§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Second Reading debate resumed.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, perhaps we might now return to the Countryside (Scotland) Bill, and I should like to start by thanking the noble Lord for having taken us through this long Bill in such an enlightening—I said "enlightening", and not "lightning"—fashion. I think he has illuminated some of the rather more obscure corners in it in the course of so doing. He may rest assured that the principles of what the Government are trying to do will, as he said, not be in dispute.
This is a Bill which has been a long time on the stocks, as I remember even from my own time in the Scottish Office. Maybe it is all the better for that. Certainly, as the noble Lord said, it is much better for the two conferences, held in 1963 and 1965, and, above all, for the work of Study Group No. 9 whose Report I have here, submitted in 1965. I have one grumble. The Bill was mentioned in the gracious Speech; it breaks new ground for Scotland, from both the legislative and the administrative points of view; and in these circumstances one cannot but regret that it is brought forward so late in this unusually lone Session.
This Bill is essentially about people. It is about their enjoyment of the countryside. It is not only about people alive 1159 to-day; it concerns future generations and their enjoyment. It is for them, as well as for us, that the scenic beauty of Scotland must be preserved and enhanced, and that her unique opportunities for outdoor recreation must be developed and made available to the ever-growing numbers, both from within and outside Scotland, who want to enjoy them in the various ways that appeal to them.
Those who know an area well know what they can do and whom to contact before doing it. I have been surprised at the number of visitors to Scotland who complain that they do not know what they may do, and who feel that they are unduly restricted. This has never been my experience, but it emphasises the need for information. Whatever the laws of trespass may be, Scotland is a land of freedom; and in so far as the Bill will extend that sense of freedom it is greatly to be welcomed, provided, of course, that the freedom is exercised with responsibility and respect for the rights of others.
The problem, as I see it, is to prevent the countryside from being spoiled, either by misuse or by lack of resources. However anxious owners and occupiers may be to maintain their property in good order, whether they are private individuals or public bodies, they will inevitably be discouraged unless it is treated with respect, and unless there is adequate co-operation and consultation between the various interests—owners and users and public bodies alike. Why is it that the Bill lays no duty on the public authorities to consult the private interests? Is that not rather a bad start? Take again the matter of "open country". What is open country is left to the judgment of the authorities, subject only to what is defined as "excepted land" in Clause 11(5). I should have thought that the opposite of "open country" is "closed country" or "enclosured land". But all livestock-rearing land is excluded from "excepted land", including enclosures, although it is impossible to raise livestock without enclosures. I hope the Government will look at this again.
In my view, the main problems involved under the Bill will be, first of all, orderly access to open land and the reconciliation of various uses and various rights; secondly, the preservation and de 1160 velopment of the countryside; thirdly, finance; fourthly, communications, in the sense of consultation and information—this will be extremely important. Many of the places of greatest beauty are situated in areas where local authorities have little to spend either on staff or works. According to Study Group No. 9, in the Highlands as a whole there are only 20 people to the square mile, and in the rest of rural Scotland only about one-ninth of the population per square mile in the central belt. That means that the rural areas alone cannot possibly afford to pay for the services needed. Therefore substantial help is needed. The Bill proposes grants not exceeding 75 per cent. This is to be welcomed, and in some cases—for example, Country Parks—it may be enough, or more than enough, to meet the needs or urban communities. But in the remoter areas it is not too much and may prove inadequate.
The next problem is, as always, that of priorities: to decide not only what needs to be done, but in what order. In view of the modest funds to be made available, this is particularly important. To advise or decide on all this plainly needs, as the Study Group put it,a central agency to determine countryside standards and policy, to recommend grants to other authorities and to carry out with its own executive arm those projects which cannot be handled by existing agencies.That central agency is to be the Countryside Commission and, as the noble Lord said, or at any rate implied, if I may put it in my own way, to start with it will be a bailie without a bailiwick.
This bailiwick—the countryside—is to be mapped out by the Secretary of State in consultation with the Commission and the local planning authorities concerned, and defined—with luck—within a year.
One thing the noble Lord did not say was what happens if it is not possible to complete the job within a year. I hope that at least as much as possible will be defined in that time, and if it is I would assume that in those areas in which it is defined the maps will take over from the temporary arrangements provided for in the Bill. The results of this mapping are to be available for inspection by the public as a consequence of an Amendment made to the Bill in 1161 deference to the wishes of the Opposition in another place. Within its bailiwick the Commission is to exercise the functions—which means both powers and duties—for theprovision development, improvement of facilities for the enjoyment of the Scottish countryside and for the conservation and enhancement of its natural beauty and amenity".The noble Lord said that he hoped these would not conflict, and indeed I hope they will not. But what is striking is that, according to the Explanatory Memorandum, all this has to be done within a budget of £400,000 a year, plus the local authorities' expenditure—say, £500,000 in all a year.
I should like to refer briefly to what I regard as the outstanding powers of the Countryside Commission. First of all, there are those in Clause 5 to try out new schemes to serve as models; secondly, to advise the Secretary of State on the exercise of his powers in areas of special planning control; thirdly, to prepare and submit to him plans for long-distance routes, including ferries, accommodation and eating-places along them, and to advise on local planning authorities' schemes for public foot-paths or bridleways. There is a point on that matter on which I should like to ask a question. According to the Bill, the Countryside Commission is merely to put up proposals. I should like the noble Lord to confirm that the implementation of those proposals will rest with local planning authorities in all cases and will not rest upon the Countryside Commission. I think that is in line with what he said: that the executive powers of the Commission will be confined to exceptional cases in certain areas.
The fourth power which I should mention is the power to make grants and loans, with the Secretary of State's or the Treasury's consent, to the National Trust and also to persons other than public bodies. The fifth power is to educate and inform people in the proper use of and behaviour in the countryside. The sixth power is to establish, promote or assist in the establishment of committees and other appropriate bodies—in other words, to bring interested parties, both public and private, together to co 1162 ordinate measures in the different areas of Scotland or for special functions.
The noble Lord said something about areas of special planning control. What the Study Group said about this matter, in paragraph 37 of their Report, was this:Previous attempts to do regional planning by means of advisory joint committees of local authorities have demonstrated the degree of local rivalry which can still exist in connection with the settlement of industrial or residential projects and there is nothing to suggest that this would be less in connection with countryside or recreational projects. Indeed it has to be recorded that there is nothing in that past experience, anywhere in Britain, to suggest that such an arrangement would work.Accordingly, I was a little surprised to hear the noble Lord say that there was room now for some relaxation, even in the National Park areas, I took him to say, and, indeed, in the other areas which may be recommended by the Commission. As the Study Group put it, "Existing powers and authorities could not handle such measures"—meaning the measures which they consider necessary to preserve and develop these areas. If there is going to be a single co-ordinating authority, presumably that authority will have to be the Commission and, as I read the Bill, this was the intention. I was therefore surprised at what the noble Lord had to say on this point. I wondered whether the Commission or the Secretary of State would co-ordinate the activities in these areas. I hope that he will be able to say something about that matter.
I turn now to the question of access; and much of the Bill is taken up with the matter of access to the open country. The Bill enables agreements to be made, with the approval of the Secretary of State, with any person having an interest in the land, including those having sporting or fishing rights, to allow people to go, as of right, on open country for the sole purpose of open-air recreation, provided they do no damage. I think that is a fair summary. Such agreements may be made by the local planning authorities and, if they fail to do so where the Commission think they should, the Commission may request them to do so after consulting them first. What happens if they decline is not altogether clear. On the other hand, the local planning authorities do not, apparently, have to consult the 1163 Commission before making an agreement, except in areas of special control. If agreement cannot be reached, then the local planning authority may make an order. The Commission may request them to make one, and if they decline the Commission may request the Secretary of State to direct them to make an order. This is in the case of an order, but not in the case of an agreement. Before he makes an order, an opportunity is to be given for representations to be made, and the Secretary of State must consult the Commission before coming to a conclusion.
The noble Lord has said in one sentence what the policy of the Government would be, and I hope that when he winds up the debate he will enlarge a little on this. Although he said that there is a precedent for these powers in the English legislation, if I understand it correctly that precedent relates to the National Parks areas; whereas, of course, in Scotland the legislation is to apply to almost everything except the urban areas. I should like to ask this question. Is it that a legal right to access to open country is to be provided, either by agreement or by order, over wide areas, even where no obstacle is placed in the way of the public going on to the land without a legal right? Or are agreements and orders to be made only where difficulties of one kind or another arise? I think it is very important that we should know the answer to that question.
Where access orders are made, the local planning authority has to pay the person concerned compensation equal to the amount of any depreciation in the value of land or damage consequent upon the orders. I do not propose to go into the question of compensation to-day, because I think that that is rather more a matter for the Committee stage, and is one with which some of my noble friends will no doubt deal. But I should just like to ask this question. Will the compensation cover insurance premiums to cover the persons concerned against their liabilities towards the public, whom, after all, the local planning authority or the Secretary of State will be bringing on to the land by the order—this is in the case of an order—or possibly cover against any loss or damage which the owner of the interest in the land may incur as a result of the 1164 activities or negligence of people coming upon the land?
Then who is to prevent the public from causing damage? Will not wardens be required? And who is to pay for them? I do not think the noble Lord mentioned wardens, but this is an important part of the Bill. As the Bill stands, Clause 64 provides that wardens may be appointed only by local planning authorities or other authorities to look after land which is the subject of by-laws. Local planning authorities are empowered to make bylaws for any land or waterway to which the public are given access under Part II, either by agreement or by order, and may be required by the Secretary of State to do so. What is to be the policy about making by-laws and appointing wardens? And if it is not judged necessary to make by-laws for open country in particular cases, will the local planning authorities defray or contribute towards the cost of wardens employed by the owner of the interest in the land?
There is one other small but fairly important point. Who is to be given free access? It is reasonable that individual members of the public should have access for open-air recreation. But does the same necessarily apply to an individual who regularly brings on to the land a lot of ponies, with or without riders, not for his own open-air recreation but to make a livelihood? Pony trekking has become very popular, but it does not follow that it should necessarily have free use of the land. I understand that the Forestry Commission make charges to cover the upkeep of land and make good the damage, which inevitably results if a large number of ponies regularly go over the land. Will the owner of the land be allowed to make similar charges, or will the local planning authority defray the cost of making good the damage they do?
The only other subject to which I want to refer, as my noble friends will no doubt be dealing with many other subjects, is that of waterways. This is perhaps the most sweeping provision of all in the Bill. It is contained in Clauses 61 and 62, to which the noble Lord briefly referred. They enable a local planning authority to carry out any work or to do anything which appears to them expedient for facilitating the use by the public of any loch, river, reservoir, canal or other waters in the countryside within 1165 their area for sailing, boating, bathing, fishing or other sport or recreation, subject only to the consent of any local water authority concerned. A local planning authority is also empowered to acquire land compulsorily for the purpose, or it may make an agreement with any public body on whom powers are conferred in relation to the waterways for these purposes. It would be odd, would it not, if river pollution authorities were to exercise these powers.
Then if any such public body wants to exercise these powers, and the local planning authority declines to make an agreement with them, the Secretary of State may direct that the powers are exercisable by that body. There is, of course, provision for appeal by the owner and for compensation to be paid to him. All the same, these are very sweeping powers, and I would ask the noble Lord to state the policy. He used two phrases here. The first was, "to get in ahead of emerging needs"—which is obviously sensible—and the other was, "to bring as much water as possible into recreational use." Of course, a lot of this water may already be in recreational use, although it may be restricted in one way or another, being made subject to licence and day payments for the rod and so forth.
There is a great deal in this Bill which ought to be looked at very carefully by Parliament. I can cover only a very small part of it. The fact that the general objects of the Bill have the support of nearly everyone in Parliament does not imply that the means proposed to achieve these objects need not be examined in detail. We on this side will certainly not obstruct the Bill in any way, for we recognise that it is not easy to get a place for a Bill of this kind in the legislative programme, and we agree with the objects. But I hope that this debate will extract from the Government a statement of the way they intend that the powers will be exercised.
I hope, in particular, that the Commission will be allowed to co-ordinate the expansion of facilities for the enjoyment of the countryside; that it will be consulted by local planning authorities even where the Bill does not require consultation, and kept informed by them of all that they do. I do not see how they can do their job unless this happens. I hope 1166 there will be full consultation with landowners and farmers, and I should like to see that provided for in the Bill. I should also like to ask what responsibilities the Commission will have in the development of tourism, and how it will work with the Scottish Tourist Board.
Finally, I would express the hope that, except perhaps in the areas of special planning control, the Commission will advise and co-ordinate and will not try to take on too much themselves, or to run too much themselves. I hope that both they and the local planning authorities will be prepared to allow private enterprises to play their part in the scheme of things, and that they will not seek to conserve the beauty and amenity of the countryside by keeping people out of it. However grand the scenery, the land is not there just to be looked at, and while bad development can detract from it, it can be greatly enhanced by the efforts of individuals to improve their own property, be it one-eighth of an acre or several thousand acres. I hope that the Bill will result not only in more people being able to enjoy the countryside on holidays and week-ends and days out, but in more people living in the countryside—in new villages where people will live and work and give hospitality to their less-favoured brethren who come among them from the towns and cities.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I should like to join my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, upon introducing this Bill, which will undoubtedly be welcomed by the majority of people in Scotland. I should like to point out to my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn that this Bill has indeed been a very long time on the stocks. Its gestation, in fact, goes back at least 80 years, to the time when, in 1885, the Member for South Aberdeen introduced his Access to Mountains Bill. This Bill is the lineal descendant of that Bill, which was introduced in the other place at that time, and we must therefore welcome the fact that at long last it has got through the other place and come up to your Lordships' House. Incidentally, one might say that the Member for South Aberdeen was a very pertinacious person, for having failed in 1885 he brought his Bill forward again in 1892, when it was accepted by the Government; 1167 but, as his biographer, H. A. L. Fisher, said:It did not fructify into legislation".At long last it appears as though it is about to fructify into legislation.
My Lords, from reading the debates of over three-quarters of a century ago one can see that a very different state of affairs existed in Scotland then from that which exists now. I can remember being told in my youth of the great battle of Glen Tilt (or perhaps one should call it the encounter of Glen Tilt), when persons who desired access to the mountains encountered the representatives of my noble friend the Duke of Atholl; and there was a considerable outcry and correspondence in the Press of Scotland at that time. Since that historic encounter little more has been heard about real difficulties of access to the hills. Speaking for myself, as a hill-walker rather than a mountaineer, as one who does not care to dangle at the end of ropes but prefers just to get the recreation from the summits, I would say that I personally have never in my life encountered any difficulty in going anywhere in the hills of Scotland. I have heard of only one case where access was made difficult, and that was by an English brewer.
If your Lordships wished a good example of how the landlords of Scotland co-operate with the people of Scotland in this matter, I would direct your attention to the developments at Aviemore. These developments, which have taken place in the last fifteen years or so, have been carried out with the entire good will of the owners of the land. One of the owners, of course, is the Forestry Commission, but the other and the main one is Colonel Ian Grant, of Rothiemurchus, whose family has owned estates there for centuries. He and his family have never created any difficulties for people who have wanted to climb and walk among the Cairngorms; and one can say the same, on the other side of the Cairngorms, of the owners of the ground on the River Derry.
My noble friend Lord Drumalbyn has said that there are difficulties of access, but these are very small, I believe, compared with what they were a hundred years ago. Our tendency nowadays is to legislate for things for which, in the past, 1168 one would never have thought detailed legislation was necessary. In the past, one would have relied upon the good will of both sides; and I must say that up to this time in Scotland, because of this good will, there have been few cases where tempers have been lost and people have been refused access.
My Lords, I come on to the question of trespass. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said that in England the law of trespass is only slightly different from the law in Scotland. The law may be only slightly different in itself, but in its application it is indeed very different. It almost amounts to the point that in Scotland there is in fact no law of trespass, in so far as, if you do have somebody trespassing, the only way in which you can possibly stop him, if he is not doing major damage, wilful damage, is by applying for interdict, and to obtain interdict is almost an impossibility at the present time, because it is both time-consuming and somewhat costly. But this Bill, if it becomes an Act, will make it very much easier for daylight poaching to take place than it is at the present time. Whatever may be the law in England, it is almost impossible in Scotland, as the law stands at the present time, to prosecute for daylight poaching. I think that some attention should be given to this point when this Bill is considered in Committee.
I should also like to reinforce what my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn has said about the phrase "livestock rearing land". It is extremely difficult to understand exactly what is meant by "livestock rearing land", which is to be included in the land that the Commission can open up, whereas other agricultural land is excluded. Does a herd of cows grazing in a field make that field "livestock rearing land"? Or, failing that, does a herd of their daughters, their heifers, in a field make it "livestock grazing land"? To my understanding, it would. I am not quite certain what is meant there.
Reverting to the question of the law of trespass, I would point out that damage can be done by any person who has access to the mountains, but there is virtually no way in which he can be caught up; whereas if a bull belonging to the farmer over whose land access is being given creates damage, the farmer 1169 can be fined £50. It is explicit that the farmer can be fined £50; and I would submit for the consideration of the Government that, when explicit regulations are being made, with penal sanctions, the penal sanctions should be on both sides. Hitherto, we have worked on good will. But if there is to be a penal sanction of a £50 fine on a farmer if his bull gets out of hand and he himself has no redress if the tourists get out of hand, then I think there is something which needs to be looked into here.
As a tailpiece, I might mention the question of the provision of alcohol where there are no local services. This is exactly the kind of thing that we are moving into in these times, showing that the tendency of the time is to legislate for what would have previously been a matter of common sense. In my young days one would never have thought of adventuring upon the mountains without making certain that one's alcoholic requirements until such time as one got back to civilisation would be fully met! That the Government should now start to make special provisions for alcoholic requirements when one goes up the Cairngorms is interesting; but it is an example of the spirit of paternalism into which we are moving in this generaton. I recognise, however, the great change which has come over us since the time when the late James Bryce introduced his Access to the Mountains Bill. We now have pony trekking; and I agree with my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn that the provision of pony tracks is essential—one would like to see bridle-tracks going over the whole of Scotland—but their maintenance is something to which I think local authorities should pay attention.
With due deference to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, I am not convinced that ski-ing and bathing are antagonistic. I have seen ski-ing, bathing and fishing being conducted all on the same lake in Minnesota, in the northern part of the U.S.A. Probably we shall be more civilised if we have some measure of control over water ski-ing; and, of course, the tremendous advances in ski-ing in the Cairngorms and in other parts of Scotland contribute to producing a completely different situation from that when Lord Bryce introduced his Bill in 1892. I should like to read to your Lordships what his biographer said about his speech on the Bill: 1170The speech ended with a burst of true, but un-Parliamentary, eloquence that does not often startle the ear of the British legislature.I am not going to startle your Lordships as James Bryce then apparently startled the other place; but I should like to read the Resolution arrived at in the other place at 11.40 p.m. on March 4, 1892:Resolved, That in the opinion of this House legislation is needed for the purpose of securing the right of the public to enjoy free access to uncultivated mountains and moorlands especially in Scotland, subject to proper provisions for preventing any abuse of such right.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, I am grateful to the Government for attempting this Bill; I wish I felt it possible to join my noble friend Lord Balerno in congratulating them on the Bill itself. He referred to the fact that this Bill had taken a long time to gestate; and from my own experience I have found that an egg that takes a long time to gestate produces a weak chick. I think the same may be said about this Bill. There will probably be a great deal of unremunerative public expenditure arising from this Bill, much of which will fall on the local authorities. A fear of the strangulation of development is very evident from this Bill; and it may take a lot longer to get planning through. The local authorities may be more reluctant than the land owners to enter into agreements. It may cost a great deal of money.
First of all, I must declare a major interest. I own two establishments both of which have camping sites, petrol pumps and a shop. I am deriving interest from the tourist industry and I hope, at the same time, helping it. I anticipate having 400 to 500 people on one of those sites next week. On the other hand, as a landowner and farmer I suffer materially from this industry. My property lies beside Loch Ness which, with its famous aquatic beast, has a unique attraction for the "Bumble Bug" who crawls around the roads in his car and also for the hitchhiker; while on the West coast I have until recently owned deer forest, ground which rises steeply from sea-level to well over 3,000 feet and attracts hill climbers—who, for some reason or another, must climb above the 3,000 ft. contours. In this respect my noble friend, Lord Balerno mentioned restriction to access to 1171 some of these hills, and I saw the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, look at me when he mentioned an English "beer-Baron". I think he was probably not referring to me, because I should like to think that most of my ancestors were Scottish and not English.
With the experience I have had during the past years of these various tourist attractions I can say with confidence that this Bill is not compiled by those who understand the serious problems involved. The tourist industry, of course, is essential. It brings money and seasonal employment to much of rural Scotland, quite apart from the recreation facilities it provides for those from our industrial areas. Although it may benefit many people, it is a very serious burden on the owners and occupiers of land. I do not think that that has been fully realised in compiling this Bill. I am somewhat nervous about being here to-day, because I have left behind me serious fire risk. Only about a fortnight ago practically the whole of my forestry squad were knocked out by tourists, who drove into them; and most of them are still out of action. That is the sort of unexpected burden that we have placed upon us during this particular month of the year. The rate of accidents occurring on the roads in Inverness-shire at the end of July is almost double what it is throughout the rest of the year; and this is so each year, practically without exception.
There is also the problem of litter, and, worse still, the fouling on road-sides and in corners where indiscriminate camping takes place. Sometimes there is a hideous mess left behind which the landowner has to clear up. There are, too, the reductions in rentals through disturbance in the hills; and the substantial carnage of young lambs. In one of my flocks on the West coast I have lost already this year nearly 10 per cent. of the lambs born in that flock. In another flock I have lost nearly 15 per cent. this year—and we are now coming into the heaviest month. This is the sort of problem with which we are faced and which is not altogether understood. And there are many other problems.
The vast majority of landowners realise that they must live with the tourist industry and they look to the Govern 1172 ment of the day to do all that they can to alleviate their difficulties, while giving as much freedom to the individual as possible. There is the need for open-air recreation, for access to the hills and open country; but, as my noble friend explained in detail, this already exists. Whatever the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, may say about the law of trespass in Scotland, it is practically worthless. The legal costs to an individual trying to enforce it are far in excess of any benefit that he may derive from a successful case, or any penalty imposed on the wrongdoer. I wonder how many cases of trespass come before the courts each year. I suspect there is practically none; and the reason is that they are not worth bringing. Why, then, say that the law of trespass is of any use?
Unfortunately, there is a minority of tourists which causes considerable trouble and damage. The average individual does very little accidental damage and practically no wilful damage; but there are those who will persist in doing things that they know must be wrong. Perhaps I may give your Lordships one small instance. Last year we had a stalking party sitting beside a path, deciding which way to go for a stalk. Three young men came up the path; they were asked either to go on by another route or to wait for a short time after which they could come up with the pony-boy. Everything was explained to them—why this particular stag had to be killed, and so on. They listened to what was said and then walked straight on, and they disturbed the stag.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, will the noble Lord, Lord Burton, explain how all this is relevant to the Bill? He is talking about what is going on now, and the Bill is to make provision for dealing with it. In England, in the High Peak, where there is a local planning board which employs wardens, they have, to some extent at any rate, succeeded in overcoming this problem, lust because there is a National Parks organisation in England. This Bill is designed to make the same sort of provision for Scotland.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, I was just coming to that. If I may continue what I was saying I will answer that question eventually. Wardens have been mentioned, and I will deal with them. Last 1173 year I personally stopped three young men who were about to go to the hill. The first thing they said was, "You cannot stop us from going." As the noble Lord has said, I could not stop them from going. But I said to them, "If you go, once you cross that ridge you will almost inevitably disturb some deer, and we have a stalking party going out to-day. If they are disturbed, the deer probably will not return to this ground until the wind changes. If you go, I shall have you watched, and if you disturb any deer, I shall charge you not only with the full cost of to-day's stalking, but the rental and everything else until the wind changes; and I shall make a case against you." That appeared to have some effect, and they came down to ask—they had not asked before—whether they could go or where they could go. It turned out that one of them was an Edinburgh W.S. I think that was the first time that I had ever had a free legal opinion. It seems to me that that is one possible method of dealing with such a situation.
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, referred to the use of a necessary amount of force to remove people, but this is a very dangerous thing—and I can say from bitter experience that it is not only a question of using the necessary amount of force. One may use very much less than the necessary amount of force and still find oneself involved in a case of assault. Substantial penalties and a number of new restrictions are to be imposed on owners and occupiers of land, but few additional restrictions are to be placed on members of the public. I feel that unless there are to be more restrictions—not necessarily very rigid—and unless it is possible to deal with those who commit wilful damage, the situation will never be reconciled.
If and when this Bill becomes law, how is the general public to know whether a certain piece of ground is subject to an access order or agreement? The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, talked about the tourist who did not know where he could go, or where to get information. If the Bill as it stands becomes law, this problem will become very much worse. I do not know whether it is the intention of the Government that we should plaster our hillsides with notice boards. That would seem to 1174 be entirely contrary to provisions in other parts of the Bill connected with the preservation of the natural state of the country and the amenities. Already many people get lost in the hills, and the first thing they would say would be, "I thought I was on a piece of ground which was subject to an access agreement." I can see that considerable difficulties will arise in this connection. Again, how are they to know what are the terms of any agreement for a particular piece of ground? A great deal more attention must be paid to the provision of information about where people may go.
The question of wardens has been mentioned. They will have no powers, so far as I can see, and their function will be advisory. They will be in the same position as one's employees. As the law stands in Scotland, anyone who wishes to go to any place can do so, whether they are spoken to by a warden or not. They can just say, "I am going", and they can go; and there is little that can be done about it. As I read the Bill, that is the case. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will be able to tell me that I am wrong.
My Lords, another problem which concerns me is that the agreements appear to be once-and-for-all agreements. As a trustee I am concerned that one may find oneself in considerable difficulty when property is handed over to an heir. The heir may say, "You have made an agreement which seriously depreciates the value of my property, and as the trustee I must hold you liable." I ask the Government seriously to look at the question of whether it may be possible to make agreements which are not irrevocable but with, perhaps, a minimum period of ten years; or anyway for a period. If both parties were agreeable, the agreement might be revoked altogether. It may well be that after a little experience a local authority and the landowner may decide that it was not a good thing to have an agreement in respect of a particular piece of land, and the agreement could be terminated. Reference has been made to the question of compensation and insurance. It is extremely difficult to say what the compensation is likely to be, even after five years. It would be very much easier were it possible to claim compensation from some sort of pool for any 1175 damage which occurred, or from Government sources, rather than have an initial claim. I think it would cost the country a good deal less to do this, and it would prove much more fair and equitable all round.
Indiscriminate camping seems very difficult to control. I was told by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that the Act of 1865 contains provisions which would control this, but if that is so it is certainly not being done at present. That is a matter which requires looking at, and about which provisions should be incorporated in the Bill. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, did not mention anything about the pasturing of bulls. I understood that there was some agreement made with the Scottish N.F.U. whereby a clause would be deleted or altered, and I am sorry that we have not heard about it.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, is the noble Lord referring to Clause 44? That clause has been amended, and has the agreement of the Scottish N.F.U.
§ LORD BURTON
I apologise to your Lordships; I missed that Amendment. There is one other thing about which we are worried, and that is having dogs at large. I can understand that those who live near Edinburgh might want to have little "Fido" running at large, but it would be much the worst for any little dog which started to run around among Galloway cattle on the open hill. Therefore, it would be to the advantage of the visitor if the activities of dogs were properly restricted.
Finally, my Lords, may I refer to the set-up of the Commission? I should be grateful for some assurance that someone, a factor or an owner with considerable knowledge of land management—if one can be found with sufficient time to spare, as they are all extremely busy dealing with new legislation—could be put on the Commission. After all, the Commission is being entrusted with land management.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I wish to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Burton. I appeared to be laughing at what he said. It was not that. I was laughing at the rather extraordinary note which I have just received.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I am not opposed to this Bill but I am rather worried about certain aspects of it. In the debate on the gracious Speech at the start of the Session I welcomed the Bill as bringing some measure of control to the movement of tourists in the Highlands. I was rather surprised when my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn referred to people whom he knew and who had said that they felt restricted in the Highlands: that they did not know where they could go. My experience has been, and I have always had the impression, that under the legislation giving access to mountains and moorlands, the hiker in the Highlands could go anywhere. One could only "tell him off" if one could prove damage. In actual fact, that is never done.
I have some sympathy with the complaint of my noble friend Lord Burton, who is just going out, about interference with deer stalking. And I have to declare an interest here, as I am a Highland landowner. I have a deer forest on the estate, but about one-third is now quite unusable—and I have to decrease any rent accordingly—because of the number of hikers on the ground during the stalking season. I am not complaining; I am just stating a fact—well, perhaps it is true to say that I complain in private, but I am not complaining in public.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, for the Record may I say that I was surprised to hear this. I said that it did not coincide with my experience.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I apologise to my noble friend. The part of the Bill in which I am most interested is Part II. On the definition of "open country" we come to a hobby-horse of mine, because I have always been trying to get a definition of "enclosed land". We now have the definition of open country as:… wholly or predominantly of mountain, moor, heath, hill, woodland, cliff or foreshore, with the waterways …It is a pity that we cannot get enclosed land defined as well. I think that this definition is rather muddled, and that the word "predominantly" is not definite enough. It is no good saying, "unenclosed country", because if one walks on the hills far enough one is bound 1177 to come to a fence. But if we could say, "country that cannot support more than one ewe to five acres", or, "country where the enclosures are over 5,000 acres or more", or some definition on those lines, we might get closer to what is required.
I am frightened that on the definition in the Bill there may be damage to the revenue producing capabilities of the countryside in Scotland. For instance, at lambing time we may have people wandering all over the hills with their dogs. They can panic the sheep, who may get broken legs, and the lambs may run into burns and be drowned. In the autumn we may have a couple of hundred tourists appearing in the middle of a grouse drive. Perhaps one has an American tenant paying £5,000 for a moor. He is not going to be very pleased if his sport is completely spoiled by tourists on the hill, and he will not come back again.
There is another point of definition about which I am worried, which ties up with Clauses 61 to 64. I do not have a grouse moor, but I may have a rich American tenant fishing my river. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, may come paddling down the river in a canoe, as he would be perfectly entitled to do under this clause, charge into my tenant's salmon pool and become tied up in his line. There would be a "helluva" row.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, may I express my gratitude to the noble Viscount for at least taking me down the river and not compelling me to struggle up it?
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I would certainly not ask the noble Lord to paddle up-river; that is only for teenagers. I understand that in the Peak District of Derbyshire the authorities can make exceptions to access orders to provide that during a certain number of days the public can be kept off certain areas. I do not know how the public can be told about this. One would have to plaster the whole hillside with notices. But I hope we can have a clear definition of "open country". I should have thought that this was necessary legally.
In Clause 11 we come again to this question of damage, but there are forms 1178 of damage which are not set out at all. For instance, I have had a lot of damage done to stock by broken bottles and tins. I admit that the hazard of fire damage is covered in the Bill. I think that there must be provision to enable areas of countryside subject to these orders to be closed to the public during such periods as lambing time, a grouse drive, or some other activity, otherwise one will destroy a considerable amount of the income of the Highlands; and if we are to keep the population in the Highlands, we certainly need the revenue.
Another thing I am worried about is that land for livestock rearing is not going to be excepted land. Here again, as I see it, the difficulty is that the pattern of farming is changing very quickly the whole time, and owing to the fact that something like 60,000 or 70,000 acres of agricultural land a year are taken for urbanisation and other purposes, in order to create more agricultural land we shall have to plough higher up the hills, and turn into agricultural land and land for livestock rearing areas which normally would be classed as open country. I personally should like to see the livestock rearing areas—and by "livestock rearing areas" I am, of course, chiefly thinking of cattle—exempted, because in any event they are usually enclosed. There is the further hazard to the public in the spring from Galloway cows with their calves, which can be extremely dangerous.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
I do not know so much about billy-goats; but the noble Duke is quite right in saying that billy-goats can be dangerous, too. I quite agree that the question of bulls is covered by the Bill, but the question of dangerous cows is not. If the public are to be allowed to roam over the livestock rearing areas in the spring, in calving time, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that there may well be some very nasty accidents, because there is nothing more dangerous than a Galloway cow with her calf. She is far more dangerous than a bull.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
She is far more dangerous than a billy-goat. This is a widely drawn clause, and much too wide for my liking.
The question of compensation has been mentioned. If a member of the public is on my ground and falls when climbing and breaks his leg, am I responsible? Or if he drowns in my loch, am I responsible? It seems extremely unfair if I am. Of course, I can insure against it; but in that case I think the Commission ought to pay the premium. May I return to the question of waterways? I have one beautiful loch, and the fishing in it is very good. But if the public are going to be able to speed-boat all over it, to sail and paddle kayaks and all sorts of craft, my fishing tenants will all go. In this event I should like to think that I should get fair compensation. But I rather doubt that I shall.
I may say that when I welcomed this Bill in the gracious Speech I was rather hoping that the public would be more confined to definite paths and roads through the hills. It was all right having the public on the hills in the past, but as we have about 500,000, or probably more, new cars coming on the roads every year, if people are to have the right of access to open country it will be quite impossible to sheep-farm or to continue with sporting rights, and it will be impossible, too, for the wild life. I hope that the Government will bear this point in mind. The local authorities often are not always fully aware of this aspect. They have, in many cases, urban backgrounds, and a number of them do not have great feeling for the country. I hope that the advice of people of great knowledge with roots in the country will be sought.
I should like to end by saying that, on the whole, I welcome the Bill, because I agree that nowadays, owing to the advance of science, people have more leisure and a higher standard of living, and they should have access to the beautiful places in the country. But we must bear in mind that geographically it is a small country. I sincerely hope that this Bill will help to preserve the beauty of the countryside, because if it is destroyed, then nobody will have gained anything. So, while welcoming the Bill, I wish to put in a strong plea to the Government to seek the advice of country people, to 1180 try to keep Party political bias out of it, to preserve the beauty of the countryside, and not to destroy its revenue-producing potentialities.
§ 5.20 p.m.
My Lords, I want first, if I may, with great respect, to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, on his very painstaking and clear explanation of the Bill. As I have successfully resisted all attempts to be educated on matters of this sort, I find the greatest difficulty in understanding a Bill, and your Lordships will be glad to hear that I have been enabled to cut out quite 90 per cent. of what I was going to try to say. Next, I should like to declare two interests. First, I am a member of our local planning authority; and, secondly, I am a landowner in a district of Scotland which I should think would be classified as open country.
I want to welcome the Bill for two reasons. One is only a negative reason: that I cannot see that this Bill is going to do anything to make the situation in Scotland worse, and it certainly is a reasonable attempt to make it better. That is the negative point. The next reason why I want to welcome the Bill is that I am an unrepentant countryman, and the more people who can properly enjoy the country, the better; and the happier I am. On that note, I shall now proceed, if I may, to criticise—or, rather, remark on—two or three points in this Bill—
It appears to me that to make this Bill work, as I certainly want it to work, and as I am sure nearly everybody does, it is vital to get the right people, who will be difficult to find, on the Commission. Secondly, unless we have mutual trust, mutual respect, among all the people concerned—the local authorities, and the people hardly mentioned in the Bill, the local landowners and owner-occupier farmers—this measure will not work as we want it to.
I have a slight fear (it may be unfounded) which arises from the fact that local government in Scotland is now under review, and it is quite possible that large-scale regionalisation of one kind or another may take place. It has already taken place as regards water, and in my own county our experience was that we were amalgamated, against our will, with Dundee; and our representation was such 1181 that, whereas Dundee town has 11 members on the new Board, we in the whole of the county have one. If this kind of thing were to happen in regard to the local planning authorities there would not be that intimate connection with the country which is so desirable and, I would dare to say, so necessary. I may be raising a danger that does not in fact exist; but if it does exist I should like some kind of way around this problem to be produced. Perhaps there could be district council planning, or something like that. But if the planning goes to the top-tier authority—and there are many reasons why it should—it would be dead against the interests of this Bill. That is the point I am worried about in this connection.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
My Lords, my noble friend will bear in mind that the noble Lord in charge of the Bill, Lord Hughes, was Lord Provost of Dundee for about seven years.
My Lords, I am well aware of that, and I was delighted to picture him paddling a canoe down the river. I can only hope that I am able to conjure up a picture of him water ski-ing, too.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, the noble Viscount will also be aware, coming from near my part of the country, that it is quite some time since I ceased to be Lord Provost of Dundee.
My Lords, I have a slight worry about livestock rearing areas. People say that these are not defined. In my own case, however, the entire estate is defined as a livestock rearing area. I have no land that is not. Nevertheless, this land is farmed by the normal method in various rotations; the use to which the various fields are put is rotated in different years, and a number of fields which might be classed as livestock rearing areas are also used for growing turnips, for hay, and for other forage crops. Will they be classified, excepted, as livestock rearing areas; or what will happen? The situation will be totally different next year, because the usage moves round in rotation. This is a problem which seems to me to be worth considering. Then I think I am right in saying that the only specific reason given in the Bill for suspension of an access agreement is the existence of conditions 1182 of high fire risk. This, of course, is very necessary. But there are times of year—and noble Lords will be complaining bitterly over the difficulties they are suffering at the moment—when one wishes to be able to suspend the operation of an access for other reasons—agricultural reasons, for instance; and no doubt sporting rights, and matters of this kind.
There is another point to which nobody has yet desired to extend the provisions of the Bill, and I think I might be the first to do that. I should like to see it covering voluntary agreements for picnic places, parks, and other points of amenity which are, by definition, in excepted areas, but which are nevertheless used by the public—with my full approval, I may say, so long as they behave themselves. I am delighted to have them there. Nevertheless, it would be far better if they were regulated under this Bill, because it is a pity to have one group regulated and another unregulated, merely because they happen to be in woodland, where they could perfectly well take whatever benefits are applicable under this Bill.
The only other point I wish to make is to stress, as other noble Lords have done, the consequential losses which could arise from mistakes and accidental uses by people thinking they have an access right or access agreement and doing accidental damage. Accidents do happen. They are not intentional, but the unfortunate chap who suffers an accident has in some way or other to pay for the damage done and to put it right. I think that a very generous attitude should be taken and that insurance premiums should guard against risks of this kind. This point should be considered in the general consideration of the Committee points when we come to deal with them on this Bill.
§ 5.28 p.m.
THE EARL OF DUNDONALD
My Lords, like most of your Lordships who have spoken to-day, I support this Bill, and I should like to follow the remark of the noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, who has just spoken, concerning the need to find the right people—I think that is the first consideration—to serve on this Commission. Clause 1(4) does not provide for any representation of farming, forestry or fishing. I am not suggesting that it should be built into the Bill 1183 that there should be a representative of each of those interests, or that representation of any particular interest should be built into the Bill. But I feel that some wording should be included, possibly in Clause 1(4)(b), requiring the Minister to pay particular attention to those interests when selecting the members of the Commission.
I raise this point because I think I am right in saying that when the previous members of the National Parks Commission had their employment terminated by the present Government during last year a certain number of the newly appointed members of the Commission had very little knowledge of the land, trees or the countryside in general. So I would ask the Minister, if he can, to look at this clause again with a view to ensuring that the Secretary of State gives particular attention to these interests when selecting the members.
The only other point I would make on this first clause, which has been said by others of your Lordships to be probably the most important clause of all, concerns the size of the Commission. It is proposed that the Commission will be 14 in number. Looking at various new commissions we find that the National Parks Commission is now nine, the Highlands and Islands Development Board consists of a Chairman and six members, and the newly constituted Meat Commission is 10. I should like to ask the Minister why the number here should be up to 14, bearing in mind that when this Bill was considered in great detail by the Scottish Standing Committee a distinguished member of the Government said:I tried to persuade the Minister to agree that the Commission should have seven members, of whom three should be full-time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Scottish Standing Committee, 2/5/67; col. 13.]I am not entering into the argument as to who should be full-time or part-time, but that point was put, and the Minister of State in dealing with that question—I do not think I am taking this out of context—said (col. 28):First of all, on whether the number should be fewer than fourteen, the Government are probably inclined to agree.I only mention this because I should like the Minister to look at this again bearing 1184 in mind the point made by the previous speaker.
Turning to Clause 11(5) on the subject of excepted land, which is a difficult subject, it has been suggested to me that possibly, instead of "other than livestock rearing land," the wording which is now in this subsection, the words, "other than hill sheep rearing land" should be used. I put that suggestion to the Minister and ask him to consider it. I think that would make it much more clear-cut.
I should now like to turn briefly to Clauses 21, 22 and 23 on the subject of compensation. As I read those clauses, in spite of special conditions and circumstances, the occupier or owner receives no compensation for five years. Clause 23(1), which defines when payments on account in special circumstances may be made, uses the wording:At any time during the period after which, under section 21 above, compensation may be claimed …As I understand that, it means that Clause 21 operates, and therefore no on-account payments can be made to an owner or occupier under five years. I think the point has already been made by two speakers that it would be fairer for the owner or occupier to receive on-account payments for routine payments which he has to make, such as repairing stiles, gates and fences, the payment of insurance premiums, and so on. Possibly this could be done on an annual basis.
I do not think Clause 43 has been referred to in your Lordships' House to-day, and I do not think it was looked at very carefully in the other place, with particular reference to one aspect. As I understand it, where a public right of way crosses agricultural land—and I am referring to the new rights of way or paths to be instituted under this Bill—the owner or occupier:in accordance with the rules of good husbandry "—I must say I love that wording!—may plough the land and the path. This is very kind, but reading on we find that under Clause 43(3):Where a public right of way is ploughed in the exercise of the said right the occupier of the land shall as soon as may be after the ploughing is completed reinstate the surface of the way.Although this clause has been redrafted in another place, what do the 1185 words "as soon as may be" mean? I have consulted two solicitors since I was able to read the revised edition of this Bill on Saturday morning, and they have told me that in law those words mean nothing at all. Is this right of way to be reinstated immediately after ploughing or sowing, or after cropping? Reading on, we find that under Clause 43(4) a person who fails to reinstate "as soon as may be" is liable to a fine of £50, and if convicted of this offence is then liable to a fine of 20s. per day for every day the right of way is not reinstated. If that is not enough, under Clause 43(5) it says:… the local planning authority, after giving to the occupier not less than 14 days' noticecan do the work for him and recover the cost of so doing.
Supposing the field concerned is ploughed in mid-April and sown with oats which are not cropped until mid-August, and the words "as soon as may be" are construed to mean immediately after ploughing, the owner-occupier would appear to be liable to a fine of £50 plus £120 after conviction and also the cost of the local authority doing the reinstatement work for him, as the occupier will certainly be too busy in the summer to do the work himself. Therefore, may I ask the Minister to look at the clause again, with particular reference to the wording "as soon as may be". Lastly, like others of your Lordships I am delighted that Clause 44 has been amended in another place so that a bull may spend the summer with the herd on the hill.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I must first apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for not being able to be here when he was speaking. I have listened with great interest to the debate and, like other noble Lords, I welcome the Bill. There are two small points which strike me as being worth mentioning. The first concerns Clause 11. It seems to me that what we have heard to-day indicates that it would be wise if Clause 11 were redrafted to include a reference to Schedule 2. As it reads, it makes mention of people having access to the land, 1186for the purpose of open-air recreation without breaking or damaging any wall, fence, hedge or means of access …".But, of course, Schedule 2 goes a great deal further than that, and I think it might be wise if that point could be looked at in terms of drafting.
Following on what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, I support every word that he said about the importance of taking country people along with the Government and the Commission in their approach to this whole matter, and thus it is well that in Clause 11 it should be made absolutely clear beyond a peradventure that, whereas access is available to the land, there are obligations upon people, many of whom cannot be blamed for not knowing the primary rules of agriculture and what Clause 44 calls "good husbandry". There are many people who do not realise the dreadful damage that may occur even through a failure to shut a gate.
This brings me to another point which has been touched upon already; namely, the risk which will be incurred by hikers and townspeople—as the noble Lord, Lord Burton said, with "Fido", even if "Fido" is on a string—if they are in the presence of cattle with calves. We make the rule in our family that at certain times of the year nobody shall go with a dog, no matter how well under control (as in Schedule 2) unless he carries a stick, if there is any likelihood of being in the neighbourhood of out-calving cattle. I do not see how the Bill can provide to protect people from accidents of that nature. It seems to me to follow that notices will have to be provided if the careful landowner is going to ensure that people with access to his land do not get into trouble.
This brings me to the subject of compensation, which has been mentioned by many noble Lords, and particularly by the noble Earl, Lord Dundonald. Those notices will cost money to produce and maintain, and to renew: Will the Government make some provision to ensure that, in addition to the insurance premium and the like, which is so essential, the cost which will fall upon the careful landowner who is co-operating in making this Bill work, such as the cost of the preparation of notices, will be included in the compensation?
1187 I would conclude by agreeing very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, said about, in fairness, there being some alternative provision whereby under Clause 44 of the Bill whoever makes a mistake over a bull is liable to a penalty of £50. There should be some sort of counter-claim against people who do damage which causes not only loss but, as I think the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard said, pain and distress to animals through broken bottles. Litter is included in Schedule 2, but, as I have said, I think it should be specifically mentioned also in Clause 11.
§ 5.41 p.m.
THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, it is not my intention to detain your Lordships long. I must, however, use up a few seconds in offering my heartiest congratulations to the chief of my Clan, the noble Duke, on his well-deserved promotion to the Front Bench for this Bill.
It is not my intention to dwell upon the grave dangers which this measure threatens to sporting interests, serious though they are. I shall confine my remarks to the other dangers, far more important, which are involved so far as agriculture and forestry are concerned. We have heard, quite rightly, about the danger of dogs, but it may well be that many people who are townsmen do not realise that the dangers that can be attributed to dogs go far beyond the actual worrying of sheep. If even a very small and harmless dog gets loose among sheep shortly before lambing, it may produce a very large number of abortions. In my own family, a number of years ago, we had three very charming Pekingese, extremely sporting animals, ready to take on rats and mice, and quite capable of a five-mile walk, but their main joy, when they got a chance, was to chase sheep across country. Naturally, they were not encouraged, and great care was taken, particularly at lambing time. If you are to have the hills infested with large numbers of dogs—and there are others more likely to be there than Pekingese, like the small poodles which are so popular to-day—it will undoubtedly put 1188 the lambing ewes in considerable jeopardy. And, of course, with the larger dogs the question of actual sheep-worrying would also occur.
Clause 44 has been mentioned, and I would back up everything that has been said about the possible dangers from it. Who—if anyone—is to recompense the tourist who is knocked down and savaged by a cow whose calf he has been injudicious enough to approach too closely? As the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, said, cows are infinitely more dangerous than bulls. That applies not only to Galloways but to the Highland cattle as well. The Highland bull is the quietest and best-behaved of all bulls, but the Highland cow is the most jealous mother of all cows when she sees someone approach her calf and she suspects him of evil intentions. I myself, on more than one occasion, have had to break the middle-aged record across a field when one of my cows objected to my interest in her calf. One would like to know what is the position when cows are in a field, where they have a perfect right to be, and a tourist, who has a perfect right to be there, appears, but, through injudicious conduct leads the cow to knock him down.
More important still, and something to which very little attention, if any, has been paid to-day, is the question of danger from fire. We know that all too many people, particularly townsmen, although countrymen also are included, are very careless in the way they throw away unextinguished matches or cigarette ends in the country. Others, I am afraid, deliberately on occasions, set fire to dried grass or heather for the pleasure of seeing the ensuing conflagration and a great belt of smoke extending over large areas of territory. Those of your Lordships who, like myself on occasion, have tried to beat out unintentional fires, will know the feeling of complete hopelessness one gets when one is only a few feet downwind from the flames and is smothered in smoke through which one cannot see for more than a foot or two. The incidence of such fires may produce danger to human beings, but the real danger is the one they produce so far as livestock are concerned. If you get a large-scale fire sweeping an area of moorland, the cattle and/or sheep upon that piece of ground will certainly 1189 panic and run away. Sooner or later they will come up against a fence, boggy land, ravine or precipice, into which or over which a great many of them will fall, with catastrophic results so far as their owner is concerned.
The agricultural community in Scotland, and most of all the hill farmers, have been going through a pretty difficult time the last few years. I feel that hardly enough attention has been given to the dangers that this most worthy section of our community are going to have to endure if precautions of an adequate nature are not taken, and it seems to me to be a very difficult thing to find out what precautions can be taken. I hope, however, that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will bear this aspect in mind, and in the course of his investigations as this measure proceeds will do something to mitigate the dangers of a Bill which I am afraid I cannot, speaking as an agriculturist on behalf of agriculturists, welcome with anything like the same fervour as has been done by some on these Benches.
§ 5.47 p.m.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, first I should like to thank my noble kinsman, Lord Mansfield, for congratulating me on my promotion to this spot. I can assure him it is purely temporary—just for the duration of this afternoon. On the whole, give or take a little, I welcome this Bill. I think, like my noble friend Lord Stonehaven, it cannot make matters worse, and it might make them a great deal better. Obviously the most important thing the Bill does is to set up the Countryside Commission, and the powers it gives that Commission I find extremely interesting. On the whole their positive powers to negotiate access agreements and make long-range footpaths and do things of that sort I think are about right, and it seems to me that these should be a great success and a great help towards controlling the use of the countryside in Scotland and enabling everyone to use it to the maximum which it will stand.
But what slightly disappoints me about this Bill is the negative powers of the Countryside Commission. So far as I can see they do not have anything like enough powers to stop other public bodies from spoiling the countryside. Largely, the countryside is wrecked by 1190 such bodies as the Gas Board and the Electricity authorities, and by indiscriminate roads and various other things; and, so far as I can see, the Countryside Commission would have no power to prevent a Cow Green happening in Scotland or an Abingdon gas-works happening in Haddington; if the Gas Board happen to own land there—I do not know whether they do—the Commission would be powerless to stop it. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, whether the powers of the Countryside Commission in this respect could not be strengthened. I fully realise that many people consider there are quite enough different authorities from whom planning permission has to be obtained before one can do anything, but I think that, particularly in special areas, the Countryside Commission ought to be consulted before any development is allowed to take place.
Lord Hughes said that the main object of the Bill was guidance. I quite agree with him. I think its main object will be guidance—guidance to the owner, guidance to the occupier and, above all, guidance to the general public who are going to make use of the agreements and orders created by the Bill. I may say, in parenthesis, that I hope there will be few orders, as I am sure does the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and anyone who is going to have anything to do with the Bill. I feel that we ought to be able to get agreements in nearly all cases. I know that this is the experience in England with the National Parks. But this, of course, raises problems, some of which have been pointed out by my noble friends. One of them is how the public are going to tell in regard to which areas of land access agreements have been made, and what are the prohibited times and dates for taking advantage of those access agreements. We should like to hear more of the mechanics of this operation from the noble Lord in his summing-up this evening.
My noble friend Lord Ferrier has already mentioned education. I think that one of the main functions of the Countryside Commission will have to be to educate the majority of the population in how a minority who live and move and have their being in the country go about their daily lives; and that there are certain laws that have to be obeyed, 1191 particularly in regard to fire and to not exposing oneself to unnecessary risks. Many people spend much of the winter searching for others who have got lost, or fallen over precipices, or been buried by avalanches or something like that, and I am afraid that this Bill may increase the number of people who are rather foolhardy and go out without due preparation, and then get caught up in the mist, or fall over the cliffs or do something like that. Many people are engaged and much money has to be expended on trying to rescue them. I therefore think that much of the Countryside Commission's early work will have to be in the field of education.
I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, about some particular points. I am afraid I have not been able to give him notice of these, mainly owing to the fact that the Bill in its final form was not printed until Friday, and therefore we amateur legislators who live in Scotland did not receive it until Saturday or Monday. I hope that this will not happen again, as it gives one but a short time in which to make up one's mind what points need to be pursued and what has been safely dealt with in another place; and it must make it more difficult for the noble Lord opposite when he comes to reply for the Government, if we are not able to warn him about the points that we are likely to raise.
I endorse everything that has been said by my noble friends Lord Drumalbyn and Lord Stonehaven about the composition of the Commission. I think it is vital that the Commission should have the confidence of everyone in the countryside; and I consider it is also essential that there should be represented on it such people as the Ramblers' Club and the Caravan Club, so that we in the countryside can understand the problems and the feelings of the people who are going to make use of it under this Bill. I gather that this is to be the case, but it cannot be emphasised too often that really high-quality people who have the confidence of all concerned are needed for this Commission.
I would endorse what many of my noble friends have said about consultation. I am sure that if this Bill is to work, it is vital that owners and occupiers 1192 should be consulted at almost every turn. After all, they are the people who know the countryside best. They are the people who know the land concerned. They, and pot the local planning authority, are intimately acquainted with it; and I should have thought that they are the people who should be consulted. I know that in another place the Minister of State said frequently that it was the intention to consult them, but it is not written into the Bill as much as I or my noble friends would like it to be. This is a point that we shall have to bring out on Committee stage. Much has been said about the definition of "open country". I do not think I need say more about it, except that I think that the present definition could lead to difficulties. However, this, too, is more a point for the Committee stage than for to-day.
Then, will the Scottish Development Department issue to the local planning authorities a circular outlining the policy to be applied, and the type and conditions reasonable for different sorts of countryside, which can be incorporated in access agreements? Obviously, it is not going to be possible to make all access agreements the same—they would not be agreements if they were. But unless there is some general standard, it is going to be extremely difficult for the people who use the countryside to know what applies where. It would be a help if the Scottish Development Department issued model access agreements (if that is the right phrase), before the Bill comes into operation.
I was disappointed that in another place the Government did not accept the necessity for wardens in all cases. I am prepared to admit that probably there will be occasions when it is not essential to appoint wardens, but I think that in nearly all cases where an access agreement, as opposed to a footpath agreement, is made, and probably in most cases where footpath agreements are made, wardens will be essential. Presumably, if you make an agreement one of the conditions you make can be that wardens should be appointed. I hope that where an agreement falls down entirely on this question of wardens, because the local planning authority do not wish there to be wardens and the owner and occupier wants them, the Secretary of State will not allow the 1193 local planning authority to get an access order, but will insist on their agreeing to supply wardens. This is a point of some importance, and I should be grateful if the noble Lord could give me an answer to it.
So much has been said about compensation that I do not think I need say any more, except that I should like to know whether, if your neighbour makes an access agreement or order and as a result you suffer increased disturbance, even though there is no access agreement applying to your land, you will be able to get some compensation at the end of five years. There might be reasons why you did not want to make an access agreement on your land, or possibly the local planning authority may not want to do so. Also, if, as the owner, you consider an access agreement to be essential, and the local planning authority are not keen on the idea, can they be forced by the Countryside Commission to agree to such an agreement, if the Commission also think that an access agreement would be advantageous? These are two fairly small points, but they are of some importance and I think we should consider them.
I was most interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said about trespass. All I can say is that technically there may be much the same law in Scotland as there is in England, but the attitude in Scotland is different. I think if the noble Lord ever tried to prosecute anyone for trespassing he would not get far. I have been told by someone that he finds that much the most effective remedy is to put up a notice saying, "Beware of the agapanthus", and that the average person, not botanically inclined, thinks that an agapanthus is a large cat roaming wild over the countryside. I would also support what my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn said about pony-trekking. As I have made clear in your Lordships' House before, I consider that the Forestry Commission charge of £4 per pony per annum was absolutely iniquitous, when one is looking to a public body to lead the way in these matters. I hope that one of the things the Countryside Commission will do is to persuade the Forestry Commission to remove this charge.
I would say something to the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, who took my 1194 ancestor to task for not allowing people to go up and down Glen Tilt. Lord Balerno was quite right to do this. I hasten to point out that it was not my direct ancestor, and it is certainly nothing to do with me. The noble Lord will be pleased to hear that there is a public bridlepath through Glen Tilt, and it is interesting to note that it was used by no less distinguished a person than Queen Victoria who passed through the Glen on her way to inspect Balmoral with a view to purchase—so that it is well authenticated. There is a very fine bridge on the path which was put up by the Scottish Rights of Way Society in memory of a certain Mr. Bedford who was drowned while crossing the Tarf. We are extremely grateful to them for this amenity. It shows that now the situation is quite all right, and that if the noble Lord ever wishes to hike or ride through Glen Tilt he will not find any obstruction in his way.
My noble friend Lord Burton made a point about litter which I feel is extremely important. Again this is largely educational, but I should hope that the Countryside Commission, when they get started, will take some time on television in order to run an anti-litter campaign. This would be well worth while and would certainly start them off with good will from all land users. My noble friend was also worried about access agreements having to be made in perpetuity. But so far as I can see from reading Clause 13(3), it says that access agreements can be revoked or varied, and I imagine that a trustee would be very stupid if he did not make an access agreement either for the duration of the trust or for a certain period of time, so that when one handed over the land it would not be encumbered by access agreements.
Many noble Lords were worried about water sports. I should like to emphasise what they said about them, but I imagine that where canoeing is allowed under the Bill it will not be allowed on fishing rivers at times of the year when the fishing season is both open and active—for the two are not necessarily the same. There are many lower stretches of the Tay where nobody fishes in July and August, although technically they could, simply because it is not worth while. 1195 I should have thought that canoeing might be allowed in those stretches then, but not in February and March when the fishing is at its best; although if anyone wants to canoe in February and March I should be very surprised.
Finally, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and his right honourable friend the Minister of State for the way in which they have listened extremely patiently to all the arguments that have been put forward. They have acted on many of them in another place. In my opinion, the Bill has been much improved during its passage through another place, and I hope that the same spirit of co-operation will continue in this House and that we shall be able to improve the Bill still more.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I had a very lengthy task at the beginning explaining the purposes of the Bill, and if I am to deal adequately with all the points which have been raised during the debate I do not think that we in Scotland will be unduly popular with those who are waiting to resume the Committee stage on Leasehold Reform, in which of course I also am involved. I must, however, try to be fair to those who are waiting for my answer, and those who are waiting for me to stop answering. So if I have to make a selection of points, it is because the clock is beating me and not because I am inadequately provided with notes on the subject. And if I read a little more quickly than I am accustomed to do, I hope noble Lords will realise that it is because time is pressing.
The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, raised a question on the definition of "open country" in Clause 10(2). This matter was referred to subsequently by other noble Lords, and part of their criticism was that they did not feel that the distinction was as good as it might be. It is something which is exceedingly difficult to define, and if in the course of our proceedings on the Bill through this House it is possible to improve upon the definition, then certainly I shall be very happy to look at it. In connection with consultations with owners and occupiers, there is bound to be the fullest consultation with them before any pro 1196 posals for the countryside can be implemented. If it was not so, we should not get anywhere with access agreements. What the Bill does not do—I think this is what Lord Drumalbyn was getting at—is to impose a condition on the Commission to consult with all owners and occupiers at the thinking stage. We think that this would be unreasonable. But when it comes to action, there is a very definite obligation to consult.
On the subject of mapping, I did say that if any maps could not be completed within a year, it would be possible by a Statutory Instrument to extend the period for two years. It is simply because of the fact that we cannot be absolutely certain how quickly this may be done that there is this interim definition, which at least gives the bailie some idea of what his bailiwick is until the maps are actually drawn.
§ LORD HUGHES
The interim definition covers every area, because it is a definition by relation to the existing local authorities. No matter how quickly the Royal Commission report and how quickly the Government act on its recommendations, there is certainly not going to be any alteration in these local authorities during the period when these maps are being, drawn. What I am not certain about, and what I should like to have time to consider, is whether or not it would be possible to do what the noble Lord suggested; namely, that maps should be brought into operation as they are ready, and that the operation should not wait until everything is done. I will drop the noble Lord a note on the point after the matter has been further considered.
In regard to the powers of the Commission under Clauses 5 and 6, the Commission will take all the necessary executive action in the promotion of approved schemes. When the purpose of the scheme has been achieved and demonstrated, we would expect the Commission to withdraw and to dispose of the project either to a local authority or to any other suitable person or body. In regard to areas of special planning control, Clause 9 makes it clear that in 1197 these special areas the Countryside Commission are given power to give advice about the manner in which all planning applications are dealt with, and in every case the Secretary of State will be able to have the final say, if he so decides. I did say—and this was a point which rather perplexed the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn—that we wanted this to be slightly looser. I was talking over the general field of planning. We are moving into an area where it is felt that more power of final decision may be devolved upon local authorities rather than under appeal to the Minister. Even in this field of special areas, it is not beyond possibility that we may be able to relax, but such relaxation obviously will take place only to the extent that it would not defeat the object of the special areas in the first instance. The noble Lord will recollect that I said that this procedure, which has now been operating for 19 years, had worked satisfactorily and that the Commission would base their operations very largely on the way this had been done.
A number of noble Lords raised the point of compensation. I think I can be a little helpful, in that one particular example which was raised was on the question of insurance premiums—the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, raised the matter and others followed. The information which I have been given is that insurance premiums which an owner may pay to cover his liability as an occupier for a risk of damage to his land or property which may arise from an access agreement or order, are one factor which will be taken into account in assessing the amount payable under an access agreement, or the compensation payable as a result of an access order. So I think noble Lords will find that that is perhaps helpful.
I shall pass over the next question of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, not because it is not a good point but because it will be a very long answer. But I shall write to him. The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, referred to the subject of daylight poaching. I do not think I am going to be able to satisfy him on that subject, but I would point out that the daylight poacher will be in breach of Schedule 2, and so will lose the protection of Clause 11. I do not know that the daylight poacher will necessarily consider 1198 that he is putting himself under any grave handicap in that sense, but that is as far as I can go.
I think the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, misunderstood me when he assumed that I had said that ski-ing and bathing were mutually antagonistic. I have looked at my notes on that, and I had listed a whole series of water sports. I got to the point where I said, "Swimming, of course, is always popular". Then I went on to say: "These various activities on water are not always compatible with each other". What I meant by that was that if you list half a dozen different things which may be done on water, you must reach the point where one will interfere with another. But it is not necessarily ski-ing and bathing. These might, in fact, be the only two things which could be done at one time.
Livestock rearing land was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, and by a number of noble Lords who spoke after him. I should like to say that the term, "livestock rearing land" was deliberately chosen, because it is defined in Clause 77 by reference to Section 1(3) of the Livestock Rearing Act 1951. It was chosen because it is an expression which is well known to farmers and to landowners who are concerned with livestock rearing. It is basically land which is, or can be made, suitable for the breeding, rearing and maintenance of sheep or cattle, but not for dairy farming or production of fat sheep or cattle, or for crops to be sold off the land; that is, not used for maintaining the sheep and cattle on the land. The simple point is that such land is prima facie suitable of access. It does not necessarily mean that it will be used in all circumstances, but it does form a reasonable basis for negotiation.
The noble Lord, Lord Burton, was quite mistaken when he thought that I looked at him, first of all, when the English brewer was referred to. As a matter of fact, it never occurred to me until I saw him looking at me that he believed I thought it referred to him. I have a pretty good idea who it is, and after this debate is over I shall name a name to the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, and see whether I am right. If I am right, he is not my favourite English brewer, and as I do not drink beer, anyway, it is not the quality of his products that I am talking about.
1199 I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Burton, who asked whether agreements could be made for a limited period. That has already been answered by the noble Duke, who referred to Clause 13(3), which makes it quite clear that it can be done in the way the noble Lord asked. He will recollect that I found it necessary to apologise, because I appeared to be laughing at him. It was just shortly after he had raised the question of dogs, and the note which I was given was exactly in these words: "Dogs are covered by Schedule 2(c)." So that is the answer to the noble Lord, and to those who asked about it afterwards.
I have a feeling that there will be a suspicion growing up in the Highlands that the noble Lord, Lord Burton, and I have a working arrangement that if any Bill is going through about which the Government might have difficulties with certain people in the Highlands, he will oppose it lock, stock and barrel, and that that therefore makes my task very much easier with everybody else in the Highlands. I know that that is the effect of the opposition of the noble Lord, but it is not by any prior arrangement. Nevertheless, I am grateful to him for the way in which he opposed the Bill, particularly as he did not have any support. But those points upon which he raised constructive opposition, rather than a sort of general criticism, I shall of course treat in exactly the same way as any points made by anybody else, because I have found that while in his general criticism the noble Lord tends to be rather unfair, he can be helpful in his particular points.
The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, reminded me very forcibly during his remarks of when we were talking about land use in the Highlands. When he first used the expression in an earlier debate, he said that when he saw a tourist his first reaction was to reach for his gun. He so put the fear of death into my noble friend Lord Shepherd, that he said. "When the Secretary of State makes his maps of the areas, will he particularly mark out those in which the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, is interested, because under no circumstances will I go near his land." But the Access to Mountains Act 1939, to which the noble Viscount referred, 1200 applied only to England and Wales, and it has subsequently been repealed and replaced by the Countryside Act 1949. Although he had the unlikely picture of me canoeing about on his rivers, the noble Viscount raised what is basically a very important dilemma in this matter, something which is basic to the whole problem; that is, how to reconcile private sporting rights and income-producing assets with the emerging need for recreation. Obviously, there must be a reconciliation of these interests, because if not there is really going to be a tremendous problem. We have to accept that there will be more and more people wanting to get into these areas, and it is the reconciling of these possibly conflicting interests which really makes it necessary to have a body like this in the first instance. I can assure the noble Viscount that what he said will be very much in the minds of the members of the Commission.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, may I just ask the noble Lord a question? If there is an access order to open country, how does that affect camping? Does it mean that anyone can camp throughout the open country to which the access order is granted? Secondly, the foreshore and beach are included in the definition of "open country". Does that mean that anyone will be allowed to pull his boat up on the beach, and to keep it there for all time?
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I am afraid that the noble Viscount pays me the compliment of assuming that my knowledge on these matters is greater than it actually is. I do not know the answers to those questions. What I do know is that I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Burton, an extract from the Act of Queen Victoria which has something to do with private rights in relation to camping, and which is still in existence. I would also remind him that access agreements are, in fact, agreements, and the prudent landowner would seek to cover as many points of this kind as possible in entering into an agreement.
May I say how particularly pleased I was at the welcome which was given to the Bill by the noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven? I can assure him that the points which he made are ones in which 1201 we are really interested. On the question of the Commission, as I said in my opening remarks there was a lot of discussion in another place about the type of body this should be. The Secretary of State feels strongly that it is the fact that there are many different types of interest who can properly be members of this body, and that militates against a small, paid body. To get down to a body of five or six members who would be paid would make it quite impossible to cover all the interests who ought to be involved in the Commission. It is because of that that we have fixed the limit as high as 14. We hope that in fact we shall be able to arrive at a membership which will be less than 14, but have deliberately put it at a figure which should be big enough to bring in all the interests who ought to be consulted.
Having said that, I want to make it perfectly clear that no one will be a member of the Commission on the basis that he is a delegate from any particular organisation. He will be there by virtue of the knowledge which he has, which may very well stem from his membership of some organisation; but each person on the Commission will be there on exactly the same basis as any other. He will be there as a knowledgeable individual, and will have all the rights of the individual and no other rights or responsibilities in relation to outside bodies.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether that indicates that there will probably be somebody knowledgeable in the problems of the open country in the Southern Uplands?
§ LORD HUGHES
The one thing I cannot guarantee is that there will be on the Commission somebody who is knowledgeable of every particular interest, because if we had sought to do that we could not have accomplished it with 14 members. I doubt whether we could accomplish it with 24 or 34. What we shall have to try to do, when considering all those who might be members of it, is to seek to get the number—11, 12, 14 or whatever it may be—who will provide the best balance and will enable the Commission to do the best job.
The noble Earl, Lord Dundonald, also spoke about this matter. He asked for assurances on this question of different interests. He appeared to me to be following 1202 opposing lines of view. It was almost as if he was advocating a smaller body than 14 and then talking of the need for the Commission to include people who were knowledgeable of particular interests. As I have said, it is because of the second consideration that we must get away, perhaps, from the size of body that we should like—a small, compact body. But it would be a mistake to do that at the expense of keeping out some people whose knowledge would be of value to the Commission.
May I return to the noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven? He suggested voluntary agreements regarding picnic places and the like on excepted land. First of all, it is possible under the Bill to make access agreements, although not orders, affecting excepted land. This is a matter of negotiation between occupiers and the local authorities. Secondly, the Local Government (Development and Finance) (Scotland) Act 1964 already gives powers for local authorities to make agreements with private owners and occupiers so that picnic places, viewpoints, et cetera, can be had on privately-owned land. I think the noble Viscount will be pleased to hear that.
The noble Earl, Lord Dundonald, raised a very interesting point and valid point as to what exactly the effect was of the words "as soon as may be". I cannot disagree with him when he implies that this phrase has no precise legal meaning in terms of time. If a case should reach the stage of going to court, the court will always have regard to the circumstances of the case, and these words give the court the necessary elasticity to do that. For example, the farmer may be taken ill and be unable to do the required reinstatement for some time. The words therefore allow the court to have regard to all the circumstances. May I give an example of how a court may exercise latitude of this kind? I am informed that there was one case where there was a delay of two years, and the court held that that was in compliance with the word "forthwith".
The noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, asked whether the drafting of Clause 11 should not be related more directly to Schedule 2. We think there is a point here which needs further consideration, although I believe the noble Lord accepts that, reading the clause together with Schedule 2, the field is in fact covered very widely. 1203 But I accept the point which he makes: that there may well be value in tying in one more closely with the other; and the Government will look at that before Committee stage.
The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, raised in detail a point which had been touched upon, and that was as to what happens if a walker or tourist is knocked down by a cow. The information which I am given is that the law would not award damages to a tourist injured by a cow unless the tourist—and this includes the walker also, of course—could prove that the owner knew the cow was dangerous. It goes on to quote a legal term with which I will not trouble your Lordships, first, because I am sure most of your Lordships will not know what it means, and secondly, because I am not certain I can pronounce it; but the effect of it is that the law assumes that a cow can and will do no damage. So that, while this is not very helpful to the tourist or the walker, it may at least be some consolation to the owner of the rampaging cow.
The noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, raised the question of the powers of the Countryside Commission. This was with particular reference to getting after the Electricity Boards, the Gas Board and other people whose primary purpose in life, I think he thought, was to spoil the countryside.
§ LORD HUGHES
Their secondary purpose, then. We cannot accept that the Commission should be set up as a dictatorial overlord in the countryside, and they really would need to be if they were to be able to deal with these points. What the Bill does is to give them a position of very wide influence with direct access to any Minister. Clauses 8 and 9 establish their position in planning matters, and I do not think it is either necessary or desirable to strengthen it further.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but surely the point here is that all other private individuals and bodies have to get planning permission, but these public authorities do not. Therefore there is always the danger, as we have seen 1204 recently in the case of the Abingdon Gasworks and Cow Green, that it may virtually be a fait accompli before the local authority (or, for that matter, the Countryside Commission, when it is set up) hears about them. This is what I object to, and this is where I think the Commission ought to be strengthened in this Bill.
§ LORD HUGHES
What I can assure the noble Duke is that by administrative arrangements we shall emphasise to everybody concerned the need for the closest co-operation with the Countryside Commission, so that they can do their job better. I am quite certain that this is the sort of thing that Ministers frequently say, but I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, and other former Ministers on the opposite Benches, will agree with me that this is in many cases by far the most useful way of getting things done. While it may not have the force of law, it gets the results just as effectively when you are dealing with other public bodies as if in fact it was imposed in the Bill in the first instance.
The noble Duke raised the point about circulars to local planning authorities. This is very worth while, and I can assure him that certainly we will arrange for a circular to be issued, although I doubt whether it will be possible to go quite as far as he wants in putting out a model access agreement. As he rather indicated in his remarks, the circumstances would vary so widely that a model in many cases would not serve a useful purpose. But the Commission will undoubtedly play a major part in trying to work out the sort of agreements which would be generally acceptable.
The noble Duke's final point was on the subject of wardens. He suggested that it might be made a condition of an acceptable agreement that wardens should be appointed. This is certainly one of the factors which the Secretary of State will take into account before approving an agreement or confirming an order. The object of the Secretary of State—and I think it is a necessary one if the proceedings of the Commission are to be successful and if they are to be made easily successful—is that there should be reasonable acceptance all round that this 1205 is an attempt to give a fair deal both to the occupier of land and to the public who seek access to it.
My Lords, I am fortunate once again in that I have brought to this House for Second Reading a Bill which, while not approved in every clause, every subsection, every word and every comma as it stands, is one the general principles of which have been more or less welcomed. I have no doubt that in the case of this Bill, as in other Scottish measures, when we have completed the Committee stage we shall, by some of the Amendments, at any rate, have improved the measure.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.