§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Consideration on Report resumed.
The Earl of Iddesleigh
My Lords, I count myself fortunate in having lived in Devon for the greater part of my life. In fact, for the last 35 years my home has been within 19 miles of Okehampton. I confess that I do not travel through Okehampton every week—I do not think that any sane person would unless they had to. But I know the A.30 reasonably well and I also know the country surrounding Okehampton tolerably well. Although I have been a Member of this House for some years, I am known in the West Country as an occasional speaker here. But I think it is significant that I have never before received so many letters as I have in the post in the last few weeks from organisations and individuals on this subject. They have all urged me to come and address your Lordships this afternoon. I needed no urging, because I am convinced that to go south is the right decision. I feel that I must tell your Lordships that the feeling in the West Country is running very high indeed.
Another factor which is of major importance is the attitude of the various local councils. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has already mentioned the comparatively small majority in the last meeting of the county council. But it is a fact that Devon County Council has consistently supported the "go south" policy ever since the consultative process was started. And it is not alone. West Devon District Council, Okehampton Town Council and Okehampton Hamlets Parish Council have been consistently for the southern route. In fact, all 14 local parish councils support this route as well. Surely this House must pay heed to the local views—views from democratically-elected individuals. I have this information from an impeccable local government source.
I am sure that many noble Lords have seen the exhibition staged by the Ministry of Transport either at Marsham Street or at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors building across Parliament Square. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, was there, because I feel that any noble Lord not familiar with the area must surely have been convinced by that exhibition that from a purely visual angle the southern route is far preferable to any of the 1440 (is it 13 or 16?) alternatives to the north. This view is supported by well-known landscape consultants.
But what of the ecology angle? How important are these woodlands on the southern route? I think that we can find the answer to these questions in the report of Dr. D. L. Hawksworth of the Commonwealth Mycological Institute of Kew. This report was used in evidence at the public inquiry in 1979. It is dated 4th April that year and is headed, "Report to the Dartmoor National Park Officer". The aim of the report is to survey the lichen flora of Okehampton district with particular reference to parts that would be affected by a southern route, to assess the ecological continuity in the woodlands, to assess the scientific importance of the park for lichens in a regional and national context, and to consider the probable effects of the bypass route.
In his evidence at the inquiry the Dartmoor National Park officer hardly referred to this very comprehensive report. I imagine that the money by which it was sponsored came from his Dartmoor National Park Committee.
It is of course difficult to paraphrase several sheets of foolscap, but in essence Dr. Hawksworth gives the Revised Index of Ecological Continuity (or RIEC) for the eleven various wooded areas on the southern route. He compares those figures with other areas on Dartmoor. The RIEC scale is from 0 to 100, and the most important areas have figures of 80 to 100. We have examples of Holme Chase and Bekka Falls, which have figures of 100 or 95.
It is interesting that the summary of this report states:Calculations of Revised Index of Ecological Continuity of the woodlands examined have values of 0 to 30 suggesting they do not have a sufficiently long history of ecological continuity to make them of outstanding scientific importance for plants and animals of all groups characteristic of ancient woodlands".Time does not permit me to give the complete summary of conclusions. But it is clearly shown that the southern route will not go through woodlands of national importance. The implications in the report are that these woodland areas are not ancient woodlands, that they are of only limited regional importance, and, anyhow, that the bypass will not seriously affect them.
Your Lordships have heard convincing arguments, and will hear more, in favour of the southern route; few, I feel, that are convincing in favour of any alternative. We in the West Country need this bypass now. We know that we may have to settle for three years' time, but, please, my Lords, any delay longer than three years is totally unacceptable, I believe, to the vast majority of West Country residents.
My final points are in connection with the conclusions of the joint parliamentary committee, which voted by only four votes to two in favour of a northern alternative earlier this year. First, at the 1979 inquiry, between them the farmers on the northern route spent some £ 10,000 to defend their farms. When the result was made known they thought that after many years of planning blight they could safely go ahead with developing their farming activities, and they have done so. Secondly, at the joint parliamentary committee hearing locals were not given the opportunity to object, as they were at the 1441 public inquiry. The reason, of course, is that no one particular northern route is actually fully planned in any way.
Another point is that the joint parliamentary committee was not aware when it met that public open spaces which would be taken by the bypass would be replaced by land bought by the Ministry of Transport, as the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, has already informed this House. The acreage of land provided is greater than the land that will be taken.
Lastly, if a northern route is chosen, it will almost inevitably cross this bog, to which, again, the noble Earl referred, and the disturbance of this bog will, I am told, release the dangerous heavy metal, cadmium, into the local streams and the River Okement. This will cause considerable environmental damage, and this, too, was not known to the joint committee when it sat. If these last two points had been known earlier this year, I wonder whether the joint committee would have voted as it did? I know that these points and others will be enlarged upon by other noble Lords from the west country.
I should like to conclude with a story which I am assured is true and which goes back to 1938 when a farmer to the west of Okehampton—and I honestly do not know whether he was a northern or a southern man—was approached by a surveyor carrying his equipment across his field. The surveyor asked the farmer, who was quietly ploughing his field, whether he could carry out a survey for an alternative road away from the town centre. The farmer replied: "That's all right, you go ahead; but tell me, is it worth finishing the field or shall I take the horses back home to bed?" Do not let us take this horse home to bed tonight and let it rest in its stable for another nine years or more. I strongly urge this House to support the findings of the public inquiry—and I stress the word "public"—and to vote for a southern bypass for Okehampton.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Lord Nugent of Guildford
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the vigorous voice of the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh. who has come from Devonshire to support the Bill. The first point which the noble Earl made was the first point that I want to make: that the overwhelming voice of the elected people and bodies from the South-West is a major factor which I am sure all noble Lords will take into account. The only point I would add to the noble Earl's list of county, district and parish councils is that of the 16 Members of Parliament in Devon and Cornwall, 14 are in favour and only two against. In my view, that is a major factor.
As we all well know, the fact is that this bypass is a matter of vital importance to the economy of the south-west, especially Cornwall, and it is for that very reason that the Government are justified in promoting this Bill as a matter of national importance and as part of the completion of the national road network.
I should like to refer briefly to the letter of the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, which was published in The Times a couple of days ago. In it he alleged that the amendment of my noble friend Lord Molson is a 1442 wrecking amendment because it declines to approve the Bill. Indeed, if this noble House were to support my noble friend's amendment, it would reverse the Commons decision on the Bill. That would be contrary to the convention of this House, which is that we do not withold approval from legislation approved by the other House.
The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, was very skilful in his footwork in moving around this, and no one could object to his amendment. If the Front Bench sit tight and perhaps he and the noble Baroness, Lady David, and the remainder of his noble colleagues behind him all support my noble friend Lord Molson, it probably would not embarrass the noble Lord as much as it would embarrass us; he would have kept within the convention that the Official Opposition do not oppose the Government. Just how the convention applies to a Private Member's Motion is a matter which I do not think has ever been fully explored. However, it seems that the extremely cogent charge of my noble friend Lord Molson that the Government are being unconstitutional is slightly shaky on its base as to whether he is being constitutional in proposing the rejection of this Bill. Nevertheless, I should like to try to deal with the major points with which we are all very concerned.
I should like to say how much I enjoyed listening to my noble friend Lord Molson, who I have heard very often over the years. I have never heard him in better voice as he marshalled his arguments in such tremendous style; and his very long history, going back to the 1945 Act, and indeed years before, gives him great authority. I recall his fame when he was at Oxford, where he won a First in jurisprudence. Therefore, none of us is suprised that he is able to speak with such compelling authority. It is not so much compelling that it will drive us into the Lobbies on his side, but it compels us to listen to him even though we may not agree—and for myself I do not.
I shall not try to deal with the main points that he made. The major point is that it is a constitutional impropriety for the Government to override the recommendation of the Joint Select Committee. My noble friend Lord Molson very fairly quoted passages from the speech of Arthur Greenwood, the Lord Privy Seal, in 1945, in which he said that he did not intend to use this measure to override the private interest. However, he did say that, where it was a matter of national policy in the judgment of the Government, it must then be for the Government to decide whether they should use their parliamentary majority to support that point of view. My noble friend very fairly quoted that particular passage.
The fact is that this is just such a case. I shall leave the matter of precedents to my noble friends on the Front Bench. I do not doubt that, as usual, my noble friend Lord Elton will have all the precedents at his fingertips. However, I think that the 1949 measure is a precedent. I shall let my noble friend deal with that.
Finally, leaving precedents aside, there is no doubt whatever that the opinion of a Select Committee cannot override the opinion of Parliament. At the end of the day the sovereignty of Parliament is absolute. As I said earlier, the case of this bypass has become much more important than the convenience of Okehampton, though goodness knows that must now be a pretty 1443 serious matter. After 17 years of delay the issue has become one of national importance, for the south-west and especially for Cornwall. That is the basic justification for my noble friends on the Front Bench and right honourable friends in another place saying that this is a matter of national policy, and that is why they believed they were justified in using the machinery in the 1945 Act.
Further to my noble friend's charge of rejecting the report of the joint committee, I agree that governments normally accept reports of joint committees, but they are not bound to; and there are some unusual features about this report to which I should briefly like to call attention. The joint committee was set up to consider the compulsory purchase orders for the land required for the southern route where the exchange land proposals were found by the Secretary of State for the Environment to be inadequate. In the event, the Joint Select Committee, having been set up with those terms of reference, concluded that it was deciding whether or not the southern bypass should be built to the south of Okehampton. Indeed, the honourable gentleman who was chairman, Mr. Rossi, said in his speech in the Commons—which has been referred to—that they did regard themselves as a court of appeal. But of course they were not a court of appeal at all. They heard the petitioners against the south route, and they heard the Department of Transport, who were the promoters, in favour; but what they never heard were the interests—the landowners, the farmers, and other interests—on the northern route who would be affected by it going there.
It is no argument to say that the arguments were put forward by the civil servants from the Ministry of Transport. They would have been much stronger arguments if they had come from the interests themselves. They never heard them at all. They cannot be said to have had the full case put before them in the way that the inspector had in his 96 days of inquiry where he had the full force of the interests both to the south and to the north personally represented in front of him. I say to my noble friend that I thought he was rather over-severe in his criticisms of my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport with regard to the setting up of the joint committee. I do not see how any government could have known that the Joint Select Committee would have gone so far beyond its original terms of reference as it did.
I make two other limited points with regard to the Select Committee. It was fully considered, as was made plain by Ministers in the Commons debate (but it is worth adding a point made by the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh), that in fact within a few months of the joint committee being set up additional land was found—enough to make the exchange for the public open space being taken more than adequate. Therefore, had that been done to start with the Secretary of State for the Environment could have given his certificate and the Joint Select Committee need never have been set up. But of course that is now all water under the bridge.
My Lords, I apologise, and I thank the noble Lord for giving way. It is of course true that the 1444 Secretary of State has offered in quantity a large acreage of land in replacement of the 23 acres which will be denied by driving the route through the southern route; but has he considered the matter of quality? It is the contention of those who are not at all satisfied with that offer that the quality of the land, in terms of access for the purposes that we understand a national park to stand for, is nothing like so good.
§ Lord Nugent of Guildford
My Lords, that evidently is the noble Lord's opinion, and this must remain a matter of opinion. As the whole point is now theoretical and water under the bridge, I should not delay the House in discussing it as we have so many speakers.
I turn to another major point, and that is my noble friend's charge of the breach of Circular 4/76, Roads Through National Parks. Of course we all recognise the immense importance of this strong circular issued by the Labour Government in 1976, which clearly defined a policy against roads through national parks. But I repeat what my noble friend said in his opening speech, that it provided for exceptions where there is a compelling need which could not be met by any reasonable alternative. Those terms of course mean exactly what they say, and at the end of the day it must be a matter of judgment as to whether or not that is made out.
I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, dealt with this diplomatically, but nevertheless the Labour Government of the day decided that the southern route was the right one to promote, and they then started the process which, as the noble Lord rightly said, went on to public inquiry and all the rest of the procedure which has gone on ever since. But the fact that the Labour Government of the day so decided is some confirmation that the Government of today have probably got their judgment right.
Finally, on the question of compensation to petitioners before the Joint Select Committee, a point my noble friend made and which was implied in Lord Underhill's amendment—
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? There is nothing at all in my amendment referring to compensation to the petitioners. It is compensation to the national parks authority to which my amendment refers
§ Lord Nugent of Guildford
My Lords, all right, we shall leave it at the petitioners. I shall only say that no hardship has been done. In fact, the Joint Select Committee could have awarded costs to the petitioners if it had wanted to, but the petitioners did not apply for costs. Since then a leading member of the petitioners has written to the Secretary of State saying that they would have regarded an offer of money as an insult. No doubt a few other noble Lords besides myself will have read the advertisement today in The Times advising me to vote against the Bill. It indicates that the petitioners are not exactly on the breadline.
I conclude because, much as I should like to continue to debate with my noble friend, the only criticism that I should have thought lies against the Government after 17 years' delay is that the procedural preparation needed for this bypass is much too long, and now is the time to take the decision and 1445 let the road building proceed. I urge noble Lords to support the Government.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Baroness White
My Lords, I rise to support the amendment to be moved by my noble friend Lord Underhill, on the supposition that we get that far. If it were not so serious a reality, the matter of the Okehampton bypass might seem to call for the pen of Anthony Trollope himself to do the story full justice. It is indeed an astonishing saga.
The uncertainties which have dogged this matter for almost two decades included of course in the earlier years the uncertainty as to whether or not the railway would abandon its mineral line to Meldon Quarry, followed by the unfortunate illness of the inspector which delayed the report of the public inquiry for years rather than months. But meanwhile Okehampton has suffered, and vehicle drivers have cursed the inadequacy of the A.30 not only in and through the town but also on either side of it. Therefore, one feels that we should now come to a decision.
The uncertainties I have mentioned were not of course the fault of the present Government, but the position in which we find ourselves today, which is at the root of Lord Molson's amendment, stems at least in part, despite protestations, from an uncertain attitude towards national parks as well as to the natural difficulties inherent in the case. I have tried to study the past history of this affair, as well as making the required pilgrimage to Okehampton to see for myself. With great respect to the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, who seems to have vanished, interesting though it was, the exhibition at the Ministry frankly was not enough. Unless one has been to see for oneself it is not easy to appreciate the finer but important local details.
What might look reasonable on a map may prove a good deal less convincing on the ground. I was much concerned, for instance, to be told that the northern route was to be preferred inter alia because it would provide easy access for heavy goods vehicles serving the small industrial estate to the north of the town. This indeed is a congested area, not ideally situated from any point of view as far as I could judge. But if, as seems likely, the preferred northern route were to go over the proposed Knowle viaduct at a very great height, spanning the deep and narrow valley adjacent to the industrial estate, I fail to see how local industrial traffic would obtain easy access at all.
§ Baroness White
My Lords, the Ministers on the Front Bench can see that I am doing my utmost to be entirely fair. The other industrial estate on the Exeter road is far better situated and far better laid out, but that is another matter altogether. That would have acceptable access whichever of the two contested routes were chosen.
Taking the southern route, when I saw from the map how close it was to the edge of the national park I confess that I wondered whether it might not in all the circumstances make better sense to modify the boundary of the park.
§ Baroness White
Ah, but wait, my Lords. The national park authority has already embarked on preliminary local consultations on possible revision of the park boundary in preparation for the formal 10-year review scheme initiated by the relevant authority for national parks; namely the Countryside Commission. In other words, park boundaries are sacred but not absolutely immutable for all time. But as soon as one went to Okehampton and saw the reality the idea of boundary modification became untenable. Not only is the quality of the land to be traversed by the proposed southern route indubitably of national park standard, as the recent Country side Commission statement so fully confirms, but this wooded escarpment is clearly part of the land mass of the park itself and provides a striking, in parts indeed a dramatic, introduction to the High Moor, even softening the shock of a sprawling army camp which one finds above it. This is true even if, as suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, the woodlands are not perhaps of the highest possible ecological quality As Mrs. Rumbold, the Junior Minister in another place, admitted, at the eastern end at Fatherford, where the new southern road would have to be carried on a high viaduct for a considerable distance, there would inevitably be the most serious visual intrusion. Whatever alleviating measures were adopted—I know that some have been considered—I am convinced that traffic noise would completely destroy the present tranquillity of the scene.
Not, I admit, that perfect peace reigns at present. The truckloads of ballast from the Meldon quarry travel by rail or further west by road several times a day. But this is not the intense and continuous noise of motor traffic on a major highway, which is the last thing one wants if one wishes to commune with nature. If one goes in person (I am speaking of those who, like myself, are not familiar with the area) the whole matter becomes very much more vivid.
I could continue with arguments for and against the northern and the southern routes, but I feel that perhaps it would be more helpful to leave that to others who have greater familiarity with the local scene and to turn to the second part of the amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Underhill.
However, before I come to that there is one matter on which I feel obliged to comment. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, made a very lively defence of the special procedure adopted by the Government which has taken so much time, not only in absolute terms—nearly a year, because the orders were laid at the end of 1984—but has also led to the overturning of the opinion of the joint committee. That was triggered off by this matter of the compensatory land for open space. I find this extraordinarily puzzling. The major part of the required land now to be purchased by agreement already enjoys, as I understand it, de facto public access. I think I am also right in saying that the national park authority had already initiated negotiations for a long lease of that land. What I cannot understand is why, if the Country Landowners' Association has been so helpful now, it could not have been helpful long ago. Why was it impossible—had the 1447 Ministry of Transport put its heart, mind and effort into the matter—for it to have used its considerable power of persuasion with its landed friends to have obtained this land which, as recently as 23rd October, it informed us it could now obtain? Could it not have made that purchase possible and saved nearly a year of precious time and the efforts of the joint committee and the petitioners? This was not fully explained by the noble Earl and I find that extremely puzzling.
The Earl of Caithness
If I may quickly reply to that, as the noble Baroness has kindly mentioned me by name. We offered four acres which we were going to acquire compulsorily for the two acres of Meldon Woods. We did not know until the inspector reported that there was further de facto open space land which became de jure open space land when the inspector reported on East Hill. Therefore we could not offer any alternative land until the inspector has reported, and that was the problem.
§ Baroness White
s: My Lords, if that is the case, ought not something to be done to change the legislative position? It seems to me perfectly absurd, but no mention of that was made to the noble Earl.
As I said, one could go on arguing for the southern or northern route, each of which has advantages and disadvantages. Neither side will admit to disadvantages of their own and all will claim advantages which are not so obvious to other people. But against this background of continuing and quite passionate controversy, some of us have tried to distance ourselves and tried to consider in more general terms what might be done to help the Dartmoor national park if the Secretary of State for Transport gets his way for the southern route, whatever one may think of it. We have had assurances that the intrusion into the Dartmoor park is not be regarded as a precedent. We hope that this will prove true, but it could happen elsewhere. Such things are not unknown. Meanwhile in the Dartmoor national park the amenities and character of the park will be significantly affected in an area which is admittedly not large in relation to the totality of the park, but it is important as a northern entry point to many of those who wish to enjoy the amenities of the park, not least those who make Okehampton their base. A high rise major trunk route may be regarded by the Government as essential at this point, but surely they must agree that it is completely contrary to the concept of what a national park should be.
If a local planning authority gives a planning consent and then, for whatever good reason, reverses that decision, it is liable to pay a considerable sum in compensation. The formal designation of an area as a national park is surely to make a national planning decision on the nature and use of the area of land concerned. Circumstances may arise (as it could be argued that they have arisen at Okehampton) where subsequently it may be decided that action has to be taken which is indisputably contrary to the intentions of the designation. There is a procedure, as we have just mentioned, for compensation for the very small areas of designated open space, but there is no such procedure offered as restitution for a national park in circumstances in which its value indubitably will be 1448 diminished. My noble friend's amendment refers to land exchange as a possible way of compensating. However, in many circumstances land exchange on any scale which would have any kind of validity quite frankly is improbable. The right kind of land does not always appear at the spot at which one would like to find it.
There are other ways, however, of trying to make some kind of restitution, if one is defeated on the main objective of the complete protection of the national park. The Ministry of Transport has estimated that it would spend just on £22 million, at 1984 prices, on the southern route proposed through the park. I think one can safely say, that by the end of the construction period it will more likely be £25 million. In our view—and this is part of the thinking behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill—there should be an obligation on the ministry to make some payment to the park authority for the significant loss of amenity. Obviously, at present, this would have to be ex gratia. But if this line of thought were to be considered to be desirable, then other means could, if necessary, be devised.
If local authorities have disincentives to reverse planning decisions, it seems only just that a Government department should make some recompense if it concludes that it must override what were, in effect, planning decisions on a national scale.
Suggestions have been made in another place that land to the east of the park and to the west of the now agreed first stage of the bypass might be included in the park. Some 1,400 acres was mentioned. This might be a sensible revision when the major boundary review is undertaken in a couple of years' time, but it does not seem to me at this stage to be a relevant substitution. In any case, it is not a matter for the Ministry of Transport to deal with, but for the Countryside Commission, which is the appropriate authority.
Reference has already been made to the suggestion that something should be done to meet the costs of the petitioners—members of voluntary organisations which are obviously, as the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, has suggested, better heeled than some of those who support voluntary organisations in the part of the country from which I come. It must be a very prosperous area. Nevertheless, they have spent some £50,000, on the abortive proceedings of the joint committee. Some have said they would refuse costs even if offered. Heaven forfend that any Government department should think it could buy its way into a national park. However, to offer some compensation as restitution for the significant disturbance seems to me to be quite another matter.
On an expenditure of £25 million, can one perhaps suggest that half a million by way of compensation might be about right? This is rather less than just a single year's Government grant for this particular park. The disturbance will not be for just a single year; it will be there for the foreseeable future.
If we are serious, we should keep out of national parks. If, nevertheless, in all the circumstances the decision is to be taken that other considerations override our concern for the environment, the procedure which I have suggested at least should be seriously considered. In the normal course of 1449 legislation this could be considered at a normal Committee stage. However, we are in an abnormal situation and therefore I must make this suggestion here, in support of my noble friend Lord Underhill, I hope very much that the Government and your Lordships' House will take it into account.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Lord Denning
My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will not accept either of these amendments. It reminds me of the time when one was in the courts of law: "If you have no defence on the merits, take a technical point, take a pleading point". That seems to me what is sought to be done by these amendments.
I should like to bring your Lordships back to the real matter before you. It is not what the route should be, north, south or the like. The only question is whether or not the Minister's order, under which he compulsorily acquired a few acres of land in Devon, should be approved and confirmed. Those are simply the closure orders.
This whole question of the route and so forth has been fully investigated in circumstances according to law, about which I shall tell your Lordships. In 1976, in pursuance of their statutory duty under the Highways Act, the Minister, the Secretary of State, had to set out the line of any proposed trunk road which was to serve the needs of the community. At that time, under the Labour Government in 1976, the proposed trunk road was proposed to take the strain off" Okehampton. The proposed road was one which would go through the so-called southern route, which would go through a little fringe edge of Dartmoor.
As the statute required, there had to be a public inquiry before that line of route was accepted and approved. There was a public inquiry chaired by Mr. Charles Fay. a member of the Bar. He heard every objection and everything in support. He took 93 days over it. This was in 1979–1981. Then, after another two years, he presented his report. Mark you, in the course of the case there were objections. We have had many of these cases, in which people have taken objections to the inspector doing this and hearing that, All those have gone overboard. Then, when his report has been made, people have sought to challenge the report in the courts, All those have gone by the board.
In this report the inspector went into this very point of the national park and considered it at length, with reasons. I shall not read the whole of his report because it would take me about three days to do so. However, I shall read the salient passages where he is dealing with this very question of the national park and this very question of the circular of 1976.
He said, in paragraph 2814 (your Lordships can see how many paragraphs he had; that is nearly 3,000):I now consider the policy relating to through routes and National Parks expressed in Circular 4/76, paragraph 58. Since I have concluded that there is 'a compelling need' for a bypass,"—that is now accepted by everybody—the question to he answered is whether any northern alternative would consitute 'a reasonable alternative means'".Thus he considers the very question there put. He goes into that very question in many paragraphs. He deals with the economic considerations, with the agricul- 1450 tural considerations. He deals with the question today and says, quite rightly, as all of us know, that this is not a matter for law, it is a matter of reasonableness which we always state to be a matter of fact.
After considering these matters in many paragraphs, he goes on to say in paragraph 2818:In all these circumstances, my view is that none of the northern routes that were considered at the inquiry is a reasonable alternative for the purposes of Circular 4/76".Then he. considers the other matter. In his final conclusion in paragraph 2821, he says:Thus, having considered a large body of evidence and submissions, my conclusion is that a bypass for the A.30 at Okehampton should be built and that it should be built on the published route".That is the route which goes through the edge of Dartmoor. That was his report. It was never challenged in the courts. Also—this is the important part—it was made the basis, by the Minister, of a statutory order under the Highways Act. Therefore, that is the order limiting the route, which has been decided in the face of all objections, in the face of the national park's objections, the environmental objections and all the others. That is the statutory order made under the Highways Act, after the full inquiry, which the statute provided.
So that route is decided. It will not create a precedent in regard to others because it is made only in regard to the exceptional case which has been mentioned. You can have the exceptional case even for a national park where there is a compelling need and no reasonable alternative. So it does not create a precedent in that way; nor can it in law create a precedent because all these questions of reasonableness are questions of fact and no decision on one set of facts ever binds another. So the question of precedence is out of the way.
Therefore, the line of the route having been decided authoritatively by a public inquiry and confirmed by the Minister under statute, it seems to me that that is not open to further investigation. But it was! When the question arose, it was simply this. When the Minister had to get the land for the route, he could get a lot of it by agreement. But there were a few acres—and there was all this question about open spaces; and I need not go into that—for which he had to get a compulsory purchase order. And he made that order. But, owing to the procedure which we have known and heard about, as there was a petition against this compulsory purchase order it was referred to a Joint Select Committee of your Lordships' House and of the Commons. The inquiry before that Joint Select Committee should have been simply about the validity or not of these closing orders. None of the people who owned the land objected at all. The people who came to object to the compulsory purchase order—could not object to the route any more—were the national parks and all these other bodies that we have heard of.
I am afraid that the joint committee was led up the garden path, if I may say so. It went again into all this matter of the route. I do not think that it ought to have done that, because once you have a decision as it was taken by the inspector, after all the evidence, you do not re-open it again. We have got a doctrine called res judicate. Once you have settled a thing after full 1451 inquiry you do not go canvassing it again, with all the expense involved. Anyway, the committee did so. But that committee did not have nearly so good a case as the inspector; it did not hear all these objectors and all the evidence and so forth. It was not in nearly so good a position to do that. It did not give a reasoned judgment, as did the inspector. Without any reason, it simply said it did not approve the compulsory purchase order. But it went into all the questions that I mentioned.
Its final decision—and it goes into what I think it ought not to have gone into—was:The Committee think that the northern route provides such a 'reasonable alternative means' and that the arguments in favour of the southern route do not justify the incursion into the National Park in this case".I think that it really ought not to have gone into that. Then it says:This Committee are therefore of the opinion that the Orders be not approved".It is for your Lordships to decide. This is a confirmation Bill. That is only a report by this joint committee for your Lordships' consideration and it is for your Lordships to decide on these compulsory purchase orders. That is the only thing. As I say, the route itself is already decided.
One comes to these amendments. My word! I will not go through them all, but it seems to me that a perfectly proper course was taken by the Government in saying, "Well, in the circumstances of such a debate and everything of this kind, this being a petition of general objection, let it be referred to a joint committee". It seems that that was quite right and the Government were quite right to receive the joint committee report and to consider it. But, having considered it, they could do as they have done in saying: "We think these compulsory purchase orders should be confirmed"; and they should be. It carries out the policy, the good policy, initiated by a Labour Government years ago, followed by this Government now, to have this bypass round Okehampton, even though it does go a little bit into the national park. That seems to be the policy, and it has been shown by my noble friend Lord Iddesleigh to be overwhelmingly supported by the county councils and the local authorities of Devon and Cornwall. In those circumstances surely your Lordships should affirm the Government and the Ministers and reject these amendments.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Lord Foot
My Lords, I found the noble and learned Lord there. He was there apparently picking up all the information he could garner. He told me that he did not know anything about it when he went there, but he appears to be entirely convinced by the exhibition. I will come back to that exhibition in a moment.
1452 I want immediately to try to deal with the argument which the noble and learned Lord is addressing to us, because it is an extraordinary argument coming from such an important and indeed, incomparable legal authority. The whole burden of his speech was that the inquiry before the inspector was a very reputable business, a very useful exercise; but then he proceeded to pour scorn upon the Act of Parliament which has been on the statute book ever since 1945, the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act 1945. He said that the idea that these petitioners could get access to such a committee was really quite improper. He said that the committee went far beyond its rights in the matters which it discussed.
It is not often that I am able to correct the noble and learned Lord on a matter of pure fact; but the fact of the matter is that that is completely false. If the noble and learned Lord will refer to Section 5(1) of the 1945 Act, he will find that these are the words with which subsection begins:Where any petition against an order to which this Act applies is referred to a joint committee of both Houses…the order shall stand referred to that committee for the purpose of the consideration of the petition".As soon as the petition is lodged, and once it is accepted by the two chairmen—the Lord Chairman of Committees in this House and the Chairman of Ways and Means in the other place; I will come back to that in a minute—the matter which is then referred to the joint committee is nothing whatever to do, in this case, with open space; it is what is contained in the petition. That is what the joint committee has got to consider.
The matter is made even clearer if one looks at the petition, because the petition made perfectly clear the issue on which we the petitioners petitioned. I use the word "we" because I happen to have the good fortune to be the president of the Dartmoor Preservation Association, which led the campaign, and also chief promoter of the petition. When the petition was drawn, what the petitioners said at paragraph 25 was this:At the heart of your Petitioners' objection is an issue of principle of the first magnitude for the whole future of national parks. As is stated in the letter dated 16th September 1983…announcing the decisions of the Secretaries of State, the crux of the matter is the statement of Government policy in Department of Environment Circular 4/76, particularly paragraph 58. which reads 'No new route for long distance traffic should be constructed through a national park, or an existing road upgraded, unless it has been demonstrated that there is a compelling need which would not be met by any reasonable alternative means'.It was the simple business of that joint committee in its 15 days of hearing to consider whether that was made out; whether in fact when the Government put forward the southern route as their preferred route they were making a blunder, whether they had been wrong from the very beginning and whether the inspector also had been wrong in his interpretation of the circular.
I have heard it said on many occasions—it was said during the debate tonight, and it was said often enough in the other place the other day—that the inspector took an impartial view, as of course he did, and that he summed up the matter. What is not fully realised is that from the moment the department and the Secretary of State at the time decided to go through the national park, contrary to the policy laid down in the circular, all the resources of the Department of 1453 Transport and, shockingly enough, of the Department of the Environment were mobilised and deployed at the inquiry day after day, to disparage any route to the north and to promote the route advocated by the department. That is understandable, of course, but enormous pressure was brought to bear upon the inspector to accept the department's view.
Then we got before the joint committee. The joint committee looked at it again and came to the conclusion that the inspector had got it wrong because he had done a balancing act when what he was supposed to do was to consider whether any northern route presented a reasonable alternative means. And so the inquiry before the joint committee took place. At the end of the day they decided, having spent all the time that anybody wanted to spend on it, having listened to the department's witnesses, and to learned counsel, senior and junior, instructed by the department, that a great mistake had been made from the beginning.
It is all very well for the supporters of this Bill to say, "We cannot tolerate any further delay", as the Secretary of State for Transport said in the other place when giving the reasons why this Bill is being introduced. He says that we have got to settle this once and for all. It is all very well for that to be said, when the people who are responsible for the fact that Okehampton has not got a bypass today are the people who are supporting and proposing this Bill—because had the Government never departed from their own declared policy the bypass would have been constructed at this time. Now when we talk about delay every argument is advanced to try to suggest that going to the north instead of to the south would involve nine, 10, 11 or 12 years' delay. They build it up. It is of course in their great interest to argue that it is going to involve delay, but they are the people who are entirely responsible for that. The poor people of Okehampton have suffered under this because of the mismanagement of the Government.
I had not intended to be diverted into that small discussion and I think the best thing I can do in the remainder of my remarks is to concentrate on one matter only. It is my contention, which I shall hope to persuade your Lordships is right, that while the Government are of course entitled to do it and while it is provided in certain circumstances that a government can introduce a Bill to overturn a report of a Select Committee, the way in which they have done it on this occasion has been a gross misuse of power.
I want to tell your Lordships why I take that view, but before I do so I should like just to refer back again to the exhibition. It was the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, who at the moment is not in his place, who made the passing comment about our advertisement in The Times today that the people who had paid for the advertisement evidently were not on the breadline. Very well, but how has the propaganda of the Government been paid for? I hope some of your Lordships went over to see the exhibition and I hope that you will have taken notice of the fact that Mr. Ridley is going to use public money to buy no less than 70,000 trees to be planted there. Those 70,000 trees will be planted there along that four-mile stretch. The number of trees he is going to give us out of his 1454 munificence may give your Lordships some idea of the enormous injury that has to be covered up. The exhibition in Marsham Street was paid for by the taxpayer. The one at another venue was paid for by the poor ratepayers of West Devon, who had their money used without ever having been asked whether the council could do it.
At these two exhibitions the main exhibits were what I think are called montages. The first was a photograph of the southern route, looked at from the north, from the direction of Okehampton. There was the photograph of the existing countryside and superimposed upon it, so we were told, was a drawing of the great dual carriageway, as it will be when it is completed. But there was no sign of the dual carriageway; there was no sign of the great bridge which is going to cross the railway there and no sign of both great concrete viaducts—the one that goes over the East Okement River and the one that goes over the West. Why?—because it had all been greened out. they had put a lot of green paint there and painted them all out. That is what was done with 70,000 trees. We were presented with a picture not of a few early saplings, but of a forest in full maturity, all done by the Secretary of State for Transport.
Looking to the other side, there was another montage. This time it showed a picture of the northern route. We have been told in another context that nobody knows where the northern route is going to go. We have been told there are 13 or 14 different options; but the man who made this drawing, this montage, knew exactly where it was going. He must have been told by the Secretary of State.
So what have they done there? You saw there something quite different. You saw a long stretch of bare, bleak embankment, with a big truck running along the top, just to make sure that you knew what it was all about, and not a tree, not a bush, in sight. It would appear that the Secretary of State, when he came to commission that exhibit, had not only run out of trees but had run out of paint, too. I say that because it is the sort of exercise that you might expect from an over-eager advertising agency, but it is not the sort of thing that should be foisted off on the Members of the House of Commons and the Members of your Lordships' House.
I wonder why those two exhibits were not presented to the Select Committee. I know the answer to it. too. In the Select Committee, it would have been subject to scrutiny, it would have been subject to cross-examination and the imposture would have been exposed. That is why it was never shown. The noble Lord is laughing, but that is in keeping with another map which they had on display. That was a map which was supposed to demonstrate what a small incursion a new route would make.
You had a map of the Dartmoor national park which was a complete blank, except for the little roadway running across to the north. It disguised the fact, of which even people such as the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, must be aware, that the greater part of the national park is not open country at all; it is privately owned farmland and the rest. There was no sign of that on the map. The suggestion was that the whole of the rest of this vast national park would be left available.
1455 It gave no sign of the fact that there is the hideous Meldon dam, which was built only some 10 years ago in the face of every kind of protest and which is one of the disasters of the area. It gave no sign of the fact that up on the northern moor, just south of Okehampton, you have the awful hutted camp of the military. It gave no sign of the fact that over large stretches of the northern moor the public are not allowed to go at all because it is being used, if you please, as a firing range by the military.
All these things we have tried to fight in the past, and every time we have had somebody coming forward with a proposal to exploit the moor we have always been met with the same sort of arguments as we have heard here tonight: "Look, this is only a small incursion. It does not matter. Compare it with the size of the rest of the park. It does not really matter." That is the argument used every time.
It is the argument used by the chief protagonist of this route, Sir Peter Mills. I cannot remember a single occasion in the last 25 years, when anybody has made a proposal to exploit the moor in one way or another, when it has not been supported by Sir Peter Mills. He regards the national park as a dustbin.
§ Lord O'Hagan
My Lords, is it in order for the noble Lord to attack a Member of another place who is seriously ill at the moment and not able to answer?
§ Lord O'Hagan
My Lords, the honourable Member was not present in that debate, because he was then seriously ill, as he is now.
§ Lord Foot
My Lords, I leave that matter there.
I want now to come to the other issue and it is what I might call the legitimacy of this Bill. As I said earlier, it is perfectly true that the Government are entitled to do it according to the strict reading of the Act. But what is at issue here is not whether it is right, but whether it is in any way proper for them to carry this Bill through. A question which arises right at the outset—and it is a question of the utmost importance, because it goes to the good faith of the Government—is: when did the Secretary of State for Transport decide that he was going to strike down the decision of the Select Committee if it went against him? When did he make that decision?
The sequence of events was this. First, the two compulsory purchase orders were laid, as they must be under the Act, before the two Houses. The next step was that the petition was presented. The following step was that it was scrutinised by the two chairmen, as I have described. The next step was that the Government's agents appeared before the two chairmen to urge that we should not be allowed to refer to the national park issue in our petition or in the hearing before the joint committee. As I said, the two chairmen turned that down, without asking our representative to make any answer.
1456 Then the joint committee was set up and all the preparations were made for the matter to be heard.
At some stage in that process the Secretary of State must have asked himself: what am I going to do if the joint committee should find against me? He must have asked that question for the very good reason that there are important precedents and his advisers would certainly have drawn to his attention what those precedents are.
The first quotation in the letter which the noble Lord, Lord Molson, wrote to The Times the other day was this. He quoted what had been said by Mr. Rippon, who was then the responsible Minister, replying to a debate in the other place on 13th March 1962, when he said thisIf the Minister regards an Order as being so fundamental to his policy that even if it went to a Joint Committee, and even if the Joint Committee took a certain view, he would, nevertheless, do as he is entitled to do, which is to introduce a Bill under Section 6 of the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act 1945, it would be quite unfair to the petitioners, or anyone else to allow the matter to go to the Joint Committee".[Official Report, Commons; cols. 1274–5.]
That was borne out by another statement by Mr. Rippon, in which he said:Where a Minister regards an order as being so fundamental to his policy that, supposing it was rejected by a joint committee he would insist on making it, even though this entailed introducing a confirming Bill, in such a case it would be only fair to the petitioner to save him pointless expense".The pertinence of my question, as to when the Secretary of State decided that he was going to kill the joint committee's decision if it was against him, is this. If he came to the decision and did not comply with what Mr. Rippon had said, and indeed later with what the Brooke Committee which reviewed this matter said, if he came to that conclusion and kept it to himself, he was guilty—was he not?—of gross misrepresentation.
When we-the petitioners raised the funds—and it took a lot of money—and went to all the trouble to prepare a petition and present it to both Houses, we were under the innocent belief that if we succeeded before the committee then our view of the matter would prevail. But if the decision had already been made that if the proceedings of the joint committee went against the Secretary of State he was going to obliterate them, not only were the petitioners deceived, but the three Members of your Lordships' House who sat for 15 days were completely deceived. All the witnesses who were called by the department assumed that they were taking part in some useful exercise. Not only were they deceived but the general public were deceived.
I wonder whether we can be told this by the Lord President of the Council. Did he know whether the Minister had made a decision or not? It does not make very much difference whether the Secretary of State just failed to make up his mind on the matter before the committee sat, because now he is trying to annul all the proceedings before the committee, and as the noble Lord, Lord Molson, said, render them nothing but a mere charade. The Government say, "Don't worry. You need not worry, this is not a precedent". I do not know what they mean by that. Do they mean that the Secretary of State for Transport is saying, "Look here, you do not have to worry about this 1457 decision because you are never going to get another Secretary of State to act as badly as I am acting now. There will never be another one like me"? That is something devoutly to be hoped for, but they cannot escape from the difficulty by saying whether the Secretary of State made up his mind before the hearing or afterwards. Certainly we ought to have been warned—everybody ought to have been warned—that if needs be and if the committee came to a conclusion that the Secretary of State did not like, he would strike it down.
§ Viscount Whitelaw
My Lords, the noble Lord has asked a question about me. I think it is perfectly clear from the account that my noble friend Lord Molson gave of my correspondence with him that I acted in totally good faith to this House and indeed to everyone else throughout. When the noble Lord, Lord Molson, approached me in the first instance, I went to my colleagues and, as he rightly said, the Motion was taken off the Order Paper. Shortly afterwards the Joint Select Committee was set up. I do not think anybody would accuse me of taking all the trouble to get noble Lords of this House to set on a joint committee if I thought it was going to be overruled if it came to a particular decision, one way or the other. Of course not. At the end of the time I think I am right in saying that the Joint Select Committee reported on 3rd April. The first time I knew there was any question of a Bill of this kind being produced was at the beginning of June. I knew it then but I should point out that that was two months after the Select Committee had reported.
§ Lord Foot
My Lords, I accept every word of that. Indeed I hope that I said nothing to disagree with it. I am absolutely certain that the noble Viscount the Lord President of the Council has acted in good faith throughout. I am sure of that. But if of course the Secretary of State had decided before 3rd April that he was going to strike down the committee's ruling, ought he not to have told the noble Viscount?
§ Viscount Whitelaw
My Lords, I have to say that if my right honourable friend in another place had made that decision, and if he had not told me and I had subsequently discovered, I should have been extremely angry. I have not subsequently so discovered.
§ Lord Foot
My Lords, that is the first popular applause I have had from the other side of the House.
In conclusion, I wish to say a few words about the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. I understand that the noble Lord feels about the matter very much as I do. He feels very strongly about it. But I have to say to the House that if noble Lords choose to vote for his amendment, which will not strike down the Bill but will merely express regret at what the Government are doing, that will not hinder the 1458 passage of the Bill. Indeed I am afraid that anybody who votes for his amendment in preference to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, will be making the building of the southern bypass more certain. That is our dilemma. There is no way in which we can be compensated. The Dartmoor National Park Committee would not dream of taking a financial consideration in return for the desecration of the national park. I hope that, when we do come to a Division, Members of your Lordships' House who are of the same opinion as the joint committee will all go into the Lobby in support of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson.
§ 6.48 p.m.
My Lords, when I arrived in the House this afternoon rather late (because taxis can never be found in wet weather) and found that I was listed to speak after the noble Lord who has just sat down I was a little nervous because I felt I should perhaps have to follow him in more senses than one. But I feel now that, the big guns having fired the heavy salvoes, I have no obligation to do that, and your Lordships would not want me to try.
I have known and frequently visited Dartmoor for the past 75 years to my certain knowledge, but it may be for even longer because I cannot remember whether I went there in my pram when I was two, three and four years old. My grandparents lived at Buckland-in-the-Moor. I have always had a passionate love of Dartmoor. When I say that I support the southern route, I should not like noble Lords to think that I am doing it as a Philistine who thinks it is a cheap route and that national parks do not matter. I do think national parks matter. I am a dedicated conservationist and I helped to start the Somerset Trust for Nature Conservation some 21 years ago when conservation was not such a popular subject as it is today. The presidency was taken over by the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, who is sitting on the Front Bench now. National parks must be protected, and especially this huge national park of Dartmoor must be protected.
I should like to make another comment. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who is not in his place, said that the national parks were too small. I thought I would look that up and I found that the national park of Dartmoor is 365 square miles in area, which, translated into acres, is 233,600 acres. We propose to desecrate about 140 acres, and they will mostly be shielded by trees and from sight. The only other time I have dealt with Dartmoor was in another sphere when I was passionately opposed to the Swincombe reservoir. It never took place.
I am very familiar with the A.30 throughout its whole length. I imagine that everyone who has travelled the route through Okehampton knows that there must be a bypass. The only question is whether it should be north or south of the town. I say "everybody", but I was somewhat surprised by one of the duplicated and, I believe, manufactured letters included in the huge mail which we have all received on this subject. One gentleman wrote that he thought all the traffic should be diverted to the A.38 from Exeter and go around by Plymouth. He did not think that the traffic should go through the north of 1459 Dartmoor at all. I do not know what my noble friend Lady Vickers thinks of that suggestion, but that is what he proposed.
I am not sure that the brilliant and redoubtable Lady Sayer, in her well-timed letter in today's issue of The Times—and she is a very formidable and indefatigable organiser—does not almost imply that she would support that solution too and get the traffic well away from Dartmoor. However, I am not sure about that.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, had a terrible fear of precedent. However, my noble friend Lord Caithness, in a brilliant opening speech in which he covered nearly all the points which there are to be covered, gave a categorical assurance on behalf of the Secretary of State that this matter would not be treated as a precedent. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, later informed us non-lawyers that we cannot establish a precedent in that way; that it must be a matter of fact and of judgment.
I support the southern route because I believe that it would do less damage to the environment. We have not heard very much about the detail of the southern route. I have some details, but as it is so late I must cut most of them out. Nevertheless, all that I have heard in this debate so far, all that was said in. another place on 19th November (and I commend any of your Lordships who have not already done so to read the Secretary of State's speech in that debate) all that I have been able to digest from the mass lobby of papers, and from all the maps, plans, demonstrations and exhibitions we have seen—and today, as in a modern takeover bid, the subject has even overflowed into the advertisement columns, with the lobby buying space in The Times—has convinced me that the arguments for the southern route overwhelmingly prevail over the arguments against it.
Quite apart from the arguments about the southern route—and it is not really necessary for me to say this because it has already been said by my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford, by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and by the other heavy guns—the letter which the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, wrote to The Times the other day is very right. It would be the most appalling blunder—to use no other word—if we in this House allowed ourselves to throw out a Bill for the first time since, I imagine, the Parliament Act. My uncle was a whip then, so I do not personally remember that occasion. However, for us to throw out for the first time in recent history a Bill that has come from the Commons—and on such a subject as this, as to where a road in Devonshire should go—is really something that we must not do. I cannot see how anybody could support the main amendment, which would wreck the Bill.
I should like to say a little more about a matter that was touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, by the noble Baroness, Lady White, and by others. It concerns the quality of the land. The quality of land down there, at the bottom of the escarpment on the south side of Okehampton, is very delightful, with some woods grown up. However, I wonder whether one normally expects to find in a national park a very big working quarry, a golf course, a railway line, and various other developments of that kind. There is now 1460 quite a lot of housing development down there. I wonder whether, if the boundary was being decided for the first time today, one would have included that little piece of land in the national park.
Another point that has not been mentioned is that if the southern route goes forward as planned—and it is all ready to go—it will be in that low ground and will be shielded ultimately by trees. It will hardly be seen from Okehampton town itself. It certainly will not be seen if one looks from the escarpment. That area of Dartmoor has been most terribly and distressfully spoilt already by military camps and access roads into it. I am bound to say that that little piece of Dartmoor in the national park running up from Okehampton to a point beyond the camps is by far the most unattractive part of the whole of Dartmoor.
There is some woodland at Meldon Quarry which shields the quarry to some extent. It has now been rechristened Bluebell Wood. For those of your Lordships who did not see the fascinating letter written by Lord Courtenay to the Daily Telegraph on 13th August, I must quote a part of it. He wrote that the phrase,'Save a small comer of Meldon Tip' has not quite the same ring about it as 'Save Bluebell Wood', but it would be a lot more accurate".That is exactly what that corner of the wood is; it is mostly hiding a tip.
The opposition to the southern route has been quite out of scale. It has occasioned already a delay of nearly 20 years, at huge expense. That delay has been a grave disservice to all concerned, both nationally and locally. There is no northern route mapped out, designed and agreed. The question before us tonight is not of choosing the north route or the south route, both of them being prepared and ready to go. Any northern route would be fiercely opposed, and it is inconceivable that the opposers would not be able to cause long delays, perhaps for another 10 or 20 years. We cannot be a party to encouraging such delay.
The southern route was the route preferred by the original public inquiry which, if I may be allowed to correct the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, sat for 96 days and not for 93, as I think he said. It is also the route preferred by the local majority, by the Cornwall and Devon County Councils, and by practically all the parish and district councils. It will not seriously damage the environment, as it runs in cuttings for such a lot of the way, and it will not desecrate the national park. It is the commonsense route, the shortest route, the cheapest route, and the best engineering-wise technical route. This is the main point: it is ready to start. It only awaits your Lordships' vote in favour of this Bill tonight. The starting pistol is already cocked. Let us pull the trigger and start the race to complete this in less than three years.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Lord Stallard
My Lords, in the normal course of events I would not dare to intervene in a debate of this kind. Certainly I would not dare to follow the noble Earl who has just spoken, particularly his last sentiments: more particularly, after listening to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, who always appears to me to be right and authoritative even when I think he is perhaps wrong.
1461 So, just as I was wondering what words I might be able to use, with all due deference, to try to correct the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, along came the noble Lord, Lord Foot—thank God!—and did the job far better than I could probably have done. When 1 say he did the job, I mean that he corrected the impressions of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, about the scope and terms of reference of the joint committee. That is the only reason that I intervene. For my sins, and for whatever reason, I was a member of the Joint Committee of your Lordships' House. I am grateful for the opportunity given to me by your Lordships to have that experience.
I can vouch for the facts outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, I will not repeat them all. The joint committee did take very seriously the terms of reference. It went into them quite deeply. We ascertained exactly what had happened at the meeting where the promoters memorialized before the Chairman of Ways and Means and the Chairman of Committees of this House. We knew exactly what had happened and the minutes are available if any noble Lord wishes to familiarise himself with them. Therefore, we knew that our terms of reference applied to the whole order and not just a specific part.
I am also grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, who opened the debate. He was very fair on this point; that they did memorialize against it, that the chairmen did find against him and said that the petition was in order to go forward, as a general objection, to the joint committee. That means, and I think everyone will accept, that we cannot just discuss a part of the order in isolation when the whole order, plus the petition and the petitioners' case, had been presented to the joint committee.
Before we started we were advised and took advice from whatever learned experience was available to the committee. Certainly I was assured that any assertion that the joint committee had misdirected itself could be firmly rejected. That has to be said and cannot be said often enough. It seems that the case being put forward by many spokesmen from the Government Benches rests on how much they can denigrate that joint committee and the procedures of the House; how much mud they can throw at the recommendations or deliberations of that committee, to the extent of saying that it did not hear the case against and did not listen to witnesses.
Forgive me, my Lords, but I was there. I did not see many noble Lords in the public gallery. I certainly saw one or two, but not many, and not many of those who have spoken tonight. Yet they say with all authority that the committee did not listen to witnesses. I am bound to say that it did. We on the committee heard counsel and his assistant, and his advisers from the Department of Transport. We also heard the leader of the local council and other landscape experts, and people who were against the northern route and speaking in favour of the preferred route. We heard all those witnesses as well as witnesses from the other side. It is therefore a travesty of the facts and to be deplored that a committee set up by both Houses can be denigrated in the fashion that has been done so far.
I hope I have said enough to convince noble Lords who do not accept it yet that the joint committee was within its rights and its terms of reference, and 1462 certainly within the confidence placed in it by both Houses, to go into the matters with which it dealt The matters that were dealt with have been covered by other noble Lords and I shall spend a wee bit of time on some other aspects.
Like other noble Lords, I received many letters about the Okehampton bypass. The noble Earl who spoke before me mentioned his bundle of mail. He can imagine that I had just as much, if not more, because people knew that I was a member of the joint committee. Other committee members will endorse that. I am also aware of the press cuttings and letters that poured in, for whatever reason, from either side. I know too of the expensive exercise mounted by the department and so graphically illustrated and demonstrated by the noble Lord, Lord Foot. I know of all those things, but in spite of that and in spite of the threat of even more and inordinate delays if the Bill is not passed tonight, there have been only slender majorities produced by the local authorities. Even after all that, the majorities have been slender—I think it was 38–34 on the main local authority.
I suggest, from reading all these letters from outside, that what many people are supporting now—and I wholeheartedly agree with them—is the compelling need for a bypass; the need for a road. Whether it goes south, north, east, west, through the middle, the back or the front, I do not think bothers many people. They want a road, and I agree with that. I would agree far more if they were honest enough to say that is the case rather than go through all the devious methods which are being used to try to justify the southern route. I can sympathise with them in the difficulties that have been experienced over all these years, and the possibility of further difficulties if there is to be more delay.
Another attempt to denigrate the joint committee has been to almost blame it for the delay, or the delay that might ensue. That is to ignore the fact, as has already been pointed out by some noble Lords, that there was a northern route, or a line on the development map in the county development plan, in 1963. My noble friend Lord Underhill mentioned it. People may say that that was only a line on the map put on with a pencil. That was said at a public meeting I attended recently. Again, that is to denigrate the whole serious procedure that took place. I was present at some of the development planning meetings—not at Okehampton, but in other parts of the country. They, too, were very serious meetings. People did not just draw lines on maps. A great deal of serious consideration was given to where those lines were drawn and why they were drawn. It was known that land and property would have to acquired, or whatever, in advance of development because of the line that was drawn on the development plan. It was not a wasted exercise, as some Government supporters have tried to propose.
That line was on the map with no objections and no protests from anyone. It was there for about 10 years. It was only then, after some time, that it was discovered that the railway line that runs through the park might be closed and someone suggested to the department that there was an ideal solution—it was to use the railway line. That was perfectly reasonable and was something to consider. They could have asked: why not develop that as part of the route? So the Land 1463 Commission, and others, started working on that route. They accepted that as the southern route, provided—and your Lordships can check this in the Landscape Commission's reports—that proposals were based on the possible closure of the railway.
Some years elapsed and the railway was not closed; but they had gone so far down the line, as it were, in developing the southern route and arguing for the southern route and arguing against the development of the planned route, and so on, that they could not go back and have been stuck with it ever since. That is the situation. Therefore, we are in this position because the route was moved from the north. The real people who are therefore guilty of causing the delay are those who have been advocating the southern route in spite of all the changes and changed circumstances which have taken place since. I shall mention a few in a moment. The people who have been advocating the southern route in spite of the changes and in spite of everything else are more guilty of causing the delay than anyone who has come after.
The inquiry inspector has been quoted at length in support of the Government's chosen route. If we look at page 530, paragraph 2778, we find that he said that the inquiry revealed "a substantial body of opinon" in favour of the published route and "a substantial body of opinion"—the same words—opposed to the published route. There was not an overwhelming public demand for the southern route.
I come to the confirming Bill that is before us tonight. If we pass it that will have the effect of restoring the Secretary of State's wish and desire for the southern route. As has been pointed out, that would wipe out the decision of the joint committee, which sat for all those days, studied the maps and photographs, listened to counsel and witnesses for the promoters and for the petitioners, visited the site and tramped the route. I do not know how many noble Lords have done that, but the committee members did. The procedure must have cost thousands and thousands of pounds. Now that the matter has developed in this way, I ask myself, as indeed many other people must be asking themselves: if the Secretary of State was so determined to get his way, even to the extent of rejecting the results of the joint committee's detailed deliberations, why bother to go to the trouble of setting it up?
There are ample procedural grounds for not having done so. He could have used the 1945 Act. He could have put it to the House at that stage that the matter should not be sent to the joint committee. But he did not. When did he say—as the noble Lord, Lord Foot, was at pains to findout—"Whatever happens on that joint committee, I shall get my way. I and my department are determined on the southern route. We have been geared for it, and all the work has been done for it. Whatever the committee says, I shall go for the southern route"? When did that decision take place? There is no means of finding out, and it is nearly 12 months since the joint committee made the recommendation. There has been another 12 months' delay, which is certainly not the fault of the joint committee. It is, again, the fault of the department. It has taken all that time since the joint committee reported even to start to have the matter discussed here. Who is causing delays unnecessarily? I suspect 1464 that the Secretary of State's decision was made long ago.
Like most noble Lords I have done my research. I am grateful to noble Lords, learned advisers and clerks for their assistance.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I merely ask the noble Lord to look in Hansard at what my noble friend the Leader of the House clearly said about the time of the decision earlier this evening, so that he does not put himself in an awkward position.
§ Lord Stallard
My Lords, I was there and I listened to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, but I did not think that he replied to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, and I certainly did not get the reply that I was seeking about when the decision was taken. It was a simple question, but there was no answer. It was certainly not an attack on the noble Viscount. On the contrary, I feel sorry for him if, like me, he is wondering whether he has been conned, led up the garden path, and did not know all that much.
As I said, I have done a little research. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Molson, who is an accredited and recognised expert, because he went back at least 100 years further than I did. I did not go beyond 1945, but the noble Lord was able to take us to 1845 to strengthen his case.
But I found out that there had been 43 joint committees set up to consider a total of 46 orders since 1945: 20 orders were approved, 21 were amended and five, including these two, were not approved. On the three previous occasions when the orders were not approved no confirming Bill was introduced. The only precedent for overturning a joint committee's findings on an order by way of a confirming Bill is the one which has been mentioned already—the Mid-Northamptonshire Water Board Order Bill in 1949.
In that case a joint committee considered the order and amended it in a number of respects. Most of the amendments were accepted by the Minister but two were thought to be unacceptable, and so two amendments were overturned by that confirming Bill and not the whole order, as is the case here. It is not accurate to say that that is an exact precedent. There is no precedent for a confirming Bill to reverse a decision of a joint committee and not to approve an order. I could find no precedent since 1945. The only one that I found was the one which I mentioned and which tried to reverse two amendments, which is a different thing; and so we are not comparing like with like.
I think that the House should ponder on the possible procedural consequences before we go down the road of throwing out the joint committee report. There are advantages in the joint committee procedure. It expedites proceedings on orders in both Houses; and the committee can consider in detail complicated arguments involving large amounts of evidence, maps and models. It would be impossible to conduct that process in the House normally. That is the benefit of the joint committee. To override that process—in this case after 15 days (96 hours) and all the other matters that I have mentioned—goes against the whole spirit of the joint committee procedure. Are we now to expect any Government to override the findings of a joint 1465 committee wherever its views about the application of public policy to particular circumstances are inconvenient for that Government? If so, to say the least it will prove difficult to find anyone willing to serve on a joint committee. I can assure your Lordships that it will be no easy task. People will rightly consider that it is a pointless exercise if, after so much deliberation, decisions can be overturned as simply as that.
I turn again to the alleged precedent of the Mid-Northamptonshire Water Board Order Bill. Similar views were expressed in 1949. I shall not weary your Lordships with too many quotations, but some are relevant. On 19th May 1949 (at col. 837) the then Lord Belstead said:It seems very unfortunate that the Minister has acted in this way. All your Lordships will be aware, or at any rate will be easily reminded, that the Committees which sit upstairs are not easy to man. The Clerks and the Party Whips of both Parties are well aware of this. It is rather difficult to obtain the continuous attendance which is necessary. The Committee on this Bill took six days of very careful consideration".The noble Lord outlined how many questions, and so on. He continued:It seems rather a pity, and not very encouraging to those who serve on these Committees, that, at the will of the Minister, however honestly applied and intended, it should be possible to reverse the decision of a Committee who have had every conceivable detail laid before them, cross-examined, re-examined and dealt with almost, I was going to say. ad nauseam".The noble Lord was followed by the Marquess of Reading (at col. 838) who said:Of course, the House itself is always in the position of the overriding authority. When a Committee of the House report to the House they willingly accept the House's decision as to whether what they have decided is right or wrong. That is a very different situation, however, from having to accept an arbitrary decision of the Minister after a Committee of your Lordships' House have given close and detailed attention to an intricate matter. It is very much to be hoped that, if it is in accordance with the new procedure, it will not be a course frequently adopted by any Government Department".I could go on. The then Lord Gifford followed and he said that to overturn such decisions was a grave issue. He said:They feel that if. after hearing fully the Petitions and evidence put forward, an arbitrary reversal is to take place on the instructions of the Minister, the considerable expense which they incur in putting forward their cases before these Committees is wasted".And so on. Lord De La Warr made similar points. This appears in the Lords Hansard of 19th May 1949 for any noble Lord who would like to check. They are saying (are they not?) similar things to what we are saying now. It was because of what they said that the other place and this House arrived at the situation quoted by the noble Lords, Lord Molson and Lord Foot, when Mr. Geoffrey Rippon in the other place articulated what he considered should be the procedure. Later on, we had the 1965 review which virtually underwrote the opinion of Mr. Geoffrey Rippon when he was Minister. It was finally underwritten by the Brooke Committee in 1972, not all that long ago. After discussion, they said that:where a Minister regards an order as being so fundamental to his policy that, supposing it were rejected by a joint committee, he would insist on making it, even though this entailed introducing a confirming Bill under section 6 of the Act. In such a case it would be only fair to the petitioner to save him pointless expense".1466 Everyone who has studied the matter comes to the same conclusion. If this is what the Minister intended in the first place, why bother with the joint committee procedure? If, having bothered with the joint committee procedure, he goes ahead with it and does what the Bill seems to intend to do, there are many grave repercussions for this House, certainly in the view of us who value the institution and the procedures laid down from time to time. I have spent rather long on this aspect. I thought it was necessary for me, as a member of the joint committee, to set out matters as I see them.
I should like now to mention one or two detailed points that have not previously been mentioned. I may be on my own in saying that there is one matter that disturbs me. I wish to mention the deed of gift of a Mrs. Ryan in connection with Bluebell Wood. I am sorry that the noble Lord the Minister lays his hands down in despair. A deed of gift has always been a serious matter to me. I was brought up to believe that such deeds were sacred documents that should not be pushed to one side by anyone. In that deed of gift and dedication—I have a copy—Mrs. Ryan, to commemorate the death of her daughter in 1954, gave in 1965 some 50 acres of land to the Okehampton Hamlets Parish Council as trustees for the benefit of the public at large. The words of the deed are thatthe property is to be preserved in its existing state; that no timber or timber-like trees standing upon the property in 1965 shall be felled (except if they are dangerous) and the present character of the woods is to be maintained as far as possible; and that no part of the property (other than the road) shall be used otherwise than as an open space preserved for the recreation and enjoyment at all times by the public and for the benefit of the public without charge for entry thereon".I would have thought that this House would regard that as a fairly sacred document, not to be lightly tinkered with. I agree with the sentiments of one correspondent who said to me:If this violation of trust is permitted through the passage of the Government's confirming Bill, it would be as offensive as it is morally indefensible".I would hope that there might be some noble Lords who accept that view. I have mentioned the Land Commission. Anyone who has studied the Land Commission's reports will see that I have reported them accurately. They dealt with the route of the railway up to 1974–75 when it was found to be too late to make changes. When on the joint committee I asked about six visits which were made between 1969 and 1975. At no time and certainly on none of those visits or in the reports was there mention of the Sandford report or Circular 4/76. Nor were they in any position to discuss the updated route, Route M. I asked whether it would not have been advisable for the Secretary of State to request them to make a seventh visit to discuss the whole matter again in line with new developments—the new route, the new policy on parks, Sandford and Circular 4/76. I still believe that their views would have been more relevant had they been able to make the seventh visit.
I have already dealt with the question of delay. I do not wish to go further except to say that we do not accept any responsibility for the delay so far as the joint committee is concerned. On the contrary, we went out of our way to say that any further delay could be avoided given goodwill, commitment and co- 1467 operation. I still believe that this is true and that this could happen. I wish to refer finally to the question of balance. This has been mentioned by noble Lords, Members of another place and by the Secretary of State and Ministers who say that they took balance into account. However, it depends where you start. I became convinced, after listening to all the witnesses and the evidence, that the only place to start was with the national parks policy and Circular 4/76. If there was to be balance, it had to be a balance set against the deliberate policy outlined by the Government and underwritten by Secretaries of State for many years. That was the place to start—not at the other end with the southern route and then to try to justify everything that had gone before.
So the balance did not get off to the correct start. It might be difficult for some noble Lords to understand this. It is not difficult for others who understand policy on the national parks. It must always be to the advantage of the route through the park that it is the shortest, and perhaps cheaper and quicker. So we have an imbalance. But that was not the object of the exercise. We were concerned to see whether the order was justified and to consider whether there was a compelling need for a bypass that could not be met by another reasonable route. The joint committee came to the conclusion that the northern route as discussed in the committee was an alternative reasonable route. I shall be supporting the noble Lord, Lord Molson, in the Lobby tonight. If he needs a Teller, I shall be only too happy to volunteer.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Lord Clifford of Chudleigh
My Lords, in declaring my interest, I have to say that I am a "has been". In other words, I have not been in Devon for the last two years. So that has to be borne in mind. However, like the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, although not for as long. I have to say that since the age of 11 in 1927 I have walked over Dartmoor, I have shot over Dartmoor, I have fished over Dartmoor and I have exercised over Dartmoor, Inter alia my daughter and her husband live slap in the outback, so to speak,on a track never crossed 'cept by those that be lost, one Michael Magee, had a shanty".For several years before I left I was president of the Devonshire Association of Parish Councils. I am, of course, a member of the NFU. I am a past president of the Devon County Agricultural Association. I was a national vice-president of the Rural District Councils Association before it was abolished. All those were nothing compared with the years I spent as vice-chairman, chairman and president of the Devon branch of the Country Landowners' Association. There are two of my successors here tonight—the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, who spoke earlier, and the noble Lord, Lord Clinton, who will follow me now.
In those days we had a continual battle to try to protect the countryside. I quote from a speech I made in the debate of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, in, he tells me, 1967 when I said:Devon has been plagued by an organisation which opposes even the planting of a tree on what my old maps called a forest".The noble Lord, Lord Foot, will know to which organisation I am referring.
1468 But the point I am trying to make is this. We had our big troubles then about reservoirs and where they were to go. Whenever it was suggested that it would be anywhere near the Moor this organisation chose 20 other nice places which were not on the Moor. As the then chairman of the sub-committee which was looking into all these things I had to go around—I am sure that they did not look at them all—and we saw that they were doing what they could to hold things up. They were stopping anything going on the Moor. But the lesson here is that if we had not been held up on, for example, those reservoirs, there would not have been the drought the year before last and the other one three years before. We are of course by now due for another one. If one applies that kind of situation to what they are doing now the unfortunate inhabitants of Okehampton and the people whose business depends on it to the west, south and north will have to go on suffering.
I am for the southern route. It is quicker to complete. It upsets nobody's livelihood, such as the farms on the northern side. It is unobtrusive to the view, whereas, no matter where one puts the northern route, unless one goes miles to the north, it will stand out like the wart on Cromwell's nose. The southern route is the obvious one. It is not on Dartmoor itself. When they made the national park they followed the parish boundaries; but the parish boundaries are not the Moor proper. Just north is the southernmost sign which says that one is in the national park. That is not on Dartmoor, as we understand it. The same thing applies to the southern route there. There is just a little bit at the south which is within the parish boundaries I presume.
I should like to be able to give one word of encouragement to the unfortunate people in Okehampton. Chudleigh, where I came from, was on the main Plymouth-Exeter road. After the development of containers and what-have-you at Plymouth, the traffic was very bad. The area was being built up, the dormer windows in the narrow main street were being knocked out. One could not go shopping there, one could not take one's children to school, We eventually got the bypass and now Chudleigh is again a little country village. People can meet together. One can cross the road without being knocked down. One does not have to take one's child to school every day. Instead of going off elsewhere to shop—because it was so impossible in Chudleigh—people from outside the village are now going back there.
I hope therefore that your Lordships will follow the advice given by the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, and vote this through today so that the unfortunate people can have some glimmer of hope. Otherwise they will play this game that they have played about reservoirs—they will keep putting off the road for ever and a day.
The chairman of the Devon conservation forum comes from Chudleigh. I met him on Sunday and was pleased to hear that he is for the southern route. His description of the arguments for the northern route were that they were specious, illogical and inaccurate. I think that the same thing applies to those grey, faceless people who put that long advertisement in The Times today. It must have cost them a mint.
1469 Apart from the opening speakers, I get the impression, on listening to the debate so far this evening, that other speakers do not care about people. I hope that your Lordships care about people and vote for the southern route.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Lord Clinton
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. Many years ago there was a debate on the economics of the West Country. The Okehampton bypass plays a very important part in our life in the West Country. It is just a year ago that I last spoke in your Lordships' House on this matter and I still hold the same view as I did then—much more strongly now.
As we know, the matter has been before us for a very long time. In this recent year the arguments over the northern or southern route have become even more polarised. As I see it, the time has come for a decision. This is something about which I think we all agree and is the reason for our being here this evening. I should like to make one or two points of view known, especially as I live so close to Okehampton, relatively speaking, and to other Members of your Lordships' House—in fact, 13 miles away. Thirteen seems to me to be my lucky number. I also discover that I am the 13th speaker, and we are only one-third of the way through this evening's programme.
In another place the West Country was well represented in a debate in which the Members represented their constituencies. It was very sad on that occasion that the Member for West Devon, Sir Peter Mills, was unable to attend due to ill health. The work he has put into this debate and the representations he has made on behalf of his constituents, of whom I am one, since he has been a Member have been very valuable indeed. He has been a Member for this constituency since 1964.
The debate in the other place—to which I listened most of the time—confirmed my support for the southern route which was ably put by nearly all the West Country Members of Parliament and supports what I see on the ground. I am particularly pleased that all but one of the West Country Members of your Lordships' House are in favour of the southern route, which I believe to be best. Surely local opinion and support should be considered very carefully on making such a decision as we shall do this evening. Many of your Lordships have seen the Ministry of Transport exhibition of the proposed southern route, which to me, in spite of one or two remarks about it, highlights more than ever how much better this route will fit into the countryside on the edge of Dartmoor beside the town of Okehampton. Because of its design it seems to me to reinforce beyond all reasonable doubt in landscape terms that there is only one way the road can go.
When one starts to look at the countryside north of Okehampton, which I know, I cannot see any way that the road can go north. This has been said time and time again, but it has to be repeated. Surely we should be looking to the beauty of the countryside in its overall aspects and not in isolation because the road happens to clip the edge of the national park of Dartmoor. I would be ashamed to be in sight of it if the 1470 north road was built. The road will be breaking into high quality amenity land, especially when viewed from Dartmoor.
Agriculture is part of the land of Devon as much as Dartmoor and needs just as much consideration, especially in this part of Devon which I happen to know. The argument that, because we do not need to produce so much, land of this type can be taken out of agriculture, to me is wrong. Surely the loss to these farmers means that their income will be reduced even further and that their farms will become uneconomic. As your Lordships know, farm income has been falling in real terms since 1973. Those who live on any of the so-called northern routes will lose their livelihood, as the road is much more likely to cut through the middle of their properties, increasing the severance problems. When you compare this with the southern route you find that the proposed route tends to clip the edges of farms and not go through the middle. It is very important in the case of the Coombes who live at Barton Barn and various other families, including the Woolidges at Oaklands and the Squires at Pudson, that these units become and stay viable. People really do count. The time taken to decide on a northern route will make their lives unbearable and the cost to them will be considerable. Let us not also forget the investment that they have made and also the Government grants which the nation has invested in them. This should not be lost sight of if the road should happen to go that way in years to come.
Surely farms and agricultural land are part of the environment, and we in the West Country have a good and excellent record of looking after it. One cannot take the attitude that it does not matter when a road is driven through it because it is only agricultural land. Let us also remember that most of these economic farms to the north have been farmed by families for generations, and that we shall be taking away employment and causing more years of uncertainty for them, which is very unfair.
I should like to turn to the question of the boundaries of the national parks. I know that this comment has already been made, but I think it should be repeated. Your Lordships will remember that in 1951 the boundaries of the national park were made with reference to parish boundaries and convenient roads. I know that this is well known, but it was an administration choice rather than an assessment of ecological and environmental values of land immediately within the boundary. At the moment the park boundaries are under review and I believe that extensive areas will be put forward for inclusion in or exclusion from the national park. Surely with a little foresight these boundaries can become more fluid and it should be possible for the park to be retained in size, if not even increased. This safeguard and consultation surely should reduce considerably the worry of the lovers of the national parks. The concepts, values and rules which were set up in 1951 have changed very considerably, from time to time, involving their shape, size and nature.
This completely does away with the argument that the southern route is curtailing the national park. We may find the national park will be extended. I do not believe that this part of the national park is as important as is being made out. It contains a quarry, 1471 golf course and a railway line, and because of its closeness to Okehampton one could easily be in the middle of or close to one of our bigger cities.
One further point is that as it is on the northern face of Dartmoor and cutting into the contour, it will find itself in the shade most of the daytime, which should reduce its visibility from afar and make it fit more readily into the countryside. I do not want to keep your Lordships too long, but a point has been made about access to the park from Okehampton. As far as I know, this will not change, because the railway line always acts as a boundary. If the new road is built, the road to the battle camp will stay.
People tend to drive out from Okehampton up as far as possible on the loop road, stop at the top and look back north. I think that if the road is built to the north, it would be extremely visible from there. Whether or not trees are planted, I do not think that it would be a very good environmental design.
It has been said that, in opposing the northern route, the CLA and NFU are looking after their privileged members. I believe that that is their job, and with their local knowledge surely that is right. Recently, as chairman of the local branch of the CLA, I got to know all the work which our local secretary, Major Thres, did. The CLA, through his good offices and the work he did, was able to achieve two important milestones during the course of setting up a working party and the public inquiry, and was able to put forward proposals to modify the construction costs. It also made recommendations for the benefit of the environment generally, taking some of the route out of the national park.
The CLA recommendations were not just of advantage to farmers but were also of advantage to the taxpayer, the visitor to the national park, and to the inhabitants of Okehampton. These modifications were largely made for non-agricultural reasons and it is wrong to suggest that agricultural interests disregard environmetal reasons. I hope that these two modifications will be remembered as part of what the CLA can do; they have certainly improved the way in which the southern route has been designed. More recently, our ability to be able to find extra open space, which has been touched on several times, shows how much trouble and care the local people have taken in this matter. As someone who has lived most of his life in north Devon and who has, I hope, a little local knowledge of how we live and work and what we want in that part of the world, may I ask noble Lords to support the choice for the southern route for the Okehampton bypass.
We love Dartmoor. The road will not debase it. It is part of our great county which has produced such great names as Raleigh and Drake. Please accept our considered judgment in these matters and do a service to Devon, Cornwall and the south-west. I believe that we are not spoiling the moor or the national park. Let the Department of Transport and the Government get on with the job and build the road as soon as possible on the southern route.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ The Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham
My Lords, quite apart from any constitutional matters or any 1472 procedural irregularities in pressing for a southern route, apparently over large numbers of dead bodies, there are many practical reasons why a northern route is preferable, although if you listened to the endless and often misleading propaganda put out by the Department of Transport to the contrary you could be forgiven for wondering whether an alternative even existed.
For instance, you have been told that a northern route is environmentally much more damaging than a southern route. That is untrue. With the possible exception of a short stretch of road next to the East Okement River, the land to the north bears no comparision with the beauty of the land to the south, and the inspector said so in his report.
You may have been told that the farmland to the north is much too valuable to lose to a mere bypass. That may or may not be true, but the fact remains that farmland is given up to roads nearly every day, and this particular farmland is of second- and third-grade quality. Moreover, farmland values, particularly in the West Country, have dropped quite considerably since the introduction of milk quotas. Practically the whole length of the A. 30 goes through farmland, from the westernmost intersection it makes with the M.3 to its termination at Penzance. Indeed, it is often referred to as England's longest country lane.
You may be told that the people of Okehampton are overwhelmingly in favour of a southern route. This also is not true. At the last count, as the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has already said, 55 per cent. favoured a southern route and 45 per cent. favoured the northern option. The voting majority was a mere 104. What is true is that the majority of residents simply want a bypass quickly. They have been highly influenced by what the Secretary of State has said concerning the delay factor. This is a crucial part of the argument, and, once again, the Department of Transport has been deliberately misleading, to curry favour for the speedy adoption of the southern route.
Noble Lords may remember that after all the fuss about the extension to the M.40 in Oxfordshire had died down and a new revised route was announced, the delay factor, which up until then had been assessed by the Department of Transport to be at least four to five years was quickly revised down to two years. All experts agree that, given the goodwill, the delay in building a northern bypass need not be more than two to three years. Mr. Brian Parker, who has been mentioned several times today by various noble Lords and who is a highly qualified independent road engineer, has advised that a northern route could be in operation within five years, and this includes time for consultative procedures to take place.
There is a flourishing, expanding industrial estate in Okehampton to the north of the town. Over 660 people are employed there. It is reached by a narrow, one-way residential street leading off the present A. 30, which is the High Street. It is left by another narrow, one-way residential street which leads back on to the A.30 in the middle of the town.
The noble Lord the Minister, in his opening remarks, said that he would hate to see an additional delay in constructing a bypass for Okehampton. At last mothers would be able to cross the High Street 1473 with a pushchair in safety, as was the case in the old days. I am afraid that this is wishful thinking on the noble Lord's part, because it is a fact that over 250 lorries a day use these narrow streets on their way to and from the industrial estate. In addition, over 2,500 cars a day use the same two narrow streets on their way to and from the estate.
All these vehicles have to go through the middle of Okehampton. If a southern route is adopted this heavy traffic will still have to go through the middle of the town to get to the bypass. I think that that is rather dotty. Why build a bypass that does not, if your Lordships follow me? Of course, once safely on the bypass, having ploughed and smoked their way through all the local town traffic to get to it, they will join all the thousands of other vehicles all ploughing and smoking their way through the national park.
Consultative engineers have offered to design an appropriate intersection to connect the industrial estate to the northern route, but as a part of its propaganda campaign the Department of Transport has failed to mention this. So far as I am aware six houses would have to be demolished, two viaducts constructed and one bridge built to accommodate the southern route. The northern route would require one viaduct, albeit a rather tall one, over the East Okement River near Aggetts Quarry. No houses would be affected.
Aggetts Quarry itself is hideous, is practically worked out and employs 10 men, all of whom have been offered jobs by Meldon Quarry in the national park. On the other hand, Meldon Quarry is by no means worked out and may well wish to expand in the future, but would or could be unable to do so if a road is built next to it. The northern route I refer to and recommend is the red route on the public consultation plan, and accepted by the joint committee.
The argument that a new road to the north would be seen by visitors to the national park when looking over Okehampton is to my mind ludicrous. Visitors to the national park will want to look at it, not at an ordinary sort of small town with its fair share of ugly landmarks such as the disused railway station, the industrial estate and the gasworks. No, my Lords, it is the residents of Okehampton we must be concerned about. It is their view that will be ruined if a concrete jungle is constructed to the south, destroying as it goes forest walks, ancient pathways, over 1,000 mature hardwood trees and wildlife habitats, and most importantly of all breaching the trust that designated Meldon Wood a secure open space in perpetuity.
It is proposed to extend the improvements to the A. 30 westwards to join up with the Launceston bypass. Fine, but the A. 30 enters and leaves Okehampton to the north of the national park, so why build to the south? Several northern Devon and Cornish towns would be far better served by a northern route, as would the town of Okehampton itself.
Another factor which I doubt has been seriously considered by the Department of Transport is that the weather conditions on the moor itself are often very severe not only from snow, which tends to drift badly, but also from mist and fog, which anyone who knows the area will tell you often clings to the side of the moor which would be traversed by a southern route, while 1474 the town, lower down, remains barely affected. This has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, when he quoted from a letter sent by a lorry driver who has had great experience of this route.
The argument much put about by those in favour of a southern route that it could be constructed much more quickly than a northern alternative, thereby speeding up traffic on its way to Cornwall, is again a bit dotty. The A. 30 contains 14 bottlenecks between the M.3 and Exeter. I know, as I live very near it as it passes through Somerset and Dorset. I was forced to use it for many years before its alternative, the A.303, was vastly improved. It is a diabolical road, and no one in their right mind would dream of using it if they wanted to get to the West Country quickly. It is a nightmare.
Surely they would be much better advised to take the M.4, the M.5 and then the much improved A. 38. For people wanting to travel west, but who live further south, it would be sensible to take the A.303, the M.5 and the A.38. If you are taking a lazy, meandering sort of a holiday, fine, take the A.30, but if you are in a hurry do not consider it.
We all accept that Okehampton needs a bypass, but not one that will ruin a much loved, much used and much prized local and national amenity, and one which will violate the principle of road development of national parks. This is too high a price to pay for expediency, and it sets dangerous precedents. I urge your Lordships to vote for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson.
§ 7.57 p.m.
My Lords, I am glad to have the opportunity of saying a few words in this debate because I spent over 20 years near Okehampton and visited it a great deal. I should also like to say how pleased I am to see the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, here because he has been away for some considerable time and we missed him very much.
I was simply horrified by what the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, said when he suggested that the traffic might go round through Plymouth. When one thinks that 17,000 motorists pass through Okehampton on a Saturday and 30,000 vehicles are expected to go through it in the next century, I hope he will not consider that plan again.
I should also like to say a word to the noble Lord, Lord Foot, because on many occasions we have not agreed, but on the other hand he has been kind to me in helping me with some legal problems, especially when we were both fighting for one special road in Plymouth.
I am not qualified to go into all the details which have been gone into by other people, but I should like to think about the future of the people of Cornwall. This bypass is really for the Cornish people. We want to see that they have better prosperity in the future and we want those who go on holidays to find it both interesting and easy to get to. One of the difficulties at the moment is long hours of travelling which causes extra accidents because people are fatigued by the time they reach Okehampton and they become impetuous, and so on. Therefore, they need an easier way to get there.
1475 In asking your Lordships to pass this Bill today I believe that the main thing is to think of the prosperity of Cornwall in the future. It is especially essential to take action quickly because Cornwall is going through a difficult time. They may have to close some tin mines, or even shut down the lot, which will mean that they will need new industries.
Devon and Cornwall, as probably noble Lords will know, have not always agreed on projects in the past. The county council and the borough of West Devon, however, are fully in agreement on this occasion and they both desire the southern route. I am all for preservation of public land, but in this case it would appear that the CLA recently found, as I think has been mentioned once or twice before, 22 acres which can be transferred, we hope, to the Department of Transport. I think in all there are about 37.5 acres available to make up for the land that may be taken.
Every year when the weather is not good the local people have to have rationed water. As is well known to some noble Lords, I presented a Private Member's Bill which I got through the House of Commons by 120 to 23 votes. It then went to the committee and, much to my regret and probably to some people's joy, it was turned down on the grounds that they did not see it was practicable from the point of view of what had been proposed in the Bill. On this occasion we have enormous support locally. We have also had ecology people there and every other type of person interested in birds and so on. There is no road going round this reservoir-to-be, and it was turned down. Now every other year or even more often the water has to be rationed and I have lots of letters asking why I did not press it further. However, I could not because of the way it was turned down by the committee.
The local support consists of five local Members of Parliament, and the Cornish and Devon Members of Parliament together make 16. There are only two against. This is also supported by the West Devon and Cornish District Councils, by Okehampton Town Council and many other parish councils, by the trade unions, the National Farmers Union, the CLA and the Cornish branch of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England. I could go on to mention many other organisations; it reminds me of the song about Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all. To my knowledge this is one of the first times that all these people have got together.
This small town, 250 miles from here, is in need of further employment. Employment in the County of Cornwall varies from 26.7 to 14 per cent. in Launceston. Launceston is lower because people go to Plymouth to work in the dockyards, but as the dockyard workforce is to be cut by at least 2,000, life will be difficult for them.
The lowest average wage of any county in Britain is in Cornwall. Therefore it needs good roads and easy access, especially for raw materials and vegetables carried on the roads. Everyone is worried about unemployment. In the newspaper the other day I read that a French Minister was being questioned about how he dealt with getting planning powers through. His answer in relation to the roads was:If you want to clear the swamp—you do not consult the frogs".We do a great deal of consulting in this country and we get rather bogged down.
1476 I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Vinson, is to speak later. He is the chairman of the Devon Development Commission. Speaking of the need for the Okehampton bypass he has said that up to 5,000 people could be taken off the dole in Cornwall. I hope that when he speaks he will be able to say whether he was correctly reported.
I should like to finish by quoting Lord Courtenay. He is a member of the council of the Devon Trust for Nature Conservation, and he stated:Any northern route on the other hand inevitably crosses high ground to the north of Okehampton involving a viaduct and cuttings. It is. of course, much longer involving more land as well as more cost and…will cause a great scar across a very beautiful part of Devon countryside which will be visible from miles around and not least from many parts of the Dartmoor National Park".I hope that we shall consider today not just all the legal position and the wishes of our own hearts, but think of the people in the county of Devon and also, particuarly, those in the county of Cornwall who need help in the very near future.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, I am extremely glad to follow the noble Baroness because I agree that this is really an issue for the people of Cornwall and Devon which is of absolutely vital economic importance. I hope that it will not be thought that if those of us in favour of the Bill make much shorter speeches than those who are against it it will not be thought that we are any less convinced of the merits of the case that we support. Therefore I hope it will be acceptable if at this hour I make one or two short points without attempting fully to argue them as I should prefer to do in other circumstances.
I am sure the House was extremely entertained as ever by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, when he introduced his amendment. I was wondering when he was going to get to Okehampton, but I do not think he ever did. In fact the whole of his case was based on constitutional objections, as I understood it; the main pillar was a speech by the late Arthur Greenwood. Although I personally had the highest regard for and the friendship of that gentleman, a distinguished Labour Minister, I think he would have been surprised, if some 40 years later, his obiter dicta were being given such importance in this amendment. In fact the real constitutional issue posed by the noble Lord's amendment is equivalent to this House rejecting a Bill on Second Reading that has already passed through the other place. As I understand it, if that amendment is carried the Bill falls and that will have considerable consequences for the road.
My noble friend Lord Stallard spoke very feelingly and I can well understand that the members of the joint committee will be upset if the House does not accept their judgment. On the other hand, it would be absolute nonsense if, after committees had considered matters and after a full debate in this Chamber or in another place, the function open to the rest of us was merely to rubber stamp the conclusions of a small committee. I believe that, for whatever reason, they came to the wrong conclusion. Looking at the report, some of the members of the committee who sat through the proceedings also thought that the majority had come to the wrong conclusion. Equally, I am sure 1477 none of us would in principle wish to do anything that would seriously interfere with the status and the purpose of the national parks; but surely every incursion which from time to time has to be made in national parks has to be judged on its merits. After all, I think every one of them seems to have large quarries with all that involves with lorries attached thereto. Thus, to have another road on the very edge of Dartmoor does not seem to me to be such a scandalous invasion as has been suggested by some other speakers.
I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning underlined the issue. He said that what we have to consider is: should there be a bypass for Okehampton, and is what is proposed a reasonable solution to what I understand is the unanimous wish of everyone in the House, and certainly, as far as I understand it, the universal wish of all the persons connected with that town and the area around it?
I happen to think that, in principle, following the contours would create a better road than the alternative which it would seem would go across the skyline on the escarpment. The noble Earl, Lord Winchilsea and Nottingham, mentioned the M.40. Happily, I managed to avoid having any Joint Select Committees or having to have legislation but there was almost as much fuss about the extension of the M.40 to Oxford as there has been about this particular matter. I am bound to say that when I went to look at the routes, I had no hesitation in backing the department's plan for the road to follow the contours, rather than go, as a scar, right across the escarpment. Indeed, when the road was built, I did not hear anyone complain about the M.40 to Oxford. I firmly believe that if and when, (as I hope it will be) in three years' time, the Okehampton bypass is completed, people will not complain about that.
Finally, I ask noble Lords to reflect on the history of this affair, which fortunately is symptomatic and not unique in the history of our planning and road development procedures. It is an absolute nonsense that before five miles of road can be built, it takes 20 years, a public inquiry of 96 days (in other circumstances, even the inspectors have actually been maltreated and physically assaulted by objectors), then a joint Select Committee for 15 days and then this House sitting into the small hours to consider the matter. For example, in relation to the M.25, it is totally ridiculous that three-quarters of the road is built and then here and there, because of objections, the full economic benefits and the life-saving benefits are affected. I say life-saving benefits because it is well appreciated that good motorways and dual carriageway roads are much safer and have less serious accidents than the existing congested single carriageway roads.
All this is taking place really simply because we are not prepared to face up to a different set of procedures. I hope that not only will this Bill go through tonight but that in consequence there will be serious thought given to a completely new way of planning our roads. After all, it is a national responsibility. In 1979 I produced a national plan for roads and, unhappily, only a small part of that has been carried out. Roads are funded by central Government. It is therefore in my judgment the responsibility of Parliament and not a 1478 decision that can be delegated to anyone else. I think it is a very great pity that some better way cannot be found of managing our affairs than the present very troublesome circumstances. As many people have said, I hope that at least in relation to these particular five miles, we settle the matter favourably tonight.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Lord Vinson
My Lords, I shall try to be brief. First, perhaps I may declare an interest in that for most of my life I have been a member of the CPRE. I am also a member of the National Parks Authority for Northumberland. Thus, you could say that one side of me has fairly green antecedents. One the other hand, I must declare my interest as chairman of the Development Commission, England's rural development agency.
Noble Lords will be familiar with the Scottish song that suggests that it is possible to take either the high road or the low road. In this case, sadly, it must be one or the other. Like other noble Lords, I had my doubts, so I should like to share with you the thought processes that have led me to believe that there is no alternative but to proceed with the southern road.
First, I tried to look at the problem as if it had affected my own national park. Had it done so, I should have been passionate in the defence of its rurality and its antiquity. However, at the same time I would hope that I could have tried to take, if there is such a thing, a more objective view, and attempt to consider the wider national aspects.
Therefore, I have taken the trouble to find out how many major roads run through national parks in England and Wales. There are precisely 18. Indeed, both the A.30 and the A.38 run through Dartmoor national park and the A.38 cuts into it to a far greater extent than the proposed southern route. Thus, there is nothing new in trunk roads running through national parks; what matters is the degree of harm.
Then, also like the noble Lord, Lord Saint Levan, who is due to speak tonight, I have tried to approach the problem as a longstanding CPRE member.There are, indeed, some environmental issues on which I should go to the cross, and I deeply respect the views of others who believe that, once designated, national parks should be sacrosanct. But in fact there are few absolutes in this matter. While I accept that this is a new road, in reality, the southern route will not slash through the middle of the park. If it did, I should be wholly against it. We are not talking about a major incursion. The proposed route, as others have well said, will only impinge upon the park's periphery.
Here I agree very much with the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, that there is some force in the argument that if one was starting from scratch, the northern route would be no less environmentally damaging to our landscape heritage. Sadly, whichever route is taken, the landscape has to suffer.
Then I have tried to look at the problem from the point of view of my interest in promoting the sensible economic development of rural England, or, to put it more concisely, from the point of view of my interest in the creation of jobs. It is difficult to measure the effect of traffic delays and congestion, but just because it is almost impossible to quantify the economic effect 1479 of a serious bottleneck, it does not mean to say that one should not attempt to do so. I am, then, wholly convinced that the traffic bottleneck at Okehampton is strangling the economic development of the southwest. It is my considered view that the failure to build the bypass around Okehampton has resulted in the loss of many thousand of jobs—jobs that would otherwise be there, had the bypass been built. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, for raising this point. We would debate for hours on the statistics of the job losses. However, I am sure we can agree on one point, and that is that the failure to build a bypass has cost jobs—and many of them.
It is at this point that my head and my heart start to tussle. In this debate we will all be branded either as Philistines or as being uncaring about the work prospects of others. This greatly over-simplifies the issue. Thus I have great sympathy with Lady Sayer, and deeply respect her views. My heart tells me that she may well be right, but my head tells me that the needs of the unemployed favour a rapid solution.
In the late 1970s my predecessor as chairman of the Development Commission, the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, who very much regrets that he is unable to be here today, took a close personal interest in the economic development of the south-west. Indeed, he was instrumental in assisting Okehampton to become an economic anchor-point for the whole area. He has asked me to say that he is acutely aware of the terrible traffic problems in the town and believes, like myself, that they are a major hindrance to the further growth of business confidence in the south-west. He also, for that reason, favours a rapid solution to the problem by the building of the southern route. The road to Okehampton is not exactly the road to Damascus, but we both got converted when stuck in a traffic jam.
Other noble Lords have dealt with the point that it is unconstitutional for the Government to defy the findings of a joint committee, albeit the committee greatly exceeded its real remit. There are some who put great store by procedural arguments and procedural arrangements.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, I shall be grateful if the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. He would have heard my noble friend Lord Stoddart, who was a member of the joint committee, and other noble Lords state quite clearly that two officials from either House had to decide whether the general petition could be referred to the joint committee. The officials of both Houses decided that the general petition could be so referred. Is he now saying that the officials of both Houses were wrong in that decision?
§ Lord Vinson
My Lords, I thought that we were led to believe earlier today that that advice might have been erroneous. Your Lordships will forgive me if I misunderstood the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, but I thought that he indicated that it was surprising that that particular joint committee had appeared to exceed the precise point which they were asked to look into, which was the question of the transfer of common land.
Whichever way one looks at this, I must say that I prefer not to get stuck on procedural arrangements; I should prefer to look at the democratic support for the 1480 Government's choice. Here I understand that all the local authorities in the south-west support it, not to mention the town and parish councils of West Devon. Like others of your Lordships, I have been inundated, in the evidence of support for the southern route, by those whose livelihoods are affected by the delays at Okehampton and I find such evidence very persuasive and more persuasive than procedural points.
There is in my mind no doubt now that the public good would be best served by building on the southern route. It is the only one recommended by the public inquiry, it is the shortest route, the most economic route both to build and not least for the motorist who will use it and, above all, it is the route that will most quickly help the development of jobs in the southwest. Moreover, it is the route that is clearly preferred by the elected representatives of that region and the country. It is for those reasons that we should reject the first amendment before us today.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Lord Henderson of Brompton
My Lords, I am glad to be able to follow the noble Lord, Lord Vinson, if only to say that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, who is a great scintillating star in the field of the law, does not twinkle quite so brightly in the field of parliamentary procedure. I will leave it at that. I myself would say what a thousand pities it is—and I hope that everyone would agree with this—that in 1964 the Devon County Council was not allowed to proceed, or did not proceed, whichever is right, with the northern route, which they favoured at that time—all that time ago; 21 years ago.
If that had happened we should have been saved countless words and millions of pounds. It would have been cheaper both relatively and actually if that had happened. We must learn this awful lesson, and we must not let this happen again. We must try to apportion blame where it is deserved; but I think that we should all examine ourselves as to what we contributed towards that blame, which has led to this loss of 21 years and of what I consider to be the better route.
I, myself—and this is always with the benefit of hindsight—should like the Government to have taken the same view as did the Devon County Council in 1964, and to have instructed the inspector not to look at the southern route because it passed through a national park: not merely on national park policy grounds but also on any estimate of the future cost of any inquiries which would involve routes going through a national park and all the divisive conflicts before inspectors, before joint committees and before Parliament that would follow. I think that was a very grave mistake, and if anything should be learned from this sorry tale it is that the Government should steer clear of national parks at all costs.
Ninety-six days before the inspector, 15 or so before the joint committee and millions of pounds—not just hundreds of thousand and certainly not £50,000, but more like millions—have been lost, to the great cost of the inhabitants of Okehampton and of the West Country. This is something of which we should all be ashamed, and not least, I would say, that great department of state, the Ministry of Transport. Quite 1481 recently I had the pleasure to hand out a bouquet to them for the very imaginative way in which they responded to amendments to the Transport Bill, to the advantage of the elderly and disabled. I now feel like hurling brickbats at them; but I shall restrain myself from doing so except to say that I very much hope that they will feel sufficiently guilty to examine the procedures which have led to this catastrophic delay and what I consider to be this wrong decision.
The Government—and I say this with hindsight—really had three choices: to retain the national parks policy unequivocally and go for the northern route; be equally bold (and by the same token, equally wrong) and overturn the national parks policy avowedly and bulldoze through the southern route—of course, I do not recommend that course—or what in effect they did which is to say, "Don't know—we will abide by" (and here one must pause for a moment) "the inspector's report or the decision of Parliament". Of course, that is a very convenient thing to do if both the inspector's report and the decision of Parliament is the same, but you get into trouble if they are not. That is what has happend. It really is quite as simple as that. I do not regard anyone as a villain in this because I think that in this case, as in almost all cases where there are administrative mistakes, they were made by muddle and not by villainy, and I think to a certain extent the muddle has been caused by the parliamentary procedure which was chosen.
Before I turn to the parliamentary procedure, may I briefly talk about the danger of piecemeal encroachment of national and indeed, other parks, including royal parks. I say "encroachment". I do not want to use the exaggerated language of The Times that there is a fear of the concreting over of the Lake District. Of course, there is no such fear. Rather, I recall an admirable article in the Daily Express (I think it was) by Sir Osbert Lancaster. It was about Hyde Park—and that is a royal park. In this characteristic and inimitable way he drew attention to the fact that Hyde Park is about the same size as Central Park, New York, and that if there was to be piecemeal encroachment of Hyde Park it would soon turn into a backyard with no sun and no light instead of the beautiful open space that we know as Hyde Park with a low skyline which is spoiled chiefly by the Hilton Hotel and the tower block of Knightsbridge Barracks. So if we had had that piecemeal encroachment we would have had Central Park instead of Hyde Park: that is the way he graphically put it. The same applies pari passu to national parks.
While on the subject of Hyde Park, if I may, I should like to mention with affection and with honour the late Lord Conesford. He played a leading part in resisting, unsuccessfully, the Hyde Park Bill—which, incidentally, was a hybrid Bill, and I will revert to that. He found the Bill's Title intolerable. It was entitled "Park Lane (Improvement) Bill". He moved an amendment so that the Short Title would be more accurately descriptive. His amendment was:Leave out 'Park Lane (Improvement)' and insert 'Hyde Park (Diminution)'.The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who is quite a wit, was speaking for the Government and he resisted this amendment on the only possible grounds on which it 1482 could be resisted, which was that it was a frivolous amendment.
By the same token this confirmation Bill might well be entitled "Dartmoor National Park (Diminution) Bill", for that is what it is. If you are really determined to diminish Hyde Park in order to improve the flow in Park Lane it is, I suppose, expecting too much of any Government to admit as much. But perhaps the Government will seriously consider whether they might have proceeded by way of a hybrid Bill in the case of the Dartmoor National Park, as they did in the case of Hyde Park, instead of by means of a special procedure order.
I should like to say a brief word about special procedure orders. I have not lived with them quite so long as the noble Lord, Lord Molson, who was in at their birth in 1945, but I have lived with them for three-quarters of their years of existence. Not to make too long a story about it (because the history has been so well related by the noble Lords, Lord Molson. Lord Foot and others) I would say they have caused almost nothing but trouble from the start. This is a classic example of the muddle Governments get into when they seek to regulate parliamentary procedure by Act of Parliament.
I seriously suggest that in the light of this appalling muddle and delay—over 21 years, and perhaps more—the special procedure order procedure might be examined with a view to its being amended, possibly by merely the amendment of Section 6 or else by scrapping it altogether. Her Majesty's Government might call in aid the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, who is an expert in finding compelling reasons for repealing Acts of Parliament which either are no longer of practical utility or which sometimes do more harm than good.
But I have no doubt of the benevolent intentions, as rehearsed by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, of Mr. Arthur Greenwood and his Government when this legislation was introduced. It seemed to follow so naturally from wartime regulations, to which the noble Lord, Lord Molson, referred, and which seemed a sort of civilised and right way of proceeding, with parliamentary safeguards. Of course, the thinking in 1945 was not the same as the thinking in 1985; and, as we have heard in the course of this debate, the special order procedure was thoroughly reviewed by Mr. Henry Brooke and his committee, and indeed it was amended. Even so, quite clearly it is not satisfactory in the light of all we have heard today.
So I would ask whether some serious consideration should not be given to the use of the hybrid or Private Bill procedure, whichever is more appropriate in a particular case, but with special provision for national parks and possibly certain other parks and national trust land. These could be regulated by the Standing Orders of both Houses, which are far more flexible and easy to change if we find we run into trouble than statutory provisions, which cannot be changed and which land us in the soup, as we are today.
If I may, I should like to talk about only one of the so-called constitutional issues which have been talked about this evening: that is, whether Members of the House are entilted to vote for or should feel inhibited from voting against this Bill. That, of course, has been dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in 1483 speaking to his amendment; by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, who is now sitting on the Woolsack; and by the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, in his letter to The Times recently, among others.
To my mind there are two guidelines which we have before us since the war, and it is really only since the war that we can look for guidelines. The first is the Parliament Acts, and they clearly envisage that this House can vote against Public Bills, for they make provision in the event of that happening; so it is clearly a possible thing to be done. It was envisaged in 1911, and it was not taken away in 1949. It is still there. It can be done by statute.
Secondly, there is the "self-denying ordinance", which I think is the proper way of putting it. That is often called "the Salisbury doctrine of the mandate", and I would stress the words "of the mandate". That forms the basis of the reason why both Conservative and Labour Oppositions since the war have refrained from voting against the principle of Government mandated Bills, especially those brought from the Commons. This is what Lord Salisbury said in 1964 when referring to the Conservative Opposition formulating their policy when dealing with Labour Bills. He said that they had followed (and I quote),the broad guiding rule that what had been in the Labour Party programme at the preceding General Election should be regarded as having been approved by the British people…when … measures were introduced which had not been in the Labour Party manifesto at the preceding election, we reserved full liberty of action.That rule was re-interpreted (or perhaps interpreted) in 1975 by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, when he said:We have hitherto taken the view that the will of the elected House must in the end prevail but that there should be a second House which has the opportunity—in rare cases, perhaps—to enforce a delay in which there can be a reassessment by Government, by parties and by the people of this country of the rights or wrongs of an issue.I grant that both those quotations are from Conservative Leaders of the Opposition, but I think it is right to say by and large that the Labour Opposition have followed those guidelines. They did breach them once, when the late Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough—I think possibly under the enthusiastic influence of the late Lord Morrison of Lambeth—put down a reasoned amendment asking the House to decline to pass the London Government Bill. But I think perhaps that ought not to be drawn into precedent.
Surely—and I must be brief—with these precedents in mind it is obvious that the House is not as robust as it used to be. The pronouncements of the late Lord Salisbury and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, are much less restrictive and less stringent than more recent warnings given by what the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, called "the heavy guns" and what the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, called less respectfully, "the heavy mob below the gangway" on the Conservative Benches.
Referring to what the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, said in his recent letter to The Times, if I may say so to the noble Lord I simply do not think it is true to say, as he said—and I quote from his letter:The Government defeats in the present Parliament and in previous Parliaments have all been on amendments to Bills which have never placed them in complete jeopardy.1484 I have only to remind the noble Lord that the Bill for the Parliament Act 1949 was rejected by the House, though it was clearly mandated. I can give him many other instances since.
Anyway, what I call the accepted convention is surely that this House refrains from voting against the principle of mainstream Government legislation except where it is clearly not mandated and this House considers that it calls for a pause for thought. That is the accepted convention which of course must be subject to reinterpretation in the light of the political circumstances of the time and of the merits of each particular Bill. If that principle is eroded, then the extent of the powers of this House will be diminished by a thousand cuts, just like the extent of the national parks will be diminished if nothing is said or done to countervail the present trend.
The words of some noble Lords who have made cautionary utterances about amendments in this House may be crammed into their mouths when, unhappily, they may be in opposition and they seek to move what they consider to be a constructive amendment, and they may have their own words held up against them, that they are indeed wrecking amendments—
§ Lord Henderson of Brompton
No, my Lords; indeed I am not. But if I may dwell for a moment on the word "wrecking" it is not a word that is known to Erskine May. Noble Lords will not find it in the Standing Orders of either House, because it is so imprecise. What is a constructive amendment to the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, will be a wrecking amendment to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and vice versa. I say no more about wrecking amendments than that.
I would say, in conclusion, that, though I personally am not going to vote for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, I see no reason why anyone should not do so if he wishes. I am not voting for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, because I do not wish to prolong the agony and for no other reason. I wish that I could, but I will not. I shall vote instead for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. I am grateful to him for tabling that and for giving me the opportunity to register my vote accordingly.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Lord Roberthall
My Lords, I should like to begin by saying how much I agree with one of the early points made by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and made earlier still in almost exactly the same words by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, which is how very fortunate it is that the Ministry of Transport did not make up its mind a long time ago to respect the views about the national park. If it had taken that course, the bypass would have been built long ago and we would not be having the troubles that we are having now.
The people who support the Bill have, I think, been supporting it mainly by quite general arguments, 1485 which could be reduced to saying that no part of the national park should ever be taken. Put in that way, that is a proposition with which I would agree, because it is very important that we should keep what we have. But to some extent that is now water under the bridge, and in the rest of my speech I shall speak from a particular point of view, which is that I live in Cornwall and, until quite recently, had to drive regularly at all times and in all seasons of the year on the A.30 through Okehampton. Whatever the outcome of this, we ought to think a little about the position of the people of Cornwall who depend almost entirely on the A.30 for their transport, where they are now held up by the Okehampton blockage.
This first came to my notice in 1968 when there was a lot of talk about building a bypass. Since then, the position has gradually become worse and worse and it will continue to get worse. The main reasons for this are, first, that in 1968 a lot of goods traffic went into Cornwall by rail, but there is now very little use of rail for the transport of goods, as is happening all over the country. Secondly, there is not only a heavier load to be carried because of that, but also, because of the general growth of the national income, the total amount of goods to be moved has increased, so that the load has gone up there.
The third reason, with which we are all familiar, is that an enormous number of people in this country now have a motor-car and a great many of them, I am glad to say, use their cars in the summer to go to south-west England, especially to Cornwall, and they make the congestion very much worse than they used to do. It is a very bad entry to and a very bad departure from Cornwall, when practically all of these people have to sit in their cars breathing the fumes of other cars for two or three hours or even more.
The result of this is that the great bulk of the people in the south-west, whatever they might have thought about the general proposition some time ago, are now concentrating almost entirely on the desire for something to be done now. From that point of view, I think they feel very much as the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, said earlier—that they have had a very bad deal. First, there were the discussions in 1968. Then there was an inspector who came down in favour of the southern route; and after a considerable delay the Ministry accepted that. We then had the committee, which has been discussed so much. And now, if our Lordships accept the Motion, they will feel that they are back to square one.
Whatever people say about how the process might be accelerated, they feel absolutely certain that the northern route will take a great deal longer than the southern route, because all the preliminary work has been done for the southern route and practically none for the northern one. They will feel that the whole planning capacity and ability of the country comes out of this very badly, because this is a problem that was foreseen and that could have been dealt with in a satisfactory way much earlier on.
It is not the Government who will suffer if they are defeated on this issue; it is the very large number of people who use the road and all the people concerned with transport who see the position getting worse and 1486 worse. Even away from the summer season, there are bad jams all the time. For about the whole five miles the roads are rather narrow and often they go through towns. Because, perhaps, of a slow lorry, what I once referred to in a debate as a gravity-assisted lorry (one that goes very well down hill) jams can build up.
I feel that at least we should bear in mind tonight that it is the people who use the road, particularly the people of Cornwall who depend so much on it. who will be the ones to suffer at the very best for three years and at the very worse for heaven knows how long. We cannot say even now, if the southern route is rejected, that the northern route will be automatically started on straight away. We can all make guesses about that, according to where our emotions lie, but the people who have lived through it will not believe there is going to be a bypass until they see it.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Lord Sandford
My Lords, I yield to no one in my love of and support for the national parks. I am currently president of the Friends of the Lake District. Back in the early 1970s I produced a report on the national parks, published in the days when the rubbishing of reports before reading them was not such a developed art as it has become since. The whole report was courteously received by a Government of the opposite complexion to myself. Paragraph 15.6 was taken over and used verbatim to form the kernel of Circular 4/76, which is at the centre of the issue we are discussing today.
I want strongly to support the Government both in their general approach to this and in the particular Bill before us. But I want to deal gently, if I can, with their opponents—with my noble friend Lord Molson, because when I joined the Department of the Environment back in 1970 with responsibility for these countryside matters he was generous in his advice and guidance and I am most grateful to him for it. I want to deal gently with the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, because as a fellow president of one of the associations of local government I shall need his support when dealing with central Government in battles that lie ahead of us. I want to deal gently with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, not only because of my personal respect for him but because of my regard for the organisation which he heads, the Council for National Parks, which has done and is still capable of doing an enormously useful job.
But I regard the persistent campaign which has gone on since the inquiry as totally misconceived. None of us ought to have been discussing the main issue since that inquiry ended. The Select Committee ought not to have been discussing it. We ought not to be discussing it now, and those who have been persistent in discussing it have in my view done the whole cause of conservation a great deal of harm. In the long run and in the perspective of history, that will be seen to have been the case. The inquiry had Circular 4/76—it did not abrogate it; it did not set it to one side; it did not override it; it had it right at the centre of the whole inquiry. The first question was, "Is there a compelling need for a road past Okehampton?" No one has disagreed with that. The second question was. "Is there a reasonable alternative to the southern route?" After very careful consideration over 96 days, spread 1487 over nine months, the inspector came out completely and categorically in favour of the southern route. You cannot have a better way of discussing these issues than a public local inquiry. It has been a great mistake to persist in trying to raise that central issue again and elsewhere.
The only outstanding issue now is the exchange of open space land. That will be settled by our vote tonight. Even when it has been settled, I think there is still a job to be done—probably by an investigative journalist. I hope he will find out, and let us know in an article in a journal some day, what on earth happened to the offer of open space land while the inquiry was going on. The offer has now been discovered and for the life of me I cannot believe that it was not around somewhere during the inquiry. Why on earth it was not raised I cannot understand.
The same journalist will also have to discover how on earth it was that the Ministry of Transport ever supposed that they could offer less land than was needed and expect the Dartmoor Preservation Authority not to exploit the loophole that that left open for them. It is that which has led to this enormous delay. However, I do not put that question to my noble friend tonight because I am sure he does not have the whole answer; and even if he had I doubt if he would give it to us.
When we come to vote tonight, in support of the Government I hope, and against both these amendments, we can, as my noble friend Lord Vinson said, vote in the certain knowledge that we have the support of all the local authorities in the West Country—both county councils, all the district councils, all the parish councils and almost all the Members of Parliament, except for one whose constituency is furthest from the scene and is almost totally unaffected by the road that we are discussing. I hope that when a vote is cast in favour of this Bill the department will not only get on with the construction with all due dispatch but will find ways and means, whenever the weather and the light permit, of putting into it the maximum amount of overtime possible so that all the local people whose economies have been harmed and whose lives have been made miserable by this delay will to some extent be compensated, and enabled to enjoy their bypass at the earliest possible date.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Lord Henley
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Sandford has been commendably brief. I hope I can follow suit and with luck your Lordships might then be in bed by at least midnight.
I was also on the committee along with the noble Lords, Lord Stallard and Lord Airedale. Unlike them, I came to a different conclusion in deciding the question of whether we should recommend the confirmation of the two compulsory purchase orders. As has been stated, these two compulsory purchase orders were petitioned again. The petition went to the Chairman of Committees and to his counterpart in the Commons. They confirmed that it was a proper petition. As a result, the Select Committee was bound to consider all the matters that were contained in the petition. I accept that point and I do not take the point 1488 of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, that we were led up the garden path in considering more than the mere compulsory purchase orders. We had to consider the whole petition. It might have been that the Chairman of Committees and the Chairman of Ways and Means were wrong—I do not know—but there is no appeal against that. The fact is that we had to consider it.
To my way of thinking, that resulted in the committee being something of a quasi court of appeal against the planning inspector. That is where the system breaks down. It becomes a flawed court of appeal in that it cannot consider all the evidence. This is no criticism of what the committee did, but we did not receive evidence from, say, the opponents to any given northern route. They presumably did not consider appearing in front of the committee. I am not sure whether they were even entitled to do so. It was considered that we might confine ourselves entirely to compulsory purchase orders. Obviously we did not do so but broadened out the whole petition. As a result, various people were not represented who might otherwise have been represented.
If this Bill does not succeed owing to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, or whatever, and the department have to go ahead with a northern route, then both interested parties will protest against any given northern route at a public inquiry. However much the committee asked for goodwill in getting the northern route, I am sure that whereas they will get that goodwill from the department, they will not get it from the said objectors to the northern route. There will be a bitterly fought public inquiry which could last another 96 days. There could be further delay.
The subject of delay brings me on to the question of time, which the committee considered to some extent. We heard from a witness for the petitioners, Mr. Parker, who stated that there would be a five-year delay; that is to say, a northern route would take five years longer than a southern route—in other words, a total of eight years and not a total of five years as was said by the noble Earl, Lord Winchilsea. Those people who have been suggesting recently in letters to the press that a northern route could be completed by 1990 are living in cloud cuckoo land. It just would not be possible. As I said, even the witness for the petitioners reckoned on a five-year delay. That seems very optimistic. The department's witness, a Mr. Wedd, stated that if a northern route were chosen, the department would more or less have to go back to square one. We know from what was said earlier by my noble friend Lord Caithness that on average it takes 13 years to build a road. The department reckon that they can probably complete it in nine years. That is a six-year delay as compared with the southern route, which we could have by 1988.
It would be a minimum six-year delay. A protracted public inquiry and various geological difficulties—such as the new evidence of cadmium, or something else—on the northern route could lead to even greater delays. It might even lead to the road being lost for ever. I do not believe that the people of Okehampton and Devon, or of Cornwall for that matter, want to take that risk. 1489 I should like to deal very briefly with the reasons why I came to my decision, after sitting on the committee, that the order should be confirmed, why I preferred the southern route, and why I felt that any northern route would not be a reasonably alternative. Reference has been made to Circular 4/76 which followed the report of my noble friend. We all know that it stated that no new trunk road should go though a national park unless there was no reasonable alternative. It is agreed by everyone that such is still government policy.
It has been argued that the northern route is a reasonable alternative. The proponents say that all the land between Okehampton and Devon is similar to that in the north, and so if the bypass can go though that land, why can it not go through the land in the north? I do not believe that that is the proper approach. One has to start with what is a natural route, and quite obviously it is that to the south, ignoring first the question of the national park. After all, that is where our forefathers put the railway line. They put the railway line there for the sensible reason that it is where one would put a road.
Having decided that the southern route is the natural route, one must then use the test of whether the northern route is a reasonable alternative. I do not think that it is a reasonable alternative. Because time is getting on, I shall try to give briefly the reasons why I do not believe that any northern route is reasonable.I have written down six or seven different reasons. I accept that none of them on its own would be enough to make the northern route an unreasonable alternative but together they do.
There is first the question of cost. I agree that the extra cost is not much. It is a matter of just a few million pounds. In fact, a few million pounds is quite a lot of money; it would be 20 per cent. more expensive, and that does seem quite a lot more. Secondly, the northern route would be longer; only by a mile, but one mile over five or six miles is an appreciable difference. Thirdly, there is the question of local preference. I know that it is also a question of a national park but local preferences ought to be taken into account. I am not saying that they should be paramount but everyone agrees that all local authorities are in favour of the southern route. The only test of publc opinion showed 55 per cent. in favour of the southern route as opposed to 45 per cent. in favour of the northern route, which seems to be quite a big margin, whatever people may say.
Fourthly, there is the question of employment. I am not sure whether anyone has already mentioned this but any northern route would affect the agate quarry which is near what would have to be the Knowle viaduct. That quarry would probably have to cease operation because it would be unable to continue blasting. Fifthly, there is the question of agricultural land. The evidence given to the committee was that the northern land was not that much better than the southern land. I am no great expert on agriculture but when I visited the area it struck me that the northern land looked far better, with really good grassland. There is also the question of severance, which would affect the farms to the north far worse than those to the south.
1490 I should also mention, as no other speaker seems to have done so—I do not know whether the Government will—that there is Government Circular No. 75/76 which is still Government policy. This states that one should try to use less good agricultural land rather than the better agricultural land. I agree that we have the further complication of Circular 4/76, so there are slightly conflicting Government policies.
Sixthly, there is an archaeological factor. Sadly, for reasons of saving time, the petitioners did not call their archaeological witness. However, the department produced an archaeological witness who said that there were various sites which would be affected by a northern route. Therefore one must leave that open, but the fact is that both the northern and the southern routes would affect various archaeological sites.
Seventhly, on the landscape question I think that there is a very clear balance in favour of the southern route. As I said earlier, it is the natural route. It fits into the land. It will be easy to disguise it with trees. In passing, it is interesting to note that the department stated in evidence to the committee that it is the second largest planter of trees in the country; for which it deserves full praise.
I admit that the southern route has two viaducts. However, for the northern route the viaduct which will be necessary will be far bigger and far more intrusive, especially from the moor, as will the rest of the northern route. As I think was stated by my noble friend Lord Waldegrave, it will be visible from the moor, and because it will involve a series of cuttings and embankments it will be difficult to hide, even by the planting of trees. If anything, trees will emphasise the scar that would be produced. I think everyone is agreed that the southern route can be completed within three years. There is some dispute as to how long the northern route will take. My own view is that it will be six years on top of the three years; that is, nine years as the absolute minimum. It could be longer, and it could even be a question of never seeing it at all.
Those are my reasons. I may have forgotten some. Together they make any northern route unreasonable. Since the Select Committee reported I gather certain other matters have arisen, such as cadmium in the bog. At any rate something scientific, which I do not understand, has been mentioned. That presumably makes any northern alternative even less satisfactory. For those reasons I shall have no hesitation in supporting the Government, and I urge all other noble Lords to do so.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, I should like to return to something said by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, at the start of the debate, a long time ago now, which struck me, if I may say to him with respect, as being particularly silly. He suggested to my noble friends on the Front Bench on this side of the House that because the Labour Government had proposed the southern route in 1976 it was absurd for this side of the House not to continue to support it. It struck me as unfair, just because he happens to be a Member of a Government who are well known for pursuing out-of-date and discredited policies, that he should expect others to do the same. 1491 More significantly, much has changed since 1976 which affects the decison on where the route should go. Indeed, much has changed since 1981. Neither the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, nor the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, seem to recognise that. For example, the balance between areas which are important for conservation and areas which are important for food production have significantly switched in the past few years. It is not at all surprising, therefore, that the joint committee, looking at this issue several years after the inspector considered the evidence, might have come to a different decision solely on those grounds alone. The factors which influence the balance of advantage on where the road does or does not go have changed.
The noble Lord, Lord Henley, said that the agricultural factor influenced him, but I suggest to him that that has become of less importance in recent years than it was during the period of the public inquiry. Circumstances have changed and it is reasonable for people to change their minds. Therefore, I do not think that the joint committee should be attacked for doing so in the way that it has been attacked by a number of noble Lords in different ways tonight.
I ask one question and make one more serious point, because it is getting late. The noble Earl said that this would not act at a precedent. When the noble Lord, Lord Elton, replies to the debate, will he be able to give two assurances in the light of the fact that this will not be a precedent so far as the Department of Transport is concerned? First, can he assure me that the decision about the route that the North Devon link road is to take is not being deliberately delayed until this particular little local difficulty is out of the way? Secondly, can he assure me that when the route is announced the North Devon link road will not go through any areas of national importance from a conservation point of view; in particular, any sites of special scientific interest? I must tell the Government that there is a widespread belief that this is simply the first of what is to be a series of decisions on road developments which are going to damage either national parks or important areas of wildlife. I suspect that to be the case.
The more serious point to which I want to turn is the view of the Secretary of State for Transport about what the Government would do were the joint committee to come to the decision that it did, against the Government's interests. It seems to me that the Government have got themselves in an impossible position. Whichever way they turn the Secretary of State has clearly been deliberately misleading both Houses of Parliament, and I think that the Government are engaged in an extremely shoddy and miserable manoeuvre. I shall say why if the noble Earl gives me a chance.
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, I think that I must come in at this point. I did not interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, when he said something similar. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has not misled either House. I am a little surprised that some noble Lords did not appear to hear what my noble friend the Lord President said. He said that the joint committee reported in April, that the report was discussed in June and that it was decided by the 1492 Government in July to proceed with the special parliamentary procedures. Before other noble Lords take up the Lord Foot argument, let me say that my right honourable friend memorialised the joint chairmen on the specific aspect of the petition relating to policy. He made it perfectly clear then that it was a matter for policy. The fact that the noble Lord, Lord Foot, did not pick that up and did not advise the petitioners of the consequences, knowing full well what the Act entailed, cannot now be blamed on my right honourable friend.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for those remarks, and I listened carefully when similar things were said earlier, but they do not seem to me to answer the question. If this was a matter of national policy, the Secretary of State should not have used the procedure that he did. As far as I am aware, he did not say at any stage during the procedures that were the joint committee to come to the decision that it did, the Government would immediately overrule it. If the noble Earl wants to interrupt again to contradict me, I shall gladly give way—but he does not, because the Secretary of State did not say that. He never made the position clear to the petitioners, the joint committee or anybody else. In my view he deliberately misled all those involved from both Houses of Parliament and all the petitioners who went to great trouble and very great expense—for which to my mind the Secretary of State is responsible—in going through a lengthy and, as it turns out, totally meaningless and useless procedure.
The Secretary of State did that because, as the noble Earl has now clearly confirmed, he had no intention right from the beginning of accepting a conclusion from the joint committee unless it was in favour of the southern route. That is what the noble Earl has just told your Lordships' House. That means that the whole procedure—
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, that is not what I said to this House. I am afraid that the noble Lord is totally wrong. He should read Hansard to get exactly what I did say.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, the noble Earl said that the Secretary of State took the view when he first tried to restrict the basis on which the petitions were made to the joint committee that a matter of national policy was at stake; in other words, that it was a matter of national policy that the bypass round Okehampton went to the south of the town rather than to the north. The noble Earl has nodded, confirming that view. That means that the Secretary of State intended to introduce this sort of Bill right from the start, to overrule the joint committee were it to come to the conclusion that it did because a matter of national policy was at stake. That indeed is the only basis on which the Government could even presume to try to justify the miserable procedure on which they have embarked.
1493 I think that the joint committee was set up on a false basis if that is the case. Nobody should have been allowed to go through the rigmarole of petitioning, with days and days of investigation, if the Secretary of State had decided, as the noble Earl says he had, that as a matter of national policy the road should go to the south of Okehampton. That means that the whole procedure was a waste of time.
If I may say so to the noble Earl, I think that that is discreditable enough, but the basis of that behaviour is entirely discreditable. What principle of national policy was at stake in deciding that the bypass had to go to the south rather than to the north? Is a four, five, six or even nine-year delay really a matter of national policy? Is a small additional cost—certainly tiny compared to the whole of the Department of Transport budget—a matter of national policy? Is the question of whether farmland or public open space is taken in a local case like this a matter of national policy? Of course none of those is a matter of national policy.
A number of noble Lords, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, have made perfectly clear their view that this does not raise matters of national policy. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said that the matter should have been decided at a public local inquiry and left there. The Government cannot have it both ways unless they are deliberately trying to trick people and get away with a shoddy manoeuvre. That is what the Bill is; that is what will go through if noble Lords vote in favour of the Government tonight.
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, with due respect, the noble Lord has misinterpreted what I said and has misled the House, I believe. If he will read what I said in my opening speech about the consideration of the hybrid Bill, about the Motion to annul the orders by Lord Foot and the Motion in the other place, he will see that it was taken by all those involved that it should go to a joint committee, and the petitioners were memorialised by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, I am aware of that. The noble Earl has taken up about half of the eight minutes I have been speaking for, but I am happy to respond. The facts, I believe, are that the Secretary of State for Transport and the Government did not realise that there was a chance of the Select Committee considering a general petition. I am convinced that up to that point they thought that there would be a petition on the narrow issue of public open space. That would go one way or another, but nevertheless the bypass would go to the south of the town. But, as the noble Earl says, it was in their mind all the time, as a matter of national policy, to quote him, that the road should go to the south of Okehampton. What upset the apple cart from the Government's point of view was that the authorities in both Houses allowed a general petition to be made to the joint committee. At that stage if there had been a spark of decency in the Secretary of State for Transport, he would have stood up immediately in Parliament and said, "Right, we must stop this. The Government will overrule the joint committee if they come down in favour of a route to 1494 the north of Okehampton and against the southern route." But that would have looked like what is actually happening now 12 months later—a deliberate use of the Government's majority to override a joint committee of the Houses of Parliament. They did not have the guts to do it at the time; so they are doing it 12 months later. That is why it is a shoddy manoeuvre.
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ Viscount Falmouth
My Lords, I speak in full support of my noble friend's Bill to confirm the southern route, the Okehampton bypass, for the A.30. I trust that your Lordships will not agree to the amendment if it is pressed, so that the bypass will be built at the earliest possible date. I speak as a Cornishman who lives in Cornwall. I have lived there for a very long time. I am delighted to find that there are in the House at the moment at least four Members who live or have lived in the county. I have therefore an interest in the Bill.
I speak but seldom, but I believe that I would be failing in my duty if I did not say that these notorious traffic jams are a terrible handicap for Cornwall. One has only to read The Times of last Tuesday to see how united local government spokesmen are in favour of the southern route. We have heard that time and again this afternoon. Our county did not take part in the original inquiry. Nor did we give evidence to the joint committee. We thought it wrong to interfere in the affairs of our friends and neighbours in Devon while the committee was set up to consider, I believe, a limited question of open space land. We now know better.
Our county depends on the A.30 and the bypass is urgently required. We are at the end of the road, and that is always a great handicap. When this burden of the Okehampton traffic queues is lifted, a great obstacle for our trade and industry will be removed—for us indeed a compelling reason. I intend to speak briefly. I have four points to make on the effect of these delays in Cornwall. First, there is the effect on lorry traffic. We send out a great deal of food from Cornwall every year to the markets up country. I think that our gross output is something like £220 million of agricultural and horticultural products—no mean figure. It includes half a million boxes of flowers and that sort of thing, and a lot of broccoli—20,000 crates of broccoli a year. A great deal of this travels up the A.30. The majority travels in lorries slowly moving up hills and up and down all those bends around Okehampton.
Then there are the fish lorries, and, by no means least, all the China-clay lorries from our great China-clay pits in the county. I have heard tell—as we say in Cornwall—that the Okehampton delays are equal to a £5 toll on every load. Personally I would have said it was more.
Let me turn for a moment to a very important question for the trade, that of the drivers' hours. That is such an important question in planning road haulage and marketing. When this bypass is built Cornish loads may well be able to reach the markets as far afield as Leeds and Lincoln, and Folkestone and Dover for the Continent, within the limits of drivers' hours instead of wasting those precious hours at or near Okehampton and vice versa.
1495 Do we have to wait another nine years for this? I think that the noble Baroness dealt with the question: why not use the southern route via Plymouth? That is already at a maximum at peak periods. The noble Baroness was horrified at that suggestion. I am told by the road surveyors in Cornwall that over the next three years heavy repairs have to be done to that bridge because the concrete deck has to be repaired and in places replaced.
My second point—which again the noble Baroness raised—is about unemployment in Cornwall. This is above the national average. I think that the figure in October was about 18 per cent. overall. As the noble Baroness said, we are most anxious about tin mining, and also about the future manufacture of air-compressors in Camborne. We have excellent labour in the county and the best way to get more jobs in Cornwall is to improve the communications through Devon. Good communications are the key to encouraging industry to come, as they mean a permanent reduction in costs which no government can take away.
So much publicity has now been given to the Okehampton tailbacks that the mere thought of them will frighten prospective industry away. We want the bypass as soon as possible. Good communications mean good predictability of supply. Firms in Cornwall are particularly vulnerable to unpredictable arrivals of goods. Nothing is more frustrating than men who have to be kept hanging about to off-load. It is terribly frustrating for management and workpeople in manufacturing, agriculture, mining and, above all, the shops.
My fourth and by no means least important point is the tourist trade. At home and abroad—and by "abroad" I mean Europe and beyond—we depend on this in summer. I do not know how many Members of your Lordships' House or how many objectors to the southern route have ever been caught in the Okehampton queues. I have, on average for two hours. The surveyor says that in the peak periods at summer weekends there are 17,000 vehicles going each way through Okehampton. That is a terrifying figure.
I am so glad that the noble Lord on the opposite side of the House mentioned the drivers and the passengers in the queues. What do a family of holidaymakers—grown-ups and young children—remember when they return to their Midland home, having left Cornwall that morning?—the delays, the starting and stopping, the traffic lights at Okehampton, the corners and hills round the little village of Sticklepath, which will all happily be bypassed. This is what they remember, and I cannot blame them if they never want to come again, because there are so many competing brochures in the travel shops. Quite literally, if evil communications corrupt good manners, they certainly corrupt tempers. Good communications make life much easier for everyone.
To a greater or lesser degree we are all conservationists, and the conservationists are seeking to prevent a small slice of Dartmoor being taken from within the northern boundary of the Dartmoor park. Whatever one may say, the Dartmoor National Park comprises 233,000 acres and, as has been said, the northern boundary was, for administrative 1496 convenience, drawn along the line of the A.30. This is not a party issue; it is just a plea for common sense. The proposed southern route is a good one, running along the valley south of the town and close to the railway and quarry. It will have the least effect on the beauty of the landscape. Indeed, how does the present spur (which is already built) from the M.5 at Exeter, running along the northern edge of Dartmoor, spoil the landscape?
This bypass in no way goes through the heart and centre of the national park. It is as though Shylock asked for a hank of Antonio's hair in the Merchant of Venice rather than the pound of flesh, and Portia, his counsel, had no case to make. It would be a friendly gesture to our county if this amendment was not pressed to a Division. However, if it is pressed, I hope that Members from all parts of the House will support the Government. If this Bill is not now passed, how many more years of delay will we have to suffer before a bypass is built?
Quite fortuitously I did not read the advertisement in The Times today, but on the centre page I read the following, and in quoting it perhaps I may apologise to the right reverend Prelate:'0 little town of Bethlehem How still we see thee lie, For on thy by-pass, newly built, The cars pass softly by. And you can have a by-pass, too, If you apply to us…Cornwall realises how important this vote is tonight, and I hope that your Lordships will vote against this amendment and thus support this important Bill.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ Earl Attlee
My Lords, I find myself in a slight difficulty this evening in that at least two of my noble friends feel very strongly about the environment. Other noble Lords who are speaking in favour of these amendments also feel very strongly. It is a pity that, in order to support their cause, they tend to inflate certain matters. A leaflet which talks about a wonderful wooded 700-year old deer park sounds very impressive until you find out that there has not been a deer in that park for at least 100 years.
I read the advertisement in The Times and I was surprised because my trouble is that I am not a conservationist. I live in Finchley in North London and I do not go down to Devon and Cornwall. I am interested in transport matters. Therefore, in the words of this advertisement, I was trying to see:
where lie truth and the public good".I have been to exhibitions and I have read the large amount of material which has been sent to us. On that basis, it seemed to me that the southern route was the right one.
Then I heard about the Joint Select Committee. I do not know the parliamentary. rights or wrongs of this but I was surprised to find out that this joint committee did not take evidence from those people on a northern route who would be affected, so how could they judge the southern route and propose a northern route if they did not know what people felt about that northern route? Although it has been said before, I think we must accept that there is the southern route, and possibly a northern route somewhere.
1497 Remarks have been made that the land in the north is not very good and, according to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, that in the past few years this land has suddenly decreased in its nutrients. The National Farmers' Union states categorically that the land in the north is good land, valuable land, grazing land, that all the farmers in the north are against the northern route, and that the farmers in the south, on the southern route, are not against the southern route.
The other matter we have to bear in mind—and it has been said a lot of times—is how can we possibly let this situation continue for another 12 or 13 years? I read somewhere that it was claimed that if we opted for the northern route it would not cause an additional delay of more than possibly two or three months. The only way that that would be possible would be if we denied to the people who live on the northern route their democratic right to a public inquiry, and that would be very bad indeed.
I am not going to say much more, except that I should like to read a letter that I have received. Having gone against the conservationists, I thought your Lordships might be interested in this letter. It is a letter from the chairman of the Federation of Hotels and Tourist Associations. It is not a very tactful letter.I hope that as SDP spokesman on transport, and in memory of your father"—I like that, in memory of my father!—so widely respected by my generation caught by the 1939–45 war, and fully awareand so on—that you also will have the courage and foresight of your father and support the A.30 southern route".I thought hard. He is almost saying that if I do not support the southern route which he does that I am not a very good man. I should love to have struck a blow for my independence, but I am convinced that the southern route is the right route and I shall be voting for that.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Lord Brougham and Vaux
My Lords, it may be of interest to your Lordships to know that the list of speakers, as it was originally, representated about 1 per cent. of the population of Okehampton. In speaking to this Motion as someone, like a lot of other noble Lords and Members of another place, who has no connection with the West Country, but has been there on holiday as my daughter lives down there, or on business, or has visited the area to see the alternatives—and I hasten to add that I have not—but has read all the literature on both sides that has come through my letter box and has visited the exhibitions, I have tried to come to a rational, unbiased view on this matter. It is rather hard to do, as other noble Lords have said, because it has stirred up the emotions of not only the people from the West Country but also people from the rest of the country as to whether the road should go to the north or south.
There is no doubt that a bypass will create jobs and bring prosperity to the West Country. There is no doubt that it will not only relieve Okehampton but save it from crumbling, and let it breathe and become a charming country town where people can carry on 1498 their business life without all the noise and pollution in the air.
I have examined the alternatives. On the one hand, if the road goes to the north, it will go through open spaces at Abbeyford Woods, and it will go through good farming land. I shall not go into that because so much has been said about it already. It will close Aggetts quarry. It will cost more in time and money and will run across the grain of the land above the town leaving a scar with a viaduct. If, on the other hand, it goes to the south, it will go through the tip of the national park—I say "tip"—also leaving a scar. It will go through a mediaeval deer park and what is commonly known as Bluebell Wood and can be completed in three years.
Those briefly are the cases. I have given careful consideration to the issues. If the road goes to the north, it will leave a scar, but the northern route will be seen for miles around with the 90-foot viaduct sticking up like a sore thumb. But the southern route will be hidden in the natural contours of the land Jobs will be lost in the quarry and possibly farming jobs if it goes to the north, but I can see no job losses to the south. As for Bluebell Wood, I am told you either have to be a pygmy or someone on stilts to go through it. The deer park has not had deer in it for over a hundred years or so and, what is more, much of the deer park is useless because it consists of 533 acres out of a total of 1,506 acres made up of railway, golf course, army camp and quarry. If the road goes to the south with additional land coming in, the Moor will be bigger.
I am concerned also about the time factor. I do not think a northern route could be built in an extra five, six or nine years. So many numbers of years have been mentioned. First, the farmers will fight with all they have until the last drop of blood has left them. Secondly, there are outsiders who could object and cause delays. One only has to look at what happened to the M.40 extension where one objector's court actions have caused costly delays, and that person does not even live within 30 miles of the proposed extension. We have seen this from time to time in many cases. This was in the Daily Telegraph on 21 st November.
§ The Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham
My Lords, as I said, Aggetts quarry is nearly worked out in any case. The 10 people who work there have been offered alternative employment at Meldon quarry. I thought that was a point worth restating.
§ Lord Brougham and Vaux
My Lords, I shall just reiterate my point about the objections from outsiders who live miles away. I heard yesterday from a Member of Parliament who has letters from his constituents in Birmingham who have been reading about the Okehampton bypass and they have asked him to vote against it. Those people say they have never been down there. This is happening on the M.40 and it will be happening with the Okehampton bypass. As I was saying, we have seen this time and time again in other places.
It is a fact that all the local elected councils and parishes in varying degree are in favour of the southern route as well as the majority of the local people, local Members of another place, the NFU, the CLA, some 1499 of the major trade unions as well as the independent landscape authority. They are all in favour.
In the quiet of my home I have pondered and weighed up the balance. I consider that there is no reasonable alternative, in this instance, but that the minority should now bow to the wishes of the majority in this case and that we should pass this order tonight and save Okehampton from total destruction. Let the West Country benefit from the jobs and industry that will ensue now and not in years to come, because then it will be too late.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Viscount Hood
My Lords, I am another West Country Peer supporting the southern route. In doing so, I propose to speak, and very briefly, to the substance rather than the procedures of this matter.
First, in relation to the environment, we have all read, heard and seen much about the environment. There is much evidence on both sides. I have reached the conclusion that there is little to choose. Any major road is a liability to the environment. However, it has to be accepted, as I think it is agreed by Members from all parts in the House, that a bypass is essential and has been essential for many years past.
On the issue of farming land, I believe the balance clearly falls to the southern route. There is more damage to farming the land. I do not think this is the most important point but nevertheless farming is the industry of Devon and cannot be ignored. In relation to cost, it is said that the northern route will cost £5 million more at 1976 prices. Presumably, it will be materially more now. Again, that is not the most important point, but millions do count in this world.
Delay is obviously the most vital factor. This is something on the jugular vein of the West Country. It not only affects Cornwall—and I listened to the noble Viscount, Lord Falmouth, with interest—but I am a Dorset man, living on the border and we are affected and—goodness knows!—Devon is too. The delay is terrible. It is terrible to contemplate six additional years. This is the Government's estimate, and today I have heard no convincing arguments to suggest that it would be less: more likely more. This is the vital factor. We cannot have 12 mile queues of unfortunate people wishing to see the environment but merely seeing other motorcars for miles and miles.
Then, in relation to procedure, I briefly say that, while following the legal arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, the one which convinces me is that Parliament has the power to decide and it is our decision today which counts.
On the issue of the national park, we have been given the most complete assurances by the Government that there is no precedent here. It is a slither (if I may use that word) of the 230,000 acres to which the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, referred. There is no precedent. The governing factor is that the reasons should be compelling—and they are compelling—and that there should be no reasonable alternative. Certainly in my opinion there is no reasonable alternative. Indeed, it would be most unreasonable if your Lordships did not pass the Bill and reject the amendment.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Baroness Nicol
My Lords, as each hour has passed, I have crossed out more and more of what I planned to say. However, I think I must say the little which is left. There is no doubt of the need for a bypass. We have all agreed on that, and I am surprised that noble Lords have felt it necessary to go on saying so. There is no argument: Okehampton must have its bypass. I do not intend to go over again all the arguments between north and south. I have just a few particular points that I want to make.
First of all, I thought it might be worthwhile to look at a summary of the representations which I have received since the time of the public inquiry. The Select Committee has advised the Government, as we have heard at great length tonight, against the southern route. The Countryside Commission, which is the Government's own adviser, has consistently opposed the southern route. All 12 or so leading national conservation bodies are against the southern route. None of these has any commercial interest, and can therefore be assumed to be offering objective advice. We have also had many letters from individuals in Okehampton, who appear to set preservation of the southern route above that of their own immediate comfort, though they all want the bypass in the end. When we come to those who support the Bill—and I am not complaining about this—we find that they all have a particular interest. The AA and the RAC are anxious to ease the lot of the motorists; and so they should; that is their job. The Freight Transport Association, of course, are concerned about difficulties for lorry drivers in Okehampton. The A.30 Action Group, from which I am sure many noble Lords will have heard, represent a large number of commercial, industrial and service interests in Devon and Cornwall. All these seek improved access to strengthen the economy of the region which I fully support in an area of high unemployment.
But all these organisations and interests are more concerned about the timing of the bypass than about where it goes. As the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, said earlier, some of them really do not care a button where it goes so long as they get it fairly quickly. The single exception in this category is the National Farmers' Union; and I shall return to them in a moment. Those who profit from the tourist industry might pause to reflect that it is the beauties of their counties that the tourists come to see and that their livelihoods depend upon this; and that, if in the course of getting the tourists in, they destroy the very thing that the tourists want to see, then their livelihoods may well be damaged. I offer that to the service industries before they come out in full support of the southern route.
Now to the National Farmers' Union which is a special case. They quite properly put the case for avoiding loss of agricultural land. But it can be argued that this is a less telling point now than it might have been a few years ago since we are now trying to cope with overproduction in the agricultural industry. They might find possible compensation attractive against loss of profits for crops which have a diminishing value. It can also be said that agricultural land is a loss to identifiable individuals who can be compensated. But the loss of part of a national park is a loss to the whole community. Although I support my noble 1501 friend's amendment which offers compensation to the Dartmoor National Park authority if such a course is possible—and I look forward to hearing from the Minister as to whether this is so—this should not be seen in any way as a recompense for the damage done to the concept of national parks because for that there can be no compensation.
As the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, told us so graphically, the single real argument in favour of the southern route now is the likely delay in pursuing an alternative. I think we are all agreed on that.There has been no positive support for the southern route that left aside this need for speed; and we all agree that this is so. It is quite deplorable, as the noble Lord, Lord Foot, said earlier, that in spite of the controversy surrounding this project the Department of Transport has apparently been allowed to concentrate solely on the southern route. There have been some rather bitter exchanges of views across the Chamber about how this might or might not be. Whatever the reason, I think it is deplorable because there has been controversy right from the beginning. There has been a national parks policy which the Government should have known would lead to this controversy. It seems to me that there should have been an intelligent appraisal of some of the alternatives.
We have this argument about how much the completion date will be delayed. Mr. Parker, for the Countryside Commission, gives us 1990 as the finishing date for a possible alternative northern route. The Secretary of State, Mr. Ridley, gives us 1994. His Minister of State gives us 1998. I cannot remember exactly the date that the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, gave us but I think it was something around 1994.
We are told in another context that we can have a Channel tunnel in four years. Why should it take nine years to deal with something like four or five miles of perfectly ordinary dual carriageway if we can have a channel tunnel in four or five years?
Has the Secretary of State not felt it sensible in all these years of anxiety to instruct his department to give just some consideration to the alternatives? It seems that the Government have blinkered themselves to all outside comment against the southern route and are determined to force the Bill through by relying on their large Whipped majority and on the constitutional sensitivity of your Lordships' House.
For me the overwhelming argument is the need to protect the national park. I simply do not accept that if we allow this violation to take place it will not be seen as a precedent. I do not question the integrity of the present Secretary of State or of the Ministers on the Bench opposite; but Ministers change, as we have said in other debates on other subjects, and the words in Hansard are not binding on any future Ministers. The next time a park is in an inconvenient place from the point of view of the Department of Transport, we may see yet another encroachment. The principle must be protected. There has already been too much nibbling away at the amenities of Dartmoor. Now is the time to say "enough", and if the only way to do that is to support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, then, my Lords, I shall support it.
§ 9.56 p.m.
The Earl of Halsbury
My Lords, there is a certain inevitability about my appearance in your Lordships' House this evening. Of 39 speakers on the list, only three have historical, long-term connections with Devonshire: the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, and I myself. We are all three Cross-Benchers, detached from party struggles, and all in favour of the Bill and against the amendment. I hope that those of you who are not historically connected with Devonshire will pay serious attention to what we have to say. The speech of the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, on the eco-balance was of outstanding distinction. The noble Lord. Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, has given long, distinguished and continuous service to public affairs in Devonshire, and everything he says also should be taken very seriously.
I come to my own involvement. My family settled in Devon in the early 12th century and flourished there till we backed the wrong side in the Civil War. Proscribed, fined as active malignants—being Cavaliers in a Roundhead county—we lost our estates and set out again on our travels: a thing which the late King Charles II said he would never do. Those travels land me here this evening. Although I am exterritorial, I have never lost interest in what 1 still regard as my own county. I was a regular contributor to the little quarterly magazine concerned with Devon county history—Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries, it was called. And, whether by virtue of their quantity or their quality I know not, I was invited a quarter of a century ago to become president of the Devonshire Association. I am now of course a past president—and nothing is so past as that.
But I have not come to the end of my recital. I am the ex-tenant of a weekend cottage at Belston, within walking distance of Okehampton. From my garden I could wander straight up to the top of Belston Tor for a picnic, or I could walk into Okehampton for my shopping. I know the district; I know its roads; I know its hopeless traffic congestion; I know its needs; I know its lobbyists—and I know those whose opinions I respect and those I do not. Those whose opinions I respect are unanimously in favour of the Bill and against the amendment.
Okehampton, my Lords, requires better treatment than the shabby one it has got out of parliamentary procedures so far. Why should they be the victims of the busy little butter-fingers of a joint committee whose members deserted their terms of reference, as described by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford? May I remind your Lordships that law is made by the Queen in Parliament, not by joint committees. If the robustitude of the Commons chooses to give the joint committee a rap over the knuckles, there is no reason that your Lordships should not do the same. In that case, the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, collapse into a vacuum.
I resume the history of my involvement in Devon affairs. I was a member of your Lordships' Select Committee on the Dartmoor Commons Bill. 1 was also for 20 years a committee member of the RAC who, together with the AA and the Scottish RAC, put on that very interesting exhibition in the Institute of Chartered Surveyors last week. I am, like my noble 1503 friend Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, a back number in many ways—ex-this, ex-that. I could even claim to say in the context of this Bill: you name it, I am exit—spelt, if you please, with a hypen to discriminate my status from exit spelt without a hyphen: an irrelevancy endemic to my age group.
Let me say something, please, of the eco-balance. If Dartmoor were not covered by sheep, it would be covered with impenetrable scrub which you would not be able to walk across. Landscape is invariably man-made. What man has made, man can unmake and remake. Nothing is forever. The ways of the Almighty are inscrutable and we cannot penetrate them. They include an incomprehensible preoccupation with beetles. There are more species of beetles in the Coleoptera than species belonging to any other genus on the planet.
Motorways and their aerodynamics effect a widespread destruction of beetles crossing the motorways and sweep them aside on to the verges, where they provide a rich diet for hedgehogs. So you have a rich new eco-fauna in the verges: kestrels hovering above them and hedgehogs pursuing their lawful occasion within them. Why quarrel with this interesting state of affairs? "The old order changeth giving place to new and God fulfils himself in many ways lest one good custom should corrupt the world." Nothing is forever. One eco-balance transforms itself into another, and why not?
Do not think of a motorway as a blemish. It gives the motorist a view second to none of the beauties of the countryside. In the railway age, this enchantment was a monopoly enjoyed by the National Union of Railwaymen driving railway trains. Now it belongs to every motorist. The day after tomorrow, I shall be motoring to Gloucestershire on the M.4. When I have passed Exit 12, the last of the exits leading to Reading, the whole lovely countryside in all its rolling beauty will open out and my heart will lighten as I enjoy it. It is a matter of landscaping and fitting the motorway to the landscape. I have driven across continental United States and know what beauty landscaping can reveal. I have driven over the motorways of Europe with the same result.
I now come to the essential matter. We must learn to take decisions and stick to them on the basis that the better is the enemy of the good. When I was chairman of the Operational Research Society I used to tease my colleagues on these terms: "There isn't one of you that can't write a learned paper on the mathematics of decision-taking, and there isn't one of you that can take a decision and stick to it between meetings."
I remember a tale of the first Earl Attlee when he was Prime Minister. A colleague sent him a paper with a note: "I think this may be an interesting contribution to debate in Cabinet" (on whatever it was.) Earl Attlee minuted back: "Cabinet does not debate. It decides and has." My Lords, that is what we have to learn to do.
We have had the report of a public inquiry. We should stop frigging about and implement it. For my own part, I shall vote for the Bill but against the first of the two amendments. For a quite different reason I shall vote against the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, because I think it calls for general 1504 legislation and should not be incorporated in a particular Bill for a particular purpose. I sympathise with its intent but I believe that this is the wrong occasion. My Lords, I shall vote for the Bill and against both amendments.
§ 10.8 p.m.
§ Lord Airedale
My Lords, I can offer only a few words, as a Member of the Joint Select Committee, on the debate as it has gone so far. There cannot really be very much new to be said now. I am sorry to have to say to the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, that, enormously as I admire the noble Earl's fluency of speech in debate and expertise upon matters of science, he and I have a terrible habit of getting into cross purposes on every possible occasion. I was one of the three Members of this House who, together with three Members of the other House, were asked to serve upon the Select Committee. The noble Earl has accused us of busying our butter fingers with something that he thinks we ought to have had nothing to do with, and he thinks that we ought to be rapped over the knuckles.
If Parliament has laid down a procedure which leads inescapably to a Select Committee of both Houses, and if people are going to be asked to serve and they fear that, having done their best and spent 15 days or more for nothing considering this difficult question when they have other things to do, in the subsequent debate they are going to be knocked about like that, I say to the noble Earl that there will be great difficulty in getting people to serve on Select Committees. In that case we had better have a new parliamentary procedure which eliminates the need for Select Committees. The six of us did the best that we could with the matters that were placed before us.
There is not much new that can be said in this debate, but I have not so far heard any noble Lord mention that the gradient on the southern route is going to be 7 per cent., which I understand is close to the borderline of steepness of gradient which is permissible for a road of this character. If you imagine a heavy, laden large goods vehicle grinding up a 7 per cent. gradient, it is not going to afford much peace and quiet to the people in the immediate neighbourhood.
So much has been said about precedents that I hesitate to say another word about it. The fact is that both Ministers in the other place said that they were not setting a precedent. So did the noble Earl, and for good measure he said he was giving a categoric assurance, as if that made it better. I do not want to get into a semantic argument with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, about what is and what is not a precedent, but I would only say this. Let us suppose that in 20 years' time Parliament wants to do something like this to another national park; it wants to nibble away at the fringe. I suppose that a great many of us will not be here, but I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, will be.
§ Lord Airedale
My Lords, if somebody in that debate dares to say that 20 years ago Parliament did such a thing in respect of Dartmoor National Park and so perhaps it can be done again, will the noble Earl stand up and say, "How dare you say that? I gave a 1505 categorical assurance 20 years ago that nothing like this would occur."? That would be Alice in Wonderland. It is never safe for Parliament to say that we are not setting a precedent. It is not for us to do so. It is for those who come afterwards to decide whether or not what we did was a precedent.
Learned counsel for the department, arguing before the Select Committee, stated that Circular 4/76 was crucial to his arguments. He then had to go on to try to argue that the northern route which had been on the county development plan since 1962 was not a reasonable alternative to going through the national park. It seemed to me that he did not relish that task. He spent a great deal of his time simply making a strict comparison between a northern route and a southern route. But if one does that, of course one gives no special protection to the national park at all.
Therefore, when the committee's turn to question the witnesses came, we started by telling them, "For heaven's sake forget about the southern route just for a moment. Try to think about the northern route on its own. Imagine that Okehampton is a coastal town and that Dartmoor is the sea. The only place that a bypass could go would be to the north of Okehampton. You, with your experience of bypass routes all over England, should compare the northern route proposed with other bypass routes in other parts of England and give the committee your opinion as to the reasonableness or otherwise of a northern bypass route". If one regarded the matter in that light, there was a fund of evidence that there was nothing at all unreasonable about taking the route round to the north of Okehampton.
I was disappointed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent. At Question Time not very long ago he told your Lordships that we must not nibble away at the Green Belt. I hoped that that splendid proposition was going to be advanced today in favour of the national parks, but I am afraid that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, let me down very sadly.
Finally, let me say that I do not understand the argument that the Okehampton bypass, wherever it goes, will solve the road problem of the people of Cornwall. It was the honourable Member for Truro who I first heard say that the road from Okehampton to Launceston is the longest lane in Britain. The honourable Member for Truro should know what he is talking about in that connection. It seems to me that if one feeds a dual carriageway into the longest lane in Britain, that may be fine for the people of Okehampton, but all one is doing is pushing the snarl-up to the west, into the longest lane. So if the people of Cornwall have been led to believe that the Okehampton bypass will be their salvation, they have been misdirected and let down.
My last word is that it was very kind of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, speaking from whatever pedestal he supposed he was speaking from, to look down on distinguished Members of this House, such as the noble Lord, Lord Molson, and my noble friend Lord Hunt, and tell them that he was dealing with them gently. I am sure they will hurry home and put that in their diaries: "I was dealt with gently by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford". If the noble Lord, Lord 1506 Sandford, had dealt a little less gently with the Department of Transport, he might have done more good. I should have thought that, after chairing a committee which had come out with those famous words,strongly for the protection of the national park",and those words had been incorporated almost verbatim into a circular stating Government policy and, after all that, when the chips were down and a practical instance arose the Government flew in the face of their statement of public policy by agreeing to a road through the national park, the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, would have been the first to say to the Government, "How can you argue that the route to the north that was on the development plan ever since 1962 is not a reasonable alternative to going through a national park?" I was very disappointed with the noble Lord, Lord Sandford.
I do not think I can help your Lordships any further. It is terribly important to get this bypass in the right place and I think that our children and grandchildren will thank us for putting it in the right place; and I believe that the right place is to the north.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ The Earl of Arran
My Lords, when any road is to be built of whatever length or breadth, by its very nature it is inevitably going to cause deep resentment, very often fearsome anger, sometimes great sadness and unfailingly severe disruption not only to those who find themselves alongside it but also to those who live nearby. A road is an immensely unattractive object with yard after yard of grey tarmac layed by man across God's country. But in accepting that we have to have them, I decided the day before yesterday to see for myself just why so much controversy has raged for so long over the road scheduled to bypass the town of Okehampton to the south.
It would be totally insensitive and utterly unrealistic to pretend that this road, if it were to pass to the south of Okehampton, would not pass through a perfectly beautiful piece of England: England at its best, with that superb and dramatic mixture of a river flowing through a thickly wooded valley, one side of which is bordered by those characteristic small and undulating Devonian fields while the other side climbs steeply up past wooded slopes up onto a great shoulder of open moorland where lie the northern foothills of Dartmoor.
In the middle of the valley below nestles Okehampton which in summer, although surrounded by beauty on all sides, does itself become a hideous monument to the ghastlyness of late 20th century traffic and its attendant chaos, while its inhabitants go about their daily business in despair and misery as year after year passes with no sign of relief in sight; not to mention those wretched holiday-makers, lorry drivers and the inhabitants of Devon and Cornwall inching their way through the town and along the eastern and western approaches to the town. If you get caught in the Okehampton net the hell of it does not fade easily from the memory. Speedy relief for Okehampton is therefore essential if it is ever again to breathe in the sweet air of summer.
1507 Having therefore examined with care, both on maps and on the ground, the case for the southern route against that of the northern route, even as a layman—which I most certainly am when it comes to building roads—even I, as a devout defender of conservation, quickly perceived that the choice must lie with the route that passes to the south.
To be able to build a road just over five miles in length through low grade farmland, a road for the most part curling around a great shoulder of headland, through making maximum use of the existing lie of the ground, by cutting into the hillside and staggering the level of the carriageways, through planting a mixture of fast-growing trees and trees indigenous to the area, through upsetting a minimal number of homes—in fact, some 15 in all, which is small compared to the number being upset in the town at the moment—seems almost to good to be true. But true it is.
When one realises, furthermore, that having laid such a road it would from Dartmoor be virtually invisible, and that in some seven years' time, when the trees have grown, very nearly the whole route would be invisible from nearly every angle—when one realises that and at the same time takes into account the fact that if a road to the north were selected it would in all probability not even be built by the time the trees had grown up on the southern route, then at that point does the argument for the route to the south really become persuasive; nay, even compelling. Moreover, this southern route for much of its length would flirt very closely with the single track of railway line which takes stone from Meldon Quarry to Crediton. Very little of this line can be seen because it was a designer's paradise to lay track along a deep cutting against the side of a hill. So too today it is a road planner's paradise.
Those who love the moor make much of the so-called desecration of the national park if a road were to pass through it. However, I cannot agree that 0.06 per cent. of the whole of Dartmoor, which is the amount of land to be taken, can in any sense justify that argument. I think that it is important to be fully aware that there are already two huge areas of desecration just above where this southern route is to pass—first, the army camp with 54 acres and, secondly, the Meldon Quarry with 148 acres. For those of your Lordships who have not seen it, I can assure you that this quarry is a deep and offensive scar on the face of the moor while the machinery that works it is for ever darkly silhouetted against the sky behind.
While any route to the north would not pass through quite such beautiful country it would nonetheless go through many more smallholdings of better-grade land. It would be a mile longer; it is estimated that it would cost £5 million more to build; and it is unlikely that it would take much less than nine years to complete. But equally important, as this is the type of terrain across which the northern route would have to pass, because of the undulating type of ground that characterises Devon and Cornwall, much of this route would be immensely exposed. It would be impossible for it to be otherwise. It would be a horrendous scar across a very beautiful part of Devon and it would be visible from miles around and particularly from Dartmoor.
1508 It will be a sad and bad day for those who live in Devon and Cornwall if this, in my opinion, justifiable preference for the southern route is overturned. Indeed, if that were to happen my advice to any such noble anti-southerners here tonight would be to keep their heads well down and their car doors and windows locked for the next nine years when passing through the town of Okehampton. The northern route sticks out like a sore thumb, while the southern route is like one of those lines tucked away deep in the folds of the palm of one's hand, following the natural contours from east to west.
I submit that in the choice of one route or another the southern route is the undoubted one which possesses the qualities of sensitive planning together with the promise of speedy relief—qualities after which those who live in and around Okehampton have for many years now so desperately hankered.
§ 10.23 p.m.
§ Lord Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon
My Lords, in view of your Lordships' patient suffering over the past six hours or so I shall try to be brief. Personally I happen to believe that the southern route would be environmentally less damaging than the northern route, and I have a lurking suspicion that had the inspector at the public inquiry been a qualified planner or had he sat with qualified planning assessors, he might just possibly at least have come to the conclusion that the northern route offered a reasonable alternative.
However, the arguments for and against the northern and southern routes have been put at such length that I do not want to go into that. I support my noble friend Lord Molson on the grounds that if we do not now come to grips with the way in which this shambles has been created, who has been responsible for it and how it has come about, and recognise the dangers for the future in what has been done, we deserve to have this sort of thing happen to us again and again, as it will.
Much has been made of the question of time and delay. The delay is entirely the fault of the Department of Transport. A northern route was on the Devon county plan from 1964 for nearly a decade. It was not until 1971 that the Department of Transport began to have discussions with the local authorities about a southern route. That was seven years after the northern route first went into the county plan. I submit that any official in the Department of Transport who did not warn his Minister that to plan a route through a national park in contravention of the accepted policy in Circular 4 of 1976 is not fit to advise a Minister. It was perfectly obvious that this would produce an enormous upsurge of indignation from all conservation bodies who were quite rightly determined as to the policy that the national parks should be inviolate, or as near inviolate as possible, and ought to be preserved. And this was a flagrant departure from it.
Really, I have no patience at all with those ranging from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, to others, who have suggested that this is not very important because the route only passes through the fringes of the national park. Apart from the fact that 1509 this is reminiscent of the excuse of the housemaid who had a baby, the fact of the matter is that, by definition, Circular 4/76 can apply only to the fringes of national parks. If a town lies wholly within a national park, it is perfectly obvious that the bypass must go through the national park. This circular was designed to protect the fringes of national parks from piecemeal encroachment. And it has been breached.
I submit that delay having been caused by the procrastination and incompetence of the Department of Transport, they have now compounded this in two ways. It is no reflection on my noble friend Lord Caithness or on his right honourable friend when I say that it is quite impossible to take seriously his assurance that this will not be used as a precedent and that it will never happen again. As the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, said, not only can he not commit another government, he cannot even commit a future Secretary of State. Knowing the way of the Department of Transport and of civil servants generally, if there is a precedent, you can bet your boots that when another case of this kind comes up, they will grab it.
It has, of course, breached an established policy. That is a very serious matter. But, in my view, the behaviour of the Department of Transport has done something worse. Two previous Ministers have given assurances about the procedure of going before a Joint Select Committee of both Houses with a petition from objectors. Both of them said clearly that the Minister ought to tell the objectors if he had any intention of overturning a decision adverse to him in the Select Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Foot, put with great force the question as to when the decision was made. I find it difficult to believe that it was a last minute change of heart on the part of the Secretary of State
The point is that the Select Committee procedure, which has been an invaluable buttress for the rights of citizens whose landscape and environment were affected, has now been very seriously damaged. If it is now known that the Secretary of State can and well may overturn any decision of a Joint Select Committee that he does not like, what body of petitioners will scrape together and risk £50,000 to go through that procedure in future? What it means is that this procedure will be gravely damaged and this will mean the removal of a very important right for the citizens of this country. What has happened is that both Circular 4/76—the policy of successive governments—has been seriously endangered and in my view rendered nugatory, and the Select Committee procedure has been so seriously damaged that I believe fewer and fewer people will be willing to take advantage of it in future. Both these are very serious losses and they are, I submit, of very considerable political importance and should be of importance to every Member of your Lordships' House.
In view of what has happened I have some sympathy with those who say that our entire procedure for dealing with problems of this kind, possibly involving a change in the substantive Act, should now be considered seriously. If we are going to get into this sort of shambles over and over again—and we have seen it with motorway inquiries as well—we ought to do something about it. If this brings us to the point of 1510 deciding to do something to clear up the mess which the Department of Transport has made of this case, it may not all have been in vain.
§ 10.32 p.m.
§ Lord Saint Levan
My Lords, as I come from southwest Cornwall—far west—I have further to go home tonight than any of your Lordships, so I shall be very short indeed. I should first of all like to say that Dartmoor National Park is a very important part of the heritage of the south-west. It is typical West Country scenery, and has been rightly called the wild heart of the West Country. I have to say that, when driving from London to Penzance, looking towards the national park is, I think, one of the most beautiful scenes that one sees after leaving the M.5 from Exeter. I think we have nothing to compare with it in Cornwall, even on Bodmin Moor and even with the romance of Jamaica Inn.
The fact is that the proposed southern route passes through a national park and is a cause of deep concern. However, I should have thought, having heard all the arguments, that as a matter of judgment and balance, certainly from the point of view of people living in West Cornwall, there is a compelling need for a bypass. It would not be reasonable for a delay of 13, nine or even three years. In West Cornwall we arc now faced with a bypass being built at Long Rock which will ruin, in my view, the approach to the beautiful Mounts Bay. There has been an inquiry about a distributor road to Penzance, and there are proposals for further road-widening in the Indian Queen area of the A.30, so that the A.30 in Cornwall would be very much improved.
In Cornwall, as the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, said, conservation groups have a very heavy responsibility, because the county depends so much on the tourist industry. I happen to live in a National Trust property which is visited by many people—in fact, it is one of the most visited places in the country. It would not be in my personal interest for this bypass to be built so that my property is over-visited. But the tourist trade is altering very quickly; that is why the bypass is needed so quickly.
Fewer visitors now book well in advance of their holidays. They react very quickly to road traffic information. A good satellite television weather forecast produces a sudden surge of visitors, as it did in the first week of November this year. Many visitors complain to me about the long traffic queues. After all, they drive 200 miles to Exeter and after that there is a further two or three hours' driving to get to West Cornwall. The tourist trade is not an easy trade. I know of many recent bankruptcies of small businesses which depend on the tourist trade. It is a very risky business for people with very limited capital. But it happens to be a trade which employs more people for less capital, and its importance to Cornwall cannot be exaggerated.
Finally, I should like to mention two very important new reasons why there is a compelling need for the bypass to be built in the next three years. Perhaps more than any other county West Cornwall depends on the transport of fresh perishable goods to the markets in London and the Midlands. There is now considerable anxiety about the competition of Spain coming into 1511 the Common Market on 1st January. We have to compete with what might be called the Spanish Armada.
Another good reason is that arts and crafts in Cornwall are now attracting many more people, and if they do not give people a job they give them an occupation. It is important for them that their goods should be sold in the London stores or in the stores of the big cities of England cheaply and quickly, because this great enterprise is starting now in West Cornwall. In three years' time, in 1988, Cornwall County Council hope to sponsor an exhibition and festival in London to promote Cornwall in London. This will be the first time that an English county has done such a thing. For these reasons I ask your Lordships to support the Bill.
§ Lord O'Hagan
My Lords, I hope that all members of your Lordships' House who intend to vote against the Bill put forward by the Government have travelled along the proposed southern route. This Bill provides the best answer to an impossible question: how to organise a bypass round Okehampton. I respect the sincerity of all those who think or, as it seems to them, know that the southern route is wrong. In particular, I pay the greatest possible attention to the procedural and constitutional, or quasi-constitutional, points put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton. These must be examined so that the ghastly mess which we are discussing tonight never happens again.
I have come from Brussels for this debate and I am glad that I do not have to go back to Devon tonight. I work in Devon; it is my constituency in the European Parliament; I know it well and often have to travel in, through and near Okehampton. There is no doubt in my mind that the people of Devon and Cornwall, if they have a view, are in favour of this Bill and the southern route.
The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in his elegant and one might almost say sinuous speech, gave some figures which were useful but not wholly illuminating. He did not mention that 100 per cent. of the West Devon councillors are in favour of the southern route, and I think that that fact should go on record.
Any road creates environmental problems. Those of us who know Okehampton, who have been to this edge of the moor, who have seen the proposed southern route, who have noticed the difference between the over-hanging lip of the moor and the exposed flank that would be traversed by the northern route, can easily understand how it is the best answer. Those of us who have not may have doubts.
However, I would suggest to your Lordships that, before voting for the amendments of the noble Lords, Lord Molson or Lord Underhill, you should think for one minute—and this is my concluding point—of the tourists, the residents and the inhabitants of the far south-west. They are looking to this House for justice and for a reasonably speedy bypass. I accept that what we are deciding tonight has long-term importance for national parks in general and for Dartmoor in particular. However, the immediate issue is the Okehampton bypass itself and the role that that bypass can play in 1512 helping to vitalise and revitalise parts of our economy in the far south-west which are in difficulty if not in danger.
I would ask noble Lords to remember their past holidays in Devon and Cornwall and, thinking of the people who live and work there all the time rather than they who come and go as visitors, to examine whether there is a real case for voting against this Bill. I support the Government.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ Lord McNair
My Lords, do not be too alarmed at the spectacle of somebody speaking in the gap in the speakers' list. I only do so because my noble friend Lord Winstanley is indisposed and will not be speaking at all. Moreover, the point that I wanted to make to the House has already been very able put, chiefly by my noble friend Lord Winchilsea, and it was also touched on in the cogent letter from which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, quoted from the long-distance lorry driver.
The southern route is the wrong route. It will not totally bypass Okehampton. But I am not going into the reasons again because of the time on the clock. I would only say that the department is committing an act of blind folly in choosing this route and that it is likely, if the southern route is completed, as I fear it will be, that within a decade or so the people of Okehampton will be demanding and needing another bypass around the north. For that reason if there is any noble Lord in the House who has not made up his mind how to vote, and if he feels grateful to me for making the shortest speech in the debate, I hope he will show his gratitude by voting for the amendment so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Molson.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, we have had a long debate but an interesting one, characterised by strong and indeed passionate feelings, and by the number of noble Lords who have personal and expert knowledge of the south-west. As at least a part-time resident of Cornwall I have spent many hours in traffic jams between Whitton Down and Okehampton, and I am well aware of the desperate state of the Cornish economy and the numbers of the unemployed. No one doubts that a bypass for Okehampton is absolutely essential, or that its construction must be given high priority. But what this debate is about is the size and the nature of the price to be paid for the needed action. It is an argument of principle versus expediency, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said some five hours ago.
The Government are pressing for the southern route because it would be the quickest and the cheapest to construct, and this consideration must override all others. Some of the Government's arguments are surely specious. They are using the argument of speed, speed, speed to crush all others. But this is not a factor to which they have given all that much attention in the past.
True, they were not responsible for the unfortunate illness of the inspector who held up the project for three years, but between the inspector's report and the announcement of the Government's decision, between that decision and the setting up of the joint committee, 1513 and between the report of the committee and the announcement that its advice was to be disregarded, the Government hardly acted with that alacrity that they now demand of others. Whatever may be the true figure for the extra time it would take to construct the bypass on a route that would spare the national park, the use of the pretext of speed comes ill from those whose own conduct has until now been anything but speedy, or indeed straightforward.
The noble Lord, Lord Molson, has analysed the actual procedures of the Government so acutely and so damagingly, in my view, and at the same time of course so delightfully, that I need say no more on that score, but I must say how much I enjoyed and sympathised with what the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, had to say about the special procedure Act. I hope very much that after this disastrous series of events over the last 20 years, and the waste of millions of pounds in relation to this bypass, the Act at least will be looked at, amended, or possibly repealed.
I must also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, on his very powerful and convincing speech. I think the situation as it is now, whoever is to blame—and perhaps a lot of people are to blame—should be looked at by Parliament, and probably the whole planning procedures, inquiry procedures, and much else should be looked at as well as our present Acts of Parliament.
Then there is the argument that the proposed route would affect only the fringe of the national park, and that the boundaries of the park were carelessly drawn anyway. Much play has been made of the fact that the boundary of the park is a parish boundary and so is a purely arbitrary or political line and nothing to do with landscape. This, to my mind, is a foolish argument, for parish boundaries, more often than not, follow and reflect natural features. The fringes of moorland, moreover, as has been pointed out, are often the most beautiful and most ecologically interesting parts of a moor. Certainly the view across the Okement Valley where the southern road would run to the heights beyond is one of the most beautiful in Dartmoor.
Have we not reached the limit of speciousness when the Ministers claim in both Houses that the route through the national park is less damaging environmentally than any other route would be?
What really worries us on this side of the House is something larger than the problem of Okehampton. The Government's actions here seem to us just another indication of their lack of seriousness when facing environmental issues and their readiness to sacrifice long-term principle for short-term expediency and to bow to the pressures of sectional interest rather than the national interest. We suspected this when the wildlife Bill was going through the House and we were proved right when the three-month loophole was exploited. That was put right when the amendment of my right honourable friend Dr. David Clark was passed last Session, but again the Government dragged their feet on other clauses in his proposed Bill which would have further safeguarded the. environment.
Again last week, when the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, asked a Question on limestone quarrying in the 1514 Yorkshire Dales the noble Lord the Minister made a lot of excuses for inaction, but he did not really seem to be at all worried that the park was being violated by a company that was in clear and deliberate breach of its agreements. If the Government had been truly concerned about the environment, surely some action could and would have been taken. One suspects that the leak of confidential Cabinet documents that appeared in the Sunday Times in November 1979 about the Government's medium- and long-term plans, which included as an item the words,reduce over-sensitivity to environmental considerations",was probably a true side of the Government's attitude and intentions.
The Labour Party is proud of its record in setting up the national parks and we would wish to protect them. I regret myself that it was a Labour Government who suggested the southern route in 1976, but I hope that was an aberration that will not be repeated. It was a fact that the hoped-for route at that time was to have gone along the railway line when we thought the railway would be shut. I should also repeat what my noble friend Lord Underhill said—that the public inquiry had not taken place in 1976. Our amendment is an attempt, as my noble friends Lord Underhill and Lady White have said, to give help to national parks when they are under threat. It seems only fair that if there is violation, there should be recompense. There is no intention of suggesting that the parks authorities can be bought off.
My noble friend Lord Underhill has told the House what we consider we should do on the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, in view of the nature of the Bill before us and the conventions of the House. Very reluctantly I confess that the Front Bench will not vote, but there is a free vote for our Back-Benchers. I suspect that there is no free vote on the other side of the House. But I should remind all noble Lords that the argument tonight is one of principle and that principle is the integrity of our national parks.
§ 10.49 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Elton)
My Lords, I start by telling the noble Baroness, Lady David, that her party is not the only party which is the guardian of principle. What I shall address to your Lordships is not a matter of expediency but a careful review of the arguments put forward before your House and the conclusion that I believe your Lordships should reach.
We have had a somewhat bipartisan day, which is not surprising, because the Bill my noble friend has brought before your Lordships is a Bill introduced by this Conservative Government to implement a decision taken, as the noble Baroness readily admitted, by a Labour Government in 1976, using a procedure pioneered by the wartime Government but introduced by a Labour Government in 1945 and amended by another Labour Government in 1965. The decision was to build a bypass to take the A. 30 out of Okehampton, and take it to the south of the town rather than to the north.
Nobody denies that new major roads affect the countryside, but then nobody denies either that Okehampton needs a bypass. You do not need aerial 1515 photographs of traffic jams extending—in spite of the holiday route that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, says is coping fairly well—four miles to the west of the town and seven miles to the east of it, in August, to convince you of that. You do not have to be aware of the fury and frustration, nor to count the daily loss of between £3,000 and £5,000 caused by that appalling bottleneck to commercial goods vehicles. You only have to stand in Okehampton on a busy day to see what this dreadful stream of traffic, 13,000 vehicles a day in August, is doing to the town and its people, to know that there is a need to know that that need is urgent. That has been recognised freely by more speakers than I have time to catalogue.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I am grateful for those "Hear, hears". I think there are 37 names on the list. If I gave each of them one minute, I should have spoken for twice as long as your Lordships would wish and not started my speech; so I shall not.
The question therefore is not, "Do we have to drive a road through the countryside at all?" but, "Which is the best way to do it?" That question was first answered in 1976, when the Government of the day decided, after public consultation (be it noted) that the southern route was the best. It was the same Government who embodied that decision in the very orders that we are now considering. Their decison was then tested by an independent inspector, presiding over a public inquiry. That examination in public lasted 96 days. In the course of it, he heard all shades of opinion on both sides of the question. At the end of it, he endorsed the decision, as had the majority of respondents when the Department of the Environment consulted the public in 1975: as do Devon County Council, in whose area Okehampton lies; as do Cornwall County Council, whose lines of communication with the whole of the United Kingdom are, as my noble friend Lady Vickers ably pointed out, strangled by the Okehampton block, with the results highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Saint Levan; as do both the district council and the town council of Okehampton itself, and as do all the other parish councils in west Devon.
Every tier of local government has pronounced in favour of the southern route. It is not their objections that have required this debate. They have not any. But objections to the southern route there were, and a Joint Select Committee of both Houses sat to consider them. It heard objectors and it heard their witnesses. It also heard the Department of Transport and its witnesses. As my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford pointed out, and as my noble friend Lord Henley confirmed, it neither called nor heard any of the private proponents of the southern route, nor the private opponents of the northern route, which is an interesting reflection given that my noble friend Lord Molson argued that the Bill should be stopped so as to protect the liberty of appeal by private interests.
The committee did not wish to go over the same ground as the public inquiry. Yet, after sitting for 15 days, it decided to overturn the conclusion that the public inquiry had endorsed. The effect of that decision was to give my right honourable friend the 1516 Secretary of State for Transport a choice between, on the one hand, dropping the orders and the Southern route entirely, and, on the other, bringing the matter to the Floor of both Houses. He chose the latter course. He did so because, apart from its intrusion into the national park (to which I shall return) the chosen southern route is preferable to any northern route on every count.
When I first heard of my right honourable friend's decision and reflected that I might get involved in this debate, I must confess I was a little apprehensive. At that stage, I was guided by nothing but hearsay and the press. The impression I got was, I think, shared by a great many people, some of them now sitting in this House. The Secretary of State was going against the recommendation of a Select Committee involving and including Members of your Lordships' House. He was proposing to drive a noisy and conspicuous shaft of traffic through the pristine acres of a national park. He would be flinging a viaduct over a peaceful valley, piercing the bird-embroidered silence of a sequestered wood and pouring tarmacadam over some 23 acres of statutory open space.
How easy it is to describe this proposal in those terms! And how seriously misleading they are! For a start, they ignore the fact that we have agreed that there has to be a road somewhere.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, there was a battle between courtesy and expediency in my heart at that moment, which the noble Lord will understand. But I have been speaking for six minutes. Your Lordships want to go to bed. The noble Lord has spoken, I think, for over 30 minutes already. I think he has had his ration.
The next thing that that picture suggests is a roaring and conspicuous ribbon of traffic glinting across the skyline. In fact, for most of its length the road runs at the edge of the national park, next to a working railway tucked into a valley on an otherwise convex, tree-covered slope. If you walk a short distance up that slope across the projected line of the road, as I have done—and I do not doubt that many of your Lordships have, too—into the national park and then look back, the line of the road is hidden by the contours of the ground. Vehicles on it would also be screened by banks of earth and plantations of trees, as well as the existing woodlands that enclose the proposed route for nine-tenths of its length already.
If you look back, what you see is not, therefore, the line of the road. You see something else. What you see, spread out before you in all its fruitful beauty, is the rolling, unspoiled, productive agricultural land to the north of Okehampton. It really is a wonderful view. That view is one of the principal assets of the national park itself, from which you see it. So let us be quite clear. Whatever northern route is chosen—and none has been chosen yet—it would run right across that landscape, for all the walkers to gaze upon from the Tor, like (as my noble friend Lord Arran put it) a sore thumb.
Fourth, that description describes Meldon Wood as though it was a remote and silent spinney innocent of 1517 the 20th century. The facts are different. At one end of it is the A.30 packed with the thundering traffic that we wish to move throughout the summer months, and at the other is a quarry with blasting on Thursdays. The wood itself is bisected by a modern metalled road linking the two and in constant use by heavy lorries removing the stone that the blasting has fragmented. The noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, conclusively proved that, in addition, the wood is not of national ecological importance.
The fifth misrepresentation is that it omits to state that the land taken from the wood for the new road will now be more than compensated for by land closer to the town, more accessible to its people and less troubled by the working quarry; and that all this land will become statutory open space. And, finally, it gives no indication of the actual accessibility of the alternative route. No agreed and surveyed northern route yet exists. Noble Lords have suggested that one could be chosen and completed extra-specially fast. The normal time is 13 years. It may be disagreeable, but it is the truth. With our best efforts, we might get it down to nine. But a proposal for any northern route would provoke a huge rumpus and much hostility.
Your Lordships have been saved two minutes of my speech by the disappearance of my notes. All the alternatives would cause the closure of Aggett's Quarry, with the loss of 14 jobs locally, and would cause the destruction of a valuable archaeological site of the Roman period, the loss of much productive, agricultural land and the construction of a 90-ft high viaduct over the Knowle Valley on the doorstep of Okehampton, from which all the routes spring.
It would also emerge that the northern industrial estate cannot, because of the levels, actually reach the new road suggested by the objectors by a direct link at that level. The new route therefore might itself also fail to get approval and there would be no road. But even if it was accepted it would still take at least nine years from now to complete and open, whereas the present route can be completed and opened in three. To choose the northern route would be to sentence the citizens of Okehampton to six years more of conditions which your Lordships would not willingly suffer yourselves for more than six minutes.
The first of the noble Lords opposed to this Bill was my noble friend Lord Molson. My noble friend has given in his amendment four grounds of objection. I must say at the start how very much I enjoyed and admired the speech which he made in moving his amendment. He will not expect me to agree with him but he will allow me to admire the way he spoke.
The first of his four grounds of objection is that the orders breach assurances given by the Lord Privy Seal. Those assurances were given 40 years ago, and much water has flowed under the bridge since then; but they still hold good. My noble friend quoted extensively from Mr. Greenwood's speech in cols. 2180 and 2181 of Hansard. He finished by quoting the underlining by the Lord Privy Seal of his pledge not to use the procedure to beat down opposition, to carry though proposals without due regard to all the interests that ought to be considered. The Lord Privy Seal went on four lines later to say words, which my noble friend did 1518 not quote, in illumination of this undertaking. The words were:We hope to get on to the Floor of the House discussions which go to the root of Ministerial orders.That was the undertaking he gave and that is what we are now doing. What the Lord Privy Seal said was that Parliament as a whole ought to consider issues of principle and policy and not just leave it to a joint committee. My noble friend's suggestion that because a policy issue is at stake we should have prevented the issue from going to a joint committee in the first place, I must most respectfully suggest, is not a realistic one.
Perhaps this is the moment to bring in the reference by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, who sought to tie the decision by the Secretary of State after the inquiry to the memorial presented by the Secretary of State before the inquiry. The memorial presented by my right honourable friend reflected the fact that the special parliamentary procedure is specifically to deal with questions of open space—a technical term, my Lords—and showed in paragraphs 5 and 6 that the petition stated that its central concern was national policy open national parks and that it was put forward as some sort of test case to determine future policy on that matter.
That memorial in no way prejudiced his view of the case in question, and he did not form that view until the committee had reported. There was no basis therefore on which he could have baulked the committee's work or warned the petitioners not to embark on their chosen course. Nor do I believe that the reversal of the committee's decision will deter future petitioners from recourse to the special parliamentary procedure any more than reversals by the Court of Appeal of decisions of inferior courts does in practice deter people from recourse to the law.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, the noble Lord will remember, as those who are sitting behind him and were not in the Chamber at the time will not, that I was interrupted twice by a Member of the Government Front Bench during my speech. I am very grateful to him for the courtesy he has shown in giving way—something not shown by those behind him. The noble Lord has not yet said what the question of government policy, of national principle, was which the Secretary of State for Transport had in his mind when he first made representations to the authorities in both Houses, and that was the issue I raised with him.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, as I understood the noble Lord, he was referring to the memorial. I read the memorial and I extracted the relevant parts. If the noble Lord is referring to something else, I shall study what he has said in Hansard and I shall write to him. And, following the custom of the House, I will put a copy of the letter in the Library so that the noble Lord will not have to publish the results himself.
The second of my noble friend's grounds for objection was that the Bill contravenes the constitutional custom of successive governments. I turn swiftly—and I am contracting my argument for reasons of time—to the case to which the noble Lord 1519 himelf referred of the Mid-North Hants Water Board Order in 1949. It is a long time ago but it is a precedent. In that case as in this, the Government took the same constitutional course specifically provided for in the Act because issues of policy were at stake. In that case, as in this, the Bill was drafted to overturn decisions of the statutory joint committee. The fact that the Government accepted one of those decisions does not alter the fact that they overturned the rest of them; and I assure my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford that it does provide a precedent.
My noble friend's third ground is that the Bill contravenes the policy in Circular 4/76. The policy at paragraph 58 is that no new route for long distance traffic should be constructed through a national park, unless it has been demonstrated that there is a compelling need that would not be met by any reasonable alternative means.
The issue of compelling need is not in doubt—your Lordships have concluded that, obviously, tonight—and with the inspector, quoted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, I believe that it would not be reasonable to choose as the alternative a route that is substantially longer, that would cost considerably more, that would take at least six years longer to complete, that would have a considerable environmental impact, that would damage an archaeological site and that would take the whole of their livelihood from 14 quarry men and part of their livelihood from a number of farmers. That would be unreasonable and I maintain—and I reassure those concerned for the future of national parks—that the policy in Circular 4/76 is intact.
My noble friend's last objection is that this Bill would override the recommendation of a Joint Select Committee. Deep as is our respect for our committees, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mulley. None of us has ever held that the authority of a part of either House is superior to that of the whole. A fear expressed by my noble friend Lord Molson, the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and many other Peers, including my noble friend Lord Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, is the fear that supporting the inspector would provide a precedent for building roads into the national parks. The noble and learned Lord has put beyond doubt that no public inquiry can provide a precedent for another.
That was the anxiety that noble Lords expressed. I am glad to endorse and to re-confirm, as I have, that the policy is intact. And all the care and trouble expended in both Houses of Parliament, including so many of your Lordships who have researched and so ably spoken this evening, have shown how little is the real danger of a road being slipped in unnoticed by the Houses of Parliament.
I turn therefore to the second amendment on the Order Paper, which none in favour of the northern route can in logic support, and to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. The noble Lord regrets that under this procedure the Government have seen fit to introduce a Bill for this purpose. I shall not repeat what the Lord Privy Seal of the day said about it being a duty of future governments on their own judgment to bring matters like this to the Floor of the House. Your Lordships can see it when you read my noble friend's 1520 speech. It is what follows in his amendment that matters.
The noble Lords want the Government to compensate the Dartmoor National Park Authority in both cash and kind for loss of its land. The authority is not a substantial landowner and the route chosen has not taken a single yard of national park authority-owned land from it. There cannot therefore be any question of financial compensation to the national park authority for the loss of land which it has not suffered, even if that were appropriate. But I can assure the noble Lord that there will be cash compensation, paid of course to the proper recipients who will be the owners of the land taken for the road. That should take care of the first leg of the argument. The noble Lord's plea is not only for cash; it is also for compensation in kind, and compensation in kind there will be, too. There will be, for a start, over 70,000 trees planted to replace the 1,100 trees felled to make way for the road. The new trees will be placed to screen it from sight and to blanket the sound of the traffic. I should have expected the noble Lord, Lord Foot, to have welcomed that rather than to refer to them as green paint on the exhibition board. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, had land in mind rather than trees and he will now know that we are negotiating for about 40 acres of land to replace the 23 acres of open space needed for the road. The bulk of the new land will be closer to Okehampton and more accessible to it. So there will be compensation both in cash and in kind, as his amendment asks.
The question of adjustments raised the matter of the existing boundaries of the national park. The noble Baroness, Lady White, will forgive me if I spend one minute on that. She has reminded your Lordships that further to the east the route of the A. 30 trunk road is being moved to the north, so that it comes out of the national park, 920 acres of which at present it separates from the rest of the park. When the new route is opened that 920 acres will be to the south of it and so will 1,200 more acres that are not at present national park land. Your Lordships will understand that I can say nothing that might prejudice any future decision on the subject, but clearly the Countryside Commission will wish to consider whether this land will not form a suitable and welcome addition to the Dartmoor national park. I can tell the noble Baroness that the Dartmoor National Park Authority is consulting on this very matter now.
I put it to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and to your Lordships, that in every respect in which his amendment asks the Government to do what it is proper and possible for them to do his demands are already being met. Landowners will be compensated in cash. Users will be compensated in kind, including land in mitigation. We will of course keep the Dartmoor National Park Authority fully informed of developments and consult them as he asks about the effects that they will have upon it. I give that undertaking freely. It does not take an amendment to wring it from me.
Finally, the amendment is in any case defective because we cannot compensate the national park authority in cash for land which it does not own. As the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, has pointed out, the amendment also pursues an objective proper to 1521 legislation and not to homily. I hope that the noble Lord will not press his amendment tonight. If he were to do so, I should have to ask your Lordships to reject it most firmly.
In conclusion, the decision to drive a new road through open countryside is always a sad one, and the choice of route is always difficult. But in this case the need for a bypass is clearly imperative. The choice is therefore inescapable. It has to be made. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has rightly emphasised the importance of the environmental considerations. I have visited the exhibitions, I have toiled through the papers, I have examined the map and I have walked the course itself on the ground. I am in no doubt that if a choice must be made—and it must—then on environmental grounds, as well as on all others, the southern route is the route to choose. That is not a specious position just because the noble Baroness, Lady David, does not agree with it. The choice has in any case already been made. As my noble friend Lord Halsbury says, now is the time to stick to it and get on with the job. Let us do just that.
§ 11.4 p.m.
§ Lord Molson
My Lords, it would be a very poor return for the courtesy with which your Lordships listened to my rather long opening speech if I made another one now. It has been a memorable debate and one of very high quality. I want to emphasise two things. One is that we have had renewed assurances from the Government that this will not be treated as a precedent for the future. They have emphasised in all their speeches, as have noble Lords in all parts of the House, the outstanding importance of the preservation of amenities, especially in the national parks. But on the matter of principle I feel that I must press the amendment and take your Lordships' opinion.
§ The Lord Chancellor (Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone)
My Lords, the original Question was, "That this Bill be now considered on Report", since when an amendment has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, in the terms set out on the Order Paper. The Question that I have to put to the House therefore is, That this amendment be agreed to? As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content"; to the contrary, "Not-Content".
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 27; Not-Contents, 112.1522
|DIVISION NO. 1|
|Airedale, L.||Galpern, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Graham of Edmonton, L.|
|Caradon, L.||Grey, E.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Hunt, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Kennet, L.|
|Denington, B.||McNair, L.|
|Ezra, L.||Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.|
|Foot, L. [Teller.]|
|Melchett, L.||Stallard, L.|
|Molson, L. [Teller.]||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Nicol, B.||White, B.|
|Pitt of Hampstead, L.||Wilson of Langside, I|
|Rea, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Arran, E.||Iddesleigh, E.|
|Attlee, E.||Kimball, L.|
|Bath and Wells, Bp.||Kinloss, Ly.|
|Bathurst, E.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Lane-Fox, B.|
|Belstead, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Biddulph, L.||Layton, L.|
|Bledisloe, V.||Lindsey and Abingdon E.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Liverpool, E.|
|Brentford, V.||Long, V. [Teller.]|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, L.||McAlpine of West Green, L.|
|Burton, L.||Margadale, L.|
|Butterworth, L.||Marshall of Leeds, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Merrivale, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Mersey. V.|
|Carnock, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Chelwood, L.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Clinton, L.||Mulley, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Munster, E.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Murton of Lindisfarne. L.|
|Cornwallis, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Croft, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Plummer of St Marvlebone. L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Roberthall, L.|
|Digby, L.||Rodney, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Saint Levan, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Elton, L.||Savile, L.|
|Exmouth, V.||Sherfield, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Fisher, L.||Somerset, D.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Geddes, L.||Strafford, E.|
|Glanusk, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Greenway, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Grimston of Westbury, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Haig, E.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Halsbury, E.||Ullswater, V.|
|Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Henley, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Home of the Hirsel, L.||Vinson, L.|
|Hood, V.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Hooper, B.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Howe, E.||Young, B.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Young of Graffham, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 11.24 p.m.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, as was the case with the noble Lord, Lord Molson, it would be wrong of me to make a further speech, particularly as I spoke for 22 minutes at the beginning of the debate. However, it will be noticed that the amendment in my name does not stop the Government from getting the Bill. What it does is express regret at the procedure that has been 1523 followed. Incidentally, there was not a single word in the Government's reply regarding the views of the Countryside Commission. It also emphasises that it is not felt that the procedure has been followed correctly in this case.
If passed, the amendment will serve as a warning to any Government to be very chary of using this procedure in future. Further, in the words of my noble friend Lady David, it might be that by passing this amendment we shall cause to be undertaken a review of the procedure for matters of this kind.
I welcome the Minister's point about compensation, but we want to ensure that consultation with the Dartmoor National Park Authority deals with the points in my amendment. For those reasons I hope that noble Lords will support the amendment. I hope that those who thought that they should not stop the Government from getting the Bill will vote solidly on this occasion for this amendment, which I now beg to move.
Moved, as an amendment to the Motion that the Bill be now considered on Report, at end to insert ("but that this House regrets the decision of the Government to introduce this Bill, and urges the Secretary of State, after consultation with the Dartmoor National Park Authority, to provide adequate compensation to the authority, both financial and in kind, to provide suitably for loss of amenities and land.").—(Lord Underhill.)
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, the original Question was, "That this Bill be now considered on Report", since when an amendment has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in the terms set out on the Order Paper. The Question that I have to put therefore is, That the said amendment be agreed to? As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content"; to the contrary, "Not-Content".
§ 11.25 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 32; Not-Contents, 108.1524
|DIVISION NO. 2|
|Airedale, L.||Kennet, L.|
|Birk, B.||Melchett, L.|
|Caradon, L.||Molson, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Crawshaw of Aintree, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|David, B. [Teller.]||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Dean of Beswick, L.|
|Denington, B.||Rea, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Stallard, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Galpern, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Grey, E.||White, B.|
|Henderson of Brompton, L.||Wilson of Langside, L.|
|Hunt, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Irving of Dartford, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Howie of Troon, L.|
|Arran, E.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Attlee, E.||Iddesleigh, E.|
|Bath and Wells, Bp.||Kimball, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Kinloss, Ly.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Biddulph, L.||Layton, L.|
|Bledisloe, V.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Liverpool, E.|
|Brentford, V.||Long, V. [Teller.]|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Burton, L.||McAlpine of West Green, L.|
|Butterworth, L.||Margadale, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Marshall of Leeds, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Chelwood, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Clinton, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Munster, E.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Cornwallis, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Croft, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Plummer of St Marylebone, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Rodney, L.|
|Digby, L.||Saint Levan, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Saltoun of Abemethy, Ly.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Sandford, L.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Savile, L.|
|Elton, L.||Sherfield, L.|
|Exmouth, V.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Somerset, D.|
|Fisher, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Strafford, E.|
|Geddes, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Glanusk, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Grimston of Westbury, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Haig, E.||Trumpington, B.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Truro, Bp.|
|Halsbury, E.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Henley, L.||Vinson, L.|
|Home of the Hirsel, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Hood, V.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Hooper, B.||Young, B.|
|Howe, E.||Young of Graffham, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 11.33 p.m.
§ On Question, Bill considered on Report.