Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

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.

2 Feb 1995 : Column 1597

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.

2 Feb 1995 : Column 1598

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

2 Feb 1995 : Column 1599

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.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page