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Earl Peel: I, too, wish to support my noble friend. It strikes me that this is a sensible and helpful amendment. I am sure that the Government will argue about where one draws the line as regards consultees. However, as my noble friend so eloquently said, we are talking about one of the main advisers to the Government on conservation purposes and, as he has quite rightly said, that is a primary purpose within this Bill as regards the national park authorities. The experience of English Nature within SSSIs is quite clear. Its obligations as regards the European habitat designations —for example, SPAs, SACs and so on—are such that it will be an integral part of the whole national park scene. I think to eliminate it from the consultee process would be a retrograde step. I hope that my noble friend will take seriously what my noble friend Lord Cranbrook has suggested.

Viscount Ullswater: The national park authorities will be expected to work in particularly close co-operation with the Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales. These bodies have an association with the parks as the successor bodies to the National Parks Commission which goes back to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. They were given statutory duties in respect of the national park boundary designation and variation procedures set out in the 1949 Act which are unchanged by this Bill.

Amendment No. 258DA moved by my noble friend Lord Cranbrook deals with the Secretary of State's appointments to the new authorities. The Secretary of State's members on the national park authorities are appointed to represent the wider national interests for which the parks are designated. We appreciate that there is a great deal of interest in the Secretary of State's appointments to the new authorities and we seek and encourage nominations from a wide range of organisations with an interest in the parks. English Nature is, of course, one of those bodies from which we would welcome nominations. We will take active steps to ensure that it is invited to do so.

There is no evidence that the Secretary of State's interests are not well served by the advice the Countryside Commission offers, nor is there any evidence that nature conservation interests are not well represented among his appointees. Some 30 per cent. of the current appointees to the English national park boards and committees have nature conservation interests.

The practical difficulties of two organisations seeking information about the potential candidates for appointment and the burden that that could place on the nominees have also to be taken into consideration. English Nature and the Countryside Commission are themselves developing closer links and partnerships. Perhaps my noble friend's aspirations could best be met through this arrangement, whereby the Countryside Commission would feel free to consult English Nature where it felt that there was an advantage in doing so.

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My noble friend Lord Cranbrook also expressed his firm view that English Nature should also be given special recognition with respect to the management plans of the new authorities. However, the particular skills and expertise which English Nature brings to the parks is already formally recognised. In October 1993, the national park authorities, the Broads Authority, English Nature and the two countryside agencies signed an agreement which specifically recognised the importance of the very close working arrangements between the park authorities and English Nature. This applies not only to the preparation and revision of management plans but also to every aspect of the parks' work which has implications for wildlife.

I also would like to draw my noble friend's attention to the draft circular, and more particularly to paragraph 13 of that draft circular. I have no doubt that there will continue to be close working when the new authorities replace the existing boards and committees and so I do not believe there is anything to be gained by the proposed amendment.

The national park authorities will, I am sure, take seriously their responsibilities to consult widely and seek the views of interested agencies and organisations. They will build on the foundations which the existing national park boards and committees have laid in this respect. They will no doubt pay particular attention to their consultation arrangements in the light of the revised national park purposes. I do not believe that my noble friend's amendment is needed to ensure that the new authorities will exercise their responsibilities properly.

I hope that that reassures my noble friend and that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

The Earl of Cranbrook: With respect, I felt that it was symptomatic that my noble friend the Minister also harked back to 1949 and the perfectly satisfactory arrangements which have worked hitherto. He referred to the agreement. It is not a statutory agreement but it is one which has been negotiated. It illustrates the way in which English Nature likes to work. We have negotiated similar agreements with a number of bodies such as the National Trust, the Forestry Commission and so on. They are a very useful way of working. However, they do not give me the same confidence as would the statutory emplacement of English Nature within the Bill in the way I have requested.

I shall take the matter away with some regret and have another look at it. I may write to the Minister again and try to persuade him that what I propose will achieve the objectives. He says that he has no doubts. I too have no doubts. However, I would have greater reassurance if there were statutory backing to achieve the same objectives for which the Minister has declared his own aspirations. For the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 61 [General purposes and powers]:

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 258E:

Page 67, line 19 leave out from first ("of") to end of line 20 and insert ("conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage, and promoting opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment by the public of the special qualities, of National Parks).").

The noble Viscount said: I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 258ZB. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 61, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 8 agreed to.

Clause 62 [National Park Management Plans]:

[Amendments Nos. 258EX to 258EZ not moved.]

Clause 62 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 258EA and 258EB not moved.]

Clauses 63 and 64 agreed to.

Clause 65 [Planning authority functions under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981]:

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 258F:

Page 73, line 26, leave out ("61(1) of the Environment Act 1995."") and insert ("5(1) of the 1949 Act (purposes of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage, and promoting opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment by the public of the special qualities, of National Parks)."").

The noble Viscount said: I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 258ZB. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 65, as amended, agreed to.

9.45 p.m.

Baroness Stedman moved Amendment No. 259:

After Clause 65, insert the following new clause:


.—(1) Each National Park Authority shall include in its definitive map as required by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 as amended, information distinguishing as accessible or otherwise particular features represented in that map.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) above the Secretary of State may, after such consultation as he sees fit, by regulations prescribe—
(a) as features, the accessibility or otherwise of which shall be recorded in a definitive map, particular rights of way and facilities or structures making provision for particular purposes;
(b) characteristics the presence of which in relation to such features shall be deemed to render those features accessible to people in spite of any motor or sensory disability;
(c) the colour in which any features so deemed to be accessible shall be recorded in the definitive map.
(3) Each National Park Authority shall make available all information recorded for the time being in its definitive map in the form prescribed under subsection (2) above to the Ordnance Survey for publication and shall provide that information also to the Copyright Libraries.").

The noble Baroness said: I was encouraged to table the amendment because it seemed to me that at a time when the Government were introducing both the

2 Feb 1995 : Column 1684

Environment Bill and the Disability Discrimination Bill in the same Session a new clause such as the one I suggest was unlikely to provoke outright opposition from the Government and they might even be encouraged to accept the principle behind it.

The purpose of the amendment is to secure that Ordnance Survey maps derived from the statutory definitive maps of the national parks will in future show as accessible or otherwise features which will be important to visitors to the parks who have either motor or sensory disabilities.

If acceptable to the Government, my proposed new clause would allow access to the heritage of our national parks by an enlarged population of several million people. The Office of Population, Census and Surveys suggest that some 6.2 million adults in the United Kingdom have material disabilities. All those people, and more, could have better access if the information they require is presented in the form of a single series of Ordnance Survey maps for any customer—the able bodied and the disabled alike.

I understand that there is at present a legal requirement on national park authorities and committees to prepare and keep under revision the definitive maps of their areas showing, in particular, the rights of way within their boundaries. Thus, my suggestion would not require any new expenditure on the provision of access but merely a record of the extent of access already provided.

The amendment would extend the knowledge of that provision and widen considerably the field of its potential users—those 6.2 million adults to whom I referred. In return, they would represent recruits to the market for services within the national parks. The provision of access and the necessary publicity about it could reap a return in economic as well as in social terms.

There would be little or no cost to Ordnance Survey in providing material to a widened market for its leisure series, and it would not require any new series. For over two centuries Ordnance Survey has developed the language of cartographic symbols and how to apply them. My proposal would involve no change in that area. Acceptance of the principle underlying the amendment would continue and enlarge the theme of access to the countryside. It would also continue the theme of integration of able-bodied and disabled persons in society—something with which I have had active involvement for many years through my association with PHAB, and TRIPSCOPE, which provides all necessary information for the disabled on travel throughout the United Kingdom and abroad. I believe that what I suggest would bring a positive economic return both to the Ordnance Survey and to local trade.

I envisage the consultations referred to in subsection (2) of my amendment as being about successive stages in a positive process of delivering something newly beneficial to people with disabilities and implying at the same time a corresponding extension of potential markets.

The DoE, I am sure, would have the good sense to consult at national and at local level with organisations representing disabled persons, while the national parks

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would consult local and locally represented organisations with like interests. The All-Party Disablement Group and RADAR could be consulted, but the clause does not limit those whom the Secretary of State might involve in discussions.

After consultations, the regulations to be made would relate to the national parks' definitive maps identifying the physical features of the environment including rights of way, facilities and structures. The regulations would also specify in relation to each category so identified physical characteristics, the presence of which is to be regarded as providing accessibility—such facilities as reserved parking spaces, telephones with handsets and dials at wheelchair height, or equipped for users of hearing aids, counters at information centres on a level with wheelchair users, graphic explanations at viewpoints at a height which people can see from a wheelchair, and descriptions of visible features that might be available on tape or cast in Braille.

The final subsection of my amendment is in relation to the derivation of the OS maps from the national parks authorities' definitive maps where the regulations would specify a distinctive colour in which the existing conventional symbols for such features are printed where they are so identified as being accessible.

I know that the Minister will give careful consideration to the points I have raised. It is only a probing amendment at this stage. I accept that the noble Viscount may have to tell me that my drafting is defective. However, I hope that he will be willing to accept the thinking behind the proposed clause and that perhaps during the passage of the Bill he will consult with me and others concerned as to how best to achieve the purpose of the clause. If, after all that, the noble Viscount sees fit to bring forward an amendment of his own, I should be only too happy. I beg to move.

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