Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Redesdale: I agree with the noble Lord. The national parks put forward the view that military use of the training area was incompatible with national parks. That does not mean that they want to remove the Army from the training area. That is not their aim.

The military are only landholders. They hold the national park as a training area. If they reach the point where they no longer need it, it can be returned to the national park and used for other uses. There is no reason to suggest that because the Army do necessary work and the national parks are the only areas for training they should not be subject to the same planning laws as other landowners who live within the national park. I reject the amendment. However, I think that the argument over the AS90 will be with us for some time.

9 p.m.

Lord Lyell: In view of the quite justified indignation of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, I rise to speak in one of my only interventions on the Bill. I support strongly what was said by my noble friends Lord Annaly and Lord Vinson. Your Lordships will be appreciative of the fact that the Ministry of Defence takes a fairly harsh line with its employees in looking after all the training areas. I have some experience of the training areas, though not the Pembrokeshire one. I spent a month on Dartmoor doing what your Lordships may feel was crazy—desert training when there was three times the normal rainfall. That was 36 years ago. However, even then we were under considerable pressure not to make more mess than was necessary. We took great care of the roads. I know that that already happens in both the Redesdale and the Otterburn training areas.

As to the views of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, on the AS90, I do not believe that that gun will be fired from 200 yards each side of the A.68 main road and the habitations along that road. I shall be interested to hear

2 Feb 1995 : Column 1672

from my noble friend the objections to the training and other issues which I believe are met by both the MoD and by the views of the national parks.

Lord Redesdale: One of the proposed training areas is within a quarter of a mile of the A.68 and of habitations.

Baroness Nicol: We should remember that much of the land owned or occupied by the Ministry of Defence was secured long before national parks were designated. It was included within national park boundaries in the full knowledge that it was being used for military training. The national park areas were chosen because they were tracts of country which possessed natural beauty and because they afforded opportunities for open-air recreation regardless of ownership or use. Is the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Annaly, trying to suggest that something has changed in that?

I hope that this amendment will be rejected. For the many reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, about planning and so on, I believe that there are better ways of finding a solution than by taking this land out of the national parks. I have not looked at the maps with this in mind but if these tracts of land were to be taken out of national parks the integrity of the whole area would be destroyed so far as management is concerned. I am sure that there is a much better way of proceeding. There have been conflicts before over such matters. I am sure that this one, too, can be resolved.

Lord Vinson: Perhaps I may expand on the point I made earlier. This is a teasing amendment as much as anything. If the national park and its chairman and principal officers are not prepared to make some gesture that they will continue to live happily with the Army, which most of us would believe they should, we put forward the suggestion that the only way out of this dilemma is to remove the areas occupied by the Army from the national parks. That is the last thing that any of us wants to see but it is put forward to try to get some gesture of good will from those who speak for the new national park authorities. We hope that they will work closely with the Army and recognise that this country has real defence necessities.

Lord Norrie: I find myself in a rather precarious position because I served as an officer in the same regiment as the noble Lord, Lord Annaly, so I can understand his sentiments and those of the noble Lord, Lord Vinson. However, tonight I am wearing a different hat. I have to oppose the amendment which suggests that military training should be taken out of the national parks. The Government are committed to affording national parks the highest status of landscape protection. They are not selective in that commitment. The commitment relates to the land in all national parks, whatever the land use. The integrity of national parks has been given the highest importance ever since the parks were first designated. As has already been said, the Ministry of Defence owns or leases land in many of the national parks. In the Dartmoor, Northumberland and Pembrokeshire coast parks it owns or leases 16 per cent. of the total area. The removal from those parks of land which is used for military training would seriously

2 Feb 1995 : Column 1673

erode their natural beauty, integrity and the opportunities that they offer for enjoyment by the public.

The Ministry of Defence prides itself on its conservation record and it views itself as a good custodian of the national heritage that is contained within the boundaries of the national parks. It works closely with the park authorities to try to strike a balance between the national interest in national parks and the national interest in the defence of the realm. It has signed a declaration of commitment to national parks. In view of the Government's commitments to national parks, the drafting of the amendment seems to be completely against their intentions.

Lord Marlesford: I was relieved when my noble friend Lord Vinson told us that we need not take his proposal too seriously. This is really the kind of debate that one would expect after the third glass of port after dinner. The only serious point one should make is that it is perfectly reasonable for the Ministry of Defence to have to justify its continued use or extended use of the national parks as and when it requires to do so, just as it has to justify its use of public money to the Treasury. It is a perfectly healthy and sensible debate which has come to a serious and sensible conclusion. I do not doubt that there will be relatively happy co-existence between the two for many years to come. I doubt whether UDI is really the answer.

Viscount Ullswater: I know that concern has been expressed regarding military training in national parks. However, I believe that we are in danger of exaggerating both the scale of the issue and the degree to which it cannot be reconciled.

Military use of national parks accounts for only some 3 per cent. of the parks' total area of more than 3 million acres. Furthermore, as my noble friend Lord Vinson said, the facilities for military training provided by the parks are vital for our defence needs. Those cannot be dispensed with and could not easily be replicated elsewhere, which is the tone of what my noble friend Lord Norrie indicated. In any case, defence uses are an important contributor to the economy of some of the parks. In addition, MoD's record on conservation is good and public access is encouraged wherever possible, as I believe my noble friend Lord Onslow told the Committee.

I do not wish to comment on the military use of Otterburn in the Northumberland National Park. No formal proposals have yet been put forward and the MoD will in any event follow the planning procedures in putting forward its proposals. Furthermore, I reassure my noble friends Lord Annaly and Lord Vinson that the national park authorities have shown a pragmatic acceptance of the reality of the continuing military presence and the need to reconcile national security with the conservation of the parks' environment. In particular, they have pursued both nationally and individually the goal of improved dialogue and better liaison with the Ministry of Defence. I point to MoD's 1987 Declaration of Commitment to the national parks and the longstanding and active local liaison arrangements on Dartmoor in that respect.

2 Feb 1995 : Column 1674

I recognise that the defence estate must on occasions lie uneasily within the national parks. However, I do not accept that any conflicts produced are either so severe or so irreconcilable as to warrant the approach proposed by my noble friend's amendment. Therefore, I ask him to withdraw it.

Lord Annaly: I thank my noble friends Lord Vinson and Lord Onslow for their support and everyone else who has made a contribution to this short debate. It has aired the subject. I am not going to press the amendment. There is concern but if, as my noble friend Lord Marlesford said, people are sensible and see that there are two points of view, that is to be welcomed. There is some relevance to the amendment of my noble friend Lord Peel which we shall come to shortly as regards what comprises the national parks authorities and local representation thereon. Provided that happens I see that there will be some sense on the national parks authorities. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 7 [National Park authorities]:

[Amendment No. 258A had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Derwent moved Amendment No. 258AA:

Page 138, line 37, at end insert:
(" ( ) Principal councils shall have regard to the desirability of appointing to the National Park Authority councillors representing wards within the Park").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment in my name and that of the noble Earl, Lord Peel, I shall speak also to Amendment Nos. 258EA and 258EB which are also in my name. They are all concerned with trying to overcome what I call the "democratic deficit" which will exist because the national park authorities will not be directly elected by the voters who live in the park. There is no perfect way of doing that, but I believe that between them these three amendments will do much to make residents, of which I am one, feel that they have a real chance to influence a body which is going to affect their daily lives.

Difficulties arise because it is in practice going to be very difficult to ensure that the local authority members on the park authority represent the interests of people living in the park. Many of the councils which will be appointing members have the bulk of their population, and therefore the majority of their councillors, in areas outside the park. Even where that is not so, the need to take account of political balance may mean that councillors have to be appointed to the park authority who have very little interest in the concerns of the inhabitants. By way of demonstration of the problem which already exists, I understand that in Northumberland at present only one member of the present park authority lives within the 400 square miles of the park.

My Amendment No. 258AA recognises that for purely mathematical and practical reasons it would not be possible to insist that local authority members must represent wards within the park. I recognise that Paragraph 20 of the draft guidance specifically encourages the appointment of councillors who live in or represent wards in the park. However, it seems to me

2 Feb 1995 : Column 1675

that this is not a provision which governments will wish to vary from time to time and therefore it should be on the face of the Bill.

My Amendment No. 258EA recognises the fact that many councillors who do represent wards in the park will not be on the park authority. When park authorities are, as at present, nominally committees of county councils, it is quite easy for the full council to be informed. But now that park authorities are to be independent bodies it may be desirable to impose on them a duty to give an account of their stewardship to the principal councils. I do not have in mind that they should compile a special report. Under Paragraph 26 of the Minister's draft guidance they will already be preparing an annual report to the Secretary of State which can and should be made available to all members of the relevant councils. What I believe is required is a mechanism for formal discussion of this report with the principal councils.

My Amendment No. 258EB, which is the most important of the three, seeks to give a role on the face of the Bill to parish councils in England and community councils in Wales. I am not sure of the position in Wales, but in England the parish councils in most cases will be the only elected bodies whose areas lie wholly within national park boundaries and therefore the only people whose first priority will be the people who live, work and own land in the park. The matter is dealt with in paragraphs 16 and 17 of the draft guidance and I am grateful to the Minister for going a long way to meet the concerns expressed by your Lordships during the debates on the Norrie Bill.

However, parish councils appear in the guidance only as one of a list of bodies to be consulted. I think that that gets the emphasis wrong. I repeat that parish councils are the only democratically elected bodies lying wholly within the parks. They are part of democratic local government and there should be a formal mechanism for consulting them. They are therefore in a different category from the other bodies that have been mentioned.

The reason for wanting the amendment is that at present there is no mention of parish councils or community councils in the Bill as drafted. I believe that if ministerial guidance is to be effective, it should be tied to something in the Bill. Government policy is in favour of an enhanced role for parish councils and community councils in local government. That is what I hope to see in national parks.

I hope that the Minister will recognise the anxieties of park residents that they will have no adequate way of making their voices heard and feel able to accept all these amendments. All the ground covered is already in the guidance, but as these are not objectives that will vary from time to time and as it is not, therefore, desirable for the guidance to be amended from time to time, I feel that they should be on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Feversham: I am grateful for the fact that these amendments have been tabled because they give us a

2 Feb 1995 : Column 1676

chance to examine matters of detail which are not at present in the Bill but which it is intended should be dealt with by ministerial directives. As has been said, we have the comfort of the draft directions which were circulated by the department earlier this week. However, I start from the premise that there is far too much legislative detail resolved by ministerial directive—a view which I suspect is widely shared in this House and in another place by all who are not members of the Executive.

I agree in principle with Amendment No. 258AA. There may be a difficulty, however, in that where something is desirable and where,

    "Principal councils shall have regard to the desirability",

it may be better for that to be left to ministerial directive. Amendments Nos. 258EA and 258EB, on the other hand, actually legislate, stating that national parks "shall" do this or that. If this or that "shall" be done, in my view that ought to be incorporated in the Bill.

I have no quarrel with Amendment No. 258EA, but I propose to concentrate my support on Amendment No. 258EB. I shall make no bones about it. Parish councillors feel, have felt for some time and will, I have little doubt, go on feeling that they ought to have a seat at the table of their national park committee. The argument against that has always been that the parish councils in any given national park would never agree on a single representative to promote their multitudinous views. That is Premier Division claptrap. Parish councils find such representatives for all kinds of regional bodies without any difficulty whatsoever.

That battle was fought and lost last year during the passage of the Private Member's Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Norrie. I should add that we did not fight very hard owing not only to the fragility of Private Member's legislation and our great love for the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, and his dog Nat, but also to the fact that we have even greater love for our national parks and an overriding desire to rescue them from that mess of potage otherwise known as "local government reorganisation". What was gained then, however, was a recognition by the Government and all involved that something should be done to improve the lines of communication between local councils and the national parks. There seems to be a consensus on that. Why not incorporate it into the Bill?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page