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Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, it will come as no surprise to the noble Earl that we do not agree with the Commons in their amendment to the amendment passed on Division in your Lordships' House. The principle of quiet enjoyment has been strongly supported by all parties. Indeed, it was strongly supported on all sides of the Chamber when the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, moved his amendment. We supported attempts to clarify what "quiet enjoyment" meant in the context of national parks. However, in the end we decided that there was no substitute for case law when it came to interpreting what Parliament had decided.
After the publication of the Edwards Report, the Government made a commitment to the principle of park authorities promoting quiet enjoyment. That was the Government's response to the Edwards Report. It appears from what the Minister said that nothing has happened to detract from that principle. I understand that the Government remain committed to their response to the Edwards Report.
In another place during Committee, Members of all parties supported the principle. On Report, my right honourable and honourable friends tried to move an amendment, given that the Government were not happy with what your Lordships had approved on a Division. They fought hard for the retention of the words. Indeed, they were supported by many representations from all kinds of organisations and private individuals. Finally, it came down to whether there was a definition that was acceptable in statute as opposed to a phrase which would be interpreted in case law.
The Government wish to have in statute every conceivable dot and comma. Yet, we now have the position in which the Government, having accepted the Edwards Report and its conclusions on "quiet enjoyment", propose to put the measures into guidelines or guidance. I am wholly unclearand during the course of the afternoon other noble Lords have raised the problemas to what is the status of guidance or guidelines. Can they be challenged in either House of Parliament or in the courts? What is their status? If there are to be guidelines, I should prefer to have a simple phrase in the Bill such as "quiet enjoyment" and then to have that interpreted by the Government as to what they think it means. Indeed, in the light of Pepper v. Hart,
I cannot see, and nor can noble friends more learned than I, any case against that. At this last 11th hour and 59th minute, I ask the noble Earl to put on the record a very clear statement that the Government support the Edwards concept of quiet enjoymentthat even though there may be different words in the Bill, those words should be interpreted by the courts as an endorsement of the principle of "quiet enjoyment" as expressed by Edwards. If the noble Earl can do that, I am prepared to be satisfied.
Lord Norrie: My Lords, I very much endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Williams, said. However, perhaps I may return to what happened when we debated the Bill earlier this year. I was concerned that it did not reflect adequately the findings of the Edwards Committee because it did not clarify the forms of enjoyment which national park authorities should promote. Therefore, in Committee I moved an amendment to make it absolutely clear what should be the second purpose of national parks. To my delight, the amendment was accepted.
The amendment was based on the recommendations of the Edwards report and the subsequent policy statement by the Government to which my noble friend alluded. I wanted to ensure that the principle of park authorities promoting the quiet enjoyment of areas was set out clearly in statute. Since then, as the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Williams, have said, much debate has centred around the need for a definition of "quiet enjoyment". Although I am aware that technically a definition is not strictly necessary, I have supported the efforts of Ministers both in this House and another place to secure a definition so that there can be no misinterpretation of the recreational purpose of the parks. I was naturally disappointed that my amendment was reversed in another place due to difficulties in agreeing a suitable definition of "quiet enjoyment". I understand that that was due to reasons of technical drafting and does not represent a change of policy.
Therefore, I welcome warmly the Minister's commitment to include in detailed guidance how the Bill is to be interpreted. That should illustrate the kind of activities which national park authorities will be expected to promote. Although numerous organisations, and I myself, would be much happier to have the words "quiet enjoyment" on the face of the Bill, I hope that the Minister's words will reassure the House and those who live, work and take their recreation within the parks.
Last week I wrote to the Minister and requested him to reassure the House today that quiet enjoyment will remain a principle of national parks, as it has been since their creation almost 50 years ago. I hope that he will be able to reassure me that peacefulness and tranquillity are key special qualities of all national parks and that the types of activity which park authorities would be expected to promote should be only those which do not
Baroness Nicol: My Lords, I support the requests made by my noble friend on the Front Bench and the noble Lord, Lord Norrie. I am worried that the whole exercise of including the words "quiet enjoyment" and then taking them out again will have an unfortunate effect. Publicity has been given to the fact that those words have been removed and I am worried that that may give the wrong impression to many people about what is now to be permitted in national parks, more so than if the argument had not taken place at all.
There has been a kind of minor hysteria in the other place about the effect of the word "quiet", leaving aside for the moment the legal difficulties, which I believe have been overemphasised. The clause that we are talking about is concerned with what the authorities are actively required to promote. Therefore, it does not give them power to close down any existing activity as far as I can see. Therefore, a great deal of the fuss that has been made about putting an end to activities which now take place in the parks appears to me to be quite unnecessary.
As the Bill went through in its earlier stages, we dealt with the composition of the authorities. That composition will be very important in relation to the interpretation of what is now proposed by the Government. Later this evening we shall be discussing the proposed changes to the composition of those authorities. It seems to me that those changes will give us additional cause for concern when we look at them in the context of the removal of that phrase. I very much regret what has happened and hope that the Minister will reassure us.
Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, I welcome the removal of the word "quiet" from the Bill because it has caused a great deal of anxiety for a number of legitimate organisations which promote activities within the national parks.
I am a member of the Public Policy Committee of the RAC and I am concerned in particular about the RAC rally. Rallying and motor sports in general are very popular and in this country, we are extremely good at them. Indeed, those sports produce a great deal of revenue for the Exchequer, which I am sure will be welcomed by all noble Lords. But the fact is that two-thirds of the RAC rally takes place in national park areas and has done for many years, long before they were so designated in fact. To impose a duty on park authorities to promote quiet activity could put in serious doubt the continuation of the RAC rally, among other things.
It is all very well for noble Lords and others to say that the national park authorities have no intention of stopping the RAC rally. But otherswhat I might call the environmental puritans or zealotsmay take the
The same applies to sailing. Anxieties have been expressed by sailing interests. Sailing is a quiet activity, but if there is to be competitive dinghy racing on a lake in a park, there must be a motorised safety boat. There are those who wish to ban all motor boats from lakes in national parks. If the word "quiet" is included in the Bill, they could probably attempt to do so.
There are a great number of other activities which legitimately take place in the national parks which could not be described as quiet. I believe that the Bill as currently drafted is a great deal better.
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