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Clause 92—(Power To Authorise Other Local Authorities To Act In Place Of Local Planning Authority)

Volume 467: debated on Tuesday 19 July 1949

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I beg to move, in page 68, line 46, after "authority," to insert: "after consultation, in the case of a National Park, with the Commission."

I think it might be for the general convenience of the House to deal with all these Amendments to Clause 92 together. They are Amendments to which the standing committee on National Parks attach considerable importance. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling), who has particularly studied this subject, and the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeffington-Lodge) do not appear to be here.

Well why—I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that I nearly yielded to the temptation to address my hon. Friend. Had I seen him there nothing would have induced me to move this Amendment in his place. However, he will be able to supplement anything I omit. The matter which troubles those who have given thought to this subject is that, in all these powers of delegation given by Clause 92, no mention is made of the National Parks Commission, which seems to be very much concerned when we are dealing with land in national parks. The delegating authority is an authority on which there are persons nominated by the Minister after consultation with the Commission, but the authority to which the powers are delegated is not in that position. The Minister had every intention, at one point, of amending this Clause on the lines that we now suggest. When my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham sought to amend Clause 7 in Standing Committee, the Minister said that was not the proper place, but held out every hope of introducing an appropriate Amendment himself in what was then Clause 84, now numbered 92. It is true that when that Clause was reached in Committee the Minister had indicated that he had changed his mind, but I do not think there was sufficient reason for his change of mind.

One of the reasons on which he justifies the Clause as it stands is that it is only designed to deal with exceptional cases. He may call our attention to the words in line 41, page 68, "in any particular case," but those are not satisfactory words of limitation. There is no case that cannot be dealt with under those words. In the course of his argument at one stage, in the Standing Committee, the Minister said that he did not wish the Commission to be worried by trifles, or words to that effect, and he gave the example of an invitation by the planning authority to a neighbouring county borough to build and pay for a hostel, and suggested that it might be mainly used by visitors from the borough and so would properly be a responsibility of that borough.

11.15 p.m.

But if the House will think of that case in a little more detail, they will see that permanent considerations of the greatest importance to the park are involved. The exact position of the hostel, its size, what is likely to be the effect of the decision about its size on the possible increased traffic on the road, possibly even an attempt to have the road widened—these and many other important planning considerations may be involved. Bearing these matters in mind, it is impossible for anyone to say that the Commission are not intimately concerned in this matter. That covers clearly the first two of these Amendments, which seek to insert on page 68, line 46, after "authority"
"after consultation, in the case of a National Park, with the Commission,"
and on page 69, line 5, after "authority"
"and in the case of a National Park with the Commission."
These seem to me to be eminently reasonable Amendments and the Minister might grant them without injuring any cause which he has in mind at all.

The other question is the effect of arrangements already made under Section 34 of the Act of 1947. I suggest that where there has been a delegation of planning functions in connection with a National Park, that should come up for consideration by the Minister and should not be automatically continued. If the Minister, after consultation with the Commission, finds that that delegation is in order, of course, he can enable it to be continued by new regulations, but it certainly should come up for consideration. There should be no automatic continuance of delegation which has taken place before there was any National Park or any opportunity of consulting the Commission.

I beg to second the Amendment.

I did rise in an attempt to forestall my hon. and learned Friend in moving the Amendment. I am very glad I was not successful in catching your eye, be- cause my hon. and learned Friend has moved it much more efficiently than I could have done, and I cannot add very much to what he has said. In Committee I thought I had half persuaded the Minister of the merits of these points, and I am sorry to think that the subsequent correspondence I had with him should have dissuaded him from giving us any of them. The Minister has more than once declared himself to be a Commission man. He pooh-poohed any idea that he was trying to minimise the position of the National Parks Commission. I do not think that either the first two Amendments, which deal particularly with consultation with the Commission, or the second two, really amount to very much more than putting upon the Minister the duty to co-operate with the Commission. I think these are very reasonable provisions and I hope even now the Minister will agree to accept the Amendments either in this form or in some other form which he may introduce in another place.

The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) and the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) have put a cogent case, and I think it would be difficult to argue that there was nothing in what they have said. Indeed, I am sure my right hon. Friend thinks there is quite a lot, and I start by admitting that straight away. I think it would be true to say that this series of Amendments really falls into two. First, there is the demand that existing delegation schemes should be automatically terminated on the confirmation of a park order, and be replaced by others. That is the effect. I think that we ought to bear in mind that these delegation schemes were entered into under an Act recently passed, and that they have, in most cases, been recently confirmed by the Minister, and are, in fact, working well.

We do not want a local authority controlling an area to think that, because that area has become a national park, they are to be deprived of all their powers. I do not think that if that impression got abroad it would be helpful to the national parks, or to the National Parks Commission itself. I think that there we may legitimately draw a distinction between schemes already arranged and working, and those which might have been entered into in the future.

Before I leave the older schemes, I would add that the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities gave an example, or had in mind, a borough where the planning powers were apparently being used badly, or might be used badly. He suggested that they might erect a form of structure which was not wanted in a national park. If that were to happen we must, I think, assume that the National Parks Commission would very quickly be aware of it. The Commission would make its views known to my right hon. Friend. There is no delegation scheme which is not terminable, and I have no doubt that in such circumstances my right hon. Friend would terminate such a scheme.

We come now to the second part of the effects of the Amendments, that the National Parks Commission should be consulted before the park authority delegate any powers under this Bill, or under the Act of 1947, in accordance with the terms of Clause 92. In the future this is a different issue, and there is, I think, great strength in what has been argued tonight. My right hon. Friend authorises me to say that he will have regard to that. While we do not want to accept any of these Amendments, because of the words in which they are enshrined, we do accept the principle in them, and we shall find suitable words, at a future stage, to meet the second half of these Amendments.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for what he has said. I think that there may be further arguments to address to him even on the matters where he has not bound himself to give further consideration. Having regard to what the hon. Gentleman has said, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.