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Maps Of National Parks

Volume 77: debated on Friday 26 April 1985

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I beg to move amendment No. 9, in page 4, line 39, at end insert—

'(2A) In subsection (1)(b), for the words from "at" to "year)," there shall be substituted "at intervals of not more than five years".'.

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 12.

This pair of amendments relates to the timetable governing the preparation and review of the maps which the national park authorities would be required to produce under section 43 of the 1981 Act as amended by clause 3.

Under the terms of the Government amendment accepted in Committee, the clause extends the scope of the maps to other areas in addition to moor and heath and requires that they be prepared and reviewed in line with guidelines issued by the Countryside Commission after consultation.

At present the clause carries forward the requirements of section 43 for the maps to be prepared within two years of commencement and reviewed at 12-monthly intervals thereafter. It would be more sensible to extend that timetable, bearing in mind that national park authorities are effectively prevented from starting work on their maps until the Countryside Commission has issued its guidelines, and that both the initial preparation and the subsequent reviews are subject to public consultation. Accordingly, the amendments have provided for the two-year period of initial preparation to begin from the date when the Commission's guidelines are issued.

The amendments will have the added advantage of substantially reducing the call on the resources of the national park authorities by providing that subsequent reviews should be carried out at intervals of not less than five years after publication of the maps rather than annually. That will mesh in with statutory arrangements governing the review of the national park plans as laid down in schedule 17 to the Local Government Act 1972. The amendment has the support of the national park authorities, the Countryside Commission and the Council for National Parks.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move amendment No. 10, in page 5, line 16, at end insert—

'(ID) At least six months before such consultation takes place the Commission shall have prepared a list of the bodies it proposes to consult and shall have such list available for public inspection. '.

With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 11, in page 5, line 16 at end insert—

'(1E) Any body not included in the consultation exercise outlined above may apply to be consulted and such application shall be considered.'.

Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 relate to clause 3 and seek to clarify the situation relating to consultation by the Countryside Commission.

1.45 pm

Under clause 3, the proposed new subsection (1B) says that
"The Countryside Commission shall issue guidelines …and may from time to time revise any guidelines so issued." Subsection (1C) says that

"Before issuing or revising any guidelines the Commission shall consult such bodies as appear to them to represent interests concerned".
The two amendments have been tabled to suggest to the House, and in particular to the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark), that the Bill is unusually elastic and generous towards any concern, whether public or private. There should be a little more public accountability. There should be a little more of the spirit of open government on the part of the Countryside Commission. The question of whom it consults and does not consult in arrivng at decisions is of critical importance. I have every confidence in the Countryside Commission, but there should be provisions of the sort that I have included in the amendments to show how the consultation process is carried out.

Obviously, before the Countryside Commission acts, certain bodies will be consulted, such as the local branch of the Ramblers' Association, the local CLA and the local NFU, but there might be certain other bodies which feel they have a right to express an opinion—perhaps an historic right of which the Countryside Commission might not be aware. I do not think that it is right that matters should be left entirely to the discretion of the Countryside Commission and its officers, however excellent they may be, and indeed are.

I hope that the Minister will respond positively. There are many bodies which would want to be consulted. The amendment has a good deal of support, particularly from the less nationally-based bodies. There have been errors in the past. The Forestry Commission, for example, has failed to consult adequately on its document on broadleaves in Britain. I hope that the Minister, even if he says that today is not the time and place to do it, will bear the amendment in mind. Perhaps his Department will bring something forward in the other place so that the sense of the amendments can be accepted before the Bill becomes law.

I appreciate the desire of my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) to ensure that all interested bodies have an opportunity to press their case for inclusion in the consultations for which the clause provides, but I believe that the objectives can be achieved without a statutory provision on the lines suggested.

There are two quite separate consultation processes involved. The first concerns the consultations which the Countryside Commission is required to undertake before issuing or revising the guidelines for which it is responsible under the clause. The second concerns the consultations which individual national park authorities are required to undertake before preparing or revising the maps for which they are responsible.

The first of my hon. Friend's amendments relates only to the consultations by the Countryside Commission. It would effectively delay the issue of the guidelines, and thus the commencement of the map-making process, perhaps for six months or so. We do not believe that the amendment would serve a useful purpose.

I have no doubt that it will be the Countryside Commission's intention to consult all the main bodies likely to have an interest in the guidelines. If any of them are doubtful about the likelihood of their inclusion, they have only to register their interests with the Commission to be considered as consultees. Perhaps that assurance will help the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes).

If any hon. Members have any organisations in mind, I shall be happy to pass their names to the Countryside Commission to ensure that they are not missed.

Similarly, I am sure that the national park authorities will consider any approaches they may receive from bodies wishing to be consulted on the maps.

I am entirely with my hon. Friend in his concern to ensure that there is wide and open consultation, but I am not convinced of the need to have a statutory provision of the sort proposed to ensure that consultation takes place.

One is always inclined to think that if one speaks a little longer one might get a different reply from the Minister. However, I am impressed with what my hon. Friend has said and I hope that he will look at any evidence that I produce of malpractices or injustices.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: No. 12, page 5, in line 22 leave out from 'date' to end of line 23 and insert

'of issue of the first guidelines under subsection (1B).'.—[Mr. Waldegrave.]