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Lord Annaly: My Lords, the arguments have been stated very well from all sides of the House, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. As the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said, it is a question of balance. As a regular visitor to the national parks, which I love, I know many people who live in them and are custodians of them. The national parks were created in 1949 partly because they are in remote parts of the countryside where not many people live, and they are very beautiful. They would not amount to very much if a thriving community did not live in them. I do not think that the public would find much sustenance if there were only a few people living there, making a living out of them.

The balance, however it is achieved, is absolutely vital. I do not think that the amendment, which I support, does anything but try to achieve a better balance than at present.

Can the Minister confirm that the word "communities" in its legal sense embraces individuals and individual households such as those of upland farmers and others who live in the national parks?

Baroness Lockwood: My Lords, this is a very seductive amendment and the arguments that have been put forward in favour of it have also been very seductive.

None of us would disagree with the need to sustain local communities within the national parks. However, as the noble lord, Lord Marlesford, stated, the national parks were created in 1949 for an entirely different purpose. They were not created as development agencies to develop rural communities. It is essential that our rural communities are developed and that we should have the appropriate machinery for doing so; however, the national park machinery is not what is required.

The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, in his very seductive speech, talked about local people not being able to identify with the national parks authorities and that it was essential for the community to be able to do so. However, the national parks were not only created for the local communities; they were created for the nation, and the local communities are part of the parks. It is our duty as a Parliament to ensure that the local communities are well looked after but it should not be through the machinery of the Bill.

I hope that noble Lords and the Minister will adhere to the wording in the Bill.

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Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, as I have said previously to my noble friend Lord Vinson, we are all in agreement that the well-being of local communities is vital for the continued success of the national parks as living, working landscapes. My noble friend spoke warmly of the unpaid custodians and wardens. However, I accept that there is a feeling that the interests of local communities, and the contribution they make to the continued success of the parks, are not always given sufficient weight in the park authorities' deliberations. That that may be the case is a matter of regret.

The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and my noble friend Lord Annaly expressed their concern that the term "local communities" does not include farmers and managers in the parks who may not live in small towns, villages or hamlets in the parks. I am happy to assure noble Lords that we regard those people as very much a part of the park community, and that their specific interests are those to which the national park authorities will need to pay close attention, as they will for those who live within their settlements.

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 that issue. It 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. Furthermore, the new duty will ensure that the park authorities have to be seen to be taking those responsibilities seriously.

Lord Renton: My Lords, it is good of my noble friend to give way because this point is important. The words "shall have regard to", which are the words upon which he relies to fulfil the purpose which he is now describing, are somewhat ambiguous. At times they have been interpreted to mean a very specific duty, but at other times they have been regarded, as I said, in a purely negative way. How does my noble friend anticipate that those words will be interpreted and applied?

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, if my noble friend will contain himself for a moment, I shall go on to explain what I believe to be the right balance.

We do not believe that national park authorities should themselves assume the role of promoting economic and social development. A number of noble Lords have acknowledged that point this afternoon. In fact, I do not believe that anyone said that they should have that role. We all recognise that there are already agencies which are properly charged with the specific task of promoting economic and social development in rural areas—the Rural Development Commission in England (I am glad that we heard from my noble friend Lord Shuttleworth today); the Welsh Development Agency; and the Development Board for Rural Wales—and the national park authorities will be expected to work in the closest co-operation with them. That is made clear in the draft guidance which we issued shortly before the Committee stage. The noble Lord, Lord Williams, was right to indicate that the draft guidance gives us the opportunity to develop that.

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I acknowledge that, in tabling Amendment No. 180, my noble friends Lord Derwent and Lord Vinson, and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, do not wish to place the national park authorities in competition with those other agencies. What I believe they and other noble Lords are seeking is to reflect on the face of the Bill a means of encouraging a positive attitude—my noble friend Lord Renton called it making positive the obligation of "having regard to"; I think those were his sentiments, even if they were not his words—among the national park authorities towards their local communities.

My noble friend Lord Vinson indicated also that the Association of National Parks Officers supported his views. That is an important consideration. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, made an interesting point—that somehow sustainable development created a tension and that in some way the amendment would help to relieve the tension. I agree that sustainable development does impose a tension and that we should be working positively to resolve the matter.

If that is the intention of the amendment, I support it strongly. I recognise that the amendment draws on words in the draft guidance, but I should like the opportunity to look more closely at an appropriate wording for an amended Clause 59 which will achieve that purpose. I therefore ask my noble friend Lord Vinson to withdraw the amendment on the understanding that I undertake further to consider the issue and to bring back an amendment on Third Reading.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Vinson: My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for the wide support that the amendment has received and for the sensible and balanced comments that have come from all sides of the House. I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Marlesford was not in his seat when I moved the amendment as he would then have realised that we are trying to forge a sense of common purpose between the individuals on the ground—the individual park officers—and the people who live and work there. Only through engendering a sense of common purpose will we achieve the right atmosphere in the national parks and will the whole project really work. That being said, and with the positive assurance given by my noble friend the Minister, while at the same time reserving my position, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Addison moved Amendment No. 181:


Page 65, line 28, after ("to") insert ("and, wherever practicable, further").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the amendment addresses an issue of great importance. It is relevant to the debate on park communities that we have just had. Our national parks are not depopulated areas of state-owned land run single-handedly by national park departments of central government. As we have discussed, they are lived-in and worked-in communities. The land is in many hands, from tens of thousands of private individuals to a host of public bodies and utility companies. What happens in a park is influenced greatly by the activities and policies of many public bodies,

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with their various land management policies, development proposals, service charges and grants to the public.

The way in which those public bodies conduct themselves in the parks is therefore vital to making our lived-in and worked-in model of national parks work. That is why one of the most important recommendations in the Edwards Report was that public bodies should have a duty to further national park purposes in the exercise of their duties as they affect national parks.

In their response to the Edwards Report, the Government agreed to consider that point. In Committee, my noble friend the Minister agreed that public bodies should be expected to demonstrate that they have taken park purposes properly into account. However, he was concerned for the legitimate reason that it might not always be possible for them to further park purposes. The wording of the new amendment recognises that concern by using the words, "wherever practicable, further". I move this new amendment in the hope that the Government will find the new form of words helpful. I beg to move.


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