in a field or plough up the path. No occupier likes footpaths, and now it is intended to impose this additional statutory burden.
I am sure that the Government have had weighty advice from various bodies on this matter. I do not know whether it has occurred to any of them what an unfair imposition is now proposed. I am sure that there should be some radical look at the whole matter. If my noble friend replies to what I have said I shall read very carefully what he says, but I believe that in the end we should come round to the principle that the entire onus for the upkeep of public footpaths should be on the public who use them.
I have one question to ask the noble Lord on the clause. There was an undertaking in another place that the responsibility for public rights of way would be transferred to the local planning authority. Has this been lost sight of?
§ 11.55 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
TO take the questions in turn, as far as I can remember at this time of night the answer to Lord Barnby is Yes, Clauses 24 and 25 do apply to commons. They apply only to footpaths and bridleways, but they apply to footpaths and bridleways whether they cross common land or private land. I should perhaps say a word about the general outline of Clause 25. It does something new in putting the duty on the landowner to keep up his stile or gate. We should not lose sight of the fact that the landowner presumably has a stile or a gate there in the first place because there is something on one side of it that he wants to prevent going to the other side—cattle, usually.
§ LORD KENNET
Tourists are another point. Cattle, I would say, or sheep. The noble Lord is complaining that this is a duty laid on the owner to keep up his stile or gate. This suggests that he thinks that in certain cases the landowner may wish to ignore that duty of keeping up the stile or gate, and to keep on doing as he was doing before; namely, allowing the stile or gate to decay. Because he is not worried about his stile decaying, therefore he is, by definition, not worried about whether what is on the one side of it moves over to the other side. In those circum stances he would be better advised to remove his stile, when he would no longer have any liability to keep it up. Beyond that what this clause does—
§ LORD RAGLAN
May I ask my noble friend further upon this issue: Is not the landlord obliged to put the stile there if a footpath is shown on the map? I do not know the law on this matter; perhaps my noble friend does.
§ LORD KENNET
No; he can leave a gap there if he wishes. He is obliged to put a stile there only if there is what would otherwise be an impassable fence 192 there. He is then obliged to put a stile there so as to allow the tourist to get over.
To turn to the subject of the liability of the landowner, this question is one which I had hoped to be in a position to answer, but I regret to tell the noble Lord that I cannot at this moment. I will write to him, or perhaps he can raise it again on Report. The main point of this provision is the institution of grants, because one must expect that the Countryside Bill will increase the number of people using footpaths and that will increase the wear and tear on the stiles and gates which are there and which the landowner wants to keep up for his own reasons—perhaps because he has cattle or sheep in the field. To meet that, the provision is that there shall be a minimum grant of 25 per cent, as of right. All the landowner has to do is to ask for it. If he has a stile on a footpath or right of way he asks for his 25 per cent, on all his repair costs and he gets it. Because of the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, which has just been carried, the local authority will be bound to go further than that if, in its judgment, it is reasonable to do so. Thus, the 25 per cent, is not a standard rate or indeed the maximum rate but it is positively the minimum rate. That being so, I think there is a balance of new obligations laid on the local authority by the clause.
§ On Question, Clause 25, as amended, agreed to.
§ In the Title:
§ 11.59 p.m.
LORD MOLSON moved, in line 4, after "for" to insert
the conservation and enhancement of natural beauty and for".
The noble Lord said: I do not think there should be any difficulty about this Amendment. On the first day of the Committee stage the insertion of similar words in subsection (2) of Clause 1 of the Bill was carried against the Government, making that subsection read:
The functions conferred by this Act on the said Commission… are to be exercised for the conservation and enhancement of natural beauty".
Since that is now the first of the general functions of the Commission, it is only natural to include similar words in the
Title to the Bill. I am confident that at this late hour of the night the Parliamentary Secretary will not want to resist this Amendment, which is really entirely consequential on a decision which has already been taken. I hope, therefore, that he will be prepared, with a gracious demeanour, to accept it.
In the Title, line 4, after the word ("for") insert (" the conservation and enhancement of natural beauty and for").
§ LORD KENNET
Accept it I will, but I cannot promise a gracious demeanour because it is not quite clear to me at this time of night how far this is consequential on a decision which was carried against the Government's advice. I do not want to end on a sour note, but I would just point out that I do not know what they will want to do about this in another place. However, I accept the noble Lord's arguments that this Amendment hangs together with the other one.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Title, as amended, agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported with Amendments.