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 Nick Ainger Nick Ainger , Pembroke 8:30 pm, 28th June 1995

The Minister intervenes from a sedentary position. I point out to him that my hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) has already referred to the fact that the Secretary of State gave assurances to the national parks conference on this very issue. It is no wonder that the national park officer from Pembrokeshire writes in those terms.

The letter continues: As legislation on National Park matters is by the very nature of their priority infrequent, we are anxious that the Environment Bill should not create problems, but should rather learn from past experiences and resolve them. The recent debates over what type of enjoyment we should positively promote (and this in no way prevents…other forms of enjoyment taking place, or necessarily infers that we have to stop noisy activities) was I thought accepted on all sides. Those are the words of a Pembrokeshire Coast national park officer and they reflect the grave disappointment that the professionals working in the national parks, who have been promoting enjoyment and understanding for many years, feel as a result of the Government's treatment of them. The Government have promised one thing one month, have changed it the next and then changed it again.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) said, the issue is not quiet enjoyment but the promotion element. Conservative Members seem to believe that there will be a noise Gestapo tramping the moors, cliffs, paths and byways of our national parks, carrying sound meters and shutting people down. That is utter nonsense and Conservative Members know that.

My national park has within it the Castlemartin tank range which regularly blasts away throughout the summer, spring and autumn. It is not the British Army but the German army that is firing there. That does not cause a problem other than to the odd person who, understandably, complains. We have quarries within Pembrokeshire Coast national park which, again, blast away as and when. Nobody proposes that we should shut down the quarries.

I was interested in the comments by the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) about what had happened on Lake Windermere. Within Pembrokeshire Coast national park, we have the Cleddau waterway; both banks of it are national park. We had problems there and the national park, with the port authority, set up, after a great deal of consultation with boat owners and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a series of byelaws which were accepted. That took a year or so of consultation, but it worked. In certain areas of that waterway, which is much used for water sports, jet bikes and water-skiing are banned. In other areas, there is a 5 mph limit.

It is possible to have quiet enjoyment yet still have what some would term noisy activities. It just takes sensible consultation. One often has to be patient but, in the end, everybody comes round and knows what is going on—as long as it is properly policed, as the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale said. It can be done. There is no threat to the tourism industry if proper byelaws are properly arrived at through proper consultation and are properly policed.

Amendment No. 267 is not new. The wording is basically copied from a previous amendment in another place. Bearing in mind that several Conservative Members have referred to counsel's opinion in relation to "quiet enjoyment", I would like the Minister to tell us whether those words have been subjected to counsel's opinion.