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Clause 77—(Information Services To Be Provided By Commission)

Volume 467: debated on Tuesday 19 July 1949

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I beg to move, in page 57, line 37, to leave out "and."

This Amendment and the next two Amendments on the Order Paper could conveniently be taken together. They provide that the National Parks Commission may give to the public information about long-distance routes, as well as information about national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. This follows as a consequence of other Amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 57, line 38, after "beauty," insert:

"and long-distance routes for which proposals under section forty-nine of this Act have been approved."

In Page 57, In line 40, at end, insert:

"or persons wishing to use such routes."—[Mr. Silkin.]

I beg to move, in page 58, line 5, to leave out "to use," and to insert "that."

This Amendment and the next two Amendments could conveniently be taken together. They provide for the Commission taking such steps as appear to them expedient for securing publicity for the avoidance of damage by the public. In Committee the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) suggested—I think with the full agreement of the Committee—that it might be desirable in certain cases that the Commission should use some other body for the purpose of carrying out this publicity, and that it should be in a position to contribute towards their expenses. These Amendments make provision for that.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 58, line 5, after "publicity," insert "are used."

In Page 58, In line 13, at end, add:

"(3) For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that the steps mentioned in subsection (1) of this section include the making of contributions towards expenses incurred by other bodies of persons."—[Mr. Silkin.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I should like to ask for some explanation of this Clause. I think many hon. Members are not happy about certain parts of it, particularly that part which we have just amended, which refers to the need for publications for the purpose of preventing damage. On the other hand, we have seen rather an excess of Government publications of certain types. I saw one the other day about electricity. I should like the Minister to give us some idea how he intends to use this Clause. The public should be told what the right hon. Gentleman thinks and what sort of literature to expect. It would be interesting to know whether he will endeavour to see that the pamphlets issued—perhaps at 1s. or 6d.—are sold at roughly cost price.

I should like to add to what my hon. Friend has said by asking the Minister what he has in mind as suitable methods of publicity for encouraging a proper standard of behaviour on the part of persons in national parks and other areas. In particular, has he any programme for reducing the appalling mess caused by litter left by the public? I should like him to say whether he has in mind that it should be put down by a prosecution in suitable cases or whether, on the other hand, he proposes to employ wardens who, by sweet persuasion, will endeavour to persuade the public that freedom should not really include freedom to make a mess.

All these matters are very interesting, but they really fall outside the provisions of Clause 77, which deals only with the kind of publicity which the National Parks Commission shall carry out. When I am asked what the Commission will do, or how they will exercise their authority, those questions run counter to the whole of the discussion we had in Committee, where the burden of the case was that the Commission should be given the maximum amount of freedom. However, if I am asked what I have in mind in relation to the type of publicity, I would say, speaking as a townsman, that there is a good deal of ignorance on the part of townsmen about what constitutes damage to farming interests. I do not think that much of the damage is wilfully caused. The leaving open of gates, and so on, very often is due to the fact that the townsman does not appreciate the damage which might result.

One of the methods of publicity ought to be designed to inform the townsman in the simplest possible way what are the results of some of the conduct which is most complained of in the country. As the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) knows, there will be by-laws. He has studied the Bill. There will be bylaws and, I suppose, there might even be prosecutions. I hope not, because I do not believe that that is the right way in which to achieve the results which we all have in mind. The short answer to the questions which have been asked is that one must leave this task to the people in whose hands it has been put. I hope to set up a responsible body of National Parks Commissioners, and I think that they can be trusted to provide suitable forms of publicity.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the information he has given. A great part of this Bill applies to Scotland. This Clause will affect a new national park which is just coming into being in my constituency.

The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. It is coming into being. If he says that this Clause will not apply to that park, I must accept his words. I certainly think that Part VI of the Bill applies to it. Having that in mind, I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) said.

The right hon. Gentleman has now replied about the necessity of the National Parks Commission doing all in their power to inculcate in the townspeople who will be using these parks the idea that the right of using these beauty spots will also carry considerable duties in the way of good behaviour and of leaving them in the same condition as that in which they found them. We know that in the past there has not been proper education in this direction, and that in consequence many people who live in dreary surroundings quite thoughtlessly behave in an irresponsible way. It has not always been their fault, but, under the progressive régime—I am told it is progressive—of the Socialist Government and under this Bill, the general body of the public, whether living in town or country, will have to realise their obligations in that respect.

The right hon. Gentleman seemed rather querulous about some of the points put to him and said that they were matters for the Commission to decide. Of course, it is for the Commission to decide, but, since the right hon. Gentleman and this House are calling the Commission into being, the Minister must not take it out of place if we offer a few suggestions on how that Commission should proceed, and particularly in regard to standards of behaviour. The widest publicity should be given by pamphlet, which can be done moderately cheaply, drawing attention to the facilities which are being provided up and down the country for the town dwellers. Unless wide publicity is given, particularly applying to the national parks in some of the remote areas, I do not think advantage will be taken of them to the full extent that it should.

The Minister has suggested that the difficulties concerning damage and litter can be dealt with adequately by education of those concerned, but I do not know how he suggests that those concerned are to be reached in order to give them the necessary education, or by whom that education is to be given. Is he proposing that it should be given by his Department through the Press, for instance, or by notices in the schools, or in what way is it to be given? On the question of leaving gates open, while this may be very serious for the people concerned, it is very difficult to reach the people who offend in that direction in order to educate them so that they will not leave gates open.

There is also the question of expense involved in the measures to be taken to prevent litter, whether by the employment of guardians or curators or persons policing the areas.

4.45 p.m.

I am sorry if I went outside the Clause, Mr. Diamond, but I was certainly referring to matters to which the right hon. Gentleman himself had referred. On this question of information, I was asking who is to pay for the giving of such information and how it is to be given. Is it suggested that the cost should fall on the rates of the counties concerned, or is any cost incurred in giving information to be borne by the right hon. Gentleman's Department? It seems to me that this is a considerable question which ought to be answered. Under this Bill, a large number of people are to be introduced into areas where they have certainly never been before. The footpaths in my part of the country, and there are a great number of them, are purely local footpaths for the convenience of the local people. How is information about these paths to be conveyed to the people who may come into the locality from the towns in the future?

On a point of Order. May I draw your attention, Mr. Diamond, to line 5 on page 58 of the Bill, which makes it quite clear that this Clause deals not only with information as suggested in the title, but with methods of publicity for the prevention of damage and for good behaviour? In other words, it includes exhortation, advice and many other things besides information.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling), who has just put such an interesting point of Order, for helping me in a matter which I had noticed myself. I rose to express my great sorrow that the Minister did not answer one question, which should have been quite easy for him, whether the leaflets or pamphlets to be issued to people who may use these footpaths will be charged at approximately the cost price. This is a matter of considerable importance, and I asked the Minister in what way he wished to develop this suggestion. I was hoping that he would tell us that one of the things he will do is to get the Minister of Education to help to publicise these matters in the schools. That would have been the first thing which anyone really keen on this matter would have done, but the right hon. Gentleman did not do that and presumably had not thought of it. There are many ways which he could have told us concerning how this new body will use the schools for information purposes.

I also hope that he will use another body as well, and I refer to the military Services, which are sometimes very good and sometimes less good. We ought to have methods of publicity for our national parks in the Services on the lines of posters saying: "This beautiful park belongs to you; it is yours, but please do not despoil it in any way." There are many ways in which such publicity could be used, but we do not expect this Government to be practical, and it is only natural that it is left to a Tory hon. Member to lay down what a Government Department should do. [Interruption.] I hear one hon. Gentleman opposite muttering to himself. If he wishes to interrupt, I will give way. No? The hon. Gentleman says it is not worth it. If he does not think it is worth while being nice, I take the opposite view.

What I said was that I did not think it was worth while interrupting the hon. Gentleman, if he really wants to know what I said.

I must not follow that interruption. I am quite sure from the speeches which I heard that the hon. Gentleman would not make an interruption which was worth while replying to. I think a useful purpose has been served by this discussion on the encouragement of an extended use of these national parks and the necessity to preserve these properties which are so valuable from the nation's point of view. I am sure that a proper Government would do a great deal to instruct people through the education and other authorities. I am glad that at least some of us have thought the thing out, and I hope that the Minister will now consider the matter.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.