HL Deb 19 February 1981 vol 417 cc792-840

Committee stage resumed.

4.20 p.m.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 506A: Page 37, line 1, after ("shall ") insert (", subject to subsection (2A),").

The noble Baroness said: As the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, is not here to move his amendment, I shall be pleased to do so. This amendment is about the status of the base map. Where no definitive map exists, the Bill requires in Clause 41(2) that a base map be prepared which will become the definitive map through the inclusion of rights of way by modification orders. The effect of the definitive map, as evidence of the existence of rights of way, is provided for by Clause 42. By an oversight, the combined effect of Clauses 39(1), 41(2) and 42 gives the base map to which no public objections can be made the evidential value of a definitive map.

Clearly, only those particulars included in the base map as a result of properly advertised modification orders should have any value as evidence of rights of way. What we are hoping is that Clause 42 can be clarified to provide that only rights of way included in a map prepared under Clause 41(2) as a result of modification orders under Clause 39(2) or Clause 41(3) or (4), are conclusively presumed to exist. If the Minister is not prepared to accept this, perhaps he would say what the Government imagine would be on the base map.

Viscount Ridley

I am deeply grateful to the noble Baroness for moving my Amendment. I was trapped in the rush to leave the Chamber when this Committee stage began. The noble Baroness has in fact said everything I would have said but has said it much better than I could have said it. I would hope it can be supported. It is believed by highway authorities that the amendment remedies what is apparently a drafting oversight and there is no "evil "in it. I beg to support the amendment.

Lord Bellwin

I would assume that my noble friend would support it. I wonder whether I might assume that we are, while speaking to this—

Baroness David

I am very sorry: I should have said I was speaking to 511ZB as well.

Lord Bellwin

I wondered also whether the noble Baroness might feel that we were also dealing with Amendments Nos. 506A, 507A, and 511ZB.

Baroness David

I think those are possibly Viscount Ridley's amendments which are ACC amendments; and we have different ones which we prefer to those.

Viscount Ridley

I may be wrong, but I think that 507A refers to a different subject.

Lord Bellwin

That is fair enough. We have accepted that the evidential provisions applicable to footpaths and bridleways should be subject to a proviso regarding possible higher rights. I shall be speaking shortly on an almost identical amendment that has been tabled. As for the remainder of these amendments, they would appear to be intended to deal with what I respectfully suggest is a non-existent problem. The map and statement to be prepared under Clause 41(2) would become the definitive map and statement on being modified. Since the evidential provisions would apply to all definitive maps and statements, whatever their origin, I would submit that the need for a specific provision along the lines of the amendment disappears. I wonder whether my noble friend would feel able to agree with that and therefore would not press his amendment?

Viscount Ridley

I accept the advice of my noble friend Lord Bellwin. We think it is an improvement, but in the circumstances I am quite happy that the amendment be withdrawn.

Baroness David

If the noble Viscount wishes the amendment to be withdrawn, I will beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.25 p.m.

Lord Fletcher moved Amendment No. 507: Page 37, line 3, after ("extent") insert ("but the absence of a footpath from the map shall not be deemed to be evidence that the footpath was not at the relevant date in fact a footpath at common law").

The noble Lord said: This is a relatively simple amendment but I venture to believe that it is not an unimportant one. We have just had a discussion about the evidential importance and value of the definitive map. I am sure we are all glad to see that in Clause 42(1)(a) the Bill reproduces what is the existing law on the subject, namely, that where a map shows a footpath the map shall be conclusive evidence that there was at the relevant date a footpath as shown on the map.

The object of my amendment is to remove any possible doubt in the mind of anybody that the reverse is not the case. It seems to me most important that the Bill should enshrine what are equally the present provisions of the common law, though not established in statute law; that the absence of a footpath from the map shall not be deemed to be evidence that the footpath was not at the relevant date a footpath at common law.

I think it is well known that throughout the country there are a number of footpaths which have either been dedicated or have become footpaths by reason of user for at least 20 years but are not yet put on any definitive map. The omission may or may not be due to the slackness of members of the public in investigating earlier versions of the definitive map. I certainly do not think it is the fault of local authorities, but it is a fact, to my knowledge, that some members of the public feel that unless a footpath is on the definitive map there is reason to think that the public have no right to use that footpath.

A great many rambling associations and others throughout the land have been vigilant in recent years in drawing the attention of the local authority concerned to the fact that some footpaths ought to be on these maps when they come to be revised. I think it is also true to say that some members of the public may have been deterred from using the footpaths they are entitled to use by reason of the fact that they have not found them on the definitive map. Such ignorance is not to be despised. Members of the public, quite rightly, have come to rely on these definitive maps to know what their rights are, and I think it would be most unfortunate if members of the public failed to use public footpaths which have not yet been put on the map and which may well be in many cases the subject of current representations. Therefore, although the Minister may say that my amendment is not necessary, I do believe that in the interests of clarity and for the benefit of the public, it is desirable that it should be put on the statute book. I beg to move.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

I could not support this amendment because it would cause confusion. A few years ago my local council in Scotland came round my estate and put up notices saying "Public footpath"—pointing into the hills. They put up about five such notices. The point is, of course, that in the 17th or 18th centuries, when there were more people in the hills, it had been handed down through generations that certain paths existed. But those paths have long since disappeared. When the council put up the notices, there were a great number of ramblers who got lost and there was also great disturbance to the flora and fauna. It was very aggravating for my small staff and myself to have all these people getting lost, because we had to go out and find them. People can quickly die of exposure on those hills, if there is a mist and they get lost. Furthermore, many of them came from towns and went out wrongly clad. We had one fatality, which occurred because, unfortunately, a lady went over a precipice and was killed. There must be public footpaths as laid down in the Bill; otherwise, there will be confusion. At my own expense I made paths for the public, which I signed properly, telling them the altitudes which they would have to reach in order to get to certain parts, and I also pointed out the hazards. I asked them, too, to keep to the paths, which the majority did. Having said that, I should not like to see this amendment carried.

Lord Hale

I do not think that the delightful sea loch of the noble Viscount is characteristic of my native Leicestershire, where this point used to arise at quarter sessions when that was the authority for establishing a footpath. As I see the amendment, it is simple. It may be unnecessary, because I think the point has been decided, but it can do no possible harm to anyone. It can leave open a dispute, and prevent a genuine dispute from being misjudged, by the impression that the absence of marking on a map is decisive against those who are seeking to establish a right. It never was and it never should be. My noble friend, who is a practising solicitor of much greater experience than myself, has moved an amendment which can do no harm and can do good.

Viscount Hanworth

I think we shall largely find that this is covered in the next amendments.

Lord Bellwin

The noble Lord, Lord Fletcher, quite properly anticipated the tenor of what I would say in reply—namely, that the amendment is not necessary. I appreciate that his motives in tabling this amendment are to clarify what may not be altogether obvious to some people. But Clause 42 is unambiguous, in the fact that the conclusive evidential effect of the definitive map and statement applies only to the particulars contained in the map and statement, and nothing else. If a footpath, or any other category of public right of way for that matter, has not been afforded definitive map recognition, this lack of recognition, because the map and statement is conclusive evidence only of what is shown, cannot and never has been taken to mean that the right of way does not in fact exist. There is not much more that I can say. I hope that the noble Lord will accept what I have said and will not wish to press on with the amendment. I ought to say, too, that the rights of way provisions in this Bill will not apply to Scotland.

Lord Fletcher

I have listened to what the noble Lord said, but I am afraid that I am not satisfied with it. His real argument in opposing this amendment is that it is unnecessary. I do not want to debate the necessity for it. I want to debate the desirability of this amendment being inserted in the Bill whether or not it is strictly necessary. I have listened to what the noble Viscount opposite said with regard to people getting lost up in Scotland—something to which this Bill does not apply—but I wonder whether your Lordships are familiar with another problem which has come to my knowledge.

Some landlords have erected notices over a public footpath to the effect that it is not a public footpath, whereas the local evidence is that persons have been using it as a public footpath for many years. But if a landlord chooses to put up a notice saying, wrongly, of a footpath which is being frequented and regularly used by large numbers of the public that it is not a public footpath and that therefore the public have no right to use it, then I am sure that members of the public, particularly when this Bill, dealing at length with definitive maps, has been passed, will look at a definitive map and, if they find that the public footpath that they have been using for many years is not on the map, they will be deterred by reason of such a notice from continuing to use the path. Therefore, it seems to me absolutely essential, even though it may not be strictly necessary, that this Bill, which is now codifying the whole of our provisions about rights of way, should say expressly that the absence of a footpath from a definitive map is no evidence that the public footpath does not exist.

Lord Gisborough

Is this not a situation where there is a footpath which is being established, but which has not been established as a public footpath, and where a farmer or landowner quite rightly wishes to establish the fact that is is not a public footpath? He quite rightly either closes it for 24 hours in a year, or whatever is the statutory time, or puts up a notice saying that it is not public footpath. That does not necessarily mean that the public cannot use it, but it is a protection against its becoming a public footpath.

Lord Fletcher

I appreciate what the noble Lord said. If, in fact, it is not a public footpath, then of course it is some protection to the landlord. But if it is a public footpath and there is an inquiry pending about the rights, then it is surely wrong that, pending such an inquiry and pending some modification of the definitive map, the public should be deterred from using it as a public footpath. All I am asking is that the Bill should say in writing that the absence of a footpath from the definitive map is not evidence that it is not a public footpath.

Lord Foot

May I add one suggestion to that? I am not entirely satisfied with what the Minister has said about this amendment and about its being quite unnecessary. I ask your Lordships to consider this situation. Let us suppose that there is a contest as to whether a right of way does or does not exist, and then an inspector holds an inquiry in order to ascertain the facts. Let us further suppose that the person who is trying to resist the right of way draws attention in the course of his argument to the fact that the right of way does not appear upon any map. If this amendment which the noble Lord is recommending were carried, it would be perfectly open to the inspector to say, "I am sorry, I cannot listen to any evidence about that, because that is not evidence on the matter at all". In the absence of this amendment and looking at the clause as it is now framed, I suggest that the inspector would be in some doubt as to whether he was entitled to refuse to consider the fact that, perhaps over a long period of time, the way had never appeared upon a map. I suggest that this amendment would eliminate doubt on that matter and could do no possible harm.

Lord Melchett

I am interested in what I heard my noble friend say; I apologise for not having been in the Chamber to hear all of it. My advice is that my noble friend's intention is covered first by the Bill, and more particularly by Amendments Nos. 508 and 511 which are now down in the Government's name as well as in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth. I wonder whether my noble friend would care to wait and see what happens to those amendments and then, if he wants to do so, to come back to this point at Report so that we do not spend too long on it now.

Lord Bellwin

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his remarks. I gladly look for any source of help in expediting the proceedings. I look almost with desperation at times because of the time we are taking. However, I do not seek to belittle the importance of everyone saying, as they will in any case, exactly what they wish to say. I hope that they in turn will feel for me, for my noble friend Lord Avon and for the others working on the Bill.

On the point of the erection of notices, it would be open to anyone who is unhappy about it to approach an authority for a definitive map order. If I may turn to the point which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, yes, let us see whether the following Government amendments which I shall move in a moment are agreed to. Obviously I shall not undertake to accept the amendment but I will read carefully what has been said and will think about it. It may well be that we shall be covering the point properly. As with everything in this Bill, we are attempting to get the best Bill we can. We shall think of it in that way.

Lord Fletcher

I am much obliged to the noble Lord the Minister. I am perfectly prepared to hear what is said regarding Amendments Nos. 508 and 509 which may conceivably, when they are discussed, remove the necessity of my amendment, although I should have preferred mine to any alternative. However, in view of the assurance which the Minister has given and the fact that we may be able to renew the matter at Report, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord MaybrayKing)

I am advised that if Amendment No. 507A is carried, we cannot consider Amendments Nos. 508, 509 and 510.

Viscount Ridley moved Amendment No. 507A:

Page 37, leave out lines 4 to 15 and insert—

  1. "(a) where the map shows a footpath, the map shall be conclusive evidence that there was at the relevant date a highway as shown on the map, and that the public had thereover at that date a right of way on foot, so however that this paragraph shall be without prejudice to any question whether the public had at that date any right of way other than that right;
  2. (b) where the map shows a bridleway, the map shall be conclusive evidence that there was at the relevant date a highway as shown on the map, and that the public had at that date a right of way on foot and a right of way on horseback or leading a horse, so however that this paragraph shall be without prejudice to any question whether the public had at that date any right of way other than those rights;").

The noble Viscount said: I think I am right in saying, though I do not pretend to be an expert, that this amendment is to do with a court case, Suffolk County Council v. Mason. If I am right, the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, have put down amendments which deal with the same point as I wish to make. It therefore I believe is correct that I should allow the Government to move their amendments rather than that I should move mine. I am sure the Government understand the point a good deal better than I do. If my noble friend will confirm that what I have said is so, while I will move the amendment formally, the debate had better take place on Amendment No. 508.

Lord Bellwin

I am quite content with that.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

Does the noble Viscount wish to proceed with his amendment?

Viscount Ridley

No, I wish to withdraw Amendment No. 507A.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.43 p.m.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 508: Page 37, line 6, leave out ("footpath") and insert ("highway").

The noble Lord said: With this amendment I should like also to speak to Amendments Nos. 509, 510 and 511. This amendment concerns the evidential effect of definitive maps. The Bill provisions in Clause 42 represented an attempt to make the definitive map truly definitive; to have a map which meant what it said and one which could be read in the knowledge that it reflected no more and no less than the rights which exist on each path shown. We recognised that this was an ambitious objective as it was made clear to us that the average map was so riddled with errors that it would be most unwise to regard it as totally authoritative. In recognition of this, Clause 42(2) was introduced which provided for a seven-year period of grace to allow local authorities to correct their definitive maps and during which the evidential provisions would not bite.

Since the Bill was printed we have received a large number of representations on Clause 42 and discussions have been held between the department's officials, the local authority associations and various interested parties. Some sympathy has been expressed for our objective of making definitive maps mean what they say, but almost all those who have made representations are adamant that the necessary corrections to enable desirable goals to be achieved cannot be made in seven years. This inevitably means that if we retain this provision local authorities are likely to be in-undated with requests for corrections to be made to the definitive map in the early years of the new system. We are naturally anxious that the transition from the old to the new system should be effected as smoothly as possible. The retention of the seven-year moratorium is clearly likely to make this more difficult.

I am impressed also by the argument that if, when the seven-year moratorium ends, there are still a large number of corrections to be made people will be breaking the law if in good faith they seek to exercise rights higher than those shown on the definitive map in the conviction that those higher rights exist.

We are faced therefore with the option of extending the seven-year period or of acknowledging that the time is not yet ripe to pursue our objective of making the map truly definitive. We have chosen the second alternative and this is reflected in the amendment which I beg to move.

Baroness David

We on these Benches would like to welcome these amendments, so I hope we can proceed apace.

Viscount Hanworth

I put down this amendment originally and thought of saying that I was so pleased the noble Lord and his advisers had seen the light. But on mature consideration I thought it wiser, with the possibility of future favours, that I should thank him most sincerely and merely remark that this is an excellent amendment. I hope no other noble Lords will find it necessary to oppose it, because then I shall have to speak.

Viscount Ridley

May I, too, add my support to these amendments.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I have one or two questions to ask my noble friend. These amendments highlight my worry that the thrust of the Bill is to make footpaths into bridleways or even byways open to all traffic and bridleways into byways open to all traffic and indeed to motor-cyclists as well. What steps should a landowner or indeed a rambler take should he find horses on a footpath? Surely the person on the horse would merely say to the apprehender, "I have reason to believe that this path was previously a bridleway ", and he would continue to ride there. What does a landlord or a rambler do in that case? He might not want horses on that path.

Lord Bellwin

My noble friend's question only highlights the extent of the difficulties with which the Government are faced in this Bill in trying properly to look after the interests of everyone concerned. My noble friend has raised a point which I am sure by itself is fair enough. However, the position has been like that for as long as I know. Therefore I would answer him by turning the question back and asking: what does he do now?

Lord Stanley of Alderley

If my noble friend would give way, I have got an answer in my Amendment No. 555C which deals with equestrian traffic.

Lord Bellwin

When we come to it I am sure that we shall be glad to tackle it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 509: Page 37, line 6, at end insert ("and that the public had thereover a right of way on foot, so however that this paragraph shall be without prejudice to any question whether the public had at that date any right of way other than that right ").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 510: Page 37, line 14, leave out ("to drive animals of any description along the highway ") and insert ("of way other than those rights").

The noble Lord said: I have also spoken to this amendment, and I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

4.50 p.m.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 511: Page 37, line 42, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 511ZB not moved.]

Clause 42, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment No. 511B not moved.]

Clause 43 [Supplementary provisions as to definitive maps and statements]:

Lord Bellwin moved Amendments No. 511A, 512A, 512B, 512C, 512D, 512E, 512F and 512G:

Page 38, line 38, leave out ("on ") and insert ("in").

Page 39, line 13, after ("keep") insert ("(a)") At end insert ("; and (b) copies of all orders under this Part modifying the map and statement,")

Page 39, line 19, leave out ("a copy ") and insert ("copies")

Page 39, line 21, leave out ("as relates") and insert ("and copies of so many of the orders as relate")

Page 39, line 25, after ("of ") insert ("(a)")

Page 39, line 25, After ("statement ") insert ("; or (b) each order under this Part modifying the map and statement,")

Page 39, line 28, leave out ("one copy") and insert ("single copies").

The noble Lord said: These amendments are far less complex than they appear. They eliminate altogether the apparent uncertainty that exists that copies of definitive map orders should go on deposit for public inspection with the definitive maps and statements they modify.

Once made, orders are an integral part of the definitive maps and statements they modify. Needless to say, it is important, until copies of the modified definitive maps and statements which actually reflect the effects of orders are prepared in accordance with subsection (2), that these orders are available for public inspection. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 512 not moved.]

Lord Melchett moved Amendment No. 513:

Page 39, line 29, at end insert— ("(6) The surveying authority shall be under a duty to sell copies of any map and statement prepared under subsection (2) above to the public at such reasonable charge as they may determine.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment would place on a surveying authority the duty of selling to the public copies of any definitive map and statement prepared under Clause 41(2). These will be clean copies of definitive maps and statements prepared because the existing maps and statements will have had many changes made to them as a result of the amendment orders. That was something which we discussed on Tuesday evening. The purpose of the amendment is to help members of the public to have information about their public rights of way. As the Bill stands at the moment it only guarantees access to that information in one place in each district, and members of the public enquiring might find at that place that there was only information relating to that particular district where the information would by law—by law if this Bill becomes an Act—have to be held.

Although the amendment creates a new duty which would be placed on surveying authorities it is not a particularly onerous one in terms of either time or finance, and the benefits of allowing members of the public to obtain, rather than merely inspect, copies of the maps and statements could well be considerable. I hope that, with that brief introduction, the amendment will be acceptable. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

Your Lordships will be aware that under subsection (4) of Clause 43 the surveying authority will be required to keep a copy of the definitive map and statement available for inspection in one or more places in each district and as far as practicable in each parish. In addition, in a circular issued in 1970 (No. 22/70) authorities were reminded of the need to make the information contained in definitive maps available to the public outside normal office hours in such places as public libraries. Your Lordships will also be aware that the current series of 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey maps distinguishes between public rights of way and other unsurfaced tracks.

I hear what the noble Lord says but in the circumstances I am loth to place an additional burden on surveying authorities by saying that they must make copies of the definitive map available for sale. I readily concede that there are parts of the country where the demand is no doubt such that it would be extremely helpful to have copies of the map available, but equally there are areas where the demand would be negligible—I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, would agree with that—and the expense of setting up the organisation that would be required to meet it would, I suggest, be out of proportion to the benefits to be gained. The surveying authorities themselves are best placed to decide whether there is a need for this facility, as indeed many have already done. I hope the noble Lord will not press me to take away from local authorities a discretion which I suggest they are capable of exercising sensibly and which I hope they do.

Lord Fletcher

I cannot pretend to be satisfied with the Minister's reply. Whatever additional trouble it may give to the surveying authority it seems to me to be of paramount importance that the public should not only be able to go to inspect the map (which may involve a long journey) but should also be able to obtain, at cost, a copy of the definitive map. I think that that is even more important under the new procedure because each definitive map will be subject to whatever orders have been made modifying it. In the interests of public knowledge, surely it is no hardship to the surveying authority to be required to send, at the expense of the member of the public, a copy of the definitive map, together with such orders modifying the definitive map as have been made. I hope I am not anticipating Amendment No. 514, which applies to modifying orders. I hope the Minister will look at this in the interests of the public. I am supported in what I am saying by some observations that I have recently received from the Countryside Commission, saying that they believe it is essential that the public should be able to purchase copies of the map and the accompanying statement. Therefore, will the Minister be good enough to look at this again, in the interests of the public?

The Earl of Onslow

I should like to support this as well, not so much in the interests of the public as of the landowner. It seems to me quite essential, if you are a landowner and if you want to keep good relations with the public—and I have two footpaths across my property. It is infinitely nicer for people to stay on the footpaths than for the landowners to have to get cross with somebody simply on the grounds that he is not keeping to the footpath. I live in what is practically suburbia and if everybody keeps on the footpaths then everybody is happy. I beg my noble friend to think again on this amendment.

Lord Melchett

I am grateful for the support on both sides of the Committee. It may be that I did not make it clear enough in introducing the amendment that the effect of the amendment would only apply to new maps which were prepared under Clause 41(2). The purpose of having this in the Bill was merely—and I probably did not make it clear enough—that when surveying authorities were preparing a new map they would prepare it in such a way that it could be copied quite easily and sold to anybody asking for it. I understand that authorities who already sell copies of their maps to the public more than cover the cost, so there is no financial burden on the authority. It is simply that the authorities should prepare these new maps in a particular shape and size which could easily be copied on whatever machine they had and could then easily be produced when someone wrote in and asked for a copy.

I hope the noble Lord may agree to look at this again in the light of this clarification of what I was originally intending. It may be that it would be possible to cover it in a circular. The noble Lord said there was a circular issued. I do not know whether the Government envisage issuing another one once this Bill has become law. I imagine that is quite likely, in which case it may be that, when the noble Lord has had a chance to look at it, he could tell us that the Government would make a reference to this in the circular, and I think that that would be satisfactory.

Lord Bellwin

The noble Lord makes the point well enough. I think it is interesting. Certainly, we ought to think about it, as to the best way in which we might do something to try to cover the point. I will take it away and think about the best way we might do it.

Lord Melchett

I am very grateful to the noble Lord. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 514 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 43, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Fletcher

I noticed that my noble friend Lord Melchett did not move his Amendment No. 514. When I was addressing your Lordships on Amendment No. 513, I was under the impression that Amendment No. 514 would be moved, or at any rate debated.

Lord Bellwin

If I may intervene for a moment, a Government amendment has been tabled to this effect. I suspect that is why the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, did not move it. It may be that that will help the noble Lord.

Lord Melchett

I should have said—and I apologise to my noble friend for not doing so, as he had referred to Amendment No. 514—that Amendments Nos. 512A to 512G, which we have already accepted, do cover exactly the same point as I intended to get at with Amendment No. 514.

Lord Fletcher

Am I right in thinking that that means that some of these amendments at any rate will require a local authority at the request of a member of the public to send a copy of orders modifying definitive maps?

Lord Bellwin

The point here is that we recognised the need for the improvement of the right of way provisions and it is to that end that we have tabled the amendments.

Clause 43, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 44 [Application of ss. 39 to 43 to inner London.]:

Viscount Ridley moved Amendment No. 514A:

Page 39, line 32, leave out from ("to") to end of line 34 and substitute— ("(a) any area which, immediately before 1st April 1965, formed part of the administrative county of London; or (b) any part of a county to which, immediately before the commencement date, sections 27 to 34 of the 1949 Act do not apply.").

The noble Viscount said: I beg to move Amendment No. 514A, and with it I would speak to Amendment No. 514B. Under the 1949 Highways Act no survey of rights of way was required for certain areas; namely, parts of London, former county boroughs and areas excluded by resolution with the Minister's approval. Such areas might have been made subject to the Act by resolution of the appropriate council. This Bill provides that definitive maps will have to be prepared for such unadopted areas outside London, although no time-scale is laid down in the Bill. It is suggested by the local authority associations that this change is unjustified. Areas which are still unadopted by 1981 are for the most part urban areas for which there is little demand for a definitive map and where the work needed to prepare such a map would be out of all proportion to the benefits to be gained by it.

At this moment allocation of resources to perform this very heavy additional duty must be a matter for the county councils concerned. It is, therefore, proposed that this is very difficult to achieve and that Clause 44, which preserves the exclusion of London areas except where the council adopts the provisions, should be extended to all counties. Amendments Nos. 514A and 514B make this change. I beg to move.

Viscount Hanworth

I would strongly oppose this amendment. A number of county councils have done this voluntarily, and I see absolutely no reason why an exemption should be made.

Baroness David

We also would oppose this amendment. I spoke to this and said how pleased we were, when I spoke at Second Reading, that this was in the Bill, that town areas would have to have maps provided for them as well. I think a lot of people do like walking out by paths from the town into the country. I do not think the work would be all that heavy, and I think it would be a great advantage. I trust the Government will not accept the amendment.

Lord Bellwin

Former county borough areas are now integral parts of the counties to which they belong. They frequently contain substantial areas of countryside in which one would expect to find a number of public rights of way. I do not consider that the definitive map for any particular county would be complete unless it covered those areas. I question that there is an adequate parallel between them and inner London and that they should necessarily be treated alike. If the concern of my noble friend is about the burden on authorities, I suggest it is more apparent than real. The provisions in the Bill impose no deadline on authorities for producing the maps for former county borough areas, and also enable the maps to be built up progressively by definitive map orders. There will be no pressure from Government to specify time limits in tackling these areas. With that my noble friend may feel somewhat reassured, at least sufficiently not to press the amendment.

Viscount Ridley

I certainly will not press it, I think it must be said again that this piling of new duties on to the backs of local authorities will cost money, and I know my noble friend appreciates this. Those areas to which he referred—and I agree that county borough areas can include open countryside—have, I think, all been covered where they are relevant, as the demand for a definitive map must have been there for many years. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment in the interests of progress.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 514B not moved.]

Clause 44 agreed to.

Clause 45 agreed to.

Viscount Ridley: moved Amendment No. 514C:

After Clause 45, insert the following new clause:

("Orders of magistrates' courts

. Subsection (3) of section 116 of the Highways Act 1980 (power of magistrates' court to authorise stopping up or diversion of highway) shall cease to have effect.").

The noble Viscount said: I beg to move Amendment No. 514C, and I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 558A and 558B. Where a highway authority seeks to apply to the magistrates court for diversion or closure of a path under Section 116 of the Highways Act 1980, district and parish councils may veto the application. If, however, the authority makes a public path order under Sections 118 or 119 of that Act, to the same effect, those councils merely have the right to object and not to veto. It is thought that amendments of this kind should be sought to remove the district and parish councils veto under Section 116(3) of the Highways Act 1980. I believe it is in the interests of good management. I beg to move.

Lord Melchett

I hope the Government will resist this. It does seem a bit hard on the parish councils and district councils. I take the point the noble Viscount is making, that it would probably be better to do away with the procedure altogether under Section 116 of the Highways Act, given that there is a more modern procedure, but while it is there, I think it is only fair to allow district and parish councils their existing rights. I hope the Government will agree.

Viscount Hanworth

I would oppose this amendment on the same grounds as have just been stated.

Lord Bellwin

Like my noble friend, I am interested in anything that will help good management, but I think the proposed new clause embraces, in addition to public paths and metalled tracks, other classes of highway, and as such surely it is a matter of general highway legislation, and the Government really would not want to agree to extend this Bill to incorporate them. Therefore, I wonder whether on reflection my noble friend would not agree with me as regards this matter and perhaps agree to withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Ridley

Yes; I shall not press this amendment either, but I think that there is a problem here and I hope that the Minister will not totally ignore it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.11 p.m.

Viscount Ridley moved Amendment No. 514D:

After Clause 45, insert the following new clause:

("Amendment of 1971 Act

. For section 221 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 (orders under section 32 of the Mineral Workings Act 1951) there shall be substituted the following section:— 221. If the authority by whom an order under section 209 or 210 of this Act is made is satisfied that, after the development to which the order relates has been completed, the highways to which the order relates can be restored to a condition not substantially less convenient to members of the public, the order may provide—

  1. (a) for the stopping up or diversion of the highway during such period as may be prescribed by or under the order;
  2. (b) for its restoration at the expiration of that period;
  3. (c) for imposing on any person who, apart from the order, would be liable to maintain the highway during the said period, a corresponding liability in respect of any highway provided in pursuance of the order; and
  4. (d) for the stopping up at the expiration of the said period of any highway so provided and for the reconstruction and maintenance of the original highway.".").

The noble Viscount said: I apologise to the Committee because it seems that I am now involved in a rather substantial block of amendments, but I hope to get them over as quickly as I possibly can. I beg to move Amendment No. 514F and to speak to Amendment No. 557ZA. This amendment refers to temporary closures and diversions. In the case of mineral workings it is possible to make a temporary closure or diversion of a path to be reinstated when the workings are finished. A similar power is needed for other development not permanently affecting the land such as waste disposal sites and land reclamation schemes which nevertheless take too long to permit temporary traffic orders to be made under Section 12 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967.

It is suggested that these amendments should be sought extending the power to make temporary Section 210 orders under Section 32 of the Mineral Workings Act 1951 to any development, completion of which in the opinion of the planning authority will enable the path to be reinstated. Amendment No. 514D inserts a new clause which replaces Section 221 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 as a means of extending the power to make temporary stopping-up or diversion orders. Amendment No. 557ZA is consequential in Schedule 14.

These amendments would avoid a cumbersome procedure by supplying a power of temporary diversion for cases other than those where the power already exists. I beg to move Amendment No. 514D.

Lord Bellwin

The idea that my noble friend has put forward is not objectionable in principle, but since the clause encompasses all classes of highway and not just rights of way or other unmetalled highways, I respectfully submit that it is outside the scope of the Bill. Indeed, as with the previous new clause, which my noble friend moved as an amendment, this proposal although it is concerned with the Town and Country Planning Act is again a matter of general highway legislation. Again, for that reason, the Government would not want to agree that it would be right to extend the Bill to incorporate the amendment and again, as I said last time, in view of that perhaps my noble friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Viscount Ridley

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 514E: After Clause 45, insert the following new clause—

("Stray dogs

.—(1) If, in a case not falling within subsection (2), any person without lawful authority allows a dog to stray from the line of a public path in a field or enclosure containing sheep or lambs, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £200.

(2) Subsection (1) shall not apply to—

  1. (a) any person acting with the permission of the owner or occupier of the field or enclosure;
  2. (b) any blind person; or
  3. (c) any constable acting in the exercise of his duty.

(3) In any proceedings under subsection (1) it shall be a defence to show that the dog was under control on a lead of reasonable length.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 514E, the purposes of which are two-fold: first, to protect sheep from dogs; and secondly, to help and encourage a good relationship between the farmer and the walker—and I admit freely to my priorities being in that order. The effect of the amendment would be to keep a dog on the line of a path, maybe on a lead, but not necessarily so, for I accept that many dogs are so well trained that they would keep to a path without a lead—but alas! not mine. The amendment allows for that, and it also allows for the case when the walker does not know where the path is. I will not regale the Committee on the horrors of dogs chasing sheep. I have experienced it in my own flock and I can only say that I find it deeply distressing. I believe that this amendment would help and would protect the innocent walker and his dog for whom I have much sympathy.

Perhaps I may be allowed to bore your Lordships with the background thinking to this amendment, which is that although members of the public have a legal right to walk or indeed ride on rights of way, I would ask them to consider it also a privilege to be in the country, and to remember that human beings often do not fit in with the country. For instance, humans with dogs do not fit in very well with sheep. Even the presence of a dog will pack sheep and also people going on a walk automatically arouse a bullock's interest and will stop him sleeping and eating, which, of course, I object to. Often a number of people in a beautiful site by their very presence destroy the very thing that they have come to see.

I hope that I realise my position as a tenant for life of the bit of land which I farm. Likewise, I ask those who visit my farm to realise that they are not walking on a motorway and to be respectful and aware of the agricultural operations going on around them—be they bulls, cows or sheep that they are walking among. If they are not, the time may come when there will be nothing for them to see at all. I think that that would be a great pity, because what better sight is there than a herd of cows with calves at foot or a flock of sheep with lambs at foot? I beg to move.

Baroness Elliot of Harwood

I should like to support the amendment because it is one which deeply concerns anyone who farms in hill areas, whether it be Wales, Northumberland, Cumberland, the South of Scotland or anywhere where there are great areas which are used for grazing. To allow stray dogs on to those areas can be absolutely devastating. I know that people normally think that dogs are very harmless animals and that they do not do anything which they should not do, and so on. However, they can terrify sheep and they can of course attack them, although I am not saying that ordinarily they would do so.

I can give an example from the area in which I live where someone, unbeknown to I think any of us, began breeding Alsatians miles away in the hills. Alsatians are very dangerous animals. After a while there was a devastating experience when people discovered that the dogs were getting out, killing sheep, and returning home again. It was a very bad state of affairs. The position was discovered only because the unfortunate farmers whose sheep had been killed did not know where the dogs were coming from; but finally they discovered where they were coming from and action had to be taken. The person who bred them had to remove the dogs and, because of that, the whole situation was changed.

It is extremely important that if one allows, as many of us do, people to walk over or ride over one's land those people should realise that having dogs—perhaps more than almost any other animal—on hillsides can be extremely dangerous. When there is trouble people ask for the dog to be shot. I do not at all want dogs shot, but the situation becomes extremely dangerous for farmers and altogether it makes it impossible for one to allow one's land to be traversed either by hill walkers or ridden over by hill riders.

I hope that the Government will accept the amendment because it seems to me that it is absolutely vital and does not in any way interfere with the legitimate practice of allowing the public to go on one's land, provided that certain matters are safeguarded. A stray dog is one of the most dangerous and difficult animals with which the farmer has to contend. I hope that the Government will appreciate that and will accept the amendment.

Lord Hunt

We have heard the farming and landowning points of view as regards this amendment and I should like, as a hill walker and a long distance walker, very warmly to support the amendment. It seems to me to be quite essential and enlightened self-interest on the part of all who walk and who happen to take dogs with them, that they should conform to the terms of this amendment in the interests of the goodwill and good relations between the recreationists and the farming and landowning community. It is, I think—and, if not, it ought to be—a part of the Country Code. Therefore, it has everything to be said for it.

Lord Dormer

I also support this amendment of my noble friend Lord Stanley. Those of us who live in the countryside and farm know only too well of the great dangers of stray dogs, particularly among flocks of sheep and in-lamb ewes, and also in cattle. They can and do cause grave damage. It is extremely unpleasant afterwards to have to take the owner to court or to obtain retribution in some other way. I should like to support the amendment.

The Earl of Radnor

I shall be brief. It is not just a question confined to the law. All the arguments in support of this amendment have probably been covered and I, too, should like to support it. In my part of the world, where there are a great number of rights of way through farmland on which a great many sheep are kept, there are people who definitely go down rights of way with long dogs to kill sheep and also hares. There is no doubt about that. I think that this amendment would be welcomed by the authorities and, to a certain extent, by the police as being an added bow to their armoury to prevent this type of crime. The excuse always is that the dog got away from them. If they are not caught, they have lamb for supper. I support this amendment and I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will be able to do something about it.

Lord Melchett

I hope that I shall not be a lone voice in speaking against the amendment. I hope that the Government also will speak against it. I must make it absolutely clear that I have the greatest possible sympathy for the point at which everyone who has spoken on the amendment has been getting. But, with great respect, it does not seem to me that that is the effect of the amendment. For example, as far as I can understand it, it would have the extraordinary result that someone taking dogs into a field where they were trespassing, as long as they committed no damage, would not be liable to be prosecuted for any offence; whereas, someone walking down a path with a dog three feet one side of the path, or three feet the other, with the dog under perfect control, would be committing an offence. That seems to me to be a nonsense.

To look at the general problem, at the moment it is, of course, an offence to have a dog worrying sheep, and, quite rightly, farmers are allowed to shoot dogs if they find them in the act and if there is no way of stopping the offence. I hope that it might be possible for us to find something more to do, if anything more is needed in legislation, in order to combat this problem. But I honestly do not think that this new clause does it. In the rubric it claims to be dealing with stray dogs, but it is actually talking about dogs which moved a couple of inches, a couple of feet or whatever, from the line of a footpath—I do not know how far noble Lords imagine it would have to be.

In introducing the amendment the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, said that it would be a defence for someone if he did not know where the line of a footpath was. But I could not see that in the wording of the new clause. If someone was mistaken as to where the footpath went, I think he would then be committing an offence. If the noble Lord could answer that point while I am on my feet, I would gladly give way to him. If he cannot, I shall wait for the Government to confirm that my interpretation is correct.

It does not seem to me that walkers on footpaths are the main or, if they are, at all frequently the source of this problem. I speak as someone who led a walk last Sunday with 51 ramblers, some with dogs and some without, round both my farm and other people's land. I have always found that people who walk down footpaths are exceptionally good about keeping dogs under control and I speak as someone who walks there myself and who has a dog. I should have thought that in an amendment one wanted to get at the circumstance of someone letting a dog out of a car and driving along in the car with the dog running behind, which seems to me to be a deplorable practice from the dog's point of view and a great deal more likely to lead to a dog chasing sheep. This amendment would not do anything about that because, so far as I can see, it does not cover, for example, an unfenced road. As I have said, I have a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Lords are trying to do, but I honestly think that the new clause would cause a large number of very serious, if not some slightly idiotic, anomalies, and I hope that it will not be accepted.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

On the noble Lord's first question, I would point out that it is covered in subsection (3) of my amendment. Of course, he would have to keep the dog on a lead.

Lord Melchett

That is not an answer. If someone is walking down what he thinks is the line of a public path but it is not, how will he know that that is the point at which he has to put the dog on a lead, because he would not know that he was off the line?

The Earl of Avon

Perhaps at this moment I could put the Government's view. Of course, the Government are sympathetic to the wish to reduce livestock-worrying by dogs. This new clause would make it an offence for any person to allow a dog to stray from the line of a public path in a field or enclosure containing sheep or lambs. Under subsection (3) it would be a defence in any proceedings to show that the dog was under control on a lead of reasonable length.

One of the 10-point slogans of the present Country Code is "Keep dogs under proper control ". The Commission's consultation paper, issued in December 1979, concerning a review of the code suggested that this should be amended to: "Keep dogs under close control ". It added: Many suggested that the code should say that dogs should be on leads. As a general direction that is probably too restrictive". That is my up-to-date information from the Countryside Commission and I should have thought that they were the right people to keep the code up to date on this matter. I am sure that they will read this particular discussion with interest.

As the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, said, the Animals Act 1971 provides at Section 3 that where a dog causes damage by killing or injuring livestock, any person who is the keeper of the dog is normally liable for the damage. The noble Lord also went on to explain about the question of when a dog is shot. As I said earlier, the Government are sympathetic to this idea and this was one of the issues considered by the Interdepartmental Working Party on Dogs which was set up because of public concern about nuisance caused by dogs. Its report was published in 1976 and it concluded that the existing law, as it applies to England and Wales, provides adequate protection against sheep-worrying. I believe that if we were to go further into this subject, we would have to consider the other recommendations of this report, and not just this one in isolation. In the circumstances, I hope that I have convinced my noble friends that there is not a need for an amendment to the Bill on this subject.

Lord Avebury

Before my noble kinsman replies to this amendment, may I tell him how very appropriate it is that he should have introduced an amendment to this Bill to keep dogs under control, when his great great grandmother wrote to her husband on 10th September 1843: The Manchester gentry are much more annoying to one's comfort and enjoyment than operatives, as one can neither handcuff nor great-dog them if they are intrusive or offensive". The noble Lord now has the opportunity to make amends.

The Earl of Caithness

I should like to support this amendment, but I would advise my noble friend to withdraw it and come back with a stronger amendment in order to satisfy the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett. However, like my noble friend on the Front Bench, I do not think that the present legislation is working because in 1978 3,258 sheep were killed in this connection and a further 2,342 were injured. If that is the case—and these are reliable statistics—the law does not seem to be working, and we ought to look into this question in more detail at a later stage.

Baroness Elliot of Harwood

I should like to ask a question before the amendment is withdrawn. My noble friend spoke about restrictions being called the Countryside Code. Does that apply to Scotland?— because I have never heard of it in my life. I live in an area where any amount of trouble is caused by dogs, not on footpaths but on the hills. The dogs get away. Those of us who are anxious, as I am, to see that people can walk over the hills, can go on our land and so on, are only too delighted to let them do so provided that they do not have dogs that chase the sheep. If the code can be endorsed, well and good; that is grand. I have never heard of it. The only way that I have been able to deal with dogs is to shoot them, or at least to get someone to shoot them for me. The Government must realise that this is detrimental to pedestrians and to those who want to enjoy the countryside, apart from the wretched people who are trying to keep sheep. As the noble Earl said, last year 3,000 were killed.

The Earl of Avon

May I just clarify the point for the noble Baroness? The Countryside Commission publishes a code which is a code of advice, and that covers Scotland. I am sure that they will take note of the fact that it does not seem to be reaching the noble Baroness's part of Scotland.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I know that we want to press on, but I was interested in the noble Earl's passing reference to the Inter-Departmental Committee on Dogs in Society. I myself was chairman of the Joint Advisory Committee on Pets in Society and was the principal witness to that inter-departmental committee in 1976. The report of that committee followed very closely indeed the recommendations that I was able to make on behalf of a wide range of interested organisations.

The last Government had this report before them for some time, and the present Government have had it before them for some time, but neither is disposed to do anything about it. I suggest to noble Lords opposite that they really ought to read up about dogs in society and look at the broad problem of control of dogs, responsible ownership, and discipline. It is all there. We are only dealing really with one of the outcrops of the present unsatisfactory and chaotic position about dog ownership and the way in which dogs behave.

Only recently the Secretary of State for the Environment has informed the Joint Advisory Committee that the present Government have no intention of introducing any legislation to implement the recommendations of the committee during the lifetime of this Parliament. I deplore the fact that large numbers of people are appointed at different times to look into problems which are pressing when Governments feel that it is necessary to have them investigated, but when all the time and money has been spent on getting careful thought over long months on a matter of this sort, they just pigeonhole the report and regard you as a nuisance if you ask them to do anything about it.

This is one of the deplorable features of government. They shunt things off to a committee, use the unpaid time of people who are prepared to devote themselves to a problem, and then they think that if the pressure has been relieved they need do nothing. This dog problem is just as bad as ever it was, and there are many other aspects of it which it would be quite out of order for me to refer to now. We shall never get this dog worrying problem, and a great many other problems relating to dogs in society, resolved until some Government apply their mind to it and grasp this nettle. We know what the nettle is. The nettle is the licence fee and the enforcement of the licence fee, and getting a closer control over the dog population, and knowing where they are and who owns them. But in present circumstances dogs can wander anywhere, and do any amount of damage. It is quite impossible to enforce rules of the kind now proposed to the committee.

Lord Burton

I am sorry about that last remark of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, because I thought that we had a unique occasion when he was agreeing with these Benches, in which case probably the amendment ought to go through if it was unanimous. It is sad that both Front Benches have taken the attitude they have, and in particular the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, because in the course of our dealing with this Bill he has spoken on a number of occasions about the need for agreement with Europe. In most European countries, unlike the £200 fine which is suggested here, the dog would be shot. It seems to me that this amendment is the most moderate of proposals. It seems the greatest pity that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, made that last remark because the greatest cruelty arises through the worrying of sheep, and anything that can be done to control dogs surely must be in the interests of the countryside, the interests of this Bill, and the interests of everyone in this country.

Lord Auckland

Basically this is an amendment which is very worthwhile, but there are two points which ought to be made. One concerns subsection (b). There are people other than blind people who are disabled and who take dogs where there may be sheep. I would hope that the amendment would be extended to include disabled people. Secondly, for those who are magistrates, how is a lead of reasonable length going to be decided? Surely a lead in itself—provided it is a lead and not merely a piece of string, on which some people do exercise dogs—would be acceptable. These points aside, I believe that this is an amendment which is desirable and acceptable.

Lord Spens

I feel I must come to the assistance of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, over this. We have had a number of expressions from other noble Lords with which I am very sympathetic, but this amendment will not do what they think it will do. For example, it only deals with a dog straying from the line of a public path in a field or enclosure.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I wonder whether I may interrupt the noble Lord? I have no intention of pressing it, if it is worrying him.

Lord Spens

I thank the noble Lord very much, but that is not the point. I rather support his ideas but I think he has to introduce a much wider amendment. This amendment would not deal with a dog which strayed through any field in which there were sheep, which did not have a public path running through it. It is so limited in its present drafting that it is really useless.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I must say that I did not realise that your Lordships were as fond of sheep as I am and my noble friend Lady Elliot. I feel, as a result, that there is hope for your Lordships' House yet. I have listened with the greatest interest to the points raised, and I am particularly impressed with the measure of support that I got from all parts of the Committee, including the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, in suggesting that walking through the countryside carried quite a responsibility on the part of the walker. From my contact with those who walk around my farm I would say that the great majority of walkers fall in line with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and they behave exactly in the manner he described.

I am usually fearful of the comments made by my noble kinsman, Lord Avebury, but on this occasion I do not think I had any need to be. Indeed, I can commend the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, to perhaps read the quotation. I am in favour of nearly all of the remarks that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, made about dog licences. I take many of the points made by my noble friend Lord Avon, and indeed by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, about the lack of preciseness in the amendment. Having had such sympathy from the Committee, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 13 [Orders creating, extinguishing or diverting public rights of way]:

[Amendments Nos. 515 to 517 not moved.]

5.38 p.m.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 518: Page 79, line 41, leave out ("twenty-eight") and insert ("forty-two").

The noble Baroness said: In speaking to Amendment No. 518 I should like to speak also to No. 539. Both these amendments seek to extend the objection period for public path orders under the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 and the Highways Act 1980 from 28 to 42 days. The objection period for both types of order has been reduced over the years, and our feeling is that some increase is desirable. The period of 42 days has been included because it is the length of time allowed under Schedule 12 of the Bill for objections to be submitted to orders modifying definitive maps to be made under the provisions contained in Part III.

I believe it will assist public understanding if objection periods are standardised. An increase of 14 days, which these amendments will bring about, would also allow interested parties more time to consult each other, and this could lead to fewer rather than more objections if the parties agreed not to object to a proposal after being able to give it reasonable consideration. Under the present arrangements what amount to holding objections are submitted simply because there has not been time to give the matter proper consideration before the period of 28 days has expired.

When I moved Amendment No. 487 I spoke of the need for sufficient time for objections to be made, and the Minister then said—in respect of that and similar amendments, namely, Nos. 493, 519 and 540—that he would be tabling amendments on Report to cover that aspect. I hope he will feel as kindly towards this amendment and will agree to it.

Lord Bellwin

We feel in this instance that 28 days is more than adequate for interested persons to obtain details of a particular proposal, to consider the merits involved and, if not content, to challenge the proposal. The point the noble Baroness makes about the 42-day period that is allowed for objecting in respect of definitive maps is interesting, but there are some differences between the two. In relation to public path orders, it is essentially a matter of challenging the specific grounds on which the orders are made. The complexity of the evidence taken into consideration by authorities before formally proposing to amend definitive maps is such that potential objectors need more time to unearth counter-evidence.

The definitive map older procedure set out in Schedule 12 includes a provision enabling potential objectors to require local authorities to inform them of any documentary evidence taken into account in preparing a modification. Authorities have 14 days in which to comply with a request and the objection period must take this factor into account. There is, therefore, a difference. I take the point that it would be helpful to gave uniformity of time for these matters, but there is a considerable difference between the two situations which the noble Baroness described. Our main reason for resisting the amendments is that there seems to be no need for an extension of this period.

Baroness David

I should have liked to have the time extended, but this is not something to have a fight about and I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 519 to 521 not moved.]

5.43 p.m.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 521A: Page 80, line 17, after ("held ") insert ("by a person appointed by the Secretary of State").

The noble Lord said: I will, with permission, speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 521B, 522A, 522B, 542A and 543A. Your Lordships will recollect that in moving the Government's amendments to Schedule 12 on the appointment of persons to hold public local inquiries into opposed definitive map orders I mentioned that corresponding amendments had been tabled to Schedule 13 in connection with the handling of opposed public path orders. These are they.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 521B: Page 80, line 18, leave out ("appointed to hold the inquiry") and insert ("so appointed").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 522 not moved.]

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 522A: Page 80, line 32, after ("held") insert ("by a person appointed by the Secretary of State").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 522B: Page 80, line 33, leave out ("appointed to hold the inquiry") and insert ("so appointed").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 523 not moved.]

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 524: Page 80, line 34, leave out ("substituted ") and insert ("inserted").

The noble Lord said: This and Amendment No. 528 do no more than correct typographical errors that occurred during the printing.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 524A:

Page 80, leave out lines 36 to 41 and insert— (""(2A) In relation to a local inquiry caused to be held by an authority under this paragraph—

  1. (a) subsections (2) and (3) of section 250 of the Local Government Act 1972 (which relate to the giving of evidence at local inquiries) shall apply as they apply in relation to a local inquiry which a Minister causes to be held under subsection (1) of that section;
  2. (b) the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1971 shall apply as it applies in relation to a statutory inquiry held by the Secretary of State, but as if in section 12(1) of that Act (statement of reasons for decisions) the reference to any decision taken by the Secretary of State were a reference to a decision taken by a local authority."").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 525 to 527 not moved.]

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 528: Page 80, line 48, after ("Schedule") insert ("for").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 529 to 534 not moved.]

Viscount Ridley moved Amendments Nos. 534A and 534B:

Page 81, line 27 after ("bridleways)") insert ("for the words from the beginning to "is situated" there shall be substituted the words "Where it appears to a council as respects a footpath or bridleway in their area (other than one which is a trunk road or special road)", and the words "(whether on to other land of his or on to land of another owner, lessee or occupier)" and")

Page 81, line 29, at end insert— ("(1A) En subsection (5) of that section, for the words "the owner, lessee or occupier on whose representations "there shall be substituted the words "any owner, lessee or occupier of land crossed by the path or way at whose respect ".").

The noble Viscount said: Section 118 of the Highways Act 1980 authorises the making of a public path diversion order only at the request of the owner or occupier of the land affected, whereas under Section 119 of that Act a public path extinguishment order can be made by the authority's own motion. This is an anomaly which can be avoided only by the authority making a creation order for a new path and an extinguishment order for the old if it is desired to make a diversion. It is therefore proposed in the amendments that it would be simpler and administratively more convenient if the authority could itself make a diversion order, and the amendments would amend Schedule 13 in such a way that would allow Section 119 of the Highways Act to enable a diversion order to be made by surveying authorities. I believe it would be a useful power for authorities to have. There is no question here of trying to duck the responsibility for public rights of way or in any way to restrict them, and no public rights would be prejudiced, but where diversions have to be made—and they often are necessary—the process for doing so would be streamlined. I beg to move.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I support the amendment. There is no question here of taking away the power of the individual also to make a diversion, and in this connection I would remind my noble friend Lord Bellwin that we have not heard anything about the Government's view on diversions. This is an important subject and I am wondering whether my noble friend would care to make a statement now on diversions and their use, or perhaps he would prefer to do that at another time.

Baroness David

We should like to support the amendments: they seem to be useful.

Lord Bellwin

I recognise that in many respects the present provisions for the creation, diversion, and extinguishment of public paths may be in need of improvement, and that there may be a need for local authorities to initiate diversion orders. I respectfully submit that what is needed in the circumstances is not piecemeal changes, but a comprehensive review of the legislation. While obviously I cannot make any promises, since it is independent of Government, I hope that this is something that Michael Spicer's rights of way committee may be able to take under its wing, and I give an assurance that I shall take steps to explore this possibility. I hope that my noble friend and others would agree that in the absence of such a review it would be wrong to change the present legislation. Perhaps with the assurance that we shall look at the matter very seriously in the way that I have suggested, my noble friend may feel able to withdraw his amendments.

Lord Melchett

We have had a number of references to this committee which, as the Minister has just said, is not a Government committee. It is, as I understand it, an entirely informal committee. When considering Part I of the Bill we were all very anxious that the Government should have the opportunity to consult the scientific advisory bodies, and I am sure that all noble Lords on all sides of the Chamber would be more than happy for the Government between the Committee and Report stages to consult any committee that they wish to consult.

However, I want to make clear what I am sure would be the feeling on all sides, particularly on an amendment which obviously has the support of all sides: that the reference to a non-statutory committee, over which the Government have no control, as the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, said, should not simply be used as an excuse—if that is not putting it too harshly—in order to prevent the House from considering these matters on Report. I hope that if the matters are to be referred to this committee, the Government will be prepared to come to the House at Report stage, or rather before then so that we can all avoid once more tabling and discussing our amendments—and I think the noble Lord the Chief Whip is giving me very helpful support here. I hope that when matters are referred to this committee, as was the cases with references to the scientific authorities in regard to Part I, we ensure that we receive an answer in time for ourselves and the Government to avoid tabling amendments.

Lord Bellwin

I think that that is absolutely fair comment. It is certainly not in any attempt to fob off someone, get out of something, or move away from it that I say what I do say. We are glad that there is a body sitting in this way. We want to hear what it has to say and to be advised by it, in so far as we think that proper. I make careful note of the point about timing to which the noble Lord referred.

Viscount Ridley

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, for saying that he will look at this point. I rather agree with the noble Lord, Lord Melchett; we should like to get this sorted out. I should like to say to my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley that when asking for the diversion of a footpath there would be no question of interfering with the rights of an owner or occupier of land under the Act. That is not by any means my intention. The intention is merely that the authority should have the same rights as the owner. I beg leave to withdraw the amendments.

Amendments, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 535:

Page 81, line 30, leave out sub-paragraph (2) and insert— (" (2) In subsection (6) of that section for the word "confirm" in each place where it occurs there shall be substituted the word "make".").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment with Amendment No. 489. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

5.55 p.m.

Lord Monk Bretton moved Amendment No. 535A:

Page 81, line 35, at end insert— ("(4) In subsection (1) of that section after the words "held with it" there shall be added the words "(including the securing of freedom from disease, security of premises or reasonable privacy).".").

The noble Lord said: Section 119 of the Highways Act 1980 states that diversion of a footpath must satisfy either the efficient use of the land or provide a shorter or more commodious path. There are then savings for the public interest in that where an order is made on the grounds of efficient use of the land, the path must be not substantially less convenient to the public and regard must also be had to the public enjoyment of the path or way as a whole. From time to time the phrase "efficient use of the land" has proved unfortunately restrictive, and I want, very briefly, to speak about farmers' problems over this.

I want to clarify the question of whether the phrase "efficient use of the land" is likely to be interpreted favourably to farmers in cases which they are finding particularly worrying. I hasten to say that the amendment is exploratory, hence its rather comprehensive nature, which I hope is not worrying noble Lords too greatly at this stage.

I wish to mention briefly points regarding hop wilt and paths leading to farm buildings, as well as the question of reasonable privacy, with emphasis on the word "reasonable ". Hop wilt is a disease that is communicable by people walking. I understand that it is the only plant disease in respect of which the Ministry of Agriculture has supported footpath diversions. The Ministry has also taken strong powers under the Progressive Wilt Disease of Hops Order 1978, and this disease has become steadily more virulent and worrying all the time over the last 50 years, I think.

Obviously farmers do not want to leave any stones unturned in trying to contain the disease, and this attitude has resulted in their concluding that it would be much better if possible to keep footpaths out of hop gardens. So they have been trying to secure diversions; and there are difficulties here. Kent County Council feels that as the law stands the diversion must be for the purpose of "efficient use of the land", and the council is unclear whether freedom from hop wilt falls within this definition. In the meantime, as I understand it, the Ministry of Agriculture has no powers to make temporary diversion of footpaths in the face of this disease. This traditional industry has experienced difficult times, and we do not want to see it disappear from the face of either Kent or Herefordshire. I am sure that no rambler would wish that to happen in any case, and no doubt their good will can be counted upon.

I turn now to the question of paths leading to farm buildings, and this, too, is sometimes a problem. Paths were originally developed for purposes that were different from those for which they are used today. Hence they frequently led straight to farm premises; they were used in that way. Now that the paths are used primarily for recreational purposes, very often it may be unnecessary that they should lead to farm buildings. Today there are fewer people on farms, and more farm buildings are either unattended or attended only rarely. There is among farmers a general feeling that if possible they want to keep the public away from farm buildings, particularly those which tend to be unattended. The first reason for this is prevention of animal diseases—diseases among pigs, poultry, and other livestock. I shall not go further into that point.

There is also the question of the safety of the public and the fact that children use rights of way. Sometimes even older people are more curious than they should be and they can get into difficulties by entering farm buildings. Then there is the question of security and fire risk. Again, is this aspect covered by the phrase "efficient use of the land", and what is to be the official line on requests for diversions on the kind of grounds that I have mentioned?

This subject ties up to some extent with the question of reasonable privacy. There was a recent decision regarding the diversion of a path in a garden in West Sussex. The Secretary of State considered: The view is taken that protection of privacy and prevention of vandalism do not satisfy the statutory requirements". Probably, in that case, fair enough; but one asks oneself whether it would be quite so satisfactory with the following case, and what would happen.

Suppose a cottage is occupied by a key farm worker and there is a right of way in his garden. Increased use of the path takes place due to neighbouring developments and the occupants become unsettled and have difficulties; they have no close neighbour to keep an eye on their property while they are out, unlike people in towns. The farmer therefore applies for a diversion to keep this man on his farm. Will the Secretary of State find it necessary to stick to the same narrow view just quoted, or will he take the same view as the farmer probably does, that it is important for the efficient use of the land that he keeps that particular worker?

As I say, this amendment is exploratory, and it has given me a chance to mention some of the difficulties under which farmers labour. What I should like to say about it is this. I am aware that the Spicer Review Committee have had preliminary discussions about these very technical matters, and I am wondering whether my noble friend will be able to let them proceed rapidly with this subject before the Report stage, possibly with a view to incorporating suitable amendments to the Bill that will meet such of those problems as it turns out it is necessary to meet. I am sure that if something could be done about that it would be most excellent news. I beg to move.

Viscount Hanworth

I think one has some sympathy with the problem raised here, but the amendment as it stands goes far too wide and could be used for other purposes. I suggest that this is one of those areas where further consultation outside would be desirable, and that the noble Lord should come back with perhaps a much narrower amendment later.

Lord Bellwin

Let me confess at once that on the subject of hop wilt or any other associated or like disease I am no expert. I would have thought that the answer to my noble friend's concern on this matter is surely that under the Highway Act 1980 there are already powers for farmers to ask for diversions of this kind if they so wish. I would have thought that in fact that was the solution to his concern.

As I said in reply to the previous amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Ridley, however desirable this amendment may be—and I in no way wish to be lighthearted in my treatment of it at all, because I recognise it is a serious matter—it is not appropriate, I submit, to consider it in isolation from other, similar changes which need to be looked at in relation to the procedures and criteria for making public path orders. On the understanding that these will be comprehensively reviewed, I should add that I find it difficult to see how one could be sure, in any case, that a diversion would secure freedom from disease as against, perhaps, merely reducing the risk of disease.

In the same way, though it would no doubt produce greater privacy in some instances, I think you could not really hope to make premises secure by diverting a path; but, as I say, no doubt my noble friend has much greater knowledge and experience than I have of these matters. But I hope that, with the reference I have made to the powers that are already in existence, he may feel able to withdraw the amendment, in that his problems can be solved in that way.

Lord Monk Bretton

Indeed I should like to thank my noble friend for that sympathetic reply. I am sure we shall have time to study this matter a little further and some of the narrower points. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 536 to 540 not moved.]

Lord Monk Bretton moved Amendment No. 540A:

Page 82, line 24, at end insert— ("( ) In sub-paragraph (2) of paragraph 2 of that Schedule there shall be inserted the following sub-paragraph—

  1. "(1A) Where objections to the making or confirmation of an order pursuant to this Schedule have been received which appear to pertain to matters of principle, the authority, or, as the case may be, the Secretary of State may, by notice served on the persons making such objections direct that any person who intends at the inquiry to submit that any public path to which the order relates should not be created, diverted or extinguished shall send to the authority, or, as the case may be, the Secretary of State within such period as may be specified in the notice, being a period not less than 28 days sufficient information about their objection as to enable the true grounds of the objection to be identified.
  2. (1B) Where the authority, or as the case may be the Secretary of State, have given a direction under sub-paragraph (1A) above, the authority or, as the case may be, the Secretary of State may disregard any objection which in their or his opinion amounts in substance to an objection in principle.").

The noble Lord said: The intention of this amendment is to provide the most moderate possible means of excluding extremist objectors in principle to diversions of public paths—the type of objection which is going to have no bearing on the outcome of the inquiry. One asks oneself, if it is not going to have any bearing on the inquiry why hold the inquiry at all? As I see it, the position under the Bill is that anyone can object to a draft order without giving a reason, and that this has to lead to an inquiry and the delay and expense connected therewith. It is also necessary, I think, to mention that quite frequently areas have people who are objectors in principle and who make these objections.

I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to two examples in Kent, in the parishes of Langley and Chart Sutton. Divisions were proposed there which were supported by the local councils and the local rights of way groups. They got the whole matter well worked out, but then there was an objection in principle. When, in one case, it was finally discovered what the objection was about—this came out at the inquiry, and it was a written objection—it ran as follows: I am not interested in where the path goes, or local interest, only in that the footpath should not be interfered with in any way. That is my sole and only objection". The inspector reported, after the objector had not turned up at the inquiry, as follows: No evidence has been produced to establish that the footpath would be less convenient to the public as a consequence of the proposed diversion. Indeed, on the information before me the opposite seems to be the case". This was at the Langley inquiry.

The final quotation I have is from the Local Walkers' Magazine shortly afterwards. They said: It is quite clear that a change in the law is required to stop this waste of public money", and it went on to say that costs should be awarded against such objectors. The procedure that is suggested in this amendment is a much more reasonable and moderate one than that, and I hope this will be fully recognised.

The amendment is in fact modelled upon the powers given to the Secretary of State in Schedule 1 to the Highways Act 1980. This has been in use since 1971 for just the same purposes, and enables the Secretary of State to disregard certain objections when making new road orders. I think that an amendment of this kind may well be a welcome help to highway authorities, and I hope that we may be able to elicit some support from them. I beg to move.

Viscount Hanworth

I have some sympathy with what is behind this amendment. I, certainly, and many others, do not like pressure groups; I do not like people who do things purely on principle. But I am afraid that in this age it is something which we have to some extent to live with. Pressure groups are perhaps today the only way of getting anything done. But this amendment is not acceptable. You cannot define when a thing is done on principle because the person who puts it forward has only to produce a reason and it falls to the ground. Also I think it would be open to a good deal of abuse. I would say to the noble Lord that he must be a little tougher and accept the rub of the green to this extent.

Lord Bellwin

I have indicated on two occasions previously that changes to the present public path order procedure should flow from a comprehensive review of the legislation. On this occasion, however, I must respectfully question the merit of the main amendment. I recognise that it is intended to meet a specific problem but, because it would enable an order-making authority to disregard certain objections, it would amount to a curtailment of a person's democratic right to object to an order and to have that objection considered on its merits. Of course, I feel sure that that is not the intention of my noble friend but I know that he will appreciate that, for that reason alone, we could not accept it.

Moreover, if the amendment were accepted, authorities would be faced with the difficulty of trying to distinguish between objections of principle and those which relate to the substance of the order. In addition, it would not be long before persons to whom the provision was directed realised that they must word their objections slightly differently to get round its effect. In the circumstances, I invite my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I am a little troubled still because I wonder whether the powers in the Highways Act referred to have worked satisfactorily or not. If they have, I should have thought that there was something to be said for using them again. This is a matter which needs going into carefully. What worries me is the fact that this kind of thing is what fossilises the rights-of-way system. What I wonder, and should like confirmation of, is whether the Government—presumably they do—pay regard to the 1966 White Paper, Leisure and the Countryside, which said: Radical reform may be needed to the footpaths system to create a footpath network more suited to modern needs". And also, in 1975, the White Paper, Sport and Recreation said: In the Government's view, there is scope for local initiatives to modify the existing networks of footpaths and bridleways in order to reconcile increasing demands for access and for recreation with the needs of the farming community". Those things we are anxious to achieve, I am sure, on both sides. I hope my noble friend will bear that in mind very clearly. With that, enough said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 540 B, 540C, 541 and 542 not moved.]

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 542A:

Page 82, line 45, at end insert— ("( ) in paragraph (a) after the word "held" there shall be inserted the words "by a person appointed by the Secretary of State"").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 543 and 543ZA not moved.]

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 543A: Page 83, line 18, leave out ("holding a local inquiry") and insert ("causing a local inquiry to be held by a person appointed by the Secretary of State").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 544 not moved.]

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 544A:

Page 83, leave out lines 28 to 33 and insert— (""(4) In relation to a local inquiry caused to be held by an authority under this paragraph—

  1. (a) subsections (2) and (3) of section 250 of the Local Government Act 1972 (which relate to the giving of evidence at local inquiries) shall apply as they apply in relation to a local inquiry which a Minister causes to be held under subsection (1) of that section;
  2. (b) the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1971 shall apply as it applies in relation to a statutory inquiry held by the Secretary of State, but as if in section 12(1) of that Act (statement of reasons for decisions) the reference to any decision taken by the Secretary of State were a reference to a decision taken by a local authority."").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments No. 545 not moved.]

Schedule 13, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 46 [Prohibition on keeping bulls on land crossed by a footpath or bridle way]:

[Amendments Nos. 545A, 545B and 545C not moved.]

6.9 p.m.

Lord Milverton moved Amendment No. 546: Page 40, line 7, leave out ("or bridleway") and insert ("bridle-way or byway open to all traffic or road used as a public path").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 546, which is down in my name. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the noble Lords, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge and Lord Melchett, the noble Baroness Lady David, and the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, who kindly stepped in for me earlier on other amendments which I had put down. I am grateful. I gather that my noble friend Lord Avon has just said that he is sympathetic to this amendment of mine and, on Amendment No. 547, he said we would be talking more fully on bulls. Therefore, to help to speed up matters, if he says that the Government are sympathetic to this amendment, I hope perhaps he will be able to say that it will be accepted. Then we will talk fully about bulls in Amendment No. 547. I will ask my noble friend whether he can accept it. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

As my noble friend Lord Milverton has said, this is acceptable to the Government in principle and we will consider drafting something on these lines at the next stage.

Lord Milverton

In view of that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

I have to point out that if Amendment No. 547 is agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendments Nos. 547A or 548.

6.18 p.m.

Lord Avehury moved Amendment No. 547: Page 40, line 10, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Lord said: This simple amendment is designed to exclude all bulls from public footpaths. It is put down in the hope that the Government may see fit to deal with the problem which has been uppermost in the minds of those who use the countryside and those who have in the past suffered risk and even serious injury as a result of the presence of bulls in fields through which a public footpath runs. I do not wish to go into an enormous amount of detail, but I think it is worth mentioning some of the evidence which shows that bulls are very dangerous creatures. They have led to deaths and to serious injuries to persons using the countryside peacefully and unaware perhaps of the dangers which are just around the corner.

The Ministry of Agriculture Safety Division told the Ramblers' Association in a letter in 1973: Bulls are always a potential danger and it is advisable to treat them with extreme caution". The Ministry of Town and Country Planning in a circular, said: Danger to the public undoubtedly may arise when bulls are kept in fields or enclosures of normal size through which a footpath runs. I shall not weary the Committee with many other examples of authoritative statements that can be adduced in support of the proposition that all bulls are dangerous. To show that accidents involving bulls do occur and have had very serious consequences, I would mention one example out of a great many that I could have cited. This was an article which appeared in the Sunday Express of 31st August last, reporting a most horrifying incident which occurred to Mr. George Kither. The account begins: Mr. Kither's nightmare began after he had collected Brandy (his horse) from the Riverview Riding Club at Thamesmead. He took the horse through a gate into a large area of open space which is owned by the Greater London Council. He said: I was tending Brandy when he suddenly bolted. I was still on my hands and knees. Then I looked up straight into the eyes of this huge, brown bull. It had horns about 18 inches long. It rushed at me and caught me in the face, breaking my glasses. I was terrified. I kept thinking, "This is not happening to me ".'". But it was happening to him. He was told after his ordeal by the doctors who treated him in the Brook Hospital, where he was detained overnight, that he was lucky to be alive. Many of those who have had encounters with bulls have not been so lucky. Three farmworkers were killed by bulls in 1979, four in the previous year, and in those years 27 and 34 respectively were injured.

We are talking about an extreme hazard which faces any person who has the temerity to walk through a field where a bull is being kept by the farmer. So that I can dispel at once the objection which I know is likely to be levelled against this particular amendment—that it deals with all bulls whether or not of a certain size—I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to a picture which appeared in the journal Great Outdoors of February 1981 which shows a sign saying "Public footpath" pointing over a gate, and on the gate there is a large notice saying "Bull in the field ".

A rambler coming up to this gate and seeing that sign is not going to ask himself whether the bull is over or under a certain age. He is going to take the wise course of not risking the sort of ordeal that I have described, as happened to Mr. Kither. If possible, he will take the longer route round. That may not be possible and he may abandon his recreation altogether. That was one reason why I sought to introduce the amendment applying to all bulls and not just to those of a certain kind. The other one is that at least this amendment has the merit of simplicity and it can be readily interpreted.

In about three-quarters of England and Wales there are local by-laws which prohibit grazing of all breeds of mature bulls in fields containing public paths. In remaining areas, bulls are allowed provided they are with cows or heifers. That does not mean to say that because the cows or heifers are present in the field, the bulls are necessarily safe. If time allowed, I could read out several other examples showing what happened by people who thought that because they saw cows or heifers in the field with the bulls they could safely enter it. They were swiftly disillusioned.

In Scotland—and the point is bound to come up because of the way the Government have sought to proceed in this Bill—Section 44 of the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967 provides that all but dairy breed bulls may be grazed in fields containing public paths providing that the bulls are with cows or heifers. What the Government are trying to do in this Bill is to apply similar provisions to England and Wales. That is the meaning of Clause 46 of the Bill.

If the clause were to be passed unamended, it would mean that the farmers were able to graze beef-breed and cross-breed bulls in fields with public paths in those paths in those parts of England and Wales where such bulls are prohibited at the moment. What we want to do is to ensure that wherever a field is crossed by a public path, a byway open to all traffic or any of the other classifications in the Bill, the restrictions on bulls apply. We want to remove the provision which allows beef-breed and cross-breed bulls in fields containing public paths.

I want to examine for one moment what may be the Government's objection to the amendment which I am now proposing. First of all they may say that this provision is necessary for the purposes of beef production. The first reply to that is that we are already producing far too much beef in this country. We have 20,000 tons of the EEC's beef mountain stored in Great Britain, and that is only a small proportion of the total of the EEC's surplus of beef at the moment.

The Ministry of Agriculture said in 1974 that variations due to changes in the law relating to the running of bulls in fields crossed by public footpaths are unlikely to affect the total supply of beef animals, and hence market prices, more than marginally. Finally, it has recently been estimated that on average only one field in five has a public path in it and so the majority of fields would be unaffected by a general ban on bulls in fields with paths such as this amendment proposes. Where particular problems arise locally, they can always be met by the temporary diversion provisions.

The next point that I want to touch on is a point which was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Avon, speaking in the Second Reading debate on 16th December last, when he remarked (and this is at col. 1094 of Hansard): Our proposals are surely safer to the path user than the conglomeration of by-laws and no laws that abounds today". That means that a very simple amendment of this sort ought to commend itself to the Government, whereas on the contrary, if the Bill is allowed to go through unaltered, then by relaxing controls that apply over three-quarters of England and Wales it will make walking in the countryside a great deal more dangerous than it is at the moment.

I think that there are one or two points that should be borne in mind. The consensus of informed opinion is that all bulls should be treated as potentially dangerous in all circumstances. A large number of people, including ramblers and farmworkers, have been killed, injured and seriously threatened by bulls. Also, as far as the situation in Scotland is concerned which, as I have said, is the one which it is sought to implement in England and Wales by these proposals, it is quite different, because in Scotland, as my noble friend Lord Thurso would have confirmed, had he been here (he was here a moment ago), most people take to the hills and mountains above the fields in which the bulls are kept.

There is very much less scope for doing that in England, particularly in the South and East where almost all country walking has to be done through fields and enclosures. In Scotland, of course, there are no definitive powers, and anybody who sees a bull in a field ahead of him can ordinarily follow another route with impunity. On the contrary, in England and Wales walkers are constantly urged to keep to the path, and therefore they face the risk of being caught trespassing if they depart from the approved route for the purposes of avoiding a bull. I think it would be preferable to replace the current mixture of bylaws with a single enactment which applies all over the country, but only if that provides for a ban on all bulls in fields with public paths. If we do not do that, then the gain in simplification of the law would be enormously outweighed by an increase in danger to walkers.

The other objection which the noble Earl, Lord Avon, may possibly raise is that temporary path diversions would mean an enormous amount of extra work for local authorities. Certainly there is an element of additional work involved in any temporary diversion, but I suggest to the Committee that it could be justified on the following grounds. First, the diversions would be necessary for public safety, if the Committee accept my proposition that bulls and walkers should be kept apart in all circumstances. Secondly, this extra work is not likely to be of any great significance or to involve much extra cost. It would not be necessary to insert notices in the London Gazette, and the local paper would not be required to have a notice in it either; nor would public inquiries be necessary, but merely the holding of informal consultations and the signing of an order. Moreover, local authorities have asked for, and the Government intend to give them, the far more time-consuming and costly job dealing with all permanent diversions and enclosures which do involve the publication of notices and the holding of public inquiries. Of course, if local authorities have the resources to take on all this extra work—and noble Lords on the Government Front Bench are always telling us that nothing in this Bill is likely to involve a significant amount of extra resources in local authorities—surely they are able to handle a few temporary diversions as well.

I do not want to take up your Lordships' time with a long speech on what is, after all, one of the most important provisions in the Bill. Representations have been made by the Ramblers' Association and others, who are very, very concerned that your Lordships should pay careful attention to what is suggested in this amendment. However, I feel I have deployed the case sufficiently to warrant its acceptance by the Committee, and, in the light of what I have said, I hope the Government will accept the amendment, or, if they cannot accept it, at least say that they will come up with something very similar between now and Report stage. I beg to move.

6.35 p.m.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

With respect to the noble Lord, he has been speaking rather a lot of non-sense. I have kept almost every breed of bull in my time, except Simmental, Friesian and Friesian-Ayr-shire and Guernsey. I have had every other breed. I quite agree that dairy bulls can be dangerous, but then they are almost always penned up, apart from when you do have them in a field with heifers. The noble Lord mentioned about one or two farm workers having been killed by bulls. Of course, that is quite true; but they were not killed by bulls in the open but by dairy bulls in their pens, which is a very different matter.

In Scotland, as the noble Lord said, from 1967 we have had beef bulls out on the hills the whole time, with no fences, alongside public roads and alongside public paths. I have never known of an accident. The only annoying thing which happened to me—cattle are very inquisitive—was when one shorthorn of mine went to investigate a hikers' tent. They were not there, and he got tangled up in the guy ropes, and somehow unfortunately got a frying pan attached to his horn. This was extremely annoying for the cows, because whenever he tried to get near them they heard this thing banging and fled. It was also very annoying for me, because I could not get a cow served, and in the end the poor bull had to be shot. I have had some extremely endearing bulls. I had one Ayrshire bull down in Kent who was extremely friendly. One day, he walked into a wedding reception in the village hall. He was, of course, perfectly harmless but caused a bit of a panic. I believe he also knocked over the wedding cake.

But, really, the noble Lord has been rather talking nonsense. I would say from my experience that some cows are a lot more dangerous. The Highland cow, and in particular the Galloway cow, if she has a calf, is extremely dangerous. If you go to within 50 yards of a Galloway cow, and especially if you have a dog, she will charge you if she has a young calf. But the Highland bull or the Galloway bull is completely harmless; I really could not support this amendment; I think it is completely unsupportable.

Lord Underhill

I readily give way to what the noble Lord has said on his knowledge of agriculture, but I do not think it affects the merits of this amendment. I will not go over what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, but he referred to the fact that three-quarters of the counties in England and Wales have bylaws which would accord with the principle of this amendment. I wonder whether the Government have consulted county council opinion, because many county councils have large rural farming areas. Yet they have felt it was necessary to have this amendment and have not suggested repealing it: therefore we need to know the view of the county councils on this matter.

I would remind your Lordships of what I and others said during the Second Reading debate. We are not talking about those people who walk in the countryside and who understand animals. I do not, but I enjoy a walk in the countryside. I can assure you that when I see a bull, I do not care what age it is, I am not going in there. There are millions of people who wish to walk in the countryside with their children and, frankly, an assurance from the Minister that this bull is safe will not make those people believe that it is safe, Therefore, we are dealing with the apprehensions of people and have to take some notice of them.

The only other point I would make is that everyone who is associated with farming interests is not necessarily in support of the view expressed against this amendment. If one looks at newspapers and journals, there are veterinary surgeons who would agree with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. I believe it was the agricultural expert attached to the Health and Safety Executive who, 12 months ago, said that no matter how docile a bull appears we should treat it with considerable care and caution. Therefore, I am talking about people who are not expert and people who want to walk in the countryside. Unless this amendment is agreed to, those people and, possibly their children with whom they wish to walk, will have great apprehensions.

Lord Milverton

I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, because I also have had quite a reasonable amount of information given to me which clearly suggests that you cannot just say that it is only the recognised dairy breed bulls that are dangerous. All bulls are dangerous. If we are talking about anything like cows with their calves, that is a different matter. In fact, I was thrown by a cow when I was in Kenya, but that is another story. But bulls are quite different, and I should like to quote from Mr. A. G. Wilkins, who wrote in the Birmingham Evening Mail on 1st January 1981: I have been connected with farming all my life. No bulls ought to be loose where there is a footpath. No bull can ever be trusted, whatever the breed. They can be meek and mild for years and then, with no warning, turn on their keeper". I should have thought, from the information that one has, not only from organisations such as the Ramblers' Association but also from what the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said, as well as from those who work in farming—that is, veterinary surgeons, farmworkers and farmers—that one has to treat all bulls with care. Furthermore, it is not only fit people who should feel safe. We must also think of those who are in some ways semi-disabled—

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I wonder whether the noble Lord would tell me how we are to get the cows in calf, or does that not matter?

Lord Milverton

Presumably, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, and as my information shows, farmers would not lose much land and it would surely still be feasible. There would still be the land for that to be done. I really cannot see how that can be put forward as a reason.

The Earl of Onslow

May I just take up the point of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill? He said that he thinks this is safe, because people believe that bulls are dangerous, irrespective of whether or not they are. It seems to me most extraordinary to base legislation on the fact that people think that something will happen, whether it is going to happen or not—

Lord Melchett

Before the noble Earl sits down, he was playing games with my noble friend which were quite unwarranted, and not of the normal high standard of his contributions to your Lordships' Committee. He knows perfectly well the list of organisations, starting with the Ministry of Agriculture's safety division, and going through a number of other people, including the Health and Safety Executive and the National Association of Local Councils. Anybody who keeps cattle knows that at least some bulls, in almost any breed, can be very dangerous indeed, and the statistics for accidents to farmworkers bear that out.

Viscount Hanworth

I promised one noble Lord to whom I spoke that I would consider the farmer's point of view. What I told him I would say was that, as on so many other issues, there is a good deal to be said on both sides. The first point I would make is that the Bill as it is simply will not do. Paragraph (b) of subsection (2) uses the phrase "a recognised dairy breed". What about farmers who keep bulls that are not of a recognised dairy breed? This is wide open.

Then it is argued that beef bulls are nearly always very quiet when they have cows with them. But if you have a problem with a dairy breed, it is surely not much harder to deal with a beef breed. I know that some farmers have predominantly beef breeds, but the point is that the problem can be overcome. Another point which is extremely important is that we are told that bulls are dangerous. Never mind whether or not it is true, the fact remains that most people who come from towns, as well as most people in the country and I live in the country, but I am not a farmer—will have to treat them as such. That really means that you cannot use a certain path.

Therefore, on the balance—and, like so many other things, it is on the balance—farmers must accept that they have to suffer some inconvenience and some cost so that bulls are kept out. I also realise that, although this will not mean very much to some farmers, it will mean quite a lot to others, because they have a lot of rights of way going across, as does the noble Lord to whom I spoke. But that is just one of the rubs of the green. Let us face the fact that this subsection has just been put in as a sop to the NFU. We ought to argue this through and not just accept something like this which, on the face of it, is completely unsatisfactory.

Baroness Elliot of Harwood

I speak now as someone who farms in Scotland, where we have always had no restrictions, such as are suggested by the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on the question of running bulls. We have never had any trouble. If you have a dairy bull which you believe to be a danger, then of course you do not put it out in a field where people are likely to go past. It would be just stupid to do it. We have beef bulls which are the quietest things in the world. You can go up and stroke them and play with them, and they do not do anyharm to anybody. You do not put bulls into every field or on to every hill. It is only at a certain time of the year when the bull and the cow run together.

To make all this fuss about not going through a field or on a hill where there is a suckler herd with beef bulls, which are very often much quieter than the cows and quieter than you can imagine, is too silly for words. Any practical farmer, and I am one, knows perfectly well that if you have a dangerous animal you do not put it out where there are people. But nine times out of 10, where you want to run a suckler herd the bulls are perfectly safe and there is no reason for making any change. This has been going on in Scotland since time immemorial and no one has ever complained at all. Why the English have suddenly become frightened of bulls is too extraordinary and I am entirely opposed to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury.

6.48 p.m.

Lord Collison

I want to say something in this debate. I am afraid that I shall fall out with my friend the noble Baroness opposite and the noble Lord, Lord Stanley. I am concerned about this matter on two fronts: one, as a member of the Strutt Committee—not the town and country committee, but a special committee which was set up to consider this problem of bulls and foot paths—and, secondly, because of my association with agricultural workers, through the National Union of Agricultural Workers, of which I used to be general secretary.

The Strutt Committee does not do things by halves and it did not do this job by halves. We met a large number of people who were ramblers, people who were concerned with farming and farmers themselves. We went out to see these paths for ourselves. We went to the Highlands to see what we could find out about the dangers involved in people crossing these very large expanses. Having weighed all the evidence for and against, the Strutt Committee formed the firm conclusion that it would be proper to ban all bulls from fields which are crossed by paths used by the public, except in the Highlands and the hill land where the open spaces are very large and, therefore, the danger is not so intense.

I appreciate that this is a controversial matter, and I have been in touch with the National Union of Agricultural Workers, who confirmed what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has said: namely, that there have been a number of fatalities which need not have happened, and there have also been a much larger number of accidents.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

Certainly there have been fatalities with bulls, but can the noble Lord give me one example where there has been any fatality or any danger with beef bulls running on footpaths? To my knowledge and to the knowledge of the Ministry of Agriculture there has not.

Lord Collison

My point is not that. My point is that bulls are clearly dangerous.

Several noble Lords


Lord Collison

Let me tell noble Lords of a personal experience that I had when I worked on the land. If the noble Viscount wants to say something I will sit down.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

Bulls which are dangerous are penned up. Those are nearly always dairy bulls. Any fatalities which there have been have been with penned-up bulls when the farmworker has gone to feed the animals and they have got him against the wall. It has never happened on footpaths.

Lord Melchett

Can the noble Viscount confirm that he is speaking from his own knowledge when he says that there have been no fatalities from bulls to agricultural workers except when the bulls have been penned up?

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

I am talking of beef bulls.

Lord Melchett

The noble Viscount did not say that when he got up.

Lord Collison

I repeat my point that bulls are in fact dangerous. I have had personal experience of the danger involved. When I worked on the land, on the next farm I had a very good friend who was a cowman and who was working with bulls for beef production. On the land of that farm they had a bull which was normally quite docile and no danger to anyone. My friend was not feeding him, or cleaning him out, or doing anything of that kind. He was walking across the field where the bull was when it suddenly turned vicious and attacked him. This can happen. I have seen this happen from time to time. Bulls of all breeds, which normally are quite docile, for some reason suddenly go berserk and charge the people in charge of them.

The Agricultural Workers' Union is very much in favour of this proposition. As I have said, the Strutt Committee, having looked at all aspects of the matter, came down in favour of bulls being totally banned from footpaths in England except in the highlands where there ate vast open spaces. I understand that the last Government intended to introduce into the Bill that they were preparing a clause completely to ban bulls. In view of what has been said, I hope that the present Government will be prepared to accept the points made to them and to do the same.

The Earl of Caithness

I am pleased to note that the party opposite is becoming more tolerant. It was one of their Members, the honourable Member, Dr. Dickson Mabon, who introduced a similar clause affecting bulls in Scotland into the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967. Interestingly enough, a Question in another place, answered on 9th February last, asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many cases had been brought to his attention of ramblers having been chased by bulls in Scottish fields since the implementation of Section 44 of the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967. I would point out that the question related to being chased by bulls; it did not specify dairy or beef bulls. And it referred to fields, not footpaths. The answer which the honourable Member for Edinburgh Pentlands, the Minister for Home Affairs and the Environment, Scottish Office, gave was one word: "None ".

Lord Collison

Before the noble Earl sits down may I make the point again that it is not only a question of people being charged and damaged by bulls when crossing land? We had evidence to show that bulls alerted themselves when people were walking on paths and came towards them. Perhaps the people were too frightened and did not know much about bulls. There was one case were a bull actually ran for a person. He had to jump the stile and he damaged himself in so doing. It is not only a question of people being hurt or injured by a bull. It is also a question of the fear that the bull inspires, in townsmen in particular and sometimes in mothers with their children. There is a real fear which we on the Strutt Committee were told about and which we accepted as good evidence and as a good reason for banning bulls on footpaths.

I agree with what has been said about diversions. We suggested that diversions could be provided to make it possible for farmers to get their heifers inseminated. I want to reiterate that it is not only a question of people being charged. I know of one case where a person crossing a field was charged at and had to jump a stile, and I told noble Lords about the case of my friend.

6.55 p.m.

Viscount Ridley

If I may answer the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, he said that we should know what the county councils think about it. I can tell him something about this, because the county councils of England and Wales have debated this subject on and off for a very long time. It is a quite regular item on their agendas. They very much enjoy talking about it because it always raises a laugh, as in your Lordships' House. The answer is that they believe this Bill provides by far the best compromise so far suggested. They are in favour of Clause 46, as I am. They hope very much that the Government will see this clause into legislation.

The question about diverting footpaths remains the only thing where they do not agree with some of the very vociferous farmers on these Benches. Although in an ideal world it may be very desirable to divert footpaths during the mating season so that the bulls can get on with the job, so to speak, there is a serious drawback to this. First, I have just moved an amendment which would have given the county councils the power to divert footpaths. They do not have such powers at the moment, as those who happened to be here for that debate will have heard. The Government did not accept my amendment, so they cannot do it. Secondly, it would be a great problem. Administratively, it would be a very laborious and cumbersome business. By the time the whole process had been concluded the bull would have lost all interest in the cows and there would be no crop of calves for next year—never mind the expense. More important than that has been the talk about posting diverted footpaths so that people skirt round the new line. I do not know whether noble Lords have ever tried posting notices in upland areas where there are no fences and no posts, and where some fields measure thousands of acres. These posts are blown away in a matter of weeks or, if not, are taken home by ramblers as souvenirs. Those notices would not last. Therefore it would be much more dangerous to have a footpath temporarily diverted because people would not realise that it had been diverted. They would go gaily on and therefore would perhaps be provoking the bull who thought he had the field to himself. I hope Clause 46 is not amended in any way.

The Earl of Cork and Orrery

I take it that this clause is drafted in favour of the person who is walking along the footpath. Therefore the key question is whether or not it benefits him. Is he better with the subsection or without it? To answer that question it is necessary to look at the matter from the point of view not of the bull, nor of the farmer, nor of my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard, but of the walker. The walker is likely to be a pretty ignorant sort of person. For the sake of argument, you must consider that kind of walker only—even the one who cannot tell a bull from a cow. However, he may be confident that there is a law which operates in his favour to safeguard him. Therefore he walks across the field perfectly happily, knowing that this law or a similar law has been passed. He is therefore surprised to find himself suddenly tossed into the county hospital, or even frightened and caused to have a heart attack, or to sprain an ankle or to do something to his detriment.

How has this happened? He has taken for granted certain things which he is in no way entitled to take for granted. First, he has taken it for granted that the farmer knows the law. Secondly, he has taken it for granted that the farmer is conscientious and scrupulous in applying the law. Thirdly, he has taken it for granted that the farmer knows the bull is in the field. Fourthly, he has taken it for granted that the bull has every right to be in the field and has not broken through a hedge, or come through a gate left open by another rambler. None of these things is necessarily true. It is not reasonable to take this extraordinarily favourable view of human nature, particularly in the case of farmers. People are not always so reliable as all that. Some of the people who are not reliable are farmers. Therefore the only way to protect this ignorant passer-by who is crossing the field is to delete subsection (2). I support the amendment.

Lord Mishcon

Before the Committee gets too drastically serious and both sides stare at each other with a ferocity far greater than that of any bull staring at a rambler, may I beg of the Front Bench opposite not to take an unfair political advantage? At general election time supporters of my party in rural areas, wearing rosettes of a similar colour to the handkerchief which the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, is wearing at the moment, run a far greater risk than supporters of the Party opposite with the colour of their rosettes. Therefore, I ask noble Lords opposite not to take an unfair political advantage, and will they kindly support this amendment!

Lord Burton

I believe a lot of this trouble has arisen because a number of notices have been put up "Beware of the bull" when in fact there was no danger at all. It was done in order to keep people out, possibly for one reason alone—that farmers were afraid of gates being left open in view of the trouble which arises when stock is let out. There are also the problems of litter and fires. At least two noble Lords have referred to the difference between Scotland and England. If you meet a wild bull (if there is one) or a wild cow on an open hillside you have a lot further to run than you do in a closed field, and therefore I think the argument that has been put forward is totally invalid.

There is another point which has not been mentioned: that if a farmer has a dangerous bull, how does he get it inside and out of the field? Clearly if it is dangerous he is most unlikely to let it out into a field because he will not be able to get it back in again. It has also been said, if one can get dairy cows into calf why can one not get beef cows into calf? The answer is quite simple. Anyone who knows anything about the matter knows that dairy cows come in twice a day and are under close scrutiny all the time. It is a very different matter with beef cows, where the farmer just checks up to see that they are all right and does not have to go round examining each cow once a day, let alone twice a day.

Another thing said was that surely the farmers could bear the cost. I want to emphasise that at this present time the farmers are being very hard pressed financially. To give one small example. We have had a statement on the closure of 23 pits which lost £127 million last year. That figure is four times the total net income of farmers in Scotland last year.

A noble Lord

Good point!

Lord Melchett

The noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, suggested that what was in the Bill was a compromise. I really do not think that is a sustainable position. This is not a compromise. It is very strongly opposed by all organisations interested in public access and public rights of way. However, there was a compromise. Indeed, there was an agreement, and I would suggest to noble Lords opposite who have spoken against this amendment, and particularly the Government, that the reason why this part of the Bill has aroused so much public interest and so much disquiet among all those who wish to visit the countryside without being killed, injured or just frightened, is that the Government allowed the agreement which had been reached between the Country Landowners' Association, the National Farmers' Union and the Ramblers' Association not to be put into the Bill.

That agreement allowed for the temporary diversion of paths and for the banning of bulls over a certain age in fields, with a fine to go with it. That seemed to me to be an acceptable and reasonable compromise which was supported by the last Government, and it was one which all sides of this argument supported, and if this amendment is causing a controversy and taking time to debate it is entirely the fault of the Government for not keeping to that compromise and keeping it in this Bill when they introduced it.

The noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, asked us how we expected him to get his cows into calf. I am not sure whether he was looking for detailed biological information, but assuming that he was not and was only asking for agricultural information, I would simply point out that four out of five fields in England and Wales do not have a footpath going through them, and on those fields farmers are free to put any bull with anything they want and that is how they will get their cows or heifers into calf.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

If the noble Lord will give way, it may be that those figures are right—I do not know—but the fact that a footpath goes through a field means it is very likely to be a grass field rather than an arable field. Hence I suspect that that number is not correct in regard to the number of fields into which you could put your bull.

Viscount Ridley

And what about all those areas in upland Britain where there are no fences at all and therefore no fields? Half the problem arises in the hilly areas of England and Wales.

Lord Melchett

Those are exactly the sort of problems which the CLA, the NFU and the Ramblers' Association agreed could be met by the temporary diversions, which were part of the agreed package. I agree that simply to ban all bulls from all fields would be wrong, and that is why the agreement was that there should be temporary diversions. I think that would have met the problems not only of people with single suckler herds or beef herds but also of people with dairy bulls who wanted to run them in the fields and who have a lot of fields with public footpaths going through them. They will be in a worse position under the provisions of this Bill than they would have been under the proposals which the last Government supported and which I have made clear were also supported by everyone else.

There are three points which I do not think have been sufficiently brought out in the debate on this amendment. First, I was sorry to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, being so rude about Galloway cattle. As a member of the Council of the Belted Galloway Society, I took his remarks very much amiss. That is undoubtedly the best beef breed in this country, or indeed in the world, with a marvellous temperament.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

I was referring to the common Galloway, not the Belted Galloway.

Lord Melchett

I am quite prepared to accept that the common Galloways have all sorts of defects which Belted Galloways do not have! More seriously, there are a number of breeds which I assume under this legislation will be allowed to run in fields, ranging from White Park cattle—and I am sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, is not here to tell us a little more about their temperament—to a number of Continental breeds.

I think somebody asked at Second Reading who actually stood in the middle of a field and waited to see whether something as large as a Charolais or a Simmental or some of the bigger bulls from the Continent were as safe as the nice little friendly poll Hereford which all beef farmers in this country are used to and are quite happy to accept is not, in the main, all that dangerous. I simply do not believe that in modern circumstances this reversion to the idea that beef bulls are safer on average than dairy bulls is justified. It is certainly not justified to suggest, as noble Lords opposite have done from time to time in this debate, that beef bulls are always to be trusted. Anybody who is a responsible farmer, and all the responsible organisations which give advice and have experience of this, know that from time to time any bull is liable to be dangerous.

If I may say so, I was really astonished and horrified at the attitude of noble Lords opposite when they suggested that there was nothing to worry about. My noble friend Lord Collison gave us some information about the statistics of accidents to farm workers. If noble Lords opposite have shown an attitude to these dangers that is typical of farmers generally, I think that is a good explanation of why so many farm workers are injured and killed by bulls. They are dangerous animals, they should never be trusted, and no responsible organisation involved with farming, from the Ministry of Agriculture in any direction, has ever suggested anything else.

If I may make one final point, the noble Lord, Lord Burton, suggested in a moment of hilarity which I am afraid typifies this sort of discussion, that it would be easy to run for the hedge in a field and therefore nobody would have anything to worry about. I have been in a situation where I was with a group of young children and somebody in a wheelchair when a bull came into the field unexpectedly, and I can tell the noble Lord that it is no joke if you are with somebody in a wheelchair and a number of young children, none of whom can run for the nearest hedge in the gay way that the noble Lord suggested was possible. This sort of provision in the Bill totally ignores the rights of elderly people who are not capable of running for cover, of young children, and of other people who will be extremely concerned about this sort of provision, including in particular the disabled.

Lord Burton

If the noble Lord will give way for a second, he was misinterpreting me again. What I said was that it is further to run if you are out on the open hill. I have in fact been caught by a cow in a field, and I was jolly glad that there was a hedge there and I was able to get over it.

Lord Melchett

The mere fact that noble Lords accept that it is likely that some people will have to run from bulls seems to me to make the case for this amendment, and I hope the noble Lord will press it to a Division.

Lord Burton

Also the fact is, as has been brought out already, there has not been a case in Scotland since 1967.

7.10 p.m.

The Earl of Avon

This starts by saying "The Government fully recognise that this subject is highly controversial". I think that is a masterly understatement. The present situation in England and Wales is regarded as unsatisfactory by all major interested parties. Some areas have total ban bylaws, others have bylaws which permit a bull of any breed to be at large with cows or heifers, and some areas have no controls at all on bulls on public footpaths. In fact East and West Sussex have two different regulations, so either a walker or a bull in East or West Sussex would have difficulties in knowing whether he could go into a field or not. As my noble friend Lord Bellwin said at Second Reading, to have different rules applying in different counties is confusing and unsatisfactory, and as the bylaw-making powers are now vested in district councils the position may well get even more confused in the future. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, made a considerable case of the August 1979 agreement between the Ramblers' Association, the National Farmers' Union and the County Landowners' Association, but both the Ramblers' Association and the NFU later withdrew their support, and, furthermore, the Association of County Councils has expressed strong opposition to those proposals. So when we came to this Bill we were faced with having to make the decision ourselves.

It has been argued that bulls in fields crossed by public footpaths should continue to be regulated by bylaws so that they can take account of local conditions. But when this was proposed in an earlier consultation paper issued by my department in 1978 it attracted strong opposition. In particular the path user interests argued that bulls in fields should be regulated by national regulations as councils could not be compelled to adopt bylaws on this matter. There have been some four previous attempts to legislate in the last 32 years. None of the previous ones has been successful, but the Government believe that we should continue with our efforts to reach a solution which strikes a reasonable balance between the interests of farmers and of path users and which reconciles the conflicting requirements of agricultural production and public safety.

During the past decades various attempts have been made to find a generally acceptable solution, and I should like to pay tribute to those efforts by farming and rambling organisations and others. I think it is fair to say that every solution that has been proposed has been strongly opposed by one or more major interests. In the absence of such agreement, the Government concluded that the most reasonable solution and the one which met the essential condition that it should be easy to administer and not involve local authorities and landowners in a cumbersome bureaucratic procedure was to allow a non-dairy breed bull to be at large in a public field provided it was with cows or heifers, and of course there is also the caveat about being 10 months old. This accords with the practice operative in Scotland for more than a decade—we have heard quite a lot about this—as a result of the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967, and is more favourable to path users than cow clause by-laws which have actually been introduced in a number of counties in England and Wales between 1946 and 1973.

It has been argued that the situation in Scotland is quite different from that in England and Wales. But whereas of course there is some difference, we do not agree that a conclusion as a result of the last 13 years in Scotland should be brushed under the carpet. The vast majority of accidents caused by bulls are incurred by farmers and farm workers, and most of these do not occur in open fields. The Health and Safety Executive leaflet on agriculture safety concerning bulls states that familiarity can breed contempt but when you are dealing with bulls you should be careful at all times.

We have no evidence of any walkers being killed or injured as a result of an accident involving a nondairy breed bull accompanied by cows or heifers and at large in a field crossed by a public footpath. In the example the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, gave us to begin with there was no breed of bull, so I take it, as he has not sprung to his feet, that as far as we know that was not a beef bull.

Lord Avebury

Not all ramblers are able to identify bulls and their breed with the facility of noble Lords opposite.

The Earl of Avon

Quite obviously with this one if he had his spectacles broken there would have been even more difficulty. I think it is also pertinent to point out that Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work et cetera Act 1974 places a duty on employers and employees not to put at risk the health and safety of third parties, and Section 33 makes it an offence to fail to discharge this duty. If a farmer were to put in a field crossed by a public path a bull which he knew to be dangerous he would be committing an offence under that Act. A lot of noble Lords behind me have been saying how this is borne out by their own experiences.

In the hill and upland areas livestock farming is often the only possible economic activity and it plays an important part in maintaining the local community and preserving the environment. Because these areas are characterised by poor soil, uneven terrain and severe weather conditions, they are suitable only for the breeding and rearing of cattle and sheep on an extensive basis. The suckler herd system used in these areas involves the bull running with the herd, for at least part of the year. Practice varies, but basically the periods for calving are spring or autumn, which would at the very least require the bull to run with the cows for two periods of three to four months. Some farmers with larger herds prefer to have the bulls with cows throughout the year. Artificial insemination is not yet an acceptable replacement for the bull in this type of herd.

It is virtually impossible to quantify in precise economic terms the effect of further restrictions on the practice of running beef bulls in fields with cows, but it is clear that beef production would suffer. It would certainly not be possible for farmers to keep these herds at a satisfactory level for economic efficiency, particularly in hill areas. May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Collision, whose interjection of course we all value, that I have the 1975 report in front of me, and that, though I agree with him that the conclusions are more or less supporting his argument, there is written there in paragraph 61: The council believes that farmers would be faced with virtually insurmountable problems if the present total prohibition bylaws presently covering many of these areas were to be rigidly enforced". May I perhaps, as everyone else has had a personal fling, say that I myself am a Londoner, and, rather like the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, I am very nervous indeed when I approach the fields. I have always made it a practice to make sure that I can get to the fence before whatever is in the field can get to me. I do think we must talk about relative danger a little hit because I think it has been overdone. There are bulls, there are cows, there are rams, and there are horses. So far we have had people who have been thrown by cows. I know of a lady who recently had her leg broken by a ram. I myself was kicked by a horse as a young boy, and I have that hoof as an astray at home. It really is relative danger. I would be just as terrified, in fact more terrified, to go into a field with horses as into one with a bull. This is partly because my father had some very nice bulls which we always used to go and scratch, or rather he scratched while I stood near the gate. I do feel also that we should think about signs. "Beware of the bull" is one of those signs which are too often used, but equally I have been kept out of a place by the warning Beware of adders".

We have had a very interesting and entertaining debate. I think the serious points have been made with due seriousness, and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, if he does press the point, will abide by the wish of the Committee.

Lord Avebury

I am not going to detain the Committee for more than one minute. The noble Earl says that farmers have to abide by the Health and Safety at Work Act and not keep bulls which are dangerous in fields, and of course they would not do so if they knew the bulls were dangerous. But you do not know in advance if a particular bull is dangerous: the essence of the dangerousness of bulls is in fact their unpredictability. So I do not think the provisions of the Health and Safety at Work Act go to the root of the problem. As for the noble Earl's remarks on Scotland, I did try to develop in my original speech the reasons why a difference in treatment was quite understandable as between Scotland and England and Wales. I do not think that the noble Earl altogether digested that point.

I understand—and the noble Earl may correct me if I am wrong—that the famous agreement which has been discussed across the floor of the Committee between the NFU, CLA, and the ramblers, which unfortunately foundered, could be reconstructed as far as the NFU is concerned. I think that the noble Earl might at least have offered, as a sop to the views which have been expressed from all sides of the Committee, at least to try to resuscitate that agreement, and to go back to the NFU and see whether or not, even at this late stage, they could arrive at a modus vivendi which would have been acceptable to all sides of the Committee. In view of the fact that the noble Earl has made no such offer, nor has he agreed to consider the views which have been expressed on all sides, I am afraid that I must test the feeling of the Committee.

The Earl of Onslow

Before the noble Lord sits down—

Several noble Lords


The Earl of Onslow

No, I want to declare an interest. I have both a beef bull and footpaths and I did not say so, and I thought that perhaps it was correct that I should say so to your Lordships.

7.21 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 547) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 37; Not-Contents, 82.

Airedale, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Ardwick, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Auckland, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Avebury, L. Loudoun, C.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. [Teller.] Lovell-Davis, L.
McGregor of Durris, L.
Bernstein, L. Melchett, L.
Collison, L. Milverton, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Mishcon, L.
Crowther-Hunt, L. Oram, L.
David, B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Segal, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Spens, L.
Hale, L. Stone, L.
Hanworth, V. Swinfen, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Underhill, L. [Teller.]
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Janner, L. Winstanley, L.
Ailesbury, M. Brougham and Vaux, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Burton, L.
Avon, E. Caithness, E.
Bellwin, L. Chelwood, L.
Belstead, L. Craigavon, V.
Boardman, L. Craigmyle, L.
Boston, L. Crathorne, L.
Bridgeman, V. Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Daventry, V. Monk Bretton, L.
de Clifford, L. Monson, L.
De La Warr, E. Mottistone, L.
De L'Isle, V. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Northchurch, B.
Dormer, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Ellenborough, L. Onslow, E.
Elliot of Hanwood, B. Orkney, E.
Enniskillen, E. Orr-Ewing, L.
Falkland, V. Penrhyn, L.
Feversham, L. Portland, V.
Gowrie, E. Radnor, E.
Gridley, L. Redesdale, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Renton, L.
Harvington, L. Ridley, V.
Henley, L. Rochdale, V.
Hertford, M. Romney, E.
Holderness, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Hornsby-Smith, B. Sandford, L.
Iddesleigh, E. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Kemsley, V. Shannon, E.
Keyes, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Killearn, L. Soames, L.
Long, V. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Strathclyde, L.
Lyell, L. Tollemache, L.
McFadzean, L. Trefgarne, L.
Mansfield, E. Trenchard, V.
Margadale, L. Tryon, L.
Marley, L. Vivian, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V. Wise, L.
Mersey, V. Wolverton, L.
Middleton, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Lord Denham

I think that this is probably a convenient moment to adjourn the Committee for dinner. It has been agreed through the usual channels that we should finish the Bill tonight thereby saving your Lordships the burden of coming in on Friday. Perhaps it would be useful to say that if the intervening business is finished in time the Committee stage will resume at 8.15. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.