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Lord Marlesford: I basically agree most with the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, who said that she thought the Government had more or less got the matter right. I believe that economic development and well-being are absolutely crucial to national parks. It is a question of

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how they should be achieved. I am not wholly happy that that has always been achieved. Perhaps I may take two broad examples of where it has been very successfully achieved. When the national park officer was Mr. Michael Dower, the Peak District National Park did achieve some remarkably good economical development which was wholly undamaging to the purposes of the park. Moreover, Dartmoor National Park, when under the administration of Mr. Ian Mercer, also worked very well. However, there have been other parks—perhaps including those which my noble friend Lord Peel has experience of—where the latter has not been wholly true.

I do not favour the amendment moved by my noble friend because I believe that it would take away certain abilities. The key of the success in the Peak District and in Dartmoor was the ability of the national park officer, supported and guided by his committee or whatever, to work with the other organisations such as the Rural Development Commission, tourist boards and so on. That is probably the right way to do it. But if I had to choose between the two, I would actually prefer the amendment tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord Derwent. I believe that the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Peel would go much too far, in that it proposes putting in such a provision as a fundamental leg in the stool for the national parks to depend upon.

Viscount Ullswater: I fully agree with the view expressed by many noble Lords, especially by my noble friends Lord Stanley and Lord Renton, that the well-being of local communities is vital for the continued success of the national parks as living, working landscapes. I believe that that underlies the thrust of Amendments Nos. 254 and 260 (although my noble friend did not speak to the latter) tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord Peel.

The duty that we have introduced in Clause 59 with respect to the economic and social needs of local communities underlines the importance which we attach to the issue. My noble friend is trying to put the provision in as a purpose of the park. However, as I have indicated, we believe that the duty should be in Clause 59. That duty will ensure that the new authorities will have to take into account the economic and social well-being of their local communities as they carry out their functions and duties in pursuit of park purposes. I believe that that is the correct balance between the purposes and the duties of the new authorities in respect of the economic and social well being of local communities.

Further, the new duty will ensure that the park authorities have to be seen to be taking those responsibilities seriously. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, asked whether Section 37 of the Countryside Act 1968 will apply to national park authorities. I am advised that it does so.

Amendments Nos. 254ZA and 255B, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, raise the issue of sustainable development. I do not think there is any question either about the Government's full hearted commitment to sustainable development as the cornerstone of our policies to reconcile the needs of

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economic development with those of environmental protection. The sustainable development strategy we published last January set out in detail the Government's plans and programmes to respond to the principles of the Rio Earth Summit. The lengthy debates during the first two day of Committee on the contribution the environment agency is to make to achieving sustainable development reaffirm this commitment. Sustainable development is an important issue not just for the parks but also for the rest of the countryside. The national parks are in a strong position to influence the way in which we care for our countryside and I have no doubt they will continue to be models for the sustainable management of the wider countryside and help to further our understanding and appreciation of the means by which development and conservation can be better balanced.

Lord Renton: Will my noble friend allow me to intervene? I have been trying to follow him. Is he saying that the general policy of sustainable development shall apply also in the national park, or that the national parks are a modification of it?

Viscount Ullswater: I am indicating that, in the way that national parks undertake their duties for their purposes, they will be having regard to sustainable development. It is important, I think, to go back to the first words that I used; that we fully agree that the well-being of the local communities is vital. It is in order to ensure the well-being of local communities that it is important to consider sustainable development.

I understand, of course, the thoughts behind the amendment of my noble friend Lord Derwent, echoed by my noble friend Lord Vinson, but we do not believe that national park authorities should themselves assume the role of promoting economic and social development. Amendment No. 255ZB does not help a great deal in this respect. The Oxford Dictionary defines "to foster" as,

    "to promote the growth or development of".

I appreciate my noble friend's wish to seek a slightly more active role for the new authorities, but there are already agencies, as the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, said, which are properly charged with the specific task of promoting economic and social development in rural areas. There is the Rural Development Commission in England. My noble friend Lord Vinson was its distinguished chairman for many years. There is the Welsh Development Agency and the Rural Development Board for Wales. The national park authorities will be expected to work in the closest co-operation with them. This is made clear in the draft circular which we issued on 31st January.

Among these amendments is Amendment No. 254A, in my name, which is of a minor and technical nature. The purpose of this amendment is to secure that the reference to the national park purposes in Section 6(4) (g) of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 is construed in accordance with Clause 58(4) of the Bill. I shall move that amendment in due course.

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I would therefore ask my noble friend to consider very carefully what I have said, and I hope he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: Before my noble friend sits down, I hope he can answer a question raised by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, who I felt said that, unless this provision was in this particular part of the Bill, the planning authority would not be able to take account of the matters raised by my noble friend. I do not know whether I interpreted the noble Earl right.

Viscount Ullswater: The national park authorities will of course be involved in all forms of strategic planning. They will be one of the authorities which will be taken into account when strategic plans are put forward to my right honourable friend. Therefore they will have devolved upon them many of the duties that other authorities have.

Lord Derwent: Before my noble friend sits down, it would help me greatly in deciding in due course what to do with my amendment if he would tell me what he considers "shall have regard to" means. Two national park officers have told me that they are quite unclear what it means. The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, and I think the Minister, have said that it means national park authorities have to work closely in co-operation with others. I think that is quite an exaggerated definition of the words "have regard to". While I am not necessarily wedded to the word "foster", one park officer said to me he thought it meant no more than that they should not work against the local communities. As my noble friend has been kind enough to give me one definition from the Oxford Dictionary, it would be helpful to have the definition of the term that is in the Bill.

5.45 p.m.

Viscount Ullswater: That may be rather more difficult. However, the term is used because it is a widely used term in legislation. Therefore it is the proper term to use in legislation. I have indicated that I believe my noble friend's term is wrong because it has the connotation of promotion. I sought to explain that I did not believe that the park authorities should have that duty. I felt there were other authorities —commissions, or whatever they are—who would have that duty. But they would need to keep in mind the concept of the economic and social well-being of the local communities when they are promoting the purposes in Clause 58.

Lord Vinson: Before my noble friend sits down, it may not be possible for him now to clarify the point, but there is real concern that, unless it is built more strongly into this Bill that there should be regard to foster, let us say, sustainable employment within the national parks, then the new national park authorities will effectively block, or could effectively block, all, even modest, forms of sensible development by saying that it is not really their duty and that their overriding consideration, if there is any conflict—as we read later on in the Bill—is to give,

    "greater weight to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty".

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The instructions are so contradictory that we want a clear indication from the Minister—if not now, certainly subsequently at Report stage of the Bill—that they will not (unless the Bill is modified) have the power to block sensible, job enhancing and job sustaining activity.

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