Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, I should be very grateful if my noble friend the Minister, when he comes to reply, would say a little more about the phrase "significant expenditure", which several noble Lords have criticised. What does it mean? Is it a figure that varies in accordance with the size and means of the organisation incurring it, or is it an absolute figure?

Indeed, I should be very grateful if my noble friend would remind me whether it is an expression that is used in any other statute and therefore whether it has been construed by the courts.

Lord Renton: My Lords, before my noble friend sits down perhaps he will allow me to say a few words. As a former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, he could perhaps say whether whatever expenditure is incurred by the national parks authority must be limited by the Vote on account which is received from Parliament.

Lord Wise: My Lords, of the two amendments under discussion, I support that of my noble friend Lord Addison. We all agree, and indeed it cannot be disputed, that the economic and social-well being of the local communities is of great importance if national parks are to continue to be successful. The national park authorities can and indeed should play an important role in helping to foster the social and economic well-being of the communities. However, I feel that there is a danger that, if they are given an unqualified duty to do so, there will be a grey area. Where does conservation duty end and the economic duty begin; and which takes precedence?

20 Mar 1995 : Column 1072

In the same way as national park authorities must give priority to conservation over recreation, I feel that a qualification is needed to ensure that national park authorities will not seek to further their socio-economic duty over their conservation duty. The amendment of my noble friend Lord Addison makes that clear. It ensures that the duty on national park authorities will not take precedence over the conservation and recreation purposes of the national park designation.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I supported the amendment of my noble friend Lord Vinson on the previous occasion at Report stage and I welcomed the Government's amendment.

With regard to Amendment No. 34—the amendment of my noble friend Lord Addison—quite frankly, I do not believe that it adds anything to the situation. It is largely a drafting matter. My noble friend Lord Derwent was quite right when he said that the first line of Amendment No. 34 is not necessary, bearing in mind what will be left in the Bill and the previous legislation of the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. I hope that my noble friends and other noble Lords who support Amendment No. 34 will be reassured by that and not find it necessary to press it.

With regard to the Government's amendment, I was against the words "have regard to" when they were originally in the Bill. I said that they could have a purely negative effect. But the word "foster" has a positive effect and that is why we should work on it.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, said that it is wrong that environmental agencies should "have regard to" and national parks should be required to foster. With the greatest respect, I do not agree with him; there is a difference. The environment agencies have a general supervisory responsibility of a national character. On the other hand, the national park authorities, in spite of having the word "national" in the name, have more specific responsibilities of a local character in specific areas of the country. They are quite different and therefore the wording should be different. I believe that the Government have it right.

Lord Vinson: My Lords, I waited to rise until just before my noble friend the Minister speaks to say how much I welcome this clause. It is an inelegant clause, as was pointed out, but it goes some way, though perhaps not far enough, to meet the anxieties raised earlier. They are anxieties shared by all of us in this House: that it is necessary to signal that the new park authority must have a duty to care about those who live and work within the national parks. The aim of the amendment is to help to create a sense of common purpose, and for that reason it is good to see it welcomed by park officers. They are clearly people who have their feet on the ground. They recognise that without such a clause the parks simply will not work out.

I hope that Amendment No. 34 will not be pressed. Amendment No. 33 needs the wholehearted support of the campaign for national parks. One sometimes feels that the people behind that campaign are such single-issue people that they sit on their little green cloud nine above it all. I do not doubt their sincerity; but it seems to me that they do not understand, as the

20 Mar 1995 : Column 1073

park officers do, that down below is the real world of wardens and hill farmers—the unpaid custodians—who have to get on together in order to make the system work. Without their co-operation the parks cannot and will not work and relationships become fraught and difficult.

I welcome the clause because it goes some way, though perhaps not far enough, towards building those working relationships. Without it I fear that a sense of common purpose will not be engendered. We can all share the hope that this clause will help to make the position clearer and on it will be built the subsequent success of the parks that we want to see.

6.45 p.m.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, I am glad that the government amendment was welcomed by my noble friend Lord Vinson and those who spoke to his amendment at Report stage. I am sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, did not feel that it fulfilled his expectations, but at least we seem to have travelled in the right direction, for which comments I am grateful.

I want to make quite clear something which I believe to be worrying noble Lords. The duty under Amendment No. 33 is constrained by the requirement to fulfil it in pursuing national park purposes, and for that reason we consider Amendment No. 34 to be unnecessary. The establishment and functions of national park authorities will have effect for the purposes of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of wildlife and cultural heritage of their areas and promoting their enjoyment.

I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, that it will not be possible for the national park authorities to set aside those purposes as they consider the well-being of their local communities. I believe that my noble friend Lord Derwent was quite right in what he said. Also, the guidance which we issued in draft in January will make that clear. I hope therefore that that offers reassurance to the supporters of Amendment No. 34 and I ask my noble friend not to press it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, and my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked what was meant by the phrase, "without incurring significant expenditure". The revised duty does not constrain any other of the national park authorities' powers to aid local interests which they may achieve, for example, through giving grants or entering into management agreements; but it makes clear that in respect of the duty to,

    "seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities",

they must not offer direct financial support. That restriction is a proper one to ensure that the financial resources of the national park authorities remain focused on those purposes for which the parks were created.

My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked for the second time today whether the words used had been precedented in legislation. To my knowledge they have not been used before in statute. However, they identify particularly what the duties of the national park authorities will be in the future.

20 Mar 1995 : Column 1074

I appreciate particularly the need to maintain the prosperity of those local communities on which the conservation of the parks so strongly depends. My noble friend Lord Marlesford, though not liking the amendment, stressed the importance of the people living and working in the parks, about which we heard on every occasion when this matter was debated. That is something we all want to make certain continues.

I understand and sympathise with the feeling that some park committees and boards fail to place sufficient weight on the views and interests of local people in formulating park plans or reaching decisions on park business or take sufficient care to explain why specific decisions are taken. I regret that that may be the case, and we are determined that the Bill should create the conditions to prevent it happening in the future.

I am glad to be able to stress to my noble friend Lord Renton that we note what he said in relation to the words "having regard" perhaps having a negative influence. By this amendment we are trying to turn it round and make it a positive duty, with the caveat I explained earlier.

The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, mentioned the role of the park authorities in planning and in formulating their policies, preparing their structure and local plans and in development control decisions. National park authorities will be required to have regard to social and economic considerations. We shall expect them to recognise the opportunities presented by small businesses and other activities for the continued well-being of their areas. In formulating those policies, the national park authorities will be expected to work closely with those promotional agencies, fully consult them and take their views into account.

It is for those reasons that we tabled Amendment No. 33. It will ensure that the anxieties expressed are properly reflected in the Bill and that from the outset the national park authorities are set on a path of a proper and positive view of the interests of their local communities. I commend the amendment to the House.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page