§ 10.3 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Before I go any further, I must declare my interest in the subject matter of this Bill. This arises because I hold office as the Official Verderer of the New Forest, nominated by Her Majesty the Queen, and as such I am Chairman of the Court of Verderers. It was during the proceedings on the Bill for the Countryside Act 1968 that I had occasion to address some remarks to your Lordships on various problems concerning the New Forest. I do not propose to repeat what I then said about the origin of the Court of Verderers, their constitution, and their powers under the New Forest Acts from 1877 to 1964. Broadly speaking, the function of the verderers embraces the administration of common rights, animal health and welfare, and preservation of the amenities of the Forest.
We work very closely with the Forestry Commissioners on matters concerning the general administration of the Forest and in carrying out our functions under the New Forest Acts. We seek to maintain a fair balance between the interests of the commoners, the Forestry Commissioners and the public. It is important to realise that all these interests are in fact interdependent. The powers which are contained in the main clauses of this Bill deal with entirely separate matters, yet they are all linked together in that they have a common underlying purpose; because the need for these powers springs in each case from the fact, as I shall explain later on, of pressure on the part of the public to enjoy the many facilities that 789 the New Forest has to offer. This pressure is increasing and it will continue to increase.
This pressure is not, of course resented by the verderers. We are glad that the New Forest is so widely enjoyed by members of the public for motoring, camping, picnicking and so on. However, it produces a number of practical problems for us. I think we can call ourselves a reasonably forward-looking body, and the verderers have been aware of these problems and have been active in assisting and encouraging the Forestry Commissioners in the provision and improvement of suitable facilities for the public. They are participating jointly with the Hampshire County Council and the Forestry Commissioners in a study of the problem, which I hope will result in a long term plan to conserve the amenities of the Forest. Also, a party of verderers recently visited Holland, at their own expense, to see at first hand the measures that are taken there to deal with a similar state of affairs involving the public recreation. However, the time has now come when further statutory powers are needed if the verderers are to carry out their functions properly and if the new Forest, as we know it, is to survive.
Turning to Clause 1 of the Bill, it may be recalled that when what is now Section 23 of the Countryside Act was being considered in this House I had something to say about its effect upon the New Forest. Section 23 of the Act enables the Forestry Commissioners on land placed at their disposal by the Minister of Agriculture to provide various tourist, recreation and sporting facilities, including camping and caravan sites, parking places for cars and so on. These powers apply inter alia to the open wastelands of the Forest, that is to say, the unenclosed lands of the Forest which are subject to Common rights. Similar, although not so extensive, facilities can already be provided under the New Forest Act, subject to the agreement of the verderers, and there is a principle which is enshrined in all these New Forest Acts: that in matters of this kind nothing shall be done on the open wastelands of the Forest without the agreement of the verderers. They were therefore extremely worried at that time that the powers of Section 23 might be 790 exercised over the open wastelands of the Forest without their agreement.
During the proceedings of the Countryside Bill, I moved certain Amendments with the object of preventing that happening. Unfortunately, my Amendments were not acceptable, because they would have had the effect of turning the Bill into a hybrid Bill. However, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was good enough on that occasion to give a firm assurance that the Forestry Commissioners would not in fact exercise the powers of Section 23 over the New Forest without the agreement of the verderers. Indeed, at our request the noble Lord went further, saying that the Government would raise no objection if the verderers wished to give statutory force to this undertaking at some future time. In saying this, I have summarised what is to be found in the report of the proceedings on the Committee stage of that Bill on May 9, 1968, at columns 1643 to 1645.
That is precisely what Clause 1 of this Bill sets out to do. The clause will prevent the Forestry Commissioners from exercising the powers of Section 23 over the open wastelands of the Forest without the agreement of the verderers. The clause also applies to land which has been enclosed for recreational and other purposes under Section 18 of the New Forest Act 1949. The clause gives the Forestry Commissioners further powers of enclosure and makes provision for payment of compensation to the Commoners; and I understand that the Forestry Commissioners have no objection to this clause.
Moving on to Clause 2 of the Bill, I would preface my remarks by saying that the three most important roads crossing the New Forest are the trunk road A.31, which runs from Cadnam to Ringwood; the main road A.35, which runs from Southampton to Christchurch; and the main road A.337 which runs from North to South, from Cadnam to Lymington. It is not so many years ago that none of these roads was fenced so as to prevent direct access to them by the forest animals. Moreover, at that time there were virtually no physical barriers to confine the animals within the New Forest. The animals would wander at large both within the Forest and outside it, and with the increasing use of 791 motor cars this led to the most appalling consequences in terms of animals killed and injured, and of course at night worse accidents happened. And, of course, there were unfortunate and severe accidents to human beings as well as to the animals. It became quite obvious that something had to be done.
Under the New Forest Act 1949, the fencing of the A.31 was authorised, and for various reasons this was not completed until the middle of 1964. In the meantime, the verderers evolved a scheme for altering the perambulation of the New Forest so as to bring it right up to date. I should perhaps mention that the perambulation is the name given to the boundary or perimeter of the New Forest. This scheme also involved fencing the whole of the altered perambulation and erecting cattle grids so as to contain the animals within the New Forest. In addition, it was envisaged that the portion of the A.35 traversing the New Forest should also be fenced. The powers necessary to implement this scheme were conferred by the New Forest Act 1964.
Fencing and gridding of the New Forest has now been completed. The fencing of the A.35 was completed in July, 1967. I do not want to go too deeply into past history, but there were those who doubted at the time whether the verderers' fencing and gridding policy was the right way to solve the problem, and I am quite certain that those views were held most sincerely. However, there can be no question that the verderers' policy was entirely justified by subsequent events.
I have here the relevant accident figures, and it is clear that after the respective dates on which the A31 and the A35 were fenced, the number of accidents involving animals fell dramatically on both those roads. For example, in 1963 there were 89 such accidents on the A.31, both inside and outside the Forest. In 1964, during which year the road was fenced, this figure fell from 89 to 28, and the year after there were none. In 1966 there were 85 such accidents on the A.35, both inside and outside the Forest; in 1967, the year of fencing, the figure fell to 18; the year after that to 1; and I believe that this year there have in fact been no accidents on either road within the Forest. Those, I think, 792 are very striking figures. They are even more remarkable when one considers that the traffic census gives figures showing that in August of this year the number of vehicles using the A.31 was just under 14,000 per 16-hour day, and at Whitsun this year the number of vehicles using the A.35 was just under 16,000 for a 16-hour day. The way now lies ahead to the next step, and that is the fencing of the A.337.
According to the traffic census, the number of vehicles using the A.337 in August was 7,321 for the same 16-hour day. This is approximately half the figure that I have mentioned for the A.31 and the A.35. In 1966 there were 42 accidents on this road involving animals. This figure rose to 52 in 1967. and to 54 last year, which is more than half the rate at which accidents were running on the other two roads before they were finished. I do not pretend that the fencing of the A.337 will prevent further accidents involving animals within the Forest. There are other roads; but I do not think it is practical to fence these other roads. However, the fencing of the A.337 would indeed reduce the accidents.
At this point I should like to mention the helpful guidance that I have received from the noble Lord the Leader of the House, Lord Shackleton. He has, as I think your Lordships all know, a deep knowledge of the Forest and a very great love for it, and he played an important part in the proceedings of the New Forest Act 1964, and in his wisdom at that time during the proceedings he advocated that the A.337 should also be fenced. Clause 1 of this Bill follows very closely Section 4 of the New Forest Act, and it will enable the highway authority, the Hampshire County Council, to fence the A.337. That includes a number of safeguards relating to public access, amenity, the rights of the commoners, and so on, and I believe that the County Council are quite willing to exercise these powers.
I now go on to Clause 3. This clause enables the verderers, on a presentment, and with the agreement of the Forestry Commissioners, to take such steps as they consider necessary for the improvement of grazing on the open wastelands of the Forest. It would probably seem at first sight that this proposal is of no great 793 significance. In my view, however, it is a very important one, and, indeed, one which is vital for the preservation of the Forest in its present form. Our present difficulty regarding grazing arises in the following way—I have the detailed figures, but I will give your Lordships only the totals. In 1878, there were just over 6,000 animals grazing in the Forest; in 1884 there were just under 6,000. Two years ago, in 1967, the number was just under 5,000. So this rather indicates that the number of animals the Forest can support has not altered very much during this period. But I am sure your Lordships will realise that in those days of 1878, and indeed earlier, there was little grassland within the Forest, apart from what we call the natural lawns. Nevertheless, these animals had access to many thousands of acres of grass from the verges and from the banks of the lanes outside the Forest, and this lane-grazing outside the Forest was of enormous value in the early spring, after a hard winter. Moreover, of course, the pressure from the public hardly existed at that time.
During the last war large areas of the Forest were ploughed up and used for the growing of crops. After the war those areas were reseeded, and the animals were attracted to them in preference to the rough areas where, in the past, they had browsed on heather and bracken shoots and natural grasses; and to some extent their feeding habits changed. The very existence of these large reseeded grass areas has also attracted the public to the New Forest in ever-increasing numbers, and much damage by weight of numbers has been done to the pastures on which these animals have come to rely. The loss of the lane-side grazing has very much worsened the situation, and the unusually poor condition of the animals at the end of the last two winters illustrates the lack of adequate grazing. So your Lordships can see that, because of the damage done by mounting public pressure, or alternatively the steps which have had to be taken to minimise it, the commoners have lost the grazing they used to enjoy outside the Forest and they are now losing the benefit of a great deal of the grazing within the Forest.
We are, of course, concerned to see that the animals are maintained in good condition, and we are already taking steps 794 —last year and again this year—to remove large numbers of ponies which we consider cannot survive the winter without undue suffering. As a result, many commoners will have to provide winter keep elsewhere, and this may result in a proportion of them deciding that it is uneconomic to turn out animals in the Forest in the future. If a serious reduction in the number of animals depastured were to occur—and the verderers are very frightened that it may happen if nothing is done about it—there is no doubt that much of the Forest would, if not grazed, deteriorate to scrubland, and this would in turn result in a complete change in the character and ecology of the Forest.
So steps must be taken to improve the grazing available within the Forest. As 1 see it—and in this matter we have had tremendous help from the National Agricultural Advisory Service—this will take the form mainly of encouraging the growth of natural grasses by swiping coarse herbage and eradicating bracken, and by the application of fertiliser. There is absolutely no intention (and I want to emphasise this) of creating further large reseeded areas—in other words, of making the forest look like a large farm—because is is obvious that the commoners would eventually lose such areas to the public; but we intend rather to improve the rough areas and thus encourage forest animals to revert to their pre-war grazing habits and at the same time compensate them for what has been lost. It is for these reasons that I claim that this is one of the most important clauses in the Bill.
Clause 4, I think, is hardly less important. This clause amends Section 5 of the Countryside Act in such a way as to permit the Countryside Commission to give financial assistance to the verderers by way of grant or loan in respect of projects which have been approved by the Minister of Housing and Local Government. A project which we hope will find favour with the Countryside Commission and with the Minister is the improvement of grazing, about which I have already spoken. and also a scheme to meet various other expenses which verderers have to incur in order to deal with the problems caused by the public.
The verderers' income comes almost entirely from capitation fees in respect of animals turned out in the Forest. These fees are paid by the commoners. The 795 verderers, needless to say, are not alone in finding that their overhead expenses have increased very steeply in recent years. The verderers have had to incur continuing expenditure which is largely attributable to the rapidly-increasing public pressure. We have had to get shortwave radio equipment to facilitate the work of the agisters by placing them in direct contact with each other and with the police; and more recently the verderers, have appointed a full-time steward whose duties are, broadly speaking, the same as those of a warden in a national park.
I say frankly that without the services of the steward we could no longer carry out with any degree of efficiency our duties which involve the public. The greater part of his time is spent in dealing with matters that arise directly or indirectly from the various pressures on the Forest caused by the public. There is the educational side of his work. We have to teach motorists not to feed the ponies. Besides being damaging to their health, this practice also attracts the animals to the roadside where they are in danger from traffic. Feeding and petting animals can, moreover, be dangerous. We have had a number of accidents where bones have been broken as a result of a kick. We had one rather serious case where a child suffered a fractured skull because the ponies get spoiled and annoyed if they do not get the titbits they expect. The public have to be continually taught that it is wrong to draw the ponies on to the roadside by feeding from the cars.
Another aspect of the steward's work is to prevent, so far as possible, damage to the grass areas in the Forest by motorists driving their cars over the lawns. Again, the steward is responsible for the radio communication system that I mentioned. He also has to study the causes of accident "black spots", and is concerned with the taking of practical steps to reduce the number of accidents, such as cutting back bushes which grow close to the roadside and which may conceal animals. His duties are endless. As I have said, the verderers' income is mainly from the commoners, and it is obviously unfair to the commoners, who represent just one of several interests in the Forest, that they should carry the whole financial burden, particularly as I have explained that so much of the 796 verderers' expenditure is caused by public pressure, a matter over which the commoners have no control. One cannot go on increasing the marking fees progressively, because that would discourage people from depasturing their animals; and the gradual disappearance of the animals from the Forest would inevitably result in changes in the character and ecology of the Forest.
My Lords, it is possible that this clause may not provide a long-term solution to the problems of the verderers' finances, because these provisions were made in different circumstances in a Statute passed very nearly 100 years ago. However I hope that it will find favour. The remaining clauses of the Bill are important but ancillary to its main purposes. I do not think they call for any detailed explanation.
It would be a poor effort on my part if I did not express, before I sit down, the gratitude due for the tremendous assistance given by so many and so willingly in the production of this Bill. I should like to mention Mr. Arthur Skeffington, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, who, at a rather cold and snowy time, spent a whole day in the Forest studying our problems and seeing for himself exactly what happens or does not happen. The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, Chairman of the Countryside Commission, has taken endless trouble to understand the difficult and virtually impossible position of the verderers, and her great experience in these matters has been of enormous help. She has given her valuable time quite unstintingly. In mid-summer Mr. John Mackie, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, spent a whole day in the Forest with the verderers. He, too, showed a complete understanding of our position.
My Lords, I am afraid that I have taken up too much time, and I must apologise for my voice. I thought it necessary to try to explain the Bill and the need for it. The New Forest is unique, and this legislation relating to it is also unique and, necessarily, perhaps, somewhat intricate. I commend the Bill to the House and trust that your Lordships will see fit to accord it an unopposed Second Reading. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(The Earl of Malmesbury.)797
§ 10.33 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
My Lords, at this late hour I am not going to speak at any length, but I should like to give my warm support to the noble Earl, Lord Malmesbury. We are all intensely grateful to him for introducing this Bill, all of us who love the New Forest. I must refrain from saying what I had intended to say, but I should like to pay a warm tribute to the Court of Verderers, newly constituted by the New Forest Act 1877, and again by the Act of 1949. It now consists of five elected verderers in addition to the five appointed verderers. I am well aware of the devotion and care with which they so conscientiously seek to fulfil their responsibilities in caring for the rights of the commoners, in promoting the welfare of animals and in preserving the amenities of the Forest.
I hope that your Lordships will encourage the verderers in their task by supporting this Bill. In many parts of the country to-day, not excluding South Hampshire, we are witnessing the spectacle of much lovely countryside being absorbed by urban and industrial development. How important it is that we should do all in our power to preserve for posterity a Forest which has been aptly described as a miraculous survival of pre-Norman England, this priceless heritage of our nation, including the ponies and cattle which are an essential part of its glory.
§ 10.35 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL
My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Malmesbury, for the clear and persuasive way in which he moved the Second Reading of this Bill, despite the condition of his voice, and for giving us the interesting background of the New Forest. I am almost inclined to describe this Bill as the latest New Forest Bill, as it is the third Bill we have had in ten years, and I judge from the list of speakers that it is perhaps the least controversial. I believe that the very fact that this is the third Bill is a tribute to the uniqueness of the Forest, which of course dates back to King Canute and spreads over 90,000 acres of Hampshire.
I would also pay tribute to the watchful concern and responsible attitude of the verderers as guardians of this remark- 798 able Forest. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, is not with us to-night, though perhaps he is not quite so sorry, for he piloted the 1964 Bill through this House with such skill. I am sure that he would approve of the main provisions of the Bill, which are a logical extension of the 1964 Act.
I suppose that in any Private Member's Bill of this nature, involving and affecting private rights—and in this case commoners' rights—the first consideration for this House must be to examine closely these rights to see whether or not any loss is being sustained. Under Clause 2 of this Bill, dealing with the proposed fencing of the A.337, there must be marginally an effect on the commoners' rights, as land, in this case road verges, is lost to grazing. But, as the noble Earl has said, no precedent is being caused by this, as both the 1949 and 1964 Acts cover the fencing of the other two major roads, and the advantage of Clause 2 to commoners was dramatically described by the noble Earl by the results achieved in the startling reduction of accidents to animals since the A.31 and A.35 have been fenced.
The balance as to the extent of any damage to commoners' rights under this Clause seems to be whether they value the roadside verge grazing of the A.337 higher than the risk of losing ponies straying on to the road. I presume from the Bill that the commoners accept the need for this fencing, which I am sure is welcome. My only concern with fencing, after listening to the noble Earl's description of the rate of progress of fencing the A.31, is that I hope that the fencing of the A.337 will not take 15 years to complete.
Turning to the provisions under Clause 3 of the Bill I am sure that all interested parties in the Forest would agree that the purpose of the clause is splendid—the improvement of grazing. In fact, it is so reasonable that one wonders why it had not been incorporated in previous Acts. I was very interested to learn from the noble Earl about the present stocking of the Forest and that it is virtually the same as in 1887. This is a tribute to the balanced policy of the verderers over the years, a policy that has remarkably preserved the character and ecology of the Forest over the generations.
799 I was also interested to learn that the verderers are actively engaged with the problem of seeing that cattle and ponies are maintained in proper condition, especially during the winter months. This goes a long way to answering certain adverse newspaper criticism of the conditions of ponies over the last two winters. In introducing this Bill, the noble Earl said that a large number of ponies will be removed this winter as they are considered unfit to survive the winter. Again, I think that this fact will be generally welcome.
At this late moment, perhaps I could briefly digress to a matter of which I have given notice to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. though I see that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will be replying. It is about the sister forest, the Forest of Dean.
The Forest of Dean has been less fortunate than the New Forest in the matter of Private Members' Bills. One could almost say that it has been neglected by the Government since the day they set up a Committee to report on it in 1956. That Committee reported in 1958 with some firm and important recommendations, particularly in regard to the rights of commoners. Since the Committee reported, the Report seems to have been firmly pigeon-holed, and by now even the recommendations could be out of date. Despite requests from the verderers of the Forest of Dean, the Government have allowed no time for a Bill. I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton—particularly in view of the fact that this Forest does not come under Cromwell's registration Act—what action the Government intend to take on that Report, and why they indeed have taken no action all this time.
Returning to the New Forest Bill, I should like again to express my welcome to it and say that it is a Bill clearly designed for the future good of the New Forest, a concept I fully support, and I wish it a speedy and safe journey through Parliament.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I should first of all like to apologise on behalf of my noble friend, Lord Kennet. He had a very important engagement this 800 evening, and I confess I did not hesitate to persuade him to keep it, so that I might have the pleasure on behalf of the Government of speaking to the Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Malmesbury. I should like to congratulate him on his determination in speaking under such disabilities. I remember once losing my voice reading the lesson in chapel after leading some "rugger" forwards. I had just reached Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego in the fiery furnace, and at that point my voice went entirely. The noble Earl was of sterner stuff, and he kept going. I mention this because I know the noble Earl, having heard him speak on occasions in the New Forest, and he is a very eloquent and witty speaker.
He gave us the benefit (and it was right that he should) of a very full account of the purpose behind the Bill. I have participated myself in a Back-Bench capacity on some of the previous Bills, particularly the 1949 Act, and again on a Bill with the former Member for Parliament Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre, who is an old ally and sometimes an adversary in these matters. We have to recognise that there are liable to be contentious issues, and I think it is a credit to all those who have been involved—whether they are the verderers or the former Member of Parliament or others—that this Bill (and I keep my fingers crossed!) looks like being the least controversial of them all. But in any relationship as sensitive as the relationship between the commoners, the Forestry Commission, the general public and the local authorities, there are bound to be difficulties.
It is very worth while to strive to solve any problems that assist in the preservation—and essentially the preservation in a living and active condition—of an area of such unique character as the New Forest. Of course, this uniqueness has led to all sorts of problems. I was interested, listening to the noble Earl, to hear echoes of earlier difficulties which were even then beginning to be apparent and which have grown into major problems, such as fencing the roads (I am speaking personally here); and I am interested to see the further extension of fencing to the A.337. Here again, I hope, no doubt like other noble Lords, that there will still remain many areas in the New Forest that remain unfenced. And it is 801 perhaps appropriate that we are discussing this Bill on a day when my noble and learned friend who sits on the Woolsack has been steering an Animals Bill in respect of which some of the more controversial aspects do not apply to the New Forest.
The unique popularity of the New Forest is, of course, a challenge to everyone, and it is right that the Countryside Commission recently set up should be in a position to provide the kind of cooperation that the noble Earl, as the Official Verderer, is seeking. The amount and the quality of the grazing have greatly deteriorated, and of course the existence of the ponies themselves can he threatened. I remember sometimes the controversies that went on concerning whether there should he more ploughing up and re-grassing of areas in the open Forest; that it might reduce the number of animals who would keep the scrubland at bay. But a firm case has been made by the noble Earl for the provisions in this Bill; for the steps that they hope to take.
I believe that the relationships between the verderers of the New Forest and the Forestry Commission are vital, and I think it is necessary for there to be a very good understanding. for we ought not to minimise the contribution that the Forestry Commission has made in the New Forest. and indeed to the welfare of the commoners—sometimes I think not always recognised. None the less, they have to live together there as much a part of the ecology of the New Forest as any other animal or person. Both bodies are alive to, and must face, the growing problems and pressures for public recreation which are at the root of the problem we are discussing to-day.
The Forestry Commission has given a good deal of thought to ways of coping with these pressures, and has already provided facilities for this purpose. The Commission's powers in this respect are set out in Section 23 of the Countryside Act. And Clause 1 of the Bill gives legislative effect to the assurance (to which the noble Earl referred) which my noble friend Lord Kennet gave, with the agreement of the Minister of Agriculture, in Committee during the passage of the Countryside Act.
802 As the noble Earl made clear, the verderers, and therefore the commoners themselves, are not merely playing an indirect part by helping to preserve and create the modern New Forest—the ancient and modern New Forest—but have also had to cope with problems imposed on them by the campers. The task now of improving the grazing is largely a problem of finance; and since questions of animal husbandry and welfare are not within the province of the Forestry Commission, it cannot help with them. The noble Earl has explained why the verderers are seeking help from national funds, and the solution under the Bill is to amend the Countryside Act 1968 so that Exchequer grant may be paid to the verderers towards projects approved by the Countryside Commission and by my right honourable friend.
During the passage of the Countryside Act there was some discussion about whether bodies such as the verderers should be included among those entitled to apply for grant. The view was then taken that the normal channel for grant should be local authorities. Despite this, the assistance which the verderers are now seeking does not seem to be obtainable through this means, and, on the basis that this is a special case and not a precedent, the Government support the Bill.
I listened very closely to what the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, said. I dislike to have to say this to him, because I have said it before. But I really cannot, within our Rules of Order, deal with the Forest of Dean. I appreciate what he had to say. I do not doubt there will be further opportunities for discussing it, but unless he is advancing what he said as a reason for not giving support to this Bill, which I am sure is not his intention, I think it would be unwise for me to embark upon dealing with it. None the less, the point has been noted and no doubt there will be further opportunities to deal with it.
My Lords, the noble Earl who introduced the Bill has described the type of projects that the verderers have in mind. If the Bill becomes law, the Government will consider on its merits any application that is made for grant, and with that blessing, which I am able to give officially on behalf of Her 803 Majesty's Government, and personally from my own long association with the New Forest, I wish the Bill well and congratulate the noble Earl.
§ 10.51 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
My Lords, at this late hour I am sure that none of you wishes me to make another speech. I should, however, like to thank those who have taken part in this debate and who have helped me and listened to my painful voice. I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, that this time the Commoners Defence Association are very much in favour of this fencing. I thank most sincerely the noble Lord the Leader of the House for what he has said, because I appreciate that he knows intimately most of what goes on in the Forest, and he understands the balance of it all. So far as the Forestry Commissioners are concerned, ever since I have been Official Verderer my intention has been that we should work as closely as possible together. A very good opportunity arrived earlier this year when the verderers, at their own expense, went to Holland to have a look at the problems of public pressure there, and I am delighted to tell your Lordships that the Deputy Surveyor, who had only recently been appointed, asked if he might accompany us. This was a wonderful opportunity for the Deputy Surveyor, the senior officer of the Forest, to get to know us 804 and for us to get to know him. I thought that was a very good beginning. I hope that your Lordships will now give the Bill a Second Reading.
On Question, Bill read 2a.