HL Deb 20 May 1968 vol 292 cc486-584

4.30 p.m.

Report stage resumed.

LORD AIREDALE moved, in subsection (3)(g), to leave out "subject to" and insert "without". The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is another Amendment to the same paragraph in Clause 4, and I hope that it will receive the same happy fate as that received by the last Amendment. This paragraph empowers the Countryside Commission, with the approval of the Minister and of the Treasury, to acquire any business or undertaking. But it goes on to say that the disposal of the business by the Commission shall be subject to the approval likewise of the Minister and of the Treasury. I should have thought that, once a responsible body like the Countryside Commission had embarked upon a business in connection with an experiment, the Commission alone should be the judge of whether the business was to continue to be carried on or should be disposed of, according to whether they decided that the experiment had succeeded or was likely to fail and should therefore cease.

The Commission alone will be saddled with the responsibility for running the business—the Minister will not have that responsibility and neither will the Treasury—and I should have thought it was most undesirable that the Minister and the Treasury, either of them or both of them together, should have power to saddle the Countryside Commission with business in connection with an experiment which the Commission, who were running the experiment and running the business, had decided ought to be brought to an end. Therefore, I have put down this Amendment which seeks to free the Countryside Commission from having to seek the approval of the Minister and the Treasury in order to dispose of the business or undertaking, in the event of the experiment having succeeded or failed and, in the eyes of the Commision, being ready to be wound up and concluded. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 21, leave out ("subject to") and insert ("without").—(Lord Airedale.)


My Lords, the noble Lord's Amendment goes very far. It would make a Government agency, and an agency which we all hope will be independent in its policies and proposals but which, nevertheless, is financed by the Government at public expense, free to dispose of its assets without any control whatsoever by the Government. I think I should be right in saying that such a provision would be entirely unprecedented, and I would not recommend the House to make a precedent in the case of the Countryside Commission, however well we wish it and however great a freedom we all hope it will have in those respects where the public interest will depend on its freedom; namely, advice and ingenuity.

I think the noble Lord had in mind a picture of a Minister of Housing and a Chancellor of the Exchequer who had deliberately forced the Commission to maintain enterprises which had proven not to be possible, in order to teach them a lesson or something like that. That would not happen, of course, and I can assure the House that the Government will not force the Commission to keep doing something which is against the public interest and against its own wishes. Why should they? If the undertaking does not turn out to be a success, the Commission will wish to cease it and part with the assets. But if it turns out to be a success the Commission will wish to put it on a permanent basis, in which case it will perhaps part with it to a local authority or some other body in such a way that it stops being experimental and goes right ahead on its proven successful basis. But for the Countryside Commission or any Government agency to be free to part with assets which have been acquired and, perhaps, maintained at public expense, without Government control, is a principle which should not commend itself to your Lordships' House.


My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I am bound to say that I wish Her Majesty's Government were not apparently rather nervous about allowing this Commission to stand on its own feet. I think they are being a little over-cautious in wanting to have the Countryside Commission "nursemaided" rather too much. But I shall not pursue this matter, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 [Country parks and commons: preliminary]:

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved to add to subsection (3): and no local authority may acquire compulsorily under these sections land which is situated outside their own area". The noble Lord said: My Lords, we now move on to Clause 6, which deals with new powers of local authorities. In subsection (3) it is laid down that: A local authority may exercise the powers conferred by the three next following sections inside or outside their area, except that only the council of a county borough may exercise those powers wholly or partly within the county borough. My Amendment suggests that we should add at the end of that subsection a further exception: and no local authority may acquire compulsorily under these sections land which is situated outside their own area. First, let me make it clear that this Amendment does not raise the principle of compulsory purchase; that has been accepted. It only calls in question who should make a particular compulsory purchase. Your Lordships may remember that in Committee the point was raised in debate by my noble friend Lord Inglewood, who, unfortunately, is not able to be here to-day, but no Amendment was tabled at that stage and that is why I am raising the point on Report.

I have made it clear that I am very much concerned throughout the whole working of this Bill with the maintenance of good will locally and the avoidance of ill will. What I am suggesting to your Lordships is that if, let us say, a remote city seeks to make a compulsory purchase order for land which is to be part of a country park in a different part of the country, it is liable to generate extreme ill will which will not be greatly diminished even if the county council concerned has given its consent. I appreciate, of course, that under the later subsection it would not be possible for the county borough to proceed in that way without the consent of the council of the county where the land was situated.

May I invite your Lordships to consider this matter in practical terms? Knowing the strong feeling that has, rightly or wrongly, existed in the Lake District over many years against Manchester, do the Government really believe that a country park could be established by good will on the edge of the Lake District, even though, let us say, the Lancashire County Council had approved, by means of a compulsory purchase order imposed on the land in question by the Manchester City Council? Do the Government believe—I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Maelor, is not in his place at the moment, because I am sure he would back me up on this—that good will could be maintained if the Liverpool City Council, wishing to establish a country park in Merionethshire with the consent of the Merionethshire County Council, clapped a compulsory purchase order on some Welsh land in Merionethshire?

One only has to state the matter in those practical, identifiable terms for it to be seen that that is the very way to create ill will, and surely it is essential that the whole working of this Bill should go on with the maximum of good will. That is why I am suggesting in this Amendment that the powers in relation to country parks and commons should not be exercised in a way that would involve a local authority making a compulsory purchase order outside its own area. I am not now demurring at all to a compulsory purchase order made by a local authority within its own boundary, but I think my noble friend Lord Inglewood was absolutely right when he drew attention to this in Committee, and pointed out how much damage might be done if county borough councils started making compulsory purchase orders outside their own boundaries. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 7, line 4, at end insert the said words. —(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


My Lords, the noble Lord has slanted the issue his way by speaking always of a remote city. The two examples he mentioned were certainly examples of remote cities—that is, Manchester and the Lake District, and Liverpool and Merioneth. Just to get it out of the way, I am sure the House realises that the power we are talking about here is not a power for a city authority to exercise compulsory purchase against a country authority. That is to say, it is not power compulsorily to purchase land belonging to that authority; it is power compulsorily to purchase land which may belong to anybody, typically a private landowner, within the area of the country authority. Secondly, the power we are discussing is not power for the city to go in, regardless of who says what, and, looking only to its own interests, compulsorily to purchase land in the countryside in the area of another authority. As the noble Lord rightly conceded, it must have the consent of the county council in the countryside before it can exercise this compulsory purchase power.

To take the noble Lord's two examples, I am not at all sure what the Lancashire County Council or the Merioneth County Council would say to Manchester or Liverpool if they turned up proposing to exercise these powers against general public opinion in those counties. I should have though they might easily have withheld their consent; and, even if they did not, as is universally the case with compulsory purchase the landowner against whom the powers were proposed to be exercised has his ordinary right of appeal to the Minister, and the Minister, in giving his decision, would no doubt take into account the remoteness, whether geographical or psychological, of the city in question from the countryside area in question, and would take account of the representations made by the landowner and, no doubt, by those who thought like him, in spite of the fact that the landowner's own county council thought the opposite way—all of which, I must say, seems to me extremely unlikely.

Now let us turn the argument for a moment to the case not of a remote city but of a nearby city. I will name no names, because it is perhaps easier that way. Let us take a big city which has countryside quite close to it in a county, and let us suppose that the city and the county put their heads together and decide it is right that a country park should be set up in the county. Since the city is usually richer and, virtually always in the case of a country park, will be the authority exporting the people, as it were, to enjoy it—that is the purpose of a country park—it would probably seem right to both that the city should bear the expense of that country park on its rates, and not that the county should bear it on its rates in the countryside. That being so, one wants the city to be armed with all the powers which are normally found necessary for the pursuit of major social purposes; and, as we have said earlier, this includes compulsory purchase, if only because some of the places may have a large number of small landowners and it may be a tiny minority of those, or one man, who is sticking out against it.

I think it would be an unjustifiable complication if one were to take this power of compulsory purchase away from, as it were, the exporting authority, typically the city, and say that in this one respect the county ought to do it for them because only those local authorities who are having country narks in their own areas should have compulsory purchase powers. This would very much complicate things, and I would advise the House that in the opinion of the Government the clause as it stands is so un- likely to give rise to any trouble in practice that it would be better to maintain the unity of powers and grant as laid out in the Bill, without making a little exception in this one respect.


My Lords, the noble Lord has encouraged me by indicating, if I understood him aright, that he thinks it is unlikely that great use will be made of the power to which I am objecting. I appreciate his point that there is a greater affinity between a big city and its surrounding countryside than there is in other cases. I would ask him to appreciate the point that, though Manchester seems remote from the North Lancashire countryside, North Lancashire does not seem remote from Manchester people, and although Liverpool seems remote to Merionethshire, Merionethshire does not seem remote to Liverpool people who are out at the week-end.

There may be some marginal advantage, as the noble Lond has indicated, in retaining a power which could be used to deal with a situation in the rare case that may arise, but I hope I have convinced the noble Lord of the danger of ill will, and I would urge that local authorities be advised not to use these compulsory powers unless they are quite certain that there is general good will in the whole locality for a country park to be established there by an external authority, and that these compulsory powers should be used simply to clear up the situation in the case of a small part of the proposed land which is owned by an owner who is not as willing to cooperate as other owners are. I am not completely content about this point, but we want to get on with the Bill, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.47 p.m.

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved to add to subsection (2): Provided that a local authority shall not under this section provide accommodation, meals or refreshments except in so far as it appears to them that the facilities therefore are inadequate or unsatisfactory, either generally or as respects any description of accommodation, meals or refreshments, as the case may be.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment relates to subsection (2) of Clause 7, which deals with country parks. That subsection says: A local authority shall have power … in particular … to provide facilities and services for the enjoyment or convenience of the public including meals and refreshments", et cetera. I think we should insert here the proviso that is set out in my Amendment. It will not have escaped the notice of your Lordships that this Amendment is taken virtually word for word from Section 12 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, where it was inserted by a Government of the same colour as the present Government. It is an improvement on the somewhat similar Amendment that I moved at the Committee stage, because I have taken out the words "in the neighbourhood" to which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, took objection, and I think rightly took objection.

My Lords, it is not only by Section 12 of the 1949 Act that this proviso is precedented. Your Lordships will see that the same proviso, mutatis mutandis, occurs in Clause 9, on page 11, line 26; and I can assure your Lordships that it has also been enacted by Parliament within the past twelve months in a similar context in the Countryside (Scotland) Act. I am therefore not proposing any new feature: I am simply seeking to bring Clause 7 into accord with the existing precedents elsewhere. I submit to your Lordships that this is a sensible proviso. It is proved to be sensible by the fact that it has operated perfectly satisfactorily for 19 years in the 1949 Act, that it has been accented by the Government as recently as the Scottish Act of 1967, and that it has been inserted in Clause 9 of this Bill. I have no idea why it was not inserted by the Government originally in this place in the Bill, where I suggest it should be inserted, but on grounds of uniformity I feel sure that your Lordships will agree that it should be here.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 5, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


My Lords, uniformity is a beautiful thing, but it does not always override all other considerations. The noble Lord is seeking to achieve uniformity and certainly the form of words has uniformity; but the effect of that form of words, because of the surrounding words in the legislation, is not such as to achieve uniformity.

The noble Lord referred to Section 12 of the 1949 Act and to the Scottish analogy. Section 12 of the 1949 Act relates to the provision of accommodation, meals and refreshments in National Parks. These cover areas up to 866 square miles. A limitation on the freedom of local authorities to provide these facilities in such enormous areas can, it seems to me, be justified. But the country parks that we are talking about in the present clause will be very much smaller in area and, accordingly, different considerations should be applied when we are considering the freedom of those providing country parks to provide facilities with or without checking on the adequacy of others round about. Uniformity is not something that would be achieved by the noble Lord's Amendment in respect of the 1949 Act. That applied to National Parks and this clause applies only to country parks.

To turn now to the analogy with the Scottish Act, this enables a local authority in Scotland to provide accommodation, meals or refreshments in the countryside in their area and subjects them to the limitation we are talking about: that is, to check on the adequacy of existing arrangements. The countryside in the Scottish Act is something even bigger than the National Parks in the 1949 English Act. It is so defined as to comprise virtually the whole of Scotland outside the built-up areas. So if the limitation on the freedom of the local authorities were to be removed from the Scottish Act it would mean that they could provide these facilities where they wanted without bothering to see whether the existing facilities were adequate.

So we have a progression. We have, first, Scotland where the local authorities may provide facilities over virtually the whole country and must check on the adequacy of existing ones. We have, second, the English Act of 1949 where the local authorities may provide those facilities in 866 square miles, the National Parks, and must check on the adequacy of existing ones. And we have, thirdly, the Bill which is now before your Lordships where the local authorities may provide facilities in country parks (which will be very small indeed compared with the National Parks) in the Government's submission, need not check on the adequacy of existing and surrounding facilities. I hope the noble Lord will bear in mind this progression and that he will agree with me that if we were to bring the conditions on the local authorities into line with Scotland and the National Parks uniformity would not be achieved, because Scotland and the National Parks are so very much bigger than the country parks that different conditions ought to apply.

4.55 p.m.


I am sorry but I find the noble Lord's explanation for resisting the Amendment unconvincing. I do not know whether noble Lords are cleverer than I and feel that he made out his case. His case appears to be that Section 12 of the 1949 Act applies to the National Parks; that National Parks are very big places and that therefore the proviso here is unnecessary. I do not follow that argument. Surely, what has to be considered in the 1949 Act, and in this Bill, is whether the local facilities, the strictly local facilities, are satisfactory and adequate or not. It seems to me to be of little use to try to compare the facilities on one edge of the Snowdonia National Park, for instance, with the facilities on the other edge; because people are not going to travel right from one side of Snowdon to the other in search of meals or refreshments. There is a limited field of interest in respect of both accommodation and refreshments wherever one is considering whether a proviso of this kind is required.

As I take it, the 1949 Act directed the local planning authority to consider whether in a particular place where the local authority had in mind to provide accommodation, meals or refreshments within the National Park, the facilities for those were inadequate or unsatisfactory; and if they were adequate or satisfactory they were not to proceed. Here, I should have thought, the same question would present itself to the local authority establishing a country park. Of course the country parks are likely to be smaller than the National Parks, but the field of interest, so far as meals and accommodation are concerned, is not going to be necessarily smaller in a particular case. I can see no reason at all why the local authority should not be discouraged from providing accommodation, meals or refreshments itself if, in fact, the existing facilities in and close to the proposed countryside park are adequate and satisfactory already. I did not note—I may have missed it—that the noble Lord addressed himself to Clause 9 of this Bill. Clause 9 inserts the proviso which I want in Clause 7; and Clause 9 is dealing with powers exercisable over or near common land. I should have thought that much of this common land might be of much the same size as a country park and that exactly the same consideration; would apply to the provision of meals and accommodation there, under Clause 9, as here under Clause 7.

This is not just a theoretical matter. We want to encourage holidaymakers and tourists in this country. We want to provide more accommodation and more facilities for them and I think that on that we all agree. Not everywhere are those facilities yet adequate or satisfactory. But if those who are in a position to start restaurants or cafés or hotels in a particular area see that by Act of Parliament the local authority are empowered to provide competitive facilities —even though the facilities are, without the local authority's provision, adequate and satisfactory—then the money required of those who could invest it will not be forthcoming; it will be moved elsewhere. Therefore we should be failing to achieve the result that it is desirable to achieve; that is, to encourage those who are in a Position to do so to develop the facilities that holidaymakers and tourists require. There seems to me to be an exact parallel between Clause 7 and Clause 9 and I would invite the House to bear in mind that we have at no stage had an explanation from the Government as to what distinction they perceive between the conditions in Clause 7 and in Clause 9.


May I interrupt, before the noble Lord leaves that point? Commons have been there for a long time and, almost without exception, have been common land with public access. And if they are at all close to towns, generally speaking, facilities of this sort —accommodation, meals, cups of tea and the rest of it—will have grown up round them. It seemed to the Government, therefore, that it ought to be incumbent on local authorities proposing to provide more facilities to examine whether the existing ones were good enough. Country parks, on the other hand, have not been there at all; that is why we have a Bill to make them possible and, prima facie, one may assume that there will be no cups of tea, or at any rate inadequate provision for cups of tea, meals and beds in those places. That is why it seemed to the Government unnecessary to impose on local authorities the duty of examining existing facilities.


If that is so, there is no reason for the Government to resist my Amendment, because if, as the noble Lord says, facilities are inadequate and unsatisfactory the proviso will not bite, and the local authority will go ahead. In fact, I cannot help thinking that most of these country parks will be established in places where people already go, in certain numbers at any rate, to enjoy themselves. The difficulty will be that the numbers will become much greater. Therefore I should have thought that, rather than commit public money to the provision of additional facilities, it was more desirable to attract private money, money at risk, money put forward by people who were prepared to risk it. I certainly would not in any way seek to bar local authorities from proceeding under this subsection if the existing facilities were inadequate or unsatisfactory. I am seeking to avoid duplication of facilities, and that is why I feel I must press this Amendment.


I think that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, and I are possibly coming closer together on this matter in the successive stages of this Bill. If the noble Lord will agree not to press his Amendment for the moment, I will have a third or fourth look at it, and perhaps the noble Lord will agree, if he can find time to meet me, to discuss it once again, and we can come back to it again later. Although I dislike postponing a decision from stage to stage like this, we could come back to the point on Third Reading.


I always yield to an invitation of that kind, but the noble Lord will, I am sure, perceive that I take this matter seriously, and if it is not possible to reach agreement "out of school" there will be an Amendment down in my name on Third Reading. In view of that undertaking by the Government, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 [Country parks: sailing, boating, bathing and fishing]:

5.4 p.m.

BARONESS SEROTA moved, in subsection (4), after "consult with "to insert," such river authorities and with". The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this Amendment and Nos. 10, 15 and 35 which follow will have the effect of giving specific mention of river author ties in the context of the clauses which confer powers on local authorities in relation to waterways. They are designed to give recognition to the role of river authorities in river management. They have been included in view of the very persuasive, and indeed persistent, representations made by the noble Lord Lord Nugent of Guildford, at the various stages of this Bill, and following the reception of a deputation to my noble friend the Minister of State which was led by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, on May 15. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 30, after ("with") insert ("such river authorities ties and with").—(Baroness Scrota.)


My Lords, I must thank the noble Baroness for moving this Amendment so persuasively and acknowledge immediately that, so far as it goes, it is welcomed. I think that a slightly unfair weapon has been used against pie by the Government in putting up the noble Baroness to move the Amendment, because I suspect that the Government side are well aware that it in no way meets the case of the river authorities. If I might have a minute to recoup: the circumstances, the point, 'which was, discussed at earlier stages of the Bill, is that the river authorities, became they are the managers of rivers, should play a substantial part in the setting up of country parks where rivers are concerned. I suspect that this would be the case regarding a large number of country parks, and therefore the Bill should be drafted to require the consent at the river authority where a country park was to be set up in an area which included a river. This would ensure that the river authority was brought in from the start and that their expertise and knowledge of the recreational matters with which we are directly concerned would be brought in with the local authority to make sure that the country park was set up in the best possible way.

As a result of various Amendments which I moved, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, invited me to confer with him in the interim between the Committee and the Report stages, which I did. When I saw him with his right honourable friend the Minister of State, and after much detailed argument by a delegation of river authority representatives which I led, the point was conceded that the consent of river authorities should be written into the Bill. On that, I agreed to withdraw all the Amendments and not to put down any more, because that was the substance of what river authorities were asking for. This afternoon, at about 2 o'clock, I received a copy of a letter which the Minister of State had written on Friday, May 17. It tells me that the Minister of State has run into drafting difficulties and that, because time is so short, he has been unable to put down an Amendment to meet the point he had conceded. I should add that the reason why this letter never got to me was, apparently, because it was addressed to my noble namesake, Lord Nugent, as opposed to Lord Nugent of Guildford. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, sitting somewhere in Chelsea, is very interested in the letter, but probably also rather puzzled as to what it is all about.

However, a copy of the letter has reached me now, and this is what it says: I am afraid I have run into too great difficulties over the suggestion we discussed requiring river authorities'`consent'—not so much because it would offend other authorities (though this might occur) but because of the drafting difficulty in the short time available. It would need a great deal of consequential amendment to Schedule 1 and elsewhere. Well really, my Lords! what are draftsmen for, but to put Bills into the state in which we think they ought to be? If there is a short time between Committee stage and Report whose fault is that? The Government asked us to shorten it in order to suit their convenience, and that we have agreed to do. I want to make it quite plain that this undertaking was given to me by the Minister of State, and it was only upon that undertaking that the delegation—and I have consulted the members—agreed to drop the rest of the Amendments, because they had secured this concession. The last thing I wish to do is to embarrass the Government on this matter, but it is a point which I am sure will improve the Bill and give river authorities their proper role.

I think I can make a very helpful suggestion to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, with regard to the drafting difficulty. I suggest that he looks at his Bill, at Clause 6, and studies the machinery we have just been discussing, about which my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor spoke and which provides for the case where a local authority wishes to set up a country park in another area. The noble Lord will see in Clause 6 of the Bill, on page 7, a Table under which a county council wishing to set up a country park in another area must obtain the consent of the council concerned. If we turn over the page to page 8 we see that subsection (6) of Clause 6 says: A local authority may apply to the Minister on the grounds that a county council or National Park joint planning board have unreasonably withheld any consent so required, and the Minister, after affording the county council, or the board, an opportunity of making representations, may if he thinks fit direct the county council, or the board, to give the consent to which the application relates. That is an exact parallel of what I am asking for here. All the noble Lord has to do is to put into Clause 8 two additional subsections, one requiring the consent of the river authorities where country parks are set up in these areas and the second exactly repeating Clause 6(6). If he does that he will have covered the whole thing. I do not hold myself out as a Parliamentary draftsman. I do not have to, because I am taking this straight out of the noble Lord's Bill. I look to the noble Lord to fulfil the undertaking that was given, and if it assists the noble Lord I shall be only too glad to put down Amendments to this effect for Third Reading so that he can then fulfil the undertaking he gave.


My Lords, I hope the Government will accept that suggestion and withdraw this Amendment. When the noble Baroness moved the Amendment, she did it in such terms as though she was conceding everything the noble Lord asked, and it was only when I looked a second time at the Amendment that I realised that she was not. The Government, it seems to me, promised everything that the noble Lord had asked for. I think that the river authorities must be included in this Bill. If not, it is going to leave a great part of the administration of water and its use and enjoyment at a loose end. There is no reason why the Government should not give the noble Lord what he wants, and by Third Reading produce Amendments to meet him.


My Lords, we are all at the mercy of a mistake which has been made. A letter was sent by the Minister of State to the noble Lord and it was sent to the wrong address. I am very sorry about that, and I convey my apologies to the House for taking up your Lordships' time by what has been a bureaucratic slip. We had not heard again from the noble Lord, and we thought that what we had proposed was all right. I am sorry to hear that it is not so, and I understand the reasons. In order not to detain the House further, I should like to ask the noble Lord one question. Would it not be right to say that the noble Lord wants this Amendment in any case, whatever happens? If so, would he not agree to the passage of this Amendment now and, since the letter went astray and he received it only immediately before we started on Report stage this afternoon, as to the other matter we shall be in touch again between now and Third Reading. I think that it would not be Fight to ask the House to divide on an issue which is still not clear and is clouded by what was an inexcusable and regrettable slip in communication between us.


My Lords, with permission, may I reply to the noble Lord's question? I suggest that the right thing to do is to withdraw this Amendment. This Amendment will not give the substance of the undertaking which was given to this delegation. I am sure that the right way of dealing with this is to write in two new subsections: first, to put in a requirement for inserting river authorities and, secondly, to put in subsection (6) of Clause 6 and thus put in the appeal machinery. The problem to which the Minister refers in his letter, of redrafting Schedule 1, is removed altogether. We need not touch the Schedule. The Schedule does not refer to river authorities but applies to the other statutory authorities affected. I suggest to the noble Lord that it would be better to withdraw this Amendment—I agree that it is innocuous, but it does not touch the substance of the case—and that he or I put down for Third Reading new Amendments which will really deal with the substance.


My Lords, I should like to have time to consider, and the only way to get time is to withdraw and start things afresh. I will not press this Amendment. But I should not leave this topic before recording this comment on the noble Lord's use of the, word "undertaking". I was not present throughout the meeting and it is rut for me to influence the noble Lord's choice of words, but I wonder whether it was an "undertaking" or an "understanding" that a certain way would be the best way to deal with this problem. Obstacles later appeared which made it impossible to give effect to that understanding. I hope that the noble Lord will not be waving the word "undertaking" at us in the next few days.


My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 [Powers exercisable over or near common land]:

LORD AIREDALE moved, in subsection (5), to leave out "in the neighbourhood of" and insert "beside". The noble Lord said: This is an Amendment to Clause 9, which deals with powers exercisable over common land. It is an Amendment to subsection (5) which says: A local authority shall have power to acquire compulsorily any land in the neigh-bourhood of… common land …". I put down this Amendment at the Minister's invitation and I hope than it will prove acceptable. I think that everyone agrees that compulsory purchasing powers are at best a necessary evil. Noble Lords on this side of the House have probed every instance of the seeking of compulsory purchasing powers by Her Majesty's Government in this Bill because we must be certain that the evil is necessary before granting the power.

The Minister was questioned about subsection (5) and here is what he said: …what we are talking about here is something just on the edge of a common …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, col. 1463; 7/5/68.] The words in the subsection have nothing to do with "just on the edge of" and no court or tribunal could ever accept that the words "in the neighbourhood of" are in the least synonymous with "just on the edge of". They would say that Parliament could easily have said "just on the edge of" if that was what was meant, or could have said "beside a common "or" adjoining a common "or" adjacent to a common". I suppose it would be unarguable that any place within a mile of a common would be in the neighbourhood of it, and I suppose it would be arguable that any place within five miles of a common was in the neighbourhood of it, If what we are talking about is something just on the edge of a common for which compulsory purchasing powers are sought, let us say so in the subsection. I have chosen the word "beside". "Adjacent to" would be just as well, perhaps, but the expression "in the neighbourhood of" is surely much too wide for an extension of compulsory purchase powers. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 36, leave out ("in the neighbourhood of") and insert ("beside").—(Lord Airedale.)


My Lords, to put it in a nutshell, the land might be on the other side of the road. I am at one with the noble Lord in not giving local authorities compulsory purchasing powers a mile or two miles away from common land, but I am advised that the phrase "in the neighbourhood of" is the safest one to use to give local authorities the powers we need, not only literally contiguous to, across the fence from, the common, but also on the other side of the road from the common, because it may be that if you want to make a loop in a road, an access road or something like that, you do not need compulsory purchase powers over the actual strip of land—it may be a highway, or it may not —but you do need it a few yards away because of the sweep of the road. I am advised that it is safer to keep the words "in the neighbourhood" 'rather than "beside" for fear of being tripped up by a landlord who is resisting this, who we have already agreed is the last cussed odd man out, who says: "Ah, but it is not actually beside, because 'beside' means 'contiguous'. It does not touch." I do not think the House should accept that it always should be necessary for it to touch. I do not know whether the noble Lord has a case in mind which makes him think this, but, so far as I can see, for that reason it would be better to stick to the words "in the neighbourhood."


My Lords, the case I have in mind is the Tower at Blackpool, which I would say is beside the seaside and beside the sea, notwithstanding that there is a road between them. I should have thought any piece of land that is divided only by a road from a common is nevertheless beside the common. But if the Minister is really worried about this and thinks that it will not do, and as I have not been supported by any other noble Lord, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 11 [Conservation of natural beauty]:

5.22 p.m.

LORD FOOT moved to add to the clause:

"(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section if it appears to a local planning authority in relation to any land in their area comprised in a National Park that it is expedient to make provision for the conservation of the existing character of any such land they shall, after consultation with the Commission, pass a resolution designating such land (hereinafter referred to as an "amenity conservation area") for the purpose of this section.

(3) As soon as may be after the passing of a resolution under this section the local planning authority shall submit the resolution to the Minister for confirmation.

(4) Upon the Minister's confirming the resolution the local planning authority shall publish in a newspaper circulating in the area to which the resolution relates a notice stating that the resolution has been confirmed and the general effect thereof and after the date of the publication of the notice no person shall execute or cause to be executed any agricultural, afforestation or other operation which would alter the existing character of any land in the amenity conservation area unless at least three months before the works are executed but not more than six months before they are begun notice in writing of the proposed works has been given to the local planning authority.

(5) Where a local planning authority receive notice of any proposed works under this section they shall, as soon as maybe, send copies of the notices to the Minister and the Commission, and to such other persons as the Minister may specify.

(6) If it appears to a local planning authority that it is expedient in the interests of conserving the character of any amenity conservation area designated and confirmed in accordance with the provisions of this section, and having regard to the interests of agriculture and forestry, they may make an order (hereinafter referred to as an "amenity conservation order") prohibiting as may be specified in the order the carrying out in that area of agricultural or afforestation or other operations which would alter the existing character thereof.

(7) An amenity conservation order shall not take effect until it is confirmed by the Minister and he may confirm any such order either without modification or subject to such modifications as he considers expedient.

(8) Provisions may be made by regulations under this section with respect to the form of amenity conservation orders and the procedure to be followed in connection with the submission and confirmation of such orders, in particular, requiring notice to be given to any owner and occupier of the land comprised in the order, for publicising the making of the order in a local newspaper, and for any representations made in accordance with the regulations to be considered by the Minister before the order is confirmed by him.

(9) If it appears to the Minister that an amenity conservation order should take effect immediately ,he may confirm the order provisionally without complying with the requirements of any such regulations with respect to the consideration of objections and representations; but any order so confirmed shall cease to have effect at the end of six months from the date on which it is so confirmed, unless within that period it has again been confirmed, with or without modifications, after compliance with those requirements.

(10)—(a) The local planning authority shall be liable to pay compensation to any person having an interest in any part of the land comprised in an amenity conservation area in respect of any damage or expenditure caused by or incurred in consequence of the making of an amenity conservation order or in respect of the loss of income consequent on the making of such order;

(11) If any person contravenes the provisions of subsection (4) of this section or of any amenity conservation order he shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £100 or in the case of a second or any subsequent offence to a fine not exceeding £250.

(12) The power to make regulations under this section shall be exercisable by statutory instrument which will be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is almost identical with the one moved by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, in Committee. There are some minor alterations, but I do not think they are of any significance. I should explain that the only reason why I am moving this Amendment, and the noble Lord, Lord Molson, is not here, is that it is imperative that he should be elsewhere for the moment. But he allowed me to say that he in no way withdraws his support of the Amendment which I am now putting before the House.

I fear that I shall have to trespass upon the time of the House for a little longer than has been taken on some of the previous Amendments, because this is an important Amendment which involves a matter of principle and a change in the present planning laws as they apply in National Parks. I hone your Lordships will think that it merits due and careful consideration, because the Amendment is the product of the consideration which has been given to their problem by the Devon and Somerset County Councils over a long period of time. They are the two Councils who, through their joint committee, look after and manage Exmoor, National Park. It is what has been happening in Exmoor during these past five or six years which has caused these Councils and the committee to conclude that Exmoor, in the form in which it has existed, I suppose, for hundreds of years, is disappearing under their eyes. They regard what is proposed in this Amendment as absolutely imperative if they are to stop the erosion of the face of Exmoor. Therefore, I hope your Lordships will feel that the Amendment merits careful consideration.

The problem arises because, as your Lordships will know, under our present town and country planning legislation there are certain alterations in the face of the land for which planning permission does not have to be sought. The chief of these, of course, are the activities of agriculture. No doubt your Lordships will think it is perfectly reasonable that, in the main, a farmer farming his land, ploughing up this field and putting another to pasture, or whatever it may be, ought not to have to seek planning permission before he does it. That, I am sure, everybody will accept. But there is one form of farming activity 'which is doing grave damage in the Exmoor National Park, and that is the fresh, new ploughing up of what has previously been open moorland. When that happens it makes a major alteration in the landscape of the moors. Your Lordships may think it is a little anomalous that the Exmoor Planning Committee, who are the planning authority looking after the moors, are able to say "No", if somebody comes to them and wants to acid a little shed to his bungalow, or if they consider that a sign upon an inn is injurious to the amenities, but cannot say, "No" if somebody comes along and proceeds to plough up 500 acres of open heather-growing moor, so changing the whole face of the landscape.

What this Amendment proposes is that the matter should be coped with in this way: that the park committee, the planning authority, should be allowed to designate those particular stretches of open moorland in their park which they regal(' as having the highest amenity value. That is something which, as a matter of fact, the Exmoor National Park authority have already done: they have made a careful survey and have marked out the areas which they think are of exceptional amenity value. It is proposed by the Amendment that when a local planning authority have designated the areas of high amenity value, and if that designation is confirmed by the Minister, from then onwards anybody who wants to plough or alter the features of that land must give notice of his intention to do so. And if a farmer or landowner gives notice of his intention to plough it up, then the planning authority can seek a conservation amenity order in respect of that land. If the landowner objects to such an order (and it would be an order prohibiting the proposed ploughing), he can appeal against the order, and an inquiry will be held, with all the ordinary safeguards, so that the point of view of amenity and the point of view of the landowner can be argued out and will be preserved. It is only if the Minister is satisfied after the inquiry that it is in the public interest that amenity should prevail over the request to plough that the order can be made to prohibit him.

It seems to me that this is a very modest proposal indeed. Not only is it a modest proposal, but incorporated in the Amendment is the proposal that if the landowner is prohibited by one of these amenity orders from ploughing up the land, then he shall be paid proper compensation. The matter is very limited. It is limited only to the National Parks and has no application outside the National Parks. The number of acres which may be made the subject matter of amenity orders is limited, even on Exmoor where the problem is most acute. The percentage of land which has been selected as of high amenity value is only 20 per cent. of the moor, which is only some 33,000 acres. As I say, all the safeguards to preserve the rights and claims of the landowner are preserved. That is the substance of it.

At the Committee stage the argument, if I may say so, received a brief reply from the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. I do not think it was a contemptuous reply, but it was certainly a very brief one. The noble Lord contented himself by saying that he adopted what had been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger. She had said that she did not like the idea of a planning authority being able to exercise these powers over landowners even in this limited way, because she, in her capacity as Chairman of the National Parks Commission, thought that they had built up a happy relationship with the landowning and farming community. The noble Baroness thought that this problem could be met by the planning authorities' discussing and negotiating with farmers who might be intending to plough, and that, in the main, it would be possible to arrive at access agreements whereby the farmer or landowner would give up his right to plough, and therefore in this way the situation would be safeguarded. That was the suggestion, and the answer which was given by the noble Baroness and which was adopted by the noble Lord.

Since then I have been given some figures by the Somerset County Council which, in my submission, completely destroy the suggestion that this matter can be coped with by negotiation and by agreement. I should like to give these figures to the noble Lord for his consideration, because the idea that it is pos3ible to cope with this problem by way of negotiation and agreement with the landowners is not borne out by what is happening on Exmoor to-day. The figures which I have are, I think your Lordships will agree, interesting, and really alarming. They show what has been happening in Exmoor between March last year and this month of May.

During that time 140 acres of open moorland country have been ploughed up, with the agreement of the planning committee. I emphasise that last point, because it indicates that the Exmoor planning committee will not want to prevent ploughing in any open country. They recognise that there are about 10,000 acres of open moor country which it would be perfectly reasonable to plough up because the damage to amenity would be minimal. There are then two areas, totalling 94 acres, which have been ploughed up, and in one case the heather has been burnt in preparation for the ploughing up. Although negotiations took place with the planning committee, and the planning committee disliked the idea of ploughing, because they considered it injurious to the amenities, and asked the landowners to defer it, the ploughing was not in fact deferred. Then there is a third category of 40 acres which has been ploughed up by someone who did not ask for the consent or agreement of the planning committee at all; and, of course, he is under no obligation to ask them.

I come to the last figures I shall give, and these are perhaps the most significant figures of all. There are no fewer than 783 acres where the park committee know that ploughing is intended and where they have been told by the owners that they intend to plough. All those 783 acres are land which, in the consideration of the park committee, is high-amenity value land. In the case of 203 acres—one of these three pieces of land —the park committee have asked the owner to defer ploughing. He intends to go on. but he told the park committee, "Well, if you would like to acquire my land, of course I shall prepared to sell it to you". The committee then inquired what would be the cost of the 200 acres of open moorland, and were told that it would be £200 per acre. In the case of both the other two lots of land (the three totalling together 783 acres) the committee have requested the landowner not to plough, but have had it indicated to them that he is certainly going to plough.

That is the experience of co-operation in the National Park, and of how far one gets by trying to deal with these matters by agreement. I suggest that it. demonstrates that it is idle to suppose that the park committees, either in Exmoor or in Dartmoor, can carry out the statutory duty imposed upon them by the Act, to preserve in their natural state these places of exceptional beauty and to promote their enjoyment by the public. It is utterly impossible for these bodies to carry through and perform that statutory duty unless they are given some powers of the kind which are expressed in this Amendment. I hope, therefore, that when the noble Lord comes to reply to this Amendment he will be able, if he continues to reject this proposition, to give us some othet and better reason for rejecting it than that it is possible to cope with this problem by agreement; because it is demonstrated beyond all doubt that that is nol the case.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 37, at end insert the said subsections.—(Lord Foot.)

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, I feel sure that it would be for the convenience of the House if we considered this Amendment together with Amendments, Nos. 14 and 17 which are down in my name to be dealt with later on. On the, assumption that that is so, I propose to speak now formally on the new subsections of the noble Lord, Lord Foot, and informally on the other two Amendments; and then perhaps, as a result of the discussion we shall now have, it will be possible for the House to proceed fairly quickly to make up its mind about Amendments Nos. 14 and 17 when we come to them.

The noble Lord, Lord Foot, has made out, as he did last time round, a very persuasive case for the measures he proposes, and he has painted a truly alarming or horrifying picture of the defects of the present situation of Exmoor. But he has also performed the unusual feat of defending his own Amendment without making any mention at all of a Government Amendment that comes a little further down the Order Paper which has very much the same effect as his own, although I must agree that it does not go quite so far. All that was said on Committee stage of this Bill about the undesirability of going so far and so fast that you forfeit the sympathy and cooperation of any sector of the population concerned with the working of the new system in the countryside remains valid. I still think, as I advised the Committee then, that to adopt what had come to be known in the trade as "the Somerset clauses", which are what Lord Foot has just proposed, would be going too far and too fast. The House will no doubt remember what my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger said about the desire of the Countryside Commission that we should not go so far and so fast because it would prejudice the co-operation over the greater part of the field which already exists and which it is the ardent hope of the Commission and the Government, the National Farmers' Union and the Country Landowners' Association, to build up over the whole of the field, including the remaining small sectors.

What I contend would be the right thing to do instead would be to introduce a system as proposed in the new clause in Amendment 14, to be added after Clause 13, which is down in my name. Let me describe what this would do. It would empower the Minister of Housing and Local Government to make an order in respect of land situated within a National Park which appears to him to be predominantly moorland or heath. It leaves the judgment to him. When the order is made, anyone proposing to convert land covered by the order—this being land which has not been used for an agricultural purpose, other than rough grazing, during the preceding twenty years—must give the local planning authority six months' notice of his intention. That means, of course, anyone who proposes to plough the moorland. If he converts the land without giving notice, or within the six months without the written consent of the planning authority, he will be liable on summary conviction to a maximum fine of £200 or on conviction on indictment to a fine of unspecified amount. Conversion of land covered by an order, in breach of the order, will not thereafter exempt the land from the provisions of the order on the grounds that it has been used for the agricultural purpose within twenty years.

Orders under this clause would be made by Statutory Instrument, subject to annulment by statutory Resolution of either House of Parliament, so there is a good deal of guarantee for the farmer. During the six months' grace it will be open to the local planning authority to explore the possibility of safeguarding the character of any area by means of the provisions of Part V of the 1945 Act. Since 1949 there has been provision for access agreements and access orders, and for various arrangements which, to a rather limited extent, prevent ploughing, because it is always open to the farmer to say "O.K. have your access, but I will still plough. You can tramp over the ploughed field if you like". Since that Act it has always been the case that whenever a planning authority published its intention of making an access order, before it could be made the farmer has nipped in and ploughed up. I should say, of course, that this does not happen in the great majority of cases. In most cases the farmer co-operates well with the planning authority, but I regret to say that it does happen in the small minority of cases where the farmer has used the weaknesses of the existing system to deny the public the rights that their democratically elected representatives think they ought to have.

This situation has worried the Government and it has led us to put down this new clause, which will provide that when the planning authority wishes to make its order or to propose its agreement (and the Government hope that it will usually be a matter of agreement) the six months, provision will "bite" on the farmer so that he cannot go ahead and plough until the matter is concluded between him and the local planning authority. This then will frustrate—that is a strong word, but I am talking about a strong situation among a small number of people—the tiny minority of farmers from going ahead in defiance of the democratically expressed will of the people in that part of the country.

Before going further let me emphasise the extent to which the Government regard this as a last resort. It is a rather tough procedure, although not as tough as some that Parliament has passed in regard to other categories of the population, but the Government clearly intend it to be for the last resort. The Government consider that the powers conferred on the Minister by this clause are most important because they provide a reserve power which can be used in those cases where local arrangements for voluntary co-operation fail to achieve a satisfactory result. These powers are there, and I hope they will be used only in the minimum of cases but that their presence will facilitate the reaching of voluntary arrangements, because the six months' delay can also be a help in reaching an access agreement. I do not need to remind the House that in both cases, either that of the agreement or the access order, compensation is payable which in point of fact works out to the full value that the farmer would have received if he had been free to carry on and plough up his land for the other sort of agriculture. This is the more important of the two Amendments moved by the Government on this contentious matter of ploughing moorland. I hope that the House will find it a sensible resting place between opposing views after much argument, both locally upon Exmoor and in other parts of the country—because this situation will also hit us further North a little later—and after much discussion in both Houses of Parliament.


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, may I say that it is not clear to me exactly what the powers are to which he is referring. If negotiations take place with a land owner with a view to an access agreement and the landowner says, "No", is the noble Lord then saying that there are powers by which an access order can be made against the will of the owner which would then preclude the owner from ploughing up that land?


My Lords, the detailed wording governing the powers will remain the same as it was in Part V of the 1949 Act. Turning to Amendment No. 17, this virtually has the same effect as the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, in the Committee stage, and it fulfils an undertaking that I gave that the Government would put down something to the same effect if he then withdrew his Amendment.

The effect of the Amendment is to remove the existing statutory obstacle to the making of access agreements, whereby the landowner may bind himself to refrain from activities, such as ploughing, which would render the land "excepted" —that is, not open to public access—and the local authority may recognise this additional factor in determining the terms on which the agreement is negotiated. As the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, said on the last occasion, at the moment however much a farmer wishes to sign away his freedom to except the land, he cannot do so because the wording of the Act would always over-ride the effect of any agreement he might enter into with the local authority. This enables him to sign away his right to except the land, and also enables the local planning authority to pay him such sums in consideration of his ability irrevocably to sign away his right to do that as may be agreed between them or as may be decided by the Lands Tribunal in the usual way.

The House has one Amendment before it, but I hope your Lordships will bear in mind three Amendments. The first Amendment—the Somerset clauses—I advise the House not to accept, because it would jeopardise the co-operation which has been built up between farmers and the Countryside Commission. In not accepting this Amendment, I hope the House may see fit to accept Amendment No. 14, which goes most of the distance desired by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, and Amendment No. 17 allowing a valid "deal" to be done on access agree rents between the local planning authority and the farmer, and having the same effect as that proposed at Committee stage by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor.

5.50 p.m.


My Lords, in the first place I should like to thank the Government for tabling Amendment No. 17. This effects what I was seeking to effect in an Amendment which was moved on the Committee stage on my behalf by my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford. I think the proposed new clause will improve the situation. As the noble Lord says, it removes a statutory bar to sensible arrangements, and I hope that, whatever may be true about Amendments Nos. 9 and 14, there may be universal agreement that Amendment No. 17 effects an improvement in the law. All these matters, particularly Amendments Nos. 9 and 14, deal with complicated situations.

I noted that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, did not define in clear terms the differences between the Government's new clause and the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, which is now before your Lordships. The Government hesitated to do that. I certainly shall hesitate; I am sure that discretion is the better part of valour here. Nor shall I seek to expound in detail a matter on which I am quite sure I could not get 100 per cent. in an examination paper. Indeed, if any of your Lordships could at this stage in the debate I should be extremely surprised. I except Lord Foot, who I think probably could get 100 per cent. on this and many other detailed questions.

The point which I think your Lordships need to bear in mind here is that there has been for some time, particularly on Exmoor, an unsatisfactory state of tension, very well described by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, which is to some extent poisoning the atmosphere there and is liable to spread to other National Parks. Various possible solutions have been put forward to this. One was the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Molson in Committee and moved again to-day, in slightly revised form, by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, in the Amendment now before us. Another suggestion, which overlaps to a considerable extent, is the Government's new clause to which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has spoken.

The most important difference between these two, to my mind, is that if we accept the Government's new clause we shall be doing so with the knowledge that a considerable amount of good will on all sides exists towards this solution. I am not saying that everybody welcomes it; I am not saying that everybody thinks it the right solution or the necessary solution. But my information is that there has been a great deal of discussion about these matters and that the Government's new clause is acceptable, not only to the Government but also to the Country Landowners' Association, speaking for the owners, and to the National Farmers' Union, speaking for the farmers. I have emphasised throughout the proceedings on this Bill how exceedingly important it is to try to secure and maintain and cherish good will between all the interests concerned, particularly in a National Park. It is no good minimising the clash of interests; it is there, and one can see it come to the surface on Exmoor. But we should all the time be trying to reach solutions which, though they may not give all parties everything they want, will be generally acceptable to the warring interests. My information is that the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Foot, does not pass that test and that the Government Amendment does. I am not saying that the Government's new clause is the perfect solution: I think we shall have to see how it works.

I greatly regret that we are having to discuss all these complex issues under such pressure of time. There I hold the Government responsible, because we finished the Committee stage of this Bill only last Monday, and we are now taking the Report stage of a long Bill just a week later. When we come to Clause 14 it will emerge that this Amendment was first available to be seen by your Lordships as recently as Saturday, so I certainly should not hold the noble Lord, Lord Foot, to blame if he failed to perceive from reading this clause what were the sanctions behind it. I understand that he is disposed to move manuscript Amendments, when we come to that clause, to ensure that there are sanctions. As I understand it, the sanctions are those contained in Part V of the 1949 Act. I hope the Government will realise that not all your Lordships carry the whole of Part V and its provisions in their heads, and not all your Lordships had immediate access to the 1949 Act between Saturday and Monday, even if they were fortunate enough to see the Marshalled List on Saturday. I was not—I did not receive mine until this morning.

This is not a good way to legislate, and I think it has been harmful to the progress of this Bill that we have had so short a space of time between the Committee and Report stages, and I certainly should not take it amiss if any noble Lord, from any quarter of the House, were to seek to move manuscript Amendments to these new clauses or other Government Amendments which we have only just seen. I did all I could to get my Amendments down in good time, but I am well aware that some of them could be considered by your Lordships only over a comparatively short space of time. But my advice to my noble friends would be, if any of these comes to a Division, to support not the Amendment which is now before us but the two new clauses which will be moved, when we come to them, on behalf of the Government.


My Lords, may I associate myself with what has just fallen from the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, about the way the Government are treating the legislative process? They do not show any signs of improving. They have been under constant and valid criticism about this for the last year or two, and as times goes on it gets worse rather than better. And although they often put on a white sheet, they very quickly take it off again. It is absurd that we should be expected to deal so quickly with these very complicated problems. I should not like myself to talk about getting 100 per cent. in an examination—I doubt whether I could get to the pass level. This is largely because one has no time to master these complicated problems and the distinctly complicated solutions which are brought forward.

Passing to the actual problem which is before the House, I take it that if a local planning committee has, in effect, to buy out some of these ploughing proposals the finance for this will be forthcoming, or at any rate a very substantial contribution. Will it be up to 75 per cent., or will it be more than that? We must remember that the local planning authorities in these National Parks areas are in the poorer parts of the country. National Parks exist in areas which are free of heavy rating assessments, and it is very much within the minds of the local councillors who man the planning committees that if they try to make use of some of these compensation provisions provided they may well be subjecting their ratepayers to very heavy financial burdens, This seems to me to be an important point, because it is no good providing these powers for the local authority unless they feel they can afford to use them; and the present is a time of financial stringency. I should like to be re Assured on this point.

I am not at all clear myself that access proposals are altogether the solution. Looking up at Exmoor from down below, it is not entirely a question of providing access to people who want to walk over it. It is a most beautiful piece of country, and the whole character of it may well be completely destroyed. At an earlier stage somebody referred to the beauties of wheatfields. Such may be the case. But they are beautiful in the right place. Not that anybody is going to try to grow wheat on Exmoor! If they did they would lose their money. What one might call the arable type of countryside is quite different from this beautiful countryside which depends so much on its heather and its wild rugged nature; and it may well be that to make use of access provisions is no real solution for what the local planning authority is after.

The noble Lord says that we must not minimise this clash between the farming interests and the local planning authority, and I suppose we must not. But I do not know how much it is a real clash and how much it is a sham fight. There are always some people who are prepared to contend for some particular rights, even if they are not likely to want to use them. These are the sort of, things that one ought to know more about and not be expected to take the ipse dint of someone. After all, the local planning authority is chosen by the people of the area in question and it should represent the interests involved. I should not like to say from. my own knowledge—because I have little close local knowledge of this part of the country—that there is not such a clash, but I have a feeling that it is not so strong as has been represented.

On the whole, I think it would be sensible to leave it to the local planning authority, which is an elected authority, or substantially an elected authority, to represent the local interests involved, and to trust those councillors on the spot rather than a circular that the National Farmers' Union sends round, which does not necessarily represent the views of the people on the spot so well as those of the local councillors.

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, I am totally in sympathy with my noble friend Lord Foot, with the Government side and with Lord Brooke on this question of natural beauty; but I think we should explore one direction more fully. As I understand it, if a farmer on Exmoor wants to plough up he goes to his agricultural association and asks for permission and he receives a marginal grant of, I believe, £12 an acre. If the Minister of Agriculture tightened up in regard to marginal grants, would he not save himself a lot of money? It is all very well giving a marginal grant of £12 an acre; but in order to receive that the farmer should not only plough and clean the land, but also drain it, otherwise it will revert to the barren Exmoor which I described last week, and no good will come out of it at all.

The other point I should like to make is that throughout the country more and more grass is being ploughed up, and the cattle population of this country will be affected. Only this morning on Romney Marsh my neighbour told me that he was going to plough up 100 per cent. It is only a matter of 50 acres of grass, but it means that he is not going to keep sheep any more. Sheep provide the golden hooves that put back the fertility into the soil. If certain parts of Exmoor and other moors can be encouraged to maintain more sheep, I think it would be a good thing.

The third point about which I am not happy is this. Although in this debate we have been talking mainly about Exmoor, there are many other areas of England and Wales which will be affected. Therefore, I am against this Amendment. I think it is going to cost either the national Exchequer or the Countryside Commission a lot of money. I ask the Minister to consider my three points.


My Lords, before we leave this subject, may I ask the Government to consider whether, as has been implied in this debate, the plough is "Public enemy number one", and that its use results in an obscenity. I cannot see that conversion of rough grazing into good grazing is in the least detrimental to the view or anything else. It is entirely beneficial to the nation. Rough grazing cannot by re-seeding be converted into good grazing without the use of a plough and without draining, and this process has been going on on Exmoor for over 100 years, with nothing but good results. If what is implied is that the use of the plough is an obscenity, it is not. I would remind noble Lords of the saying, "Fair waved the golden corn". Oats grow on Exmoor at a height of 1,500 feet and provide a quite decent crop.

6.6 p.m.


My Lords, the Liberal Party is in the interesting but not unusual posititon in which it appears to be dividing three ways. Unfortunately, there are not three Lobbies. Therefore, I ask my noble friend whether he would think again about the Government's view. If one looks at the two Amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, they nearly cover all the points that my noble friend wants to make. He is worried that they are not strong enough. I think they are. When he first made this point to me I think I was looking only at the first Amendment and not at the second one. But if these two Amendments are taken together, and we consider the indications of the first Amendment and of the 1949 Act, we should be in a position to do nearly all that my noble friend wants.

I, too, have great sympathy with what he is trying to do. But I also have great sympathy with what the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, is trying to do, which is to try to make this thing work. We have heard from her that she thinks that she can make this thing work better on the Government's proposals than on the proposals of the noble Lord. I hope, therefore, that he will have another thought about it.


My Lords, before we leave this subject I should like to say a word about the points raised by the penultimate speaker. "May the corn flourish", and so on! Yes, of course, over most of the country. He asked, "Is the plough an obscenity?" It is certainly not, except in tiny parts of the country. I would remind the House that the Government's Amendment No. 14 does not cover the whole country, anywhere where anybody may object to ploughing. It is exercisable only within National Parks; it does not even cover the whole of any given National Park. It applies only within those parts of National Parks which, to the Minister, appear to be composed mainly of heath and moor. In other words, in practice these provisions would only touch the hilltops in Exmoor, and possibly later on the northern moorland National Parks. If they are open to criticism on the grounds of geographical incidence, I think that criticism could only be that they will be applicable in two small parts of the country and not two wide parts.

6.11 p.m.


My Lords, may I say how much I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, said about the way we were having to deal with this business. I did not see the noble Lord's Amendments until a quarter to three this afternoon because I come from some distance, and I have had little opportunity of studying Part V of the 1949 Act under which the noble Lord says that the sanctions exist. From what study I have made of them I am of the opinion—I do not claim that this is in any way necessarily right—that Part V of the Act provides no sanction at all. I am wondering whether the noble Lord. Lord Brooke of Cumnor, would have advised his colleagues to vote against my Amendment and support the Government's Amendments if it be the fact that there is no sanction whatever behind the Government's proposals.

If I may, I will explain to the House the reason why I take that view. Amendment No. 14 provides—and it was read substantially by the noble Lord—that if anybody wants to plough land which has hitherto not been agricultural land he must give six months' notice. If he fails to give the notice, or if he ploughs up during the currency of the notice and before the six months has expired, he commits an offence and is liable to a fine. That is as far as that clause goes, and I ask the noble Lord where, at the end of the six months, is the sanction? How do you stop it? He says that you stop it by making an order under Part V of the 1949 Act. I take it that when he says that he is referring to Section 76 of the 1949 Act, which deals with the acquisition by local authorities of land for public access.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me a moment, it might simplify and shorten things if I told the noble Lord that that is different from my meaning. What I meant was Section 65, dealing with access orders. It is not concerned with compulsory purchase; it relates to orders saying that access shall be allowed.


My Lords, that is the trouble of trying to deal with these things in this way. The noble Lord may be right. Of course, I cannot possibly now read through Section 65, which covers a whole page, to see what it does mean. But there is a grave danger that we are going to vote upon this Amendment under a misapprehension as to what we are doing. If I am right in thinking that the provisions of Section 76 might not be invocable to acquire land then it may be that it would not be open for an order to be made under the earlier section to which the noble Lord referred, Section 65. But in so far as the Government are saying that Part V gives a local authority power to acquire access land compulsorily, may I read the section to the House? It says: Where it appears to a local planning authority, as respects any open country in their area, other than excepted land,"— that means agricultural land—

  1. "(a) that it is requisite that the public should have access thereto for open-air recreation; and
  2. (b) that in the circumstances it is expedient that such access thereto should be secured by the acquisition of the land by the local planning authority,
the authority may acquire the land compulsorily. Now I ask myself this question: supposing a farmer gives six months' notice of his intention to plough, and supposing that during the currency of that notice the local planning authority decide to invoke the provisions of Section 76 to acquire this land compulsorily—that is certainly one of the sanctions that is open to them, as the noble Lord would agree—they make their compulsory purchase order and then there is an inquiry because the landowner objects to the order being made. The matter then comes before the inspector at the inquiry. Suppose that the real reason why the local authority want to acquire the land is not so that the public can have access to it but so that its character and its appearance will not be altered or destroyed, what is the first question that will be addressed by the advocate for the aggrieved landowner to the representative of the local authority at the planning inquiry? The first question he will ask him is, "Are you saying that you want to acquire this land because it is requisite that the public should have access thereto for open-air recreation?" The representative of the local authority would be obliged to say, "No, we are not seeking to acquire it for that purpose. We are seeking to acquire it to preserve its present character." The inevitable result would be that the Minister would feel obliged to say that he could not make that compulsory purchase order because they were seeking to use these powers for a different purpose than that for which the Act provided them.

Therefore, on my reading of the matter at the moment, I suggest that this House is in grave danger of rejecting my Amendment, and accepting the Government's Amendments in advance, on a false and erroneous assumption, and I suggest that this is not the way in which the matter ought to be dealt with at all. If I may revert for a moment—


My Lords, before the noble Lord gets on to another point, may I say that I have been following this debate with great interest and he has got me completely tied up. Is he maintaining that the local authority, by making an access agreement, cannot do anything to the farmer and that land except by purchase? As I read the Act of 1949 I would say that they can make the access agreement and say, "Thou shalt not plough".


My Lords, as I understand it there are two ways in which one can go about this. Suppose that the indication is given that the farmer or landowner is intending to plough; there are two ways in which the matter might be attacked. If the Government's proposed Amendment is passed and accepted, then one would be the procedure thereunder, which is the procedure for requiring notice to be given.


And then Amendment 17?


And then No. 17. That, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said just now, gives six months' grace, and I take it that the grace is given and its purpose is to enable the planning authority and the farmer to get together to see, first of all, whether they can come to an access agreement. Then I understood the noble Lord to say that in the case of the few recalcitrant landowners who were not prepared to enter into agreements the local authority or Ministry as a last resort could invoke Part V of the Act. Among the things which they can invoke under Part V is the compulsory acquisition of access land. I do not believe that that sanction is effective at all. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, would have advised his Party to reject my Amendment in favour of the Government's Amendments if he knew that in fact there was no sanction behind the Government's Amendments.

I agree with what has been said about the importance of maintaining good relations with the landowning and farming community, but it has to be recognised that occasions will inevitably arise when there is a conflict of interest between amenity on the one hand and agriculture on the other. When a conflict does arise, is the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, saying that it should always be resolved in favour of agriculture and against amenity? That is the effect of rejecting my Amendment and maintaining the present law. Under the present law, where there is a conflict it is always the will of the agriculturist which prevails. Surely there must be a few precious acres in this country of particular amenity value where the claims of amenity are stronger than the claims of agriculture. Would anybody be prepared to accept the ploughing up of Hyde Park? There are acres in Exmoor and on Dartmoor which are as precious as Hyde Park and which at present are entirely unprotected by planning control. There is bound to be conflict. We are asking in our Amendment simply that we shall be given ordinary planning control over some of the most precious acres in this country.

I conclude by saying that my Amendment is the logical, simple way of meeting this matter. It does not involve the acquisition of land. Is it not unreasonable that we should have to acquire land to protect amenity? In all ordinary planning matters we protect amenity by refusing to allow people to do things which are injurious to amenity. Why should we not adopt exactly the same principle in the protection of the acres of which I am speaking? Why go to devious means of trying to deal with the matter as a matter of access when we are not talking about access at all but about the protection of amenity? The Government are trying to cope with the matter by the roundabout fashion of dealing with it under the heading of access. I am obliged to carry the question to a Division, and, if the Amendment is voted down, it may be that at the end of the day the Government's Amendments will be found to contain so many holes that they will not hold any water at all. In that event we shall have made a decision about this matter under a complete misapprehension.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has told us that in the last resort the Government have a sanction in reserve. It would help the House to know precisely what that sanction is.


My Lords, the local planning authority have a sanction in reserve. This is a complicated matter. I appreciate that we are dealing with it at short notice, but I feel it incumbent upon me to give the House the best explanation I can. Section 66 of the 1949 Act says: A person interested in any land comprised in an access agreement or order, not being excepted land, shall not carry out any work thereon whereby the area to which the public are able to have access by virtue of the agreement or order is substantially reduced". There are two concepts in that which require definition. The first is the concept of excepted land. The way one excepts land under this provision is by ploughing it. The provision goes on to say: Provided that nothing in this subsection shall affect the doing of anything whereby any land becomes excepted land". The farmer in Exmoor or in any other National Park was able to except his land from this provision by ploughing it. He cannot now do that in any clause in this Bill because Clause 16 provides that ploughing shall not in itself except land unless the Minister agrees that it should. That puts ploughing in a different context.

The noble Lord, Lord Foot, made the point that the local authority might want to make one of these orders, not in order to ensure access or create access but in order to keep the countryside looking as it does now. We are all agreed that in this matter we are concerned primarily with Exmoor. This is where the issue has become a difficult one locally. Although it may become difficult later on in other places, for the moment we shall be right to devote our consideration to the evidence of what is happening on Exmoor. On Exmoor what happens is that farmers plough the heatherland—the high moorland with heather and scrub on it—to seed it with grass so as to get better grazing. What changes the appearance of the land is that it goes over from this purplish, brownish, wild-looking moorland, which many people love, to neat, green pasture; but it has to be ploughed before this can happen. The ploughing is what changes its appearance.

Hitherto ploughing has constituted an exception, and a farmer could except his land whenever he chose. Typically, the psychological moment to do so was when the local authority started to talk about an access order. Now he cannot even except it, unless the Minister agrees that ploughing should constitute an exception in this particular case under the Bill. Under my Amendment he will not be able to nip in and do anything at all to it which would affect the access within six months, during which time the local authority can carry to fruition its attempts to secure access (and therefore a fortiori to keep the appearance the same) either, as we should prefer, by reaching an access agreement with him, or, in the extreme case, if that fails, by making an access order on the land.

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Foot, is quite wrong in saying that the Amendment does not attract any compulsion. It does attract compulsion under Section 66 of the 1949 Act. I hope that the compulsion would rarely be used, but I think that the House would be right to pass Amendment No. 14 when we come to it, because it will be useful in the case of acute public interest and social need to have compulsion in the background. The compulsion is not always or solely compulsory purchase but also the access orders which I have just been describing to your Lordships.


My Lords, it is important that we should not be confused here. Ploughing is not the only way one can turn heatherland into the neat, green pasture which the noble Lord mentioned. This can be done by chemical means. Would that be an exception, too?


My Lords, I should require notice of that question; but I think that the effect of the chemical means on the degree of access available to the public would come into the matter.


My Lords, access is another point. All I can say, and I say it without any fear of contradiction, is that it is not necessary to use mechanical means. With modern sprays you kill off the existing pasture, furze, heather or whatever it is, and then without any mechanical means at all you can in some cases plant grass seeds and have your neat pasture. That is possible and it may affect the argument.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord one question? I understood him to say that it was under Section 66 of the 1949 Act that access orders could be made. He will be aware of subsection (2) of Section 65, which provides that an access order shall not be made in respect of any land; first, where there are existing access agreements and, secondly, where such an agreement or agreements are not in force with respect to the land, unless it appears to the said authority impracticable to secure the making of such an agreement or agreements". Is it not a fact, and is the noble Lord aware, that the word "impracticable" in the phrase, impracticable to secure the making of such an agreement or agreements", has been interpreted as meaning impracticable physically, because there are a number of owners concerned, and that an agreement is not impracticable merely because the landowner does not want to enter into it? If that interpretation of the law is right, as I believe it to be, it means, surely, that if the objection to an access agreement is simply the recalcitrance of the landowner, then it is impossible to get an access order against him. Does the noble Lord agree with that interpretation?


My Lords, we are really getting almost to the point where we are trespassing here on the function of the courts. But, as I read it, subsection (2)(b) of Section 65 of the 1949 Act says that an access order cannot be made unless it has proved impracticable to make an agreement, which carries to my mind the sense that if it proves impracticable to make an agreement, whether by the difficult nature of the farmer or by any other cause, an access order may be made. On the last point raised by the noble Earl, I am informed that the Government's Amendment No. 14, which I am commending to your Lordships' House, uses the language "by ploughing or otherwise", and "otherwise" ought to include the chemical treatment which he was speaking about just now.


My Lords, I must ask leave to speak again, because I believe that under Standing Orders there are restrictions on the number of times one may speak on the Report stage, but I wish to say again that the Government have got themselves into trouble to-day simply and solely through tabling this new clause at such a late stage. It really is impossible for the noble Lord, Lord Foot, or other noble Lords who are interested in this subject, to do justice to a complex matter and to conduct the necessary research in time so that any of us can speak with authority. I hope that the Government will take this matter seriously, and that we shall never again have the experience of a complex clause like this being tabled simply over the weekend. Having said that, I for my part, if these matters go to a Division, will support the Government both on this Amendment and on the new clause, Amendment No. 14.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

6.34 p.m.


My Lords, as on an earlier occasion in our proceedings this afternoon it was suggested that the Government might be hiding behind my skirts, may I hasten to assure the House that Amendment No. 11 is a minor technical Amendment to the Bill which will empower local planning authorities providing recreational facilities in the sea bounding National Parks to enter into agreements with any other authority, such as a harbour authority, on whom powers to carry out works in the sea are conferred under any other enactment, whereby that other authority may act on their behalf. This Amendment is tabled at the request of the Ministry of Transport, who are anxious that in appropriate cases it should be possible for harbour authorities to carry out any necessary works in their area associated with the provision of recreational facilities in the seas bounding National Parks. Without this Amendment, the type of agreement described could be made only in respect of waterways other than the sea. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 14, line 20, at end insert— () Subsections (2), (3) and (4) of section 13 of the Act of 1949 (carrying out work on behalf of local planning authority by some other authority) shall apply to any part of the sea bounding a National Park as they apply to a waterway.")—(Baroness Serota.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 13 [Lakes in National Parks: control of boats etc.]:

6.36 p.m.

LORD GRIMSTON OF WESTBURY moved, in subsection (1), after the first "Park", to insert: or a local authority who own wholly or mainly the bed of a lake or within whose area there is the bed or part of the bed of a lake".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move this Amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lord Wakefield of Kendal. As your Lordships will see, Clause 13 deals with the making of bylaws to control the use of boats, and so on, on lakes within National Parks, and also by-laws with regard to the preservation of amenity. The motive behind this Amendment is really a plea that those who will be most affected by those by-laws shall have an effective say in drawing them up.

Your Lordships will see that the matters to be dealt with are safety of persons resorting to a lake, regulating sport or recreation, and preventing nuisance and, in particular, noise. Also, the by-laws may prescribe rules with regard to navigation, imposing speed limits, requiring the use of silencers and making reason- able charges. If your Lordships will look, in particular, at paragraph (e) of subsection (3), you will see that those by-laws may: make different provision for different circumstances, and in particular may impose different restrictions in different parts of the lake and at different times or seasons. I cannot imagine anything more likely to affect the people living around or near the lakes.

To illustrate my point, let us take the case of the Windermere Urban District Council, since everybody knows Windermere and its lake. The residents of Windermere will obviously be very much affected by what goes on in the lake, but as the Bill is drawn at present they will have absolutely no say in the making of the by-laws to govern the use of boats on the lake: only the local planning authority will have these powers. Apart from the question of the inhabitants, it so happens that the Windermere Urban District Council own the bed of the lake, so that the owner there is not to have any say in the making of by-laws with regard to the use of the lake.

There is already a precedent in the Bill for dual powers shared by local planning authorities and county district councils, so I do not think that by bringing in the county district councils we are creating any new principle. I hope that I have made the point reasonably clear. It is only right that the people who will be most affected by the making of the by-laws should have a real say in drawing them up. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 26, after "Park" insert the said words.—(Lord Grimston of Westbury)


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord is under a misapprehension as to what this Amendment will do, because, if I am right, it will do exactly the opposite of what he wants. Under it, the local authority will have no powers over Windermere except those relating to traffic under the 1894 Act, which deals with navigation. They will be able to cope with matters of navigation and safety of boats, but all the other matters concerned with controlling what goes on on the lake will be lost to them if this Amendment is passed, because it is only by the powers in Bill hat those activities can be controlled. If you exclude Windermere from this Bill (this seems to me to be the effect of these words) then you make the local authority powerless to control its own lake.


My Lords, I am sorry, but I do not understand. The Amendment does not exclude Windermere from the Bill. All this is saying, in effect, is that the Windermere Urban District Council shall have a say in drawing up the regulations providing for what is to happen on Lake Windermere. It does not exclude Windermere. I am sorry, but I think the noble Lord has got it wrong.

6.41 p.m.


My Lords, as I understand the noble Lord, Lord Grimston of Westbury, the intention of the Amendment he has moved on behalf of Lord Wakefield of Kendal is to give local authorities in National Parks within whose area there is located a lake, powers, concurrent with those conferred on the local planning authorities for National Parks, which would enable them to make by-laws under Clause 13 for the control of boats or vessels on the lake or lakes within their area. If that is the object of the exercise, I am afraid that the Amendment is defective, in that it empowers a local authority anywhere in the country within whose area there is the whole or part of a lake to make by-laws under Clause 13 in respect of any lake in any National Park. One could think of some very absurd ways in which this particular power might work out, and I am sure it would not be the wish either of the noble Lord who put this Amendment down or of the noble Lord, Lord Grimston, who moved it on his behalf, to see it working in such ways.

But quite apart from the drafting deficiencies there are other aspects of this Amendment which the Government do not find acceptable. For example, if the local authority owns a lake or part of a lake (which is the first category in the Amendment) they are perfectly able, subject of course to any rights of navigation there may be over the lake, to control the use of the lake or part of it as they please by virtue of their ownership. If the authority do not own the lake but wish either to have a say in the content of the by-laws or to share in their enforcement, then these points are already covered. I am not sure whether the noble Lord was aware of that particular point. Once the local planning authority have made the by-laws, they must be submitted to the Home Secretary for confirmation, and the local authority may make representations to the Home Secretary. But in any event the Government have already undertaken during the Committee stage of the Bill to invite the local planning authorities to consult the local authorities at the earliest stage before making by-laws under Clause 13. I hope that, with this explanation, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the Amendment.


My Lords, I think the noble Baroness has probably convinced your Lordships that the Amendment would go too wide, and I do not imagine that my noble friend intended to give such sweeping powers to any local authority which owns a lake or part of a lake in any part of the country. But I think that what the noble Baroness said afterwards indicates that she appreciated the point at which this Amendment was evidently directed. I have a great deal of sympathy with that point. There are probably other cases besides Windermere, but in the case of Windermere, which was mentioned by my noble friend, although the Windermere Urban District Council claim to own the bed of the lake, I must say that it is difficult for me to see, reading this Bill, how they can have an effective say in the making of by-laws. I am not sure how far the ownership of the bed of a lake gives power to do the things which the owners want to do, or power to insist on the things they want to insist on, upon the surface of the lake. It certainly appears to me that the local planning authority, in this case the Park Planning Board, is to be given by Statute complete power to make by-laws, and I do not see on the face of the Bill any requirement for them to consult the district councils which may be affected, unless Amendment No. 13, which we have not yet reached, is accepted.

I can see no reason why a council like the Windermere Urban District Council should not be given concurrent powers with the Park Planning Board to deal with these subjects which are mentioned in subsection (2) and elsewhere in the clause. If it is the case that the local authority—that is to say, the district council—has powers over any lake that it owns, perhaps the Government will be able to explain in what way it can exercise those powers under existing legislation; because, if so, no Amendment of this kind may be required. Secondly, it may be that my noble friend will not wish to press this until we come to the next Amendment. I should greatly like to know how the local planning authority—that is to say, the Park Planning Board—can at present be compelled to consult a district council which is in the position of owning a lake or part of a lake within its area before the planning authority makes the by-laws.


My Lords, on this question of how a local authority (such as the Windermere Urban District Council) who own a lake or part of a lake, can control the use of that lake, as I think I indicated when I spoke a little earlier, it is through their ownership of the lake. I do not know whether that point was clear to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, but in this particular case, the Windermere case, which I believe Lord Wakefield of Kendal had in mind, it is a question of control through ownership. I also indicated that where the authority do not themselves own the lake but wish to have a say in the content of the by-laws (which seems to be Lord Brooke's question on this particular clause), and to share in their enforcement, these points are already provided for through the normal machinery of consultation at the stage when the local planning authority submit by-laws to the Home Secretary for confirmation. This machinery generally works smoothly and easily, and the Government see no need to insert a further provision in the Bill to this effect.


My Lords, is there no chance of a conflict? Apparently there are two authorities who are each to have power to make by-laws in this particular situation. Who wins if they do not agree?


Whereas there is always danger of conflict between different local authorities, I think the noble Lord must have misread the clause. There is no question of conflict in the case of this particular clause. The urban district councils do not have the power.


But I understood the noble Baroness to say that they exercised power through their ownership of the bottom of the lake. The planning authority, apparently, are to have the general powers in Clause 13, yet I understood the noble Baroness to say that there was this other power. I am asking who prevails if the planning authority and the local authority differ as to the type of by-laws which should be made.


The owners of the lake are not able to make bylaws. Under the Bill as drafted at present, the power to make by-laws resides only in the hands of the local planning authority. The owners of the lake control the user of the lake only through their influence on the individuals who are using its facilities.


I am sorry, my Lords, but it seems to me that the noble Baroness has contradicted herself. She told us—and I think my noble friend Lord Brooke picked up the point—that by virtue of their ownership of the bed of the lake the Windermere Urban District Council already have all the powers that this Amendment would give them.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord: they have the powers which are derived from their ownership, but they do not have powers under this clause of the Bill to make by-laws controlling the user of the lake.


My Lords, does the noble Baroness feel that they could exercise power by denying the access of a boat? They could say, "We do not like these by-laws that the planning authority have imposed upon us. We shall ban the use of the lake completely." That is the power in fact.


My Lords, I am not sure whether I can answer the noble Lord's specific question "of the cuff". I am sorry if I have not made myself clear, but the position is that the main authority makes the by-laws and the other has the right to object and, indeed, may do so. It will be for the Home Secretary, when by-laws are submitted to him, to make a decision in the light of the submissions that he has received. He can, of course, then hold an inquiry if he deems it necessary.


My Lords, may I take it that the Home Secretary holds the ring between the Windermere Urban District Council and the planning authority?


My Lords, we hope that it will never reach that stage.


My Lords, we hope that it will never reach that stage.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Baroness for that further explanation. In view of what she has said, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, this Amendment has already been referred to and I do not think that we need spend much time on it. All that it does is to put into the Statute what the noble Baroness told us is going to happen anyway. In the circumstances, I think it would be a good thing to put it into the Bill. She has said that the local planning authority is going to be instructed always to consult with the local authority who are likely to be affected. That being the case, it seems to me that there can be no objection to putting this into the Statute so that everybody will know where they are and the thing will be in the open. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 15, line 14, at end insert ("and any local authority likely to be affected thereby"). —(Lord Grimston of Westbury.)


My Lords, the substance of this Amendment was discussed at an earlier stage of the Bill. Those noble Lords who were present will remember that my noble friend the Parliamentary Secretary gave an undertaking at the Committee stage that his Department would ensure that in the Ministerial circular to be issued following the passage of this Bill, the Minister will make it clear that he hopes that consultation will take place between the local planning authorities and the local authorities at the earliest possible stage. I would stress the point made a moment ago, that in addition to the arrangements that the Minister will make clear in his administrative circular, he hopes that this consultation will take place at an early stage. The Home Secretary will be available to receive representations before by-laws are confirmed.

The Government feel that this is the proper way to deal with this matter. It is always hoped that in matters of this kind the local authorities will proceed by consultation and agreement. Those of us with experience in local government have always found it better to work in this way. My noble friend Lord Kennet has already accepted the principle behind this Amendment by making it clear that this will be part of the Minister's circular. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will accept my assurance that this will be done and that he will withdraw his Amendment.


My Lords, I think the House will be grateful to the noble Baroness for having said that the Government wish things to happen as they will be required to happen if the Amendment were written into the Bill. This is a small point. I should not be inclined to advise my noble friends to press this Amendment if we receive an assurance from the Government that the Home Secretary would refuse to confirm by-laws submitted to him by a local planning authority under this clause if it emerged that the local planning authority had failed to consult the district councils or other authorities that were likely to be affected by the by-laws. It seems to me that then the local authority would have the safeguard which my noble friend wishes to give to it.

But it will be an awkward way of doing things, and I should have thought that if there were a case where a local planning authority had failed, by inadvertence or otherwise, to consult a district council and if everything goes on right up to the point where the Home Secretary has to take note, then time will be wasted. It will be an untidy way to proceed. I have no doubt that the Home Secretary would be reluctant to confirm any by-law if it emerged that the district council had not been consulted. I wonder whether the noble Baroness can explain in more detail what is wrong with accepting this Amendment. I do not want to clutter up the Bill with Amendments, but this seems to be the sensible way and should save the trouble of having to give advice in a Ministerial circular and the possibility of delay ensuing in a final Home Office stage.


My Lords, I should like to support what has just been said. Clearly, there are two bodies which must be consulted: the Commission, on the one hand, and the interested local authority, on the other. You could either have it in the Bill that both are to be consulted, or you could have it by Ministerial circular that both are to be consulted. I cannot see any sense in having to say, in the Bill, that the Corn-mission should be consulted but, in a Ministerial circular, that the local authority should be consulted. This seems to me to be thoroughly untidy. It would be tidier if this Amendment were accepted and if it were stated in the Bill that both bodies should be consulted.


My Lords, I am beginning to wonder whether we are not forgetting that by-laws do not affect local authorities; they affect the individuals who are sailing on the lakes. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, answered his own question in relation to the Home Secretary—namely, that it is unlikely that any Home Secretary, in considering whether or not to confirm a by-law, would fail to take note that the recommendation in the Ministerial circular following the passing of the Bill had not been complied with by any of the authorities concerned.

There is perhaps a difference of opinion between us here. There are those who would prefer to see concurrent powers laid down in legislation, and there are those who still feel, in spite of this discussion, that it is right and proper for the power to remain with the local planning authorities knowing there will be a Ministerial circular encouraging them to consult with the local authority in the area before submitting by-laws to the Home Secretary who then will adjudicate on the various representations.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt, but it did not appear to me that this Amendment raised any question of concurrent powers. I thought that this Amendment was concerned solely with the duty laid upon local planning authorities (who alone would have the power to make the by-laws) to consult with the subordinate local authorities.


My Lords, I am mistaken and apologise for misleading the House by referring to concurrent powers at this point. I hope the noble Lord will accept the apology in the spirit in which it is offered. I was saying that there is a difference of opinion here and I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment. I have already given the assurance that the Minister will be issuing a circular and that we hope that the authorities concerned will consult together, following the issue of that circular, at the earliest possible occasion remembering always that this Bill is concerned with amenities for the people of this country to enjoy. We hope that the local authorities involved will work together in this spirit and towards that particular end.


May I say a word about this Amendment? This is another example of the difficulties which arise through the late tabling of Amendments. I did not see this Amendment until I arrived this afternoon. I must say that in the time which I have been able to give to it I put the same interpretation on this Amendment as did the noble Baroness; that its effect would be to give concurrent powers. It seemed to me that on that basis it is an Amendment which ought to be rejected. It is not sensible I think, to give concurrent powers in a case of this kind. This is an isolated case.

Another thing that has happened is that the loudspeaker in the Library is not working, and so I came into the Chamber to see what was the position. I am interested in this Amendment as it refers to the bed of Lake Windermere, which is the only Lake which Gould possibly come within the scope of this Amendment. As I am labouring under the disadvantage of not having seen the Amendment until this afternoon, and under a further disadvantage because the loudspeaker in the Library is not working, I find myself in some difficulty. But it seems to me that on the face of it this is an Amendment which would effectively provide two concurrent powers—


May I interrupt the noble Lord to say that the previous Amendment did give concurrent Powers? If the noble Lord will read the Amendment he will see that there is no question of concurrent powers here; it is merely making it mandatory for the planning authority to consult—that is all.


If that is clear, I will accept it. I should like to say that, in so far as this particular district council is concerned, its relations with the local planning body are of the very best. Since the late Alderman Lee Groves presented the bed of the lake to the Windermere District Council some years ago (incidentally, he died only last week, after very fine service to his county), the joint planning board for the Lake District National Park and the Windermere District Council have worked in the very closest co-operation, so I do not think there is any real difficulty here. No doubt consultations will take place whether there is a directive from the Minister or not.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

7.4 p.m.

LORD KENNET moved, after Clause 13, to insert the following new clause:

Conversion of moor and heath in National Parks to agricultural land.

".—(1) The Minister may, if satisfied that it is expedient, by order apply this section to any land in a National Park appearing to him to be predominantly moor or heath.

(2) The occupier of any land to which this section for the time being applies, and which is moor or heath which has not been agricultural land at any time within the preceding twenty years, shall not, by ploughing or otherwise, convert any of the land into agricultural land unless he has given six months written notice of his intention to the local planning authority.

(3) If, without the consent in writing of the local planning authority, any person fails to comply with subsection (2) above, whether by failing to give a notice, or by taking some action within the six months, he shall be guilty of an offence.

(4) Any person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable—

  1. (a) on summary conviction to a fine of not more than £200, or
  2. (b) on conviction on indictment to a fine,

(5) An order made under subsection (1) above—

  1. (a) may be varied or revoked by a subsequent order so made,
  2. (b) shall be made by statutory instrument subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(6) In this section "agricultural land" does not include land which affords rough grazing for livestock but is not otherwise used as agricultural land.

(7) In considering for the purposes of subsection (2) above whether land has been agricultural land within the preceding twenty years, no account shall be taken of any conversion of the land into agricultural land which was unlawful under the provisions of this section."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is the Government Amendment about ploughing up, access, the six months and all that which we discussed fully a few moments ago. I think that at this stage all I need to do is to commend it to your Lordships and once again to apologise for the short notice at which I have been able to put it down. I hope that its merits in this complicated situation (I think it does secure a good measure of support from both sides of the Committee) will atone for the shortness of the notice. I beg to move.

Amendment moved.

After Clause 13 insert the said new clause. —(Lord Kennet.)

LORD FOOT moved, as an Amendment to the Amendment, after subsection (3) to insert the following subsection: (3A) (a) If, within two months of receiving notice as respects any land under subsection (2) above, the local planning authority make a compulsory purchase order in respect of the land the occupier of the land shall not by ploughing or otherwise convert the land into agricultural land unless the Minister refuses to confirm the compulsory purchase order; (b) Any person contravening the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of an offence.

The noble Lord said: I tabled two Amendments of which I understand that a copy has been circulated, but in case your Lordships have not seen it may I read the two Amendments, reading the second one first, because that is the substance of it? It proposes, after subsection (7) to insert: (8) Where it appears to a local planning authority as respects any land to which this section applies that it is desirable that the land should not be converted into agricultural land and that in the circumstances such conversion should be prevented by the acquisition of the land by the local planning authority the authority may acquire the land compulsorily. That subsection clearly states what it does. It gives the local authority, once it has been notified of the intention to plough, the opportunity, if it wishes to do so, to acquire the land compulsorily in order to prevent its character from being altered. The first Amendment is purely consequential.

Earlier, on my previous Amendment, there was a great deal of discussion whether, among other things, it was possible, if amenity land was threatened by ploughing, for a local authority to acquire the land compulsorily. These Amendments of mine woud, I suggest, simply put that beyond doubt. They correspond very closely to Section 79 of the 1949 Act which is the section enabling the local planning authority to acquire access land where the authority thinks fit in order that it may be kept available for the public. All that is done by these Amendments to the Amendment is to make similar powers available to the local authority for the purposes of protecting amenities. I suggest there is nothing of principle in it, but it will put the sanction beyond any doubt.

In the ordinary way one would expect the planning authority, before seeking a compulsory purchase order, to negotiate with the owner within the six months' notice period to see whether an access agreement could be made, and these powers would simply be in the background if it was impossible to reach an agreement. I suggest that there is nothing in these Amendments except that they spell into the Bill what already appears in the 1949 Act with regard to access. I beg to move.

Amendment to the Amendment moved— After subsection (4) insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Foot.)


I beg to move Amendment No. 14B.

Amendment to the Amendment moved—

After subsection (7) insert:— ("(8) Where it appears to a local planning authority as respects any land to which this section applies that it is desirable that the land should not be converted into agricultural land and that in the circumstances such conversion should be prevented by the acquisition of the land by the local planning authority the authority may acquire the land compulsorily.")—(Lord Foot.)


I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Foot, and I are probably carrying out the reverse of one of those Chinese battles which you see on the stage, where the audience knows what is happening and the actors pretend to be in the dark, which produces a very comical effect. The noble Lord, Lord Foot, and I know what is happening but probably most of your Lordships are in the dark about these manuscript Amendments. I only hope that the effect will not be too comical. I assure the Committee that although the Amendments would certainly strengthen the arm of the local planning authority in securing amenity in National Parks by means of compulsorily acquiring land simply to preserve its appearance, they would be very deeply resented by farming interests for two reasons: first, the principle at present accepted by all concerned and which we wish to preserve is that the planning authority shall have power to do this compulsorily in order to secure and maintain public access to land. Often this carries with it the tacit corollary that the appearance is maintained; but to make the conservation of the appearance of a given piece of land the explicit purpose of a compulsory purchase operation would be a big change in principle.

I would advise the House that this would not be accepted by the other side of the deal, by the landowning and farming interests, without a good deal of bad blood and sourness. For the same reason that I urged the House not to accept the noble Lord's original new clause, I would urge the House not to accept these Amendments because they go too far too fast. It was for the same reason that the noble Lord, Lord Foot, wisely withdrew his new clause. It would not be for me to speak for the Countryside Commission, but I should be interested to hear the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Strang, on this subject, and I think that if the Chairman, my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger, were here, she- might find these Amendments objectionable for the same reason. I hope that the noble Lord will be content to proceed with all due haste—I think it is remarkable that we are able to go so far forward in this Bill as we are—and not to hurry this too much.


My Lords, I am disappointed with that reply, because those who promoted the Amendment which I moved earlier felt that if that failed, nevertheless something could perhaps be written into this Amendment which would give the Exmoor National Parks Committee power to acquire land in default of agreement so that they would be able to stop the erosion of Exmoor who is now proceeding. I am afraid that I shall be obliged to withdraw the Amendments, but it means that for an indefinite period ahead the destruction of Exmoor National Park is going to proceed.

Amendments to the Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, now we have disposed of the manuscript Amendments, may I say a few words? I support the new clause in general, but we have not had much time to look at it. At first sight I am surprised that there is no obligation on the Minister to consult anybody at all before he satisfies himself that it is expedient by order to apply this clause to land in a National Park. Maybe in a Statute we should not require a Minister to consult a local authority, but I should think that it would be desirable that he should consult the local planning committee in a case like this, and essential that he should consult the Commission. I am not pressing for an answer on this matter now, but had I had an opportunity of seeing this new clause earlier I would have put down an Amendment requiring the Minister to consult the Commission before he took action. Perhaps between now and Third Reading the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will consider whether it would not be desirable to include some mention of the Commission, who, after all, are given considerable responsibilities as regards National Parks, before the Minister acts and brings these new powers into operation.


I will consider that.


My Lords, I hesitate to intervene in a Chinese battle in which I have not take a very active part hitherto, but I am worried about this proposed new clause. It applies the criminal law in certain circumstances, and one of the circumstance is that the land must be moor or heath which has not been agricultural land at any time within the preceeding twenty years. I am not sure that that ought to be left as an element in the offence. Obviously this could be dealt with by obliging the Minis- ter to satisfy himself before making any order applying the sanction. As it is, supposing land has changed hands a good many times in the past 20 years, as it may well have done, is the man prosecuted to be taken to know what has been happening during the past 20 years? Agricultural land is not quite so definite a thing that if he lives in that part of the world he must know. Altogether it seems to me to be introducing into an offence which is fairly complicated already an element of uncertainty which is unnecessary, and I suggest to my noble friend that it would be better to have the Minister satisfied about this before he makes the order rather than leave an element in the offence which would be decided by the court.


My Lords, I will look into that point, too. I would only say at this stage that although there are uncertainties in agriculture, agricultural memories are pretty long. If a farmer himself does not know what has happened during the last 20 years, some of his neighbours will.


Sometimes farmers die.


My Lords, in regard to the penalty of a £200 fine, very often to slip in quick and plough 30 or 40 acres would be worth a great deal more than £200. Is there provision for a penalty making that unprofitable?


My Lords, there is an unlimited fine on indictment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, this is a paving Amendment for No. 17, which I described to the House and which we discussed briefly in the course of the debate on the whole of this ploughing and access matter. I hope that we do not need to go into it again. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 19, line 1, leave out ("three") and insert ("four").—(Lord Kennet.)


My Lords, is it the position that in order to preserve this land the Minister will first of all impose an access order and at the same time provide that the land must be kept in its existing condition?


No, my Lords. That was on the Amendment that we discussed earlier. Perhaps the noble Lord will agree that it will be easier to look at Hansard to-morrow to see what was said, and if at any point it does not satisfy him we could return to it later. That matter does not arise on the Amendment before the House, which is simply about access agreements between local authorities and farmers.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 17.

Amendment moved— After Clause 16 insert the following new clause:

Access agreements: undertakings by landowners and others not to convert land into excepted land.

. For the purpose of preventing or restricting the conversion of land which is open country into excepted land within the meaning of section 60(5) of the Act of 1949, an access agreement under section 64 of the Act of 1949 may impose such restrictions on the exercise of rights over the land by the persons who can be bound by the agreement as appear to the local planning authority and the other parties to the agreement to be expedient."—(Lord Kennet.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 19 [Amendments of Act of 1949]:

7.21 p.m.

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, after subsection (1), to insert: () In section 51(1) of the Act of 1949 (general provisions as to long distance routes) after the word 'horseback' there shall be inserted the words 'or on a bicycle not being a motor vehicle'.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, to explain this Amendment I think I must refer to Section 51 of the 1949 Act. That is the section which deals with long-distance routes. It says: Where it appears to the Commission … that the public should be enabled to make extensive journeys on foot or on horseback along a particular route, being a route for which the whole or the greater part of its length does not pass along roads mainly used by vehicles, the Commission may take certain action designed to eventuate in the establishment of a long-distance route. I would invite the attention of your Lordships to the words, "on foot or on horseback." I am suggesting that we should add the words, or on a bicycle not being a motor vehicle".

I think I should explain to your Lordships that this is a change in the Bill which would be greatly welcomed by the Youth Hostels Association. That body, and the thousands of young people who make use of youth hostels up and down the country should I think command the sympathy of your Lordships. I do not know, because I was not a Member of either House of Parliament at the time, why Section 51 of the 1949 Act made no mention of cyclists. Clearly, one does not want to secure the provision of routes for motor cycles all over the Pennines or other countryside, but it seems to me that in this year, 1968, we should try in a case like this to secure as satisfactory facilities for cyclists who follow long-distance routes across the country as for people who go on foot or on horseback. I hope, therefore, that the Government will be able to accept this Amendment. I cannot sea any reason against it; indeed, I can only think that it is nineteen years overdue. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 21, line 15, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


My Lords, without assenting to every word of the noble Lord's speech, I would advise the House to accept this Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 20 [Recreational facilities at water undertakers' reservoirs and other waters]:


My Lords, this is simply a tidying-up Amendment. Statutory water undertakers who own or manage reservoirs have certain powers. This Amendment would enable those powers, in certain circumstances with which I do not think I need bother the House, to be divided up and used jointly by two or more of the statutory undertakers having an interest in the same reservoir. I believe that the Amendment is uncontentious. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 23, line 23, at end insert— () Where, by provision contained in, or having effect under, any enactment concerning a reservoir or other waterway owned or managed by statutory water undertakers, some other statutory water undertakers are liable to contribute to the costs of constructing, operating and maintaining the reservoir or other waterway, the undertakers may make arrangements for sharing any expenditure incurred in, and any receipts arising from, the exercise of the powers conferred by this section."—(Lord Kennet.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 21 [Provision of facilities by Forestry Commissioners]:

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, in subsection (2)(d), to leave out "viewpoint stances" and insert "places for enjoying views". The noble Lord said: My Lords, I feel sure that even at first glance your Lordships will recognise that this is an Amendment of substance. My only fear is that I am preempting the right of my noble friend Lord Conesford in moving this Amendment. Unfortunately, my noble friend has not been able to attend your Lordships' House to-day. But, in any case, I got the Amendment down first, and I am proud to have the chance of moving it and supporting the campaign which my noble friend persistently and nobly wages against strange phrases in legislation or in debate.

Clause 21 of the Bill empowers the Forestry Commissioners to provide, among other things: places for meals and refreshments, picnic places, viewpoint stances and so on. I do not know whether any of your Lordships will have seen a "viewpoint stance". I do not know whether, when you have friends, you suggest that you should take them for a walk because you know a number of "viewpoint stances" in the locality. I do not know whether, if somebody comes to stay, you assure them that their bedroom window is an excellent "viewpoint stance". My personal view is that we ought to delete this sort of rubbish from the Statute Book. I am not in a position to say whether "viewpoint stances" are already statutory animals through being incorporated in other Bills. I gather from the nod given by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that they are, and I can only think that my noble friend Lord Conesford must have been nodding if he allowed it to get into previous legislation.

I suggest, seriously, that we should eliminate this objectionable phrase from the Bill, and my suggestion as an alternative is "places for enjoying views". I am not at all sure what a "viewpoint stance" means, because I cannot understand that language. But it seems to me that it makes sense if we translate it into, "places for enjoying views". That is why I suggest that we should empower the Forestry Commission to provide places for meals and refreshments, picnic places, places for enjoying views, parking places", and so on. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 23, line 38, leave out ("viewpoint stances") and insert ("places for enjoying views").—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


My Lords, I support this Amendment, and I warn the Minister that if he takes a stance against it I shall take a very dim viewpoint.


My Lords, I cannot conceal from the House that we may be storing up trouble for ourselves later on, when it comes to consolidation, if we adopt the noble Lord's Amendment and leave the Scots with their "viewpoint stances". It may be that in future generations we shall want a single Countryside Act to cover all three countries, and the Parliamentary draftsmen will find things horribly complicated if the two phrases are different. I imagine that a "viewpoint stance" comes from the German aussichtspunkt, though how on earth it got to Scotland rather than from some translation from the French, I cannot imagine. However, let us leave it at that. Of course I would advise the House to accept the noble Lord's Amendment.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for his helpfulness and friendliness over this Amendment. It will not be the first time that the Scots have spoken a different language from the English, and I am greatly complimented by his regarding my paraphrase as satisfactory.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 25:

Signposting of footpaths and bridleways


(3) A highway authority need not erect a signpost in accordance with subsection (2) above at a particular site if the highway authority, after consulting the council of the parish in which the site is situated, or as the case may be the chairman of the parish meeting, not having a parish council, in which the site is situated, are satisfied that it is not necessary, and if the parish council, or as the case may be the parish meeting, agree.

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, in subsection (2), to add to paragraph (a): , if it is a footpath available to be used also by cyclists, indicating that fact, and". The noble Lord said: My Lords, we now come on to Clause 25, the signposting of footpaths and bridleways. Again I am trying to help the cyclists. Subsection (2) requires the highway authority to, erect and maintain a signpost— (a) indicating that the footpath or bridleway is a public footpath or bridleway…. I suggest that we should add to those words, if it is a footpath available to be used also by cyclists, indicating that fact, and".

I am in a slight difficulty, because we have not yet reached the new Clause 31 which the Government have down, and that deals with providing for pedal bicycles on bridleways, whereas the Government's new clause which was moved on Committee and then withdrawn and is now to be replaced by this one, extended the rights of cyclists to footpaths as well as bridleways. But I should like to speak to this Amendment, ignoring for the moment that new clause. it appears to me that, whether that new clause is passed or not, it is desirable that it should be made clear whether cyclists can use footpaths or bridleways—footpaths in particular, because if the new clause is passed they will automatically get a right to use bridleways. What I am suggesting is that it would be very helpful to cyclists if the local authority, when putting up a signpost saying, "Public footpath to so-and-so", should, if in fact cyclists have a right of way there, indicate that fact also.

I am quite sure that we are all at one in this. We want people to enjoy cycling. We also want them to enjoy possibilities of cycling away from busy traffic roads, because there is a limitation to the enjoyment of a cyclist on a busy road, and there certainly may be danger both to him and to other vehicles. It is purely to help the cyclists that I am suggesting it would be a good thing to make this Amendment, and I hope the Government will favourably consider it.

Amendment moved— Page 27, line 11, at end insert the said words. —(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


My Lords, the trouble here arises from the layout of the Bill. This comes before we should logically consider it. If the noble Lord would agree to withdraw his Amendment, could we not go on now and see what we settle about cyclists and footpaths, and then perhaps consider at Third Reading what should be done about notices telling them whether or not they are allowed on footpaths? We have just carried an Amendment about cyclists on long-distance routes. If the noble Lord would allow me to consider this matter between now and Third Reading, and see what the House decides about cyclists, I think it would be the most sensible plan.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will consider it between now and Third Reading, I will withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.34 p.m.

LORD PARGITER moved, in subsection (3) to leave out all words after "necessary,". The noble Lord said: My Lords, I must apologise for moving this Amendment in manuscript form. It is a very simple Amendment, but it deals with a matter of some principle. As I say, I apologise for putting it in manuscript form, but the County Councils Association drew my attention to this only over the weekend and I had no other time in which to bring it forward. On the other hand, of course, I appreciate that my noble friend has not had very much time to consider the point which is raised here.

As the clause stands, what it does is this. A highway authority need not erect a signpost in accordance with subsection (2), which requires them to erect signposts, if the highway authority—and highway authorities of course will be mainly county councils— after consulting the council of the parish in which the site is situated, or as the case nay he the chairman of the parish meeting, not having a parish council, in which the site is situated, are satisfied that it is not necessary, and if the parish council, or as the case may be the parish meeting, agree". What the highway authorities feel is that they accept entirely the desirability of consultation, but they feel that it is very much a case of the tail wagging the dog if a highway authority, having given careful consideration to the matter, having consulted either the parish council or the chairman of the parish meeting, could not take action, or such action as is provided here, unless the parish council or parish meeting agree.

There is one other point I should like to refer to in this connection. The provision says that they shall consult the chairman of the parish meeting. But when it goes on to deal with what he can do, we find that apparently he cannot do anything because it is the parish meeting which has to agree. So why there is a reference to the chairman of the parish meeting, and then later on it says that only the parish meeting may agree, I do not know. I do not know what the object is of putting in the reference to the chairman of the parish meeting, but perhaps the Minister could explain that. It tends to make the position even more difficult because, on the face of it, it looks as though if the chairman of the parish meeting were to agree that it was not necessary to put the sign up, he would have no power to say so unless the parish meeting also agreed. In those circumstances, I can hardly see the use of one phrase or the other. I am not sure which ought to come out, but in any case I am asking the House to agree to neither.

After all, the highway authority are the authority which have to spend the money, and if it seems to them that it is not necessary at any particular point to put up a sign, after consultation with the parish council or the chairman of the parish meeting, at least the highway authority's views ought to be final in this matter, and certainly not those of a parish council or chairman of a parish meeting or even of a parish meeting itself. I would hope, therefore, that it would be possible for the House to accept this Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 27, line 21, leave out from ("necessary") to end of line 22.—(Lord Pargiter.)


My Lords, the purpose of having these words in, in the first place, was really to keep down the number of signposts in the countryside. It is as easy as that. The Government conceive that parish councils would be good watchdogs to preserve the nice look of their own parishes, and that they would be as well placed as, or better placed than, someone in the highway authority, which might be a long way away, to know which particular paths were the ones most used and the ones most in need of being signposted for the general good of everybody.

The parish councils do not have much to do under this Bill. Some of your Lordships probably feel that they do not have enough to do, and the Government would be sorry if this small role for the parish councils were to be struck out. For those two reasons—for the purpose of keeping down the number of signposts in general, and because of the special local knowledge and skill of parish councils about these little powers—I hope that my noble friend will agree not to press his manuscript Amendment.


My Lords, I think my noble friend has rather missed the point. It is the highway authority that does not want to put the sign up but before it may decide it must consult the parish council or alternatively the chairman of the parish meeting; but if they are recalcitrant and determined to have a sign there, then it looks to me as if the highway authority cannot do anything else than put it there. I should not imagine that it would happen in many cases, but it seems to me as a matter of principle that the last word should rest with the highway authority and I would still ask my noble friend to look at it from that point of view.

We are at one on this. The highway authorities will not want to erect more signs than are necessary. They would be obliged to consult the parish council, or chairman of the parish meeting, if they decided not to erect them; but if after they have consulted them someone still wants signs erected all over the place the highway authority should be able to say, "After all, we are the authority, and we do not propose to erect a sign". Obviously the highway authority will want to erect signs where they are necessary. It seems to me that in those circumstances, in order to do what my noble friend wants, it is much more reasonable to leave the last word with the highway authority.


My Lords, I hope that the Minister will resist this Amendment, because I think this is a very fair and proper duty for a parish council to have. As the Minister said, parish councils have not been given many duties which will take a great deal of their time or which will involve their spending very much of the ratepayers' money. I think one should not prejudge what the parish council will do. Sometimes they may want to have a signpost erected to keep people from going where there is not a properly defined path, and sometimes they may feel there is no necessity for a signpost, which would be unsightly, because everybody knows where the path is. I hope the noble Lord will agree with me that it may be that the local village knows best, and not necessarily the great highway authority some thirty miles away.


My Lords, if I may speak again for the purposes of clarity, I should like to ask my noble friend to deal with the point about the chairman of the parish meeting being consulted but apparently not being able to do anything about it because the parish meeting has to decide. I have no objection to the chairman's having the power, if the powers are to be given; but to say that he must be consulted but he has no power anyway seems to be unnecessary.


My Lords, it is possible that there is a printing error in the part of the clause with which the noble Lord is concerned. If there is, it will be put right before the next stage, of course; but on the general question I must apologise to the House because I got it upside down last time. We are dealing with the proposal of the highway authority not to erect a signpost, and my noble friend's Amendment seeks to take away the right of the parish council to insist that the highway authority shall erect a signpost. As a matter of fact, whichever way round it is, I hope my noble friend will not insist, for the reasons which have already been given by the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, namely, that the parish councils have not much to do and this is only a small thing.


My Lords, in the circumstances I do not propose to press this Amendment. It is not of great importance, although the highway authorities feel rather strongly that they should have the last word. I beg to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 26 [Duty to maintain stiles, etc., on footpaths and bridleways]:

7.42 p.m.

LORD RAGLAN moved, to leave out Clause 26 and insert the following new clause:

Duty to maintain stiles, etc., on foorpaths and bridleways

".—(1) It shall be the duty of a highway authority in the exercise of their powers to maintain any stile, gate or other structure across a footpath or bridleway (hereinafter called 'the structure') 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.

(2) If it appears to the highway authority responsible for the footpath or bridleway that the structure is in need of repair it shall carry out any works necessary to satisfy the duty imposed by subsection (1) of this section or shall make arrangements for the owner or occupier of the land to take all reasonable steps to repair and make good the structure.

(3) This section shall be construed as one with the Highways Act 1959."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I say at once to your Lordships and to my noble friend that I shall not press this Amendment, because I am not sure, even now, that it is exactly the right answer. All I am asking my noble friend to do is to accept the principle behind it. The Amendment arises out of what I said in Committee and I shall not go over all the arguments again, but my noble friend agreed that the clause as it stands does something new in putting the duty on the landowner to keep up the stile or gate, and he said this was bemuse the owner wanted that stile or gate to keep cattle or sheep from going from one side of the fence to the other.

The postulation is that a stile or a gate is an obstruction across the footpath, put there in the interests of the farmer. I say, with great respect to my noble friend, that that postulation is a specious one, as I shall try to show. First, I want to point out an anomaly in the present clause. Why is it that in every other matter to do with footpaths it is the occupier who is legally obliged not to obstruct the path in any way? Also, it is said in defence of this clause that a hedge is an obstruction to the footpath caused by a farming operation, yet in this clause it is the owner—someone who may have little or nothing to do with farming operations—who will have the statutory duty and legal liability placed upon him.

I do not know what advice the Government took in drawing up this clause, but in paragraph 44 of the Gosling Report it is recommended that owners and occupiers should be responsible for the task of maintenance because, the Committee say, they will certainly be able to discharge this responsibility more promptly and economically than contractors or workmen employed by a local authority. How will an owner who is not an occupier, and may not even live in the same county, be able to discharge that liability more promptly and economically than the local authority? I think the answer is that in practice he would not be able to. He would have to employ someone, as the local council would have to do, and with just as great expense. So I think that argument fails.

I see many practical and possibly legal difficulties arising out of the clause as it stands. Whereas the Gosling Report says that owners and occupiers should do the maintenance because it would be less costly, the Government have said, both here and in another place, that they should do it because a stile or gate is an obstruction across the footpath, put there in the interests of farming. That is a most extraordinarily ingenious argument. Not only does it not explain why an owner should maintain a stile in a fence which is maintained by an occupier for his own benefit, but it does not explain why the very ramblers who allege that a hedge is an obstruction to a footpath should be among the first to complain when farmers bulldoze hedges away. When we bulldoze hedges we are accused of spoiling the countryside, but what do people come to the countryside to see? What is our countryside, I ask, but really one big farming operation? That is how the land has been fashioned. If it were not for farming the whole country, where it was not marsh, or perhaps beech wood, would be a jumble of impenetrable thicket of elder, birch, thorn and gorse.

I would remind your Lordships that Offa's Dyke, which was mentioned earlier by my noble friend Lord Maelor, was dug from Chepstowe to Chester in, I think, the 9th century, and it was discontinued in the lowlands because it was thought that the forest was too thick for anybody to walk through. That is not very good rambling country. Nearly all the upland (so we are told) was covered with trees, and if it were not for farming and the action of sheep we should not have the lovely open expanse of Exmoor which was so extolled by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, just now. I think we must therefore first appreciate how farming has shaped the countryside and then we must acknowledge, with far more than just a passing nod to the Gosling Report, how those living and working in the countryside shape the footpaths which we are now encouraging the general public to use.

This Bill is more or less a formal recognition by the Legislature of the pressure being put on the countryside by those wishing to take their leisure there and enjoy themselves—and indeed why should they not? But while recognising the pressure, what I am urging the Government to do is to see that the general public, in claiming the right to cross the land for their enjoyment and to cross those features such as walls and fences and hedges which form part of the landscape, should acknowledge full public responsibility for the means which they use to cross it. Not the least of the unfairnesses contained in this clause is that in practice it will put the burden of repair and liability on those who are often least able to afford it, namely, the poorer hill farmers, whose land is perhaps the most popular to ramble on.

It is easier and cheaper to enjoy oneself at other people's expense. That is what is going to happen if the present clause goes through, and that is how it will be seen, especially by hill farmers. The use of these public footpaths is a highly emotive and contentious matter, and I do not think for the better operation of other provisions in this Bill that it is a good thing, even if it were fair, that the general public should enjoy themselves at the expense of those whose co-operation is needed to help make this Bill work well but who will see in the working of this clause a highly inequitable piece of legislation. I know that the Minister will not at all like the idea of changing the proposed law now, but I think that it is so anomalous and so contentious that they will see that it will not work at all well. We very much want something that will work well, and therefore I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 26 and insert the said new clause.—(Lord Raglan.)


My Lords, I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Raglan. This is really a rearguard action. Most of these arguments we have put before. The one clause that possibly might have helped us, as a sort of compromise between this and what is in the Bill, is the one which would have provided that 50 per cent., instead of 25 per cent., should be the local authority grant to owners and occupiers towards upkeep of stiles. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, though it stood in his name last week, I think felt that he could not move it because it is among the matters that I presume infringe the privileges of another place. Nevertheless, I think one ought not to forget that in making this legislation the Government are in fact doing something at somebody else's expense. The rights of the public are being enlarged and we want them to be enlarged; we think that is right. I made this point at Committee stage and indeed at Second Reading, but as the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has raised it again, I feel it ought to he said again: the rights we all agree should be enlarged are being enlarged at somebody else's expense. The stiles are going to be very expensive to maintain, and it is not only a matter of maintenance but of questions like insurance. If somebody falls down and breaks his leg or whatever it may be, the owner or occupier of the land is liable. You can insure against this—and no doubt all landowners should, and many do; nevertheless it is an expense that has to be met and it is an expense which, as it were, the Government are putting upon one section of the community in order to benefit another. With regard to the absentee owner, the owner who may live elsewhere and whose land is let to a tenant, I imagine there is no problem, because, as in the case of all fences, the owner who lets the land normally makes over the obligation to maintain fences and that sort of thing to his tenant who is the occupier. Presumably the same thing will happen here.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I think the owner cannot make over the liability. This is one of the points I was getting at.


My Lords, I should need advice on that. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, can tell us whether in fact in making over the obligation to maintain stiles, and so on, the owner can pass on this liability as well. It is something one can insure against and it now becomes more necessary to do it than before. I do not imagine the noble Lord will press this Amendment; in fact he said he would not. Nor would he be likely to get very far with it, because, as I have said, it is a rearguard action; but I hope the Government will recognise what they are doing and at least acknowledge it.

7.55 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, made such an interesting and engaging case when he fought his vanguard action at Committee stage that I greatly regret I have to resist the Amendment on this occasion. Although his argument seemed so reasonable, I hope he will accept that it would be unreasonable to place the entire responsibility for maintenance upon the highway authority. We cannot accept the absolute liability of the highway authority to maintain these structures; neither did the Gosling Committee accept it. The noble Lord said something about a "passing nod" from the Gosling Committee, but in paragraph 44 they were quite definite on this point.


My Lords, the passing nod was to the historical aspect of the creation of the paths. That is what I was referring to.


Yes. But on this particular point as to upon whom liability for maintenance should rest the Gosling Committee were quite definite. Although I have said that it would be wrong to place the entire responsibility for maintenance upon the authorities, we now have a situation under which agreements have been made between owners and authorities for repairs to be carried out, and sometimes parish councils have agreed to maintain stiles and gates although they have no obligation to do it and could not be so compelled.

I was asked about the question of the liability in the event of injury. It is so complicated that really I would rather not go into it. In the last resort, anyhow, the courts must decide. All I say to the noble Lord is that it is not absolutely certain where the liability would rest, and if it would interest him I should be quite happy to discuss it with him and let him see the detailed case as given to me. As he knows, there is now the Amendment to subsection (3) of the clause, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, in Committee on May 13, which was accepted and empowers the highway authority to make contributions of such amount in each case as they shall, having regard to all the circumstances, consider reasonable", and in their consideration of what is reasonable I hope they will have regard to what is in paragraph 45 of the Gosling Report, where it is said: But at the present time when positive efforts are being made for public enjoyment of the country it seems to us fair and we recommend that owners or occupiers should, as of right, receive a reasonable contribution from the highway authority towards maintenance costs, subject only to the work being carried out to an acceptable standard. The noble Lord has made his case. In some respects it is a very fair case. I think it would be quite unreasonable to expect the highway authority to accept all liability. We now have a situation tin which, thanks to the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, a contribution can be made, and I hope it will be reasonable. I hope the noble Lord will withdraw the Amendment.


My Lords, could the noble Lord arrange that the Minister in charge of Third Reading will give some explanation regarding the question of liability?


My Lords, I hope that that suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Barnby will be acted upon, because it is a complicated matter. I think the noble Lord, Lord Raglan was right to raise this question again, even at this late stage, although, as Lord Henley said, it was a rearguard action. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, was quite correct in saying that I had refrained from moving an Amendment on Committee to raise the minimum contribution from the highway authority from 25 to 50 per cent. because I saw no possibility of its being accepted by another place, and it appeared to me that if we were to send such an Amendment down it would be a clear breach of Commons privilege, bearing in mind that it was a matter discussed at very great length in another place. Yet I must say that the Government's proposals would have been much more acceptable, and would have generated much less ill-will, if they had fixed the minimum at 50 and not 25 per cent. With reluctance, I feel that I must accept the Gosling Committee's recommendation on this matter. But I would do so only if I felt quite sure that the highway authorities would interpret generously those words which, in Committee, I succeeded in getting the Government to accept; namely, that the contribution towards the expenses incurred shall be such as, having regard to all the circumstances, they consider reasonable.

In the present circumstances, at this late stage of the Bill in the Second House, I do not really believe that we can carry the matter further. I think the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, agrees. But it is certainly true that an additional burden is being put on landowners here by legislation, and as this is the will of the Government, and all the persuasion that has been exercised from both sides of the House has, up till now, had but little effect, all that is left to us is to see how we get on. It will be extremely interesting to see how this works. If local authorities do not exercise their powers to make reasonable contribution, but stick rigidly to the minimum of 25 per cent., I have little doubt that before long a future Government will amend the law so as to ensure that the recommendations of the Gosling Committee are generously carried out by highway authorities.


My Lords, with the leave of the House, and as the noble Lord has reinforced the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, that what can be said about liability should be said, may I say this, for the Record? All one can say, without anticipating the decisions of the courts, is that the breach of a duty created by a Statute if it results in damage to an individual is prima facie a matter for which an action for damages will lie at the suit of the individual injured, and to that extent it must be conceded that the liability contemplated by the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, may arise.

However, it is relevant to the instance given by the noble Lord that a person who misuses a stile may be found to have debarred himself by virtue of his own negligence from recovering damages. In the example given, it might be held that the sturdy man should have removed his heavy pack and dropped it over the stile before subjecting the stile to his weight, and that in consequence he was negligent and could not recover damages. I do not think that adds a great deal to the point; but, for what it is worth, there it is.


My Lords, how in practice will it be possible to get the evidence? The illustration of the noble Lord is a quite proper one, but the gentleman who removed his pack might well not be safeguarding himself in his passage over the stile.


My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Beswick for that explanation in regard to the liability of the man with a pack getting over the stile. But it seems to me curious that, having appointed the Gosling Committee and gone through all this business in order to try to clarify the law, we now have a situation, in this clause and in the next one, where we are so vague as to what will actually happen that we shall have to wait and see. But I said that I would not press my Amendment, and I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 27 [Ploughing of footpath or bridleway]:

8.4 p.m.

LORD AIREDALE moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "below" and insert "of this section". The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment and the next one, and Amendments Nos. 26, 27 and 28 are all on the same point, a drafting point. Clause 27 begins Subject to subsection (2) below". Then, if you read on, the first subsection that you come upon is a reference to subsection (2) of a section of another Act of Parliament. This is not the subsection (2) which has been referred to. What has been referred to is subsection (2) of this clause. There, of course, is a possible source of confusion. There is an accepted way of referring from one part of a Bill to another, and it is used in this particular clause, in subsection (8). That subsection refers back to subsection (1). It does not call it "Subsection (1) above"; it calls it "Subsection (1) of this section…". That is a form of words which cannot cause confusion. Let us be consistent throughout this clause and use the accepted expression which cannot cause confusion. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 28, line 29, leave out ("below") and insert ("of this section").—(Lord Airedale.)


My Lords, I am advised that the clause is all right as it stands, and that it would be all right with the noble Lord's Amendment. I would only ask him to consider that the expressions "above" and "below" in that sense occur in many other clauses of the Bill which have not incurred the noble Lord's displeasure. He may have reasons for wishing to amend them in this clause alone, of all the clauses in the Bill, without seeking to do so in all the other clauses where they appear, but he has not told the House what these reasons are. He might think fit to withdraw his Amendment on the simple ground of uniformity of drafting throughout the Bill. But if he does not, we concede his point with a sigh, in the belief that in the last resort it does not make much difference.


My Lords, I am obliged to the Minister. I would say to him that 15 blacks do not make a white. I thought I had explained that I have taken this point up here because, it possibly creates a source of confusion, by making it difficult to apprehend at first glance what subsection (2) of what Act of Parliament is being referred to. If the Minister does not mind, I am grateful to him, and I hope that this Amendment will be accepted.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 24.

Amendment moved— Page 28, line 41, leave out ("above") and insert ("of this section").—(Lord Airedale.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON moved, in subsection (2)(a), to leave out "three" and insert "five". The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 25, standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Ferrers, who is unavoidably absent. This Amendment deals simply with what is a matter of common sense. In Clause 27 we have admitted permission to plough up bridle-paths and footpaths, and to restore them within six weeks. It is recognised that in pursuance of good agricultural policy this is not always possible. Subsection (2) specially allows this period to be extended by permission of the highway authority, who may (a) order the temporary diversion of the path or way until such date as may be specified in the order, being a date not more than three months after the time when the occupier began to plough the footpath or bridleway.… The purpose of this Amendment is to increase that period of three months to five months.

As all farmers will know, especially those in the Northern districts, where the weather is not so clement as in the Southern districts, it is impracticable, if ploughing has to take place in the autumn months, in October or November, to expect farmers to be able to make good the surface within three months. If this period of three months is retained it will force many farmers, willy-nilly, to commit offences. It is obviously quite practical politics to do this, but I am sure that the Government have no wish to make farmers try to avoid the consequences of ploughing a footpath which admittedly in this case they have a right to do, without there being a right way to go about it. It seems clear that it is in the farmer's interests not to try to spoil his footpaths more than he has to.

The whole of this subsection dealing with the ploughing of footpaths is based on recognition of the fact that farming methods to-day occasionally require footpaths to be ploughed up. Modern machinery is such that it makes long furrows and deeper furrows, and we are talking only about a matter of time. Even if the farmer ploughs in the spring there is still an argument that three months might be too short a period. I do not want to speak at length on this matter, because to my mind it is so simple and so obvious. The Amendment seems to make good common sense, especially where there is autumn ploughing. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 29, line 1, leave out ("three") and insert ("five").—(Lord Mowbray and Stourton.)


My Lords, before the noble Lord replies I should like briefly to support this Amendment. It is clear that if a farmer ploughs any land he is doing so for the purposes of cultivating and growing a crop. Unless he is going directly to reseed this land there is no possible chance of the land being ploughed and the crop sown and harvested in three months. If it was possible to grow crops in three months many of us would be able to have more than one harvest a year. That would be very nice, but it is not normally possible.

If a farmer is going to plough up a footpath, as he is entitled to do in certain circumstances, it would be more realistic to allow a period of five months rather than three months. I have come across many examples of trouble over footpaths which have been ploughed up, and there would be the minimum amount of bad feeling if the law were realistic, as the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, mentioned. Of course, there is not much difference between a period of three months and a period of five months, but it means that the farmer is able to harvest the crop for which he has ploughed the field. I hope the noble Lord will be able to give us some hope on this matter even if he is not able to accept the Amendment at this stage.


My Lords, I should like briefly to support my noble friend Lord Mowbray and Stourton, and to ask Lord Kennet, when he replies, whether the period of three months was made in consultation with the National Farmers' Union and, of course, the Scottish National Farmers' Union. I think this is very relevant, and I hope he will be able to accept the Amendment.


My Lords, I should like to support this Amendment. I hope my noble friend can accept it because it seems to me to be a very reasonable period.


My Lords, on the point of Scotland, of course, the Bill does not apply there. These things are regulated in Scotland under the Scottish Countryside Act. The discussion seems to have been based on the assumption that after the three months, or five months if the Amendment is carried, the farmer simply has to reinstate the footpath, and that is that. But this, of course, is not so. We are talking here about a temporary expedient, the temporary diversion of a footpath. If, after the period, whether three months, five months or five years, whatever it might be, the farmer wishes to continue with the diversion, then his proper course is to apply to the highway authority under Section 111 of the Highways Act 1959 for a permanent diversion order.

The difference between these two things is quite important. As I said, the temporary diversion we are talking about on this clause is a temporary expedient, and for that reason it is not subject to all the normal provisions of advertisement, appeal hearing, plea, counter plea, decision, and all the rest of it. That panoply of procedure is reserved for the permanent diversion order. It seems to the Government that if you go beyond three months you are coming to half a year; you are coming to such a long period that there ought to be provision for advertisement, appeal, counter objections, and so on. This can be obtained, as I said, under the Highways Act 1959 for a permanent order, so what we are talking about is how long is "temporary", and after how long should a thing be treated as if it were permanent? The opinion of the Government remains as it was before, that three months is as long as one can justifiably go on a temporary expedient like this without any provision for anybody to appeal against it or to make a fuss about it, or to present their interests, and that if we prolong it to five months this is really a sort of whittling away of the right of the farmer to divert or even abolish obscurer footpaths temporarily, and that this is rather the thin end of the wedge. I notice that no noble Lord has put the point of the amenity interest or the footpath societies. Their claim would be that after three months it is time to consider the matter seriously with all the full drill. I must say that the Government at this time thinks the right is on that side, and that this temporary expedient should only run for three months. With these points in mind, I hope that the noble Lord who is speaking for Lord Ferrers will not think it necessary to persevere with this Amendment.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Minister for replying at such length to this Amendment, but I must say that I am extremely disappointed at his decision that the difference between three and five months is something which is almost a permanency. A matter of eight weeks in the life of a footpath, of a nation, of a county, or an urban rural district council, is very little, but in the life of a farmer who is having to cultivate the land it is a long time.

Let me again draw your Lordships' attention to this subsection. Clause 27 compels the farmer to make good the surface of the footpath or bridleway. If one takes autumn ploughing 2s an example—I am leaving out the point raised by my noble friend Lord Kinnoull about Scotland—in the northern half of England and Wales and sometimes, when the weather is inclement, which it quite often is, even in southern England, if you plough in October or November it is within the bounds of possibility that within three months it is impracticable for the farmer to make good the surface of a footpath or bridleway which has been ploughed, and he will have committed an offence if he has not restored it within that time. To tell the House that the authorities should be consulted on a permanent basis seems a little beyond the bounds of common sense. We are only asking for a further two months. We all know that after winter comes spring, and with the spring, normally, we hope, comes the sun which dries up the ground.

The noble Lord said that the authorities interested in walking have not been consulted, but there is not much walking in winter. Walking does not normally start until after the spring, and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that people rambling and walking in winter are accustomed to walking with heavy boots. If this was the case, and they had the right line between point A and point B where the footpath lay, they would be helping the farmer to trample that land in. It is disappointing that the Minister has made such heavy weather of a mere extension of eight weeks, talking about permanency instead of realising that for the agricultural person in the country, a farmer, this period of eight weeks is of importance. I should like the noble Lord to go back to the Minister to see whether there is any possibility of a further extension.


My Lords, may I, with the leave of the House, speak again? The noble Lord has said that there is not much walking in the winter. I do not think that this is true. Many people are delighted to walk in the winter. I should like to remind the House that we are dealing here with a public right of way. A footpath is not an unimportant thing: many of our footpaths have been there for 4,000 years. If the farmer does not want to have to put it back within three months, it is always open to him not to plough it at all. I do not imagine that it is an insufferable burden to a farmer to omit to plough a strip of three, four or five feet wide at the edge of a field. If he omits to do so, he will not have to seek any sort of order. I maintain the point which I made earlier: that a temporary expedient without right of appeal is something which should not be extended beyond three months. If the farmer has reason to think that he really must go beyond three months, then let him face the appeal and objection procedure and apply for a permanent order.


My Lords, if I may, by leave, reply to the noble Lord, is there not a simple point which the Minister is forgetting? Many public footpaths do not go round the edge of a field. Many of them go slap across the middle. Many of them were down the edge of a field at one time, but now, in many cases, when hedgerows are removed one has a footpath down the middle. In modern cultivation it is simpler to do that, and on many occasions the farmer gets permission to plough up for this particular purpose. It is only a matter of a very short period of time. I take the noble Lord's point that a lot of rambling is done in the winter, but it is mainly by the countrymen concerned. Alternative routes are always provided. It is unreasonable to proclaim that this is always impracticable. Eight weeks more for the farmer, provided that it does not create a great disservice to the community, will not hurt the community at large.


My Lords, would the noble Lord look at this matter again? The original law on this point put the words "as soon as may be" into the provision about restoring the footpath. The worry is that the farmer, having ploughed the footpath, may, because of the weather, be unable to get on to the land to restore it. Is there not some danger in setting in law a time limit which, in certain circumstances, physically just cannot be kept?


My Lords, with the leave of the House I would come back to the point that physically if the farmer cannot do this—and I recognise that there are occasions when, for climatic reasons, and so on, he may not be able to do so—there are two courses open to him. One is not to plough the footpath; and even if the path were in the middle of the field he could so rearrange the field so that the footpath would not be in the middle of the field but on the edge. The other course is to apply for a permanent order.


My Lords, I will not say that I am unduly grateful to the Minister. I am grateful to him for all his explanations; but, in view of his resistance to this Amendment, I will report back to my noble friend. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 26.

Amendment moved— Page 29, line 5, leave out ("above") and insert ("of this section").—(Lord Airedale.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 27.

Amendment moved— Page 29, line 11, leave out ("above") and insert ("of this section").—(Lord Airedale.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 28.

Amendment moved— Page 29, line 13, leave out ("above") and insert ("of this section").—(Lord Airedale.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

8.25 p.m.

THE EARL OF KINNOULL moved, after subsection (7), to insert: () The council of any county district or parish within which the land is situated may take proceedngs in respect of an offence under the said section 119(2).

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this Amendment is an unashamed repeat of an Amendment made during Committee stage. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will remember that on that occasion it was withdrawn on the undertaking that the Government would look at the matter again.

The purpose of the Amendment is to allow parish councils, along with highway authorities, to prosecute under Section 119(2) of the Highways Act 1959 where a farmer gives no notification of ploughing up footpaths. This is a power which the highway authority already has. As the noble Lord reminded us, footpaths are an important matter, and have been with us for over 4,000 years. The farmer's position under present legislation is that he must given seven days' notice before he ploughs up a footpath, then he must return his footpath to a proper condition "as soon as may be". Under this Bill, the notification period is the same, seven days, and the return of the footpath to its original and proper condition must be done within six weeks, or, if necessary in the interests of good farming, a period of three months.

The arguments put forward by the noble Lords, Lord Kennet and Lord Leatherland during Committee stage against this Amendment were threefold. First, we were told that it would interfere with agricultural efficiency. Secondly, we were told that by asking farmers to complete yet another form to notify the parish council the likelihood would be that no form would be submitted at all, even to the highway authority. Thirdly, we were told that the parish council do riot have sufficient resources to prosecute. I do not feel that any of these arguments carries much weight.

In the first case, farmers already have a duty under the Highways Act 1959 to notify highway authorities. No question of efficiency of farming comes into the matter since notification is a duty which is already laid upon them. Secondly, it is a rather hollow argument to suggest that to submit a second form to the parish council would place an undue burden on farmers. The farmer still has to make the first form, and it would take him but a few seconds to make the second form. The purpose of this Amendment is to encourage notification to the parish council. I think that there is undisputed evidence that at present very few notification forms are ever sent to highway authorities

In regard to the third point, that parish councils do not have the resources to prosecute, one has only to look at Section 193(3) of the Local Government Act 1933 to find that parish councils may levy up to an 8d. rate, and even higher with the Minister's approval. They may also work with the clerk of the county council. The real purpose of this Amendment is to make certain that farmers take the duty of notification more seriously—a duty which has been imposed on them since 1959. This Amendment would not encourage masses of prosecutions, but seeks only to ensure more notifications. This small Amendment could do nothing but good, and I therefore commend it to the House. My Lords, I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 29, line 41, at end insert the said subsection.—(The Earl of Kinnoull.)


My Lords, the noble Lord said that the real purpose of his Amendment is to make farmers take the duty of notification more seriously. But the Amendment does not say anything about notification, and that is really the difficulty about it. The farmers are bound to notify the highway authority; they are not bound to notify the parish council. The highway authority have power to prosecute them; the parish council have not. The Amendment would give the parish council concurrent power to prosecute them, but it would not bind the farmer to notify the parish council as well as the highway authority. So I do not see how it would induce farmers to take the duty of notification more seriously.

But that is only, as it were, a procedural point. The Government's real objection to this Amendment is that it is likely to gum up the proceedings and make everything more complicated, more rigid and more bureaucratic without noticeably improving the situation, because the parish council do not know whether or not a notification has been sent. That is the situation. Of course they know whether or not a footpath has been ploughed up; they can see. Nothing is easier than for them to go to the highway authority and say, "Look, was that in order? Has he given notification? Has he gone through all the procedures? Is it all right?" Then, it the highway authority say, "Yes", the parish council, if they have these powers, will be able to do nothing that they cannot do now. If the highway authority say, "No, as a matter of fact he is in default under this. He did not go right through the procedure", then the parish council can urge the highway authority to prosecute, and they will no doubt do SO.

So what we are facing is only a very small class of events where the highway authority say to the parish council, "Yes, he was in default under the law but we do not propose to prosecute him." Then the parish council answer the highway authority, "We think you should", to which the highway authority reply, "We note your representations but we are still proposing not to prosecute." That seems to be a circumstance which is likely to arise in so few cases, given the fact that highway authorities can take into account parish interests and given the fact that highway authorities have the staff and money to prosecute without too much difficulty and parish councils have not, that it would not be worth a candle in terms of increased administrative rigidity if we were to carry the noble Earl's Amendment into the Bill. I hope that on consideration the noble Earl may agree with me that although his Amendment would be a net increase in the absolute balanced logic of political structure, yet in practice common-sense collaboration between highway authorities and parish councils should do the job.


My Lords, I am naturally very disappointed at the noble Lord's reply and I am sure he would not expect me to be otherwise, because he has really given no further arguments in support of his case than at the Committee stage. I find it a little difficult to understand why this Amendment would "gum up" the proceedings. On the one hand, the Government are always very keen to extend their powers of legislation on planning, and so on, and never talk about gumming up the proceedings; yet here we are told that it will "gum up" the proceedings if the powers of parish councils are extended. I do not feel that I can accept that. Secondly, I find it a little odd that under this clause the Government take rightful powers to safeguard the public interest in the countryside; yet the people on the parish councils who are the closest to the ground are not given those powers.

I think it is a fact that in the past parish councils have notified county councils or highway authorities and few further proceedings have been taken. One can support that fact from the number of notifications made by farmers when ploughing up public footpaths over the past few years; but the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, did not reply to that point. I think that in 1965 only 100 notifications were made by farmers to the highway authorities. I suggest that that is evidence that the duty of the farmer is not being properly exercised, and this small power for parish councils would rectify that. I am not prepared to press this Amendment as there is such a small House. Therefore I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD RAGLAN had given Notice of his intention to move to leave out Clause 27. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I gave my noble friend notice earlier that I would not move this Amendment, and if I spoke to the Question, That the clause stand part of the Bill—which is what this Amendment is really concerned with—I think I should put him in some confusion. But this is just another clause dealing with footpaths and we shall have to wait and see what are its effects. So I beg your Lordships' leave not to move my Amendment.

8.36 p.m.

LORD KENNET moved, after Clause 27, to insert the following new Clause:

Riding of pedal bicycles on 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 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 local 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 bridleway, and this section shall not create any obligation to do anything to facilitate the use of the bridleway by cyclists.

(4) Subsection (1) above shall not affect any definition of "bridleway" in this or any other Act.

(5) In this section "motor vehicle" has the same meaning as in the Road Traffic Act 1960.

(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 bridleways as being highways which are "roads" within the meaning of that Act.

(7) Section 12(1) of the said Act (prohibition of cycle racing on highways) shall have effect as if the expression "public highway" included a bridleway, but without the exception for a race or trial authorised by regulations under that section."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we come now to the subject of bicycles on footpaths and bridleways. I very much hope that the Amendment which I am now moving will finally find favour with this House. It has been extremely difficult to get it right. The Government have kept on trying and I think this is our third shot at it. Let me explain the effect of the provision which I now seek to carry into the Bill. It gives partial effect to a recommendation of the Gosling Committee that pedal cyclists should be allowed to use footpaths and bridleways but by the very definition of these two public rights of way the priority on them must be given to walkers and horse riders respectively. That is the Gosling Committee's recommendation with which we started. The present new clause gives the public a right to ride a bicycle on any bridleway and protects the prior rights of walkers and horse riders by requiring the cyclists to give way to pedestrians and persons on horseback". It also excludes motor bicycles.

It is in this respect the same as the new clause which I moved on Committee which did not find favour with the Committee, except that it applies only to bridleways and not to both bridleways and footpaths as did the last one. Since then the House has accepted the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, which would allow cyclists on these terms to go on long-distance routes, many and lengthy stretches of which are footpaths. So what I am now recommending to the House is: cyclists on bridleways; no cyclists on footpaths unless those footpaths form part of a long-distance route. The House will probably not want me to say more at this stage. That is the essence of the compromise on a compromise which I now commend to your Lordships, and I hope that we can pass it into law and that it will work well. I beg to move

Amendment moved— After Clause 27, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Kennet.)


My Lords, the noble Lord indicated that this matter has a chequered history. During the Report stage in another place the Government produced a new clause which was friendless, and they withdrew it. In Committee in your Lordships' House the Government produced a revised and improved version of that clause, and I said that I was prepared to try to make something of it but expressed a number of criticisms However, the clause came under heavy fire from various quarters and the noble Lord finally withdrew it. He has now produced this new clause which is in line with a compromise solution made by my noble friend Lord Molson in the debate on the clause in Committee.

For my part, I think we are now on the right lines. I think that most of the arguments which were canvassed and expressed in Committee against the clause arose from the difficulties which noble Lords foresaw would occur when cyclists were riding on footpaths. For example, I mentioned the case of a cyclist who, exercising the right of way that would be given him by that new clause on a footpath through a cornfield, met a pedestrian, and it would be difficult for them to get past without one or other of them walking into the corn. Moreover, there was the question of what would happen about stiles; and I think my noble friend Lord Waldegrave suggested that very likely cyclists would push through hedges and make gaps thereby.

Now we must all recognise that this new clause does not give to cyclists what they would like; it gives them only a part of that. But the fact is that both Houses of Parliament have tried pretty hard to find a solution which would implement the Gosling recommendations and would work. The Gosling recommendations were made in general terms; and although I feel nothing but gratitude towards the members of that Committee, I must frankly say that they did not in those paragraphs explain how certain fairly obvious difficulties were to be overcome. I think it is right at this stage, therefore, to confine the rights of way for pedal bicycles, as the law calls them, to bridleways.

However, I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, to clarify one thing he said. I understood him to say that the law would now be that cyclists and people on horseback, and of course pedestrians also, could use bridleways; that pedestrians alone could use footpaths; but that long-distance routes, like bridleways, could be used by all three. Is it the case that no footpaths would be open to cyclists? Are there not footpaths on which cyclists have had an accepted right of way for years? And, if so, is it really the case that this legislation would take that right away from them? Perhaps the noble Lord would clear that point up, because I do not know what my noble friends think but my feeling would be that if for years cyclists had been using what was in fact a footpath without objection from anybody, either the general public or the landowners or farmers, it would be a pity if we found that, by a side wind, we had caused them to commit an offence if they continued to use that path. In other respects I believe that this clause is on the right lines, and I hope that at any rate for this Bill we shall embody it as the best solution.


My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps I may answer the noble Lord's point. He is quite right: I was speaking carelessly and loosely. Before the appearance of this Bill cyclists had certain rights on bridleways and footpaths. The situation varied according to the individual path, to custom, usage by law, and so on. The last clause I introduced here would have given the public an undoubted right to ride a bicycle on footpaths and bridle-ways unless stopped by a by-law. The present clause gives the public an undoubted right to ride bicycles on a bridle-way unless stopped by a by-law, but it does not change the existing, long-established right of the public to ride bicycles on certain footpaths. It does not establish a new general right.


My Lords, I hope that the House will welcome this clause and pass it into the Bill. We should be grateful to the Government for having given this matter a great deal of thought and for having brought in a new clause at this late stage; and to my noble friend, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, who has compromised a great deal of his passion for cyclists. I think we are now on the right path, very broadly, as the Minister who introduced this clause said. We have got the bridleway, which can take in all cases, I think, the bicycle and the horse; and we have got the footpath, other than a long-distance footpath, which will normally take a foot passenger. This is really a very sensible conclusion at which the Mother of Parliaments has taken many weeks and hours to arrive.

We perhaps ought to think about the pedal cycle as really the modern horse. In the old days one walked or went on a horse, but now one walks or one goes on a horse or a bike. If one keeps that in mind one will not go far wrong in mapping out which routes are followed by which people. I am grateful to the Government for bringing in this clause, and I hope we shall now let it go into the Bill without more ado.


My Lords, I am in sympathy with the principle of this Amendment. It is obviously timely that consideration be given to cyclists, so that they may have more area of circulation; but I have tried to look at it in a practical way, and I am somewhat at a loss to understand how exactly cyclists are going to be able to get along on bridle-paths when the horse traffic on them may be quite considerable. In those circumstances, it is probably quite impracticable to ride a bicycle. On the other hand, there may be a footpath nearby, and were I anxious to proceed on a cycle I should think it quite unreasonable that one should not be allowed to go on that footpath. That is the practical side of it.

My noble friend Lord Brooke referred in the course of his remarks to footpaths as permitting only pedestrians. I made a note of it at the time he said that. That seems to make a clear distinction between what may be done with a footpath and what may be done with a bridlepath. Remembering that at the earlier stages the Minister emphasised that there was difficulty in these matters and said we would discuss it later in the Bill, it seems to me at this stage that the distinction between what may be done on a bridle-path as against a footpath, or vice versa, breaches the principle of access by the public for air and exercise which is contained in the Bill of 1925, although that does not indicate the means of access. I hope the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that the principle of the public being allowed to circulate as they like on any part of a common is breached by defining that a cycle can be ridden on a bridlepath but not—I repeat not—on a footpath. It seems to me clearly to breach the principle of access, which means that a member of the public may proceed according to his own intentions by whatever form of motion he may wish, either on foot or on horse.


The noble Lord appreciates, I hope, that we are not talking about commons in this clause.

LORD BARNBY Are commons specifically excluded from this clause? Is the noble Lord able to say that cyclists are barred from riding on commons?

LORD KENNET My Lords, the present clause deals with the rights of cyclists on footpaths and bridleways in all parts of the country.


My Lords, surely "all parts of the country" must include commons. I was addressing myself to commons, because therein the problem lies.


My Lords, I would venture to put in this word in favour of bicyclists. They do not make nearly as much litter as pedestrians. Very few bicyclists chew chocolate and throw away their paper on the right of way all the time, but the pedestrians all the time throw away paper of a very indestructible sort. Therefore I am in favour of cyclists only, as against pedestrians.


My Lords—


My Lords, it is a Rule of the House that on Report stage one speaks once and not again afterwards.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 29 [Traffic regulation orders for special areas in the countryside]:

LORD KENNET moved, after subsection (8), to insert: () The appropriate Minister may, after consulting the appropriate Crown authority give directions to the local authority concerned with any Crown road requiring the authority to remove, or cause to be removed, any traffic sign, within the meaning of the said Act of 1967, or any other object or device (whether fixed or portable,) for the guidance or direction of persons using roads, on or in the vicinity of the road, and section 63 of the said Act of 1967 (power to enter on land) shall apply as if this subsection formed part of section 61 of that Act.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have all been guilty of breaking the Rules of the House—and none is more guilty than I. I propose to the small band of your Lordships who are left that in future we should make an attempt to keep a little closer to the Rules, and I shall do my best to lead in this. After all, this is the Report stage, where noble Lords should speak once only, and not the Committee stage, when noble Lords are free to jump up and down as often as they like. The Amendment which I now lay before you is simply an Amendment in the interests of uniformity. It gives the relevant Minister the same power to direct the local authorities about the kind of signs they can put up on Crown roads which come under the Countryside Bill as he has in respect of other roads. I hope that no further explanation or justification will be called for. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After subsection (8) insert the said subsection.—(Lord Kennet.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 38 [Power to make byelaws and related provisions about wardens]:

8.53 p.m.

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, in subsection (1), after paragraph (c), to insert: () any land across which a footpath or bridleway runs, as respect which land the owner of it has consented to the application of the powers contained in this section to the land;

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we now leap forward to Clause 38. My Amendment is in identical terms with an Amendment that I moved in Committee. On that occasion the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that if I withdrew the Amendment he would be glad to talk with me about it. I withdrew it on that understanding, and I should like to pay tribute to his courtesy in discussing this with me during the short interval since then. I hope that I have been able to persuade him that this would be a useful addition to the Bill.

If I may remind your Lordships, Clause 38 provides that a local authority may make by-laws for the preservation of order and the prevention of damage, and so on, in three types of places: a country park, under Clause 7 of the Bill; common land, under Clause 9; and a picnic site under Clause 10. I am suggesting that a fourth category of place should be added; that is to say, private land which is crossed by a footpath or a bridleway, if both the owner and the local authority agree that it is desirable to have by-law control there.

When we discussed the matter in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that this might prove to be very expensive because by-law control makes possible the employment of wardens, and where a warden was employed in one of these by-law areas that would attract 75 per cent. Exchequer grant. The last thing in my mind, when I brought forward this Amendment originally, was to add materially to the cost of administering the Bill. I realise that there are limited funds available for that purpose. It was for that reason that I went out of my way to stress that my Amendment would make no difference to the cost, or to anything else, unless the local authority were in agreement that by-laws should be made for that land.

Knowing the local authorities as I do, I believe that very few of them would come forward eagerly to pay even 25 per cent. of the cost of a warden unless the authority were completely convinced that this was necessary in the interests of public order and the avoidance of damage. I still believe that to be the case, but at the same time I should be willing to see this power safeguarded in any other way that the Government thought fit—perhaps by the Government taking specific power of approval or something of that kind in order to ensure that the local authority did not waste money on extending these by-laws and wardens too far.

The type of situation I have in mind is this. There is a footpath over farmland somewhere in the near vicinity of a big city. The city has been growing outwards, and that which was originally just a footpath for a few villagers may now be used by hundreds or thousands. Perhaps one can illustrate it more vividly by asking your Lordships to consider a New Town. A New Town is developed in what was countryside. The rights of way remain, and what was a tiny footpath over the fields may become a very important path for the people of the New Town just beyond the New Town boundaries. I think that we all accept that where very large numbers of people use footpaths there is the danger of damage; there is the danger, certainly in the close vicinity of big towns, of vandalism; and there may be a need for some means of control by by-laws, and possibly by wardens. I can see no convincing reason why the power to make by-law control should not be extended to that sort of case.

As I say, I am willing to accept any sort of limitation which the Government may think should be imposed in order to dissuade local authorities from squandering both their own and the Government's money by appointing wardens where they are unnecessary. My own belief—and I have grounds for saying this—is that in some places it is necessary. I think that those of your Lordships who are familiar with footpaths that have become far more heavily used because the population has moved closer to them will confirm that it is desirable that some new power should exist for the preservation of order, for the prevention of damage and for the discouragement of vandalism. It is in that spirit that I move this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 38, line 8, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)

9.0 p.m.


I must set my face against this Amendment simply on financial grounds. If we were able to turn this country into a sort of Sweden, where everything was subjected to by-laws and everybody obeyed them, and there were always clean, polished, democratic, wardens to enforce everything, I think that this kind of provision would be a very good one; and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, has made a case for it. But we have not yet reached that state. We are already expanding Government expenditure on countryside matters to an enormous extent with this Bill, and the kind of wardens which would be empowered to be appointed by this provision would attract a 75 per cent. grant.

It is true that the local authorities would still have to pay 25 per cent., and it is true that they would not do it unless they thought there was cause for it. But I think that the noble Lord, who is a former Minister of Housing and Local Government, would probably agree that, according to the percentage of Exchequer grant for a given activity, one may be inclined to set a wider liberty of application, or a narrower, to local authorities. For something which carries 100 per cent. Exchequer grant there would be no liberty of application whatever. For something which was horn entirely on the rates there would be very wide freedom of application for the local authorities, and 75 per cent. is a great deal nearer 100 per cent. than to zero. It seems to me incumbent on any Government, especially in a time of economic stress like the present, to watch very carefully for extensions of powers to spend at the 75 per cent. Exchequer grant rate. This seems to be an extension which I would advise the Committee is something of a frill, something of an ideal, a refinement, on the powers and procedures which we have already in the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cum-nor, suggested that this extension could be made subject to limitations, presumably in the form of "not unless the Minister agrees." But that would give rise to a call for more civil servants at the centre to deal with it. There are so many footpaths, and the circumstances in each case would be so complicated and difficult that it would be a considerable extension of the duty of the central Government to investigate the rights and wrongs of each application. This, in itself would make an inroad into finances which I do not think we ought to accept at this stage. Having said all that, I hope that the noble Lord will agree to confine the operation of these by-laws, and the consequent wardens, to the kinds of footpaths already covered by the Bill as it is drafted which, after all, are pretty numerous.


My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, knew as much about local authorities as I believe that I do, I do not think he would imagine that local authorities would rush to spend their own money on wardens unless they felt the need for it was really pressing. I entirely agree with the noble Lord that a high percentage rate of grant encourages local authorities to spend, provided that they are going to have something really attractive to show for that expenditure. That was why, when I was Minister, I was against percentage grants in gereral. I was well aware that the old percentage grant system encouraged a local authority to go ahead with the construction of some building to which it could point with pride, the members of the local authority saying quietly to themselves, "How lucky we are! The rest of the country has had to pay half the cost"—or three-quarters of the cost, or whatever it might be. But does the noble Lord really imagine that a local authority will point with pride to a uniformed warden and say, "How splendid we are; how proud we can be to have that warden on duty—and the rest of the country is paying three-quarters of his salary"? That really is not the way that local government thinking works.

If the noble Lord believes that this Amendment is idealistic, I can only say that he knows less than I do about the amount of vandalism that occurs on footpaths across land in the neighbourhood of heavily populated centres. This is a growing and a serious trouble. It seems to me disappointing that in a Bill dealing with the countryside, the Government have no suggestion to offer about how this vandalism should be lessened. I believe in trusting local authorities. I do not think that any by-laws of this kind would be made, or wardens employed, unless not only the owner of the land but also the local authority were completely convinced that it was a necessity locally. I realise that I cannot take this matter any further—it involves spending money—but I have little doubt that not only a good many local authorities but also the Government themselves will come to regret that they were not willing to see this Amendment incorporated in the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 46 [Interpretation]:


At an earlier stage I told the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, that the definition of craft on lakes for the purposes of the by-laws would cover hovercraft. That is true. But elsewhere in the Bill the expression "boat" appears, and in order to put it beyond doubt that this expression also covers hovercraft, I beg leave to move the Amendment which says so.

Amendment moved—

Page 44, line 11, at end insert— ("'boat' includes any hover vehicle or craft being a vehicle or craft designed to be supported on a cushion of air and which is used on or over water;").—(Lord Kennet.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, we have travelled a long way to-night and it may be for the convenience of the House if the remainder of the proceedings on Report is adjourned until to-morrow.

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