HL Deb 17 June 1981 vol 421 cc723-52

9.36 p.m.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[THE LORD AIREDALE in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Grants and loans]:

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 1: Page 2, line 31, leave out ("such conditions as they think fit") and insert ("conditions").

The noble Lord said: I feel we should almost apologise for returning to what Lord Carrington called the cul-de-sac of Scottish business. Even Scottish business can be refreshing after the O'Hagan road to Brussels, long and not so straight as it was. Amendment No. 1 is a simple one. It asks the Committee to leave out, at page 2, line 31, "such conditions as they think fit". I know the Government are going to reply that already in the 1967 Act, Section 2, the same words are used. But conditions are slightly different, because at that time we were dealing with grants paid by the commission to the private sector, and they are not all that big. I think in all, counting the ranger service, it is something in the nature of £336,000 over the year.

But when we come to hand over and make a statutory function of what is being done without statute and by arrangement with the Scottish Office, we are dealing with a figure, last year certainly, of£1frac12; million. We are also wiping out, in the first amendment in this first clause, the approval of the project by the Secretary of State. That goes. So we are giving far greater authority now (a) in statute, (b) in the nature of the statute, to the Countryside Commission. We are changing the whole nature of the commission.

If we look up anywhere else we will discover that the commission is an advisory body. Now, with the passing of this Act, it is no longer an advisory body, it is a body with considerable executive powers. From that point of view I think we should look then at this question, that the commission can in respect of a loan or grant under the section "impose such conditions as they think fit". It is a different matter to say that when they were very much in touch with the Secretary of State, when really it was the Secretary of State who was approving a grant in the private sector. But here we are approving very considerable grants in the private and the public sector as well, and I think that we should ask just exactly what measure of freedom is this to be giving to a Quango.

As the creator of that Quango in 1967, I have a personal interest. But the change that we are making is in the whole nature of the matter. Not only has this Quango survived, but it has been given more power. I think that it is asking too much to give it blank power for saying. "You can make a grant" or, "You cannot make a grant"—the approval of the Secretary of State does not come in—and "You can put down any conditions that you think fit". I am not entirely happy with the amendment, but I think that it is far, far better to leave it that they can apply "conditions", rather than to have, "conditions as they think fit". They would need to justify the conditions if we accept the amendment, whereas if we put in the words, "as they think fit" they are legally covered to do anything they like. I beg to move.

The Earl of Selkirk

I should like to make a general observation before dealing with the noble Lord's point. My overriding condition as regards this Bill is that it should be returned to the other place in the first week of July. I therefore am very happy to accept any amendments provided they do not enter new ground or, secondly, involve controversial matters which might prompt a great deal of discussion in the other place. I think that we all want this Bill. I agree that we want to polish and to improve it. But I thought it wise to make that point to the noble Lord, because it would really be impossible if we were to make it too controversial and it was delayed beyond the first week of July.

As far as the noble Lord's amendment is concerned, I think that it is not true to say that the Secretary of State is taken out. He is only taken out in so far as there is disagreement. If there is full agreement on any arrangement then the Secretary of State does not come in; but if there is disagreement the Secretary of State does come in. In fact, the powers of the Countryside Commission are not very greatly enlarged. They are given a certain wider scope, but always under arrangements which the Secretary of State must approve and, of course, he has complete control over the overall money which is being spent. As I see it, the benefit of the noble Lord's proposal is that it shortens the Bill fractionally. As it shortens the Bill fractionally, I recommend to the Committee that it should be accepted. Indeed, I hope that the Committee will accept it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

9.43 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 2, line 36, at end insert— ("(5)(a) Full details of grants and loans made under subsection (1) above shall be listed in the annual report of the Commission; and (b) any directions given by the Secretary of State under subsection (4) above shall be included in the annual report of the Commission.").

The noble Lord said: Many people may think that this amendment is unnecessary. It is to ensure that: Full details of grants and loans made under subsection (1) above"— that deals with the public and private sectors— shall be listed in the annual report of the Commission; and (b) any directions given by the Secretary of State wider subsection (4)"— to which reference was made by the noble Earl— shall be included in the annual report of the Commission". First, I should like to pay tribute to the commission for the information which they presently give. I think that they probably give more information as regards what they do in respect of grants—I shall have a question about loans later—than was given when the Secretary of State did this directly himself. Anyone familiar with the reports of the Commission will see that every grant made to any local authority is fully listed. I want that to be continued as regards the additional work that they are taking on—and their work is becoming more onerous as the years go by.

I come to the second part. Quite apart from the arrangements that are mentioned earlier in this clause that they will conduct their business along lines laid down by the Secretary of State and the Treasury, which really refers to money—that is the big hold—the fact that the Secretary of State has power to give them directions, if he has an occasion to do so, should in my view mean that the public should know about it. I think we shall find that this same power is in the Highlands and Islands Development Board Act; that where they have to be given directions in a particular way by the Secretary of State, it must be recorded and reported in the annual report. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mansfield

It may help if I give the Government's view on this amendment at this point. I entirely agree with the motivation behind the amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Ross, has said, the commission, in its annual report which it publishes, already includes full details of all grants which are paid, including the identity of the recipient, the purpose and the amount of the grant, and that the Commission is enjoined to do under Section 71(6) of the 1967 Act.

It is in those terms that the commission makes this information available, as it did quite recently in its last and 13th annual report. Therefore, as regards the first part of the amendment, there is no point in writing it into this Bill because there is already statutory provision for the Countryside Commission to do just that. We then come to the second part; that is to say, the: directions given by the Secretary of State under subsection (4)". The noble Lord is quite right in the sense that at the moment no statutory duty rests with the commission to make this information available. I think that it could be quite easily done simply by, as it were, encouraging the Countryside Commission—which is an eminently reasonable body—to make this information available. For myself, I do not think that one would need to make it into a statutory requirement, but if the noble Lord feels strongly about it, and he may, I would be very happy to have another look at this part of his amendment if he withdraws the whole of it now.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I think that that is fair enough. I feel strongly about it from the point of view that when a Secretary of State has to give a direction to a body which is under his control but which has statutory obligations and statutory rights—whether the Secretary of State should do it or whether the person who receives the direction should do it is a moot point—the correct thing should be for the attention of the public to be drawn to the fact that a direction was given by the Secretary of State. It could be quite important and it is not the sort of thing that should be hidden away. After all, if we set up a body to do a certain thing and then we discover that it has to receive directions from the Secretary of State either to do something or perhaps not to do something, from the point of view of safeguarding the commission itself and of safeguarding the Secretary of State so that the people should know just exactly what it is all about, that should be recorded somewhere.

I am not quite so worried about the other point. I will take the word of the Minister of State that it is already covered by some power. But I am concerned about the fact that it is not very usual for a commission to list the grants given in the very detailed way that the commission has been doing. I want to ensure that this is continued. If I get that assurance, then I should be quite prepared to drop that part. But I sincerely hope that the Minister of State will have another look at this point.

One of the things I noticed when going over the commissioners' reports was that they do not seem to have made any loans. Is that an omission or is that a fact? The commissioners have the power to make loans, and indeed one of the things we shall be talking about is the commissioners' powers to make loans with all sorts of conditions. Have the commissioners ever made any loans? If not, why not?

The Earl of Selkirk

My noble friend said that he would arrange for a direction to be made public by direct instruction. Indeed, he may make a direction saying that the commissioners will publish the information. It is probably true to say that it is easier to make access agreements with grants rather than loans. I expect that is the reason, but, so far as I can see, it is true that no loans have been made. Perhaps it is more advantageous to make grants? That at least is the conclusion I have come to.

The Earl of Mansfield

I am informed that no loans have been made.

Lord Ross of Marnock

That was my guess. In view of the commitment that has been given, that the first part of the amendment is fully covered and that the noble Earl the Minister will think about the second part, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

9.51 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 3: After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:

("Amendment of 1967 Act.

. In section 2 of the 1967 Act the following amendments shall be made—

  1. (a) in subsection (1) after "prepared" insert "by the local authority";
  2. (b) in subsection (2)—
    1. (i) for "Secretary of State" there is substituted "the local authority"; and
    2. (ii) there is omitted from "maps" to the second "shall" and inserted "the local authority"; and
    3. (iii) at end there is added—" (00) the maps shall thereafter be sent to the Secretary of State for his approval"").

The noble Lord said: My suggestion here is that we insert a new clause. That new clause comprises a series of amendments to Section 2 of the 1967 Act. We are getting used to legislation by reference and nobody will be able to understand what the words in the amendment really mean.

Section 2 of the 1967 Act defines the countryside; but noble Lords should hold their breath because it does not define the countryside at all. It merely states that a map or maps will be drawn up designating areas which somebody thinks are the countryside. At the present time the maps must be prepared and approved by the Secretary of State. That is the definition of "countryside" in the 1967 Act—a series of maps.

One of the things that has been worrying me over the past year arose out of one or two meetings I had in connection with other matters—in particular, a meeting with the Highland and Islands Development Board, which was attended by certain Highland Members of Parliament. I got the impression that relations between certain parts of the Highlands—and this may well be true of other areas—and the commission and other bodies were not as good as they should be. In the Highland area, the districts where things take place are not planning authorities. The general planning authority for the Highlands, which is a very large area, is the Highlands Regional Council. The same thing is true of the Borders and of Dumfries and Galloway. There, one has the Highland area in the north and the other area in the south, which probably comprehend within their areas much of the scenic grandeur of Scotland. If there is no proper participation in decisions by the localities' local authorities, one can see how misunderstandings can arise and hopes can be frustrated in relation to development and similar matters.

Bearing in mind that the Secretary of State has drawn up areas of scenic beauty in Scotland—I think they call them the natural scenic areas; about 40 of them—and when you take the extent of those areas, thousands of acres, and realise that within those thousands of acres arising from that designation, which all stems originally from maps of countryside, and that there is special planning in relation to that, it may well be that the local authorities, the district authorities, may feel very much out of it. You can see why the misunderstandings arise. Remember, in many of these areas are places where they are desperate to get some kind of development, and at the present time the Countryside Commission has the power of veto even on the planning authorities' decisions on this, and then it goes to the Secretary of State.

I feel that one way of bringing in the local authority would be for the Secretary of State to give up his power of preparing the maps and give it to the local authorities. The Secretary of State has been shedding his power in the first clause to the commission. Would it not be a good thing if he shed some of his power to the local authority? I have retained the right of approval by the Secretary of State. I have not got time to go through the whole of Clause 2 and make consequential changes in various places, but that can easily be done. I know the Scottish civil servants. If the principle is accepted by the Minister then that follow-through could easily be put right, or, if they are too busy, I will do it myself.

That is the sole purpose. There is nothing sinister about it. It is trying to get the balance right, and to try to bring the Countryside Commission and the local district authorities more and more together. It has been evident from the fact that they have had to work together in respect of grants that they have been meeting one another, and that they have probably come to a better understanding. But that would be further improved if we gave them this power of drawing the maps of the scenic beauty of their area, of what they construe as the countryside in their area. That would not cost the Secretary of State anything at all. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mansfield

To all intents and purposes this amendment applies to the preparation of maps. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ross, that, as the policy of the Government has shown, statutory powers should devolve to local authorities to exercise these functions where it is logical rather than that the functions should remain with central Government. That is a concept with which I entirely agree. If the noble Lord's purpose is to reconcile local authorities with the commission, or some desire of that nature—which quite obviously he would like to do, for instance, in his amendment to Clause 9, which goes into rather different and more serious matters—then that might be one way of doing it.

So far as these maps are concerned, Section 2 of the 1967 Act laid various duties on the Secretary of State, and they have long ago been discharged. The production of the maps in question has long been completed and, if there are any changes to be made, they are minor boundary changes round the periphery of urban areas. So there is no question of any major administrative economies being made by transferring the function because, as I said, there are no great tasks to produce further maps and therefore no purpose in transferring the function from the Secretary of State to the local authority.

There is a rather greater objection perhaps to the amendment in that it would prevent the Secretary of State from creating new areas of statutory countryside. Financial assistance under the 1967 Act is available only in statutory countryside, so the situation could arise where, in order to channel Government funds to a particular private sector project of national rather than local importance, the Secretary of State might want to have an area of land designated as countryside but would be unable to do so because of the effect of the amendment, which would remove from him the power to designate. For instance, if he could not persuade the local authority to act, it would be impossible to make the grant aid in the way I described under the 1967 Act. I do not suppose that is likely to happen, but the fact is that if the amendment were agreed to it would place that statutory, and I think quite unnecessary, restriction on the Secretary of State. Although, as I said, I am fully in sympathy with the motivation behind the amendment, I could not recommend it to my noble friend for acceptance.

Lord Ross of Marnock

It was only an effort and I thought it would be helpful; I thought we could find a way round the suggestion about boundary changes, though the Minister made me jump a little when he used that phrase because it is not very popular around Glasgow at the present time, nor is it popular in other parts of the political world. Perhaps the amendment would not achieve what I had hoped it would. Nevertheless, I hope the message has got home to the Government and the Countryside Commission that they must work to get the co-operation of the local authorites—not just the planning authorities but the district authorities as well—because there may be conflict in one way or another within a region. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 [Extension of definition of "open country"]:

10.3 p.m.

The Earl of Selkirk moved Amendment No. 4: Page 3, line 16, after ("agreement") insert (",as at the first day of the twelve month period to which the consideration will relate,").

The noble Earl said: This is a drafting amendment. It seemed to me that in the new Schedule 4, subsection (1)(b) could be expressed rather more clearly. That is what the amendment seeks to do and unless the Committee wants a fuller explanation, I will simply beg to move it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Selkirk moved Amendment No. 5: Page 3, line 18, leave out from ("land") to the end of line 20 and insert ("is unfettered by the access agreement.").

The noble Earl said: This is part of the last amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 [Further provision in relation to access agreements]:

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 3, line 29, at end insert— (3) Where in respect of land of outstanding scenic beauty, any Minister has come to an arrangement with the landowner, which involves granting reasonable access to the public, that Minister shall inform the local authority or authorities concerned and the Countryside Commission; and shall invite the local authority to draw up an access agreement in respect of the land concerned. In such cases section 13(2) below will not apply.").

The noble Lord said: We are here dealing with the question of access agreements. There is nothing terribly sinister in what I propose and I am not, as some might suggest, getting at anybody, and I hope I shall be able to discuss the matter without mentioning any names. Names were mentioned in another place in regard to this matter and it might well be that feeling was aroused unnecessarily. However, I feel that this could be a way out of what could be an embarrassing situation for certain persons and for the Government and a troublesome one for the local authority.

There is a system whereby landowners can make arrangements with the Treasury regarding delaying or suspending the payment of capital transfer tax. Considerable sums of money and considerable acreages of land might well be involved. One condition imposed in relation to such an arrangement is that there should be no development in the area concerned and that there shall be reasonable access given to the public. I do not know whether the Treasury then accepts the arrangement and passes it on to the Countryside Commission, or whether the matter is handled through the local authority, but I think that it should be done through the local authority. Then the local authority would certainly know what was happening in its area, and there would be no element of embarrassed surprise later due to the discovery that an arrangement has been made.

The more we proceed with securing access agreements and with ensuring to the satisfaction of the local authority that an access agreement is adequate and appropriate, the better it would be for everybody. At present the Countryside Commission helps in regard to the adjudication on whether or not the land in question is of the type that should be covered by such an agreement. But I think that the local authority ought to come into it; after all, the land is within its area. One case involved 100,000 acres, and so we are really talking about something important. If there is a suspended payment of, say, £500,000, we are talking of something important, and there should be some way of relating the question of access to the sum of money involved.

Generally speaking, such an arrangement is made with the Treasury, and on the basis of the points that I have just put forward I think it is right that the Secretary of State should invite the local authority to proceed with an access agreement. In that way it can be ensured that the access is adequate and that it accords with what can best be achieved for the public at large. Of course it would be very difficult to deny the public access to 100,000 acres. At present the Countryside Commission and the local authorities are increasingly using their powers in relation to access agreements, and I might add that they are securing these agreements very inexpensively. I hope that that point is being noted by the Treasury. If this kind of procedure is to continue, I think it should be regularised so that the local authority is enabled to draw up an access agreement for the land concerned.

The last sentence of the proposed subsection states: In such cases section 13(2) below will not apply". Since money has already been involved, there is no reason why the local authority should pay further money in respect of the drawing up of the access agreement. In other words, the access has already been paid for, and it should be a simple matter of drawing up the agreement. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mansfield

This amendment is directed at arrangements entered into by virtue of the imposition of capital transfer tax, and therefore it is perhaps appropriate that I should reply to the noble Lord at this stage. The Government attach a great deal of importance to the preservation of land of outstanding scenic beauty, and the Government seek to ensure that where there is an exemption from capital transfer tax in respect of such land there should be reasonable access for the general public to enjoy it. This is not by any means the first Government to take that view, because it was the Administration of which the noble Lord, Lord Ross, was a member which first imposed capital transfer tax in 1975, and the Finance Act 1976 which introduced various tax exemptions and also drew up the arrangements under which land of this nature would qualify for exemption.

Lord Ross of Marnock

It was 1977.

The Earl of Mansfield

it was 1976, I fancy. Under these arrangements, which are laid down by the Treasury, the capital transfer office first of all seeks the advice of the Countryside Commission as to whether the land can be considered of exceptional scenic value at all, and if it can be so considered its advice is sought as to the management and access arrangements which should apply. Then, the procedures provide for the local planning authority to be consulted about the arrangements, and these arrangements are then promulgated, so to speak, so that they are known both to the local authority and to the local public.

As I have said, these procedures are not the creature of this Government: they emanated from the Government of which the noble Lord was a member. We believe that they are satisfactory in that they already provide for the involvement of both the Countryside Commission and the planning authority in securing reasonable access for the public. In that sense, therefore, we do not think that this particular amendment is necessary.

Lord Ross of Marnock

That is not surprising. It does not satisfy me, because I am not satisfied that we should spend so much money and get so little access in return for preservation of scenic beauty which never was endangered in the first instance and was never likely to be endangered. It is not the question of the rightness or the wrongness of the statute. Of course, all this was fully discussed and all the information which the Minister has repeated was given by Mr. Rifkind in another place. I accept that, and I accept the value of the statute; but I do not like to see the abuse of a statute. This is why I am afraid.

I am also concerned as to whether we get value for money—and, remember, there is nothing final about this arrangement. This is only conditional. The payment of tax is only suspended so that the person concerned can end the agreement and probably pay the tax if he was going to get more money for it. But the use of the money meantime is a very considerable item. I am not satisfied that we are getting the nature of the access to which we should be entitled. I should like to see the local authority come more into that part of it, because there is no question of them being satisfied in relation to the access, and this is the point that mainly concerns me. I do not think there is very much point in going on with it; I am not going to move the noble Earl in respect of this one; but I think people should be concerned about what can be done and whether or not it is right to do it. So I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Powers of Secretary of State in relation to acquisition of land for public access.]:

10.15 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 7: Page 3, line 35, leave out ("is impracticable") and insert ("has not been able").

The noble Lord said: This is a simple drafting amendment. I have come across this word "practicable" before. I do not exactly know what it means to say that a thing is impracticable. It depends on the whole history of the matter. I think it more simple and that people would understand it, to say, "has not been able to do" something. It means that they have tried and have not been able to do it. I prefer those simple words rather than this one which raises one or two questions. I beg to move.

The Earl of Selkirk

I am grieved to hear that the noble Lord does not know what the word means. It was in his Bill, the Bill which he promoted. He puts it in his Bill yet does not understand it. It is going a long way. I think that the objection here is really that when changing an existing Bill you have to have solid reasons for doing so. There are reasons for not changing it. The difference between "able to do something" and "impractical" may not sound very much. One really is subjective and the other is objective. The purpose here—and I understand this is true of the 1967 Act as of this Act—is that it is intended that agreements about access should be voluntary on both sides and there should be the use of compulsory powers only when it is not practical to make voluntary agreements. There are certain things where it is not practical. There is the question of where the landlord is obstinate and refuses to take part. That would be suitable for what the noble Lord said. But there are other things. There may be cost. It may be an expensive proceeding and you cannot get agreement in that way. It may be difficult sometimes to define ownership. There may be a variety of owners, which would make it better to have compulsory purchase orders; or the owner conceivably might be absent or difficult to find; or he might be a minor.

Those are the sort of considerations which the word "impractical" had in mind. I think what it does is to emphasise that as far as possible, whenever it is practical, agreement should be reached. As, I think, the noble Lord is aware, agreement is reached and a very large number of access agreements have been made. I would advise not to change the wording. I do not think any powerful reason has been shown to change the wording from the 1967 Act. I would ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

That was a very strong appeal. May I say that I noticed particularly that every time the noble Earl tried to say "impracticable" he actually said "impractical". Perhaps he has not been able to work out the difference between "impractical" and "impracticable"—and that is what is there. I was Secretary of State for a long time and I interfered a lot with the drafting. This must be one that slipped up. That is all I can say about that. I did not find his argument at all convincing. Is it not much simpler to say that they were not able to do it? What is the difficulty about it?—none whatever. I am sorry that the noble Earl must stick to this word "impracticable" which even he finds difficulty in differentiating from yet another word, which was "impractical". Let us not have a Division but I am prepared to stand by my own drafting, this "Version 2" of the drafting, and have the thing put to the Committee.

On Question, amendment negatived.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Establishment of regional parks]:

10.20 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 8: Page 4, line 40, after ("an") insert ("extensive").

The noble Lord said: When we strolled for a short time along Lord Carrington's Scottish cul de sac earlier today we discussed the Stodart Report. What does it say about parks and the countryside? It is very definite: Parks. In keeping with our general philosphy on leisure and recreation, we recommend that only district and Island councils should have these powers". That is in relation to parks. When it came to the countryside it continued: This leads us to recommend that these should form a part of the district council's comprehensive responsibility for leisure and recreation. There seems to us no reason for regional involvement other than by perhaps contributing financially to the countryside. So it gives all the powers in relation to the parks to the district councils. This was in the mind, there is no doubt, of the Countryside Commission when they wrote their own report. They were concerned about the countryside; they were concerned about the question of parks. Despite this, they go ahead with this suggestion on regional parks. They produced a parks system for Scotland. I do not know that it has been debated in either House. I would think that the Government would be wise to think this one over and withdraw this for the time being, bearing in mind what Mr. Rifkind said.

He said in the Committee (I think it was on 11th March 1981) that if at the end of the day Stodart's recommendations are accepted, there will be a need for legislative means to implement these recommendations. It will be an opportunity to reconsider the matter in the light of the general response to Stodart. The Government themselves said that there should be a definite role for the regional councils in relation to the countryside or in relation to parks. Bearing in mind that the Stodart Committee gave them a definite role— that in certain cases, where it was a much wider responsibility, they felt that the regional authorities should be able to contribute—that was enough.

Now I come to the actual amendment which does not cover the whole of that field. What I have in mind will save some time when we come to consider the clause and a later suggestion that I shall make. The drafting here is fairly loose. I gather that the draftsmen looked for a word to replace "regional" but could not find one. We have parks, we have public parks, we have countryside parks; and now we have "regional park". What is a regional park? The Bill says this: an area of land, extensive in size, a substantial part of which is devoted to the recreational needs of the public". I can take people to a park in Ayrshire which is an area of land extensive in size, but it is not a regional park: it is a countryside park. So we have all this confusion and we have a report telling us that on no account must the regional councils go into the park business. Of course, there are regional councils in the Grampians and Strathclyde already in the park business. But, conscious of that, the Stodart Committee examined this question for a year and decided that the regional councils should be left out of the countryside as far as legislation was concerned and that the functions in this connection should be limited to the districts. It is going to mean very considerable changes and considerable problems; I am aware of that. But a "regional park", being defined as, an area of land, extensive in size, a substantial part of which is devoted to the recreational needs of the public", has a definition that would apply to so many other things and to so many other kinds of park.

My first amendments are drafting amendments. I suggest omitting the words "extensive in size". Why not just say that a "regional park is an extensive area of land"? Another of my amendments on the Marshalled List refers to, within the control of the local authority". I think it is important. The concept of the special regional park is that not all the land will be owned by the local authority. It may well be in arrangement with a local farmer or landowner so that part of his land will be included. But I do not myself think that this definition is all that good, and so I have suggested these changes which cut down the size of the Bill. Amendment No. 11 refers to, within the control of the local authority". That is meant purely for a particular purpose, to be a little more concise in relation to the definition of a "regional park"; but "regional park"—well, well, I do not like the idea at all. I beg to move.

The Earl of Selkirk

The noble Lord complained about some confusion, but I confess I was deeply confused as to which amendment he was talking about but I can quite easily deal with them seriatim if that is what he would like. I am only going to deal with Nos. 8 and 9 at the moment. As the noble Lord says, they are drafting amendments and I am quite happy to recommend to your Lordships that they should be accepted.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 9: Page 4, line 41, leave out ("extensive in size").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Selkirk moved Amendment No. 10: Page 4, line 41, leave out ("a substantial").

The noble Earl said: There was some discussion in the other place about the word "substantial". On reflection, it is not a very precise word and no one can be quite certain what judicial interpretation might be placed on it. In fact, it depends on whether you regard the word "substantial" as absolute or relative to the whole. If it is regarded as relative to the whole it is possible that the actual area which will be for recreational purposes will be quite small.

The Pentland Hills would probably have various things such as paths, caravan or picnic sites and, perhaps, sanitary arrangements. But this would constitute a comparatively small area, compared with the whole of Pentland. It might conceivably be said by an objector that the word "substantial", as laid down in the statute, would debar Pentland from being a regional park, although I accept that it is only a remote possibility. But, on the whole, the clause loses nothing by taking out the word "substantial". Therefore, it is better out. I beg to move.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I am not very happy about this one. I am concerned about the "extensive" area and whether you take a substantial part of it. A substantial part of an extensive area must be fairly substantial. Then, again, when we look at the words "devoted to the recreational needs of the public", it seems to me that many people would think of a kind of playing area. Obviously, that is not what is intended. This is an area for walking and climbing, and there will be pretty well free access, apart from certain areas where there are limitations on access, such as private land. But for the greater part of it, a regional park will be open for the public to go anywhere. That is what is really meant. Otherwise, it would not be a regional park.

I do not think it would be right to say that, because there is a footpath, the public are limited to that footpath. It may be that for a certain purpose the public would leave the footpath. It may be all right for the general public, but the naturalist might want to go somewhere else. I should not be very happy about a limitation to a part. That is my main objection, although I see the difficulty about relating "substantial" to the extensive nature of the vague definition of a regional park. I am not very happy about the amendment.

The Earl of Selkirk

I think the noble Lord has not quite appreciated the fact that the vastly greater part of a regional park will be in private ownership. The idea is that there should be access to it on regulated paths. In many cases, it is not desirable that they should walk off the paths. If they are going through agricultural property, it would be quite wrong for them to walk through a field of corn. The idea is that they should keep pretty well to the paths, until they get on to the side of a hill.

The greater part of it will not belong to a local or public authority, or to the National Trust. This is a concept that I hope the noble Lord will understand. It is a much wider concept than of land owned by a public authority. I am concerned here only with a possible legal objection. As the noble Lord realises, the word "substantial" is not very clear and it could be argued that, where there were only paths, the size would not be substantial. It may be a small point. But, on the whole, the word does not add anything to the park and it is wiser to take it out. That is why I am moving this amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I wish that the noble Earl had anticipated my next amendment, because his conception of a regional park is of a great area that is not owned by the council, whereas my idea is different. I keep the word "substantial" and my next amendment would read: …a substantial part of which is within the control of the local authority and is devoted to the recreational needs of the public". It all comes down to the vagueness of the regional park. What is a regional park? We have not been told anything about the ownership of the land, and how much belongs to the local authority and how much belongs to private owners.

But, in relation to private owners, I presume that, first, there will be an access agreement and, thereafter, a management agreement in respect of the regional park. It is a bit of a hotch-potch and it has not been thought out. When you throw into that the question of the recommendations of the Stodart Report, I do not think it is the best clause in the world. As there will be legislation to implement parts of the Stodart Report, it would have been far better to have waited. I know that the Countryside Commission are anxious to have in Scotland something which is akin to the national parks idea, but this is not it. From that point of view I do not think it has been all that well thought out.

I do not care very much whether the noble Earl puts in "substantial". In fact, if he takes out "substantial" it makes my next amendment much more reasonable.

The Earl of Selkirk

Then perhaps we can take out "substantial" and get on with the next amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 11: Page 4, line 41, at end insert ("within the control of the local authority and is").

The noble Lord said: This amendment would insert the words "within the control of the local authority and is" before the words "devoted to the recreational needs of the public". There are bound to be huts erected for the shelter of climbers, picnic areas and the rest in these regional parks, and there needs to be ownership by the local authority concerned of part, though not a substantial part of them. The local authorities would not put up buildings of any kind at all on land which belonged to somebody else. They would seek to purchase land for that purpose, otherwise it would not be worth their while.

The amendment would ensure that the local authority which designates and probably will manage the area—paragraph (b) of subsection (2) gives them the power to manage as a single administrative unit any parts of any such park which are under their control—is able to purchase land for this purpose. If they are not given this power, they will not be able to do very much. For that reason, I suggest that this is a very clear, simple and sensible amendment. I beg to move.

The Earl of Selkirk

I am afraid that the noble Lord has not got a clear picture of what is intended here. I know that this is my fault and I apologise to the noble Lord for not having been able, as yet, to explain it to him.

The concept is to bring under a degree of what I might call management large areas into which people from urban areas wander constantly now. That is the present position, and we all know that to be so. The idea is that there shall be access to these areas into which the public can go without doing any damage and where they will behave properly. There will be provision, we hope, for car parks, caravan sites, picnic sites and other facilities. Local authorities will not control or own these areas. They will be private areas to which people can have access, see the countryside and enjoy it as they may. This is not the concept of ownership by local authorities. Countryside parks are in the ownership of local authorities.

I quite agree that this is a new concept; it is not one which has existed up to now. It is to enable urban dwellers to have access to the countryside without the expense of buying land, which it is quite impossible for local authorities to do. The concept is to enable people to go to these areas without causing damage and with the unanimous and willing agreement of those who own the property. Local authorities will have the duty of seeing that the people who wander about in these areas behave themselves. The intention is that they will provide wardens.

I agree with the noble Lord that we do not know exactly how this will work out, but this is the concept and I submit with great respect that it is the right concept. It is a way of enabling people from densely urban areas to see something of the countryside without in any way acting as vandals. This is not actually the amendment we are speaking to. The amendment we are speaking to relates to how large a part of the recreational needs of the public, by which I mean playing fields, perhaps golf courses and all manner of other activities which may be there, should or should not be the concern of the local authority. There is no need for it to be the property of the local authority at all.

The local authority in most cases will have a certain number of recreation fields, of course; it is right and proper that they should, but there is no need for them to have the exclusive ownership of recreation fields. There are a number of developments taking place and people building all sorts of recreational facilities in the countryside, and they should be encouraged. All it says here is that part of it should be recreational fields. I think that in some cases it will involve a very small amount, while in others it will be great. But I do not think it is necessary for all the recreation fields to belong to the local authority. I cannot see any advantage in that. In fact, local authorities have quite a lot of difficulty with regard to money at present and if other people develop recreation fields, so much the better. I do not think they should be discouraged from making recreational facilities. Indeed, as the noble Lord almost suggests here—I am not quite certain that it is true—any recreational fields not belonging to local authorities could not be in regional parks; and while I do not think the noble Lord really means that, that might conceivably be the deduction if this amendment were accepted.

I have tried to explain this as clearly as I can, and if there is anything more I can say I shall do so, but I think it is unnecessary to confine recreational areas in regional parks to local authorities and I think it would be a pity to do so. For that reason I hope the noble Lord will not press this amendment because I think it is misconceiving the purpose of a regional park. I do not think there is any demand for a national park in the centre of England. The present arrangement would remain much more in the management of local authorities than a national park would. This is a concept which admittedly has not been tried in England up to now, but which I think is better suited to the Scots situation than a national park would be. For that reason I hope the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

It is a great pity that it is twenty minutes to eleven and it is a great pity that the noble Earl and I are the only two Scotsmen taking part in this debate.

The Earl of Mansfield


Lord Ross of Marnock

Well, we are talking about Back Benchers. The Government may have ideas; they have spent seven months looking at the Stodart Report so I think they may well have some ideas about it, but I do not know what is meant by the special regional parks. And I have read the report of the Committee stage in another place and there are very many people there who do not know. I do not know what the noble Earl knew about these special parks before this Bill was wished on him, but I do not think the conception is right yet.

He virtually went to the other extreme by saying that the local authorities will have nothing to do with this, they will not own a thing. But who is going to manage it? Who is going to provide the car parks? Who is going to provide the shelters? Why, if this is a purely commercial development, should the local authority become involved at all? If we have the freedom of access to have people wandering all over the place, why should we pay £1 million to allow people to have access to 100,000 acres of Scotland which is the heritage of the whole public?

This regional park scheme will not start without the local authority and if the local authority have any sense they will not start putting up buildings which are permanent, or at least semi-permanent, when they have no right to be there at all. They do not own that land on which they are building. I want the local authority to have a stake in this, and that is why I am really concerned about the explanation of what is conceived to be a regional park. Why call it "regional" at all? Why not give it the name of the landowner? He is not going to put up these buildings unless he has some commercial return for it. Or is it the Countryside Commission who will pay it all? It is paying certain grants at present to private individuals, but nothing in relation to the kind of expenses that are incurred in providing a regional park.

One has only to look and see exactly what is paid out by the Countryside Commission at the present time in relation to some of the instances. Kilmarnock and Loudoun District Council, the Dean Castle Country Park, opened a fornight ago by the chairman of the Countryside Commission, Dr. Balfour: land acquisition and general improvements to the park, total cost £296,996, grant £227,000. People are prepared to accept grants of that nature and that size if given to public authorities; they would not be prepared to accept them if given to private individuals. So let us not think that the regional park idea is a very cheap thing. When a countryside park, which is less extensive than that, has this amount of money spent on it, I can assure your Lordships that for the region to set up a park and virtually undertake all the expenses, with or without the help of the Countryside Commission, is one thing, and it is not what I am sure the regions would consider to be a regional park.

It may well be that the words that I seek to put in are unnecessary, but I am very glad I put them in in order to get the reaction of the noble Earl as to what he sees as a regional park. The public in Scotland will not stand for it. If they are able to get this access freely at the present time—because it is quite difficult to keep people in Scotland off the hills, and rightly so—then I am sure they would be highly offended at the idea of this kind of activity construed as a regional park. I do not know what the commission thought about it, but I hope it was different from what the noble Earl thought about it. I have down a later amendment to leave out this clause, because I think it is a hotchpotch and has not been thought out. I am sorry the Committee is not far better attended to deal with this very important matter in respect of a part of Scotland's heritage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.47 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 12: Page 5, line 1, leave out ("Regional Councils") and insert ("Local Authorities").

The noble Lord said: I come to something that has been annoying me for some time. Subsection (2) reads: Regional councils shall have power … to designate lands within their region as regional parks, and to manage as a single administrative unit any parts of any such park which are under the control of the council". It is a wonder we have no amendment from the noble Earl cutting out some of that, because the implication there is that if they are under the control of the council the council own them. However, when the 1967 Act was passed—and it is noticeable within all this how much reference there is to planning authorities—planning authorities in Scotland consisted of the county council planning authorities, which were the landward and the small burghs. Then there were the large burghs, which had general planning powers. Then there were the councils of the cities; they have general planning powers. But now, today, there are only the district councils and regional councils who split the planning powers between them. In addition, you have the Highlands councils; they have general powers. And certain of the regions—the Highland Region, the Border Region and Dumfries and Galloway—have general planning powers. Remember, we are talking there of part of the great scenic heritage of Scotland, where the more local people, the district councils, have not got the planning powers.

Before I heard the Government's statement today I suggested that we should not limit this to regional councils; if we leave it to local authorities it widens it. I object to the sort of different point of view about regional councils having this. The Stodart Report, which I have read—because it came out in, I think, the first week of January—clearly said that they thought regional councils should have nothing to do with the countryside. I thought that it was very interesting that we should have this go-ahead to regional parks. You can call parks what you like, but here we come to the people who control them—the regional councils, the very people who Stodart said should not do so.

I suggest that we leave it at "local authorities" and, if the Government wish, later on they can define "local authorities" in the context of this clause. It would not make any great change; it does not rule out regions at present, but it might well be better to leave it general and to local authorities and then to re-define "local authorities" to "districts" or to "regions" once the Government have made up their mind about it. The other alternative, of course, is to wipe the whole thing out and wait for the new legislation that we have been promised, which probably would be the best idea. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mansfield

It may be helpful if I give the Government's reaction to this amendment and, indeed, the one that follows, because they are both tied up, as the noble Lord, Lord Ross, has already implied, with the Government's conclusions about the Stodart Report.

The report in fact recognises the division of countryside functions into what I may call two categories: first, amenity, which deals with the preservation or enhancement of the natural beauty of land and the provision of a range of facilities such as tree-planting, picnic places and so on; and secondly, planning—that is to say, dealing with the making of access and footpath agreements or orders, the assertion and maintenance and protection of rights of way and the development of long-distance routes and country parks. The report considered that amenity functions should be the responsibility of district councils and that planning functions should be the responsibility of district and general planning authorities. That was the conclusion to which the report came.

In the statement which I repeated in the House today the Government in effect accepted that, as with leisure and recreation functions, those in general should go to the district councils, but we recognise that because there are some facilities in this field which have significance beyond any district boundary, there should be a continuing role for the regions. Applying these conclusions to the new or extended powers given in the Bill—for example, Clause 7, the powers and duties in respect of rights of way, and the power to make by-laws to preserve the public's enjoyment of the peace and quiet in specific areas in Clause 11—they are, for instance, given exclusively to the district council level. But now, at the other end of the spectrum, which is this clause—Clause 8—the power to designate the regional parks which, as my noble friend Lord Selkirk has explained, are designed to serve a much larger area than would be likely to be in a district council's catchment area, is given to the regional council as the logical custodian of the power.

The power to enter management agreements in Clause 9 and the extension of the power to make by-laws in respect of public paths and long-distance routes will remain available to both tiers, but administrative advice given by departmental circular will make it clear that regional councils will exercise their power where there is either a clear advantage or a need for them to act; for example, in management agreements where the area would involve a number of district councils and in respect of by-laws where these are required for a long-distance walking route for which the regional council is responsible and where by-laws in a common form over the entire length of the route are clearly desirable.

Therefore, to sum up my remarks in respect of the noble Lord's amendment, we are anxious that wherever possible a single authority should be responsible for a particular function, and on the basis of the area of land that is likely to be involved in these particular parks, I think that the regional council must be the obvious and, indeed, the only appropriate body. It is for that reason that the Bill comes to be drafted in the way that it is and I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord Ross, will see that it is logical—logical having regard to the conclusions to which the Government have come, having considered the Stodart Report.

Lord Ross of Marnock

But I do not think that the Government have been logical in relation to the Stodart Report. We should remember that Stodart set out, and was asked to set out by the Government, to consider the overlapping functions, functions that were given both to the district and to the region. Here the noble Earl comes along and tells us, "We will have overlapping functions in respect of parks" and in respect of the provision of by-laws so far as I understood what he said, although I should like to see that in cold print before I make up my mind about it.

In other words, Stodart having put forward a solution to solve the problem, along come the Government and create yet another problem. The noble Earl seems to think that for some reason or other these parks are outwith the powers of the district because of their size. What is the size of some of the districts in the Highland area? What is the size of some of the districts in Strathclyde? I do not think that anyone would argue about the question of the extensive nature of the park in Brodick and the land involved there; not the whole of Goatfell comes into it, but I can assure the noble Earl that a considerable part of the whole area around Brodick Castle is a country park; it is a district of the National Trust for Scotland.

The same applies to Culzean; that was the first country park. I had quite a bit to do with that and I thought that it was a great achievement to get all the local authorities in the area to agree; they were the burghs of Ayr and Kilmarnock and the county council of Ayr. To get all three to agree to anything was a very considerable achievement, but to get them to agree to a countryside park which was a very considerable distance from Kilmarnock and, indeed, from Ayr, was an even greater achievement.

Confusion arises when you start talking about these extensive areas and what they draw upon. Culzean country park draws people from all over the country and from all over Britain. It is the most extensively visited park in the whole of Scotland. How this will be sorted out I do not know. The solution that the Stodart Committee reached was: There seems to us no reason for regional involvement other than that by perhaps contributing financially". That is what happens at present in relation to the Culzean country park. I think we are becoming confused before we have fully thought through the whole question of need and who should control these special parks. I do not like the idea of calling them regional parks; I think it is the wrong conception of a regional park. This Bill first came to us in May, and so it started on its way a few months before that.

The last report from the commissioners stated they had been waiting years for some kind of legislation. That was probably long before the Stodart Report was even embarked upon or completed, and it would have been far better to have waited two or three months. We have already been promised legislation in respect of the report's other aspects. Local authorities have not yet reacted to the Stodart Report, but the Government have made up their minds—although I am not very clear what they have in mind in respect of this idea of regional parks.

The Government have yet to consult local authorities and the general public to get their reactions; yet before they have obtained these reactions the Government are saying, "This is what we want to do". I feel that Mr. Rifkind was far more forthcoming in the other place when he said that if the ultimate decision was that this is wrong and Stodart was right then a change would be made in the new legislation that has been promised. I do not believe anything very much is going to happen under this legislation over the next few years. I wonder whether the noble Earl knows what the cost of a countryside park is? I do not believe that one can have a special regional park without very considerable expenditure. There is no chance at all of the Government allowing any local authority to bargain over that at the present time.

I am not satisfied that the Government are wise in allowing the noble Earl to go ahead with this private venture and with this Bill in this particular way; jumping the gun so far as this particular report and the reactions of the public are concerned. We have not yet reached finality on this matter and I do not believe that everyone knows what is meant by a regional park. We have two parks in Strathclyde and two in Aberdeen, in Grampian. They are not the kind of parks referred to by the noble Earl and yet they are called regional parks. There has been much confusion and no one is very clear as to what is meant. The Government are not very clear about the powers which are to be applied ultimately, or who shall apply them. I am not going to withdraw the amendment because I believe the matter should be left open and then a definition can be put down at a later stage. One could take the power to define it by order, if one liked. That could be easily put in. I would prefer to have the amendment negatived because I could not possibly agree to this kind of confusion.

On Question, amendment negatived.

[Amendment No. 13 not moved.]

11.4 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 14: Page 6, line 1, leave out subsection (5).

The noble Lord said: This subsection means that all the forms and designations are going to be controlled by the Government under statutory instrument and that the statutory instrument has to come before Parliament. I believe that is quite unnecessary. I feel it is right that the Government should draw up the procedures, but I do not accept that it is necessary to burden Parliament with all the bits and pieces. I beg to move.

The Earl of Selkirk

I must say that the noble Lord has a great gift for making confusion where there is clarity. I am indeed pained at the obstruction which he is throwing into a very forward looking Bill which is trying to make provision for many citizens in urban areas to see something of the open countryside. I think much of what he says is really deeply misconceived. When we come to the latter part of Clause 8 we see that the Secretary of State has got to show the manner in which a regional park will be set up. Among other things it will have to keep the people in the area informed; to give them the opportunity of making objections; see how those objections will be handled; and indeed to see eventually when the order is confirmed, if it is, that they are duly informed of the contents of the order.

To my mind, it is natural and proper that the general principles on which a regional park should be formed should be put before Parliament. It is right and proper. There may be many people who object to certain ways in which the structure of the park is set. Apparently the noble Lord would be the first to object to every inch of it. I know not whether this is true or not. But I think it would be quite wrong for these parks to be set up without Parliament being satisfied of the manner in which the parks are to be set up—not in respect of each park in itself—and the way in which those people who live in the area, who own the land and are concerned, are properly informed.

It would be very wrong for Parliament not to see that, and I am certain that the noble Lord would be the first to object to it if it were not put before Parliament. We are only using the annulment procedure, we are not asking for a positive agreement, and it is right and proper that it should come before Parliament. This is an experiment, and I accept that. No one knows exactly how it will work out, but the intentions are there. It is not right to say that it is not known. Thirty organisations who are deeply concerned with different aspects of leisure have already been told, and the general principles have been fully agreed. It is wrong to say that this has gone forward without careful consultation. In these circumstances, I hope that the noble Lord will not press this. It would be absurd to pretend that regulations of this nature, covering this new idea, should go forward without Parliament having an opportunity to criticise them should it wish to do so.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I hope the noble Earl appreciates just exactly the nature of the power he is giving to Parliament. You cannot criticise and delete this word or that word, or this part and that part; you have to accept the whole or nothing. Parliament does not play a constructive part in the building up of these regulations. The part that Parliament plays is the part we are doing just now. We should be examining this carefully line by line, and we are not. We have not had a reasonable explanation from anybody as to what this new experiment is. We are going to have a new experiment. We do not know what we are experimenting on. We do not know what the hope is.

One minute the noble Earl tells us we are going to have a park where people can move about the way they are doing at the present time. They are already doing it. You do not need a park then. You are probably going to limit them by a park. I want more discussion in this House in relation to the idea before we go forward and experiment. I am not suggesting that we do not have a statutory instrument. We have a statutory instrument, and we shall be able to see in that the extent to which the Secretary of State carries out his tasks as laid down.

It is a matter of controlling, advising, and telling the regional authority by order to designate. The order is made by the local authority, and then the Secretary of State prescribes the procedure. It is procedure only that we are dealing with. That is what is going to be in the order. I have known many of these statutory instruments in relation to annulment which have never been looked at; so why pretend and why trouble the Committee on Statutory Instruments going over it? Let us simplify it and leave it out. I am convinced that Parliament should examine every one of these, and I regret not having tabled an amendment to that effect; probably I will do so at the next stage of the Bill—which I hope will not be at midnight.

The Government have not said much about this new concept or experiment that has not been tried out yet. However, it is very important and everybody knows all about it; it is just not on. Perhaps the statutory instrument should be subject to the affirmative procedure because it is so important. If, as we are told, it is so vital, the best way to ensure that it comes before Parliament is to proceed by way of the affirmative procedure, otherwise Parliament will probably never hear of it. I was too simple-minded in my amendment and I see now that I was wrong; it should not be annulment on the basis of the negative procedure, but dealt with by the affirmative procedure. Recognising how wrong I was, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment No. 15 not moved.]

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Extension of power to make byelaws]:

11.12 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 16: Page 8, line 4, leave out "or").

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 are really drafting amendments and I will therefore, with the leave of the Committee, speak at the same time to No. 17. This is concerned with the vexed question of quiet areas of the countryside—undefined, of course—and we are giving a new power for the drawing up of by-laws to control matters for the enjoyment by the public of quiet areas of the countryside without the intervention of engine noise from vehicles and aircraft. But then we have a list of exceptions.

This is one of the silliest clauses I have ever seen in a Bill and I am seeking to comprehend it within the general powers of by-law production by inserting a by-law-making power to achieve "quiet areas of the countryside". I do not know why the provision has been limited in the way it has—to engine noise from vehicles and aircraft as mentioned in the provision—though I notice that it includes model aircraft; that was brought in at another stage of the Bill.

It really is a silly clause. It should not be there at all. But instead of taking it all out, I suggest that we take the by-law-making power in relation to the quiet areas of the countryside and put it where it should be, rather than allow it to stick out like a sore thumb, attracting special attention, so that everyone sees how silly it is. So far as I can recall from reading what the sponsor of the Bill said in another place, this has something to do with snowcats.

This provision cannot be justified. We are all agreed that we want quiet in the countryside. But why single out these two points, and then give a list of exceptions, without having the general power given along with the other powers in relation to what the planning authority may do? The Bill refers to what the planning authority may do: as respects land in their area belonging to them and situated in the countryside…". It might well be that the phrase "belonging to them" will give rise to objection, but we can put that right at another stage. I beg to move.

The Earl of Selkirk

The noble Lord said that this is a paving amendment. Well, I must say that it is a paving amendment to what is in many ways a very imaginative amendment. It is rather like the first chapter of Genesis: the local authority said, "Let there be quiet", and there was quiet, and the local authority saw that it was a good thing. It is not just as simple as that. One cannot do it just like that. It is quite impossible to handle a matter of this kind in so simple a way. We are concerned here with yet another new step, and I must say that the noble Lord is being extraordinarily reactionary. He seems to object to anything that is new. He wants more talk and less action, and I must say that this is really rather a pity.

We are dealing here with guidelines, in relation to which we must give some kind of assurance. This matter has been specifically dealt with by the district authorities. That ought to have pleased the noble Lord, but apparently it does not. It is very difficult to reconcile him. His amendment would not deal with any farming application at all. It is possible that any noises from tractors or other agricultural implements would be stopped altogether. That would be quite wrong. What the noble Lord proposes would not take into account any emergency services, such as those involving the use of helicopters. It would not deal with sporting rights in any form whatever. It would not deal with Crown rights that might arise, for one reason or another. These are factors which make it quite impossible seriously to consider the amendment.

For someone who usually lives in a town there is nothing more enjoyable than peace and quiet, and it is desirable that we have it. This is in some ways a new issue. I should like to refer to what I consider is a very good example of what I have in mind. The example might be familiar, since it was given in the other place. Some people like water-skiing, others like fast boats. Those activities do not go awfully well with fishing. The honourable Member who dealt with the point in another place said that one end of Loch Tay could be noisy and the other end could be quiet. But one cannot mix the two different types of activity. It is not difficult to arrange this; it is quite simple.

The major causes of noise are mentioned in the provision, and there seems to be no reason to add to them unduly. There might be occasion to add to them, but all the normal sources of noise are covered. I hope that the noble Lord will realise that he must go a little further, unless he does not want to ensure that the area is quiet. He must go a little further and take away the amendment. When something new such as this is being introduced, one must give people guidelines. I believe that the provision contains reasonable guidelines, so as to make a start on maintaining quiet for people who want it. Therefore I hope that the noble Lord will not press the amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

The noble Earl missed out what is the best reason for opposing my amendment—and I gave him a clue. I referred to the by-law-making power of a local authority as respects land in their area belonging to them…". The noble Earl wants this restrictive power in areas that might well be private areas. It is on those grounds that he should oppose my amendment—not by means of all that guff (if I may call it so) about, "Let there-be quiet, and there was quiet". I do not know whether he has read this, and seen what they can do on land which belongs to them.

I wanted—and this was my whole point—a general by-law power, or for this to be construed with the general by-law power. They can make by-laws for the preservation of order, for the prevention of damage to the land, path, route, right of way, park or waterway or anything thereon, therein, or adjacent thereto"— I love that phrase— and for securing that persons resorting thereto will so behave themselves as to avoid undue interference with the enjoyment of the land, path, route, right of way, park or waterway by other persons.". What could be more restrictive than that? "Let there be quiet", and there was quiet according to the power of by-laws—within their own land. Why, then, should we not extend to other land, as well as within their own land, this right to make by-laws for the enjoyment of quiet areas of the countryside, and leave it at that? Why not leave it to the local authority, in the circumstances of what is happening in their area, to make by-laws in respect of the quiet of the countryside, and not limit it?

Somebody or other will discover it is not nearly sufficiently general where they say …to control—

  1. (a) the use on land or waterways of vehicles (including hovercraft and boats); and
  2. (b) the landing and taking off of aircraft".
My goodness!, it makes the mind boggle in relation to some of these quiet areas. Who are the people who are going to be the users of helicopters? It does not apply to the emergency service; it does not apply to the owner of the land—I think I am right in suggesting that. It says: owners, occupiers or tenants of the land, or owners of an interest in the land,…". It is most likely owners of the land who will be landing in helicopters. But it does not matter; they can make as much noise as they like; they are not disturbing people.

To my mind the whole thing is so misconceived it would be far better to have it in a general power to make by-laws, and then the local authority could relate it to the circumstances without telling them all this, as to what they can and cannot do. "We will have quiet, but certain people may make as much noise as they like". It does not make sense. I think this is one of the silliest clauses I have ever seen in a Bill, and I have seen some silly ones, especially this last year or two. I think the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, will recollect that I have had this to say about one or two things which have been produced here; but, really this is so unnecessary, and with a little thought it could have been drafted in another way and much more simply than this, with a fairly general power in respect of land—not only land owned by the local authority, but you could limit it to the areas of great scenic beauty.

But we are going to have a bit of difficulty describing "quiet areas of the countryside". A quiet area of the countryside could be the noisiest place in the world if the owner wants to make it that, and you cannot do anything about it. It really is quite incredible that the noble Earl should get up and defend this in the kind of language he used, and forget the kind of by-law-making power in respect of behaviour and other events that there already is in the clause that I am seeking to amend by adding to it. I recognise the weakness of it, in that the power in Clause 10 of a local authority to make by-laws of the kind I have described is only in respect of land belonging to them. But I think we could easily add the words: "belonging to them" or "areas already designated as of great national scenic value and quiet areas of the countryside". That would cover the whole thing. In fact, I do not—

The Earl of Mansfield

I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord, but I wonder if he is right when he repeats that a local authority, according to his wishes, could only make by-laws as respects land in an area belonging to them. The second part of subsection (1) says: and a planning authority may…", which is nothing to do with land which belongs to them. What I am suggesting is that it would give a planning authority complete freedom to make a by-law without any exceptions over any bit of land, whether or not belonging to them.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I think there could be quite an argument about this. The clause states: A local authority may, as respects land in their area belonging to them and situated in the countryside, and a planning authority may, as respects…a public path…a long-distance route…". It is rather confusing, I admit. But if the Minister of State is right and they can do anything they like in any part—

The Earl of Mansfield

The noble Lord's amendment, "quiet areas of the countryside", means that the planning authority can make any by-law on this question in any quiet area of the countryside. I am wondering whether he sees—

Lord Ross of Marnock

That was why I did it. I added to the catalogue—which was a public path creation order, a public path diversion order, a long-distance route which passes through the area, a public right of way, a country park provided by them, land or a waterway in relation to which an agreement or order has been made by them to which public access has been given; and a new subsection: (f) quiet areas of the countryside".

The Earl of Selkirk

May I add to what my noble friend Lord Mansfield has said. He said the Border regions could make a quiet area in Sutherland. I do not know what the noble Lord is asking. It is unmitigated nonsense.

Lord Ross of Marnock

They can only make orders within their own area.

The Earl of Selkirk

One must read the provision properly. They can make it where they like.

Lord Ross of Marnock

Well, if they can make it where they like, they can make it anywhere they like in terms as it stands at the moment: A local authority may, as respects land in their area belonging to them and situated in the countryside …".

The Earl of Selkirk

The noble Lord—and I do not understand it—is now handing over powers which I am asking him to give to the district council, which he has been enunciating as being so important to the planning authority. He does not want to do that. He wants to give it to the district council, does he not? This is what it does in the Bill. He is changing it from district council to planning authority, which is a quite different authority.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I do not know whether the noble Earl has read the Stodart Report in respect of this but he says that all things in relation to the country should go to the district authority. This is making by-laws in respect of country parks, and country parks are to be district parks, according to Stodart. In respect of the existing country parks, there are only two of them in Strathclyde and two in Grampian that are regional parks and are so described. But, according to the definition earlier from the noble Earl, you could not even describe them as regional parks. I do not see where his question about the planning authority under the district should worry him. The districts are planning authorities; they are the planning authorities. This is the point I raised earlier.

The whole confusion of the planning authorities in this Bill is something that must be sorted out and should have been sorted out after the 1973 Act came into operation. We keep talking about planning authorities doing this and that, when we mean the local authorities; but we could not define the local authorities. The local authorities were different between 1967 and the present day. Anyone who wanted to do a workmanlike job should have gone through this 1967 Act and sorted out that confusion. That is why the noble Earl is getting confused. District authorities are planning authorities.

The Earl of Selkirk

Only in certain cases.

Lord Ross of Marnock

Only in certain cases? They are not. These three cases are the Highlands, the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway.

On Question, amendment negatived.

[Amendment No. 17 not moved.]

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Power of district and islands councils to control noise in the countryside]:

11.31 p.m.

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 18: Page 9, line 27, leave out ("this Act") and insert ("the Act of 1967").

The noble Earl said: The Bill was amended in the other place so that its provisions would all become textual amendments of the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967. As such it would then comply with the recommendations of the committee chaired by my noble friend Lord Renton. Unfortunately, Clause 11 was not properly converted and the amendments are intended to rectify the defects in that clause. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 11, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Ross of Marnock

Later on we are going to slice this amendment. I suggest that it should be hung, drawn and quartered and left out of the Bill altogether.

Clause 11, as amended, agreed to.

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 19: Divide Clause 11 into two Clauses, the first (Power of district and islands councils to control noise in the countryside) consisting of page 9, lines 1 to 26, and the second (Extension of powers of rangers) consisting of page 9, lines 27 to 35.

The noble Earl said: I have already spoken to this Amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Ross of Marnock

How can we be in order to have the Question that the clause stand part agreed to and then make it into two clauses?

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Airedale)

We could not have divided the clause into two separate parts without having first agreed to it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Remaining clauses and the schedules agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.