Purposes of National Parks

Part of Clause 60 – in the House of Commons at 8:15 pm on 28th June 1995.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish 8:15 pm, 28th June 1995

I am disappointed at the way in which the Government appear to be backing away from the issue. Everyone recognises that many noisy activities take place in the countryside, and I do not think that anyone who has been promoting the clause wants to stop them occurring. Some natural phenomena are pretty noisy. If one is a short distance from a waterfall, one can hardly hear oneself think. When lambs are separated from the ewes in the late summer, the noise of the animals calling to each other can be very loud indeed. A whole series of traditional customs, such as morris dancing, are noisy activities.

None of the organisations that support the insertion of the clause in the Bill objects to such activities. Those groups are not trying to get at motor sports or water-skiing. They make it absolutely clear that they recognise that such activities have gone on in many areas for a long time and that they do not want them to stop as a result of the legislation. They wish to emphasise the role and duty of national parks; they are concerned with promotion.

I hope that the Government will examine the issue again. When the legislation goes back to the House of Lords, I hope that the Government will not spend so much time worrying about defining "quiet", but will instead put more emphasis on the word "promote". According to my interpretation of the clause, national parks have a duty to encourage those activities which may be conducted quietly in the countryside. The national parks should promote, encourage and facilitate those activities. They should certainly not ban them. The Government can get out of the present difficulty by putting the emphasis on defining "promoting and encouraging" activities.

It will be very sad if the Government drop the clause. Some organisations are worried that certain activities may be banned rather than promoted, and there is a danger that, if the clause is excluded from the Bill, some people will ask the national parks to encourage noisy and disruptive activities. That would be a disastrous message to send to the community.

I plead with the Government, even at this late stage, to try to solve the problem. They should put the emphasis not on trying to define "quiet"—I understand the problems in that regard—but on defining the word "promote", which is what most people are concerned about. A primary duty of national parks should be encouraging the development of quiet enjoyment rather than being concerned with banning this or that. I do not believe that banning activities will work; we must achieve our aim through persuasion.

I believe that many people who are involved in noisy sports should look at ways of doing them more quietly. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) may laugh, but quieter boats have been developed for water skiing. It is in everyone's interest to look for ways to reduce noise levels. However, I do not believe that our efforts should lead to bans because bans do not work. Enjoyment of the countryside depends on people's willingness to obey the law, and if too many activities are banned, people will simply do them illegally. They will be forced to enjoy their activity in another area and the problem will simply be transferred.

I plead with the Government to try to sort out the problem and to put the emphasis on defining "promote" rather than "quiet". They must encourage the national parks to find ways to allow people to continue to enjoy activities in the countryside without causing noise and upsetting others.