Purposes of National Parks

Part of Clause 60 – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 28th June 1995.

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Photo of Mrs Anne Campbell Mrs Anne Campbell , Cambridge 8:30 pm, 28th June 1995

There is considerable interest in this issue in all parts of the House and passions have been aroused as a result. By trying to remove the words "quiet enjoyment" from the clause the Government are sending the worst possible message to the outside world about their intentions. The Bill was amended in the Lords, where the words "quiet enjoyment" were introduced. There was a long debate in Committee on the issue, during which the Minister defended the use of those words. Government vacillation at this stage will give rise to total bewilderment among people outside about what exactly is going on.

In Committee, the Minister gave an undertaking to clarify the meaning of "quiet enjoyment". As my hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) said, when the Secretary of State addressed the national parks conference only a month ago in May, he confirmed the Government's commitment to the promotion of quiet enjoyment. He said he was optimistic that a solution could be found to enable the words to remain in the Bill.

I can understand the Government changing tack when they change Prime Minister, which is what they may do in the next few weeks, but to change tack when there is no change of Prime Minister or Secretary of State is totally peculiar. Many people will find it strange.

We are debating not just physical recreation but spiritual refreshment and renewal in national parks. That needs peace and quiet, and the reason it has aroused such passion is that, for many of us who lead turbulent and busy lives, going to national parks and being able to enjoy a quiet activity is appreciated and valued. National parks are about promoting activities that cause no lasting environmental damage and do not intrude on the quiet enjoyment of others.

The examples quoted by hon. Members of people objecting to perfectly reasonable activities could surely be circumvented by a reasonable definition of quiet enjoyment. There must be ways to define what a reasonable person would regard as quiet activity. The examples quoted in Committee of groups of noisy ramblers laughing and shouting would not be seen as objectionable by a reasonable person. Someone who objects to a farmer whistling to his dogs is not a reasonable person. Such examples are spurious, and do not present a true picture of what the majority of people want.

8.45 pm

As I said in an intervention, the promotion of quiet enjoyment is not equivalent to a ban on any activity in national parks. The speeches of some hon. Members have supposed that the words "quiet enjoyment" would give rise to a ban on activities that people find enjoyable and which do not cause undue disturbance to others. It is important that the words "promotion" and "regulation" should not be confused in the way that they are being confused by Conservative Members. We are not debating a ban on field sports or on shooting, although I would certainly vote to ban fox hunting, hare coursing and deer stalking if I had the opportunity to do so. However, in this debate I am not being given that opportunity.