§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 33. (The Earl of Selkirk.)
§ Lord Ross of Marnock
My Lords, we have not long and I will not be long. I want to express my appreciation of the way in which the noble Earl has conducted the proceedings of this Bill. There is a representative of the Government here. I am sorry not to see the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield. This is not really a Private Member's Bill; it is a Government Bill. I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby is no longer in the House because he might have been interested in what I have to say about Private Member's Bills. If you want a Private Member's Bill through late, make it a Scottish one! If you can get the Whips and every unruly Back-Bencher to keep their voices down and no one shouts, "Object!" on a Friday, then it gets through without a Second Reading. It then goes to a specially set-up Scottish Committee. That happened to this Bill. It does not go to the bottom of the list in another place. It goes straight to the Scottish Committee, and within one week this Bill was back for Report. That is why we have got it here.
The noble Earl was worried about getting it by the 4th July. Well, he has it. I will not oppose it. But I want to say that when you get a Private Member's Bill of 17 clauses and two schedules, it ceases to be a Private Member's Bill. When it takes power from the Government and gives it to a Quango, it is not a Private Member's Bill; it is a Government Bill. And when we have a particular clause which gives another power to a regional authority at a time when the Government want regional councils and district councils not to spend money, it does not seem like a Private Member's Bill that has in it any consistency with Government policy. I want to say only this.
There are some things in the Bill which are good but the main thing in the Bill to which I object is the new conception of what are called regional parks. I think it is a misnomer. The idea goes wider than the region and we have not discussed properly the whole policy of parks in Scotland. We have public parks, 351 district parks, countryside parks, forestry parks and, now, we are to have regional parks. Yet, we have just had a report from the noble Lord, Lord Stodart—it was published in January—saying that all parks should be transferred to districts in Scotland. And, indeed, this started on its way. In the middle of this Bill, the Government came out with an interim finding in respect of regional parks saying that the districts should have all the parks but regions should have some place; and they are consulting about it.
It is mistimed. We should have waited. It is too important, I think, in respect of Scotland, where we have not got national parks, that we should have this interim, half-way measure of regional parks which conflicts with some of the countryside parks which are already established. The responsibility for that is not the noble Earl's. Probably more information was received in this House than in another place. I have no desire to stand in the way of the Bill.
The other silly thing, I think, was the conception of quiet areas in the countryside, trying to prevent noise; but only if it is a certain kind of noise, that is, the noise of vehicles or aeroplanes, and that is subject to certain exceptions. It would have been better to have forgotten that and thought it all out. That must be one of the Private Member's ideas rather than a Government idea. Again, I congratulate the noble Earl for his working on the Bill. He did not lose his temper when we were short of time; he got rather despondent when he felt that there were another 26 amendments to come from one, Lord Ross of Marnock. He need not have worried. I think too much of him to be obstructive in that way. The Government is a different matter. I try to persuade them that some of the things I put down are right.
I am sorry for my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby for the "stick" he took and being remembered for his efforts on that. He will be remembered in Scotland for the Houghton Committee report on teachers. If he likes to come in during our prolonged consideration of the Education (Scotland) Bill he will find that in the reorganisation and negotiations for teachers' salaries the name "Houghton" will come up. It has already done so on Second Reading and it will do so again. That is one of the things for which we remember him. if he is interested in Scottish Bills then let him introduce one and he will get more satisfaction than with some of the other efforts that he has made. I support the Third Reading of this Bill.
The Earl of Selkirk
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for what he has said. I am grateful to the House for supporting this Bill. I cordially disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, in saying that there is anything degrading about taking Bills in the dinner interval. I think there are advantages. You know when they are going to happen, you know within a reasonable time when the Bill is likely to come on. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ross, for his examination of this Bill. I agree that it is a new concept and it is proper that it should be examined. I do not think that it makes all that difference whether it is a Private Member's Bill or a Government Bill. They all look the same when you have finished with them. There is no difference on the statute book.
352 I do not want to go again into the argument about regional parks but I do not think there is conflict. I think in the event there will be no conflict. I am sorry that the noble Lord is still worried about that noble object of creating quiet. That is something we all long for. It may not succeed but the object of creating quiet is something which everyone would commend. This is a small Bill. It treads new ground. It will extend the preservation and enhancement of the natural beauty of the countryside and increase the ability to have access to it; and, importantly, it will provide some protection against vandals. This is very useful. We hope it will be operated sensibly and I think that if it is, it will be of considerable value in the future. I thank the noble Lord for his assistance in this, and I hope, as I am sure he hopes, that this will be a valuable step forward.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, with the amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.
§ Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ [The Sitting was suspended from 7.37 until 7.45 p.m.]