Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Ackner: Indeed, I was here from the very outset of the debate. I would not have dreamt of intervening if that had not been the case. So I both heard and, I believe, understood what the noble Lord said. I made a note of his three points. It is on his first point that I seek to address the Committee; namely, that one should seek to establish the principle. I submit that you do not establish any principle until you define what you mean by "quiet". The landlord and tenant aspect is important because it is a term of art which relates only to physical interference. It has no acoustic connotation at all. There has to be a physical interference. Most students, for obvious reasons, can recollect the case of the landlord who, after letting property, built a staircase, either intentionally or unintentionally, which passed the bedroom window of the tenant. That was held not to be a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment because it did not involve a physical interference. Is the principle to be that there is an obligation to make no noise, or only the noise which would be the subject matter of a successful action in nuisance—in which case one does not need the clause? Or is it to be specific activities—in which case I submit that the specific activities ought to be defined and stated, so that one knows exactly what one is dealing with?

Having listened carefully to the debate, I believe that the principle in question is essentially: Do you prohibit specific activities because their noise, where they destroy quiet, is so intrusive and unacceptable that it should be specified and prescribed?

Lord Renton: I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord for intervening. He saved me from inflicting upon the Committee a legal opinion on the matter. Perhaps I may just add a postscript to what he said. If in one statute words are used which have previously been used in a statute, those words are considered to have the same meaning as they had in the previous statute, unless the latest statute makes it clear that they have a different meaning.

Therefore, it would be most inappropriate to use the words "quiet enjoyment" without any kind of qualification. One should bear in mind that those words—I hope that my noble friend Lord Ullswater will be able to confirm it—have not been used in any previous legislation with the purpose of protecting the public at large from activities of other members of the public.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams, says, "Don't worry about the words; let's just go for the principle". But we are only at the Committee stage in the first of the two Houses of Parliament which will have to consider with great care this lengthy and detailed Bill. I should have thought that at this Committee stage, leaving aside the detail, and bearing in mind the amazing consensus that there has been so far on both sides of the Chamber, we should let the Government have our views as to the practicalities of the matter.

2 Feb 1995 : Column 1604

As I have dared to say that, perhaps I may now make a confession. Some years ago—I must say that it was 30 years ago—I went water skiing on Windermere. I do not know whether it is still allowed. But I enjoyed it very much, just as I have enjoyed water skiing elsewhere. Water skiing does not create the disturbance that some very noisy motor boats do. It does not create anything like the disturbance that some horrible motor cycles do; and, if I may dare add another sort of noise which I think should be put into the minds of the Government (I hope that all Members of the Committee will agree) there are some terrible pop concerts. We cannot stop them being held in some places; but I hope that they will not be held in national parks.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: I have a lot of sympathy with the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Norrie. I would not dream of tangling with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, other than to say that I thought his description of his problem with the words "quiet enjoyment" was wholly conclusive. I found myself persuaded.

We are faced with the general objective of trying to achieve a regime of what might be called people being able to enjoy peace and quiet in the national parks. But there is a difficulty in finding language to encourage that without making it impossible for other, perfectly legitimate pursuits to be followed in ways that do not intrude unreasonably on the enjoyment of that quiet by others. That is what we are after.

It may be that my noble friend's amendment does not achieve that aim. But certainly I would welcome some indication from my noble friend on the Front Bench that he sympathises with that general objective.

I should like to put to him two specific points. Some Members of the Committee may remember a debate a year or two ago on a proposal to implement an agreement about rights of way that had been reached between, on the one hand, the Ramblers' Association and, on the other side, the NFU and the Country Landowners' Association. There had been a long effort of conciliation between the two, chaired by a Member of another place (I believe that it was Mr. Alan Haselhurst) and an agreement was reached in the end which could be couched in regulations—or it may have been in a Private Member's Bill. I should have looked the matter up and I apologise to the Committee for not having done so.

On that occasion I remember thoroughly supporting the objective and said that the next matter to which I hoped the same process could be applied was finding a reconciliation between people who want to do noisy things in quiet places and those who do not. I particularly mentioned activities such as motorcycles and moto-cross and I may have mentioned micro-lights. When my noble friend comes to reply, I wonder whether he can shed any light on whether there has been any follow-up of what at the time seemed to me and to some other Members of this Chamber to have been a very valuable initiative.

My second point is a practical point. It is a question. A number of Members referred to the disturbance which may be caused in the course of military training.

2 Feb 1995 : Column 1605

Reference was made to low-flying aircraft. The military have access to substantial areas of national parks. For some time the Government have had a report, which they commissioned and which was prepared by the United Kingdom Centre for Economic and Environmental Development (UKCEED). The noble Lord, Lord Barber and I are both on the council of that body. If there is an interest to declare, I declare it. I can assure the Committee that it is not financial.

That report was prepared for UKCEED by an extremely able environmentalist, Dr. Susan Owens of Cambridge University. It was an immensely thorough examination of the use of defence lands, particularly in national parks. It seems to me—I may be wrong—that that report has disappeared without trace. I understand that it was delivered to the departments concerned and I wonder whether something of it could possibly be resurrected. Not necessarily this afternoon, but at some stage, perhaps we could have from the Government an indication as to how far they are prepared to respond to the recommendations in that report.

Those seem to me to be practical steps which might be taken to achieve my noble friend's objective of reconciling the different uses. At the heart of it, which is what we want to see—I was enormously impressed by the observations of the right reverend Prelate on this matter—is the spiritual element. There is a spiritual element in all this. People go to the countryside for recreation. What, in fact, does that word "recreation" mean? People go to the countryside to recharge their batteries, as it were, not just physically and mentally but also spiritually. I feel that that is what the Committee is grasping for.

I hope that my noble friend will be able to give us some comfort and not, as it were, just slam the door on this issue. We are looking for something here. Perhaps we have not defined carefully enough what it is and perhaps those words are not right; but that is what we are after. I hope that my noble friend will be able to help us.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Chorley: We should listen with great care to what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, said. We are after some sort of lead from the Government that somehow they will incorporate the spirit of the amendment into the legislation. I am sure also that we shall want to take note of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, and the noble Lord, Lord Renton said.

I put my name to the amendment in my capacity as chairman of the National Trust. After all, many of our members go to the national parks for just what we have been talking about, and the National Trust has huge land holdings in all the national parks. Around 100 million visits are made to the parks every year and it is vital that the legislation makes clear the recreational opportunities that the parks offer. Many visitors go to the parks to sit down and simply enjoy themselves. Three-quarters of the visitors are active and go for walks. The rest follow a wide range of sports on land,

2 Feb 1995 : Column 1606

water and even in the air, of which the quietest is now what is called "para-penting"—something I would like to have done in my day.

The Edwards Panel said,

    "the prime resource is still the landscape, with enjoyment derived from looking at the splendours of the scenery from the roads, paths and rivers".

What the overwhelming majority of visitors have in common—here I follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon —is that they often come from urban areas to visit the parks for spiritual refreshment, renewal and relaxation. They expect the parks to afford them opportunities for "quiet enjoyment", however we incorporate it into the legislation; after all, that was the original purpose of the designation. Those opportunities would be diminished for the overwhelming majority of visitors if the parks were about promoting opportunities for enjoyment of any kind of activity. It may be that we shall need to define them; I do not know. But we are trying to find a consensus somehow to incorporate the spirit of quietness into the legislation.

Noisy activities are increasing in the parks. Legislation must set up an enduring, logical, statutory framework that will stand the test of time, especially when it comes to changes in recreational technology—"recreational technology" sounds awful—which we cannot foresee today. The Government must take a long view. They must set the parks, with their new authorities, on the course of promoting enjoyment and understanding that will not interfere with the original intentions of those who worked so hard to set them up in the first place. I agree that ministerial guidance is not enough and we must have something in legislation.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page