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Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, the whole question of pollution from abandoned mines exercised us at great length at earlier stages of the Bill. We regret profoundly that the Government have not imposed a statutory duty on the Coal Authority to deal with minewater pollution. One cannot expect of course at this late stage to amend the Bill to include that, but we would be grateful if a clear statement could be made as to what action the Coal Authority is expected to take in relation to minewater pollution.

As recently as April this year, the chief executive of the Coal Authority, Neville Washington, said that the Coal Authority was not responsible for water that emerges from the pits. Nevertheless, during its passage through this House and the other place, we were given assurances by the then Ministers that the Coal Authority would be expected to go beyond the minimum standards of environmental responsibility which are set by its legal duties. That was a vague statement which was not wholly reassuring at the time, but it did at least suggest that the Coal Authority had some responsibility for pollution of water from mines that were already closed. In view of the chief executive's recent statement, the extent to which we were reassured has now been considerably undermined.

Another member of the Coal Authority, the director of contracts, Albert Schofield, said in May—even more recently—that the Bill was not clear in assigning

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responsibility for minewater pollution from abandoned coalmines to the Coal Authority. We would be grateful if the Minister could clarify whether the Coal Authority is responsible; who will deal with polluted water that arises from mines that have been closed; and who is responsible for continuing the pumping of mines that have been closed.

This a serious matter. There are rivers in the north east which are already seeing pollution from many of the coalmines which have been abandoned or closed there. Unless there is a clear assignment of responsibility, public concern will continue to grow and we will continue to see rivers which are affected by heavy metal and other poisons seeping out of closed coalmines. I should be grateful if the Minister could reassure us further as to what are the responsibilities of the Coal Authority or whether the Government will be picking up the tag if the Coal Authority is not responsible.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I join with the noble Baroness in asking for some clarification in this area. We have already spent a great deal of time on this issue and it seems to be an area where the Government have fudged the issue to a great degree. It is far from clear where the responsibility lies. There are dangers that there will be great pollution into the future, and it will be difficult to find out how to cope with it. I add the thanks of myself, my noble friend Lord Ezra and other noble Lords who put forward the amendment relating to advertising in local newspapers. That was worthwhile. I am grateful to them for doing so.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who supported the amendment that I had the privilege of moving. I include the noble Lord, Lord Williams, who I think suspected me of being half-hearted on the second part of it, regarding the date of 1999 but I was not. I thank the Government for graciously accepting your Lordships' wishes and for adding the small technical amendment.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley for having been good enough to express his thanks that we should have accepted the amendment which your Lordships passed, and which we have considered and thought appropriate to address, and adjust so as to improve it. It is an example of how, when your Lordships feel that something is important your Lordships do, on occasions—as some say—put the bit between your Lordships' teeth and pass an amendment which is sometimes not the wish of the Government. On consideration, it is often shown that your Lordships are correct. On this occasion your Lordships were correct, and we were able to amend the amendment to make it more appropriate to the Bill as a whole.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, thought that we had fudged the issue. I do not think that we did fudge it. Of course it is not an easy issue with which to deal. I believe that we have come to the right conclusion. Time alone will show whether that is so. I am grateful to him for his appreciation of the amendment with regard to advertising in local

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newspapers. That is a good thing to do, and I am grateful to him for having drawn it to our attention in the first place.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, was worried about the Coal Authority, abandoned coalmines, and so forth. We have to realise that we must put in place arrangements to deal with the essential pollution prevention work which was formerly carried out by British Coal, particularly pumping at certain sites in Durham, notwithstanding that there was no statutory requirement for that work. We must then initiate a dialogue between the authority and the water regulators on the priorities for any other such work by the authority. In general, the authority is the owner of the abandoned coal mines throughout Great Britain. It has the responsibility which goes with that ownership. That responsibility will continue and it will be that of the Coal Authority.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

5 p.m.

COMMONS AMENDMENTS


126Clause 58, page 68, line 29, leave out 'quiet enjoyment and understanding' and insert 'understanding and enjoyment'.
127Clause 62, page 74, line 24, leave out from 'heritage' to end of line 25 and insert 'of National Parks and of promoting opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of those Parks by the public).'.
128Clause 66, page 80, line 47, leave out from 'heritage' to end of line 49 and insert 'of National Parks and of promoting opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of those Parks by the public).'.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 126 to 128 en bloc. Much has been said in this House and in another place about the second national park purpose and what it means for the future management of the parks. I understand the importance which has been attached to the concept of the national parks as places to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Indeed, we recognised their importance in this respect in our 1992 policy statement on the future of the parks.

I know that our policy statement indicated a willingness to consider the term "quiet enjoyment". However, in drafting the clauses which were to be introduced as part of this Bill, we gave long and careful consideration to the meaning of this phrase and the consequences of its use for all those, and especially the national park authorities, who would need to interpret it on a daily basis. We became convinced that to enshrine this phrase in statute would raise more difficulties than it would solve. Most of the issues that have been raised during the passage of this Bill with regard to "quiet enjoyment" became obvious to us during the drafting process. Your Lordships considered that "quiet enjoyment" was a better and more appropriate phrase than "enjoyment" and in Committee your Lordships moved that the word "quiet" should be included in the Bill.

We have now had time to consider the matter in detail. While I understand the reasons for including the word "quiet", it is considered to be almost impossible

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to enforce in a court of law. One would ask—and I can see my noble friend Lord Peyton enjoying doing so—"What is quiet and what is noisy? Is sailing to be permitted but not power boat sailing? If power boat sailing is noisy, is an outboard motor noisy?". The difficulty of interpretation would be almost endless.

Some supporters of "quiet enjoyment" have put forward the view that the Bill, as your Lordships amended it, does no more than ensure that there is an emphasis on promoting opportunities for "quiet enjoyment". They claim that the inclusion of the word "quiet" could not be used to justify the exclusion of other activities which may be noisy. They also say that national park authorities will not be prevented from continuing to promote opportunities for activities which are not "quiet". Very many, who have made their position clear to Ministers, dispute these propositions. They claim the reverse; that the inclusion of the word "quiet" must imply a presumption against a whole range of recreational activities, many of which have traditionally been carried on in the parks and, indeed, can often be seen as part of the local culture and character but may not be quiet.

After a great deal of thought and deliberation, we have concluded that the term "quiet enjoyment" could be more serious and potentially detrimental to the future of the parks than the supporters of the phrase realise. Furthermore, your Lordships will be aware that the Government considered such an amendment in another place. My noble friend Lord Barber and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, also introduced amendments but none of them commanded universal support. Nor did we believe that any of them solved the difficulties which arise with "quiet enjoyment". We do not believe that the second national park purpose can be resolved by further clarificatory amendments. We have therefore concluded, and another place has agreed, that it would be preferable to return to the wording which the Government introduced in the Bill. That wording was drafted after very careful consideration.

In returning the second national park purpose to its original form, we shall make clear in revised draft guidelines that there is a variety of ways in which the parks can be enjoyed and that the national park authorities should continue to promote the widest range of opportunities for recreation. I want to make it clear that we continue fully to respect the conservation values which the parks represent and which have led to so many appreciating the qualities which they seek to reflect in the phrase "quiet enjoyment". It will certainly not be appropriate for all forms of recreation to take place in every part of the parks. Large areas of the parks will, and should, continue to be quietly enjoyed for much of the time.

It will be the responsibility of the national park authorities to strike a balance between the legitimate demands to use all the opportunities which the parks afford for recreation and the equally legitimate desires of those who wish to enjoy only their beauty and tranquillity. National park authorities will continue to be able to promote activities which are most appropriate to the particular circumstances of their parks. I do not doubt that they will wish to place emphasis on "quiet"

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activities; but they must also ensure that the parks continue to accommodate a wide range of recreational opportunities.

In striking this balance, the national parks will, in those rare cases where there is a conflict between the conservation and recreation purposes of the parks which cannot be reconciled, be guided by the Sandford principle that the first purpose takes precedence. That is now set out in Clause 59 of the Bill.

I hope that despite and even because of all the discussions on this difficult subject your Lordships will agree that the new wording of the Bill as agreed by another place should be incorporated.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 126 to 128.—(Earl Ferrers.)


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