HL Deb 02 February 1995 vol 560 cc1591-644

3.32 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater)

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

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Ullswater.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 58 [Purposes of National Parks]:

[Amendment No. 252A had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

The Earl of Cranbrook

moved Amendment No. 252B: Page 64, line 25, after ("wildlife") insert (", natural features"). The noble Earl said: We move this afternoon into Part III of this Bill dealing with the national parks. My amendment applies to Clause 58 which deals with the purposes of the national parks. As the Committee may know, I am chairman of the statutory nature conservation body for England and therefore the Committee would expect me to be interested to ensure that that body plays the fullest possible part that it can in future arrangements for the national parks.

In considering the purposes of the national parks under this Bill, the Committee will recall that the report of the National Parks Review Panel—known as the Edwards Report, after its chairman—recommended a redefinition of the first purpose of national parks as, to protect, maintain and enhance the scenic beauty, natural systems and the land forms, and the wildlife and cultural heritage of the area". I have therefore welcomed in these restated purposes, as they appear in the Bill now, the special reference to wildlife. But this is not all that was recommended by the Edwards Committee. Moreover, I feel that reference to wildlife alone, without specific coverage of the geological and physiographical features—that is to say, the natural systems and land forms in Edwards' parlance—may mean that these are not clearly in the minds of some people, particularly those concerned with the future direction of the national parks.

I should remind the Committee that the nature conservation resource of England, in terms of SSSIs, comprises some 71 per cent. biological SSSIs—one could call them wildlife SSSIs—and 21 per cent. concerned with the earth sciences; and one could call them the natural systems and land form SSSIs. About 8 per cent. of our SSSIs are mixed. Overall, about 16 per cent. of the SSSIs lie within national parks, varying from almost 30 per cent. in Dartmoor down to 4 per cent. in the North York Moors at present.

The national parks are therefore very important in terms of the SSSIs that they contain. Some 16 per cent. of the total area of English SSSIs lie within the national parks, with the proportion of earth science SSSIs and biological SSSIs roughly as I have stated. In addition, in the earth sciences, there is a system which is well known and recognised by English Nature, known as the RIGS; that is, the regionally important geological sites. These are non-SSSI land form and natural features sites. In Exmoor there are 69 such sites and in the Lake District there are 81 such sites. I give those areas as two examples. Therefore, it is clear that in the future management of the national parks it will be important that these particular natural features and land forms will have to be considered. The significance of the natural feature resource in these parks is educational, for cultural and aesthetic purposes, and for other purposes which are not covered by the statutory position of SSSIs and therefore will lie clearly within the ambit of the parks and ought to be stated in purposes of the parks.

The kind of management decisions that will be needed are to protect these sites—both the statutory sites and the non-statutory sites—so as not to destroy or damage the natural features which have maintained their integrity and which are irreplaceable. Drumlins might be an example of that. They are the curious land forms that originate as a result of glacial activity. It will also be important, in terms of management, not to obscure features that have been exposed by human activities. Quite a number of these important sites can be in quarries or in pits and other exposures. It is important in park management that these sites should be enhanced in terms of the first purpose, so as to enable the educational, cultural and aesthetic objectives to be realised. This, again, is a function of park management and is not within the SSSI process. My amendment therefore proposes that the wording in Clause 58(1) (a) should state: conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife, natural features and cultural heritage". I beg to move.

Lord Renton

I support my noble friend Lord Cranbrook very warmly. In some national parks there are, for example, limestone outcrops of great interest where there would be a temptation to indulge in quarrying. We have to be careful that we do not disturb the natural features in such circumstances. I hope that my noble friend Lord Ullswater will be able to give a favourable reply.

Viscount Ullswater

I am grateful to my noble friend for informing the Committee of the background to his amendment. However, I hope to persuade him that it will not be necessary.

The Bill fulfils our central commitment to establish independent authorities for the 10 national parks in England and Wales. It also updates park purposes which will enable the new authorities to take a more integrated approach to the management of their areas. Those measures will enable the national park authorities more effectively to protect the qualities for which the national parks have been designated.

However, the qualities of the parks are comprised of so many elements that to attempt to enshrine them all in legislation could result in an inordinately long list of properties. However, I can assure my noble friend Lord Cranbrook that we regard the characteristic natural features of the parks as an integral part of their natural beauty, for which they have been designated as special areas. I hope that with that assurance my noble friend will be content to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Gisborough

I am rather suspicious of the amendment. One has to remember, particularly in relation to quarrying, that not only do people go to look at a national park but people want to work there. I believe that there is an expression that poverty is no better because it comes thatched. There are many aspects such as quarries which need to be opened up in order to bring employment, and that should not be prevented by a total ban.

The Earl of Cranbrook

In answer to the noble Lord who has just spoken, quarrying can proceed very effectively under the right controls, even on special sites.

In terms of the answer given by my noble friend the Minister, the issue is whether there is a clear public understanding that natural features, as I defined them—and I hope that I explained their importance—are included in "natural beauty". They are an important and scientific element of what needs to be managed and enhanced as a nature conservation resource.

I hope that my noble friend will come forward at some stage with a form of words which will separate and clearly identify the natural features as I defined them. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Norrie

moved Amendment No. 253: Page 64, line 28, leave out ("understanding and enjoyment") and insert ("quiet enjoyment and understanding"). The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 253 I have the full support of the 45 environmental and amenity organisations which make up the Council for National Parks, the national park authorities, the Countryside Commission, the Countryside Council for Wales, the Worldwide Fund for Nature, and many other environmental bodies.

National parks cover 10 per cent. of the land area of England and Wales. As was apparent during the passage of my Private Member's Bill, their value to the nation is recognised across all political parties. They are not and never have been a party political issue. They are part of the national heritage of us all and are therefore worthy of the right legislative package based on the recommendations of the widely respected National Parks Review Panel.

First, I wish to make it clear beyond doubt that Clause 58 and my amendment to it are concerned with the kind of recreation which the national parks have a statutory agreement to promote. My amendment does not set out to give national parks a purpose to ban any particular recreational activity. The debate is about promoting, not banning.

Secondly, I wish to emphasise that both the clause and the amendment are concerned with enjoyment and recreation. They do not impinge upon farming, forestry, quarrying and other land management operations. Having clarified those points I shall explain what my amendment seeks to achieve and why it is necessary.

When the recreational purpose of national parks was originally drafted in 1949 it was intended that the parks would promote quiet pursuits. At that stage no one could envisage the growth in noisy and intrusive motorised recreational activities. No Minister imagined the emergence of the jet ski or the towed inflatable crocodile on to the waters of our parks.

The attitude at the time when the national parks were created is set out in the Dower Report, which stated: Those who come to National Parks should be such as to wish to … take their recreation, active or passive, in ways that do not impair the beauty or quietude, nor spoil the enjoyment of them by others". In 1990 the National Parks Review Panel, whose recommendations enjoy a wide level of support inside and outside Parliament, recommended new legislation to clarify the 1949 wording, which was "to promote public enjoyment". The report said: We see National Parks as places for quiet enjoyment. Walking and sightseeing are still the most popular activities, but more organised or active forms of recreation are on the increase. Many activities are to be welcomed, but not all will be consistent with National Park purposes". In response to the panel's report the Government made a clear commitment to introduce legislation which would: refer expressly to quiet enjoyment and understanding". Clause 58 as presently drafted fails to live up to that promise. The amendment fulfils the promise, no more, no less. The Bill gives the national parks a duty to promote all kinds of enjoyment by the public of the parks' special qualities. It is not sufficiently precise on the type of activities which national parks should promote. Those include opportunities for spiritual refreshment and renewal, activities which do not intrude on the quiet enjoyment of others, and those that depend on muscle power, not motor power.

Clause 59 does not offer a framework for dealing with the incompatibilities between various recreational pursuits. It deals only with the conflict between conservation and recreation and not the conflict between different types of recreation.

By making it clear that national parks should be involved in promoting quiet enjoyment, the amendment sets the correct framework. It would not remove either rights of way or rights of navigation for motorised vehicles and craft. I respect such rights. However, it provides a clear context for management in circumstances where conflict between recreations may arise. Such potential conflicts should, as now, be decided on a case-by-case basis through well-established consultative and accountable procedures such as the use of by-laws, traffic regulation orders or development and management policies where appropriate.

Is "quiet" the appropriate word? It is the word which has been used in the national park context since at least 1945. The question has been asked whether that word can be used in national park legislation because "quiet enjoyment of property" is used in landlord and tenant legislation. I have been given legal advice that it is not at all unusual for phrases or words to have various meanings in the context of different legislation. "Quiet enjoyment" can be given a meaning in this Bill just as the phrase "natural beauty", which at first appears difficult to define, has an acquired meaning in national park and countryside legislation. Indeed, the draftsman has deemed it appropriate to use it in this Bill.

While speaking of definitions, I wish to make it abundantly clear that there is no intention that a statutory purpose to promote quiet enjoyment should adversely affect traditional field sports. That is certainly not my intention in moving the amendment. I look to the Government to provide a definition of quiet enjoyment which gives that assurance.

Can all those matters be left to the circular guidance? I am advised not. Guidance could not establish such a fundamental principle if it is not set out in the legislation. I suggest that the draft guidance runs into many difficulties in explaining enjoyment of special qualities precisely because the framework provided by the legislation is inadequate. There are, therefore, many problems for guidance on the subject of enjoyment. I believe that my noble friend Lord Addison proposes to address the point.

The intention underlying Amendment No. 253 is to provide an adequate framework. I am sure that the Government are as anxious as I am not to see national parks involved in promoting activities which damage the enjoyment of the majority of the many visitors to the parks as well as potentially damaging the parks themselves. The present drafting leaves open that possibility.

Making it clear that the national parks have a statutory purpose to promote "quiet enjoyment and understanding" will be immensely popular. My postbag supports that. In this way, the special qualities of national parks can be retained for all to enjoy in the future. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I support the noble Lord's Amendment No. 253. As I said at Second Reading, "quiet enjoyment" was a proposal from the Edwards Report, Fit for the future. The noble Lord referred to it. Whatever the Committee may think about the title of the report, nevertheless it was the report of a panel of distinguished members under the chairmanship of Professor Edwards which reported to the Countryside Commission, for forwarding to the Government.

The noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, referred to the first purpose. The second purpose included a recommendation that national park authorities should continue to play a role in promoting quiet enjoyment, not merely facilitating it. The Government accepted that recommendation of the Edwards Panel. They stated that they would produce legislation in the course of time to meet it. As the noble Viscount knows, I always like to help the Government. Therefore the amendment is designed to assist the Government to meet their own commitment.

The noble Lord, Lord Norrie, referred to the drafting of the amendment. Since I have been privileged to be a spokesman for the Opposition Front Bench I have always taken the view that it is not the job of the Opposition, or Back Benchers in this Chamber, to draft amendments which could fit into a Bill without criticism. What we seek to establish here is a principle; and I emphasise that it is a principle.

There are several possibilities. The Government could accept the principle. Indeed, they are committed to the principle that national park authorities should be enjoined to promote quiet enjoyment. If the Government, as I hope they will, accept that principle, the noble Viscount may say, "We accept the principle. We cannot accept the drafting because of complications, but we shall bring back some provision from the Government at the next stage of the Bill".

There is this second possibility. The Government may say, "We do not accept the principle. We have changed our mind and we advise the Committee not to accept the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Norrie". From that derives two further possibilities: first, that the Committee accepts the opinion of the Government, in which case the matter is left where it is until the next stage; or, secondly, that the Committee accepts the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, despite the advice of the Government.

I understand that there is an established principle of jurisprudence in landlord and tenant legislation. The noble Lord, Lord Norrie, has taken advice. I agree with him that that is not necessarily relevant to the discussion that the Committee is having today. Nevertheless, if the Committee, under my third hypothesis, rejects the advice of government—if it is the advice of government to reject the amendment—and passes it, the situation is then up to the Government. The Committee having given an opinion, all I can say is that, if the Government agree that they will not reverse that opinion in another place, I give the commitment of my party to join with the Government to seek to develop some formula and jurisprudence which are appropriate and which may fit in with the legislation. I have no particular difficulty provided that the principle is accepted.

It is the principle that we discuss today in Committee. I very much hope that Members of the Committee will have listened carefully to the points that the noble Lord put forward. I shall not reiterate them because I agree with them all. I hope that if Members of the Committee have to make up their minds on the point, they will bear in mind that a distinguished panel made that recommendation, that the Government accepted the recommendation and that the Government accepted that they would bring forward legislation to implement the recommendation of the Edwards Panel on quiet enjoyment. I do not care about the wording. Whatever the wording, I should like the Committee to accept the principle and we can talk about the wording afterwards.

The Lord Bishop of Chester

I support the amendment. A spiritual issue is involved. That is why I intervene in the debate. The issue is not spiritual in a narrow sense, but in the fullest sense of humans being both body, mind and spirit. There is need for that wholesomeness to be supported. Many people live in so much quietness that their one desire is to go away on holiday and have noise. There are some who live in noise and cannot do without it. But many people—young people and others—are forced into the noise, bustle and stress of human life at all levels of society, not just in the business world of the City. They long for peace and quiet. Not everyone can disappear to a remote island in the Pacific. My ideal of a holiday is to get away from everyone and not to have to speak to anyone apart from my wife. But that is simply because I deal with people all the time. There are others who want the opposite.

There are increasing numbers of places where one can achieve noise, excitement, loudness and music. But there are not many places left where one can be quiet; and that quietness is a very real need of the human spirit. Whoever we are—we do not have to believe in God—we need that quietness, that aspect of wholesomeness as human beings.

How do we protect those places? We have so many people pouring into national parks; and that is wonderful. Many people go from my diocese. I am thankful to live where I do within easy reach of Snowdonia, the Lake District and, even better, the Peak District—it is undiscovered by southerners, and we do not want southerners to discover it because that will spoil it! There are wonderful places to which we can go, even today, just to be quiet, stand in the midst of it all and drink it in. That part of the human spirit has often been very productive; think of Judeo-Christian history and what happened to Abraham, to Moses, right the way down through history, to people in the quiet. Our Lord Himself kept retreating to the quiet. Those are places of productivity for the human spirit.

I wish to plead for support for the amendment. It is important that we preserve the national parks from those who wish to fill them with noise and banging, and so on. Let us fight for the national parks to be places where the human spirit can be restored and maintained. It was, I believe, the historian George Macaulay Trevelyan who presented the case for national parks in 1938. He said that they should be, walking grounds and regions where young and old can enjoy the sight of unspoiled nature … it is not a question of physical exercise only, it is also a question of spiritual exercise and enjoyment. It is a question of spiritual values". That was the case for the national parks. It is still the case for the national parks and the amendment helps that case to be fulfilled.

4 p.m.

Lord Gisborough

The amendment is extremely seductive, particularly in the way in which it has been supported. However, in practice it would prohibit a wide range of activities in the national parks, some of which are essential and some of which are popular—for example, forestry. It would also probably prohibit clay pigeon shooting, which makes a lot of noise but in a small area.

The other danger about the amendment is that by stopping people making a noise—like the rather unpleasant habits of motorcycling, the riding of trail bikes and model aircraft flying—and not giving them space, they take their own and operate everywhere. Such activities are much better confined to spoiling small areas rather than large ones. The amendment would work towards stopping that and therefore do more harm than good. The law on nuisance already gives adequate redress against excessive noise and therefore the amendment is neither desirable nor necessary; and it could be dangerous.

Lord Elis-Thomas

I had not intended to speak on the amendment because there are others on which I wish to speak later. However, I have been a little provoked by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough. I hardly need to repeat it, but all my life I have lived in and around Snowdonia, which is my main home. I have done so as a matter of choice and was lucky to do so. I am therefore able to speak from both sides in the debate. Having to work in London and Cardiff, as well as other capitals when I can reach them, I am always able to return to Snowdonia, which I value. I value it because of the environment there as well as the culture which the local population has maintained over the centuries.

I can say on behalf of the residents of Snowdonia—and I cannot speak for all the other parts—that we would warmly welcome a commitment to the "quiet enjoyment" set out in the amendment in some form, as suggested by the Opposition. I emphasise that those of us who live and work in the park do so from choice. Activities such as forestry, the driving of tractors by farmers and motorcycles, where necessary, by young farmers, are all natural activities within the environment of the park.

The noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, mentioned model aircraft. Good heavens! When I lived outside Dolgellau, I was continually buzzed by the RAF. That is hardly quiet enjoyment. I wish that the Government would look at the activities of the Ministry of Defence in national parks. Only recently in the Caernarfon area on the fringe of the Snowdonia National Park, I was again overflown by the RAF. Clearly they have caught up with me, I cannot disappear anywhere without the RAF dive-bombing me.

It is a serious point that if we are talking about quiet enjoyment of the parks it means the opportunity for people who live and work there to continue their normal lives and open their doors—as we always have done—to other people who share their objectives. However, there are certain objectives that we do not wish to share.

Today the Welsh Office sent out a note on the issue to local authorities, the national parks and the transitional committees in Wales. It states that while the Government accept, that there may be places within the national parks where certain activities are inappropriate, the Government does not accept that, as a matter of principle, particular activities should be excluded from the parks". I believe that certain activities should be excluded from the parks and that the incessant use of the parks for low-flying practice is one such activity. Others like the motorboats, jet-skis and noisy forms of water sports should be excluded from national parks. I have on a number of occasions campaigned to try to achieve that. Therefore, to have "quiet enjoyment" or its equivalent placed in the legislation would strengthen the position of the park authorities, the boards and the authorities in the future and would also be welcomed by the local population within the parks. They wish to carry out their normal economic activity in the quiet and normal way in which we carry out our activities in the national parks.

The Earl of Onslow

There was recently a group of bell-ringers who were accused of making too much noise and were prevented from ringing the bells. I am indebted to my noble friend Lord Elton for that point, he has just reminded me that I pinched it from him, but it is too good not to be used.

It is fair to say that we are talking about motorcycles going cross-country through the national parks with a lot of noise, model aeroplanes and high-speed boats. I suspect that none of your Lordships carry out any of those activities. Their attraction is to the young. We must be extremely careful in saying that the young should not have those relatively harmless sports. It is perfectly fair to suggest that they should be rationed, controlled and not allowed everywhere, but we must strike a balance.

If we insert the words "quiet enjoyment", I do not believe that that will enable us to strike a balance. Surely there is a little bit of Lake Bala or Lake Windermere where someone can play on a water-ski without disturbing everyone.

Lord Elis-Thomas


The Earl of Onslow

I believe that there is. Surely there is a small part somewhere where people may be allowed to go cross-country.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

Will the noble Lord accept that what he is talking about has nothing at all to do with the amendment? The amendment has nothing to do with forbidding anything.

The Earl of Onslow

I do not accept that at all, because it is exactly what we are talking about: promoting quiet enjoyment. Of course that is right, but what we must not do is to exclude some activities, from bell-ringing to motorcycling, which in a small way should be allowed, provided they do not impinge on others. I plead for tolerance from middle age and old age to youth.

Lord Moran

I support the amendment which has been comprehensively and capably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Norrie. The amendment is quite right. Its purpose was defined clearly by the Edwards Committee when it said that: Noisy and intrusive recreational activities should be permitted only on sites where they cause no undue annoyance to other park users and no lasting environmental damage to the fabric of the park itself'. I believe that that is right. The committee defined "noisy and intrusive activities" as, motorcycle scrambling, … four-wheel drive vehicles away from highways … trail bikes, powerboats and microlight aircraft". I am sorry that the Sports Council should have seen fit to oppose the amendment. I take very much the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, that young people must be able to pursue these noisy activities, but they should pursue them in the right place. I have long suggested to the Sports Council that, for example, it ought to buy some hills which are not of conservation importance and arrange for motorcycle scrambling to take place there rather than scattered throughout the national parks and other parts of the countryside which are precious, and particularly so at present. That is where they should turn their energies.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Williams, I hope that the Government will examine the amendment and if necessary amend the drafting. One point concerns me. I realise that the amendment is not supposed to affect traditional country sports. I fear, however, that if accepted as it stands, it would be interpreted by some national park authorities as giving them the green light to stop, let us say, hunting and shooting, which undoubtedly make a noise. That would be a great pity. Perhaps the government lawyers and the parliamentary draftsman should be invited to see whether the principle of quiet enjoyment, which is very important, can be preserved while avoiding the risk to traditional country sports.

Lord Milverton

I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Norrie. There is a place for the principle behind the amendment. As previous speakers have said, if the Government cannot accept it, then, as the noble Lord, Lord Williams suggested, I hope that they will say, "Yes, we will look to see how we can improve it." As the right reverend Prelate said, there is an important need for people to have a place where they can go to enjoy quiet, spiritual refreshment and not be disturbed by excessive noise. Whatever some people may say, there are many who appreciate the fact that they can enjoy the beauty of nature and creation and find refreshment, not just physically and mentally, but spiritually too. There is a place for the amendment. I do not believe that we are being unkind to those who want to go roaring about on motorbikes and the like. If anything, often those people need to give a bit of thought to others.

Lord Dubs

I support the amendment and the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas. Those of us who enjoy the national parks—I very much enjoy the Lake District—are frequently afflicted by low-flying aircraft which fly beneath us in the valleys. They hunt in pairs and make an incredible amount of noise. I appreciate the enormous skill of the pilots but I have mixed feelings about whether it is admiration of their skill or annoyance at the noise which influences me most. Frankly, after a day of walking on the fells and being "attacked" repeatedly by low-flying aircraft one wishes that they would stop. I appreciate that the pilots have to learn somewhere. I do not suggest that they should be banned from these areas altogether. I wish, however, that the frequency of flights could be moderated. It does not have to happen all day, on week days, day after day. Any noble Lords who walk in the Lake District in August will be aware of what I am talking about. Can the Government reduce the activities of low-flying aircraft? If the amendment is passed, perhaps the Crown will be bound by it.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Elton

I do not think that there is any question that it is desirable—the Committee is agreed that it is desirable—that one should be able to get deep peace and quiet in the national parks. Two questions arise. The first is: should that peace and quiet be available throughout the national parks to the exclusion of any other activity, or should other activities be compressed or restrained within particular areas? I am very much in sympathy with what my noble friend Lord Gisborough said, and also with the remarks of my noble friend Lord Ullswater. I still call him my noble friend in spite of his self-declared theft of my lines. The second question is whether the amendment as tabled would have the effect that the Committee wishes in achieving either of those aims.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, suggested that we should discount the effects of the drafting. I accept that government are better at drafting than are Members. One must look at the drafting as an indication of what is intended; one must listen to the mover. Both my noble friend Lord Norrie and, in an intervention, the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, whose name is to the amendment but who has not yet spoken to it, have emphasised that the amendment would not ban anything. Yet most of the debate has been about banning low-flying aircraft, chain-saws and motor-boats. There is a confusion somewhere; the Committee is discussing something that does not appear on the Marshalled List. Therefore there must be a defect, either in what is described or in the actual effect of the amendment.

I suggest that we need not only to listen to what is intended by the amendment, but also to what could be achieved by it as it stands. It strikes in a paragraph of the Bill and affects what the authorities can promote. It changes the order of the words and it adds the word "quiet", which is so attractive and seductive. Either that involves prohibiting noisy enjoyment or it has no effect. Therefore the answer to my first question is that it is right that noisy activities should, where possible, be restrained within particular areas. The answer to my second question is that the amendment would not have that effect.

Lord Gisborough

I return to the matter of low-flying aircraft. I hope that the Government will not succumb to the argument that they should not fly over national parks. None of us likes the noise caused by low-flying aircraft although I must say that it is quite fun to take part in that activity oneself. It is a shattering noise. But, if we want an efficient air force, we have to accept it. The alternative is to have them fly over populated areas. I wonder how many people would prefer that.

Lord Ackner

I had been anticipating that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, would raise this point and would do much better than I could. It seems to me that the amendment will require the definition of what is meant by "quiet" in relation to the word "enjoyment". One achieves nothing by having "quiet" on its own. In fact, one achieves a possible complication because it is a term of art in landlord and tenant work, as it is in vendor and purchaser work. "Quiet enjoyment" is a reference by implication. It is implied in all those relationships that there is an obligation—

Lord Williams of Elvel

I am sorry to interrupt the noble and learned Lord. I am not sure whether he was here when I supported the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, in his moving the amendment. I addressed myself to the point of the drafting. I accepted that there was a problem with the expression "quiet enjoyment" in the context of landlord and tenant legislation. The point I was making—I hope that the noble and learned Lord was here and understood it—was that we are asking the Government to accept a principle. The drafting can come later.

Lord Ackner

Indeed, I was here from the very outset of the debate. I would not have dreamt of intervening if that had not been the case. So I both heard and, I believe, understood what the noble Lord said. I made a note of his three points. It is on his first point that I seek to address the Committee; namely, that one should seek to establish the principle. I submit that you do not establish any principle until you define what you mean by "quiet". The landlord and tenant aspect is important because it is a term of art which relates only to physical interference. It has no acoustic connotation at all. There has to be a physical interference. Most students, for obvious reasons, can recollect the case of the landlord who, after letting property, built a staircase, either intentionally or unintentionally, which passed the bedroom window of the tenant. That was held not to be a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment because it did not involve a physical interference. Is the principle to be that there is an obligation to make no noise, or only the noise which would be the subject matter of a successful action in nuisance—in which case one does not need the clause? Or is it to be specific activities—in which case I submit that the specific activities ought to be defined and stated, so that one knows exactly what one is dealing with?

Having listened carefully to the debate, I believe that the principle in question is essentially: Do you prohibit specific activities because their noise, where they destroy quiet, is so intrusive and unacceptable that it should be specified and prescribed?

Lord Renton

I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord for intervening. He saved me from inflicting upon the Committee a legal opinion on the matter. Perhaps I may just add a postscript to what he said. If in one statute words are used which have previously been used in a statute, those words are considered to have the same meaning as they had in the previous statute, unless the latest statute makes it clear that they have a different meaning.

Therefore, it would be most inappropriate to use the words "quiet enjoyment" without any kind of qualification. One should bear in mind that those words—I hope that my noble friend Lord Ullswater will be able to confirm it—have not been used in any previous legislation with the purpose of protecting the public at large from activities of other members of the public.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams, says, "Don't worry about the words; let's just go for the principle". But we are only at the Committee stage in the first of the two Houses of Parliament which will have to consider with great care this lengthy and detailed Bill. I should have thought that at this Committee stage, leaving aside the detail, and bearing in mind the amazing consensus that there has been so far on both sides of the Chamber, we should let the Government have our views as to the practicalities of the matter.

As I have dared to say that, perhaps I may now make a confession. Some years ago—I must say that it was 30 years ago—I went water skiing on Windermere. I do not know whether it is still allowed. But I enjoyed it very much, just as I have enjoyed water skiing elsewhere. Water skiing does not create the disturbance that some very noisy motor boats do. It does not create anything like the disturbance that some horrible motor cycles do; and, if I may dare add another sort of noise which I think should be put into the minds of the Government (I hope that all Members of the Committee will agree) there are some terrible pop concerts. We cannot stop them being held in some places; but I hope that they will not be held in national parks.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I have a lot of sympathy with the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Norrie. I would not dream of tangling with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, other than to say that I thought his description of his problem with the words "quiet enjoyment" was wholly conclusive. I found myself persuaded.

We are faced with the general objective of trying to achieve a regime of what might be called people being able to enjoy peace and quiet in the national parks. But there is a difficulty in finding language to encourage that without making it impossible for other, perfectly legitimate pursuits to be followed in ways that do not intrude unreasonably on the enjoyment of that quiet by others. That is what we are after.

It may be that my noble friend's amendment does not achieve that aim. But certainly I would welcome some indication from my noble friend on the Front Bench that he sympathises with that general objective.

I should like to put to him two specific points. Some Members of the Committee may remember a debate a year or two ago on a proposal to implement an agreement about rights of way that had been reached between, on the one hand, the Ramblers' Association and, on the other side, the NFU and the Country Landowners' Association. There had been a long effort of conciliation between the two, chaired by a Member of another place (I believe that it was Mr. Alan Haselhurst) and an agreement was reached in the end which could be couched in regulations—or it may have been in a Private Member's Bill. I should have looked the matter up and I apologise to the Committee for not having done so.

On that occasion I remember thoroughly supporting the objective and said that the next matter to which I hoped the same process could be applied was finding a reconciliation between people who want to do noisy things in quiet places and those who do not. I particularly mentioned activities such as motorcycles and moto-cross and I may have mentioned micro-lights. When my noble friend comes to reply, I wonder whether he can shed any light on whether there has been any follow-up of what at the time seemed to me and to some other Members of this Chamber to have been a very valuable initiative.

My second point is a practical point. It is a question. A number of Members referred to the disturbance which may be caused in the course of military training. Reference was made to low-flying aircraft. The military have access to substantial areas of national parks. For some time the Government have had a report, which they commissioned and which was prepared by the United Kingdom Centre for Economic and Environmental Development (UKCEED). The noble Lord, Lord Barber and I are both on the council of that body. If there is an interest to declare, I declare it. I can assure the Committee that it is not financial.

That report was prepared for UKCEED by an extremely able environmentalist, Dr. Susan Owens of Cambridge University. It was an immensely thorough examination of the use of defence lands, particularly in national parks. It seems to me—I may be wrong—that that report has disappeared without trace. I understand that it was delivered to the departments concerned and I wonder whether something of it could possibly be resurrected. Not necessarily this afternoon, but at some stage, perhaps we could have from the Government an indication as to how far they are prepared to respond to the recommendations in that report.

Those seem to me to be practical steps which might be taken to achieve my noble friend's objective of reconciling the different uses. At the heart of it, which is what we want to see—I was enormously impressed by the observations of the right reverend Prelate on this matter—is the spiritual element. There is a spiritual element in all this. People go to the countryside for recreation. What, in fact, does that word "recreation" mean? People go to the countryside to recharge their batteries, as it were, not just physically and mentally but also spiritually. I feel that that is what the Committee is grasping for.

I hope that my noble friend will be able to give us some comfort and not, as it were, just slam the door on this issue. We are looking for something here. Perhaps we have not defined carefully enough what it is and perhaps those words are not right; but that is what we are after. I hope that my noble friend will be able to help us.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Chorley

We should listen with great care to what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, said. We are after some sort of lead from the Government that somehow they will incorporate the spirit of the amendment into the legislation. I am sure also that we shall want to take note of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, and the noble Lord, Lord Renton said.

I put my name to the amendment in my capacity as chairman of the National Trust. After all, many of our members go to the national parks for just what we have been talking about, and the National Trust has huge land holdings in all the national parks. Around 100 million visits are made to the parks every year and it is vital that the legislation makes clear the recreational opportunities that the parks offer. Many visitors go to the parks to sit down and simply enjoy themselves. Three-quarters of the visitors are active and go for walks. The rest follow a wide range of sports on land, water and even in the air, of which the quietest is now what is called "para-penting"—something I would like to have done in my day.

The Edwards Panel said, the prime resource is still the landscape, with enjoyment derived from looking at the splendours of the scenery from the roads, paths and rivers". What the overwhelming majority of visitors have in common—here I follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon—is that they often come from urban areas to visit the parks for spiritual refreshment, renewal and relaxation. They expect the parks to afford them opportunities for "quiet enjoyment", however we incorporate it into the legislation; after all, that was the original purpose of the designation. Those opportunities would be diminished for the overwhelming majority of visitors if the parks were about promoting opportunities for enjoyment of any kind of activity. It may be that we shall need to define them; I do not know. But we are trying to find a consensus somehow to incorporate the spirit of quietness into the legislation.

Noisy activities are increasing in the parks. Legislation must set up an enduring, logical, statutory framework that will stand the test of time, especially when it comes to changes in recreational technology—"recreational technology" sounds awful—which we cannot foresee today. The Government must take a long view. They must set the parks, with their new authorities, on the course of promoting enjoyment and understanding that will not interfere with the original intentions of those who worked so hard to set them up in the first place. I agree that ministerial guidance is not enough and we must have something in legislation.

Lord Marlesford

National parks have been with us for just under half a century and much has changed in that time. The Edwards Committee identified some of the changes and some of the problems that flowed from them. One of the problems that it identified was the increasing noise. It was to deal with that problem that it made its recommendation which the Government accepted and used in their 1992 response when they undertook to introduce legislation to refer expressly to "quiet enjoyment and understanding".

Of course I accept from the noble and learned Lord and others that the wording of the amendment is inappropriate. As the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, said, those of us who support the intention behind the amendment are in no sense wedded to the wording. But we must have something in the new statute which deals with this new and increasing problem. It is a major problem which, if left unchecked and undealt with, could greatly damage that which the national parks have contributed and should increasingly contribute to the welfare of the people of this country and indeed of visitors from overseas who use the national parks.

All I ask my noble friend the Minister is to say that the Government are sympathetic to the intention; that they will introduce some wording on Report which will be more appropriate to fulfil that intention. It would only be if such an undertaking did not come from my noble friend that I would feel inclined to try at least to get this inadequate wording into the Bill at the appropriate stage.

Lord Greenway

We have been up in the sky—if one can call low-flying aircraft "up in the sky". We have been above the clouds in my noble and learned friend's discourse on the word "quiet". But perhaps I may bring the Committee back down to sea level. In view of my interest in the Bill to date, it would be strange if I did not say something on behalf of the boating interests, because certain forms of noisy boating have been referred to—though in a lifetime's experience of boating I have yet to come across a "towed inflated crocodile". Perhaps that is a pleasure which awaits me in later life.

It goes without saying that the boating interests—I include all of them, not just the powerboaters—are extremely worried by the amendment. The concept of promoting "quiet enjoyment" appears at first to be uncontroversial. But if it is included in the legislation, there is a fear that it may be interpreted in a way that goes far beyond what was intended. Perhaps I might give the Committee one or two examples.

At the recent Windermere public inquiry, which has already been mentioned, the promoters of the 10 miles an hour speed limit, which was intended to ban water-skiing, powerboat racing and powerboat record attempts, canvassed in the greatest detail and at great length the concept of "quiet enjoyment" as a reason for prohibiting those activities. In fact in the end it was all that was left of their case once they had failed to justify their allegations of wash, noise and conflict due to powerboats. To pick up the point of the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, those activities, by and large, take place in a fairly small area and in the case of Windermere, the national park there is extremely large.

My second example relates to certain bodies that are campaigning to urge the Government that in the context of "quiet enjoyment" all motorised water-based recreational activities are inappropriate in national parks and new activities of that kind should not be allowed; by inference, and as demonstrated at Windermere, existing use should also be terminated. That would effectively remove powered craft from all national parks. There is little doubt that the CNP would then seek to achieve the same clearances from other areas such as the Norfolk Broads, areas of outstanding natural beauty and the heritage coastal areas. Arising out of that, if the activities were to be banned, would be a backlash in relation to jobs. For example, if powerboating was banned in the Windermere area, certain interests estimate that up to 400 local jobs may be lost; and even the national parks council thought that 160 jobs would be lost.

Finally, the term "quiet enjoyment" is capable of redefinition to cover activities and levels of noise that no reasonable person could consider noisy. A recent discussion document by the Countryside Council for Wales states, (under some circumstances) dinghy racing"— I repeat "dinghy racing"— will intrude to an unacceptable degree upon wildlife and the quiet enjoyment of the seaside by the public". If an apparently responsible body such as the CCW is led to characterise dinghy racing as a noisy watersport, virtually every active form of recreation could be similarly described. Those things sound terrific alarm bells among the boating fraternity, and the Government should be extremely cautious when dealing with the amendment. I am firmly opposed to it and I hope that the Government will look at it most carefully.

Noble Lords


Viscount Ullswater

I am in the hands of the Committee, as always. It may be proper that I should say a few words at this time. It would not prevent other Members of the Committee from joining in the debate after I sit down.

I can assure my noble friend Lord Norrie and the noble Lords, Lord Williams and Lord Chorley, who spoke to the amendment, and the noble Lord, Lord Moran, who asked me whether the Government had carefully looked at the words in the Edwards Report, that we looked very carefully at the proposed wording for the second purpose and the arguments put forward in support of it before arriving at the form of words which appears in Clause 58(1) of the Bill.

We indicated in the summary of action proposed in our 1992 policy statement on the future of the national parks that the second national park purpose should refer to "quiet enjoyment". However, the statement also recognised that the parks should provide a wide range of experiences for the visitor and that there are activities which are in conflict with the concept of quiet enjoyment. It also made clear that co-operation is the best means of encouraging sensitive uses of the parks while recognising that those experiences which are unique to them—and which are largely related to the quiet enjoyment of these areas—should be protected and fostered. So, while our policy statement reflected the importance of the term "quiet enjoyment", it also recognised that the issue was not as clear-cut as might at first glance be supposed. Since then, we have also found that there are difficulties in using that specific term, which a number of noble Lords acknowledged when we debated the issue at Second Reading and have identified this afternoon.

I sympathise with those noble Lords who fear that the enjoyment of the parks' special qualities by the many may be put at risk by the recreational pursuits of the few. The Government are also as opposed as any here to intrusions into the parks which may result from the insensitive and inappropriate use of the countryside. However, I am uneasy as to the possible consequences of this amendment. Do those who desire the addition of this adjective do so according to its common English usage? I am far from clear that they do. If they see only a narrow application, how is it to be so limited?

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, identified some of the problems of using the word "quiet" without some form of qualification. The riding of motorbikes or driving of vehicles over open country or on footpaths is already illegal. So perhaps the noble Lords desire to ban the riding of motorbikes anywhere in the parks, including on public roads. Or do they wish it extended to other "noisy" but more traditional sports? Or perhaps agricultural and forestry operations are to be silenced. Of course, the noble Lords who promote the amendment deny such wide-ranging intent, but I share the fear of my noble friend Lord Gisborough and the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, that by their amendment they run the risk of hitting too many inadvertent targets.

My noble friend Lord Elton shares my concern about the alternative view that the effect of the amendment would be to leave the park authorities free to choose to promote "quiet" activities but to do so without detriment to other, by implication "noisy", activities. I am not convinced that that interpretation of the amendment will be shared by all or will be practically useful to the national park authorities.

Nevertheless, I fully understand the wish—I would agree with the intention of my noble friend Lord Norrie—for the second national park purpose to reflect the value of the parks as providing places where we can get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester that we need spaces in our lives to get away from such hustle and bustle. The Government entirely share that expectation. Our draft circular, which I have placed in the Library of the House and which is available in the Printed Paper Office, emphasises that the special qualities of the parks are to be determined within the context of their natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage, with particular emphasis on opportunities for savouring the wide open spaces and the wilderness and the tranquillity which are to be found in the parks, particularly in the more remote or less heavily visited areas.

However, we do not, as a matter of principle, accept that particular recreational activities should be automatically excluded from every part of every park. Many of the people who visit the parks reasonably expect to use the opportunities they offer to undertake a wide range of recreational pursuits. Bowness and Castleton are as much a part of the parks as the wild and remote places that we cherish. In formulating policies, the national park authorities must work towards striking a balance between the legitimate demand to use all the opportunities the parks afford for open-air recreation and those who wish to enjoy only their beauty and tranquillity.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams, tried to say that this is a matter of principle. I do not necessarily agree with him that it is a matter of principle. In most instances, it should be possible, by encouraging co-operation and through careful planning and positive management, to accommodate both those who wish to enjoy and appreciate the parks as quiet places and those who wish to use the opportunities they afford for more active pursuits. Nevertheless, we accept that some recreational activities for which a place will be sought in the parks could cause unacceptable damage or disturbance to their natural beauty, wildlife or cultural heritage, which in turn may also affect other people's understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities. For that reason, while we believe that every effort should be made to find a solution through negotiation and mediation—and perhaps even tolerance, as my noble friend Lord Onslow said—in those exceptional cases where that proves impossible, we now propose to place in statute the principle that the first purpose—of conservation and enhancement of their natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage—must take precedence.

I believe that this approach will prove far more effective than any blanket ban, which will be difficult to enforce and impossible to define. I therefore ask my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Norrie

I am very conscious that we have been debating the amendment for more than an hour and I am grateful to the Committee for listening for such a long period of time. I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Williams, Lord Beaumont of Whitley and Lord Chorley, for their assistance and support. What we are all concerned with is the kind of recreational opportunities which the national parks are there to promote. I stress that the clause and amendment are concerned with recreation and not other activities such as forestry and military training. We put it to the Committee that it would be inviting disaster in days of increasing technological forms of enjoyment to leave open the definition of "enjoyment". The problem exists now and the pressures can only increase. Therefore, it is essential to put "quiet enjoyment" on the face of the Bill and we look to the guidance to expand its implementation.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Ullswater for the opportunities which he has given me to discuss this issue with him and for his reply today, but I am not persuaded that the expression "special qualities" indicates sufficiently clearly what type of recreations national parks should have the purpose of promoting. The guidance only aggravates matters by suggesting that any type of recreation should be promoted in popular parts of the parks. As the noble Lord, Lord Williams, made clear, it is the principle of quiet enjoyment that we wish to establish with this amendment. I agree wholeheartedly with him. We wish to provide a talisman to guide those involved in promoting enjoyment of the parks.

It is my firm belief, based on sound advice, that "quiet enjoyment" acquires a legal meaning in the context of national parks and the countryside. In the light of support from all sides of the Committee for the amendment—

Lord Renton

Before my noble friend concludes, I wonder whether he will allow me to intervene. I can well understand anyone wanting to establish a principle. However, I would ask him to bear in mind that we will be amending a Bill. Surely it is a bad way to establish a Bill to amend it in such a way, as has been shown by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, to be wrong in law. If we are going to establish a principle by some innocent amendment, by all means let us do so, but not by one which gives rise to a patent legal difficulty.

Lord Norrie

It is a question of principle. I feel that we have between now and the time when the Bill goes down to another place to get this right. Therefore, I wish to test the opinion of the Committee.

4.49 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 253) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 129; Not-Contents, 121.

Division No. 1
Acton, L. Haskel, L.
Addington, L. Healey, L.
Addison, V. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Ailesbury, M. Hollick, L.
Airedale, L. Hollis of Heigham, B.
Allen of Abbeydale, L. Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Hooson, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L. Howie of Troon, L.
Avebury, L. Hunt, L.
Barber of Tewkesbury, L. Hutchinson of Lullington, L.
Bath, M. Jacques, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Jay of Paddington, B.
Birk, B. Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Blackstone, B. Judd, L.
Bridges, L. Kennet, L.
Broadbridge, L. Kilbracken, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Kintore, E.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Lockwood, B.
Carter, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Castle of Blackburn, B. Macaulay of Bragar, L.
Chester, Bp. Mallalieu, B.
Chorley, L. Mar and Kellie, E.
Clanwilliam, E. Marlesford, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Mayhew, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Dahrendorf, L. McNair, L.
David, B. Methuen, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Milverton, L.
Denham, L. Molloy, L.
Desai, L. Monkswell, L.
Diamond, L. Moran, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Donoughue, L. Mountevans, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Mulley, L.
Dubs, L. Munster, E.
Eatwell, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Elis-Thomas, L. Nelson, E.
Ennals, L. Nicol, B.
Ezra, L. Norrie, L. [Teller.]
Falkender, B. Northbourne, L.
Falkland, V. Ogmore, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Peston, L.
Foot, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Gallacher, L. Rankeillour, L
Gladwin of Clee, L. Rea, L.
Gladwyn, L. Redesdale, L.
Glasgow, E. Richard, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
[Teller.] Robson of Kiddington, B.
Grey, E. Rochester, L.
Halsbury, E. Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Hamwee, B. Russell, E.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Sainsbury, L.
Sandford, L. Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Seear, B. Tope, L.
Sefton of Garston, L. Tordoff, L.
Serota, B. Turner of Camden, B.
Shannon, E. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Shepherd, L. Walpole, L.
Stallard, L. White, B.
Stedman, B. Wigoder, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L. Williams of Crosby, B.
Strabolgi, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Tenby, V. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Aberdare, L. Kinnoull, E.
Ackner, L. Lauderdale, E.
Ailsa, M. Lawrence, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Leigh, L.
Annaly, L. Lindsay, E.
Astor, V. Liverpool, E.
Blaker, L. Long, V.
Blatch, B. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Blyth, L. Lucas, L.
Boardman, L. Lyell, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Lytton, E.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Braine of Wheatley, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord
Burnham, L. Chancellor.]
Butterworth, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Cadman, L. May, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. McAlpine of West Green, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. McColl of Dulwich, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Mersey, V.
Carnock, L. Miller of Hendon, B.
Carr of Hadley, L. Mills, V.
Charteris of Amisfield, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Chelmsford, V. Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Clark of Kempston, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Cochrane of Cults, L. Mottistone, L.
Coleridge, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Courtown, E. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.] Northesk, E.
Crickhowell, L. Onslow, E.
Cumberlege, B. Orkney, E.
Davidson, V. Orr-Ewing, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B. Oxfuird, V.
Dement, L. Peel, E.
Digby, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. Pike, B.
Elles, B. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Elton, L. Renton, L.
Ferrers, E. Rodger of Earlsferry, L.
Feversham, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Seccombe, B.
Gage, V. Shaw of Northstead, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Geddes, L. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Gisborough, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Goschen, V. Stewartby, L.
Gray, L. Strange, B.
Greenway, L. Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Harding of Petherton, L. Sudeley, L.
Harlech, L. Swansea, L.
Harmsworth, L Swinfen, L.
Harrowby, E. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Henley, L. Trefgame, L.
HolmPatrick, L. Trumpington, B.
Hooper, B. Ullswater, V.
Howe, E. Vinson, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Vivian, L.
Inchyra, L. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Inglewood, L. [Teller.] Wharton, B.
Jenkin of Roiling, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Kimball, L. Wynford, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

4.58 p.m.

Earl Peel

moved Amendment No. 254: Page 64, line 30, at end insert ("; and (c) of promoting the economic and social well-being of local communities within those areas."). The noble Earl said: Although Amendment No. 260 is grouped with this amendment, I am intending to speak only to Amendment No. 254 and not Amendment No. 260 at this stage. I begin by saying how much I welcome in Clause 59 of the Bill the fact that a National Park authority, shall have regard to the economic and social well-being of local communities within the National Park". However, from my experience of having lived and managed land in a park for the past 25 years and taking into account the two purposes of the national parks—that is to say, conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage", and promoting opportunities for public enjoyment—I do not consider that simply to "have regard to" in this matter goes far enough.

I do not think that I am exaggerating when I say that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction and frustration among many people living and working within the national parks who feel that their interests are at times ignored and often sacrificed unnecessarily for other interests. There is a feeling that the local presence is not accepted as being as important as that of the visitors who come to the park and then leave and whose contribution to the very heart and soul of the national parks is comparatively negligible. Those who form part of the national park communities are undoubtedly an essential ingredient of what the parks are all about. I believe that their interests should be treated on a basis that is at least equal to the way in which we treat the interests of those who visit the parks. Having said that, it is right that all interests in the park should adhere to what has become known as the "Sandford principle" —that is, to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of those areas, as specifically mentioned in the Bill. Given the right incentives, who better to do that than those who live and work in those areas?

I am sure that Members of the Committee are aware—although I suspect that many are not—that by far and away the majority of land in the national parks in England and Wales is privately owned. The national parks in this country are not similar to those in the United States. Therefore, it is essential that the local communities who live and work in the parks have confidence in the authority. It is a partnership—and a partnership clearly has to work both ways.

Under the Bill, the park authorities have considerable new powers, including new planning powers and the powers, subject to instruction from the Secretary of State, to produce a structure plan. Those powers are bound to have a considerable bearing on local interests and economic well-being. It therefore seems essential that the local communities should have every right to be treated equally with those other interests which the park authorities exist to promote.

I know that it is argued that there are other agencies and, indeed, government departments already promoting local interests. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food does a lot of work on the farming side through various incentive schemes which undoubtedly help the local farming community. That is in addition to the subsidies which many farmers receive. There is also the Rural Development Commission which is under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Shuttleworth, who has asked me to apologise for the fact that he is not able to be present in Committee today. He has told me that he very much supports the amendment.

I believe that it can be argued equally that there are agencies and government departments promoting the interests of conservation and public enjoyment. On the conservation front, there is English Nature, with its new obligations towards the habitat directive, as well as the existing SSSIs and the grants that are available. There are also the environmentally sensitive areas—the ESAs—which, with MAFF, have done so much to enhance the well-being of local habitats and, indeed, to support the local community and farmers. On the public enjoyment front, there are the Countryside Commission and the tourist boards. Where do we draw the line? To say that one particular aspect of national park duties is promoted by various different agencies and that another is not is simply not the case. They are all supported in different ways.

Of course, it is right to give the public an opportunity to share the beauty of the parks. Of course, it is essential that the beauty of the parks is conserved for everyone. But I believe that the third leg of the stool is equally important—I refer to the well-being and the skills of the local community. I also appreciate that many feel that the resources that are available to the national parks are simply not sufficient to enable them to carry out that duty. But it could also be argued that the money that is available to the national parks does not go very far as regards conservation issues and that other agencies have promoted conservation to a far greater extent than the national parks. So it is not just a simple question of resources. It is a question of attitude of mind as much as anything else. It is a matter of giving the local people confidence that the national parks are looking after their interests as much as other interests. I believe that the national parks must both think local and act local, and I believe that my amendment would achieve that. I beg to move.

Lord Derwent

I have an amendment in this grouping, Amendment No. 255ZB, which does not go as far as the amendment which stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Peel in that it does not seek to add a third purpose for the parks. I have total sympathy with the thinking behind my noble friend's amendment. Indeed, if that amendment is accepted by the Committee, there will be no need for mine, and I would support my noble friend. However, I have some anxieties about Amendment No. 254. The national parks do not have the budgets, the staff or the expertise to enable them to take on the responsibility for, promoting the economic and social well-being of local communities". The responsibility to achieve that lies firmly with central and local government. Being suspicious, I fear that if local councils are encouraged to believe that the responsibility lies with the park authorities, they will tend to ignore their own responsibilities and will pass the buck to the parks, which in turn will have neither the cash nor the resources to do the job.

On the other hand, I think that the parks' obligation as expressed in Clause 59(1), which reads: A National Park authority, in pursuing … the purposes … shall have regard to the economic and social well-being of local communities", is too weak. It means little more than that the park authorities should try, if possible, not to damage the interests of the local communities. I think most park authorities would like to be free to be more helpful than that. That is why I have chosen the word "foster" which implies that the park authorities should try to be helpful to the communities in pursuing their two primary purposes. I too have been approached by the noble Lord, Lord Shuttleworth, who said that in the event of the Committee not accepting the amendment of my noble friend Lord Peel, he and the Rural Development Commission would be in favour of what I think is a compromise suggestion.

I accept that the intention behind my amendment is covered in the draft guidance which the Minister has been good enough to have ready for today's debate. Paragraph 9 refers to the parks working with and for their local communities. That is excellent, but at present the Bill does not go as far as the guidance. I think it should.

Lord Elis-Thomas

The two amendments in the group which stand in my name enable us to look further at the opportunity of co-ordinating the various purposes of national parks by adding the purpose of having regard to the social and economic well-being of the local population and placing that as a clear objective, but within the context of sustainable development. The second amendment adds the sustainable development concept to the present wording in the Bill, which refers to having regard to the social and economic well-being.

We have agreed to place upon the environment agency generally the obligation of operating within the terms of sustainable development. Yet, when we look at this section of Part III, there is no reference to that. Many Members of the Committee believe that the concept of sustainable development is not itself a sustainable concept. However, as regards the objectives of national park policy, it is the most appropriate concept that we could find.

It could be argued that the original 1949 legislation always placed contradictory purposes upon the national park authorities and the national park populations in that there was the obligation to conservation and the obligation to recreation or amenity, and those could be seen to be conflicting. It can be argued—and no doubt it will be argued by the Government—that the placing of a third obligation in the purposes adds to that conflict. But if all the objectives are viewed within the overall framework of a policy of sustainable development it can all hang together; all can become coherent purposes.

If we cannot apply sustainable development as a philosophy and a practice in national parks where can we apply it? I believe that the Government should set out clearly what is the interrelation between the economic objectives and the conservation objectives. That is not clear in the Welsh Office draft letter or in the draft circular for England. I shall not go into the reasons why Wales has a draft letter and England has a draft circular, but that appears to be the case. In my view, the Government should state in the letter and in the circular: "Within national parks, here is the area for us to develop the philosophy and practice of sustainable development".

We have the issues of habitat conservation, the conservation of flora and fauna, landscape conservation and the maintenance of cultural heritage. We also have the need to maintain the stability of the local population by creating and maintaining employment. Without those there is not a sustainable population in agriculture, tourism, forestry, other extractive activities, the service industries, the public sector and administration. There is not a population which can sustain the level of activity required to enable national parks to meet the objectives of conservation and recreation.

For all those reasons, I hope that the Minister will look seriously at introducing the concept on the face of the Bill. Having had one defeat today, I suspect that he will not accede to any of the amendments. However, will he look at the matter again in the context of the draft circular and the draft letter? That is all I ask him to do today. The development agencies operating within the parks—in the case of Snowdonia it is the Development Board for Rural Wales and the WDA—the local authorities operating the various EC leader and other programmes that are part of the present economic support structure within the parks will then be seen to be working together with the park authority with the same objectives.

I know that the Minister will say that Clause 59 places an obligation on the other public agencies to carry out or to have regard to national park functions. However, I should like to see the national parks becoming the lead agencies for promoting sustainable development within their areas. They should bring together the possibilities of environmentally friendly tourism, the need for habitat conservation and the need for that level of economic job creation which maintains the local population.

I shall conclude by citing an example that applies to my former parliamentary constituency. At the soon-to-be decommissioned nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park we have experienced the loss of 600 jobs of people directly employed in the power station. That is a case, if ever there was one, where all the public authorities should be co-operating but within national park objectives. None of us who is concerned about the long-term economic future of that area would argue for another power station. We would argue for a sustainable longer-term cycle of employment. That can be achieved by ensuring integration between the activities of the park and the economic development agencies.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Vinson

I support the principle behind both amendments. I must declare that for 10 years I was chairman of the Rural Development Commission and I live in a national park. The amendments are important because the day-to-day life of the national park must go on and the national park officers must live, mix and work with the local residents. If the Bill is framed so that the whole emphasis is to give recreation and pleasure to outcomers, and if it does not sufficiently emphasise the livelihoods and importance of those who live within the parks, a tension will be developed between the national park officers and the local village and farm people. The introduction into the Bill of a stronger element—that it is the wish and desire of the national park authority to promote or to foster, which is a good word, the livelihoods of people who live and work in the park—would do immense good. The whole operation of the park administration would work better and good will would be created. Through that will be created the kind of atmosphere that effuses into the area of the park and makes the enjoyment of those who come for whatever purposes doubly so.

I hope that the Government will not dismiss the essential purpose behind the two amendments. I hope that they will consider taking them away and building at least the word "foster" into the aims and purposes of the new national park authority. In that way they will clearly illustrate that they have at heart the good will and livelihoods of those who work there.

Lord Redesdale

I speak mainly in support of Amendment No. 254ZA, in particular in respect of the word "communities". I live within Northumberland National Park, which does not appear to receive many of the benefits of tourism that go to other national parks. However, there appear to be many restrictions on living within the national park.

The communities have a responsibility to uphold the objectives of the national parks and it is important that they should not feel totally constrained by the rules applying to the national parks. It is a little harsh to be seen to be living in a form of rural museum. I support Amendment No. 254ZA in particular because it includes the phrase "sustainable development". It is possible sympathetically to develop economic interests in national parks. However, grants should be available for such activities. Those available to national parks, in particular in Northumbria, are small.

We must look at the economic and social well-being of communities. Living near the Otterburn training area, I have noticed that a large amount of ill will is shown towards the national park. Indeed, it culminated in a petition to remove the national park from the training area because it was considered that it was not interested in the major area of employment. That caused a great deal of hostility towards the national park. Those living within the national parks believe that they are for the enjoyment of other people, which increases the restraints. I thoroughly support the amendment.

The Earl of Onslow

It is interesting that national parks are in areas which nobody previously wanted to develop. They have not been ruined like Surrey, Middlesex or Liverpool. National parks are basically wild places. They are wild because there has been no great possibility of enormous economic development in them.

People say rightly that national parks are special. They can be kept viable only by a combination of grants, subsidies and so on. There are hill grants for farmers and grants for rebuilding the walls on the Crimea Pass. That is quite right. Therefore, we are looking at the need to preserve a great wild garden in England for the benefit of everybody. It seems important that, as the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said, they should not be preserved as museums. We must try to encourage rural crafts—stonemasons and so on—and small businesses in which perhaps only one or two jobs are created. That will cause more traffic problems but surely we want more than mere museums supported by grants from the agricultural community. We must do something. How it is to be done I do not know. I believe that the word "foster" goes some way towards achieving what is needed.

Baroness Nicol

I do not dissent from anything said about the need to keep healthy communities in national parks. I am sure that my noble friends who support some of the amendments share that view. Where I disagree with the amendments is in relation to the attempt to make them part of the purposes of national parks. National parks were designated because of their natural beauty and their potential for outdoor recreation. But the amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Peel, suggests that the promotion of social and economic well-being was part of the reason for selecting the areas in the first place. That is not the case.

The purposes are different from the role of the national parks authorities; we shall deal with that in our discussions on Clause 59. All those Members of the Committee who say that they wish to see the development of the economic strength of communities will find an opportunity to achieve that in Clause 59. I feel the same about the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas. To try to include sustainable development in the purposes of the national parks will blur the issue and will make their task more difficult.

Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, that changing the words "socio-economic duty" to "foster" is not acceptable. I consider that the Government have got it right on this occasion. It is not the role of national park authorities to double up on the work carried out by other agencies. It would cause resentment and confusion if they tried to do so.

The word "foster" puts the park authorities in the role of lead agencies. That is not their duty. The words "have regard to" reflect accurately the intention that they should work in partnership with others. I strongly support the view of the noble Earl that partnership is an important word. The national park authorities must, and I am sure will, work in partnership with local communities. For those reasons, I do not support any of the amendments.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I support the amendment. If the social well-being of the local community is not a major plank in the clause, in the end there will be no national parks. I do not agree with the noble Baroness. There will then be no purpose for them at all. I am afraid that we are not getting on very well in relation to this Bill. I hope that my noble friend, even if he does not accept the detail of the amendment, will accept the principle and the importance of the local community.

Baroness Hamwee

I support the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol. I am troubled not by the sentiments underlying the amendments, with which I agree wholeheartedly, regarding the need to look to matters of sustainable development and the need to look to economic and social matters. I am concerned about the blurring of responsibility which may occur for the best of reasons. As the noble Baroness said, there are other agencies, which include local authorities. I fear that it would make the carrying out of the duties of other agencies more difficult if those authorities were to take over some of their powers.

Lord Norrie

I have a problem as regards accepting Amendments Nos. 254, 260 and 254ZA. Giving the national parks a third purpose was a question which the National Parks Review Panel looked at in detail. It did not gain the panel's support. While recognising, the economic and social well-being of the park community is important for the effective conservation and enjoyment of the parks", it did not conclude that the parks should therefore have a third socio-economic purpose. In their response to the National Parks Review Panel, the Government did not agree either.

Conservation and the promotion of quiet enjoyment are the purposes of designation and I mean by that the reasons why the national parks were set up in the first place. The socio-economic duty is part of the role of national parks authorities. The Bill clearly defines a distinction between the national parks' purposes and the socio-economic duty. I believe that Amendment No. 255A clarifies the fact that that duty should be carried out in ways which are compatible with or further those purposes. I believe the Bill has got it absolutely right. If national parks were designated with a socio-economic purpose, they would no longer be unique and the national parks authorities would be doubling up, as the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, said, on the work done by bodies like the Rural Development Commission, the Welsh Development Agency and local authorities. Therefore, the Bill strikes the right relationship between national park purposes and the socio-economic duty.

Lord Renton

My noble friend Lord Norrie knows that I share his enthusiasm for national parks. However, I ask him and other noble Lords to bear in mind that if we wish national parks to be well preserved that will need the co-operation of the people who live in them and who have to make their living in them. They do not wish their opportunities to be frozen. As several of my noble friends said, there must be encouragement of rural crafts. I go further. There must be encouragement of rural industries, especially those that are ancillary to agriculture, forestry—we cannot prevent sawmills and should not wish to do so—horticulture and packing stations for horticulture, which are increasing. They need not be vast affairs: we must not discourage them.

Fisheries require industrial and ancillary development sometimes but not on a large scale. I would be very much opposed to cement factories or power stations other than hydro-electric power stations coming into national parks. As hydro-electricity develops, and I hope it may develop further, national parks are a natural place for such power stations which are not intrusive. Having said that, I am totally against the use of the words "sustainable development". It is much too wide an expression. I agree with those noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Norrie, who are worried lest sustainable development becomes an excuse for changing our national parks adversely.

I owe an apology to my noble friend Lord Peel. I said that I wanted to support his amendment; in principle, I do. I gather that it is really a probing amendment. The difficulty I have is that it seems to overlap with the terms of new Section 11A which it is proposed to add to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The main aims are set out in that section. In those circumstances, I am not sure that we also need to have them stated earlier in the Bill in the way suggested by my noble friend. However, as I am referring to the re-enacting with the amendment to Section 11 of the 1949 Act, I should say that I agree with my noble friend Lord Derwent in that I believe that his word "foster" would be appropriate.

However, we must be careful with such matters. We do not wish national parks either to lose their character through overdevelopment, whether it is housing, factories or whatever, or to fail in their purpose by depriving local people of the opportunity of living a normal life.

5.30 p.m.

The Earl of Lytton

I should like to express my support for Amendment No. 254 moved by the noble Earl, Lord Peel. I supported the noble Earl previously when we dealt with the matter in the context of the National Parks Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Norrie. I feel no less strongly about it now. As has been mentioned, if economic purposes are not relevant to the conduct of national park infrastructure in terms of its socio-economics, it is very unlikely that the necessary new investment will be made or properly channelled.

The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, referred to the lack of resources available to national parks to take on a further function of the nature proposed. My experience is that there is very little in the way of resources even for things like access provision or the management of areas designated by national park authorities under Section 3 of the Wildlife and Countryside (Amendment) Act 1985, both of which affect me as a farmer on Exmoor. We need to reach a point where we have an integrated approach to recreation, conservation and socio-economics. That is why I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Peel, that we need the third leg of this particular stool, without which the whole thing risks falling over.

Under the Bill's proposals, national park authorities will have extensive new powers. It is possible that the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, overlooked the economic importance of the use of planning powers. I see that she is shaking her head, so obviously she has considered the point. However, if one authority has planning powers but it is for another authority that does not have those powers to promote the social and economic well-being, there is a discontinuity between the two functions. My concern is that that does not lead us to an integrated approach.

During the proceedings on the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, with which we dealt last year in this Chamber, I was particularly heartened—as I am sure was the noble Earl, Lord Peel—by the Minister's response. He used words along the lines that, of course, national parks would have to have regard to social and economic well-being. It seems to me that we have before us the opportunity to put such a provision in the Bill. If we are talking about all-purpose national park authorities but one of the essential bits is missing, it seems to me that we shall not achieve what is needed by way of the Bill.

If there is a defect in the amendment moved by the noble Earl it is that of similarity with new Section 11A under Clause 59 of the Bill which refers to the, social well-being of local communities within the National Park". I believe that Section 37 of the Countryside Act 1968— I am speaking from memory—refers to the social and economic well-being of rural areas. I am especially concerned that we get back to that concept of areas. I hesitate to speculate, but if we attach too much importance to communities, it may well be in the Exmoor context that the community of Dulverton or Exford is more important than that of Brendon simply because of the number of houses. What about the community of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, at Lillycombe Farm where his agricultural operation is carried out? It employs a number of people, both directly and indirectly.

Finally, I have noted in the past that my own national park authority at Exmoor has stated on the face of its consultation draft local plan that economic progress, economic development and economic responsibilities are not part of its purpose. It then goes on deal with a whole raft of considerations which make it clear that it feels that it is no part of that planning process. I am very worried about that. If the Minister does not accept the amendment moved by the noble Earl, I should like some reassurance from him that such important matters will be taken into account. In the meantime, as I said, I warmly support the amendment.

Lord Marlesford

I basically agree most with the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, who said that she thought the Government had more or less got the matter right. I believe that economic development and well-being are absolutely crucial to national parks. It is a question of how they should be achieved. I am not wholly happy that that has always been achieved. Perhaps I may take two broad examples of where it has been very successfully achieved. When the national park officer was Mr. Michael Dower, the Peak District National Park did achieve some remarkably good economical development which was wholly undamaging to the purposes of the park. Moreover, Dartmoor National Park, when under the administration of Mr. Ian Mercer, also worked very well. However, there have been other parks—perhaps including those which my noble friend Lord Peel has experience of—where the latter has not been wholly true.

I do not favour the amendment moved by my noble friend because I believe that it would take away certain abilities. The key of the success in the Peak District and in Dartmoor was the ability of the national park officer, supported and guided by his committee or whatever, to work with the other organisations such as the Rural Development Commission, tourist boards and so on. That is probably the right way to do it. But if I had to choose between the two, I would actually prefer the amendment tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord Derwent. I believe that the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Peel would go much too far, in that it proposes putting in such a provision as a fundamental leg in the stool for the national parks to depend upon.

Viscount Ullswater

I fully agree with the view expressed by many noble Lords, especially by my noble friends Lord Stanley and Lord Renton, that the well-being of local communities is vital for the continued success of the national parks as living, working landscapes. I believe that that underlies the thrust of Amendments Nos. 254 and 260 (although my noble friend did not speak to the latter) tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord Peel.

The duty that we have introduced in Clause 59 with respect to the economic and social needs of local communities underlines the importance which we attach to the issue. My noble friend is trying to put the provision in as a purpose of the park. However, as I have indicated, we believe that the duty should be in Clause 59. That duty will ensure that the new authorities will have to take into account the economic and social well-being of their local communities as they carry out their functions and duties in pursuit of park purposes. I believe that that is the correct balance between the purposes and the duties of the new authorities in respect of the economic and social well being of local communities.

Further, the new duty will ensure that the park authorities have to be seen to be taáking those responsibilities seriously. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, asked whether Section 37 of the Countryside Act 1968 will apply to national park authorities. I am advised that it does so.

Amendments Nos. 254ZA and 255B, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, raise the issue of sustainable development. I do not think there is any question either about the Government's full hearted commitment to sustainable development as the cornerstone of our policies to reconcile the needs of economic development with those of environmental protection. The sustainable development strategy we published last January set out in detail the Government's plans and programmes to respond to the principles of the Rio Earth Summit. The lengthy debates during the first two day of Committee on the contribution the environment agency is to make to achieving sustainable development reaffirm this commitment. Sustainable development is an important issue not just for the parks but also for the rest of the countryside. The national parks are in a strong position to influence the way in which we care for our countryside and I have no doubt they will continue to be models for the sustainable management of the wider countryside and help to further our understanding and appreciation of the means by which development and conservation can be better balanced.

Lord Renton

Will my noble friend allow me to intervene? I have been trying to follow him. Is he saying that the general policy of sustainable development shall apply also in the national park, or that the national parks are a modification of it?

Viscount Ullswater

I am indicating that, in the way that national parks undertake their duties for their purposes, they will be having regard to sustainable development. It is important, I think, to go back to the first words that I used; that we fully agree that the well-being of the local communities is vital. It is in order to ensure the well-being of local communities that it is important to consider sustainable development.

I understand, of course, the thoughts behind the amendment of my noble friend Lord Derwent, echoed by my noble friend Lord Vinson, but we do not believe that national park authorities should themselves assume the role of promoting economic and social development. Amendment No. 255ZB does not help a great deal in this respect. The Oxford Dictionary defines "to foster" as, to promote the growth or development of". I appreciate my noble friend's wish to seek a slightly more active role for the new authorities, but there are already agencies, as the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, said, which are properly charged with the specific task of promoting economic and social development in rural areas. There is the Rural Development Commission in England. My noble friend Lord Vinson was its distinguished chairman for many years. There is the Welsh Development Agency and the Rural Development Board for Wales. The national park authorities will be expected to work in the closest co-operation with them. This is made clear in the draft circular which we issued on 31st January.

Among these amendments is Amendment No. 254A, in my name, which is of a minor and technical nature. The purpose of this amendment is to secure that the reference to the national park purposes in Section 6(4) (g) of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 is construed in accordance with Clause 58(4) of the Bill. I shall move that amendment in due course. I would therefore ask my noble friend to consider very carefully what I have said, and I hope he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

Before my noble friend sits down, I hope he can answer a question raised by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, who I felt said that, unless this provision was in this particular part of the Bill, the planning authority would not be able to take account of the matters raised by my noble friend. I do not know whether I interpreted the noble Earl right.

Viscount Ullswater

The national park authorities will of course be involved in all forms of strategic planning. They will be one of the authorities which will be taken into account when strategic plans are put forward to my right honourable friend. Therefore they will have devolved upon them many of the duties that other authorities have.

Lord Derwent

Before my noble friend sits down, it would help me greatly in deciding in due course what to do with my amendment if he would tell me what he considers "shall have regard to" means. Two national park officers have told me that they are quite unclear what it means. The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, and I think the Minister, have said that it means national park authorities have to work closely in co-operation with others. I think that is quite an exaggerated definition of the words "have regard to". While I am not necessarily wedded to the word "foster", one park officer said to me he thought it meant no more than that they should not work against the local communities. As my noble friend has been kind enough to give me one definition from the Oxford Dictionary, it would be helpful to have the definition of the term that is in the Bill.

5.45 p.m.

Viscount Ullswater

That may be rather more difficult. However, the term is used because it is a widely used term in legislation. Therefore it is the proper term to use in legislation. I have indicated that I believe my noble friend's term is wrong because it has the connotation of promotion. I sought to explain that I did not believe that the park authorities should have that duty. I felt there were other authorities —commissions, or whatever they are—who would have that duty. But they would need to keep in mind the concept of the economic and social well-being of the local communities when they are promoting the purposes in Clause 58.

Lord Vinson

Before my noble friend sits down, it may not be possible for him now to clarify the point, but there is real concern that, unless it is built more strongly into this Bill that there should be regard to foster, let us say, sustainable employment within the national parks, then the new national park authorities will effectively block, or could effectively block, all, even modest, forms of sensible development by saying that it is not really their duty and that their overriding consideration, if there is any conflict—as we read later on in the Bill—is to give, greater weight to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty". The instructions are so contradictory that we want a clear indication from the Minister—if not now, certainly subsequently at Report stage of the Bill—that they will not (unless the Bill is modified) have the power to block sensible, job enhancing and job sustaining activity.

Viscount Ullswater

I think perhaps the best thing I can do to answer my noble friend is to quote from the draft guidance which has been issued, which states, as regards the national parks: The qualities for which they have been designated are as much the product of man's hand as of nature. It is in the interests of the conservation of those qualities that the National Park authorities have a duty to work with and for their local communities". These will be instructions to the national park authorities. I believe that that encapsulates what we mean by the promotion of the social and economic well-being of the local communities.

Lord Vinson

I am sorry to press this point, but is a local farmer a community? It could be easily argued that he is not and that a community is a local village or a greater habitation. Therefore the park authorities could ignore the very proper and often perfectly correct application that he might make because they say they have a wider remit only to look at communities in the generality and not as regards individuals when it is a matter of farming families.

Viscount Ullswater

I am not sure that I should prolong this conversation with my noble friend but I believe that the farmer that he mentions has just as much of a role to play as regards the quality of the landscape in a national park. It would be important that the national park authorities should understand that.

Earl Peel

I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the discussions on this amendment. My noble friend Lord Onslow described how the parks were formed and said they were designated because they were wild places unlike, he said, Liverpool. He has obviously never been to the Kop on a Saturday night when Manchester United are playing.

My noble friend Lord Derwent, when speaking to his amendment, was mildly critical of my amendment. He said that his national park officer had said to him that the national parks were concerned about my amendment because they did not have the staff and resources to deal with the socio-economic duties which the amendment would place on them. As I said earlier, it is fair to say that they have not achieved a great deal with the money available to them in relation to conservation. In fact, habitat loss inside the parks has been as great as it has outside the parks. Therefore, I do not accept that particular argument.

The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, made an interesting and serious point. She said that social well-being was not the reason for the original designation of the parks. The parks were designated principally because of what they are. Who created them? It is the people living and working in the parks, not the national park authorities. That is why I feel so strongly that the people living and working in the parks should be treated on equal terms with visitors. That is fundamental.

My noble friend Lord Norrie said that if socio-economic duties were placed on the parks they would not be unique. I believe that I am right in saying that other authorities do not have a duty to promote conservation and public enjoyment. That illustrates that the national parks are unique because specific duties are placed on national park authorities. I see no reason why placing such an additional duty on them would undermine the principal purposes behind the designation of national parks.

I do not wish to prolong the debate. I believe that there has been sufficient support for the amendment for us to consider the matter again at a later stage, whether that is in the form of an amendment as strong as mine or in the form suggested by my noble friend Lord Derwent. It is for us to get together. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will consider our approach very seriously in view of the undoubted support we have enjoyed from all sides of the Chamber. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 254Z4 not moved.]

Viscount Ullswater

moved Amendment No. 254A: Page 64, line 37, after ("6(3)") insert ("and (4) (g)"). On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 255 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clause 58, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Norrie

moved Amendment No. 255ZA: After Clause 58, insert the following new clause: ("Major Development Test .—(I) Subject to the provisions of this section, major developments shall not be permitted within the National Parks. (2) Proposals for major developments in National Parks shall be permitted only if, following rigorous public examination, it is demonstrated that they satisfy the following conditions—

  1. (i) that the proposal is absolutely necessary in the national interest, which includes the furtherance of National Park purposes; and
  2. (ii) that the proposal cannot practically be accommodated in an alternative location outside the National Parks.
(3) In determining whether a proposal is absolutely necessary in the national interest full regard shall be had to—
  1. (i) the prospects of meeting the demand which gives rise to the need for the proposal by means other than the proposal; and
  2. (ii) the prospects and means of reducing the demand which gives rise to the need for the proposal.
(4) Any proposal satisfying the conditions set out in subsection (2) above shall only be permitted subject to conditions which mitigate so far as is practicable any adverse environmental effects including a requirement to restore satisfactorily the site, in accordance with a scheme that shall form part of the proposal, when the need for the development ceases. (5) For the purposes of this section "major development" shall include all development deemed to have potentially significant environmental effects, including such development controlled by the Planning, Highways, Electricity, Land Drainage and Water Acts."). The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 255ZA seeks to fulfil one of the main recommendations of the National Parks Review Panel by introducing a test for major development proposals in national parks into legislation. It also seeks to implement through legislation the Government's promise that national park designation confers, the highest status of protection as far as landscape and scenic beauty are concerned". I have already mentioned that national parks include some of our most beautiful landscapes and are immensely popular. The importance of national parks is recognised across all the political parties. They are part of our national heritage and therefore worthy of enduring protection. Development in them must therefore be such that those natural assets can be passed on to future generations without the natural beauty of the landscapes being eroded.

At present the national park clauses in the Bill are concerned with improving the operations and administration of the parks from the inside; but those clauses lack any measures which would protect the parks from the outside.

What is at stake in promoting Amendment No. 255ZA is the protection of our finest countryside from major development pressures. The amendment has the support of all the voluntary sector environmental and amenity organisations with an interest in national parks. It has the support of my noble friend Lord Marlesford, who is chairman of the Council for the Protection of Rural England. The Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales also support the inclusion of a test as crucial to this legislation.

In its 1992 policy on national parks the Government said that, there is no need to wait for further legislation to enhance the planning protection to be afforded to National Parks". At the time that included a test for major development proposals in national parks in planning policy guidance note 7, which makes it clear that major development shall not take place in the parks "save in exceptional circumstances".

Now that an opportunity has arisen, that test must be included in the legislation, because planning policy guidance does not cover all forms of development, including energy and roads; nor does it provide an adequate procedural framework for protecting the parks. The courts have found that planning policy guidance notes have a limited legal effect. There is, therefore, a marked distinction to be drawn between the status of government policies as contained in planning policy guidance notes and the status of law as contained in statute. Experience has shown that planning policy guidance does not deliver the level of protection recommended by the National Parks Review Panel and promised by the Government.

The test set out in Amendment No. 255ZA seeks to implement key principles identified by the National Parks Review Panel. The panel said the test should ensure that, before any major development is accepted in a National Park, every avenue for meeting the need outside the Park has been thoroughly explored—or that the need is met in other ways, for example through conservation in the case of water and energy. Proven national need, and lack of alternative sites, must mean just. that". The amendment seeks to measure the national interest in the need for a major development against the national interest in national parks. It seeks to establish whether the development can be located outside the national parks. It also seeks to establish whether the development is absolutely necessary. It asks whether the need can be met in another way: is there scope for the demand for the product or service to be reduced? Once all other criteria are met it sets a high standard for any development that passes the test.

I see the test set out in the amendment as a much clearer guide to developers, planning authorities and the Secretary of State. It would enable developers to make early strategic decisions about options, thus saving them time and effort. Planning authorities and inspectors would have much clearer criteria by which to judge applications.

The legislation must set out an enduring framework for major development procedure relating to national parks. Sustainable development is a long-term set of objectives, and national park protection must also be taken into consideration in the long term. Legislation is the right place for the test. I believe that the amendment constitutes the right test. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, in his amendment. Again, as I said at Second Reading, we are dealing with matters of principle. The noble Lord and I have had discussions about the drafting of the amendment. There may be some difficulties, which no doubt the Government will clear up if they accept the amendment. However, the principle is correct.

The principle is simple. Planning guidance in the planning policy guidance notes which we receive from time to time from the Department of the Environment is not adequate to protect the national parks from major developments of the kind to which the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, referred. PPGs can be altered at ministerial whim. There is no provision in parliamentary procedure, other than putting down Unstarred Questions or Motions to resolve in this Chamber, which allow us to debate fully planning policy guidance issued by the Department of the Environment to the planning authorities in England and Wales. I therefore agree with the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, that in the case of national parks—it is quite special—we cannot rely on policy planning guidance issued from time to time, and amended by Ministers from time to time, to protect the parks from major developments. I believe that the Government should accept the principle enshrined in the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Norrie.

Having said that, I again reiterate that I am not entirely convinced that, as drafted, the amendment could be placed in the Bill. However, I am sure that the Committee will recognise the force of the argument that I and the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, put forward at Second Reading, and the argument that the noble Lord put forward when moving the amendment.

I can only rely on the Government's good sense. I very much hope that they will look at the amendment with good sense and accept the principle. I hope that at Report stage they may return with a provision which will satisfy us all and meet the requirements of the noble Lord and of the organisations he cited which have supported him.

6 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

It is widely accepted that the provisions in the Bill form part of a movement that is spreading throughout the world, which should be supported. To a certain extent such provisions should work in concert.

The recently published report of the World Conservation Union, Parks for Life, addressed the question of major development, a subject which the amendment tackles. Signatories to the Caracas declaration, which included the UK, asserted that, the world community must adopt new and equitable styles of development, based on the care and sustainable use of the environment, and the safeguarding of global life-supporting systems". Parks for Life also stated that it was vital that protected areas, including national parks, should be subject to protection by national legislation. It called for planning laws to be established which, ensure that the requirements of protected areas management are taken into account in all development planning procedures". That point reinforces the argument that the place for the major development test is in primary legislation and not in planning policy guidance.

The World Conservation Union Action Plan for Protected Areas in Europe details the kind of test that should be applied, and that includes the assessment of need and alternative, as put forward by the amendment. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment.

Lord Chorley

This is the second amendment to which I have put my name. In some ways I believe that it is more important than the previous amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, and others, with which we were successful.

The Government's position, oft repeated, is that in the national parks, major development should not take place save in exceptional circumstances and that any such proposals should be subject to most rigorous examination". That is fine. However, when the Edwards Panel looked into whether that objective was being achieved, it concluded that it was not. The Edwards Report recommended putting the test into primary legislation. However, that policy objective is not being achieved through the planning policy guidance system. If the Committee will bear with me, I wish to cite a few examples. There are many examples of planning policy guidance failure in the national parks. What we need, therefore, is primary legislation and a clear process to establish whether the criteria would be fulfilled.

In the case of developers, there are several major developments currently proposed for national parks where the argument applies. The proposal to extend Swinden Quarry in the Yorkshire Dales, already a most damaging eyesore, is for the extraction of a low-grade mineral for which there is no proven national need and with many alternative sources of supply outside national parks. The public inquiry starts in May.

There are two proposals for major energy developments which fall outside planning policy guidance. Northern Electric is soon to submit its application for a major pylon development across the North York Moors to supply Whitby. As I understand it, there has been no rigorous publication of alternatives. We have already heard from the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, about Trawsfynydd nuclear power station. I am told that it has been proposed that it should be used as a nuclear waste repository without a planning application or the drawing up of an environmental statement which would include the case for need and an alternative. A more cost effective and constructive procedure set out in primary legislation would benefit strategic planning in all those cases.

There is the case, also in Wales, of the Welsh Office's proposals regarding the A.5 road at the point where it enters the same national park, the Padog bends. Those will be familiar to some noble Lords. I shall not go into all the aspects of the matter, but if ever there were a major development which appears on the face of it to be unnecessary it must be that.

Then there are decisions which have already been made which have not led to the highest status of landscape protection being afforded to national parks through the planning policy guidance system. On Dartmoor, the national park authority approved lifting special conditions at Meldon Quarry which restricted production to nationally necessary rail ballast. Now it can produce aggregates for which many alternatives exist. The Secretary of State did not call the permission in. The Peak District National Park Authority gave permission to extend Goddards Quarry last year. The output is aggregates used mainly for road building. Again, the permission was not called in.

A clear test set out in primary legislation, with clear criteria, would strengthen the effective delivery of the Government's intention to afford national parks the highest level of protection.

Lord Elis-Thomas

I support my noble friend Lord Chorley and the amendment so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Norrie. The amendment goes to the very heart of planning procedures as they apply to national parks. I wish to draw attention to the importance of the latter part of the new clause which defines major developments. I referred earlier to the case of the Trawsfynydd nuclear power station. When the station was proposed and built—it was the only inland nuclear power station of that magnox generation in the United Kingdom—few people objected on environmental grounds. Yet, clearly, to anyone who cares about the objectives of national parks legislation, such a development should never have taken place. Similar hydroelectric developments and reservoir developments could be pointed to in other national parks as well as Snowdonia.

Smaller scale developments such as a number of proposals for hydroelectric developments which would interfere with the flow of rivers and with the fish habitat have been proposed. I wish to thank in particular the National Rivers Authority for its activity in that area in ensuring in its surveys that river flows will be protected. It is important in this context that we turn to road development. Clearly, if there is to be an about turn in government policy on road development, then surely it should occur immediately so far as concerns national parks. My noble friend has already referred to the case of the A.5. The Welsh Office has already taken some action in re-signing and seeking to divert major traffic along the A.55. It is crucial that there should be no extension or widening of the A.5 except where there are severe, dangerous bends at which limited engineering works might be justified for safety reasons. Beyond that there should be no further development.

What is important about the clause is that it enables the major development test to be placed upon all developments within the national parks. It will enable the environmental statements that are produced for planning inquiries dealing with major developments to use the test, wherever the issues are considered. It will enable the test to stand up as an objective criterion against which any major development can be measured. That surely is what national parks are all about. If we have created a specialist, protected piece of landscape, environment and community, we need to ensure that it follows that, with the national value—"national" in this context meaning both Welsh national and English national—national parks can be interfered with only if such interference is absolutely necessary in the national interest. Therefore, if we are to take our own legislation and designation seriously, the whole Committee should support the amendment.

The Earl of Onslow

It seems odd. We have just spoken at considerable length and with much feeling about this. The Government do not like the idea of fostering small and reasonable economic development in the national parks, the small businesses in ones and twos. They are not prepared—

Viscount Ullswater

If I gave that impression, it was the wrong impression. What I said was that there was a difference between the role of the National Parks Authority to promote and other agencies which are tasked to promote such developments.

The Earl of Onslow

I am sorry if I received the wrong impression, and of course I accept what my noble friend says. But that does not detract from my second point. Large-scale development in national parks should practically at all costs be resisted.

I accept that there are occasions—I quote the Okehampton bypass as one—where there is a major difficulty. The Committee may remember that the Okehampton bypass went through the top end of the Dartmoor National Park. It raised hackles considerably in your Lordships' House. The argument was that for it to pass through the part of the national park planned would do less environmental harm than if it went through the rather nice piece of countryside on the other side which was extremely beautiful. There was a terrible dilemma basically between three pieces of environmental damage: first, going through a national park, secondly, ruining the countryside and, thirdly, doing nothing and ruining Okehampton. It was a terrible problem for the Government, who eventually decided, in my view rightly, to take part of the national park. I know that others did not feel that that was right.

It seems to me that unless there are careful rules, we should not have any major development in the national parks. I was reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, that if one looks across the Roman Road to Aber, there is a terrible and ghastly line of pylons on the wonderful skyline below Cader Idris and Carnedd Llewelyn. They should never have been put there and somehow that kind of thing must be avoided.

Lord Elton

I had not intended to intervene, but I was the Minister who wound up the debate on whether the Okehampton bypass should go through the national park. All kinds of recollections have been stirred by my noble friend. The first is that the road was invisible from almost the whole of the national park. As he rightly said, it would have been widely visible on the other side of Okehampton.

However, here we have a case where, as my noble friend said, Parliament kept a close eye on development under provisions which are already on the statute book. It came to what I believe we are agreed was the right conclusion.

The proposal here is that the provisions should be changed. I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said and his list of decisions which had not been called in. I shall read that with interest tomorrow in Hansard. As I recall the provisions on the statute book, with a national park it is already necessary to consider the national interest and whether it can be accommodated outside the national park. There is already a requirement to consider future demand and whether it can be met by other means. I do not recall there being a requirement for a search for a means of reducing the demand. That is new. There is a requirement, where there is a temporary activity, for consideration of restoration in the application.

I regard subsection (5) as the most delphic and interesting. It concerns the interaction between what is proposed in this provision and what exists in other legislation such as the planning, highways, electricity, land drainage and water Acts. There we would need detailed guidance as to the extent to which this provision would take precedence over those provisions.

I share all the anxieties of everyone who has spoken about major developments in the national parks. I am anxious to know whether this change in the legislation is necessary or right to achieve what Members of the Committee want.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Moran

I strongly support those Members of the Committee who spoke in favour of the amendment, which is of crucial importance. In essence, major developments in national parks should not only be looked at very carefully indeed but allowed only in exceptional circumstances where there is a national need and no alternative. I noticed that the Edwards Panel pointed out that the Government's White Paper on the environment, This Common Inheritance, stated: Major industrial or commercial development will not normally be permitted in national parks; only where there are proven national needs and a lack of alternative sites can any exception be justified". That is absolutely right and it seems to be in accordance with the whole drift of the amendment. The Edwards Panel also identified the areas that were of concern, such as mining and quarrying, trunk roads (which have been mentioned) nuclear generation, pumped storage schemes, transmission lines, hydro-electric projects, wind farms, reservoirs and the leisure developments such as holiday villages, marinas and conference centres which it considered were inappropriate in national parks. This is a very important amendment and I hope that the Government will accept it.

The Earl of Lytton

I relate very much to all that has been said by previous speakers. My only concern is with subsection (5) which states that, 'major development' shall include all development deemed to have potentially significant environmental effects". As I read that, it could apply to absolutely anything. An extension on a house could have significant environmental effects, as well as power stations, wind farms and other building works. So it is not just a question of defining what the term "all development" is, when all speakers have mentioned not "all development" but certain specific types of development.

Secondly, we need to address the matter of what is or is not significant in any given instance. That has already been alluded to. In our previous day's discussion in Committee I mentioned on an earlier amendment the matter of reciprocity. When national parks were designated for the undoubted value of the landscape and for nature conservation purposes, they were designated by putting a red line on the plan which included a job lot of all kinds of things that were satisfactory, as well as, I dare say, quite a few that were unsatisfactory. The unsatisfactory ones may nevertheless have been legitimate businesses of long standing which were entitled to the anticipation of organic growth over time, as with other activities. I cannot accept that if planning has to take into account what is new—for instance a fresh proposal on a greenfield site—then, by the same token, it must also take into account what is there already, what is pre-existing, what is a legitimate use. That follows on from the amendment moved earlier by the noble Earl, Lord Peel. There must be reciprocity of consideration on both sides of the equation.

I draw the attention of the Committee to another factor; namely, that development in town and country planning terms includes not only construction and engineering works but also material changes of use. So when Members of the Committee refer to conference centres, I wonder whether they are including changes of use within the curtilage of existing buildings or whether they are talking about new construction on greenfield sites. There is a fundamental difference between the two. As someone who has close links with a national park, I thoroughly endorse the concept of protecting the area from intrusive developments, but I fear that the amendment goes much too far. It goes well beyond the questions of drafting to which the noble Lord, Lord Williams, referred. The amendment is fundamental in the degree to which it sweeps up an awful lot of small fry which should not be part and parcel of an amendment dealing with major development.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

I wonder if my noble friend can make absolutely clear in his reply the extent to which the amendment would produce a substantial change to the law as it stands. I wish also to put a question to my noble friend Lord Norrie who moved the amendment. It may be a rather nitpicking point, but I wonder what exactly is meant by, the demand which gives rise to the need". Would it be different if it were put the other way round—namely, "the need which gives rise to the demand"—or, better still, would it not be better to leave out either "need" or "demand" and just include one of them? It seems to me that it would mean the same.

Baroness Lockwood

I support the amendment. In doing so, it is important to point out that we need to take a long-term view about the pressures from major developments in the national parks. The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, gave several references to issues that have arisen where the policy of the national parks has not been completely upheld in the past. From my own experience I can certainly underline what the noble Lord said in respect of the Swinden quarry in the Yorkshire Dales, which is not only an eyesore now but, if considerably extended, will be an even greater eyesore and nuisance to the local community in the future—not only to the community in the immediate vicinity but to the community in the park where the lorries transporting the extracts go by at regular intervals.

The same could be said about another development which took place recently in the Yorkshire Dales where permission was given to open up a new quarry not subjected to the kind of test outlined in the amendment. So there is continual development within the national parks. It is important that we take the long-term view.

The National Parks Review Panel stated that it is likely that pressures for major development will continue and may intensify. I believe that too. Therefore we need the rigour included in the proposed test to prevent such an intensification. The test sets out clearly what issues will prevent or permit continued development in the national parks.

Lord Marlesford

The principle behind the amendment of my noble friend Lord Norrie is of very great importance. I support it strongly. None of us is wedded to the words of his amendment, or even to the phrases in it. But those of us who support it believe that it is crucial. The Bill is a very considerable step forward in terms of the internal management and protection of parks. But it does almost nothing to defend parks from arguably much greater and more serious external threats. As so many Members of the Committee have spoken in this debate, I shall make just one point. I believe that the national parks are such a precious asset that they deserve special and different protection. Although it is not a complete analogy, there is some similarity with the special protection which Parliament has given to property owned by the National Trust in allowing it to be declared inalienable. The parks are so important that we would be failing very much if we did not take special measures at this crucial moment of opportunity to protect them from major development in the future.

Earl Peel

I too support the amendment in principle. I would have thought that the conditions for permitting such a development, which would have to be shown, would give the park authorities every opportunity of rejecting it. The other point that has been made relates to the question of major development. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, referred to subsection (5) and the catch-all phrase therein. I believe that it is too wide. I find that quite worrying. At the end of the day, I am not sure how a "major development" can be determined. Clearly, there are words here that need to be looked at very carefully. But in principle I am certain that if we are to have national parks, developments of the sort that gave rise to this amendment must be resisted.

Viscount Ullswater

The Government's policy is that major development should not take place in national parks, save in exceptional circumstances. Because of the serious impact that major developments may have on the natural beauty of the parks, applications must be subject to the most rigorous examination including a demonstration that they are in the public interest. Those words are a paraphrase of an extract from PPG7.

We will continue firmly to uphold the test expressed in planning policy guidance note 7. I have to tell my noble friend Lord Norrie that we have an objection in principle to putting this and other important planning policies in statute. We consider that it would be both unnecessary and undesirable. I have to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that this is perhaps a matter of principle.

Clause 63 of the Bill makes a national park authority the sole local planning authority for the area of the park for all purposes, including mineral planning. The new national park authorities will acquire both structure and local plan functions, including waste plan functions, for the area of their parks. As such, the national park authorities will play a full part in all levels of the planning system, and the policies which apply to the parks will be relevant to all those levels.

As well as those national policies which apply to all planning authorities and the specific policies which apply to the national parks, regional planning guidance provides the necessary framework for the preparation of structure plans. That is produced by the Secretary of State only after widespread public consultation and the eliciting of advice from local planning authorities, which will of course include the national park authorities.

The Government's planning policies are material considerations which local planning authorities must take into account in preparing their development plans. The statutory plan preparation procedures provide full opportunities for the involvement of statutory agencies like the Countryside Commission; for public consultation; and, if necessary, for intervention by the Secretary of State. By virtue of Section 54(A) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, planning applications must be decided in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

As a statement of the Government's national planning policy, PPG7 will also be a material consideration when deciding planning applications. Local planning authorities are therefore expected to have regard to planning policy guidance notes in the exercise of all their planning functions.

The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, quoted a number of areas which he said were subject to consideration by local planning authorities. I reiterate that they have before them the guidance of PPG7 and the local structure plan. They should take their decisions—

6.30 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister but does he agree with my point that the policy planning guidance notes from the Department of the Environment are changeable from time to time? They are not set in concrete. They are not even discussed in Parliament. Is it not the case that, whether or not they are subject to PPG7, the PPG7 can change?

Viscount Ullswater

I was going to come on to that point and would agree with the noble Lord. Let me go on to explain why I think it right that planning policy guidance should be non-statutory in that sense. I was indicating to the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, that the local planning authority had to have the words of PPG7 ringing in their ears when they made those decisions. In addition, the Secretary of State will have regard to them when dealing with planning appeals and called-in cases.

The noble Lord also expressed his concern about major developments which are controlled not under town and country planning legislation but under other legislation, such as the Electricity Acts. Those responsible for taking such decisions—including the President of the Board of Trade in the case of development to which consent is given under electricity Acts—are well aware of the tests for major development in national parks and take government policy on these matters fully into account when considering any proposals.

Amendment No. 255ZA in the name of my noble friend Lord Norrie, and the noble Lords, Lord Williams of Elvel, Lord Beaumont of Whitley and Lord Chorley, is therefore unnecessary because the system of setting out the Government's planning policies in planning policy guidance notes works well and is underpinned by strong and effective legislation.

Furthermore, Amendment No. 255ZA is undesirable, because legislation on national park planning would devalue "non-statutory" planning policies set out in guidance notes. Take green belts for example, which are a cornerstone of planning in this country. Should we have a statutory planning policy for national parks but not for green belts? Where would the process stop? Putting selected planning policies on a statutory basis and keeping them up to date would consume a great deal of parliamentary time. Even the modest changes that we recently introduced to strengthen green belt policy could be accomplished only through legislation.

What would statutory planning policies achieve? This comes back to what my noble friend Lord Peyton said. What would they achieve if they were put on the face of the statute book? Planning decisions involve judgment. Putting a planning test in statute does not make it any less likely that some people may disagree with the judgment reached in a particular case. For the reasons that I have outlined, I ask my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Norrie

I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Williams, Lord Beaumont of Whitley and Lord Chorley, for their support and indeed for the intervention of my noble friend Lord Peyton. I agree wholeheartedly that national parks face an uncertain future without a test for major development proposals included in legislation. The test in legislation will be more robust than planning policy guidance and provide more comprehensive coverage. The examples given by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, bear witness to how necessary that test is.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Ullswater for his reply. However, it is vital to give a clear signal across all sectors of the planning system that national parks are special places and indeed are some of the critical natural assets that the Government's sustainable development strategy identifies.

I have made clear that setting out the tests by which major development proposals will be judged in planning policy guidance is simply not sufficient to guarantee the long-term protection of the parks. Because of the level of support for this amendment, for which I am grateful, I wish to test the opinion of the Committee.

6.36 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 255ZA) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 66; Not-Contents, 91.

Division No. 2
Acton, L. Gladwin of Clee, L.
Addington, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
Addison, V. [Teller.]
Airedale, L. Hamwee, B.
Bath, M. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Harrowby, E.
Blackstone, B. Healey, L.
Chorley, L. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Howie of Troon, L.
Craigavon, V. Jenkins of Putney, L.
David, B. Judd, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Kilbracken, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Kintore, E.
Elis-Thomas, L. Lewis of Newnham, L.
Falkland, V. Liverpool, E.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Lockwood, B.
Feversham, L. Longford, E.
Foot, L. Macaulay of Bragar, L.
Mar and Kellie, E. Redesdale, L.
Marlesford, L. Robson of Kiddington, B.
McNair, L. Rochester, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Milverton, L. Rodney, L.
Monkswell, L. Seear, B.
Moran, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Mountevans, L. Stedman, B.
Munster, E. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Nathan, L. Strabolgi, L.
Nelson, E. Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Nicol, B. White, B.
Norrie, L. [Teller.] Williams of Crosby, B.
Ogmore, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Onslow, E. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Wise, L.
Annaly, L. Lawrence, L.
Astor, V. Leigh,L.
Blatch, B. Lindsay, E.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Long, V.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Lucas, L.
Cadman, L. Lyell, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Lytton, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Carnock, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Clark of Kempston, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Cochrane of Cults, L. McColl of Dulwich, L.
Colwyn, L. Melville, V.
Courtown, E. Mersey, V.
Craigmyle, L. Miller of Hendon, B.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.] Mills, V.
Crickhowell, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Cumberlege, B. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Denton of Wakefield, B. Mottistone, L.
Derwent, L. Murton of Lindifarne, L.
Digby, L. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. Northesk, E.
Elles, B. O'Cathain, B.
Elton, L. Orkney, E.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Oxfuird, V.
Geddes, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Gisborough, L. Rankeillour, L.
Glenarthur, L. Rennell, L.
Goschen, V. Renton, L.
Granard, E. Seccombe, B.
Greenway, L. Shaw of Northstead, L.
Halsbury, E. Skelmersdale, L.
Hardinge, V. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Harlech, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Harmsworth, L. Stewartby, L.
Henley, L. Strange, B.
HolmPatrick, L. Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Hooper, B. Sudeley, L.
Howe, E. Teviot, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Torrington, V.
Inglewood, L. [Teller.] Trumpington, B.
Jenkin of Roding, L. Ullswater, V.
Kilmarnock, L. Vinson, L.
Kingsland, L. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Lauderdale, E. Wynford, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

6.42 p.m.

Clause 59 [Duty of certain bodies and persons to have regard to the purposes for which National Parks are designated]:

Lord Derwent

had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 255ZB: Page 65, line 21, leave out ("have regard to") and insert ("foster"). The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to Amendment No. 255ZB, which seeks to make the national park authorities foster, the economic and social well-being of local communities". I am grateful to those Members of the Committee who supported this compromise amendment. I am disappointed that the Minister did not feel able to support me, but we may not be so far apart. I am seeking to include in the Bill what is already in the guidance; that is, that the parks should work for all and with the local communities. I shall therefore return to the matter at Report stage having sought to find acceptable compromise wording in the meantime.

(Amendment No. 255ZB not moved.]

Viscount Addison

moved Amendment No. 255A: Page 65, line 23, at end insert ("in ways that are compatible with, or which further, the purposes specified in subsection (1) of section 5 of this Act."). The noble Viscount said: In moving Amendment No. 255A, I declare an interest as vice-president of the Council for National Parks. The amendment seeks to clarify the socio-economic duty of national park authorities so that it is carried out in ways that are compatible with or further the national park purposes. The amendment follows the wording recommended by the National Parks Review Panel which was concerned that its socio-economic duty was fulfilled, in such a way that the environmental quality of the Park is sustained and, where possible, enhanced". The amendment is, in shorthand, to make sure that development in the national parks is sustainable.

As presently drafted my feeling is that the clause contains an ambiguity and the amendment is intended to remove any trace of doubt about the relationship between the national park purposes and that duty. It says that a national park authority, in pursuing the purposes of conservation and recreation, shall have regard to the social and economic well-being of the park communities.

There is anxiety that that could mean, for instance, that in designating a local nature reserve the park authority must have regard to the local communities' social and economic interests. I hope that that is not the intention. Instead, my hope is that the Government intend Clause 59 to echo the National Parks Review Panel's view that, while the local economy is fundamental to the future of the parks, support for the economic activity should be seen as a means of achieving national park purposes rather than an end in itself". The panel attributed a supportive role to the national park authorities, helping bodies whose work already is to foster the social and economic interests of local communities. Those bodies include the Rural Development Commission, the Welsh Development Agency and local authorities. I therefore seek clarification to remove any ambiguity from Clause 59. I beg to move.

Baroness Nicol

I rise to support the amendment, to which I added my name. The national park purposes, redefined in the legislation, are the reasons for designating national parks in the first place. As I said on an earlier amendment, there is a difference between the reasons for designation and the role of the national park authorities. Clause 59 is a helpful clarification of the roles of the authorities, but I share the anxiety of the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, that it is not as precise as the National Parks Review Panel intended.

The panel said that giving the national park authorities a role in support of the appropriate agencies, which already have a socio-economic mission, would, provide a unique opportunity to bring together the aspirations of the local communities with the pursuance of park purposes, and to minimise the conflict between them". I am sure that the noble Earl, Lord Peel, is in favour of that wording. The kind of work the panel identified for the national park authorities was supporting the creation and maintenance of suitable employment opportunities, particularly where those opportunities contributed to the park purposes. It also said that the authorities could do more to assist the local authorities and others to provide low-cost homes for residents on low incomes—I saw a useful example of that in the North Yorks park, which did an excellent job in that regard—principally by the use of their planning powers. We have already seen other examples in addition to those in the North Yorks park. Therefore clarification of the role of the authorities as set out in Clause 59 is necessary.

Viscount Ullswater

As I informed the Committee during our discussion on Amendments Nos. 254, 254ZA, 254A, 255ZB, 255ZB and 260, we believe that the well-being of local communities is vital for the continued success of the national parks as living, working landscapes. The duty which we introduced in Clause 59 with respect to the economic and social needs of local communities underlines the importance which we attach to that issue. That duty will ensure that the new authorities take into account the economic and social well-being of their local communities as they carry out their functions and duties in pursuit of park purposes.

The establishment and functions of national park authorities will have effect for the purposes of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of their areas and promoting the understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities by the public. It will not be possible for the national park authorities to set aside those purposes as they consider the wellbeing of their local communities. Therefore, I would ask my noble friend to withdraw the amendment.

Viscount Addison

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, for her support. It is most important that the kind of development that takes place in the national parks is seen to be sustainable. The national parks cover 10 per cent. of the land area of England and Wales and provide a unique opportunity to act as test beds for environmentally friendly practices, enabling them to make an essential contribution to sustainable development. That is in the interests of the park communities, as it will sustain their vitality for future generations and it will protect the parks for the nation.

I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Ullswater for his reply. He has most helpfully clarified the Government's intention that the socio-economic duty should be carried out in such a way that it is compatible with or furthers the national park purposes.

Lord Vinson

The words "sustainable" and "sustainability" concern me in one context. The noble Viscount has made an appropriate reference to the fact that it is everyone's wish to sustain communities. But at the end of the day one sustains communities by sustaining their jobs. The words "help sustain employment", if written into the amendment, would give heart to the expression that those promoting the Bill really do want to have some concern for communities. As it stands, this could be yet another mechanism for tightening the screw on any form of employment activity that went for planning permission.

Lord Elton

I do not want to prolong the debate unnecessarily. However, I do not see the word "sustainable" in the amendment and I am slightly mystified by the last exchange. It seems to me that the words in the amendment are almost tautological in view of what is on the face of the Bill already and are merely saying, if one reads the Bill as it would then be, that an authority, in pursuing in relation to the National Park the purposes specified in subsection (1) of section 5 … shall have regard to the economic and social well-being of local communities within the National Park in ways that are compatible with, or which further, the purposes specified in subsection (1) of section 5". In other words, when it is doing something, it must do it. I think it is enough to say it once, is it not?

Viscount Addison

I thank noble Lords for their interventions. I was trying to point out that the duties were a cornerstone recommendation of the National Parks Review Panel and support the case that a third socio-economic purpose for national parks is not what was intended. I am concerned to see the legislation quite clear on this point. We may need to return to it. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 255B not moved.]

Lord Norrie

moved Amendment No. 256: Page 65, line 26, leave out ("have regard to") and insert ("further"). The noble Lord said: I made it clear at Second Reading that the subsection of Clause 59 which gives the duty to all public bodies in relation to national park purposes was to be welcomed. The fact that this duty covers all public bodies, with the wide definition given in the same clause, is certainly a step forward. The National Parks Review Panel, however, recommended that the duty should be to "further" national park purposes rather than simply to "have regard to" the purposes.

The Government had said that they were considering this legislation. I quote from the Government's 1992 policy statement on national parks: To place a duty on all government departments to further, as far as reasonably practicable, national park purposes in carrying out their functions in the parks". Yet what has emerged is somewhat weaker than that. The National Parks Review Panel report concluded that a duty of this nature was necessary because experience showed that sectoral policies within government had sometimes, worked against the purposes of national parks". They have rarely worked positively to help to achieve those purposes. A duty to further the purposes would provide a positive incentive to public bodies. I beg to move.

Baroness Nicol

I regret to have to say that I consider that there is evidence that government departments do not feel bound by the implication of the national park designation. The amendment would provide the incentive needed to ensure that national interest in national parks was given the consideration that government policy promises when other national interests are being weighed in the balance. A duty to "have regard to" was not what Edwards recommended and does not go far enough in giving the clear signal required. I support the amendment.

Viscount Addison

I support the amendment. The Government stated in their response to the National Parks Review Panel in 1992 that they afforded national parks the highest status of landscape protection. Therefore, it would seem consistent jf a duty were placed on all public bodies to further the national park purposes so far as their activities affect the park. The national park clauses in the Bill make it clear that the national park purposes are of overriding importance in the operation of the parks. It would therefore be consistent in the context of the Bill as well as with government policy on national parks that furthering the national park purposes should be an integral consideration in the activities of public bodies. That will enhance the level of protection afforded to national parks and ensure that the national responsibility for them is taken seriously by all public bodies.

Lord Wise

Section 2 of the Countryside Act 1968 already gives a duty to Ministers, government departments and public bodies to have regard to the desirability of conserving the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside. However, as has been stated, the National Parks Review Panel was quite clear that this obligation was not strong enough to enable all public bodies to pursue the national park purposes wherever they have power to do so.

It is possible that my noble friend the Minister is concerned that not all government departments would be able to further national park purposes because of the inherent conflict of their activities with the purposes. But the panel recognised that the duty would need to be interpreted with due regard to the primary objectives of the department concerned. However, the panel was confident that reconciliation could be achieved in some ways. For instance, if government departments were to have a duty to further national park purposes, that would influence at an early stage the environmental assessment process when considering options for a major project—a road or other development. This might encourage the consideration of traffic management schemes or water or energy conservation as alternatives to major new construction projects in national parks. The duty to further would also provide a positive incentive to public bodies to engage in environmentally friendly practices in a national park. That would enhance the role of national parks as test beds for environmentally sustainable practices which would have relevance to the wider countryside. Surely national parks are a national responsibility. I consider a duty on all public bodies to further national park purposes is both desirable and achievable. Therefore, I strongly support my noble friend's amendment.

Viscount Ullswater

The Bill introduces a new duty on public bodies which will require them to take into account national park purposes where their actions may affect the parks. In coming to decisions, we shall expect them to demonstrate that they have done so. What divides the Government from my noble friends is whether the words should be "have regard to" or "further". But this is a new duty placed on public bodies. I understand the importance which is placed upon national park purposes and the wish among some noble Lords that they should override any other activity which may have to take place in the parks. Nevertheless, I do not believe that Amendment No. 256 introduced by my noble friend Lord Norrie could be applied in practice. There are agencies which are required to undertake activities in the parks in order to provide services to park communities such as the supply of electricity or clean water.

The administration of a modern state is subject to many pressures, and decisions very frequently involve finding the best balance among differing, and sometimes downright conflicting, interests. Against that background, we consider that a duty to have regard to national park purposes is appropriate to the kind of balancing exercise which is so often needed. Indeed, the law requires that a wide range of decisions are taken having regard to all material considerations affecting them. Facilities such as new roads, housing and schools may be needed from time to time in or near national parks, as anywhere else, and real difficulties could arise if the authorities concerned were to be required to further the park purposes when taking decisions respecting them. We shall of course expect public bodies making relevant decisions to demonstrate that in coming to those decisions they have taken park purposes properly into account. With that explanation, I hope that my noble friend will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Norrie

It is clear that achieving the most positive attitude towards the national parks purposes from public bodies is vitally important. I believe that a duty to further that would provide the incentive. I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Ullswater for his reply. I appreciate that there may be many difficulties in applying that duty across all the categories of public bodies. But I am confident that a formula can be worked out at Report stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Lindsay

I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving this Motion I suggest that the Committee stage begins again at eight o'clock exactly.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.