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New Clause—(National Trust Land)

Volume 467: debated on Tuesday 19 July 1949

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No power conferred by Part V or Part VI of this Act to acquire land compulsorily shall be exercisable in respect of land belonging to the National Trust which is held by the Trust inalienably.—[ Mr. Silkin.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

It might assist the House if I explained as clearly as I can the effect of this new Clause and what will be the position of inalienable lands held by the National Trust. They will remain subject to public path orders, orders for diversion, for closure of public paths and access orders. Those can be dealt with in the ordinary way. They will also be subject to compulsory purchase in respect of land required for accommodation, refreshments, meals, camping and so on, but not of land required in connection with the improvement of water ways and the provision of nature reserves. But, in the case of nature reserves there is the provision in Clause 18 which requires, first, that an attempt should be made to ensure that there is agreement. In the case of compulsory purchase, the National Trust will have the benefit of the Special Parliamentary Procedure. The Clause protects inalienable land from compulsory purchase for the purposes of access under Part V of the Bill and any of the purposes set out in Part VI of the Bill.

The House will see that I have made an attempt to meet the views of the National Trust in recognising their special position. Having carefully studied the many discussions we had in Committee, I think the real burden of the complaint against the proposals as far as the National Trust was concerned was that to make no mention of the special position of the National Trust in regard to inalienable land might affect the position of donors. I doubt whether it was ever seriously contended that the National Trust was in any danger as a result of the provisions of the Bill; it was really a question of prestige and status. I think that I have met that consideration by providing the National Trust with a Clause specially exempting their inalienable land from compulsory purchase in respect of two important Parts of this. Bill.

For the reasons which I gave in Committee, I feel that I cannot go further. There may quite reasonably be differences of opinion about the location of public paths or of land required for diversion of a public path or for access orders; there may equally be differences of opinion as to whether land belonging to the National Trust is suitable and essential for the purpose of providing some of the facilities which local authorities are under this Bill required to provide. I think that this new Clause is a reasonable compromise, and I hope that the House will accept it as such.

Perhaps because for many years I have served on the Executive Committee of the National Trust I troubled the Minister as much as anybody on this point in Committee. I share his view that, in view of the discussion we had in Committee, it would be inappropriate to have much discussion now. The Minister has not gone the whole way I asked him to go, but he has gone some of the way. I am sure that in thus going some of the way to meet us he has acted wisely and in the public interest. Not many days ago I had the pleasure of thanking the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a recognition, in this year's Finance Bill, of the work of the National Trust. It is appropriate that we should have a corresponding, or nearly corresponding, recognition of its valuable work in the Clause which is now before us, and I thank the Minister for having gone thus far. I hope that the House will welcome the new Clause.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

I am afraid that the next four new Clauses which appear on the Order Paper all impose, or might impose, a charge, and are therefore out of Order. [(Welsh Parks Commission), (Signposts), (Compensation to statutory water undertakers) and (Width of public rights of way)].