HL Deb 02 July 1974 vol 353 cc153-233

2.56 p.m.

BARONESS WHITE rose to call attention to the need to review policy in National Parks and in other areas of landscape conservation and scientific interest; and to move for Papers. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I should like to start by offering warmest thanks on behalf of noble Lords in all parts of the House to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and his colleagues on the Committee which reviewed National Parks policies. This Report is the main subject of our debate this afternoon.

The Report on the whole has been warmly welcomed both by the public authorities concerned and by the voluntary amenity and conservation societies. A great deal of discussion has already taken place outside Parliament and it seemed to me appropriate that we in this House should have the opportunity to consider the Report this month because requests have been made that comments and suggestions, and maybe criticisms of the Report, should be submitted before the end of July. Frankly, I wish that more noble Lords had felt able to take part in the debate, but, of course, the day of the debate, which should have been to-morrow, was changed to meet the convenience of some of our Scottish colleagues. Scottish business had been put down for to-day. Her Majesty is holding a Garden Party in Holyrood House and, out of consideration for Scottish noble Lords, it was agreed that the business might be changed. But it has, I know, inconvenienced several noble Lords who would have taken part, and naturally one very much regrets that.

However, I am happy that my noble friend Lord Castle has chosen this occasion on which to make his maiden speech. He and his wife, at least, in earlier days, were notable walkers in what is now National Park territory, in company with the late Hugh Dalton to whom, with Lewis Silkin, we owed the first legislation on National Parks—the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. We should not forget the debt we owe them. My strong Welsh interests and the fact that my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts will be speaking for the Government in the debate will lead me to take most of my illustrations from the Principality of Wales where three of the 10 National Parks are to be found, as well as a significant number of National Nature Reserves and sites of special scientific interest.

In fact, noble Lords may not know that about one-fifth of the total land area of Wales is within designated National Parks. Other noble Lords will speak from their own experience in England and perhaps on this occasion we will miss the Scots less than we would otherwise do because Scotland has no National Parks. The first principles in this matter are the same for all of us. The need for the review, which is embodied in this readable and well-produced document, arose for two reasons. The outstanding reason was the difficulty experienced in the 25 years since National Parks legislation was enacted and the difficulty experienced in practice in reconciling the two conflicting aims of National Parks, the first being the preservation and enhancement of natural beauty and the second being the enjoyment of that beauty by the general public.

The time had also come to examine the structure of the National Park administration and the financial report that has been received following the legislation in 1949 and 1968, and also in relation to the re-organisation of Local Government which took place this year. I think that most noble Lords who have read the Report will agree that perhaps the most important paragraphs in it are paragraph 15 in Chapter 2 and paragraphs 10 and 11 in Chapter 8. With your Lordships' permission I will read from those paragraphs because I think they set out this dilemma in clear terms. In Chapter 2, paragraph 15, the Committee says: The first purpose of National Parks…—the preservation and enhancement of natural beauty—seems to us to remain entirely valid and appropriate. The second purpose—the promotion of public enjoyment—however, needs to be re-interpreted and qualified because it is now evident that excessive or unsuitable use may destroy the very qualities which attract people to the Parks.

Then, in italics for emphasis, the Committee say: We have no doubt that where the conflict between the two purposes, which has always been inherent, becomes acute, the first one must prevail in order that the beauty and ecological qualities of the National Parks may be maintained".

When they examine this conflict of interest in further detail in Chapter 8, paragraph 10, (and I make no apology for quoting this because I think it is such a very important statement), the Committee say: Because of these increasing pressures and because deterioration is so hard to reverse we believe that the statutory purposes of the parks should be restated".

They go on to say: We see no reason to amend the first one, preservation and enhancement of natural beauty, though 'conservation' might now be considered more appropriate than 'preservation and enchancement', while 'natural beauty' is an odd term for landscapes that have been so much modified by man … that term is, however, well established and is understood to embrace both scenic beauty and wild life. They go on in the next paragraph to say: It is the second purpose … that needs qualification"; and they repeat: We recommend that the statute be amended to make it clear that their enjoyment by the public shall be in such manner and by such means as will leave their natural beauty unimpaired for the enjoyment of this and future generations". There the dilemma, the conflict of interest, is very clearly stated.

In discussions in which I have taken part it has been suggested that possibly the absolute requirement to leave unimpaired natural beauty is not entirely practical, but one might adopt the concept that, Enjoyment by the public shall be in such a manner and by such means as will not cause deterioration of the environment beyond its annual ability to recover.

This precept would set the acceptable limit to wear and tear caused by human pressure on the living environment, although, of course, it does not cover geological damage or man-made works. We want to know this afternoon where the Government stand on this principle. It is important to know, and if noble Lords doubt it I would refer them to the Report by the distinguished diplomat Sir Robert Scott, who was appointed the inspector for the Inquiry into the A.66 road scheme through the Lake District. Sir Robert complained bitterly that he had no precise instructions in this matter, that he was not informed as to the relative importance to be attached to amenity considerations. He said that definitions of environmental value were imprecise and unsupported by firm Government policy. So it will be seen that the attitude of Government is of real consequence in such situations.


My Lords, will the noble Baronness allow me to interrupt her? Would she not agree that in that Inquiry the Government were entirely on the side of the vandals?


My Lords, I will leave the noble Lord, whose name is on the list, to make his own speech, because I was not dealing with the merits of the decision which was reached; although I should be disposed to agree with the noble Lord. The point I was endeavouring to make was that unless there is some Government reaction to the recommendation of the Sandford Committee, then in future inquiries the same difficulty will arise. One therefore asks oneself: can one now, in the light of the recommendations of the Sandford Committee, expect, if not an absolutely firm attitude, at least a firmer attitude on the part of Government?

My Lords, of course I recognise, as did the Committee, that these questions are far from simple. The conflict is not just between man and the natural environment: it is also between the differing interests of those who come into an area and those who live there, who earn their bread and bring up their families there. Moreover, I believe that this conflict is nowhere more acutely felt than in the Snowdonia National Park, for the area of which my noble friend was Parliamentary representative for very many years and where, to the other stresses, is added that of the divisions caused by language. Within this general problem of conflict of interest there is, perhaps, the particular relationship with those who own or farm the land.

The Committee are perfectly frank about this. In paragraph 5.45, for example, they say quite plainly—and I quote: Public access "— that is, to the National Parks— brings no gain to farmers and landowners"; and I am afraid that some Welsh farmers referred to in that chapter appear, perhaps, excessively inhospitable. But this defensiveness against the intruder from without expressed itself in the strongest form last year, so far as Wales is concerned, when due to the opposition to the proposed designation of a new National Park, the Cambrian Mountains Park, it was turned down by the then Secretary of State for Wales without so much as a public inquiry. Even the Council for the Protection of Rural Wales, of which I have the honour to be President, was against this scheme on the grounds that designation as a National Park would encourage visitors in increasing hordes, and that this would inevitably change the whole character of the area—in their view, for the worse.

My Lords, I have mentioned these Welsh examples because I think they express in the most graphic form the very real conflicts which arise within this conception of Parks which, unlike their American counterparts, are neither nationally owned or nationally administered. I agree with the Report that to change the name, "National Park", even though in some respects it appears to be a misnomer, would not help to change the behaviour of that small minority who really abuse the facilities of the Parks. But I believe that what is important is to act in such a way as to improve the relationship with the local people who live and work in the Park areas, and to make them feel fairly treated when, at the same time, one is asking them to receive many thousands of their fellow citizens into their midst.

I believe that the positive suggestions in the Report go a long way to make this possible. In particular, I very strongly support the proposals in Chapter Eighteen for management agreements. At present, legislative power is lacking to conclude such agreements, which would be positive as well as negative in character, and would be binding upon successors in title. We have, of course, special planning controls in the areas of National Parks, but for the most part planning controls are negative, and I believe the Committee were absolutely right in saying that, by themselves, they are not enough and more is needed. If I may quote from paragraph 10 of Chapter Eighteen, it says: The basic features of a management agreement would be that the owner would give a written undertaking to manage the land in accordance with a detailed plan, which might include both restraints and positive requirements. The authority would agree to make payments to the owner in recognition of any restraint on the productive use of the land and of the additional cost of any positive actions he takes in the public interest under the agreement". Without such agreements. I do not believe that we shall get the best out of our Parks in the years of increasing pressure which lie ahead.

I understand, following the opinion of the Committee, that legislation would be needed, but there is one area where such a policy could be tried out now; namely, in Snowdonia itself, where an extensive area was taken into public ownership in 1968 when the Vaynol estate came on to the market and my right honourable friend Mr. Callaghan, who was at that time Chancellor of the Exchequer, provided the funds with which to purchase a considerable proportion of the estate. A pledge was given at that time that in due course the land would be sold back to those former tenants of the estate who wished to buy their holdings, but subject to agreement on conditions.

The main condition was of course access, for which, incidentally, the Countryside Commission already has powers of compulsion, including compulsory purchase if need be. However, as I understand that no sales have yet been completed in this area even after this considerable lapse of time, can we be assured by my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts that none will be completed without the kind of agreement proposed under the management agreement passage in the Report to which I have just referred? Alternatively, as landowner, the Secretary of State for Wales could, I suggest, in lieu of sale offer very favourable tenancy agreements which could take fully into account the kind of provisions mentioned in the passage which I read. He would not need to wait for legislation, but could act now as a good landlord and, in such circumstances and in the present state of agriculture, such a proposal might have its attractions.

It seems to me that, having taken the dramatic step of buying a large area in the very heart of Snowdonia with the opportunity of comprehensive management of one of the most hard pressed mountain areas in the whole country, one should not let it go without making the most of it. Otherwise, it will have been a rather pointless exercise. I hope very much that my noble friend will be able to enlighten us, particularly as I was able to give him notice that I would wish to raise this matter.

I shall now turn to matters of more general interest, though I have also given notice that I have two further Welsh problems on my list: namely, the staffing position in the Brecon Beacons Park and the protection of the Pembrokeshire coast. However, I will deal with those in their due place. First of all, I should like to touch on the question of finance. Although it is twenty-five years since the Act establishing National Parks was put on the Statute Book, all of us who are interested in them know only too well that resources have never been adequate, let alone generous. Consequently, we all very much welcomed the Sandford Report's recommendation of a much increased national contribution. The "lion's share", as it was put, was to come from central sources in recognition not only of national interest, but of the fact that, for the most part, those using the Parks do not live there and do not pay local rates. This undertaking, although it did not go quite as far as the Countryside Commission would have wished, has been met, but there are some extremely disturbing aspects of what has been happening since.

I think that a number of noble Lords who are interested in the National Parks will have seen the much-quoted article in The Times of April 27 by Malcolm MacEwen, himself a member of a Park Authority. He pointed out that, as a result of receiving extra money from the Exchequer for National Park purposes, certain local authorities with Park responsibilities are regarding this additional contribution not as the basis of flesh expenditure on the needs of the Parks, but as a subvention in relief of rates. There is the further problem where capital expenditure is involved that, as I understand it, a Park Authority cannot go out-with the agreed capital pool which has been allotted to the authority concerned. In other words, even if it had the money, if its capital project was not in the programme which had been approved, the Park authority could not spend the money for the purposes which it would regard as important. This has, as I understand it, occurred in the Snowdonia National Park, because the Gwynedd Authority is already very fully committed. It may also have occurred elsewhere.

So one has very grave apprehensions that unless these two conditions are dealt with the gesture which the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and his colleagues managed to obtain from the Treasury may be far less valuable than it at first appeared. I am very well aware that at the present time the reorganisation of local government has made for difficulties, and that the new structure of the Park Authority administration itself must have time to settle down, so that one should not jump to hurried conclusions. Nevertheless, one cannot but be disturbed at the attitude of certain authorities nor fail to be apprehensive that, if money is not devoted to Park purposes, the Treasury will in due course turn round and say, "You have not really been spending very much. Therefore you do not need very much", and that the Government's contribution, if not actually cut, will not be increased as might well be necessary.

I think, also, that the attitude of certain local authorities—and I do not wish to particularise on this point, though those who know the Parks will, I imagine, know which ones I mean—is somewhat disturbing. This is very important, because of the past history of the matter. There have been discussions for many years about the best administrative structure for the National Parks. As we all know, the Peak Park, in Derbyshire, has its own board with full powers of action and the right to precept. This means that this year it will both take the extra grant from the Treasury and continue its precepting, so that its expenditure on the Park will be nearly double what it was last year. The Lake District Park also has a board, which is not quite as powerful as that of the Peak, but everywhere else the Parks are administered by an authority which is dominated by the county council concerned—at last, one is happy to think, by single county councils instead of joint committees, with the one exception of the Brecon Beacons, which still has multiple responsibility.

Sir Jack Longland, in his report to the Countryside Commission which preceded the Sandford Committee, and Lord Redcliffe-Maud in his Report on Local Government, both recommended the Peak pattern of a quasi-independent board for all National Parks. This suggestion was not accepted and I do not quarrel with that, but the corollary is that, if county councils wish to retain their position at the end of the five-year review period recommended in the Sandford Report, they must be seen to be taking their full share of interest in the needs of the Parks. In cash terms, this means sustaining their share of expenditure. Meanwhile, they will also be judged by the quality of the management plan for each Park which is due to be presented not later than 1977. These plans will be awaited with very keen interest.

At long last, we have in each park a National Park officer whose sole job is the good management of the Park. Hitherto, this has been the part-time concern of some other county official. I am sure that we all welcome this very much indeed. Here, if I may once again be domestically Welsh, I draw attention to the position of the Brecon Beacons Park, where the officer appointed as the National Park officer is on a lower scale of salary than applies to any other Park in the country. I am well aware, as a resident of the new county of Powys, that we have been obliged to pay less than any other county in the Kingdom on account of our sparse population, and that one cannot make an exception for the Park officer. But I earnestly hope that this whole position can be urgently rectified by the Government adopting a more intelligent formula for Powys salaries in general, which at present I regard as a disgrace, and this would solve the problem of the financially inferior position of the Powys National Park officer.

Now I should like to turn to some of the few but important controversial aspects of the Report: First, the one on which the Committee was perhaps most sharply divided, the proposal for the designation of national heritage areas within the parks. The case for and the case against such designation is spelt out in detail and very clearly in Chapters 20 and 21. In all the discussions which I have attended since the Report appeared I have heard strong exception taken to the name "national heritage area". The reason for this is that even among those who support the idea there is apprehension that if one labels an area as being of especial value and interest it will inevitably draw people to it, and what should be preserved as a wilderness or a place of lonely enjoyment will become a "honey pot"—to use the current jargon. So I think the name should go. We seem to be incapable of designating something as special and then leaving it alone. The furthest one could go would be to use a low-key bureaucratic term—if one has to have any term at all—such as "special management area", which would have no emotive overtones for tourists or visitors.

But there are doubts about the concept itself, quite apart from the name, and a fairly widespread view that to single out certain areas would diminish the attention paid to the rest of the Park. I do not share that view. I believe that there are some areas which merit extra and special care. But there are genuine differences in this argument between those people whose opinions one respects. That being so, the statesmanlike thing to do is to support the proposal in paragraph 20.21 that the Countryside Commission should be encouraged to experiment in one or two selected places to see how such a special management scheme could work. Only then could one reach a fair and considered judgment.

Another area of controversy, which I believe one or two noble Lords wish to speak about particularly, is forestry. Again, I have found among the amenity and conservation societies with whom I work complete agreement that afforestation of bare land, as described in Chapter 10, should be brought under planning control—incidentally, both within and without National Parks. But there is much less certainty about other operations though some support for control over felling and re-planting. We should be glad to know the Government's reactions, because nothing can change a landscape so much as forestry, which includes both public and private enterprise. It is quite true that it requires expertise as well as aesthetic judgment and one must keep a balance, but when one sees what has happened to some most cherished landscapes one cannot but question present procedures.

Needless to say, there is no unanimity on another controversial proposal, that of the proposed power of compulsory purchase of land as set out in paragraph 18.16. Even those who accept the logic of the argument that in addition to the compulsory powers which already exist—and they are considerable—one should be able to acquire land for the main purpose for which a Park exists, namely, the preservation and enhancement' of natural beauty, most of us would prefer to proceed by voluntary agreement. Ideologically, sitting as I do on these Benches, I personally am in favour of the public ownership of land, but I recognise what passions it arouses, and not least in rural Wales. I should much like to see, therefore, funds available, as suggested by Mr. John Cousins, for purchase, at any rate by agreement. If there is no Land Fund on which one can draw, a Park authority or the Countryside Commission cannot act quickly if the opportunity arises. If one hesitates about overall compulsory purchase powers one then is surely obliged to provide adequate means for proceeding by agreement. I regard this action as one of the very important matters arising out of this Report.

I have mentioned management schemes with particular reference to agriculture. There is another kind of management which matters very much namely, that of areas of ecological and scientific interest. Here one must recognise that Park Authorities cannot expect to have the full range of knowledge at their command, even if they appoint an ecologist to their staff. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, in its very well-argued note on the Report, put this very plainly. They said: Only an organisation with a national view of conservation problems and needs and the experience which comes from it can be properly competent to fill the role. The chosen instrument is, of course, to hand in the Nature Conservancy Council. In most areas it is already in very close contact with the Park administration, but has it enough resources to do the job? Without scientific backing one cannot judge how far and in what way an environment may be at risk. The Nature Conservancy Council is at present under great pressure in some areas to undertake special work in relation to the possible exploitation of oil or natural gas. Such exploitation will bring gain to our economy and conservation work elsewhere must not be allowed to suffer any deprivation on that account.

This of course applies equally to work in National Nature Reserves and areas of special scientific interest whether in a National Park or not. So I hope again that we may have an assurance that the Nature Conservancy Council will be given the resources to carry out the kind of work in the National Parks, without which, as I said, we cannot really judge whether the environment is at risk, and if it is, how to deal with it.

I had given notice to my noble friend that I hoped to touch on one aspect of conservation which did not come within the remit of Lord Sandford's Committee, namely, the growing interest in the marine environment. I do not just mean by that any threat there may be from oil or gas developments. We have so far no marine National Parks and they would be very much more difficult to manage than areas on land. I am aware that a report issued a couple of years ago under the auspices of the Natural Environment Research Council concluded that such enterprises were not needed. But since then in certain areas, and I refer particularly to the Pembrokeshire coast, we have seen a growing threat by groups of skin-divers who descend and sometimes ravage. I am not speaking of commercial poaching of molluses or crustacea, though I know that occurs, nor am I speaking about those who disturb ancient wrecks; but I am speaking of the denuding of the inshore seabed of natural features. I believe that situation merits further study and I should be very glad to hear of any steps which may perhaps be in prospect so that we can, for once, get in in time before too much damage is done.

My Lords, there are many other matters arising out of this valuable Report on which I should like to touch—in particular perhaps transport and traffic management in Parks, on which so much else depends—but time does not permit. I should like to have said something about the country parks, one of the best things to come out of the 1968 legislation; and I was very glad to learn that some 130 country parks have been established by the local authorities which can act as buffer zones, so to speak, drawing off large numbers of people and thereby, of course, protecting the National Parks from too great pressure. Again I am worried about the present financial arrangement with local authorities. Until now the progress has been good, but with the new financial scheme it is much less certain that local authorities in the future will use resources for country parks. I only hope that my fears in this direction are ill-founded.

Finally, there is the question of whether further National Parks ought to be designated and whether, if they were, such designation would do more good than harm. There are various candidates—some have been looked at in the past, like the Norfolk Broads and the New Forest there are parts of Essex and parts of Dorset including the Poole-Purbeck coastline which might well be considered. My own belief is that if the main proposals in the Sandford Report are carried out, and provided proper finance is made available for warden services (including the organisation of volunteer wardens and for all the other matters for which money is needed), then good would ensue if further designations were made and this would enable us to hand on our trust to future generations without shame.

My Lords, public consciousness of the value of our national heritage is growing, especially among the young. I hope that noble Lords will have noticed, from the quite remarkable figures in Table 9 on page 51 of the Report, the phenomenal growth in membership during the past few decades in the voluntary recreational and conservation bodies in this country. This by itself is surely conclusive evidence of the increasing interest and concern which is being shown by the public. We must not fail this or future generations, and I believe that with co-operation all round between the public, statutory bodies and private persons and associations we shall not do so. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.33 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad to be the first to thank the noble Baroness, Lady White, for giving us this opportunity to debate National Parks and for introducing the debate with such a splendid speech. My gratitude is tempered with two reflections: the first is the wording of her Motion which, on the face of it, would indicate that she thought that Lord Sandford and all his colleagues had done nothing of note or worth over the last two years, but I am glad to hear from her speech that on the whole she approves of what we have been up to. The second reflection is that in the course of conducting this review I always had the benefit of the Minister of State for Wales, my right hand and co-chairman, Dr. Margaret Davies, one of the most experienced Countryside Commissioners, also from Wales, and Mr. Bill Siberry from the Welsh Office. I find myself engineered into a position where I stand here single-handed inside a Welsh pincer movement.

Nevertheless, I hope I can acquit myself satisfactorily among all these Welsh examples. I think it is taking a slightly exaggerated view of Welsh nationalism to field a spokesman from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but nevertheless we all look forward to what the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, has to say, I, too, welcome the presence in this debate of the spouse of a former Transport Minister; I attach great significance to that and look forward to hearing what the noble Lord, Lord Castle, has to say.

Before going any further, I should like to record my tribute (and add it to that of the noble Baroness, Lady White) towards the founding fathers of the movement which led to the creation of the British National Parks 20 to 25 years ago, and particularly to the vision, not only of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and others whom the noble Baroness mentioned, but also to Sir Arthur Hobhouse, Mr. John Dyer and others. Their vision has resulted in a higher proportion of land—something like 9 per cent. compared with 1 per cent. in America—being designated as National Parks in a country which is more densely populated than most. There are two factors which together pose a greater challenge in the administration of the Parks than is faced by any other country which has National Parks. The people who have administered the Parks up to this moment have met that challenge short of staff, starved of funds and operating in a fragmentary framework, and I believe that my colleagues on my Committee would want to join with me in recording on this first Parliamentary occasion our appreciation of what has nevertheless been achieved. I should like to go on and give my best wishes to the new regime, those with statutory responsibility for inaugurating this new regime, and in that connection, to welcome to this debate my noble friend Lord Ridley who, as many noble Lords will know, has been appointed by the Association of County Councils to chair the Committee which they have set up to guide and assist the county councils who have responsibility for National Parks. We look forward to what he has to say in that capacity as well as what he has to say in has capacity as chairman of county councils which have Parks.

May I, before passing on to more substantive matters, take this opportunity of thanking my colleagues on the Committee which conducted this review with me. I should like in that connection to record with our thanks the value which we derived from the local consultations which we carried out. As our Report says, we had meetings with all 10 National Park Authorities; we had three meetings in each of the 10 Parks with those who owned and were primary users of the land, with those representing the various amenity bodies and with those representing district councils—30 more meetings. In addition to that, we had over 20 further meetings to which the general public were invited to come and give us the benefit of their views. That amounts to 60 separate local consultations. That was an arduous undertaking, but I mention it and stress it because I hope that the value which we found—and indeed we found the greatest value in doing that—will encourage other National Park Authorities to carry on. Our impression—particularly of the public meetings—was that this kind of thing has not on the whole been done before. I regard it as an indispensable item in the satisfactory running of the Parks and I hope it will be continued. After all, as the noble Baroness has reminded us, there are a great many potentially explosive and conflicting interests in the Parks and this constant consultation is one effective way of helping to resolve them.

My Lords, may I add a little to what the noble Baroness has already said by way of reminder as to the context of this Report? It was commissioned by my right honourable friend, Mr. Peter Walker, then Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment in which I served, because he realised that after 20 years or so it was time to take another look. The National Parks had come of age; their youth and puberty had been a turbulent and unsatisfactory time from many points of view, and certainly great changes had taken place in the social structure of this country. Notably (and we have gone into this in some detail), we now have a greater population with more leisure time (and this is something that we went into a few weeks ago), more money to spend other than on essentials, more cars to move around in, more motorways to move around on and a more highly developed taste for "getting away from it all" in the towns and out into the country: so there was certainly a need to look at the matter again.

In addition to that, local government reform provided the chance to make a number of changes—a chance which had to be taken before our Report was published. As the noble Baroness said, the chance was taken to do four things: first, to introduce a new administrative pattern which put an end to the fragmented responsibilities between two or more committees which operated in several of the Parks, to their very great disadvantage; to put an end to the administration of Parks by officers who were doing it on a part-time basis (because we now have National Park officers and their own staff in each Park, so that everyone has the benefit of the Peak Park in that respect); to put an end to the uncoordinated management of the land and water space in the Parks, with each land-or water-owning authority going its own way regardless of the purpose of the Parks—and in place of that we have a statutory requirement to devise a National Parks plan to pull it all together. Fourthly, the opportunity was taken in the course of local government reform to put an end to topsy-turvy financed mainly by local rates. Specific reminded us, the National Parks were mainly financed by local rates. Specific items were grant-aided, but the vitally important aspect of administrative costs were not grant aided at all. All that has been put right by the Local Government Act 1972.

I should like to take this opportunity to express my personal pleasure that all this has been implemented, especially the financial provisions about which I gave very firm personal pledges, first on behalf of Mr. Peter Walker and then on behalf of Mr. Geoffrey Rippon; and it has fallen to Mr. Anthony Crosland to implement them. I am naturally delighted that all three gentlemen have not only fulfilled those pledges but fulfilled them handsomely. However, I must say that I very much share the considerable misgivings expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady White, as to the reaction since then of the local authorities. I hope very much to hear both from my noble friend Lord Ridley, speaking on behalf of the county councils, and from the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, speaking on behalf of the Government, that they are watching the situation and have formed firm ideas as to what to do if no improvement is in sight; because I very much agree with the noble Baroness that this is not in the least what was intended—in other words, this treating of the contribution from the Exchequer as a relief of the rates. What is needed is to get extra finance into the National Parks, and everybody will have to think very carefully about the basis on which they agree to these arrangements if an improvement to that situation is not in sight soon.

Still dealing with the context of this Report—and I must apologise for doing so at length—I should like to stress how unique and distinctive are the English and Welsh National Parks. They are not empty wildernesses as they are in so many other countries. A quarter of a million people live in them; 17 trunk roads run across them (and not just the A.66!), and they are used for extraction of minerals, the production of food, the conservation of water and the training of four Armed Services as well as housing the quarter of a million people to whom I have just referred. So they are very different, and much more difficult, places to administer.

As well as continuing the planning policies which have marked the first twenty years, we need to embark on a giant feat of co-operation between the established primary users and owners of the land and the water in the Parks, and to strive for a comprehensive partnership in their management, as the noble Baroness said. The management will be for a multiplicity of purposes, including recreation, and I hope that our Report provides a basis and a framework for knitting together the variety of policies now coming forward. Perhaps I may remind your Lordships what they are. The new national forestry policy cannot be much further delayed. We know it will give more emphasis to recreation and amenity, and I hope that our Report shows reasonably clearly how we think the new policy can be adapted to the Parks. The new Water Act which we have just enacted lays fresh and new importance upon making full use of water space for amenity. And what a splendid challenge is now presented both to the water authorities and the forestry authorities by the concept of Kielder Water. This is a mag- nificent water space for recreation, set in what I believe is the largest man-made forest in Europe.

Two committees, one under Mr. Stevens and the other under Sir Ralph Verney, will before long produce recommendations which will need to be specially implemented in the National Parks in respect of mineral extraction. We have the benefit of what was said by the Committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, on how the Defence use of land can be reconciled with other uses. It is interesting to see from his Report that on the whole wild life prefers troops rather than tourists. I believe we are at a stage when landowners—this came out during our debate on the use of leisure—and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors are showing interest and imagination in providing for recreational uses on private land in the countryside. Farmers, I know, are taking a great deal of interest in the upland management schemes in the Lake District and other Parks as an indication of what will he involved for them in entering into management agreement.

I hope during this debate to hear something about the reaction of the highway authorities to all this. We devoted a fairly lengthy and detailed chapter to this business. I think most of your Lordships will agree that what we see in the latest motorways reflects a growing sensitivity by highway engineers to the environment and in particular to the rural environment. I would hope the influence of the Landscape Advisory Committee, which has considerable responsibility for that, will begin to make its influence felt among the local authorities and right down to the grass roots and the authorities who are responsible for the design and improvement of roads.

The National Park Plan provides a framework for knitting all these strands together. To implement it we shall need more qualified staff, more highly trained and skilled in countryside recreation, to devise and excute appropriate policies, and I am glad that the Countryside Commission have that matter firmly in hand. We shall also be relying very greatly on the front line troops in all this—and I am glad that the noble Baroness mentioned them—the National Park and Countryside Rangers, sometimes also called Wardens, their part-time assistants and volunteer auxiliaries. These, it seems to me, are needed not only for the management of estates for recreational purposes but, more importantly, for their role in personally mediating the needs of the visitors of the National Parks to the natives who live there and mediating the interests of the natives to the visitors. It is this work done on a personal basis which, as much as anything, leads to the smooth running and enjoyment of the Parks.

I come to the implementation of these policies over the next generation, the second strand of our review. Looking forward twenty years on it seems to me there will be four points of advance: first, conservation. The noble Baroness has stressed the fact that we have concluded that this purpose must be given primacy so that the National Parks, whatever else happens to them, are passed on to the next generation not only unimpaired but enhanced. This means that we must keep up our guard and extend the scope and strength over the whole range of planning policies and development control. Further measures of planning control over farm buildings, road improvements, afforestation of bare land and other things are all in the Report. That is one point of advance.

The second point is management. Here we want more and better of something we have seen little of so far, more intensive use of both land and water in the Parks for a multiplicity of purposes. Some purposes will have to be gradually phased out. I do not believe there is any part in the Parks for low flying aircraft, motor cycle scrambles, water skiing or noisy sports of that kind. But some of them are there and their reduction and removal will have to be handled sensitively. Thirdly, and as was stressed in our Report and in Lord Cobham's Report on leisure, we must go in a big way for alternative attractions elsewhere—girdles of green containing country parks around our great big cities—so that people who want a few hours out picnicking with the children do not have to trek for miles along M.6 to find it.

Fourthly—and this has not been mentioned yet, but I hope it will be mentioned by others who take part in the debate—advances on the front of education, and by that I mean not just more exhortation, "Shut the gate!", "Do not light fires!", and things like that, though they are needed; not just more information in the form of guides and maps, though they are needed too; not even more field studies, though they are of value, but they are confined to the academic level. What I am thinking of is the kind of teaching that begins very early on in school life and goes to the heart.

Let me end by giving an illustration of what I mean, because I think it is important. I am glad to choose an example from Wales in honour of the noble Baroness. The approach in the school that I have in mind (and I am indebted to the Schools Council for this) was to visit and collect, with the help of parents, both natural and historical objects that could be touched, seen and felt, and to encourage the children to look at them, touch them, respect them and relate them to the environment around and beyond their school. This is what the teacher in that school had to say at the end of the first project on these lines: The enthusiasm of the children was infectious—more and more parents asked what the children were doing. I emphasised that the results they could see arranged around the walls of the school had all resulted from the children's own local research and exploration in their own locality. All the skills of reading, writing and arithmetic had been used in completing the project. The children had in fact realised the need to be able to read, to do their research and exploration. The teacher went on—and this is the key phrase: In looking back we hope that perhaps our children will, as they grow, become more aware of their heritage and do their part to preserve it by guarding the treasures around them. Thus speaks a teacher of six to seven year olds in Elliott Town Infants School in industrial Monmouthshire, which I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady White, will know.

I believe that those directly responsible for our National Parks over the next generation, whatever else they may do in the way of providing alternative attractions, better management policies, tougher development control, will also need to look to and encourage allies like that infants' teacher.

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, it is nice to be back on home ground for a change and to join the noble Baroness, Lady White, in discussing Snowdonia rather than Samarkand in this your Lordships' House. We must all be very grateful to the noble Baroness for initiating this extremely useful and timely debate and for the excellent speech with which she launched the discussion. I should like to pay special respects to the admirable speech that we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, who was mainly responsible for this very fine Report which is the main document which sustains our discussion this afternoon. I thought that his speech was one of great discernment and balance, reminding us that the preservation and improvement of the countryside must rest upon participation by those who live in these parts with those who wish to visit these parts, and that both points of view are constantly kept in mind as we evolve a workable policy.

My Lords, it is less than three weeks since we were debating the Reports of the Select Committee on Sport and Leisure. Today we are discussing those areas of supreme landscape beauty which are to very many people synonymous with the very concepts of leisure and recreation. In one sense therefore this debate and the one we had on June 13 are complementary; for there is little point in providing recreational facilities in places which have become so tedious or unattractive that no one wants to visit them. In another way, however, this debate stands on its own. For, as my noble friend Lady White has pointed out, the increasing pressures on our National Parks and on other designated areas, and the problems which those pressures create, are enormous, and they need to be considered separately from the general question of providing leisure opportunities.

Before dealing with issues arising on the Report of the Committee appointed to review National Park policies, and dealing with particular points raised by my noble friend, I think it would be helpful to say a little about certain important changes in National Park administration, planning and finance which have come into effect since that Committee reported. As many noble Lords will know, each of our ten National Parks is now administered by a single board or committee, with a National Park officer of senior status.

Each of these boards and Committees hag a statutory duty to prepare and publish within three years a National Park Plan, formulating its policy for the management of the Park and the exercise of its functions. Each National Park Authority will therefore need to examine its Park as a whole, consider what problems and stresses exist and decide how these can best be solved. Guidance on this has been given in joint circulars by the Department of the Environment and the Welsh Office. The most recent of these covers very useful comprehensive advice prepared by the Countryside Commission on the preparation of the National Park Plan for each Park. Although the new Park Authorities have been in office for only three months, the Government are confident that these plans, which have to be brought up to date every five years, as the noble Baroness reminded us, will go a long way towards the achievement of purposeful future planning and management of the Parks in the interests of all concerned. That is the new administrative arrangement.

To turn to financial arrangements, the noble Baroness has raised a fundamental question in her remarks about the adequacy of Exchequer aid for National Parks and how this is spent. We are aware that some doubt exists at present about the Government's views on the total of resources to be committed to this, and in particular about the contribution expected of local government, and that this is currently causing problems in the preparation of forward estimates of National Park expenditure. I am therefore glad to have this opportunity of clarifying the Government's views. As your Lordships will know, the Exchequer grants paid towards expenditure incurred on particular projects in National Parks were superseded from April 1 this year by entirely new arrangements. These new arrangements provide for a special grant, supplementary to the new rate support grant, to be paid to county councils with responsibility for National Parks. This new grant is not related to expenditure already incurred. The amount of grant for each financial year is calculated on the basis of forward estimates by National Park Authorities of expenditure in that year.

In hard cash terms, grants under the previous arrangement amounting in total to about £400,000 annually have been replaced in 1974–75, that is the current financial year, by a grant totalling more than three times as much; namely, £1,433,000. This sum represents 75 per cent. of the expenditure considered appropriate for the purpose. So in the current financial year, £1,433,000 is paid to the authorities concerned as representing three-quarters of the total expenditure which their forward programmes for the year showed to be their figure when this matter was discussed. This increased provision is a recognition of the contribution which enjoyment of the National Parks makes to the life of the nation. It is specifically designed to allow more real resources to be devoted to securing the purposes for which the Parks have been designated without imposing an undue burden on the local ratepayer.

In the recent past, local authorities have contributed from their general resources about £800,000 of annual expenditure on the Parks. However, considerable advances in management and in the provision of facilities have to be sought in the National Parks in order to preserve their special attractions and at the same time ensure that these can be enjoyed to the fullest extent.


My Lords, because it is an important matter, will the noble Lord forgive me if I ask him to make quite clear what he said about this grant? Did he say that 75 per cent. of local authorities' total estimates would be paid by the Government?


Yes, my Lords. The sum of £1,433,000, which it has been decided to pay from the Exchequer to Park authorities, will represent 75 per cent. of the total expenditure on Park purposes, leaving 25 per cent. of the total expenditure projected by the authorities to be met by local authorities. If we reckon that the total forward estimate for this year as put forward by the local authorities for this purpose was some £1,900,000, £1,433,000, that is 75 per cent., represents the contribution of the Exchequer. The remainder is to be found by the local authorities—that is to say, something over £400,000, which is 25 per cent. of the whole. I hope that that helps the noble Viscount.


My Lords, it does not quite answer my question but I will not labour the point now.


My Lords, if the noble Viscount still feels he does not understand how this works I shall be most willing to have another try. I hope the point is perfectly clear to his noble friends.


My Lords, the point was this: in the future, if the local authorities jointly make an estimate of so much, will the Government pay 75 per cent. of that estimate? I am speaking about the future and not the current financial year.


My Lords, it will be an agreed figure. We have taken the Exchequer proportion of 75 per cent., quite rightly I think, from the figure which the previous Administration thought right. We, too, think this is right—75 per cent. from Central Government, 25 per cent. from local resources. While I could not make a firm, dogmatic prognostication, I should imagine that this is about right for future years as well as for the present financial year.

If I may proceed, local government expenditures on National Parks are, however, not immune from the restraints on the growth of local government expenditure as a whole, and indeed from time to time critical examination and pruning in this matter, as in all others, may well be found necessary. As I have explained, there has been a very generous increase for 1974–75, continuing the spirit of what the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said was his intention. This very generous increase represents, as I have said, a sum of which 75 per cent. of the estimated expenditure considered appropriate to National Parks comes from central resources. On the assumption that county councils will meet at least the balance of that expenditure, 25 per cent., the objective of a rising level of expenditure can be regarded as met in the present year.

The noble Baroness and, I believe, the noble Lord who followed her, expressed concern lest some local authorities, at least, should regard this special grant as being in some way a subvention towards rates resources generally, and asked what safeguards existed against this practice. There are of course a number. Park authorities have been told very firmly that they are expected to devote these grants to park purposes and indeed to contribute at least to the extent of 25 per cent. of the whole from their own resources. In addition, we have the Countryside Commission which have a presidial authority by Statute over what happens throughout the countryside, not only in the National Parks but in the countryside generally. I have no doubt that the Countryside Commission in England and in Wales—and my noble friend Lady White is a member—and bodies such as the Council for the Protection of Rural Wales, of which she is President—


My Lords, if I may correct my noble friend, I am not a member of the Countryside Commission. I wish I were.


My Lords, it is a very great pity. I am almost inclined to suggest that, even if it needed legislation, this matter should be put right. But certainly my noble friend is President of the formidable body known as C.P.R.W.—the Council for the Protection of Rural Wales. I am sure that that body, together with the Countryside Commission and the newly appointed, full-time, reasonably well paid and high-powered National Park officers, and, again, the Department of the Environment and its appropriate officers, not to say the appropriate officers of the Welsh Office, will be keeping a reasonably wary eye on how local authorities are dealing with these fairly considerable grants in aid and on policy in the National Parks. The sanctions are there. In any case, at the end of the first year we shall be looking at how this has worked. I should like to express confidence in local authorities that they will recognise that this is a special grant, designed for the special purpose of helping them to make appropriate provision for the preservation and improvement of the Parks within their care. It is a very long stop indeed to imagine that local authorities will ignore or, indeed, go against the firmly stated intentions of this special grant.

My Lords, I apologise for dealing with this matter in such detail, but as I have said it is a fundamental matter. I very much hope that this statement of Government views will be of help to those in county councils and National Park Authorities who are at present engaged in providing estimates of expenditure for 1975–76 on the basis of the forms of return sent out last month by the Department of the Environment.

The noble Baroness has given full recognition to the major review on National Park policies carried out by the Committee under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. Her Majesty's Government warmly welcome the Report of the Committee, the "Sandford Committee" as it is popularly and rightly known, which was published in April. On behalf of the Government, I should like to say how appreciative we are of the wide-ranging inquiries and detailed consideration undertaken by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and his Committee, of the enthusiasm with which they clearly approached their heavy task and the thoroughness with which they completed it. The decisions to be taken on the many issues that the Report has raised are of such far-reaching consequence for the future that we are concerned to give them the most careful thought and to have full consultation with those who are knowledgeable on countryside matters.

There are a number of points upon which the noble Baroness quite rightly sought assurance from the Government, and my noble friend Lord Garnsworthy who will be winding up this debate will be able to give assurances upon certain points. However, your Lordships will appreciate that the Government must put out this excellent Report for comment to the widest possible range of people and organisations, including this House. This debate is part of the consultation. Everything which is said here to-day most certainly will be scrutinised and considered with extreme care by the Government when it comes to collating the views upon various parts of the Report which reach them by the end of this month. As a first step, we have invited all the National Park Authorities and about 40 interested bodies to let us have their comments by July 31. The Government will aim to reach conclusions in the light of these comments and then, in consulta- tion with the Countryside Commission, as soon as possible thereafter publish their considered proposals.

As noble Lords will be aware, the main central Government agency for assisting and co-ordinating local authority and private initiative in matters of landscape conservation, the provision of facilities and securing greater public access is the Countryside Commission. Under the Local Government Act 1974 the Commission can now make grants and loans to any person, including a local authority, who is carrying out any project which is conducive to the purposes of countryside legislation. These wide powers should make it possible for the Commission to play an even more active part in helping to solve the kind of problems to which my noble friend has referred.

One of the recurring problems to which the Sandford Committee gave considerable thought is the scale of developments which should be permitted in National Parks and other sensitive areas. That is why we shall be particularly interested to see the reactions which we receive to the suggestion that there should he designated national heritage areas within each National Park where all forms of development would need the approval of Parliament. The Committee itself was not at one on this particular suggestion. As the Committee points out in its Report, that is no reason why the proposals should not be canvassed as widely as possible. Indeed, we look forward to receiving and considering a wide range of views upon this suggestion.

Of course, this problem of obtrusive development is by no means confined to the Parks. It is common to all the designated areas to which the noble Baroness refers in her Motion. The problem, which applies not only to the National Parks but to areas of outstanding natural beauty and to areas outside all designation, is that we are not dealing in the countryside with a series of "green museums" but with places where large numbers of people live and work—places rich not only in natural resources but also in human history, in recollection, in nostalgia. In many cases there are places which are close to major conurbations. Therefore there is continual trafficking between such conurbations and these beautiful areas for the purpose of daily work, and highway authorities must have regard to that kind of consideration.

Our aim, and it is not an easy one, must be to marry the interests of amenity and utility. That is why I welcome so much the tone and balance of the noble Lord's speech. As the noble Lord put it, it is a matter of partnership—partnership not only between local and central Government in the way which I have described, but also between the populations of these beautiful areas, populations who live in these areas by their hundreds of thousands, and the many more hundreds of thousands who visit these areas for perhaps a day or two or a week or two every year. There must be partnership between them. There must be a minimum of imposition on either side and the maximum of co-operation.

The Government arc indeed conscious of the need, by means of this partnership, to protect these areas for the contribution that they can make to our national heritage and our recreational needs. Having regard, as I have said, to the fact that very many people in many of these Parks continue to live and work there, these areas cannot, in the nature of things, as my noble friend pointed out, remain completely free from all development.

My noble friend referred specifically to problems which have arisen in two Welsh Parks—Snowdonia and the Pembrokeshire Coast. In the case of Snowdonia, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales accepts that there has been delay in making access agreements and over the transfer of the Vaynol Estate to the sitting tenants. I find that I taxed the then Secretary of State about this point in another place, and on what was positively my last appearance on the legitimate stage of the other place this was the theme of my contribution. I asked what progress had been made in honouring the pledge—because it is a pledge, dating back to 1967—that these holdings will be made available for purchase by those who occupy and farm them. I am glad to inform your Lordships that negotiations in respect of six of the holdings are now at an advanced stage, and that the transfers should be finalised by the end of this year. The remainder—I think, some 16—will be completed as soon as possible thereafter, probably early next year.

My noble friend asked whether these transfers of ownership would be made conditional on the completion of proper access agreements. I can assure her that no sales will be concluded by Her Majesty's Government unless the prospective purchaser undertakes to enter into an access agreement with either the local planning authority or the Nature Conservancy Council. In fact, the six examples which I gave as being practically ready for completion before the end of this year have resulted from the fact that access agreements have been drafted successfully and accepted by both parties. This would, of course, apply to the others which remain to be completed.


My Lords, before my noble friend leaves Snowdonia, he will of course appreciate that one could have obtained access agreements under existing legislation without going through the process of buying the estate. Am I to understand that any other provisions are likely to be made on the management side as recommended in the Sandford Report? Although I entirely agree that access agreements are the most important matter, they could have been obtained without going through this exercise and what one would like to see is some scheme of comprehensive management for this part of Snowdonia.


My Lords, there are two views as to how a workable and acceptable scheme of management can be imposed on Snowdonia. I think the way we are going about it is right namely to make these holdings available to these farmers, according to the pledge of 1967, like the others outside the bounds of the National Park which form part of the Vaynol estate, to give them the opportunity to purchase, and in so doing to put right the question of access. Having done that, as these holdings all lie within the boundaries of the National Park, the National Park Committee as well as the County Planning Committee and the Countryside Commission will surely have a good deal to suggest and to bring forward for agreement in regard to how this area is managed. It is always well to consider the local circumstances and the local feeling, before one drafts what may on paper be a very viable system of management. In this case I am sure, as one who lives in this area, that this is the way to go about it, so that we do, in fact, have a National Park in Snowdonia.

May I now turn to the Pembrokeshire coast, a couple of hundred miles to the South, with problems which are possibly less abrasive although quite as deep-seated as in Snowdonia, because the main problem here is that caused by the activities of skin divers. The Nature Conservancy Council is carrying out surveys of the seabed around the island of Skomer, which is itself a national nature reserve. These will provide data on the marine flora and fauna against which the effects of the activities of the skin divers can be assessed, and discussions are taking place on the legal problems of establishing marine nature reserves, which is another valuable point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady White. At the moment, there is no such thing. We have what one might call coastal reserves, but a marine nature reserve would involve a new dimension of conservation which we think is not covered by extant legislation. In any case, the question of whether legislation is required to protect these areas can best be considered when the information, now in process of procurement, is to hand.

The Government recognise that the establishment of nature reserves is an important way of safeguarding some of the unique areas of our national heritage, and Supplementary Estimates submitted today seek Parliamentary approval to increase the Nature Conservancy Council's grant by half a million pounds to enable it to acquire new reserves. I should also mention that a major work of reference, to be called Nature Conservation Review, is being prepared for publication early in 1976. This will identify all the land in Britain, that is of importance to nature conservation, and will bring together extensive data about the nation's wild life and habitats. We think it should be a valuable guide for all concerned with the planning and management of land.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord before he leaves the Nature Conservancy Council? My impression is that this is very good news, because it almost more than doubles the resources of the Nature Conservancy Council. Am I right in thinking that?


My Lords, without confirming the point I would not be able to agree that it more than doubles the total resources of the Nature Conservancy Council. If the noble Lord is right, the half a million pounds adds considerably to that part' of its resources which notionally have been addressed to the securing of new reserves. In fact, the half a million pounds is deemed to be an addition to help in that part of the Council's work: namely to purchase new land. I will check on that point and no doubt my noble friend will confirm the figures. But I confirm that the increase of half a million pounds in the Council's grant will enable it to acquire new reserves.

I have so far been able to refer briefly to only a few aspects of the work of the Countryside Commission and the Nature Conservancy Council in their closely related fields of activity. The Government rely heavily on the detailed administrative and advisory work on the countryside and on nature conservation carried out by those two Government agencies. The Countryside Commission, which was originally the National Parks Commission, has been able to bring its expertise to bear on important matters of countryside conservation and enjoyment for a quarter of a century. The designation of National Parks is one of their statutory responsibilities, and they have the duty of advising on matters concerning the administration and management of the Parks. The Nature Conservancy Council, which is on a rather different footing, has been in operation in its present form only since last November, but it is already getting fully to grips with the many problems of nature conservation calling for urgent attention. I am glad to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the devotion, energy and skill which both bodies bring to the exercise of the key responsibility entrusted to them.

My Lords, I hope I have said enough to convince your Lordships that the Government have very much at heart the needs of the sensitive areas of the country and intend, as far as lies within their power, to find remedies for the problems arising. The Government are giving the most careful thought to the formulation of wise policies for the future. We are very conscious that if these policies are not well devised and acceptable, beauty and amenity may be lost that can never be regained.

As far as National Parks are concerned, I have tried to explain that we shall inform ourselves fully of the views of all concerned before taking decisions on the recommendations of the Sandford Report. As I have said, the debate to-day is therefore most timely, and we must all be very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady White, for giving us this opportunity of learning the views of the House on these matters. I can assure your Lordships that my noble friend, Lord Garnsworthy, whose knowledge of local government and expertise in this sphere are well known to us all, when he winds up will endeavour to deal with any outstanding points that arise during the discussion. I can also assure your Lordships that we shall listen with the keenest interest to all the views expressed here and, indeed, those put forward throughout the country in the next few weeks, on the basis of which we shall take the decisions as a Government, in consensus with all those concerned with this great and important work, for which the noble Baroness asked in her admirable speech.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady White, made a most distinguished speech which was so knowledgeable and ranged so wide that I am not surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, thought that she was a member of the Countryside Commission. Out of ignorance good can come, and I hope therefore he will press the suggestion that the noble Baroness should be made a member. Personally, I can think of no better person to be so. With the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, I was a little surprised at the wording of the Motion of the noble Baroness, because I thought it meant we were not going to talk about the Sandford Report at all, so I left my own Motion about the Sandford Report on the Order Paper, where it has been since Easter. However, as we have in fact been talking about the Sandford Report, I can now take my Motion off, because it is about the Sandford Report that I propose to talk.

The noble Baroness, Lady White, reminded us of the welcome there has been from the amenity and from conservation societies. Indeed, well there might be, because the Report endorses what a great many of us who have been working in that field have been saying for so long. I should like to say how pleased I am that the work of the Committee was done with such great care. When the Sandford Committee began, I believe they thought that they would get through the work quickly and that there might not be a great deal to do. It became apparent that a great deal needed to be done and the Committee set about the task with energy and determination, and put a great deal of thought into it. They consulted everyone in the local communities in great detail. This has gone down very well with all the people who live and work in National Parks. I am sure it has done a great deal to de-fuse what occasionally has been an explosive issue, as the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, told US.

My Lords, one might say that this Report is almost an official report in so far as sitting on the Committee were two ex-Ministers, two senior ex-civil servants, and three members of the Countryside Commission, including the Director. This membership lent the Committee a status, which leaves us in no doubt that what they say is something to which we should listen with the greatest attention. Lastly, may I pay tribute to the Secretary of this Committee. The Sandford Report is extremely readable, well-written and lucid. This does not apply to all reports, but this one was a model of its kind. Of course, the Government will consider very carefully all the opinions put forward, but I hope they will not be too long in considering them because it is important that we should try to implement as much of the Report as we can, and as soon as possible. A great deal of it can be implemented without legislation if Park Authorities have the mind to do so. A great deal of it is a change of emphasis, a change of policy, and does not require new legislation. Some of the changes do need legislation, but I will touch on that later.

With regard to what can be done at once, I am a little afraid that one of the most important things, that which falls in the area of management agreements, will not get far, if I understood the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, in his explanation of the finances. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, I cannot make out whether what the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, is saying pleases me or not, because I did not grasp it. I shall read his speech again and try to find out what the Government mean.

The noble Baroness, Lady White, began by telling us that this Report is about the conflict of people versus places, and how we can reconcile these two things. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, mentioned this, too. There are limits to the number of people who can get into a room. This applies just as much to the open air as it does to four walls. One gets to the point where one has to try to prevent so many people getting on to the ground and seriously damaging it. For the first time we have a clear statement that, in the last resort, conservation must have primacy over public enjoyment and recreation. I am sure that is right. It must not be watered down in any way. It sets the tone for management of the land. If we do not manage the land with that ultimate object in view, there will be nothing for people to enjoy anyway.

What is said in the Report with regard to revising the Statute is important. The Statute must be revised to make it clear beyond all possible doubt that public enjoyment must be managed in such a way that it does not destroy what the public comes to enjoy. The conflict here is probably greatest with regard to roads and traffic. Chapter 15, which deals with this, is absolutely crucial. I am not sure whether the noble Lord said he thought it the most important matter. I think it is nearly the most important. Urgent action by the Government, by local authorities and Park Authorities is necessary if we are to overcome this problem. For a start, I think we might well look at our national roads programme to find out whether, in the light of the Sandford Report, we could not revise it. With regard to minor roads, I am certain that the key powers must be put into the hands of the Park Authorities. I am certain also that hierarchical road planning must be put into Park plans. I should like to see the Government experiment expanded and extended. The last attempt to do that has failed—this was in Cumberland—because of local pressure against it.

When we first started talking about pedestrian precincts, there was tremendous opposition from, among others, tradesmen in towns who thought they would be ruined. One had sympathy with this thought, but when the pedestrian precincts came about no one was ruined, everyone did very much better, and everyone was very pleased with them. However, it takes some time before a new idea like that is accepted. This is true of the system of making certain roads in National Parks usable only by certain classes of traffic. There is opposition to it at the moment, but I believe we can overcome that.

Lastly, I think that there is one point which wants looking at. Anybody doing any kind of construction work is always in difficulty about keeping their labour force together. The roadmakers are among those who find this most difficult. The pressure to keep their staff and to go on building roads is a very powerful lobby which wants looking at. All these things can be done at once and require no legislation whatsoever.

It was said also that our system of National Parks is a kind of compromise quite unlike anything that exists in any other National Parks. That compromise is under great strain. The conflict between those who make their livelihood from the land and those who come to enjoy themselves is becoming acute. I believe that the management agreement is the way in which we must look at this matter and try to put it right. I have argued this point before in your Lordships' House and I will repeat it again. In the past land has earned its living from agriculture or forestry or cognate uses.

To-day many people who live in towns, and they are 95 per cent. of us, wish to go and enjoy themselves in the country. If a large number of people go to enjoy themselves in the country obviously there cannot be agriculture (shall we say?) at full cock; to some extent it must take second place, or, at any rate, it must defer to public pressures. However, given these public pressures, the public enjoyment, like anything else (like conservation), has to be paid for, and it would be quite unreasonable that it should be paid for by the occupier of the land. I believe the management agreement is the first step towards making some kind of balancing rent. We have the idea already with the access agreement. If you have an access agreement you can have an arrangement whereby you are paid, the analogy I use is a sporting rent; in so far as you keep more grouse and fewer sheep the grouse help to pay for the sheep. I think public disportation must come into the field of paying something towards a balancing rent in respect of the agriculture that it diminishes.

The management agreement would help to do this in two ways. Where, for instance, you do not want too great an improvement, in inverted commas, where you do not want ploughing up of moor land, or more fencing or the more buildings that more fencing engenders, then you enter into a management agreement; the occupier agrees to farm in a certain way and, in so far as his living is diminished by that, a rent is paid out of the public purse. I am glad that this idea is meeting with increasing respect from all quarters and is mentioned in the Report. But I think it will need a great deal more money than the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, suggests, and I suspect that the noble Lord is not quite clear what this is all about; it is a new idea for him, as it is for a good many others.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord has quite grasped the implications of this greatly increased grant. Perhaps I may spell it out simply to him. Last year the grant was some £400,000 from Central Government to local authorities engaged in Park purposes. This year it is £1,400,000. That £1,400,000 represents 75 per cent. of the expenditure which local authorities engaged in Park purposes have told us they will engage in this year. As to how much of this greatly increased grant may be devoted to managerial compensation purposes, such as the one the noble Lord mentioned, it is impossible to say. Many would feel that any scheme whereby management involves development which ought to be compensated should be subject to a financially separate examination from the kind of Brant which I described.


My Lords, I accept that point, and what I said, in fact, was that on the lines of the grant the noble Lord has explained that I did not think we would get very far at all with the idea of management agreements. The national heritage idea, the national heritage area, is something by way of movement towards the management agreement system. It is a very good idea, but I agree with almost everybody else I have spoken to, that the name is no good. Differentials already exist in National Park planning, all the way from honeypots to S.S.I.s. I think different management is wanted here rather than different planning tiers. Now that it is necessary, as I think, for management agreements to come in to preserve and conserve, and as this will cost a great deal of money, I welcome the suggestion in the Sandford Report that this burden must be born by the State. I endorse what the noble Lord says, that, in fact, legislation for powers and money is necessary. But I also have the same kind of apprehensions about this name as I think the noble Baroness had. I think you must not have the formal accolade of designation. It will bring many people there just when you want to try to discourage them. I fear that this may happen whatever kind of low-key name you give it; whether it is a formal accolade or whether it is a low-key civil service kind of grade it will still become known that this is something special that must be visited and looked at.

That is why, although I like the idea. I want to keep it on the basis of the management agreement and the access agreement, and not talk about special areas at all. I believe it can be done perfectly well in other ways if the powers and the money are forthcoming. What could be done right away is that the Park authorities and the Countryside Commission could identify, without naming, the kind of areas we want to cope with, those of sufficient size, not tiny areas but those of such a size as are worth doing at all. Any kind of designation should he a planning designation rather than a public designation.

There were one or two controversial points which I was not sure whether I should mention. They have been mentioned and I will add to them. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, who I see in his place today, knows that I belong to the school that feels that afforestation must come under planning development control. There is an area of difficulty here as to how far, if you have planning control over afforestation, you must also have control over the techniques and business of forestry. I believe that you need not have that at all, although I know that some of my friends in the amenity movement think that you should try to control it from top to bottom. I do not go with that. I think it is major change of land use which must come under planning control.


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, I wonder whether he would tell us, in his enthusiasm for planning control of forestry, if the present regulation in National Parks provides for a voluntary agreement? Would he indicate any cases in which the voluntary agreement has not been fulfilled?


My Lords, this is not a debate about the problems of the Forestry Commission. I only mentioned it, and I said that I was in some doubt as to whether to bring it up at all. I think I would bore your Lordships if I went into detail. I have discussed this matter with the noble Lord. I have written a letter to The Times; I do not know whether it will be printed. The next time we debate forestry I will try to answer the noble Lord. There is one other point about forestry that I want to make. The Forestry Commission is trying to make more amenity attractions within the forest. This is very welcome and very good. But people must not run away with the idea (that this of itself makes large scale afforestation a good thing. It does not, because the amenities would have been far more pleasant without the forest.

The average length of speech up to now has been 32 minutes which, if I may say so, is too long, and I am already running out of time, but I have been interrupted twice. I am sorry that this Report did not come before the Local Government Act 1972, because I believe that the control decisions that were to come under that Act were not the best. However, we have also debated that at length. I am sorry that the Sandford Report did not come out before some of our road decisions were reached, but I hope that there might yet be time for some of them to be reviewed.

It is urgent to do now what we can. There are half a dozen things that I believe could be done at once in addition to what I have already mentioned. I think that the development control policy overall (not only over forestry but over everything) must be reviewed. For the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, I would say that I have always belonged to that school of thought (though my trade union does not) which thinks that agricultural buildings should also be under control.

As I mentioned before, there is a good deal of scope for more public transport. I think that the Countryside Commission and the National Park Authorities might now do something towards a really serious and full survey of small woodlands. When I say "small woodlands", I mean down to one acre or less. I hope that there will be money forthcoming for the warden service, and I hope that something will be done to give it a career structure. At the moment we are possibly taking too much for granted of the goodwill of people who run the service for very little. I should like to see a proper training scheme through which people could be encouraged into the service, and where they could move into other aspects of planning afterwards. I think that it is important to build up the estate maintenance teams, to repair the wear and tear to hedges, stone walls, gates, and everything that inevitably gets damaged even when the public behave as all country lovers should. This would go a long way towards making it acceptable to people living and working in the country. I think that in the National Parks the footpath functions should be taken over by the Park Authorities.

For me this has been a most interesting debate, and I am looking forward with interest to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Castle. I hope that this debate will have been of some value to the Government and to Ministers. I hope that it will also be of value to the Park Authorities, and to the Committee of which the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, is to be chairman. I commend to the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, who is going to wind up for us, the various things that have been said—not so far from the Government Front Bench, because I am not sure that I understood what was said from the Government Front Bench—by the noble Baroness, Lady White, and the noble Lord, Lord Sandford; and I hope that the noble Lord will pay attention to what I have said as well.

4.53 p.m.


My Lords, I fear that some of your Lordships may think that this is a somewhat premature and presumptive intervention, as I have been in your Lordships' House for only a few days. However, I assure you that I am impelled to make my first assay in this House because your famed tolerance and forbearance has been so apparent to me in those debates that I have sat in on, and secondly because, examining my Order Paper, I find that between now and the Recess this is perhaps the only debate on which I could be noncontroversial.

I am conscious of the fact that I speak in a Chamber full of experts and specialists upon every conceivable subject. I have only the same kind of expertise that the housewife has upon the retail price index; I am a consumer of National Parks. As the noble Baroness, Lady White, so graciously remarked, I was in with that egregious, exceptional person, Hugh Dalton, later Lord Dalton, in claiming for ourselves, the public of England, access to the beauty spots. I served, as it were, in the p.b.i. of that ragged army of eight who, after a succession of Labour conferences, blazed what is now known as the Pennine Way. One of my treasured memories is to think of Hugh Dalton's whispered confidences reverberating around the silence of the manifold and ricochetting across the rocks of Edale. With him of course at that time was my noble friend Lord Burntwood, and great people like Tom Stevenson, a man who was, you might say, born with Fell boots on his feet.

I welcome the possibility of speaking today because on the day of my Introduction we had that remarkable debate, almost a teach-in, on our stately homes and art possessions. The two subjects and the two debates are complementary to me. Last week our heroes were the Vanbrughs, the Wrens, the Inigo Jones's, the Gainsboroughs, the Lawrences, and artists of that kind; today the scenario may be the same but our heroes are nature itself and our rude forefathers who shaped the very countryside that we love so much.

I believe that there was some comment, perhaps not unjustified, on the absence of speeches in agreement with the noble Mover of last week's Motion from this side of the House. I think that our lack of numbers was made good by the remarkably able, convincing, and committed speech of my noble friend Lady Lee of Asheridge. I should like to take my colleagues and my noble friends on this side of the House with me when I say that there is thorough agreement from this side at what was being aimed at in the discussion last week, and no erosion of those lovely homes or art galleries will be made if I and most of my colleagues have our way. You can count on us to be with you. I hope that I shall also carry your Lordships with me when I suggest that the problem today is not quite the same as it was last week.

To-day we are not discussing the wealth tax. Fears were expressed during that debate that some Governments might think of taking those possessions away from their present owners to pay their instalment of the wealth tax. We on this side of the House do not want that to happen. It is not quite the same thing with our landscapes, fields and hills. It would be churlish of a future Chancellor of the Exchequer to refuse a few luscious fields or an odd peak or two in payment of an instalment of wealth tax. I hope that that thought does not frighten any of your Lordships because many of you are really committed to the conception of the National Trust knowing the munificent and magnificent work that it does in the public interest through its public ownership of those manors.

But of course I would wish to comment, as have earlier speakers, on that splendid Report which has so enlightened this debate, because of the thoroughness of its inquiry and the number of recommendations that it makes—what has been called the "Sandford Report." We are most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and his Committee for having given us such a great digest of the problem facing us. If I may put it in different words from those used earlier, we are facing a new demand by the industrial workers of this country for some of the delights which were denied to the previous generation. They have become mobile. The much abused motor car, their education and their leisure has meant that the success of the National Parks in their 25 years has become phenomenal, and all of us should delight in that fact.

The problem, however, is that the demand for solitude has outpaced the supply. It is with that problem, it seems to me, that the Report so admirably deals in many respects. The danger is that the most seductive parts of our countryside are going to become the victims of their own beauty, a fate, if I may say so, not unknown to seductresses in both fiction and biography.

The Report advocates many remedies, or at least starts a number of hares, to many of which reference has been made. Some of the recommendations in the Report, it will be realised, do not represent unanimous approval. There is particularly the one linked to that rather sententious title, "National Heritage Areas." They are, by the definition of the Report, to be areas of the, Highest environmental quality, needing special care and attention. "The more gregarious type of visitor"—the Report's words, not mine—will not be welcomed. They are going to be the inner sanctum for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. There will be no facilities for car parks, refreshments, rubbish bins and "loos". Your Lordships are warned. It is suggested that cars, except those of residents, should be banned. These are fairly wide powers for the Park Authority to exercise.

I expect most Members of the House have spent some time wrestling with yourselves as to whether these proposals are the best or whether the objections which are voiced in the following chapter are well based. This weekend I read both of those chapters twice. I had no rambling companion to discuss the matter with, but in the end I came down on the side of these areas. I thought to myself that age and infirmity do claim a tremendous amount—and rightly so—of all legislators, and of your Lordships, consideration and time. But the young and energetic, the adventurous and the enterprising, also have a claim on your attention and on the national finances.

My Lords, I see these national heritage areas as being designed particularly for those, and if at this great age I may speak for them I should welcome the opportunity, were I younger or more energetic, of using them.

This is the first time I have had the privilege—which I treasure—of addressing your Lordships. May I conclude by encapsulating a piece of advice which might form the text of the educational system which was suggested earlier, the kind of education which is needed—let us admit it—for the person who is used only to the back streets of his town. I am told that at the entrance of an American park the advice given to visitors is: Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints; kill nothing but time". I think we could very well adopt that slogan in at least the inner areas of our National Parks.

5.8 p.m.


My Lords, I know that your Lordships will wish me to start by offering your Lordships' congratulations to the noble Lord. Lord Castle, not only for opening his score so early in his innings but also for making such an excellent speech. It is a great pleasure to do so. The noble Lord spoke from the heart, with great feeling and from great experience. I am sure that your Lordships will wish to hear much more from him in the future. In fact, I hope it would not be too audacious of me to suggest that with further experience of your Lordships' House the noble Lord may even succeed in out-shining in oratory at least, his distinguished partner in life. I should like to join in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady White, for so felicitously opening this important debate, and also to thank my noble friend Lord Sandford for the really admirable Report which he and his excellent Committee have assembled. If I may criticise a few of the points in it, I hope that the noble Lord will realise any such criticisms are intended to be entirely constructive because I am as enthusiastic as anybody about the Countryside Commission, the National Parks and the work that they do.

In view of the importance of the Forestry Commision in the National Parks, I think it is unfortunate that we cannot hear more from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe—more, that is, than the intervention that he was able to make recently—because there is probably nobody who has more experience of the work of the Forestry Commission. He has been not only an outstanding chairman of the Forestry Commission but also a really doughty champion of forestry as a whole. Under his leadership the Forestry Commission have gained so much more stature, especially with their recent changes of policy; and I know that the noble Lord realises as well as anyone that trees and forestry are not only a renewable raw material resource of vast national importance but also a vital constituent part of our environment and landscape.

Your Lordships may well wonder what qualifications I have to tend criticism and advice on this subject. The answer can only be that it is mainly my own experience over the last 28 years in allied fields, and particularly in areas of great landscape value; and also perhaps the presidency, chairmanship and membership of various organisations connected with land use, land ownership, farming, forestry and allied subjects. Not long after the last war I was fortunate enough to inherit two large agricultural properties, inevitably somewhat run-down and with the woodlands ravaged by wartime fellings; and also a mature Capability Browne landscape of open parkland and ornamental woodlands. I was convinced early on that integrated land use (even if possibly I did not call it by that name at that time) must be the key to reconstruction, and that good ecological practice should supply the guidelines. I was concerned also with the apparent conflict between commercial and amenity forestry, between conifers and broad-leaved trees, between mono-culture and mixtures.

I believed then and I believe now that, with give and take, there is no need for such conflict. Comparison is often made between mature broad-leaved trees and broad-leaved stands, and young coniferous plantations, with their inevitable uniformity. In other countries conifers have general acceptance, especially, I think, in the National Parks; and I would instance here Switzerland, the United States and Canada, where they are immensely admired for their grandeur and their contribution to the scene. Where our early coniferous plantations have grown up and approached maturity, they seem to have gained general acceptance. The Forestry Commission have opened scenic forest drives and scenic routes through coniferous forests, and these have become immensely popular, as have nature and forest trails, also mainly through conifer woods. On a recent tour, too, my Lords, as a member of the National Committee for England, I went through a great deal of the large Border forests in the Kielder area, where the contribution of the entirely coniferous planting to the scene is quite apparent. I understand that so much are the trees there now appreciated that there is a very real concern that they may eventually have to be felled, and in fact there is quite a tendency to form a local conifer protection society.

It was borne in on me long ago that what the great British public dislikes is change. People are conservative (with a small "c") in outlook, if not always in politics. Many tend to regard the landscape as a kind of static backcloth or a permanent, unchanging tribute to Capability Browne. But, my Lords, the landscape is a living, dynamic and ever-changing setting for our lives and activities. Even trees cannot stand for ever. I came to believe, therefore, that what people really disliked was sudden change—the impact of a large clear-felled area, with its scene of desolation and devastation, followed by its blanket replanting. I could not understand why such a system was considered de rigueur in this country, whereas on the Continent there was a long tradition of uneven-aged selection forestry. I determined to try to evolve a system which would be suited to this country, especially the hillier areas, and I carried out some early experiments in Shropshire.

Some 15 years ago I was fortunate enough to acquire a large forestry area in the Tamar and Tavy Valleys in Devon and Cornwall, largely to save it from likely destruction. This is an area of steep valley sides, with high rainfall, much risk of erosion, heavy weed growth, late spring frost danger, and so on. Most of the area has now been converted to continuous-cover, multi-storey mixed forestry, with resulting advantages, I believe, not only in production but also to the land- scape and to wildlife. I do not think this is the place for me to go into too much detail, but I consider that such a system could well be suitable for some National Parks. Shortly after the war I was also fortunate to acquire a property in a beautiful part of the Scottish Highlands. There all the woodlands had been cut down, not leaving a tree standing, and with a small rundown hill farm. I determined to lay out the lowland part of the estate to the best advantage for the interaction of farming, forestry and landscaping. I now have there about 1,200 acres of thriving woodlands and a farm run on organic lines with 150 breeding cows. They are beef cows, and, of course, that makes me very interested in the debate on the Unstarred Question which is shortly to follow, especially as I have another beef farm in Australia. In my view, this made a vast improvement in what was already a beautiful but bare landscape.

I have also been carrying out experiments in the last 25 years in organic and biological husbandry in Shropshire and Staffordshire; and I have always held that agricultural practice took a wrong turn in following the beckoning finger of the scientists and chemists and in abandoning long-tried traditional practices—and I believe that many farmers and agricultural practitioners now hold the same view. I now have a 1,300-acre farm run entirely on organic and biological principles; and I believe that there may possibly be some scope for that within the National Parks, too. I must apologise, my Lords, for this rather long preamble, and for so much use of the first-person singular, but I believe it is necessary to show the possibility of avoiding the visual shock of clear-felling which I believe is the main objection to much of current forestry practice, and also to show that there are alternative ways to co-operate with Nature to achieve the best results.

I would turn now to specific points that I should like to make on the Report. I shall try to be as brief as possible. I think it is perhaps a pity that so little prominence has been given in the Report to Section 37 of the Countryside Act 1968, especially in Chapter 6 because in fact it appears merely in a footnote to page 25 of the Report. This section of the Countryside Act 1968 imposes on Ministers, on the Countryside Commission, on the National Environment Research Council and on local authorities the duty to have due regard to the needs of agriculture and forestry and the economic and social interests of rural areas. I suggest that this section is of far greater importance than has been made apparent in that part of the Report.

There is considerable mention in the Report of ecology and ecological practice and the noble Baroness, Lady White, has referred to the dilemma of the conflicting aims of the National Parks. I suggest that possibly ecology and ecological practice might provide the main guidelines for decisions on some of these conflicts, as well as the practice of conservation. There is no reference in the Report to the economic need for afforestation and for productive woodland man agement. The need for this has increased dramatically since the Committee carried out its work and it is mainly the uplands which can supply this. There is also considerable mention of bare grazing grounds in the National Parks and I suggest here that these bare grazing grounds are of recent origin and are mainly manmade. Within recent history, a great part of these areas was covered with natural forests, mainly of birch and pine, and I believe that "England's mountains green" were in ancient times mainly forest covered. So, the so-called afforestation is in many cases just bringing back the original tree cover.

I believe, too, that there is less mention than there should be of recreation in forests. There are many advantages in recreation in a forest setting, whether the forest be hardwood or coniferous, and the Forestry Commission have given excellent examples of the possibilities and are doing very good work on these lines. I believe, too, that there is not sufficient recognition in the Report of the fact that forestry practice has moved with the times. Plantations from the early pit-prop era—if I may call it that—which was itself the result of Government policy, are so often compared with mature hardwoods. The Forestry Commission have for some time now employed a very distinguished landscape consultant and I am sure that they would be the first to agree that mistakes were made in the early years but that the opportunity is being taken in every case to make up for those mistakes.

I should like now to turn to the question of the voluntary agreements in the National Parks. There are now agreements in operation in all National Parks except the Yorkshire Dales and an agreement in Northumberland was signed recently. I think that this is significant in itself and shows the value which is generally attached to these voluntary agreements. I understand from the Forestry Commission—


My Lords, would the noble Earl allow me to interrupt him? I do not think that that is quite correct. The Lake District, the North Yorkshire Moors and the Peak District do not rely upon the voluntary agreements at all.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that information but I think that, in the cases where a voluntary agreement proper is not in operation, there is at least something very similar in the form of consultation and voluntary arrangements of some kind. I think one can call it a very similar animal to the voluntary agreement. I understand that there is no case known to the Forestry Commission where a voluntary agreement has been broken by the forestry interests, but I think it would be true to say that many of the critics—who are inclined to be rather vociferous—seem to consider that agreements have not worked if afforestation has not been stopped completely. The object of the agreements is of course control, and I maintain that that has been attained and that there is great local pride in making the agreements work. All evidence—if not necessarily opinion—points to them working well wherever there is a will to make them work.

I should like now to turn for a few moments to what I consider the rather contentious proposal for planning control on afforestation. If, as I maintain, the voluntary agreements do work, I suggest that such control is not necessary. The recommendation seems to stem from the assumption that the pattern of upland planting in the 1950s and early 1960s is being continued into the '70s. This I do not believe to be the case and present-day forestry is ecologically based and has full regard for proper land use and landscape requirement. I am told—and I think that this is significant—that the Countryside Commission for Scotland do not support this recommendation for planning control and are concerned that the present level of planting should continue or even expand. The Scottish Commission are also strong supporters of the National Forest parks, which are mainly in Scotland, where there are no National Parks, and which are created against a predominantly evergreen and therefore coniferous forest background.

We British foresters have been waitine for some time for a forest policy declaration from the Government. The last Government issued a statement in October. 1973, after the main part of this Report had been written. It is referred to in a footnote on page 65. If the present Government accept the principles then enunciated, their implementation, coupled with existing legislation and consultative practice would, I believe, give a degree of control over forestry both in the National Parks and elsewhere which should be acceptable to all interests. This recommendation for planning control really appears to have been based on the pattern of planting in the uplands of 25 years ago.

Recent planting by the Forestry Commission, investment companies or private owners has full regard for the landscape and amenity considerations, whereas one would agree that in the '50s many crimes against the landscape were committed, largely because of the need to grow pit props. I believe, too, that this recommendation is largely in contradiction with the contents of Chapter 18, which provided for consultation and co-operation in every field.

There is also a minority recommendation that all silvicultural operations should be subject to planning control but this was not accepted by sufficient members of the Committee, including Lord Sandford. This would so affect forest management as to lead to direct control of silviculture under the provisions of the Countryside Act, but I believe that silviculture by committee is totally impracticable. If accepted, this recommendation would, I believe, also challenge the integrity of the Forestry Commission and of private owners of woodland in carrying out all the consultation procedures and directives concerning the amenity aspects of forestry.

Timber, my Lords, is a crop, although one which occupies the ground for a very long time. I think it is arguable that ploughing heather ground and reseeding is just as much of an intrusion upon the landscape. The Report refers to the good control attained under dedication, but there is very little difference between dedicated and other woodlands so far as felling and replanting are concerned. In all cases, control is exercised by the Forestry Commission, who are, after all, the acknowledged experts, and they consult the planning authorities whenever and wherever necessary. There is a section on broadleaved and small woodlands, and the suggestion that the purchase and management of a proportion of these by Park authorities should be achieved. I can only agree that this would seem to be a very good thing, and it has already been done in some Parks. It should help to demonstrate the cost of the skilled management required. The main solution for the remainder would seem to be adequate grant aid.

But the problem of growing hardwoods in the National Parks is one of ecology as well as one of finance. It is misleading to equate, as is implied in the Report, the New Forest with National Parks in the uplands where it will often be the case that conifers being suited to the site will give greater grandeur to the scene than unthrifty hardwoods. Experienced foresters could not accept the assumption which permeates this Report, as well as the thinking of some planning officers and others, that the growing of conifers is necessarily damaging to the landscape in either the uplands or the lowlands of Britain. How both conifers and hardwoods are managed is important, but the landscape benefits from the presence of trees and woods and forestry, especially of the sylviculture and management take local factors of soil, climate and topography into consideration.

The final paragraph of Chapter 10 is also to be welcomed. This envisages consultation with private owners. This is surely desirable and much more likely to be useful and productive than the possibly dead hand of planning control. Consultation and co-operation should, I believe, be the keynote. Negotiations with woodland owners regarding the conservation of the character of their woodlands in the National Parks is cer- tain to be a great deal more productive than control by restrictive legislation under the planning Acts.

5.32 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps I might presume to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Castle, on his magnificent maiden speech. I am sure that all of your Lordships enjoyed it as much as I did. We can only wish that his powerful voice will still be heard as much on the empty spaces of the Pennine Way as on the empty Benches on the Government side this afternoon. As we have discussed some of the founder members of the Park movement. I should also like to say how nice it is that Mrs. Dower, widow of John Dower who was one of the founders of the National Park movement, should be able to listen to our debate today. The next thing I must do is thank the noble Baroness, Lady White, for introducing this debate and for the excellent speech which she made at the start of the proceedings. Last but not least, may I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and his colleagues on the most excellent Report which they have produced? I think I am right in saying that it is the most readable report that the Stationery Office has ever published. The noble Lord deserves congratulations for that alone. But also he has now, for the first time, put the word, "loo" into official documents, which means that it is no longer likely to be acceptable outside official circles. I may be wrong in this, but he has broken new ground and may go down in history in some respects at least.

The most important conclusion which the Report reached is that there is a basic conflict between conservation, agriculture, and tourism. This is the conflict which has arisen as the National Parks have developed and as their use has grown. The Report makes it abundantly clear, as your Lordships all know, that conservation must take precedence in this triangular conflict and it is right that this should be so. We must not forget that we have only 10 National Parks in this country—seven in England and three in Wales—and there are 58 million people in this island, so that the number of people per Park is quite substantial. Indeed, it is no mean achievement that the National Parks as a whole, and the movement for country parks as well, have so far been able to absorb all the people who wanted to visit them. It is not a bad thing to be able to say that the system has worked and that people have been able to visit these Parks in such numbers and will continue, one hopes, to do so. But of course this visiting is confined to a very short season, mostly the summer months.

If your Lordships will turn to photograph No. 1 of Little Langdale on a Bank Holiday, it is perhaps indicative. I myself travelled that road in April and never saw more than one other car. That is the measure of the problem. While I am on the subject of photographs, we should perhaps congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. In the acknowledgements for the photographs at the beginning, the Report in its thoroughness informs us that a Mr. Berry charges £3 for the reproduction of these photographs. I hope that the noble Lord will let me know whether he got his £3 for allowing this excellent photograph to be reproduced.

One must next look at the eternal conflict between agriculture and conservation. It is never possible to do more than see that this conflict does not get worse. There has been a lot of talk this afternoon about the management agreements and, of course, this is an excellent concept which we must all without argument try to foster. But one must sound one note of warning. It could be a very expensive bill to the Park authorities if they were involved on any substantial scale in this management agreement on agriculture. Most people think that the bracken in autumn is a lovely colour, is part of our national landscape and therefore should be preserved because of its beauty. The same can be said of heather at other times of the year.

If we are to prevent farmers on a large scale from improving the grazing of heather or to eradicate bracken which is agriculturaly quite sterile, and which will very soon be easily possible, then we shall let ourselves in for a very big annual commitment. Every farmer will be justified in thinking, "If I do not spray this bracken for the next ten years, then the State or local authority will pay me so much per annum not to do so." This may be a big open-ended cheque. The future lies not only in looking at this matter experimentally and seeing how we can get something done to the more important parts of a Park, but in realising that we cannot do it on any large scale at the moment. We cannot afford it. The future presure on the Parks must be taken much more by country parks and other similar places, which are also part of the report, and I hope that this can be done.

I would venture to suggest, perhaps unkindly as our noble Scottish colleagues are no longer here today, that Scotland could take off a great deal more of the pressure from the National Parks of England and Wales. It has marvellous scenery, and I hope Scotland will not be far behind England and Wales in setting up proper National Parks on the basis that we have in England. I may be wrong, but I think I am right in thinking that Scotland is the only country in Europe without National Parks. If the noble Scottish Lords descend on me tomorrow when they come back from Edinburgh I will stand corrected on that: but I think I am right.

We have the important realisation in this Report that the existence of the demand to visit the Parks does not automatically carry with it the right that that demand should be met. If we go to the theatre and find it is full up we realise that we cannot get in. We also realise if we go to the theatre that we have to pay substantially for a ticket. But if we go to a National Park it is supposed to be free, and quite rightly so. But one must recognise that this free access to everywhere is no longer always a possibility in every Park, on every day. The experiment with the traffic-free valleys has been referred to. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, was not quite correct. There are other valleys where this has been done, because it is the motorcar which is damaging our National Parks and not so much the human being. This is the line we shall have to take for further progress.

I should now like to turn to the administration of National Parks, which has been raised more than once this afternoon. We all fought this battle in our various directions during the 1972 Local Government Act debates, and in a way I am sorry that it has to be raised again today. It seems to me that local authorities are so eminently suitable as organisers of National Parks and other recreational facilities, partly because of their local involvement, but also—perhaps more importantly—because of their electoral responsibilities and sensitivity to the electors who very often live in the Parks and use them. I do not see where the argument comes from. A board such as the Peak and the Lake District have is superior. But I have never seen any argument to convince me that there is a case for turning all these Parks into machines run by boards like the Lake District one. I can find only one argument that seems to hold some water; that is, that in the past these boards have spent more money than the Parks administered by county councils in other parts of the country.

Is this really a good argument? Is it right to say that if you spend more money you will get a better pat on the back? Is this not one of the better ways of getting Government and local authority expenditure out of control, which we really do not want at the moment. Is it not better to try to find out, not what authorities have spent in the past but what are the needs, and try to get finance available for the needs which we know exist? I do not feel that it is either right or proper to make a judgment of the administration of a Park merely on the historic sums of money that have been spent. Who, in any case, is to say under what criterion we should judge the amount of money being spent? Is it per visitor per day? In that case, no one knows the figures. Is it per inhabitant of the Park? If so, the Lake District spends one-sixth of the sum which Northumberland spends on its Parks. Or is the acreage to be the criterion, in which case the figures bear no relation whatsoever to one another.

The administration is now settled and I hope that anything that may be said to-day will not mean to the minds of local authorities that it might all be changed. It has just been set up and I think it is going very well. The first important point on which I would ask the Government to give their views is this. I should like to know whether or not they agree with the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, that a review of the system should be carried out in five years' time. I think that is too short a time. I believe I am right in saying that all the county councils in- volved feel that the time should be at least seven years. After all, we do not expect to get the National Park plans, with all the consultations which are necessary, agreed one way or another in under three years, and to give only a further two years before threatening to put the whole system back into the melting pot seems to me to be wrong. The period of at least seven years to give people time to see where they are and not be threatened with another reorganisation, is preferable.

The idea of a National Park plan is, of course, a very good one and I welcome it. I hope, in pleading our personal views of the National Parks, that a new review of boundaries will be carried out as soon as possible. Since the boundaries were set up, a great many anomalies have arisen and it would be convenient to everybody if we were able to change the boundaries in some directions, inwards or outwards. But I do not wish to waste any more of your Lordships' time on that point this afternoon.

Next is the matter of finance and, in his absence, I have already apologised for interrupting the Government spokesman on this subject. I am still not clear what will happen and I do not believe that the county authorities are quite clear yet. But I suspect it will not be too long before we are told that 75 per cent. of an approved estimate will be found by the Government. There is still ambiguity on this matter which I trust will be cleared up. It is, of course, right that 75 per cent. should be paid by central Government. It represents a contribution which urban visitors to these Parks can make, a way in which through their taxes they can contribute to solving this problem.

I do not think it is fair to say, as the noble Baroness, Lady White, said, that certain National Park authorities seem to be using their grants towards the relief of rates in general. I should like her to substantiate this allegation, because I do not think it is justified. There may have been an occasional case or two when, in the estimate stages, some Parks were not at all sure what the system would be. If necessary, the Government will have to bear responsibility. I do not think it has happened, in practice, and I am pretty sure that it will not happen in future. The County Councils Association would not wish to see it happen, and it is most unlikely that it ever has happened. However, perhaps the point is not worth further discussion.

I am slightly distressed, because it appears that the test of a Park's performance is likely to be the indication of what is needed, rather than some attempts being made to assess the needs of Parks as a whole or individually. If we are to have a sort of competition between the National Park authorities to see who can spend the most, so that at such annual conferences as there may be some authorities are publicly praised for spending more than their neighbours, that will not be right. We have to assess the need, try to make a realistic long-term programme of what is needed, and get it done as quickly as possible. I do not like the idea of competition on this basis. The Parks authorities must know what they are likely to get over a period, and it is no good saying that the amount of money they will have to spend might be changed next year, which will make it impossible to plan ahead.

The Government have to keep control over local authority expenditure, and never more so than to-day, in the circumstances in which the country finds itself. But they must be prepared not only to provide the 75 per cent. grant, but also to make allocations for loan sanction so that local authorities have an availability of capital funds from which to borrow in order to do these tasks. At the moment, however ambitious the plans of local authorities with regard to their Parks and boundaries, it is not possible to get locally determined finance in the capital sector; and, again, if we are to be judged on the failure to provide nonexistent resources it will be wrong. Local authorities must have the finance and resources made available to them in order to borrow the money to pay their share, as many of the projects are capital ones.

The national interest demands that we spend much more money on National Parks. I am certain that local authorities throughout England and Wales are very much aware of their responsibilities, and will do all they can to carry them out. I have no fears whatever on that score. I think the national interest also shows that local government expenditure must be drastically reduced in the coming year or two, and we must realise that it may not be possible for local authorities with National Parks to do all that they wish. Local authorities are getting tired of being urged to do more and more of this and that, and then being denied the resources to do it. It really is not right.

I hope that I might, rather in defence of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, move briefly to the forestry angle which has been so ably spoken about by my noble friend, Lord Bradford. I am one who welcomed very much the proposal that planning permission be given for a fair amount of afforestation to be brought into use. This is something which in the North of England at least has been needed for a very long time, and although the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, might say that the voluntary agreement now covers this matter I think the damage was done long before the voluntary agreement came into being. It has always seemed to me absurd that the Forestry Commission have to apply for planning permission to put up a small garage behind one of their worker's cottages and yet they did not need planning permission or any other permission to cover many thousands of acres of hillside with alien coniferous trees. This seems to me to be a nonsense which I trust the Government will very soon put right. We are not really talking about afforestation all over the country, merely in National Parks, but I suggest large scale afforestation rather than small shelter belts and so forth.

My Lords, I apologise for speaking for so long on this subject but I hope that the country realises that local authorities are most anxious to do what is needed. The new Administration needs time to be proved and to get down to work, and I trust that the points which the debate has raised will be useful to the Government in coming to a conclusion on the excellent Report which we have all so much enjoyed reading.

5.49 p.m.


My Lords, I feel it an honour to follow the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, in this debate. I differ from much that he said, but I recognise his experience and his authority on this subject. With one item in his speech I was particularly interested, and that was when he suggested that new methods of dealing with the problems of heather and bracken on high lands might make a contribution to a solution of our agricultural problem. I intend to refer to that later in my speech. I do not wish to be discourteous to him, but if he can bear to listen to my earlier remarks I shall be referring later to what he said.

I should like to join with others of your Lordships in thanking my noble friend Lady White for having initiated this debate. She made a most impressive speech—not merely analysing the proceedings and recommendations of the Sandford Report, but giving informed criticism and constructive suggestions. Her speech has received from this House what it deserved—that is, serious consideration—and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will continue to look at it and at the proposals which she made. Also, I have great pleasure in paying tribute to the speech of my old friend the noble Lord, Lord Castle. It is the custom in this House, as a matter of courtesy, to pay tribute to maiden speeches. I think that on this occasion I am reflecting the opinion of all Members of your Lordships' House when I say that we have rarely heard a maiden speech of the quality which the noble Lord, Lord Castle, delivered today. We look forward to his future contributions to our debates with the certainty that they will be of great value.

Throughout this debate most of the speeches have been concerned with details of the administration of the National Parks, I do not propose to repeat them, particularly since the noble Lord, Lord Henley, expressed many of the points which I had in mind. But this fact enables me to deal with what seem to me to be the basic principles. The acceptance of the idea of National Parks means that Parliament has endorsed the right of the people to control the development of our landscape. National Parks have now been in operation for a quarter of a century, but never has this principle of the right of the community to control the land and its beauty been more important that it is at the present moment. The debate which we are now having is extraordinarily relevant, because of the great danger that the scenery of our country may be destroyed by industrial development, particularly by the exploitation of oil resources in the North Sea which threaten the beauty of Scotland.

The National Parks have represented a contribution towards securing a balance between the value of the beauty of our country and its economic needs. They have been supplemented by the National Trust and, indeed, by the Commissions which in Scotland are now considering what should happen to these threatened spots. I think all of us should recognise that there must be some limitation to the claims of industrial development when beauty is involved. If, for example, a flow of oil were suddenly to occur under one of our Gothic cathedrals—perhaps the supreme illustration of the ability of man to achieve beauty—none of us would say that the need for oil was greater than the beauty of that cathedral. We have recently had a bomb explosion in the neighbourhood of Westminster Hall. But, again, no one would say that if oil were found beneath its stones the claim of that oil would be greater than the beauty of that Hall, which, in my view, is the finest in the whole of Europe.

If we recognise this limitation in the case of what man has done in the embodiment of beauty, ought we not also to recognise it in the beauty of nature? My noble friends the right reverend Prelates would say that the wonders of nature are a garden of God. Even those of us who are Humanists reverence that beauty—a heritage of centuries of nature with its seas and shores, its cliffs and hills, its valleys and lakes, trees and flowers, a heritage which is ours to pass on to future generations. That heritage is now threatened by the industrial expansion which is taking place. At this moment one of the most crucial issues we have to face is the balancing of our recognition of the beauty of our land with the urgency of economic needs.

Incidentally, I do not take the view that industrial expansion necessarily means the violation of beauty. I was deeply impressed, for example, on going into a nuclear power station in Bombay in India, by its beauty—not merely by its white cleanliness, but by the outline of the new electronic developments taking place. There is a power station in this country which has similar beauty in its outline and which is no affront to the environment in which it exists. I have seen in Asia and Africa great irrigation dams, such as the Volta project in Ghana harmonising with great rocky cliffs and a great dam in India with water overflowing the mountains. They added to the beauty of nature. When we are considering these problems, we should bring into consultation some of the young architects and civil engineers of to-day, descendants of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who would contribute to a harmonising of industrial development and of natural beauty.

At present we have some Commissions which are considering the effect of the oil discoveries in the North Sea on the beauty spots in Scotland. I want to suggest to Her Majesty's Government—and I hope a note will be taken of my remarks in the absence of the Minister—that the Department of the Environment should establish a Working Committee which should have terms of reference beyond those of the present Commissions. The Working Committee should include representatives of those responsible for the administration of the National Parks and the National Trust, as well as scientific agriculturalists, architects and engineers who would be able to survey this whole problem of industrialisation and natural beauty. Its terms of reference should include consideration of whether the ugliness which results from industrial development in the production of greater energy might be avoided in other directions. If we spent as much in research on the power of energy which lies in the rays of the sun, in the movement of the tides, in water in the rivers and even in air and the winds, as we are now spending upon oil production from the North Sea, I believe we could find energy resources which would be just as powerful and which would not involve the destruction of our countryside, as our present methods do.

Secondly, in the absence of the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, who referred to this subject, I want to emphasise the importance of the new experiments which are being made in grass culture, turning moors and hills now covered with heather and bracken into fertile land. He referred to the cost of this. I suggest that, thinking in terms of industry and nature, a deep investigation of this new experiment, which may change the whole production of agriculture, should be considered by the Working Committee which I have proposed. Thirdly, I suggest that the Working Committee should make a survey to designate natural reserves which may be saved from desecration by industrial ugliness.

I want to say a few words on that. My noble friend Lady White referred in her opening speech to the suggestion that Purbeck Island in Dorset should be designated a National Park. That area includes the indescribably beautiful Tyne-ham Valley which has been under Army control ever since the last War. The Nugent Commission has recommended that the Army occupation should end and I hope that recommendation will be accepted. But the problem then arises as to what will happen to the area. I am not claiming that within Purbeck Island and the Tyneham Valley we have the highest expressions of beauty in this land, but I am claiming that there is nowhere else in the United Kingdom where there is such a harmony of all the beauty that is there: that seafront, those marvellous cliffs, those flowing hills, that mystic Egdon Heath of Thomas Hardy. That heath unhappily has already been desecrated by industrial development, a clay pit a quarter of a mile in extent, 80ft. in depth. The whole area should be made a natural reserve; it should be made a National Park. It should be under the National Trust so that its beauty may be maintained for ever.

It is not only its beauty, but its ecological value which is important. On the cliffs one sees strains of sands of different colours. I have seen that before only in a very limited area on the Isle of Wight. The ecological value will be known to all geologists. There is also the archaeological value. On Thomas Hardy's Egdon Heath there are burial grounds of before the time of the Roman invasion; unfortunately, some of them have been destroyed by artillery engagement during the Army occupation. I am not asking this House to take special action about that area; many other areas in Britain deserve the same consideration. What I am asking is that, as a result of this debate about National Parks and the necessity of maintaining the beauty of our country—of Scotland. Wales and England—this England !—we should find a solution by which the loveliness of our countryside may be saved from destruction by the ugliness of industrial development.

6.10 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to welcome this Report of the National Park Committee and offer my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and to the members of the Committee for the great trouble they took to obtain all the views of the people who are interested, because the result is that there is a great deal of good sense in the Report. Use by the public of the Parks must be either regardless of, or else in sympathy with, those who live there: and only the second provides a foundation of success. Therefore, perhaps the most important factor is that of agreements. The Report does well to suggest that voluntary agreements—and they must be totally voluntary—should be reached with landlords in the Park for providing access, footpaths and other amenities. However, the Authority must be prepared to tailor their agreements to fit the requirements of any individual and his particular circumstance, such as sheep farming, sporting, nesting seasons; and, by meeting the individual owners and their livelihoods, agreements are that much more likely to be reached. It is however counter-productive to talk about compulsorily purchasing land, as did the noble Baroness who opened the debate, as this just makes occupiers fearful of giving any access in case it is the thin end of the wedge. On the other hand, I would support her view that authorities should be provided with adequate funds so that they can buy on the open market any land which may be up for sale for making into access areas.

Planning control is suggested for forestry on bare land. Surely, there is a great difference between the plantation of 50 or fewer acres, planted for some good reason, and the area of 10,000 acres which covers hill and dale continuously and which might be a matter for planning control. Let it be fully realised that, while the 10,000 acres may get many objectors to planting, once it has grown up and provided a well-known landscape for visitors there will be an equal, if not a greater, outcry when it comes to cutting it down. A good example of that is sited near Scarborough where the Forestry Commission have enormous acreages of timber, and they attract far more visitors and provide a far more satisfactory day out than does the surrounding open bare land. Therefore, there is little point in the first place in making it subject to planning control. It is certainly wrong to insist on control of the felling of blocks, as forestry must continue its cycle of grow and fell in order for the area to look alive, and for the investment, management and employment to be justified and maintained. As there is much prejudice for and against softwood plantations, it is inappropriate to give the decision of forestry to a planning committee rather than to the owner who lives on the land. It would be useless for a planning committee to insist on the status quo or, having admired the beeches on the Cotswolds, to insist on beeches on the moorland sites, as certainly would tend to happen.

Trees are essentially a crop, as was recognised by the various members of the review committee, and to regard them otherwise would be a temptation to try to produce an unnatural scene. Only certain species are suitable for certain land. Landscapes, like architecture, must progress. No one wants to see everlasting copies of "Ye Oldie architecture ", nor, for that matter, even of Georgian architecture. Buildings must change and modernise and the eye becomes accustomed to new shapes. So must land change to meet modern needs. We see similarly the fight against the removal of hedgerows. Yet only a hundred years ago, or perhaps two hundred, there was an outcry when they were all planted. The compromise would be for the Forestry Commission to control forestry in the Parks, and for the Forestry Commission to have regard in doing so to visual amenity. But even this would be unnecessary bureaucracy and just cause much paper-work and wasted time for no good result. After all, almost all foresters are very alive to the appearance and amenity value of their forests, and private forestry. A good example of this is in Dumfriesshire, where the Economic Forestry Group of Private Owners have planted large acreages having great regard to wildlife and amenity, and the whole scene is vastly improved and more interesting without any compulsory planning at all.

I should like to support the excellent references to footpaths in Chapter 16, where the rationalisation includes the formation of new footpaths and the closure of old ones which often create great annoyance to the land users and give little or no benefit to the visiting public. The new plastic footpath signs now nailed to gateposts are excellent. They are clearly visible, and are cheap and easily set up. Often these marked paths continue and cross over other paths which are not public and there are no signs to say that they are not public paths, so the walker strays on to a private path. If the Authority set the public off along a public path, they must also set up, "No footpath" signs to keep the walkers to the public way. They must also be prepared to pay for the cost of the maintenance of stiles and bridges and to compensate for loss of value through use by the public; for example, where a field cannot be used for a Buckler herd with a bull for fear of damage to the public by the bull. Also, there is the question of damage by neglect or carelessness or downright vandalism in the case of moors and forests being set on fire by the public and buildings being vandalised and gates left open. As it is impossible to catch the culprit, whether the act is by mistake or malice, the Authority must be prepared to compensate the owner for damage by the public on a public footpath and, if necessary, take out insurance policies to cover claims.

One of the reasons why the public are not welcome on private footpaths is that time and use may then make a footpath public. Therefore, there is need for a new category of paths, clearly marked to indicate that this is a private path, one may walk along it by permission of the owner of the land but without any right to be there, and if one's dog chases sheep or the owner wants to put a bull in the field for a year or two then he may close it for as long as he wishes. If this category were to be introduced, I believe that many new paths would soon be opened and made available to the public.

One matter not mentioned in the Report is low flying Royal Air Force aeroplanes. One recognises, as one must, the necessity of training in low-flying, and the uplands is probably the best place for this. But where these 'planes continue on and fly low over adjacent vil- lages, as they do, it become an intolerable nuisance and a severe danger to riders and drivers of cars taken by surprise. If one complains, one is told that one should take the number of the aircraft, but this is slightly impracticable if one cannot run fast enough to catch up to note the number. One is told that they could come from Germany or any other station, and so responsibility is denied. If the R.A.F. do not know which of their aircraft flew low at a certain time over a certain place, how do they know it was not a Russian aeroplane on a spy mission? It is necessary that where a complaint is lodged, with time and place, the R.A.F. should be able to find out who is the offender, and should be able to ensure that, if the complaint is justified, it does not happen again—and again—and again—as it does. On the other hand, it would be a great pity to deny use of the hills to Defence, because we must have a strong defence, and it would be a great pity to drive them off completely.

It would also be a great pity to drive off the water-skiers and the motor-cyclists as was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. Both are an awful nuisance, but there is a great demand and one must provide areas where people may carry on these noxious sports and then one can reasonably keep them off the rest of the Parks.


My Lords, I hope I did not say—and if I did I should like to correct it—that they must not be provided for. Of course they must. What I am saying is they should not be provided for in National Parks.


My Lords, the future of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park depends on the survival of sheep farming. It is only if the sheep survive that farmers will continue to burn the heather, and it is only this which produces the moors as we know them with that sheet of colour stretching to the horizons from young heather in August. There is no central record of the losses of sheep and lambs killed on moorland roads, but one association alone in North Yorkshire moors has recorded among its members the death of 500 sheep in 1973. This is an intolerable number and many farmers cannot bear losses of this nature. On Danby West Side in 1962 there were nine flocks. This year there is one. There were six flocks on Danby End in 1962; now there are four. There were 22 flocks at Goathland in 1962: now there are 15. There were five flocks at Westerdale in 1962; now there are two. This pattern is repeated throughout the moorland.

There is no need to stress the devastating social consequence which will follow if moors can no longer carry sheep. Not only will the ecology change beyond recognition so that the moors cease to be the place that we know and love, but the social pattern in the Upland Dales will alter, with the farms amalgamated into units large enough to survive on inland farming. It is essential, therefore, that the authorities should provide and pay for the fencing-off of the sheep from the main roads.

My Lords, I have already welcomed the Report and I hope that much of it will be implemented. If as much care is taken in its implementation to take into account the views of the interested parties as was taken in the preparation of the Report, I think that we may look forward to a period when the occupiers of the Park will be pleased and the public that much more welcomed and accommodated.

6.22 p.m.


My Lords, at this late stage in the debate I shall try to be very short. If any excuse is necessary for intervening at all, my claim is that I am one of the few survivors of the Select Committee in another place which considered the 1949 Bill and that I have had a continuing interest ever since.

I want to refer principally to one problem, forestry and tourism where weight and numbers are of concern. In fact, these are two problems but I want to bracket them together and claim that the first can help the second. In this country there is a continuing prejudice against forestry, especially against conifers. There is also a rather curious mystique about broad-leaved trees which is frequently not justified and, strange to say, there is all too little interest and appreciation of the beauty of mixed woods in the English countryside and of their value in absorbing tourists.

When we consider this problem, it is relevant to look at Germany—not just their national parks, which are somewhat different from ours, but their countryside generally—and to see how they have coped. The twin of my county of Cumberland in Germany is an area just to the East of the Ruhr, the Rhein Bergischer Kreis, which shows a number of very interesting features It is only one-third the size of Cumberland but it has the same population. Its great difference is that 37 per cent. of its surface area is covered with forest, mostly mixed woods. Much new development is absorbed without any criticism of any kind.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, is no longer in his place, because he was talking of the threat of industrial development. In this area, development of various kinds takes place and attracts far less criticism than similar work in this country. Vast numbers of visitors are absorbed every weekend and they are most inconspicuous. They follow the paths otherwise, they rarely penetrate more than 200 yards from the roads. There are ample parking places and arrangements are made for them on the edge of these very large woods.

I am not advocating planting up all our open areas, but I am claiming that there is scope for more planting in many districts, not just for timber production but also in order to absorb visitors happily. Having said that, I would ask the House to beware of the too facile claims for extending planning control which are echoed in this Report. Planning authorities and officials are not unlike many others; they like extending their empires. Admittedly, that is a field which has to be reviewed from time to time, but a lack of forestry knowledge at this present time among planning authorities is something which is frightening. I see that the noble Earl, Lord Bradford, is nodding and that confirms that what I have said is true.

Finally, and sadly, I am going to say that we must judge the Department of the Environment not just by its words and its reports, but by its deeds. Admittedly, this Department is often under heavy pressure. The noble Baroness, Lady White, has already referred to an inquiry into proposals for building a certain road through the Lake District which was highly controversial. In explanation, may I say that I never objected to improving this road and that I thought the line was the right line. However, like many others, I was horrified at the scale of works proposed, and not least the Keswick by-pass with its very high viaduct which is now being built.

In the inquiry the Department of the Environment carried the guns. The Countryside Commission, the Lakes Planning Board and the amenity societies lost this day, as they would undoubtedly lose similar battles. But if the will is there, which I doubt, it is still not too late to amend the details of this scheme. The principle is accepted, but I would say that the details ought to be amended in order to mitigate the damage which is being done. Again, I have little doubt that in similar circumstances and under the same pressures the Department of the Environment would win again and something of great beauty to us could be lost each time. This seems to be the very opposite of the purposes for which our National Parks have been set up. Therefore, it is not only industry but the Departments of central Government which must be watched and judged by their deeds.

6.28 p.m.


My Lords, this takes me back to my cricketing days when I was batting at No. 11, which seemed to me to be my usual place. Like two No. 11 batsmen, I shall have a fairly brief and, I hope, interesting innings knocking a few halls over the boundary before being caught at deep square leg.

May I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady White, for instigating this most interesting debate and also for the quality of her speech and the interest which she has shown. Also may I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, for his speech. If I may comment on one point, he mentioned the question of educating people about National Parks. I think that he was referring to the next 20 years. A purely practical and sensible way to deal with this is to educate future teachers. It is not so much a question of going round the schools but rather going to the teacher training colleges and universities and teaching those who are coming into teaching themselves about the National Parks so that they in turn will be able to teach children.

May I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Castle, on his maiden spech. When he came in I made the score 116 for four—four speakers down and 116 minutes covered—which is not a good position to make your maiden "batting performance". I have great sympathy for the noble Lord. I am sure that he is referred to as "Mrs. Castle's husband". I am "a male chauvinist pig" and I object always to being called "Lady Masham's husband". Therefore, I sympathise with him upon that. I am glad to see the noble Lord in your Lordships' House. May I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, upon his Report. I was one of those who gave evidence in front of him, and I should like to thank him for the sympathetic way in which he listened to the evidence. It must have been a most tiring procedure. I am certain that he heard the same arguments over and over again throughout the country, yet he listened with tact and understanding. I am not saying this to him just because he gave me lunch afterwards, but because I know how much the people in my part of the country appreciated the kindness with which he and the Committee listened to people and heard their grumbles and complaints.

Your Lordships are lucky to have the Sandford Report. I speak as a member of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. I was a member of the old North Riding Yorkshire Dales National Parks Committee for 13 years and was on the joint committee which took place with the West Riding. I am now on the new North Yorkshire Dales Committee. I understand from our planning officer that members of our committee have not been able to obtain the Sandford Report. I do not know whether that is because it is out of print, or because all copies have been sold, or perhaps because there have been troubles with the Post Office, but I know that they are worried. A few members who attended the recent National Parks planning conference managed to obtain copies of the Report there, but the bulk of members of our committee have not received it.

I understood from the chairman of our committee that he had received a letter from the Department of the Environment asking him to report back the Committee's observations on this Report by July 20, but the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, said in his speech in fact the date is July 31. I am not sure which is the correct date, but whichever it is I wonder whether I could put in a plea for an extension. I do not know whether other National Park Committees are in the same difficulty as we are but this is such an important and vital matter that we should like to ask for time to consider it and I hope it will not be long before we get enough copies of the Report to go round. After all, so much depends on the Sandford Report and it is so full of meat that it is something all of us should consider.

As noble Lords have said, there are numerous things which could be done without legislation and there are various things which need new legislation. Like many noble Lords I welcome the emphasis on conservation and enhancement. We have problems in our National Park with large limestone mines making an awful mess of the Park and we are also having trouble with campers and caravans, and I am sure we should welcome legislation to make our job easier so far as these things are concerned.

The noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, said, "Give us time": I would echo that. In our National Park—and again I cannot speak for others—we have had immense difficulties over local government reorganisation. We still have not got our chief officers housed in accommodation that we consider desirable for them. Staffing in the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors is at the moment at 50 per cent. There are not enough planners to go round and we have had immense difficulty in getting suitable planners. We have to submit our plan by April 1, 1977, and because of the difficulties in regard to staff and office accommodation we missed out on this summer. We were hoping to do surveys, make census reports, and that sort of thing. The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, expressed confidence in local authorities to do the job; I am sure we shall be able to do it, but do give us time and help us. We have had our difficulties. Many of us are new in these Committees and when we get things like the Sandford Report to study there is a lot on our plate.

I have been very brief; I am aware of the time, and also as a batsman I have a chance of a second innings because I am speaking on the Unstarred Question on the financial situation concerning cattle breeders. Not much has been said about farming in this debate but I am afraid that I take strong exception to what the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said, that farming must take second place in the National Parks.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl for a moment? I think he has probably misunderstood what I was trying to say. Sometimes there are areas where the pressure of the public is so great that farming will have to take second place, and what I said was that that must be paid for out of the public purse because it would be quite unreasonable if the profitability of farming had to be diminished by access agreement or management agreement. I am most anxious that such payment should not fall upon the occupier.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for saying that. I am sure he will agree that it is farming which has made the National Parks largely what they are—a history of excellent farming over generations—and I hope the Government will help towards the breeding of livestock and will also help the sheep farmers, as we heard from my noble friend Lord Gisborough in his excellent speech which was very much to the point. So I hope that farming policy will be considered very strongly when it comes to dealing with the National Parks.

6.34 p.m.


My Lords, at the outset may I express apologies on behalf of my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts. He had intended to be here throughout this debate and certainly at its conclusion, but he has been called upon at short notice to fly to the Argentine this evening to represent Her Majesty's Government at the funeral of the late Head of State of that country.

Everyone who has spoken this afternoon has expressed gratitude to my noble friend Lady White, and I certainly join in the expressions of gratitude to her for giving us this opportunity to discuss the problems of our National Parks and other designated areas. The timing is most opportune. When she began, she expressed regret that if the day had been other than to-day there might have been other speakers. I have a feeling that we have lost nothing in quality and I think the shorter list of speakers has perhaps encouraged one or two people to speak for rather longer than they might otherwise have done. I said that the timing was opportune because we have before us the excellent Report of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and his Committee, on which the Government are seeking the views of all interested organisations by July 31.

Before I go further, may I say in reply to the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, that I have taken note of the difficulties that have been experienced in Yorkshire and I will see whether anything can be done about them. Certainly urgent attention will he given to the difficulty he has experienced in securing copies of the Report. I do not know whether it will be possible to extend the date, but clearly if this difficulty has arisen on any scale at all it is a situation that will certainly have to be looked at. But I can assure the House that when the views that we receive from all the organisations are collated, the views which have been expressed in this debate will also be taken fully into account. I am sure that everyone who has spoken, or indeed listened to this debate will appreciate that it is impossible for decisions to be taken on that Report until we have received the views of those whom we are consulting.

As we have heard already, the new National Park Authorities have just taken office and the new grant arrangements have just come into force. Although I do not wish to prejudge the decisions that we shall be taking on the Sandford Report, I have considerable sympathy with the view expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, that there should be no automatic review of the administrative arrangements in the National Parks every five years. I think he mentioned that seven years might be a better period. The system now in force was the result of a firm agreement between the Countryside Commission and the County Councils Association and it is certainly my own personal view that five years is too short a period for it to prove its worth.

I was glad to see that the Sandford Committee had stressed the importance of recognising the needs and aspirations of those who live and work in the National Parks. If I may say so, this has always been my view of these beautiful areas of countryside. By all means let us provide the facilities for those who wish to enjoy the beauty, for they are indeed a national asset, but at the same time let us also remember that they are areas with their own individual character and history which is reflected in what we see to-day; and their character will surely be better preserved by thriving local communities than by actions which set no store on the life of the area and end by destroying it.

A number of points have been raised and I will do my best, as quickly as I can, to deal with as many as possible. First, may I say that the House obviously greatly enjoyed the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Castle. I, too, congratulate him on a thoughtful, interesting and informed speech. I personally appreciated his reference to Hugh Dalton for I also recall Dr. Dalton's leadership at Labour Party conferences in regard to the appreciation of our national heritage of natural beauty. He did much to stimulate a great many people to join in the task of preserving what was best, and what still remains best, in that national heritage, and in securing its opening up for the enrichment of the lives of our people.

My noble friend Lady White has asked whether the ending of specific grants for countryside projects is likely to have a serious effect on the progress in establishing country parks. We are most anxious that this progress shall be maintained and accelerated. To this end, the Countryside Commission have this year been allocated nearly £500,000 for making grants and loans as a transitional arrangement. My noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts touched on this. The Countryside Commission have recently issued a Memorandum of Guidance, setting out the broad lines of policy they will follow in providing financial assistance to local authorities and other public bodies. This Memorandum states that high priority will be given to assisting the provision of country parks in Green Belts and in buffer areas between centres of population and National Parks. The Commission have observed no decline in the number of proposals coming forward.

My Lords, my noble friend Lady White suggested in quite strong terms in her opening speech that the salary of the Brecon Beacons National Park officer was too low. I do not know that I ought to take up too much time on this point, but I should say right away that the post of National Park officer for the Brecon Beacons was originally advertised at a higher salary, subject to Pay Board approval. But in the event, the Pay Board found the level of salary proposed unacceptably high, and the salary range finally agreed was equivalent to 75 per cent. of the salary received by the Chief Executive of the Powys County Council. I cannot this evening comment on the findings of the Pay Board, but I would say that 60 per cent. of the area of the Park is in Powys, and the National Park officer is a direct employee of the county council. I gather that eight persons were short-listed for the job and six were interviewed. The person appointed has considerable experience of management and conservation in the Brecon Beacons National Park, and in the Welsh countryside generally. I think the House will be reassured to know that the Countryside Commission, who were consulted in accordance with the statutory obligation laid down in the Local Government Act 1972, have no criticism to make of the appointment.


My Lords, I am so sorry to take time over this matter, but it is important in Wales. Of course I have the highest regard for the gentleman ultimately appointed. The fact that he is paid less than any other National Park officer in the country concerns me, but I tried to make it plain in my speech that it is because the general level of salaries in Powys is so low that one cannot pay him a decent salary.


My Lords, I cannot do anything about the general level of salaries. I understand this young man is very able and I should think he is also probably very ambitious. I should not be at all surprised if he does not feel the call to move on to other areas.




My Lords, it seems to me that it is up to the people locally to do something about that situation. The noble Earl, Lord Bradford, pressed the view that there should be no planning control over afforestation. The arguments he used did not relate to National Parks. The Government are well aware how strongly these opinions are held in the Forestry Service. I can assure the noble Earl that these opinions have been fully taken into account in the discussions that have taken place on forestry policy, and the Government announcement will be made very shortly. I was very touched when the noble Earl spoke of the lovely Tamar and Teign valleys. They are beautiful areas in the West Country, and the noble Earl must be feeling very proud that he has played a part, not only in the preservation but also the improvement of those very delightful spots.

My Lords, may I touch on one or two other financial matters which have been raised by a number of your Lordships. The question of local authority contributions was touched on by the noble Baroness, Lady White, and the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley. This matter was partly dealt within the speech already made by my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts. The answer is that local authorities cannot be forced to spend local resources on National Parks. I am replying here to a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. Local authorities have been told quite firmly that if they do not spend, this will be taken into account when grants for future years are determined. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, inquired as to how the additional grant of £500,000 was to be made available to the Nature Conservancy Council, compared with the sum already allocated to that Council. I have the feeling that he was probably being a little over generous in his assessment as to what the figure of £500,000 means. The original grant to the Council for 1974–75 was £2.7 million, but it was recognised that this included nothing for the acquisition of land. The additional £500,000 will be used essentially for the acquisition of land for new reserves.

In his speech at the beginning of the the debate, my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts dealt with the immediate problem of the concern as it has been expressed this afternoon. The share of local government in meeting National Park expenditure in the current financial year is, for economic reasons, as the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, said, the restraint in the growth of local authority expenditure. It may be helpful if I touched on future expectations that is to say, when the restraint no longer applies. As my noble friend said, considerable advances in management and the provision of facilities in the National Parks are of vital importance both to preserve their special character and to enable them to be enjoyed to the full. I would underline what my noble friend said at the beginning and also the point I have just made. This obviously implies a readiness on the part of the local authorities concerned to increase their own contribution in conformity with the grants paid by Central Government. Before leaving this point, I understand that the Association of County Councils is in direct touch with the Department of the Environment. Correspondence is going on between them. I understand that a further letter will be sent to them tomorrow. If they are not satisfied, and if the noble Lord is not satisfied, perhaps they will let us know and we will pursue the matter to the point where there is no possibility of misunderstanding.


My Lords, I am sure the Association of County Councils will be glad to hear that.


My Lords, I felt the House itself would be assured to know that that contact exists. The Department is glad to have this contact, and we hope we shall be able at least to reach complete understanding. I was extremely interested to hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, who speaks on this subject from a position of such authority. He is entitled to all the tributes which have been paid this afternoon to him and to his Committee. I have a feeling that the work he did as Chairman of this Committee is something of which he will always be proud, as the Sandford Report itself will be quoted for many years, if not decades, to come.

My noble friend Lord Castle touched on his friendship with Hugh Dalton and the influence of Hugh Dalton. I hope noble Lords will not feel that I am wanting to make a purely Party political point, but I would just say that I recall that it was a Labour Government in 1929 which set up the first Committee of Inquiry into National Parks. I personally have been proud that again in 1945 it was a Government that I supported which passed the National Parks Act, and I was proud that in 1968 it was again a Labour Government which enacted the Countryside Act. I am aware of the tremendous support that has been given by the Party opposite in putting these Acts into operation. I fully appreciate the enthusiasm with which the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, spoke of the part they have played. I think I have probably said as much as I can on the financial situation this afternoon.

I come now to the noble Lord, Lord Henley. He will not expect me to announce decisions as to what the Government have decided; clearly the moment is premature for that. But I would say that listening to him I felt myself in agreement with much that he said, and many of the ideas that he advanced we shall be very pleased indeed to study. I thought his was a very constructive, worth while and very helpful speech indeed.

My noble friend Lord Brockway waxed lyrical, in a way that I envy, about our national heritage. His colourful and imaginative language conjured up pictures of the loveliness of which so much has been said in the debate this afternoon. At the conclusion of his remarks he made a number of suggestions. Each of the suggestions that he has made will be studied very carefully indeed. The noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, drew attention to the reactions of the public to the changing scene of planned forestry and agricultural development. I thought he made his point extremely well, and it is one that we have to take into account. He touched on the question of hedgerows. All of us at one point were expressing appreciation of the beauty of our hedgerows. There are parts of the country now where they grow so high that it is impossible to see the scenery. I recall taking some of my family down to the West Country and I was telling them about the beautiful views they would be seeing as we were riding along, some of them over Exmoor. At one point my brother-in-law said: "I do not know about the beautiful views. We are seeing a lot of beautful hedges, but I cannot see through them." There is a point, I think, where some notice needs to be taken of the way these hedges are being allowed to run away and to cause what I can only regard as tree tunnels. It may be that something ought to be done about this.

I was extremely interested in what the noble Lord had to say about the Yorkshire Moors. I cannot touch on the question of providing fences, but there is a point clearly at which the public need to be educated to an understanding that if they are going to enjoy the beauty that is there, if they are going to enjoy the relative wildness that is there, they need to be extremely careful. I find great attraction in sheep running across the roadway, but of course that is where the danger lies. I think we should lose a very great deal if the sheep were not free as I think on Dartmoor and Exmoor we should lose a very great deal if the animals were fenced in. I put that aspect forward although clearly there is another side to the coin.

The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, spoke with commendable brevity. What he had to say will lose nothing in point and will be studied no less seriously than what any other Member has said in this Chamber this afternoon. He spoke with feeling, with clarity and with point. If my noble friend Lord Brockway was temporarily absent, and there were one or two references to noble Lords being absent, I think those of us who have sat here the whole afternoon—


My Lords, I was not being critical; I was simply a little disappointed.


My Lords, I was simply making the point, because I wanted to reply to criticisms made elsewhere, that those of us who have sat here all afternoon appreciate that when there is a chance to get out for a couple of minutes it is understandable that some Members do so. But I am quite sure that my noble friend Lord Brockway, having learned that he was referred to, if he did not hear what the noble Lord had to say, will read it when Hansard is published.

I think I have taken up the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, in regard to difficulties in getting the Report. I found what he had to say very lively and quite stimulating. I have spoken for longer than I intended to do. I have tried to meet the main points, as I have seen them, that have been made here this afternoon. I would say, in conclusion, that I feel we are making steady progress. There is much to do and the challenge has been clearly presented here this afternoon. The challenge has been presented indeed in the Report which the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and his Committee have presented for consideration, by the nation.

My noble friend Lady White ought to be feeling very pleased that the subject of debate this afternoon has drawn from your Lordships contributions of considerable merit. I am positive that the House will return again and again to the subject matter of the debate, and that what has been placed on Record here to-day will serve as something of a yardstick for measuring progress. If there is any point that I have not covered and that any noble Lord would like me to follow up, I shall indeed he glad to do so by way of correspondence.

6.58 p.m.


My Lords, as I was one of those guilty of making a rather long speech, I shall have to resist the temptation to reply to the debate, much as I should love to do so. There are so many points to which I should like to refer; but I recognise that it would be quite inappropriate since I have some sympathy for the breeders and fatteners of beef cattle who have been waiting patiently for quite some time. I should only like to reiterate the very sincere congratulations offered from all parts of the House to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and his colleagues and the appreciative remarks that have been made about the Countryside Commission and the Nature Conservancy Council, who are the chief instruments of policy in this matter in partnership with the Parks Authorities and the local authorities. I was especially glad that my noble friends on the Government Front Bench were able to refer to the additional half a million pound grant for country parks, and the other half a million pounds to the Nature Conservancy Council for the acquisition of new nature reserves. I think both indicate the interest of Her Majesty's Government, even in a time of stringency, in these matters of the countryside.

I echo the very warm congratulations which have already been offered to my noble friend Lord Castle on his most stimulating maiden speech. I cannot refer to all the other speeches that have been made. If I mention the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Bradford, which I particularly enjoyed, it is partly because I have never had the pleasure of hearing him before and I was delighted to do so.

I should like to thank most warmly every noble Lord who has taken part in this debate. I think that it has been a very good debate. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, will feel that his labours have been rewarded by the intense interest taken in the Report, and in the subject. I apologise to him, and more particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for the wording of my Motion. The trouble was that the noble Lord, Lord Henley, had pre-empted the Motion, but I got the day so I felt that it was important that we should have a chance of discussing this matter. I repeat my very sincere thanks to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, and beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Forward to