HL Deb 01 November 2000 vol 618 cc1043-104

(" .—(1) A person who intends to enter or to remain on access land during any part of the period from one hour after sunset on one day to one hour before sunrise on the following day shall give prior notice of that intention to the access authority.

(2) The access authority shall take such steps as seem to it appropriate and practicable to—

  1. (a) communicate to any person giving such notice information as to restrictions relating to, and activities to be carried out on, such land, and
  2. (b) enable owners and other persons interested in access land to obtain information as to notices which have been given.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this new clause is to ensure that a person who intends to enter or remain on access land at night gives prior notice to the access authority. That is covered in subsection (1).

Subsection (2) seeks to ensure that the access authority informs such a person of any restrictions in force or activities taking place on the land and ensures that owners and other interested persons are told of those who have given notice of their intended nocturnal visit.

As the House will have concluded, this is a clause of last resort as regards night access. It is minimalist in its requirements. I hope that noble Lords on the Liberal Benches may give it some favourable consideration, if only to pacify Mr Colin Breed, the Member for South East Cornwall, who is, I understand, the Liberal spokesman on agriculture, rural affairs and fisheries. He appeared in a forum organised by the Countryside Alliance on Thursday, 19th October, and declared himself against night access. So perhaps we may have some consistency in the Liberal ranks. I invite Liberal support for my proposed new clause.

It was ma de clear in Committee, when I tabled a similar but less comprehensive amendment, that it was the safety of night visitors that I had first and foremost in mind. That is still the case. With due respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, who is not here at the moment, I referred to some 265 accidents that occur annually in Snowdonia. Out of respect for the noble Baroness, I shall not repeat any of the tangential facts relating to that.

In the course of our discussion in Committee, various other proper and very valid concerns were raised and the proposed new clause seeks to take account of them. For example, there was the concern of owners and managers highlighted by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, in another amendment in Committee and again, of course, today. And there was concern about the safety of property, livestock, ground-nesting birds and so on. There was concern too about tamping and operations against foxes.

My point is that all those concerns, which are very extensive, as the Government know, would be greatly reduced by knowledge of the presence and identity of those wandering in access land after dark.

The new clause gives a statutory basis for what is accepted as good practice; namely, giving advance notice of a night visit to an area which may involve hazards of one kind or another. That good practice was referred to by a number of your Lordships, including the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, in the course of our discussions.

Reputable organisations advise their members to give prior notice of their intentions and likely whereabouts on night ventures at the places where they stay—hotels and so on—or to local rescue teams. That is a sensible precaution and the Government would be wise to give it statutory form, especially as the area open to access will be considerably increased. The Government are going wrong by considering things as they are without taking into account the significant extension of access land and, possibly, the increased numbers using it.

Lord Greaves

My Lords, what is one supposed to do if one is already on access land and, because it is a glorious day and will be a glorious night, one decides to stay—even though one did not intend to do so beforehand?

Lord Roberts of Conwy

My Lords, the same rule applies. If it is likely that a person will stay overnight on access land, he should give that information to the authority.

I am not greatly concerned with the popular nocturnal visitor spots. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, mentioned Snowdon in Committee. I am concerned about the less well-known locations which will be open to access and which are comparatively unexplored by walkers. Members of reputable organisations can be trusted to take the necessary precautions. I am concerned about less-experienced groups who may venture forth at night without a proper assessment of risk and may end up in tragic circumstances that could have been avoided had they had the foresight to give prior notice to knowledgeable people. Who better to inform than the access authority, which would tell the landowner and other interested parties Everything I have heard since the Bill came before the House confirms my view that we should establish and develop the good practice envisaged in the proposed new clause. In Committee, noble Lords indicated that it was the general practice of organisations for ramblers, climbers and so on to give prior notice of their intention to be on a mountain or in other hazardous places at night.

It is only a matter of days since a group of Italian soldiers became lost on the Brecon Beacons. They gave a wrong map reference to their would-be rescuers who spent nine hours searching for them. One soldier was taken to hospital suffering from hypothermia after a night in the open. If that can happen to soldiers on a planned military exercise, I do not hold out much chance for ill-equipped young people or other civilians on an unplanned night foray—although I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is quite capable of taking care of himself.

I have no doubt that tragic occurrences would be fewer if the proposed new clause were in place and access authorities and wardens were given prior notice. Safety has a high priority in almost every sphere of life these days—be it rail travel or eating beefburgers. It would be remiss of the Government to ensure public safety on racing gallops but ignore it on access land. Why is there a difference? Maybe the Government are afraid of being accused of nannying, but I do not believe that that can be the case.

There is no penalty on an access authority or an individual for failure to comply with the requirements of the new clause. As I said, it is an attempt to give statutory backing to current best practice, to improve safety at night for those who venture on to access land and to ensure the safety of property and livestock on access land. I can assure the Government that people will sleep sounder if they know who is on the mountain, heath, down or moorland near their home. I urge the Government to give this last-resort clause on night access a sympathetic hearing.

9.30 p.m.

Viscount Bledisloe

My Lords, my name should appear to this amendment, but for some administrative reason it does not.

My first point is that if people are to be given access to open land at night, it is highly desirable that someone should know who is on the land. This amendment contemplates a simple telephone system to be set up by the access authority so that anyone venturing out at night can leave a message to say who he is, how many are in his party and where they are going. The amendment was deliberately designed to say that because in Committee the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, raised the point of someone not deciding whether to go out at night until late in the afternoon as he wanted to see what the weather would be like.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has now raised a further point: what happens if someone wants to stay out? Last time he told the House that it was irresponsible to stay out at night on the mountains without having deposited a plan and told people where one was going and when one was returning. In these days of modern technology, it would not be difficult for the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, to pick up a mobile telephone and to tell the access authority that he was staying out.

Lord Greaves

My Lords, I wonder why the noble Viscount assumes that I have a mobile telephone.

Viscount Bledisloe

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has impressed upon us how enormously responsible a climber and a walker he is, and as he has told us that he would not dream of being out at night on a hill without someone knowing where he was I assume that if he was liable to change his mind at the last moment he would carry the wherewithal to communicate that fact. This legislation cannot be designed around the eccentricities of one noble Lord! Secondly, under this amendment such a telephone system would enable the caller to hear information about any special problems notified to the authority. There may be work in progress on the land or trenches dug that they could be told about. Night lamping may be taking place or there may be restrictions due to lambing. When someone telephoned to say that they intended visiting a particular site, there could be a recorded message saying that on such and such land there was a restriction.

Thirdly, an owner could access the telephone system and discover whether people had given notice that they would be on his land that night. Also an owner seeing or hearing movement on his land could check whether legitimate walkers had given notice.

This amendment has been designed carefully to answer all the difficulties that were raised in Committee. I venture to hope that the Government will regard the amendment as a sensible way of dealing with the problem of the information that is needed if there is to be night access.

Lord Judd

My Lords, the word "bizarre" has just been bandied around and I hope that I can introduce the word "philistine". The thought of the countryside being littered with people carrying mobile telephones ringing in to say where they are fills me with dismay. What are we turning our countryside into?

The problem which arises from the amendment concerns the cost. If the provision is to work well, it will be an extremely costly exercise. The information which will be needed at the control point must be assembled and the means must be found to disperse it to everyone who needs it. The question which the noble Lord did not answer in moving the amendment was what on earth the people receiving the information will do with it.

If we were introducing some draconian rule, I would resist it. I am happy to plead guilty to being pleased to share with the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, the eccentricity of his approach to the countryside; I find myself very much at one with it. Certain things may be desirable in terms of responsible conduct. But it is also true that if we are enjoying the countryside, trying to act as responsibly as possible, we make spontaneous decisions about what is possible on a particularly lovely night in a wonderful situation. It would be a nightmare at that point to find ourselves curbed by all kinds of restrictions and legal requirements.

The issue is: what would be done with the information? Is the cost justified? Surely, the money which would go into such an exercise could help landowners in a host of other ways; for example, erecting stiles, providing wardens and so forth for the positive management of the countryside. From the way in which the amendment has been tabled, I do not begin to understand why it is a priority that is preoccupying us at this hour of the night.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

My Lords, perhaps I may first address the issue of consistency which the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, accused the Liberal Democrat Benches of lacking. I am somewhat tempted to think that envy prompted that observation because our very consistency and persistence in both Houses has resulted in a large number of our amendments being accepted. I shall not take up the time of the House by listing them, but I must say that it is a remarkable number of which we are proud. I do not believe that we have the slightest record of inconsistency.

If I were to stay on the theme of inconsistency, I should have to remind the Conservative Benches how inconsistent they were on, for example, the AONB issue when in the other place they vociferously asked for it to be on the face of the Bill only to tear it apart when it came to this place. Therefore, I should not like to place too much weight on the consistency argument.

Turning to the amendment, it would be extra ordinary to envisage how it might work. I declare an interest as a Somerset county councillor with experience of an access authority. Everything about the amendment makes it unworkable. For example, if the landowner failed to telephone the access authority to communicate an activity being undertaken on the land, who would be liable for the access authority then not being able to tell the person who telephoned that such an activity could take place? Would it be the landowner or the access authority?

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, raised the issue of the number of people required to operate the system. In the summer, even in a county such as Somerset which has a relatively restricted area of access land mainly in the Quantocks and Exmoor, a large number of telephone calls would be made from landowners to the access authority and from people intending to walk. The proposal is completely unworkable.

I understand the point which the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, made about safety and of course it is important. But the fact is, as was debated in Committee, responsible people going on to access land to undertake activities usually leave a route plan with friends, family or at their hotel. Obviously, they should be encouraged to continue to do so and perhaps to do so more often. However, it is no good laying the responsibility on to national parks and county councils, which already deal with a plethora of immediate emergency situations. If this week during the floods in Somerset people had been telephoning the authority to report that they were thinking of going for a walk on top of Dundry Beacon, we would not have regarded it as a good use of staff time. We cannot therefore support the amendment.

Lord Hardy of Wath

My Lords, I say a few words which in part reflect my experience as a schoolmaster. I am not unduly worried about Italian soldiers in the Brecon Beacons, who would probably receive a campaign decoration as a result. One is concerned here with young people. I do not know whether the Government agree with the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. However, the subject-matter of the amendment should be given serious consideration. Even if the Government do not pay heed to it, before the Bill is implemented they must ensure that either the department or the voluntary bodies concerned issue a clear code of conduct which spells out what every education authority and organisation responsible for young people must do. Too often children have been injured or killed because leadership has not been of the highest standard.

One must also consider cost. Not many people have worked out the cost of sending helicopters to rescue people, who in some cases should have more sense. We do not have very high mountains in this country, but we have desolate areas which can be extremely cold and dangerous. Children should not be taken into those areas unless schools, education authorities and young people's organisations adequately brief, and set out the terms of conduct for, those who lead such parties.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord does not believe that education authorities take out young people without saying where they intend to go and obtaining permission for the trip. That is not my experience. No voluntary youth organisation or Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme would do it either. Those are not the kinds of organisations that one has in mind here.

In response to the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, if the high mountains and hills of England and Wales are anything like the Angus glens, mobile telephones simply will not work there.

Lord Mancroft

My Lords, this Bill gives rise to a number of difficult issues which noble Lords have debated piece by piece at Committee stage and this evening. Probably the issue which causes the greatest difficulty on all sides of the House, but perhaps from different angles, is night access. I and my noble friends and other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, were concerned at both Second Reading and Committee stage about night access. The Government believe that this is a matter of principle. If there is a principle, it is a fairly weak and pathetic one. I do not understand the principle, despite the fact that it has been explained several times. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, explained it to me outside the House last night. I believe that at the end I thanked him very much but said that I still did not understand it. Nevertheless, the Government regard it is an important principle.

However, if the Government want this important Bill they must understand that a large number of noble Lords have a real problem about night access. It would be a constructive move to find some way out of the problem without compromising the Government's principle. The Government should have their business, although God alone knows why.

When noble Lords discussed this matter in Committee my noble friend Lord Jopling (who I am pleased to see is back in his place) put forward the idea that a walker, rambler or whoever should inform someone. I believe that at that stage Members of the Committee on all sides regarded it as a new and interesting idea. Therefore, the proposal of my noble friend Lord Roberts is the son-of-Jopling amendment, as it were, and takes the whole matter further forward. For that reason, if for no other, it is an interesting idea.

A number of noble Lords have raised practical problems about how the system will work by the use of mobile telephones. My noble friend Lady Carnegy said that mobile telephones did not work in Angus. Certainly, mobile telephones work fairly well in most places in the south and north of England. But it should not be forgotten that that is only if you are on a hill. If you informed people before you went, presumably you will not be on the hill when you make your telephone call, unless you are the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, or Italian soldiers. Presumably, they do not have sleeping bags and the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, does have a sleeping bag. Or if he does not have a sleeping bag with him to enable him to spend the night, presumably he did not intend to go on that access land at night. If he did not intend that then he does not need to inform anyone anyway under this clause. So there is not a problem.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Greaves

My Lords, given that it is dark at half-past three in the middle of December, does the noble Lord accept that I may actually stay after darkness without needing a sleeping bag because I may be back at home by one o'clock in the morning in time to go to my own bed?

Lord Mancroft

My Lords, it is entirely possible that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, will go climbing in Snowdonia in November or December without any means of protection from the weather. In which case I suspect he will end up like our Italian friends. He is raising unnecessary issues here which can be overcome. The reality is that this system can work. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, raised some issues about communication possibilities, as did the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. But the reality is that, with modern communications, information of this kind can be given to local and access authorities for them to process. With modern computers and with modern technology that is really not difficult, nor is it expensive. So get around that one. The practicalities are there in this day and age. We can do it.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I referred to the possibility of a nightmare. Will the noble Lord accept that for many of those wishing to enjoy the countryside, the whole purpose is to get away from all the encumbrances and paraphernalia that go with modern technology and enjoy—at least for a brief spate of time—something totally different? Are the speakers to the proposed amendment trying to enforce technology and all technology's culture into the peace of the countryside?

Lord Mancroft

No, my Lords. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, is getting a little over-excited about the matter. I, too, live in the countryside and I appreciate it without technology. But when people make a mistake and get into trouble they expect modern technology with its whirly blades to come and get them out. We would love to go into the countryside without technology, but in this day and age we balance these things. We want the ambulance and the helicopter to come quickly enough when we are in trouble. What we are trying to do here is not to get angry about it, but to find a happy medium way forward.

My noble friend Lord Roberts raised the issue of the forum of the Countryside Alliance conference last week at which Mr Colin Breed spoke. I have already declared an interest to your Lordships—I am happy to do so again—as a director of the Countryside Alliance. I chaired that forum. Not only was Mr Colin Breed of the Liberal Democrats part of that forum, but we were delighted that the Minister for the Environment, Mr Michael Meacher—whose Bill we are discussing today—was part of that forum. I listened very carefully to what the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said. I was amazed when she told us that Mr Colin Breed was not responsible for this brief in the other place on behalf of her party because he told me and the other 600 people at the conference—luckily it is on tape so we shall be able to see it on the screen—that he did have the responsibility. He told the conference that it was very much the Liberal Democrat policy that they were deeply concerned about night access. I may have got that wrong. We will ask the other 599. But he made that point very strongly, which is why I was amazed, as was my noble friend Lord Roberts.

I have gone on too long and I apologise to the House. The Minister, Mr Meacher, was part of that forum. One of the issues that was discussed for quite a time with Mr Breed, Mr Meacher and a number of others was the issue of night access. When it was suggested that walkers would have an obligation to inform the relevant authority, as proposed in the amendment, the Minister, Mr Meacher, thought it was a very interesting idea and well worth looking at because it may be a way to get out of this muddle. We are in a muddle. My noble friend has suggested a way out of it. I rather hope the Government will take it more seriously than they have some of the other suggestions.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, this is a balanced amendment. Subsection (1) provides that a person who intends to enter or to remain on access land at night should give prior notice of his intention to the access authority. Subsection (2) provides that the access authority should, in turn, give to any person giving such notice information about restrictions and activities and should enable owners to obtain information as to the notices which have been given. It works both ways, and I give credit to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, for that.

As to the first part of the amendment, we had a lengthy debate on the matter earlier today. The Government put forward the view that night access was comparable to day access and that no general restrictions should apply to night access which do not apply to day access. The debate covered a whole range of issues about night access, including the safety of people enjoying the right to night access as well as of those living on or owning access land. At the conclusion of the debate the House decided that amendments which would restrict night access should not be accepted. On that basis, if your Lordships will forgive me, I shall not repeat the arguments on night access generally or even on safety of night access. I consider that they have been adequately aired and that the issue raised in subsection (1) of the amendment has already been resolved.

The issue raised in subsection (2) is an interesting and worthwhile one. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, for raising it. My noble friend Lord Hardy put it very well when he called for a code of conduct. Government Amendment No. 104 provides exactly that. It places a duty on the countryside bodies to issue a code of conduct and take other steps to provide information. We would expect the code of conduct to give guidance on safety issues, including safety at night.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the Minister. But, given all the comments to which the Liberal Democrat Benches have been subjected, does the noble Lord agree that the amendment was brought forward by the Government in response to the amendment that we tabled in Committee?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Yes, my Lords. This is a listening Government. There are occasions when we listen to Conservatives too! However, we consider that the issue of night access generally has been adequately aired.

We support the thrust behind the second part of Amendment No. 30. Government Amendment No. 104 gives effect to that. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, will see fit to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Roberts of Conwy

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that helpful and gracious reply. I am also grateful to all those who have taken part in this interesting debate. I am glad that the noble Lord fully appreciates the thrust of subsection (2) of Amendment No. 30. It may be that when we come to discuss Amendment No. 104 he will be able to cast even more light on what he hopes the guidelines will contain.

We have had a reasonable debate and a promise from the Minister that the guidelines will cover my basic point in subsection (2). Meanwhile, pending further developments—

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I would not wish to be misunderstood. The guidelines will cover safety at night. I am not saying that they will cover the provision of information in individual cases, as provided by subsection (2) of Amendment No. 30.

Lord Roberts of Conwy

My Lords, the Government have been known to respond to various arguments that have been put forward. Clearly, my new clause has certainly been considered by the Government. They have referred to their Amendment No. 104. It may well be that there will be some further development in government thinking. Therefore, on the understanding that I may come back to the matter at a later stage if needs be, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 2 [Restrictions to be observed by persons exercising right of access]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 31: Page 64, line 19, leave out from ("not") to end of line and insert ("entitle a person to be on any land if, in or on that land, he—").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 31 and speak also to Amendments Nos. 33, 36, 44, 48, 148 and 149 tabled in my name in this grouping.

Amendment No. 31, together with Amendments Nos. 44 and 48, makes minor drafting changes to ensure that Schedule 1 is consistent with the words in Clause 2(1) which deals with the loss of right of access. Government Amendment No. 33 relates to the feeding of livestock and adds that to the list of restricted activities set out in Schedule 2. We consider the amendment superior to Amendment No. 38, which deals with broadly the same subject.

Government Amendment No. 36 adds a new restriction of interfering with, any fence, barrier or other device designed to prevent accidents to people or to enclose livestock". It provides that such interference would not be restricted if the person had "reasonable excuse", but it deals with the main offence. Again, Opposition Amendment No. 39 tabled in the name of the noble Baroness and others deals with a similar area, but we suggest that our amendment is preferable.

I shall need to spend a little more time on Amendments Nos. 148 and 149. They relate to a recommendation made by the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation, which made a number of recommendations relating to three areas covered in Part I of the Bill: the general restrictions in Schedule 2; the restrictions on dogs in the same schedule; and the use of the discretionary closure power in Clause 21. These amendments deal only with the first of these; namely, the general restrictions.

The Select Committee was concerned that the power to vary Schedule 2 general restrictions could be used to remove restricted activities which could alter the balance of the Bill against the landowner. The committee accordingly recommended as its preferred option that the power should be deleted. We have considered this recommendation very carefully. On balance, we consider that the power to vary the restricted activities is a useful and important one. It will enable activities which have been overlooked or leisure pursuits which become popular at a later date to be added to the list. That said, we agree with the Select Committee that the power should be used sparingly. We have proposed therefore the Select Committee's alternative recommendation; namely, that such matters should be subject to affirmative resolution rather than negative resolution, as is currently provided for in the Bill. Amendments Nos. 148 and 149 will achieve that. I beg to move.

Earl Peel

My Lords, perhaps I may speak to Amendments Nos. 34, 35 and 40 which have been grouped with the government amendments. I turn first to Amendment No. 34. Schedule 2 provides that any walker who indulges in, hunting, shooting, fishing, trapping or snaring on access land, or who, has with him any engine, instrument or apparatus for that purpose will be deemed a trespasser. However, the schedule does not specifically apply the same sanction to anyone who interferes with a snare or a trap, which was a point I raised in Committee.

I believe that the Government should clarify the situation, ideally in Schedule 2, so that it is put on to the face of the Bill. Unfortunately, such interference is a common occurrence, causing immense irritation to farmers and keepers and wasting much valuable time. Someone who destroys a trap or snare would clearly be in breach of a regulation. I accept that. However, the status of someone who interferes with such an instrument remains unclear. There is a difference between the two. I should be grateful if the Minister could respond to that point.

Ideally, I should like to see the word "interfering" put on to the face of the Bill in Schedule 2. Failing that, I hope that the Minister will, at the very least, confirm that interference with such an instrument will be specifically mentioned in the code of conduct. It should not be dealt with simply in the catch-all paragraphs 1(o) and (p).

Turning to Amendment No. 35, the Minister kindly accepted my Amendment No. 111 in Committee, which sought to preclude anyone trapping anything on access land. However, the word "trapping" should have been included in a complementary amendment in order to preclude anyone having with them any instrument or apparatus for trapping. This is a drafting amendment which I feel confident the Minister will accept.

The list of criminal activities covered by Amendment No. 40 were removed from Schedule 2 in another place and were embraced by paragraph 1(d) of Schedule 2, which covers all criminal offences. This is quite an important point. In Committee we discussed the potential lay-out of Schedule 2. We discussed which offences should be specifically mentioned and which offences should not. We also discussed whether it would be helpful to differentiate between those acts of trespass which are criminal and those which will be subject to civil law.

I do not know whether the Minister has given this suggestion any further consideration. If he has not, presumably he will dismiss what I have just said. If he has, perhaps he may come forward with something which will be helpful to the lay-out of Schedule 2. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, also supported the suggestion at Committee stage.

In view of the serious nature of the offences covered by the amendment—which were excluded from Schedule 2 in another place—can the Minister assure me that, if they are not to be mentioned in the schedule, they will be specifically referred to in the code of conduct?

10 p.m.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I have added my name to Amendments Nos. 38 and 39. I cannot, of course, speak for the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, but I am happy to accept the Government's alternative amendments—not least because they appear rather higher up on the list of prohibitions and are therefore slightly more likely to be spotted by members of the general public.

I support Amendment No. 34, which has been brought forward by the noble Earl, Lord Peel. I do not think it is replicated anywhere else in the list of amendments. It is a much more significant amendment than it may appear at first glance. I also support Amendment No. 40.

It may be that the Government will argue that the points made by the noble Earl are covered elsewhere—we shall have to wait for the Minister's reply—but certainly Amendment No. 34 is very important.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, Amendment No. 37 in this grouping, which stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Miller, is, in a non-technical sense, consequential on government Amendment No. 36, which deals with interference with fences, barriers and so on. Very often the means of keeping people out, or warning them to keep out, is a notice rather than a fence. It seems to me that it is appropriate to put into this list of items, interferes with any written warning or other notice". Your Lordships heard at the previous stage of the difficulties of maintaining notices on land. As many landowners will wish to give warnings where that may be appropriate, it is appropriate on our part to protect the existence of such notices.

Lord Hardy of Wath

My Lords, perhaps I may offer one brief comment on the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Peel. If the Minister is to act on the noble Earl's advice, will he insert either the word "legal" or "legitimate" before "traps"?

I know that the noble Earl would not dream of using gin traps on his land, but some people still do. Not all that many years ago there was a gin trap placed on a child's nature trail in South Yorkshire. Some people still use traps which are banned under the 1981 Act. If I saw such an illegal trap, I should move it. I would not wish to be prosecuted for doing so. I hope that the question of the legitimacy of the trap will be considered in any of my noble friend's comments or actions.

The Duke of Montrose

My Lords, if I am not mistaken, government Amendment No. 33 was tabled in response to an amendment brought forward in Committee by myself and the noble Lords, Lord Soulsby and Lord Plumb, to do with the introduction of disease factors into rural areas. In this case, the amendment deals with the feeding of animals— presumably in response to the question of infection carried to pigs. This provision helps to deal with the question of introducing viruses.

The amendment that we debated in Committee sought to include a reference to the introduction of parasites as a result of dogs being improperly dosed. At present, no other amendment on the Marshalled List deals with the subject. If the Government do not intend to bring forward a provision, we may return to the matter at Third Reading.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, when the Minister replies, will he say a little more about Amendments Nos. 148 and 149? He skipped lightly over them and said that the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee had stated that the regulation provisions were tipped too strongly against farmers and landowners. The Government seem to have disagreed with the committee in wanting to tip them that way, which is rather unusual. Will the Minister tell the House exactly what are the implications of that?

Lord Luke

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 38 and 39. I agree entirely with what the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said about Amendment No. 38. Government Amendment No. 33 is much better worded than ours, so I shall not move it.

The Minister briefly mentioned Amendment No. 39. We have a certain amount of doubt about the government amendment. The current list of restrictions appears to omit any reference to interference with mineshaft covers, fences, etc, designed to safeguard the public. The wording of our amendment is lifted straight from the precedent in the Peak District national park by-laws for access agreement land. Tampering may not involve criminal damage, so would not be covered by the general prohibition on criminal activity on access land. I should like to hear more about that from the Minister.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, perhaps I may deal first with the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour. The Select Committee indicated that it thought that these powers would allow us, by regulation, to remove restricted activities as well as add restricted activities and accordingly recommended that the power should be deleted. We considered that that would mean that the Bill could not be updated. For example, had this Bill been passed 15 years ago, it would not have included a reference to hang-gliding, and it might well have included reference to certain activities that no longer occur in the countryside. We felt that in order to keep the Bill up to date we needed some way of dealing with that situation by regulation.

The Select Committee said that if the House disagreed with the recommendation, these powers should be subject to affirmative resolution. We have adopted that position rather than the first position proposed by the Select Committee. That perhaps explains the position. The noble Baroness is right: we have not accepted the initial advice, but we have accepted the alternative advice from the committee.

In relation to Amendment No. 34 tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Peel, it is clear to us that if paragraphs 1(o) and 1(p) are taken together—paragraph 1(p) refers to "disturbance"—that must include interference. We therefore do not think that an additional reference to interference on the face of the Bill is necessary. If that needs clarifying in subsequent codes, we shall consider doing so; however, I believe that the point is fully covered in the schedule as it stands.

Amendment No. 35 refers to trapping. I accept that, logically, we should include trapping. I can reassure my noble friend Lord Hardy—who I would hate to see charged with a criminal offence—that all these activities relate to activities being carried out lawfully. Therefore, there is no need to repeat that in this context.

In Amendment No. 40, the noble Earl, Lord Peel, seeks to reinstate the restrictions that were deleted on Report. Instead of picking out particular criminal activities, we have placed the reference to "any criminal activity" in the schedule. That is not perhaps quite as tidy as we would wish because the other offences in the schedule are basically similar, although some could become criminal offences—such as the destroying of an egg. However, the blanket reference to all criminal offences subsumes all those that are suggested in Amendment No. 40. The remaining specified offences are, essentially, criminal or specific offences. I give way.

Earl Peel

My Lords, I am obliged. Perhaps the Minister could respond to my other question. In view of the fact that those very important items were deleted in another place and are now covered by the catch-all provision in paragraph 1(d) of Schedule 2, I asked the Minister whether it would be possible for them to be mentioned in the code of practice. They are so important that, quite frankly, it would be disingenuous not to draw the general public's attention to them as being an offence under the Bill.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I am being careful not to commit myself absolutely to putting anything in the code that will become the responsibility of the Countryside Agency. However, no doubt this is an issue which the agency should address for the sake of clarification—

Lord Monson

My Lords, is depositing rubbish or leaving litter a criminal offence? I accept that the other subjects referred in Amendment No. 40 are criminal offences, but surely leaving rubbish is not actually criminal?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I am sorry to presume to correct the noble Lord, but I believe that litter offences are criminal offences in almost all circumstances.

I turn to Amendment No. 37, tabled in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. This amendment would add a restriction of interfering with any written notice or warning without reasonable excuse. We consider that the various activities that this might include are already covered by the restrictions in the sense that debasing or uprooting a sign would clearly be criminal damage in any case. If the sign were vandalised or moved, the criminal damage would be caused. Therefore, it is already covered.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Luke, for accepting that our Amendment No. 33 might be slightly superior to his own. However, he does not seem to accept the same in relation to Amendment No. 39. Our amendment is slightly wider in that it relates to tampering with anything. Clearly that would include tampering with any fences, notices or anything that was erected to protect a particular feature that may be dangerous, or which may require information to be conveyed. We therefore think that the question of a mine shaft is covered, as are other features. If we were to specify mine shafts, the effect of the clause might, by omission, imply that those items not mentioned were not covered. We believe that our general clause is better.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, the Minister indicated that our amendment is covered through general provisions. But is there any difference between warnings, fences and barriers? If tampering with a notice is a criminal offence, then surely breaking down a fence is also a criminal offence.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, there may be a point of logic in that to which I cannot quickly respond. However, if someone climbs over a fence and inadvertently damages it, that may not actually be a criminal offence in itself. We are talking here about deliberate damage to a notice. I believe that that is what lies behind the noble Baroness's amendment. The situation is clearly covered.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

10.15 p.m.

Viscount Bledisloe moved Amendment No. 32: Page 64, line 23, at end insert ("which is at all times on a short lead").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 41 and 43. We now come to the question of dogs. Amendment No. 32 seeks to ensure that if dogs are to be allowed on the land we are discussing they must be on a short lead at all times of the day and throughout the year.

Amendment No. 41 simply defines a "short lead" as a fixed short lead, not an expandable, "fishing line" lead which allow dogs to range freely. Amendment No. 43 merely deletes certain paragraphs which would become unnecessary if Amendment No. 32 were accepted.

The Bill already recognises that dogs off leads can cause harm in that it excludes dogs off leads from certain land between March and July. Government Amendment No. 118 recognises that dogs can cause harm to grouse and to lambing. However, the Government do not appear to consider the position of other wildlife, pregnant sheep, sheep which have young lambs or other stock. Dogs off leads have no place in the provisions of the Bill. The Bill allows people to roam across country; it does not allow dogs to roam freely.

I do not know but I suspect that few serious ramblers want to take dogs with them. Those who want to walk the dog do so on footpaths or in their local areas. Even if some ramblers wished to take their dogs with them, it would be wholly unbalanced to allow dogs to roam loose and to damage the occupier, the land and the fauna and flora on it. If a dog is to be allowed access to the land in question, it must be kept on a lead. The right to roam must not be extended to dogs. Once a dog is off the lead, it may become uncontrollable and may chase animals and scare birds off their nests. That danger appears to be recognised as regards grouse but does not appear to be recognised as regards any other bird. A dog off the lead can cause infinite damage and enormous trouble to an owner. This Bill should not concern itself with dogs off leads. I beg to move.

Lord Hardy of Wath

My Lords, Amendment No. 45 which stands in my name is concerned with the matter we are discussing. I should be greatly obliged if the noble Lord did not press his amendment for the following reason. However, I shall mention other reasons later.

We have heard of the dangers and hazards in access areas. Often search parties spend long hours on cold nights looking for missing people. They might not find them without the help of rescue dogs. One cannot keep a rescue dog on the lead if it is to do its job properly. I understand the reservations and the anxieties that the noble Lord has mentioned but I believe that a slightly different approach needs to be adopted.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, I make a plea on behalf of all those hill farmers who raise sheep—as I used to do—for whom the issue of dogs is critical. If a dog which has a taste for chasing sheep runs loose off the lead on a moor it will become uncontrollable. At certain times of the year it can cause thousands of pounds worth of damage. The crop for a hill farmer is lambs. If sheep heavy with lamb are chased the farmer will lose perhaps many lambs. A large dog can pull down a ewe. There must be provision in the Bill for dogs to be kept under control if one is to have the support of the hill farming community.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, I have put my name to the amendment. I agree with the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. I declare an interest as someone who has always had a dog—some more controllable than others. We have a rescue gun dog; we took her in at the age of three. She is well trained but, given half the chance, her natural instinct is to chase. I strongly support the amendment. I shall not go over the arguments so well expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. I understand the reservations of the noble Lord, Lord Hardy. I believe that this provision is crucial. I hope that the Government will be persuaded by the arguments.

Earl Peel

My Lords, I, too, support the amendment. I have an identical amendment which is grouped separately, and somewhat cleverly, with government Amendment No. 118 relating to dogs on grouse moors. I have no doubt that that has been done in order to silence me! However, I shall welcome the Minister's amendment with open arms. But that does not detract from the fact that the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, raises an important point. The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, is right. I suggest that this is probably the most crucial issue.

The Government have come a long way. We shall discuss Amendment No. 118 which I welcome. But dogs will be a problem on any land. Wildlife, livestock and game birds exist on land other than grouse moors. We cannot ignore those areas. It is obvious that dogs on extended leads will cause more disturbance than those on short leads. There are increasing numbers of those leads—the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, described them as fishing lines—which can extend to 20 or 30 yards. A dog on an extended lead will inevitably be considerably more out of control than a dog on a short lead.

I draw noble Lords' attention to the independent report produced by Professor Hudson for the Countryside Agency. He concluded that dogs were seven times more likely than humans to create disturbance to wildlife. I suggest that a dog on a long lead, which is to all intents and purposes out of control, comes into that category. I believe that the majority of dog owners would agree the principle that the Bill is about people; it is not about dogs. Any greater degree of freedom accorded to people must come with additional responsibility. Part of that responsibility is keeping dogs under control. Under control inevitably means short leads. I welcome the noble Viscount's amendment.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I support the amendment and the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. Within the past fortnight I have read in a respected broadsheet newspaper that 24,000 sheep a year are killed by dogs. That seems a staggering figure. However, no one has challenged the report so I can only assume that it is true.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, I apologise for intervening in the debate so late. I support the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. Many people will say that their dogs have never chased sheep. We must remember that a dog is a natural enemy to a sheep and a sheep will run when it sees a dog. Similarly, a cow with a calf will run towards a dog when it sees one to attack it. If the dog is under close control, the owner has a chance to do something about it.

Lord Monro of Langholm

My Lords, having carefully read the report of the Committee debates about dogs, I entirely support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, about hill farming. The Minister seemed to give the impression in Committee that the majority of lambing happened off the hills and in lambing sheds, so the problems would not arise. That is not so. The majority of hill lambs, such as black faced lambs and Cheviots, are lambed on the hill. If there are dogs on the hill at the time, the risks are increased substantially.

The Government should consider the issue carefully. The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, put the matter very well. This is not a Bill to allow dogs to roam where they like; it is designed to deal with people. They have to accept that their dogs must be under control. That is not universally accepted.

I occasionally go to the United States. In Maryland, dogs can never be taken for a walk without a short lead, even in urban areas. The police enforce that law rigorously. It is not unusual to insist on dogs being under control. We have an opportunity to do something really helpful to hill farmers, who are going through a dreadful period at the moment.

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen

My Lords, I may be a lone voice in the Chamber this evening, but I do not support Amendment No. 43. When we debated the issue at Second Reading, I said that, as someone who was born and brought up in the countryside and had lived most of my life there, I believed that dogs should be firmly restricted in the countryside. I was pleased when I saw the Bill. There had been a wide debate before it was published and a lot of views had been put forward about when dogs should be on leads. I felt that the Minister had walked the tightrope of those views well and the Bill was a good compromise.

I do not want the restrictions on dogs to be removed. I am pleased that the protection for sitting birds on all access land has been extended until the end of July. I had supported that previously. I am pleased that measures have been adopted to regulate dogs in the vicinity of livestock. That is also sensible. Under Chapter II, local restrictions can be made to suit any area. That is important, because the countryside differs from area to area. Your Lordships have given graphic descriptions of many different areas.

I make a plea for retaining the restrictions on dogs in the schedule, because local restrictions can be made under Chapter II. For example, in hill farming areas local authorities can introduce restrictions to suit local conditions.

Lord Mancroft

My Lords, I support the amendment. Like my noble friend Lord Peel, I think that dogs are probably the most important issue in the Bill. Like most of those who have spoken, I am a dog owner and a dog lover. I would take my dog anywhere if I could, but it is vital to keep them away from ground-nesting birds, other wildlife and sheep, cattle and horses. Wild ponies breed on Exmoor and Dartmoor, which are access areas. The last thing that they need is dogs near to them.

Short leads are vital. We keep talking about dogs being out of control. As has already been said, it does not matter so much what the dog is doing; the important fact is the dog's presence. If a dog is 10 yards off a track going past a nest because it is on a long lead, the effect is the same as if it were off the lead and running wild. It will push the hen off the nest. It is absolutely essential that dogs are on short leads. A dog on a long lead has the same effect as one off the lead. Therefore, I strongly support the amendment.

10.30 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

My Lords, for the reasons stated by other noble Lords, we on these Benches certainly support the concept of defining a lead as being of fixed length. We believe that the suggested restrictions in relation to dogs are a positive move forward in setting out what is expected of dog owners.

However, perhaps of all the issues that require the most thought from the Government in respect of persistent offenders, the one relating to dogs is the most difficult. Dog owners frequently walk the same route, and those who offend by frequently letting their dogs off the lead when they should not do so are likely to continue to follow that pattern. As a dog owner, I know how much fun a dog has when it is off the lead. Certainly, the temptation is to allow it to be off the lead more than it should be.

I shall be interested to hear the Minister's reply to Amendment No. 42. I have some reservations about being more restrictive in relation to dogs than we need to be. There is no doubt that some people much enjoy walking with their dogs, but the interests of livestock must certainly be at the forefront of our considerations when we discuss these amendments. I believe that we are three-quarters of the way there in terms of restrictions on dogs, but there is still a little way to go.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I had hoped that the noble Baroness would be a little more forthcoming. As usual, she is sitting on the fence. She is saying that a restriction in terms of a fixed length for leads is required, but she refuses to tell the House what length of lead she believes dogs should be on.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

My Lords, I am sorry. Perhaps I should have expanded on the matter, but I was trying to save the time of the House. The noble Earl may remember that in Committee I tabled an amendment which specified two metres in length.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I simply wondered whether the noble Baroness had had further thoughts and had changed her mind. I am surprised that she did not say that at the time. What she has just said rather supports Amendment No. 46 in the name of my noble friend Lord Peel, which we shall come to shortly.

I thoroughly support what the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, said. At Second Reading I mentioned an incident that I witnessed in Richmond Park in which a dog chased deer. Such incidents will be far worse on the open hill.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, although the noble Earl, Lord Peel, suggests that we cleverly group these amendments, the amendments are not the Government's choice. In my view, we have probably grouped the amendments quite illogically in that there are seven groups on dogs. Perhaps it would have been useful to discuss the various options together. In order to avoid future repetition, I believe that it may be sensible if I set out the Government's case.

First, I accept the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, that this Bill concerns the rights of people rather than those of dogs. I might have been rather more convinced of the case for restricting dogs had the same arguments not come from noble Lords who have spent most of the evening arguing for greater restrictions on people in terms of access to the countryside. Nevertheless, I recognise that significant anxiety exists in relation to dogs in the countryside. Therefore, I believe that it is sensible to address these issues.

However, I believe that dog owners have rights, too. Dog owners are also people and many of them in the countryside wish to use access land, particularly that situated close to villages, in order to exercise their dogs. Therefore, a degree of balance is required in the approach to dogs as it is in the approach to other matters.

The Government have considered carefully all the points made at earlier stages. The totality of our position, as largely outlined by my noble friend Lady Gibson of Market Rasen, is that we have provided a fairly comprehensive restriction in relation to the management of dogs in the countryside.

First, we said that dogs must be kept on lead on all access land for four months of the year, from 1st March to 31st July. We said that they must always be on lead at all times in the vicinity of livestock on any access land. We have given the landowner powers to exclude dogs from fields or areas in which lambing is taking place and to exclude dogs from moors which are managed for grouse shooting, as the noble Earl, Lord Peel, said. That includes vast tracts of the countryside available for access. We have made provision for stronger local restrictions on dogs including complete bans on dogs where that is necessary for specific local reasons. Those bans could be reinforced by by-laws.

We consider that that package of measures and restrictions on dogs meets explicitly most of the specific objections made in this argument.

I am prepared to consider one further change relating to the question of short leads. I am not prepared to accept the noble Viscount's amendment which requires short leads at all times in all places on all access land. That is, to put it at its mildest, excessive. Where we define requirements for dogs to be on lead, then the requirement that they be on short leads should apply and the two metres referred to in the recent exchange between the noble Earl and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, would be appropriate. There are some difficulties here in that an extendable lead can be used as a short lead, but that can probably be addressed.

Therefore, I would be prepared to accept something along the lines of Amendments Nos. 46 or 49, or both, or some combination thereof.

Beyond that, I do not believe that we should move further in restricting dogs in access land. Are we saying that in all these acres about to be opened to access there should be no place—a bit of commonland close to the village, a bit of downland where historically people have tried to exercise dogs and have been legally forbidden to do so—where we can allow a dog to run free? That would send a very odd message to millions of dog owners, particularly those who live in the countryside.

The reality of the matter is that there are more dog owners than ramblers and landowners. Therefore, their interests do have to be reflected, at least partially, within this Bill.

The package of amendments that the Government is putting forward in the Bill and in Amendment No. 118 meet most of the specific objections to dogs or dogs running loose. The amendment of the noble Viscount goes too far. I hope he will not press it.

I shall not repeat this on subsequent amendments, but apart from Amendments Nos. 46 and 49 I will not favour the subsequent amendments either.

Viscount Bledisloe

My Lords, I readily confess to the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, that I had not considered his point about rescue dogs and it merits further thought. My initial reaction is that it would not be inhibited by this amendment. I do not believe a rescue dog comes on to land by using the right to roam given by this Bill. It comes on either by the tacit consent of the owner or in an emergency. The point needs further consideration. I accept fully that a rescue dog on a lead is probably a contradiction in terms. I shall certainly take that point on board.

There is no intention on my part to press Amendment No. 43. It would be inconsequential if the earlier amendment had been passed.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said that her dog has fun off the lead. But the dog has fun because it is doing the things that are so harmful to the landowner—chasing animals, pursuing smells and disappearing down rabbit holes. It is those activities that are going to harm the wildlife and livestock.

I fully accept that by keeping the dog on the lead, I am inhibiting the fun of the dog but that is because the purpose of the Bill is to balance the right of a person to roam against the legitimate needs of the landowner and conservation and so on. I accept that if an amendment on these lines were passed, some dogs would have a less jolly time. But they are having a jolly time at the expense of the things that we need to protect.

I must confess that I thought the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, about the source of the amendment was cheap and unworthy of the way in which he has otherwise conducted himself. Those who are putting forward amendments are seeking to allay the very legitimate fears of those in the countryside. Some amendments concern what people do; others concern what dogs do.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, asked whether it is really being said that there is no place on any kind of access land on which dogs can be allowed to run free. I accept that there may be some relatively rare pieces of access land on which dogs could be allowed to run free. I am ready to consider something on the lines of what I put forward in relation to night access; that is, that normally dogs should be kept on leads but the Countryside Agency can, in certain circumstances, certify such land as fit for dogs off leads.

Earl Peel

My Lords, it may be helpful for him to know that paragraph 6 of Schedule 2 provides such a derogation power.

Viscount Bledisloe

My Lords, again, I shall have to consider that. But the essence of the matter is that the majority of access land will be unsuitable for dogs off leads. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, almost admitted that when he said there will be occasional pieces of land—commons and so on—where dogs could be allowed off leads. I hope that perhaps he and I could meet to try to devise something which recognises that fact.

In the light of the need to deal with that and the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, about rescue dogs, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 33: Page 64, line 28, at end insert— ("(ga) feeds any livestock,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 34 and 35 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 36: Page 64, line 38, at end insert— ("(la) without reasonable excuse, interferes with any fence, barrier or other device designed to prevent accidents to people or to enclose livestock,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 37 to 41 not moved.]

Viscount Bledisloe moved Amendment No. 42: Page 65, line 13, at end insert— (" .—( ) Where a person persistently fails to comply with any restriction in this Schedule relating to dogs on any access land, the access authority or any person interested in that land may seek an exclusion order in respect of that person under section 43 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000. ( ) Without prejudice to the generality, a person shall be deemed to have persistently failed to comply with a restriction if—

  1. (i) having had his attention drawn to a failure by him to comply with a restriction, he fails again to comply with that restriction during the next 24 hours; or
  2. (ii) he fails to comply with a restriction on three occasions in any period of twenty-eight days.").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, we now return to the vexed question of what one does with people who persistently offend. Here we are dealing with people who persistently offend, particularly in relation to dogs. It may well be asked—and I anticipate that the Government will ask—why dogs should be in any different position in relation to this matter generally. The answer is that offences with dogs will be the most frequent and difficult to control. People will let dogs off their leads and, when they are rebuked, they will put their dogs back on them. No sooner are they over the brow of the hill than they will let their dogs off their leads again. That is exactly the experience of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, on Hampstead Heath when he tries to rebuke people for not keeping their dogs on a lead. If people lapse on Hampstead Heath, where a lot of people are looking, how much more will they lapse on open moorland? I fail to see how any landowner will cope with people who disregard the rules without some protection.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that such a provision seeks to make walkers into criminals but that is not so. We are seeking to take sanctions not against walkers but people who disregard the rules. It is just as illogical to say that one is seeking to make drivers into criminals with laws against speeding or illegal parking. A person is entitled to drive but there are restrictions on what he is allowed to do. If he does not obey them, he becomes liable to criminal sanctions. A person is entitled to a right of access but if he persistently flouts the rules, that is not turning walkers into criminals but turning rule breakers into criminals.

The noble Lord's other argument was that such a provision will make trespass an offence, which it has never been—so that is a change in the law. That is a wholly illogical statement that arises only because the Government have chosen to say that the only sanction of consequence against breaking the rules is to make the individual a trespasser. The noble Lord shakes his head but that is so. The Government are giving a right and saying, "If you break the rules, you will become a trespasser". They could just as easily have said, "If you break the rules regularly, you will become subject to the criminal law". The way that the Government have chosen to phrase the Bill allows the noble Lord to invoke the argument that we are trying to change the law of trespass. In fact, the amendment would change the way in which the Bill is to be regulated. I beg to move.

10.45 p.m.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, I take the opportunity to thank the Government for agreeing to review the matter of short fixed leads because that will help. While the Minister has given way on grouse and the protection of game, the whole issue of wildlife is not included. That may be an oversight.

Many people who live and work in the countryside are concerned about dogs. If there is nothing to stop some dog owners ignoring the rules, they will persist. Wardens in some parks know that dogs are kept on leads until they are out of sight, then released.

The rules in the Bill are few and simple. Anyone visiting the countryside caught breaking the rules would be required to leave the land for 72 hours—although that will not stop some people. The same should apply in relation to dogs. Many organisations have expressed concern about the effects of dogs on the countryside. They include the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, which represents a large number of qualified professionals—many of whom are experienced in matters affecting the rural environment. We have received submissions also from the Country Landowners' Association, Countryside Alliance and National Farmers Union.

I hope that the Minister will not dismiss the amendment, thinking that there is no need for it. I assure him that there is a need for some sanctions in the countryside.

Earl Peel

My Lords, I support my noble friend and the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. In principle this is the same argument as we debated on Amendment No. 24. Like the noble Viscount, I do not want to be accused of assuming that the two arguments are the same. I do not wish to rehearse the arguments.

However, there is the point that I sprung on the noble Viscount. In Schedule 2 there is an important provision which gives the local authority, by direction, powers to derogate and, therefore, to amend parts of Schedule 2 that refer specifically to dogs. It would not be difficult to work on the principle that there would be a blanket restriction on dogs and derogated powers invoked in local areas by local authorities if there was a tradition in that part of the access area for dogs to exercise the right to roam, or however one describes it. It can be done.

The central point of the argument, as has been made so many times, is that this is such a key issue in the countryside that I hope that the Government take seriously the points that have been made.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, we are not able to support this amendment. We have commented before on the creation of new offences and this is a similar situation. We believe that three strikes and you and your dog are out would be too draconian. The analogy has been made with driving offences, but I do not believe that there is a possibility of dogs having points on their licences which may lead to disqualification.

The problem is not of a dog entering land, but dogs attacking sheep. I hope that we shall hear from the Minister that there are sanctions on that type of event. We feel that this amendment proposes more than is required to deal with such situations as have been put before your Lordships.

Lord Whitty

Amendment No. 42 deals with sanctions rather than scope, which I did not tackle fully previously. As the noble Baroness has said, it creates a new offence and it creates an offence in an area where there is no appropriate parallel sanction. We have heard this argument in relation to breaches of other restrictions and I shall not repeat the arguments expressed by my noble friend Lord McIntosh.

In this context, exclusion orders are not an appropriate mechanism for dealing with civil matters, such as breaches of restrictions. They are meant to deal with serious criminal offences which may attract custodial sentences. Failure to keep a dog on a lead is not an appropriate situation for an exclusion order. Of course, where there is a persistent problem, a landlord has the option—rather than going through the potentially lengthy procedure of obtaining an exclusion order—of applying for an injunction.

Of course, the more important issue, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is that if a dog does actual harm it is possible to claim damages and to impose greater restrictions, or it is possible to ban them completely. The access authority as the noble Earl, Lord Peel, has pointed out, can impose tighter restrictions. I would prefer things to be allowed if they are not restricted, whereas he tends to adopt the view that things are restricted unless they are allowed. Therefore, it is better to give local access authorities the ability to pass by-laws. If such by-laws are made, a breach of those restrictions could become a criminal offence. Therefore, this issue can be dealt with in that way. Using exclusion orders in this context simply for breach of the dog restrictions, as distinct from causing criminal damage, seems an inappropriate use of the Bill's provisions. I hope therefore that the noble Viscount will not pursue the amendment.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he say whether other legislation enables a landowner who finds a dog worrying his sheep to deal with the matter, first, by warning the owner and eventually by being able to shoot it if it is caught worrying the sheep?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, a dog worrying sheep is covered by earlier provisions and they include the ability to shoot the dog. I am not suggesting that that should be used in all instances as regards this matter but where damage is caused—for instance, worrying sheep—a criminal offence already exists.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, I have a question which could become important. If a dog while running on access land eats poison, where does the landowner or the dog owner stand?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, that is an interesting question. I suspect that no liability arises from the rights of access because those rights are for people and not for dogs. Therefore, there will be no liability on the landowner. I am pretty confident with that answer but should my lawyers tell me otherwise I shall inform the noble Lord.

Viscount Bledisloe

My Lords, the Minister says that when the dog has worried the sheep, killed many of them and many lambs have been lost something can be done about it. It is not much consolation to a farmer to know that a man can be prosecuted after his dog has caused such damage, nor is it a great consolation to the sheep which probably would rather not have been killed or been caused to abort.

The point is that the farmer who sees dogs off the lead will have to chase after the man and tell him to return it to the lead. That is a bore. If the man disappears over the hill and lets the dog off again the farmer will have to go through the same process. That is much more than a bore; it is an infuriating irritation and a total waste of his time and effort. The person who makes it plain that he will not obey the rules is the problem.

None the less, I fully accept that it would be wrong to press this topic on its own when the whole question of what is to be done with the offenders remains outstanding, Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 43 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 44: Page 65, line 17, leave out ("apply to a person who") and insert ("entitle a person to be on any land if he").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Hardy of Wath moved Amendment No. 45: Page 65, line 18, at end insert ("unless it is with the permission of the owner or occupier of the land").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not want to take too long, but this is a serious matter. I fully recognise that dogs, especially those owned by irresponsible people, cause enormous havoc in the countryside. I hope that my remarks will not be seen as defending them.

I should first declare an interest: I am an honorary member of the Kennel Club, but what I intend to say tonight are my comments and not the club's. I interrupted the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, to point out that his amendment would have prevented the use of the rescue dog, which inherently must be off the lead. But the Bill as it stands would also prevent many other dogs being off the lead.

I remember living for a short time on a sheep farm in Scotland where I learnt a great deal about collies. My friend had one collie which he could tell to move ewes from one field to another without him having to leave the kitchen. Dogs are invaluable to shepherds but I wonder how they will manage if their collies have to be on leads, as proposed in the Bill.

11 p.m.

Viscount Bledisloe

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will reciprocate by giving way. This regulation applies only to those who exercise the right of access under the Bill. A shepherd who looks after his sheep does not come onto the land pursuant to the Bill but as of right as owner or occupier of the land. Nothing in this Bill affects anything that can be done at the moment; it relates only to those who exercise their right under the legislation.

Lord Hardy of Wath

My Lords, if the noble Viscount is correct I am greatly relieved. Looking at the text of the Bill, I believe that there is doubt about it, although I am not a lawyer. I hate to think that a shepherd must manage without a collie. That is not the only problem which will arise. If people want to exercise their right of access and prepare for shooting grouse on 12th August they will have only 11 days during which their dogs can be free. If they are the owners of the land and the noble Viscount is correct, there is no problem. However, if visitors exercise their right of access it may be that, when we come to the election campaign, the Government will be accused of attacking shooting by the back door.

Another activity which would be threatened is hound trailing. My noble friend Lord Bragg knows a great deal about it and may wish to assist the House with the benefit of his considerable experience in that field. It is reasonable to require that dogs are properly controlled, but I hate to think that in all the criticism about dogs there is inadequate awareness of what happens in areas under the aegis of the Kennel Club. I note that my noble friend Lord Hoyle has entered the House; I did not invite him to do so. I suddenly realised that his two dogs had received the Kennel Club's Good Citizen Award because of the splendid control and training which he devoted to them.

At Cruft's, which is still the top dog show in the world, one sees the most astonishing achievements in the field of training, obedience and work. That activity is developing very rapidly. My noble friend Lord Whitty referred to the large number of dog owners. Increasing numbers are being drawn into the network of training, working trials and all the rest of it. It is a much larger activity than it was, say, five or six years ago; and certainly it has been the subject of tremendous development over the past 20 years. The large number of people involved in Kennel Club activities throughout the country need encouragement and commendation so that there are far fewer irresponsible dog owners and badly behaved dogs.

Those who live in access areas are placed in particular difficulty. For example, tonight we have agreed that there should be a 20-metre protected area around each dwelling in access land in order that people can be exempt from the obligations of the Bill. That is not a long distance for the purposes of training dogs. When one trains dogs sometimes they must be let off the lead. If a dog is to learn to come to its owner or to stay it must be allowed off the lead for that purpose. It is essential that those who live on access land, or areas adjoining it, are not placed in a position where for a very large part of the year they are unable to take their dogs off the lead. That will not help the dog's conduct or training.

In order to present the country with a balanced and sensible measure I commend this amendment to the House. It enables a farmer or landowner to give permission to his neighbours to exercise and train their dogs on his land. He knows whether they are capable of handling the dogs properly. That will not interfere with proper recreation, whether it be hound trailing, sheep dog trials, hound shows, village exemption dog shows and all the rest of it. Those activities can continue without much harm and provide reassurance and encouragement for those who wish their dogs to behave properly. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, on this rare occasion perhaps I may agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe; I do not think the amendment is necessary. The restrictions relate to people exercising the right of access. They do not apply to the owner using dogs on his own land or the owner who gives permission to others to use dogs for whatever purpose on his land. Therefore, both the original situation which my noble friend described, and the training of hounds with the permission of the owner will not be affected by the restriction.

Lord Hardy of Wath

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. Perhaps he will consider this point. I go with my dogs to my friend's farm. I want my dogs to go for a walk with me. I know that they will not chase sheep. I know the way to stop dogs from chasing sheep. One puts them in a pen with a ram and they will never chase sheep again. Will my noble friend accept that I would need my friend's permission for my dogs to go off the lead? He should have the right to give such permission. That is all I ask for in the amendment. If my noble friend thinks it is unnecessary I have very real doubts as to whether that advice is accurate.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, it is accurate. The owner can give permission both directly and tacitly, because if he does not object to you then no consequences arise. You are covered in the situation where you have not formally sought prior permission. If he does not object then no other sanction applies. Therefore, either way, you are allowed to exercise your dogs with the connivance or permission of the owner.

Lord Bragg

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Hardy for raising what could be a regional problem.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, I am sorry to have to tell my noble friend that once the Minister has replied no one else may speak, other than the mover of the amendment who indicates whether or not he wishes to withdraw it.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I thought that with Amendment No. 45 were grouped other amendments, including the Minister's Amendment No. 118 and my Amendments Nos. 119 and 210. I should like clarification from the noble Baroness as to whether they are to be spoken to at the same time.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, strictly speaking, noble Lords who wish to speak to other amendments should do so before the Minister replies.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, how can I speak to the Minister's amendment if he has not spoken to it himself?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, we have a slightly confused position here. I thought I allowed time for noble Lords to speak and therefore my noble friend Lord Hardy followed me. If we are discussing all amendments in the group then I shall formally move Amendment No. 118 and allow the noble Earl to make his points and open the debate to others.

Lord Bragg

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Hardy, my noble friend the Minister and the House for allowing me to discuss very briefly what might be a regional difficulty. I refer to trail hounds. They are bred for great speed in Cumbria from foxhounds. They race freely across open countryside or fell land for varying distances, but always several miles. Their pursuit is motivated by nothing more inflammatory than a trail of aniseed laid down immediately before the race. The many supporters of trail hounds find it financially possible to own and train one or two of these amiable dogs. They derive enormous satisfaction from that.

Viscount Bledisloe

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, indicated that no other noble Lord could speak on this amendment. I do not quite understand why indulgence is given to those behind her that is not given to noble Lords in other parts of the House. There are other amendments which can be spoken to when they are called.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, all the amendments in the group can be spoken to. The Minister was replying to Amendment No. 45 but I take it that, tacitly, he was, with the leave of the House, dealing with an immediate issue that arose. The whole of the group is now open for debate and all noble Lords who have amendments in this group and indeed other noble Lords are at liberty to speak.

Lord Marlesford

My Lords, does that, include the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, as I wanted to say something about it, or is that now ultra vires?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, it includes the amendment of my noble friend Lord Hardy.

Lord Bragg

My Lords, life is a struggle! The hound trails often bring life to remote villages in Cumbria which hold the meetings. They are a rich part of local life. The meetings are generally held in the evening.

It is vital that it should be made absolutely clear that hound trailing is not subject to restrictions regarding the use of a lead. That would destroy a sport which plays such a unique role in Cumbria where, as elsewhere, country life and country living, especially in the hill farm areas, are now under great strain. I thank your Lordships for your indulgence.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the Minister has now spoken to Amendment No. 118. I have tabled Amendments Nos. 119 and 120 as amendments to Amendment No. 118. As they are all grouped, perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I spoke to them now.

There are a number of points arising from Amendment No. 118 on which I seek clarification. The amendment includes the words, by taking such steps as may be prescribed". Who will prescribe those steps? Will it be open to the landowner to challenge the prescription? How will that work? Will the landowner require permission from the access authority in order to make this enactment? Will he have to consult the local access forum? None of that is clear in the amendment. I am concerned about the implications of the Bill.

Another word in the amendment worries me. The final line of subsection (1) of Amendment No. 118 refers to persons who do not take "dogs" on the land. Does "dogs" include "a dog"? Does the plural include the singular? That is an important point for us to get straight. Those are the four points on Amendment No. 118 on which I seek clarification.

When speaking to Amendment No. 32, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said that dog owners have rights. That statement cannot be let go without some challenge. I do not think that that is a correct statement. Dog owners have responsibilities but they do not have rights. It is one's personal choice to have a dog. Having made that personal choice, one then has responsibilities. One should not have rights. It is with regard to the exercise of those responsibilities that we are seeking clarification.

I turn now to Amendments Nos. 119 and 120. While I welcome in principle Amendment No. 118, I cannot understand why it is restricted to moor, managed for the breeding and shooting of grouse". My mind immediately went to the heathland of Norfolk, which I used to know quite well, where there used to be, and still are, a large number of wild English partridges. The land was managed for the benefit and preservation of the wild English partridge. At the same time, the land was managed for farming. That is no different from a grouse moor. I cannot understand why the Government have decided on a separate category of owner. If an owner is preserving and enhancing wildlife—on the one hand, grouse, of which I thoroughly approve—why should not the same benefits be given to an owner on the Norfolk heathland, which is likely to be scheduled under the Bill, to prevent dogs from going onto that land?

The grey partridge is declining in numbers and needs to be encouraged. It has now been recognised throughout the House that a dog can cause considerable damage at nesting time. I am considering also the position of wildfowl and the wader species. As I pointed out in Committee, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a "heath" as marsh. If an owner manages a marsh for the benefit of wader species, then why should not that owner be given the same benefit as the owner of a moor? That explains the reasoning behind Amendments Nos. 119 and 120.

I should have mentioned this earlier in my contribution, but I shall return to it now. Subsection (3) of the new clause in Amendment No. 118 limits the amount of land to, a field or enclosure of not more than 15 hectares". That troubles me because a great deal of lambing still takes place on the open hill. From what was said earlier, it appears that it will be quite possible that a field or enclosure of 15 hectares might well be excluded as excepted land because it may be cultivated or more intensively farmed; namely, it is likely to be in-bye land. However, the owner of land just beyond that will not be protected in any way. Again, we shall see a division between owners. One owner with fields of 14.5 hectares will be able to prevent dogs from going on to his land. But the farmer up the road who undertakes his lambing on the open hill will receive no protection, even though those sheep on the open hill will probably be more scared by dogs. They will be more likely to panic than ewes lambing in a field.

I once had the enjoyment and difficulty of working as a shepherd on the hill in Scotland. I have seen the consequences of stray dogs disturbing blackface sheep. Once those sheep begin to run—with no boundaries within a 15-hectare area—they simply run and run. At lambing time that can be very detrimental. The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, made exactly the same point.

I hope that the Minister will explain further the intentions behind Amendment No. 118. I hope, too, that he will look sympathetically on Amendments Nos. 119 and 120.

11.15 p.m.

Lord Jopling

My Lords, I was somewhat staggered to hear a treatise from the noble Lord opposite about hound trailing. I thought that I recognised in his contribution almost precisely some of the remarks I made at col. 1400 on 3rd October. I shall read out only one section: For those of your Lordships who may not be familiar with hound trailing, a paraffin and aniseed drag is laid over a course of about 12 miles around the mountain tops".—[Official Report, 3/10/00; col. 1400.]. If ever a case could be made for plagiarism, this is it. For a moment, I thought that the noble Lord was reading out my speech from another occasion. Having listened to the remarks that have been made as regards repeating what was said in Committee, I thought that it was all a bit hot.

However, who am I to complain when someone on the opposite Bench takes exactly the view that I took in Committee about the need to ensure that no measures are taken in the Bill to interrupt the historic sport of hound trailing in the Lake District? I declared my own interest in Committee as the part owner of two trail hounds and also my membership of the Trail Hound Association, so I shall not declare those interests again.

I am delighted to have an ally here, but I had expected, during the contribution made by the noble Lord, to have received some recognition of the author of his remarks.

Lord Bragg

My Lords, I am very disappointed to have to say to the noble Lord that the remarks I made were my own.

Baroness Young of Old Scone

My Lords, now that we have open season on this group of amendments, perhaps I may comment on a number of them.

I support Amendments No. 46 and 49, which have been brought forward by the noble Earl, Lord Peel. If leads are required, they should be defined as short leads. I am grateful that the Minister is prepared to accept such a provision.

As to Amendment No. 47, I wonder if I detect a smidgen of inconsistency on the part of the Minister. The amendment seeks to remove the ability to change by regulation the period during which dogs must be on leads. That is at the behest of recommendation 18 of the 24th report of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. I question whether the ability to change the dates by regulation should be quite so obediently given up.

March until July is the period defined in the Bill, but that is only a best estimate of when it is most important for dogs to be on leads. It will be tested by experience. The ability to make changes in the future is quite important. Perhaps I may give an example. The dogs on leads issue concerns mainly ground-nesting birds. Climate change could quite quickly—we have seen signs of it already—alter the nesting and brooding dates of ground-nesting birds considerably. Therefore there might be a need to change the dates.

If I understand the Select Committee process properly, an alternative is permitted under recommendation 19 which allows that, if the House should disagree with the recommendation that this provision be dropped from the Bill and considers that the powers should stay in the Bill, then they should be made subject to the affirmative procedure. The Minister agreed to the affirmative procedure under Amendments Nos. 148 and 149 for the whole of Schedule 2. It would be inconsistent if he did not retain flexibility for the future by agreeing to the affirmative procedure in respect of the ability to change the period during which dogs must be on leads.

As to Amendment No. 118, I was slightly bemused by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and his partridges on heathland in East Anglia. Perhaps that is one of the reasons for the decline in partridge numbers. Trying to increase the numbers of partridges on heathland is probably one of life's more thankless tasks as it is a very inadequate and unsuitable habitat for partridges.

However, I welcome Amendment No. 118, which goes further than previously towards addressing the concerns about the disturbance which dogs can cause to birds on moorlands. I do not think that, in isolation, the amendment addresses some of the continuing anxieties about the impact that dogs have on birds on other categories of access land. But there are a number of other provisions in the Bill, including the requirement to keep dogs on leads from 1st March to 31st July and the ability to restrict or exclude access for nature conservation purposes. Glued together, those are just about enough measures to reassure me.

It is worth noting that that will mean that the nature conservation bodies will probably have to seek to close certain areas of access land at specific times of the year in order to safeguard wildlife which is particularly vulnerable to disturbance.

Lord Marlesford

My Lords, I should like to return to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hardy. I wonder if the Minister was right to dismiss the noble Lord's amendment on the grounds on which he appeared to dismiss it. This legislation will almost inevitably result in much litigation. In so far as Parliament can pre-empt the need for that litigation, it should do so.

I understood the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, to say—I may have got it wrong—that where a person is using the normal right of access on the new land, and where the landowner or occupier chooses to allow that person to let his dog off the lead during a period when it otherwise would not be allowed off the lead, that is something which the owner or occupier should be empowered to do.

The point that I believe the Minister was making was that the dog would be on the land for a different purpose from that provided for under the Bill. I do not think that that is the case. I believe that what the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, has in mind is that there are certain people who, when exercising their right of access, may, as an additional concession, be given by the owner or occupier the right to have their dogs off the lead. So they would not be on the land by virtue of some special provision; they would be on the land by virtue of this legislation and they would be given an additional privilege which the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, is seeking to write in to the Bill. That strikes me as extremely sensible.

Otherwise, one person will allow his dog off the lead—which the Bill would not normally allow because he has been told by the owner that he can, and another person not so allowed will complain. It is a perfectly reasonable distinction for an owner to make, but the second person will ask: "Why are you allowed to have your dog off the lead?". The first will say: "Because the owner has told me that I can". The first will say, "But that has nothing to do with it. The Act says that you cannot have your dog off the lead; and if you can, I can". We want to avoid that kind of dispute and possible litigation. I wonder whether the Minister was being a little too facile in his dismissal of the noble Lord's amendment.

The Duke of Montrose

My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister for some of the content of Amendment No. 118. He keeps telling us how he believes in balance, and that balance certainly comes through in the amendments, which makes it difficult to show unqualified gratitude for some of them. One in point is that relating to the introduction of disease. I thanked the Minister for what he had given on that occasion.

I am merely looking at what has been allowed on controls on dogs around lambing fields. I thought that we had been given a marvellous new allowance—and then I came across the reference to 15 hectares. Like my noble friend Lord Caithness, I have the voices of my friends and neighbours ringing in my ears. They tell me about the problems that they have on wet days when a ewe is disturbed and jumps over a burn, and the lamb falls in and is found drowned down-river; or if she has twins and goes off and leaves one of them. Those are the problems of lambing on the open hillside. There is still a gap in the provision that we do not seem able to deal with.

Lord Mancroft

My Lords, I should like to record my gratitude to the Government and the Minister for Amendment No. 118. The issue of ground nesting birds in general, and grouse in particular, is important. I am grateful to the noble Lord for considering it so carefully and for bringing forward this amendment.

The amendment is important for another reason, beyond what it does. It is a recognition of the important economic contribution that grouse shooting now makes. My noble friend the Duke of Montrose spoke about the problems of dogs in relation to lambing on the hillside. Amendment No. 118 will be important for those areas. I suspect that grouse are of more economic value to that part of the country than are the sheep. Grouse have always been important. It is a sad indictment of the state of farming as we enter the new millennium that shooting rights are now of much greater value than farming rights, but that is the way the world is. I am immensely grateful to the Government for recognising that and bringing forward the amendment—even if I, too, am slightly concerned as to whether the plural, "dogs", in the last line of paragraph 3 also means "dog" in the singular. I have no doubt that the Minister will assure us on the matter.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, perhaps I may ask a question about an amendment that is in this group but has not been spoken to; namely, Amendment No. 151.

Earl Peel

My Lords, perhaps I may speak first to Amendments Nos. 46 and 49. I thank the Minister for accepting them in principle. He already knows how pleased I am about his introduction of Amendment No. 118. I echo the remarks just made by my noble friend Lord Mancroft.

However, there is one further technical point as regards Amendment No. 118 that I should like to raise. I should be happier if the Minister would consider substituting for the word "owner" in the amendment the term "entitled person", which reflects Clause 21(3). The reason for that request is technical. I am told, although I was not aware of it, that approximately one-third of commons on which shooting rights exist are owned by public trustees. That being the case, substituting the word "owner" with the phrase "entitled person" would overcome the problem. I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord for introducing this amendment. I believe that it will do much to help overcome many of the problems that we have discussed.

11.30 p.m.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minster for bringing forward Amendment No. 118. Perhaps I may add a few words here because I also made some points on the issue. The first referred to the fact that I do not believe that this provision includes wildlife. We are grateful that it obviously deals with the issue of the shooting of grouse, but it does not actually include wildlife. I am sure that we all believe that it should.

Secondly, subsection (2) of the amendment refers to, taking such steps as may be prescribed". Does the Minister know whether notice will have to be given as regards the time during which that restriction will apply? The third point, which was raised by my noble friends, relates to the whole question of lambing in the hill areas and still remains to be answered.

Perhaps I may return to the wildlife point. Has the noble Lord considered the question of those birds that come to this country and rest on the marshes or on the other lands which are not defined in the legislation? That is why it would help enormously if wildlife were included in the provision. I shall not refer to the other amendments because the Minister will cover them.

Amendment No. 151 seems to me to have been rather strangely placed on the Marshalled List. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for drawing attention to it. We may find that there are some honeypot sites on access land. It is important, therefore, that there should be some provision as regards dog fouling. Some local authorities may believe that the dog fouling Act of 1996 is relevant in this respect and that it should be included. That is the reason for tabling Amendment No. 151.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, perhaps I may make a brief comment. I was trying to understand the significance of Amendment 151. However, I believe that the noble Baroness has helped me. I understand that there have been occasions when dogs have fouled land with toxocariasis, which has had a damaging effect on farm animals. My concern is whether the amendment would provide some protection in those instances where necessary.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, when responding to the previous group of amendments, I said that I thought we had struck the right balance. It is clear that some people wish to go further, but I am sticking to my balance. That inevitably means that some noble Lords will be disappointed. Perhaps I may explain that in terms of Amendment No. 118.

Because of the particular use and nature of grouse moors, we have recognised that it is sensible to refer to the restriction in relation to grouse moors. When we are talking about East Anglian heathland, which has a variety of uses and a variety of different activities taking place on it, that is an entirely different issue. To some extent the distinction is arbitrary, but we believe that that is the right balance. Similarly, in relation to lambing, we have recognised that there would be a difficulty if a dog got into an enclosed area where lambing was taking place. We have not extended that to cover hill lambing in all circumstances beyond the general restriction on dogs in the vicinity of livestock. So there is a balance here. I should like to stick to the balance reflected in Amendment No. 118.

I turn now to the other queries on Amendment No. 118. I can tell the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, that the plural does include the singular in this case. The prescribed steps will be set down in regulations by the Secretary of State or the Welsh Assembly. That will deal with the period of notice to which the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, referred. I shall consider whether the term "owner" is consistent with its usage elsewhere in the Bill, provided that the noble Earl does not think that the term "entitled owner" confines the proposition to Members of this House! Most of my remarks concern Amendment No. 45. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, asked whether I was correct in what. I said previously. I believe that correctly stated that owners can reach an agreement with a countryside body to relax restrictions. Owners can allow their own dogs, or permit others to allow their dogs which would otherwise be required to be on the lead, to run free on their land provided that land is not subject to other restrictions.

As regards Amendments Nos. 46 and 49, I have already indicated that at Third Reading we shall bring forward an amendment on the issue of short leads that would apply in every context in which leads are required.

Amendment No. 151 relates to dog fouling. I recognise that there may be problems in this area. Our understanding is that local restrictions or bylaws are already available to local authorities to deal with this problem in "honey pot" situations or in any other situation where dog fouling has become a serious menace to livestock or to humans. I believe that that matter is already covered and that local authorities already have the relevant powers. I hope therefore that my noble friend Lord Hardy will not press his amendment because I do not consider it to be necessary.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he comment further on what steps he has in mind? Will there be consultation on those steps? Will the relevant resolution be affirmative or negative?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I understand that the resolution will be negative in this context. However, there will obviously be consultation on the regulations.

Lord Hardy of Wath

My Lords, I shall withdraw my amendment. However, I take the point that the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, made. The amendment was tabled to try to clarify a situation. I believe that it would have done so, had it been accepted. As matters stand, I certainly expect unnecessary litigation to be put in train as the years pass. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Ampthill)

My Lords, I have to inform the House that this is without exception the most eccentric grouping that I have encountered in over 20 years sitting on this Woolsack.

[Amendment No. 46 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 47: Page 65, line 19, leave out sub-paragraph (2).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move.

The Deputy Speaker

My Lords, are you sure? I do not believe that you have spoken to it.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I believe that Amendment No. 47 is consequential on Amendment No. 118. However, I shall check that.

The Deputy Speaker

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord. He spoke to Amendment No. 47 with Amendment No. 45, or perhaps he did not. However, we shall assume that he did.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 48: Page 65, line 21, leave out ("apply to a person who") and insert ("entitle a person to be on any land if he").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 49 not moved.]

Viscount Bledisloe moved Amendment No. 50: Page 65, line 23, at end insert— ("(2) Section 2(1) does not apply to a person who at night takes onto the land in question, or allows to enter or remain on that land, any dog. (3) In sub-paragraph (2), "night" means the period from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise on the following day.").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the amendment draws together the two vexed questions of night times and dogs. Let us assume, as the House has decided, that there is to be night access and access for dogs. I suggest that it is wholly unreasonable that dogs should be allowed on land, off leads and at night. The scope for damage by them is enormous. The ability to control them is nil because one cannot see whether they are on a lead. None of the reasons advanced for being allowed to take a dog on land applies at night.

Surely the Government can accept that it is not desirable to have dogs on land at night. Birds which are disturbed do not go back to their nests. There is more likelihood of sheep being disturbed and unable to reassemble. The reasons advanced for night access have nothing to do with taking a dog, in particular a dog off the lead. I beg to move.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, I have put my name to the amendment. I shall not waste the time of the House. I support the amendment.

Lord Williamson of Horton

My Lords, I, too, support Amendment No. 50. It is a little different from previous amendments. The substance of the Government's position on dogs is set out in paragraph 5 of Schedule 2; namely, that a dog can be on a lead in the vicinity of livestock but there are restrictions. We are talking about night time. It will be difficult to operate that provision at night time. I believe that it is reasonable to make the general amendment to restrict dogs off a lead during the night hours.

I said earlier that I hoped the noble Lord would be able to reach a century before close of play. If he accepts the amendment, he will have at least half a century.

The Duke of Montrose

My Lords, I support the amendment. Although I do not disagree with the reasons given by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, I should like to approach the issue from another angle. Disturbance to wildlife and animals is an important issue. They are more vulnerable at night. One may meet someone at night with a dog, without knowing his purpose. A dog is one of the main tools used by the rustling and poaching fraternity.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs—he is no longer in his seat—asked earlier what evidence we had of disturbance in the Lake District. I cannot give him any. However, I was speaking last week to a gentleman in our area who can be described as a game warden. He polices wildlife sites over an area of at least 20 to 30 square miles. He told me that in the last year he has had to speak to between 30 and 40 people who were undertaking activities which were detrimental to, or not acceptable in, our area.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, said that he likes to enjoy the countryside without new technology. There is much to be said for the more staid era that used to surround us. Some people would probably enjoy driving a horse and carriage down Piccadilly. They should be allowed to do so if they would like to. However, some people in the countryside now use new technology, and none more so than those who want to gain access at night for illegal purposes.

I support the amendment because of the increasing problem of poachers and rustlers, who use a combination of new and old technology. I was given one example that shows the lengths to which people are ready to go. Landowners have to try to guard against lurcher dogs. People with lurcher dogs now hire a van to take the dogs into the country. The van can no longer be confiscated if they are accosted and accused of indulging in poaching. They get a very strong light with a red filter and drive on to the moors to look for deer. They shine the light until they catch a deer in the beam. They then let the dogs go. The deer does not see what is happening until the dogs are on it.

That is one way in which dogs are a danger at night. Another problem is rustling sheep, which cannot be done at night without a dog. All sorts of serious problems will result from allowing people access to the countryside at night with dogs. I support the amendment.

11.45 p.m.

Lord Marlesford

My Lords, I, too support the amendment. The Bill is putting Labour's rural vote on thin ice. The issue of night-time access will dig a hole in that rural vote. Perhaps it has nothing to do with me if the Government wish to do that. If they persist with freedom for dogs at night on access land, major discontent with the Government could easily be generated. I am not particularly worried about that, but as a supporter of the Bill I am more worried that the provisions could help to bring it into discredit. I ask the Government to think again seriously about the issue.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I have already said that I believe that we have struck the right balance. Some of the activities that have been mentioned are clearly criminal offences in any circumstances, such as the use of dogs for poaching and rustling. Access provisions would not condone or connive at that.

Had the amendment been more reasonable, it might have had more support, although not from me. However, it is a blanket exclusion of all dogs, whether on a lead or not, from all access land from one hour after sunset. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, talks about alienating rural dwellers. Under the amendment, anyone who wished to go out after half past four on a winter's night in the North of England to exercise their dog on registered common land would be banned from doing so. That would be absurd.Even those who see some merit in placing some restrictions on dogs on access land could not reasonably support such a blanket provision. People who live in the countryside would undoubtedly be upset if they were caught by the ban because they had strayed from their land to their neighbour's land with a dog on a lead. I suspect that that was not the intention of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, but it would be the effect of the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, misunderstood that. He referred to dogs off leads, but dogs of any sort in any context would be covered. That is not acceptable.

I believe that we have struck the right balance. People should be able to walk their dog at night on access land. However, in any event, I believe that if noble Lords were to give the matter a moment's thought they would realise that a good proportion of the rural vote—if the noble Lord wishes to speak in electoral terms—would be quite upset were this amendment to be carried. Therefore, I hope that the noble Viscount will not press it.

Viscount Bledisloe

My Lords, I accept that there may be rare circumstances in which this amendment goes too far—perhaps with regard to small patches of common land. However, the force of the amendment exists in relation to almost all access land, and the noble Lord has given no answer to that. In order that I may deal with the few occasions on which he has made a valid point, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment and I shall deal with those points at the next stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 51: Page 65, line 23, at end insert— (" . Section 2(1) does not apply to a person who, between the hours of sunset and sunrise, takes on to access land, or allows to enter or remain on access land, any dog.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 51 is grouped with Amendment No. 50. Although the noble Viscount has decided to withdraw his amendment, I am not sure that I am so happy to withdraw mine. I do not believe that the Minister responded to it completely satisfactorily. The most important issue is that of having dogs in the dark and the destruction that that causes. Also at issue is the safety of dog owners who lose their dogs at night. It is quite frightening to lose one's dog at night. I certainly wish to test the opinion of the House on this amendment.

11.52 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 51) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 22; Not-Contents, 50.

Division No. 3
Arran, E. Jopling, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Luke, L.
Attlee, E. Mancroft, L.
Bledisloe, V. Marlesford, L.
Bridgeman, V. Monson, L.
Burnham, L. [Teller] Montrose, D.
Byford, B. Northbrook, L.
Caithness, E. Peel, E.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Rotherwick, L.
Glentoran, L. Selborne, E.
Henley, L. [Teller] Williamson of Horton, L.
Addington, L. Greaves, L.
Amos, B. Grenfell, L.
Ampthill, L. Hamwee, B.
Andrews, B. Hardy of Wath, L.
Bach, L. Howells of St. Davids, B
Barker, B. Hoyle, L.
Berkeley, L. Hughes of Woodside, L.
Blackstone, B. Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Bragg, L.
Brett, L. Judd, L.
Burlison, L. McIntosh of Haringey. L. [Teller]
Carter, L.[Teller]
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
Cohen of Pimlico, B. Mar and Kellie, E.
Crawley, B. Massey of Darwen, B.
Davies of Coity, L. Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Desai, L. Morgan, L.
Dubs, L. Nicol, B.
Elder, L. Puttnam, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L. Sawyer, L.
Gale, B. Thornton, B.
Goldsmith, L. Warner, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L. Whitty, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.


[Amendment No. 52 not moved.]

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 53: Page 65, line 23, at end insert— (" . Any person who fails to comply with any restriction under paragraph 4 or 5, or any other restriction on dogs imposed under Chapter II, is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I suspect I know the answer before I start but I shall still move the amendment. It introduces an offence which renders a person on summary conviction liable to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale. In my view, that offence would need to be well publicised in advance so that responsible owners would have nothing to fear.

This evening, we have gone through the motions of putting forward these very important amendments and, unfortunately, the Government do not want to listen to what we say on the introduction of offences. Later, when this Bill is enacted, they may well wish that they had done so. That is what Amendment No. 53 seeks to do. I beg to move.

Lord Monson

My Lords, it will not surprise your Lordships to know that I support this amendment as my name is down to it. It may well be, as the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, argued in responding to Amendment No. 42, that breaches of the restrictions on dogs do not justify an exclusion order. But that does not mean that such breaches do not deserve some modest sanction.

An analogy might be with the riding of a bicycle on the pavement. One can well understand why cyclists may wish to do that—to avoid the dangers posed by heavy car and lorry traffic. Quite a lot of the time it may do no harm, particularly in the evening when there are very few pedestrians about, just as, for example, it may be that dogs do no harm if they are allowed to romp about in the month of May. But at other times, it does do harm. Pedestrians, particularly if they are elderly or infirm, may be bumped into or knocked over. Other more agile pedestrians have to jump out of the way. That is why the Government, quite rightly, make riding a bicycle on the pavement a criminal offence punishable by a small fine, even though not all of the time does it present any problem.

The Minister suggested earlier that the matter could be dealt with through local by-laws. Nothing could be better calculated to confuse the public. Not everybody knows which district they are in when they go walking on a moor or mountain. It would be far better to have a sanction—such as a small fine on scale 1—that is well understood by everybody. One accepts that sanctions should not be extreme but to leave it to local authorities to propose by-laws seems crazy. If the Government cannot make a favourable response tonight, I hope that they will seriously consider the matter between now and the next stage.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that I will not pursue him onto the pavements or to rely on by-laws as the main solution.

Failure to adhere to restrictions on dogs should lead to the loss of the statutory right, with the normal consequences of trespass where appropriate. We do not wish to criminalise behaviour that does not in itself cause damage and that might be committed inadvertently Where dogs actively worry livestock or are allowed to roam freely on fields or enclosures where there are sheep, the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 provides for sanctions under criminal law. Where there is a problem in any specific area in addition, by-laws may be made if necessary to invoke the criminal law.

When considering new criminal sanctions, we ought to bear in mind the scope of the access, which will be a modest right for the purposes of quiet recreation on foot. We expect its impact, in general, to be limited. Where people step outside the bounds of the right by, for example, allowing their dogs to roam off the lead, the impact of their behaviour would be the same under the new right as at present. Therefore the sanction should be the same. I hope that the noble Baroness will not press the amendment.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, I thank the Minister but I am slightly disappointed. The noble Lord said that the Bill allows people quietly to enjoy the countryside. No one suggests that the majority of people will do otherwise. But throughout the afternoon and evening we have been trying to point out that in this day and age, sadly, there are people who go about not just quietly enjoying the countryside. The Bill has no teeth in enforcing sanctions against some of the things that we fear will happen. I suspect that the Ministers—who are smiling among themselves—do not believe that there will be a problem; but there will. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Glentoran had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 54: Page 65, line 23, at end insert— (".—( ) Any person who fails to comply with paragraph 4 or 5 and who intentionally or recklessly allows a dog to disturb game is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale. ( ) In this paragraph, "game" includes hares, pheasants, partridges, grouse, heath or moor game, black game, woodcocks and snipes.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, there has been continuing discussion or battle about the creation of offences or introducing sanctions and several debates about dogs—-some more complicated than others. The Minister has given some way, so I do not propose to move Amendment No. 54. But, after reading Hansard, I shall decide whether or not to return to the issue.

[Amendment No. 54 not moved.]

Clause 3 Power to extend to coastal land]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 55: Page 3, line 4, at end insert— ("( ) Before making such an order, the Secretary of State shall consult appropriate bodies.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, we are making some progress. When we last discussed this issue in Committee, it was at 2.45 a.m. We are now debating it two and a half hours earlier. As this is such an important clause, I had hoped that we would reach it at a more reasonable hour.

Clause 3 is perhaps the most obnoxious clause in the Bill. It gives huge powers to the Secretary of State to make determinations and regulations and totally to ignore Parliament. The making of an order to extend access to the foreshore and to the land that borders the foreshore, including farmland, land under managed retreat, vulnerable salt marshes or the habitats of sea and marsh birds is a highly complex issue. Yet here we are allowing the Secretary of State to make an order, without any consultation specified on the face of the Bill, that could affect vast areas of land.

I believe the fact of the Secretary of State having compulsorily to consult appropriate bodies should be on the face of the Bill. The Minister may well reply that there was a consultation period last year. That consultation period was a derisory four weeks. It was an insult to those involved in this area of land. I remind the House that there are over 240 agencies involved in retreat land. How can a sensible response be obtained in four weeks?

It is also worth bearing in mind that the Countryside Commission for Wales has stated its view that a statutory right of public access to coastal land is untenable. But the Government have ignored that advice and ploughed ahead with the clause.

I dislike the clause intensely but we shall deal with that in relation to Amendment No. 57. If the clause is to stay, it is essential that the fact that the Secretary of State should consult appropriate bodies is on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendment and in doing so I shall speak also to Amendment No. 56. As the Bill is drafted, any land adjacent to the coast could have the right of access imposed upon it, including arable land, improved grassland or woodland. Moreover, adjacent land does not need to adjoin the coast or be contiguous with it. It could be separate parcels of land some distance away. Halsbury's Laws of England comments: The expression 'adjacent' has in ordinary usage no precise and uniform meaning, but is not confined to places adjoining and includes places close to or near". As it stands, the Bill would accordingly allow land near to the foreshore, but not necessarily adjoining it, to be included in any statutory extension of access land on the coast. That gives too much scope for quite separate parcels of land on the coast, not adjoining the foreshore, to be made subject to the right of access. The amendment would provide a much more targeted approach.

Baroness Young of Old Scone

My Lords, I commend the accuracy of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, in discerning that we are debating this matter two hours earlier than in Committee. Unfortunately, when the matter was considered in Committee, I was asleep in the Library and so I did not have the opportunity to comment on it and to add the views of English Nature to those of the Countryside Commission for Wales. I was gratified to discover on reading Hansard that the Minister had made a commitment that there would be a full regulatory impact assessment followed by consultation on the possibility of including coastal land within the definition of open country. The combination of a regulatory impact assessment and consultation is welcome.

English Nature as well as the Countryside Commission for Wales has considerable concern about the blanket inclusion of coastal land as access land. Coastal land varies in its sensitivity. Some categories of coastal land are extremely sensitive; for example, in the case of a bird colony just one person walking through the land can damage it for a number of years, whereas other types of coastal land, such as sandy beaches, where there is already considerable access, are pretty robust. I ask the Minister whether, if access to coastal land is ever to be granted as a statutory right, he will consider that future consultation should be about selective application of the right only to non-sensitive categories of coastal land.

12.15 a.m.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, noble Lords will be familiar with the background to the issue. The consultation paper covered it and the agency recommended that we should cover coastal land. Clearly, because of the many sensitive issues raised by noble Lords tonight, there was no time to take a firm decision one way or the other. We therefore want to retain in the Bill the ability to extend access land to coastal land.

If we were to go down that road, many safeguards are built into the Bill. At the time of Second Reading in another place, my colleague Michael Meacher gave two important undertakings: first, that there will be a regulatory impact assessment and, secondly, that there will be a full process of consultation. The nature of that consultation will to some extent depend on the outcome of our experience of the operation of the right of access over mountain, moor, heath and down. But the commitment to full consultation clearly exists and I hope that that reassures the noble Earl that full consultation would be required before any part of coastal land was triggered.

The outcome of that consultation could be the general extension of the right of access to coastal land or a more restricted definition. Alternatively, it could be something closer to what we have in the Bill for other forms of access land; namely, that coastal land in general would be access land but that certain parts of it would be excepted. However, we are not at the stage of being able to define that in the way suggested by the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, which limits it to cliff, bank, barrier and so forth. It would exclude the possibility of other coastal land being included and would restrict the definition to land which adjoins the foreshore rather than land which is adjacent to it.

We would come to those issues were we ever to go down this road and they would be covered by both the regulatory impact statement and the full consultation. Therefore, it is built into the process that it would be wrong to try to restrict the definition as suggested by the noble Baroness's amendment at this stage of the proceedings, long before any decision in principle has been taken.

I hope therefore that noble Lords are reasonably assured that the consultation would take place before we ever went down this road.

Lord Marlesford

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he say whether I am right in thinking that although there is an undertaking from the Government to consult, no such obligation exists for subsequent governments and that the ability to extend without consultation will remain on the statute book?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, there are general provisions for consultation in any of the definitions of "access land". Those provisions apply to this as they do to other clauses of the Bill and therefore I believe that future governments would be constrained to engage in consultation, just as much as we would.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, while I welcome much of what the Minister said, perhaps I may press him further. How long does he expect a full consultation process to last? Will it be the same as last year's derisory effort of four weeks or will it be a more sensible period of time for the various bodies to take part? As I mentioned earlier, more than 240 agencies are involved in retreat land in south-east England. Will there be adequate time for them to give full replies? If the Minister could confirm that the consultation period would be in excess of six months, that would provide reassurance.

Although there will be a consultation period, it is clear that Parliament will be no part of it. The Minister said that we would come to the question of definitions when the regulations were laid. We shall not. At that time we must either reject them or accept them; we shall not be allowed to enter into the kind of debate in which noble Lords are now engaged.

To insert a clause like this is a real abuse of Parliament, with all the complications referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone. On the previous occasion when noble Lords debated this matter, the noble Baroness had the privilege of speaking to it. I hope that the noble Baroness spoke for herself and not English Nature. While the latter may agree with the views of the noble Baroness, I hope that, like other noble Lords, she gave entirely her own views.

In the light of my observations about the Countryside Council for Wales, it appears that the two main bodies on which the Government rely are against the proposals. Before I decide what to do with the amendment, perhaps the Minister will answer the further points that I raise.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I cannot be precise as to how long the consultation will take, but it will certainly be far longer than last year's exercise which was simply part of the research assessment of other land carried out by the Countryside Agency. In this context we are talking about full consultation with all the appropriate bodies to whom the noble Earl refers. Therefore the noble Earl can rest assured that before any regulations appear they will have been subject to a wide degree of consultation. While I cannot put a precise time on it, the noble Earl should not look at what happened last year, which was an entirely different exercise.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, not even the fifth cavalry can help the Minister. Doubtless the noble Lord has already covered the point. I do not like the situation at all. I see no harm in the amendment.

The Minister kindly said that the Secretary of State will consult the appropriate bodies, but he does not want that to be reflected on the face of the Bill. While I am unhappy with that, I see little point in taking the opinion of the House at this stage. I hope that the Minister will reconsider this small matter. This is a minor amendment which does not alter, or detract from, the Bill. However, it would provide a great deal of reassurance to those who are concerned about this issue. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Byford had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 56: Page 3, line 11, leave out paragraph (b) and insert— ("(b) any cliff, bank, barrier, dune, beach or flat which adjoins the foreshore.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I should like clarification from the Minister as to whether, if the government of the day decide to include coastal land, it will be done under statutory instrument or will be subject to an affirmative resolution before the House.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, one returns to the point about which the noble Earl complained. The answer is that it would be subject to affirmative resolution.

[Amendment No. 56 not moved.]

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 57: Leave out Clause 3.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we have studied carefully the debates in Committee on Clause 3 on 3rd October at cols. 1425 to 1432. My noble friend Lord Caithness spoke to this clause. We have taken into account the fact that the basis of the Bill is the 1949 Act. Surely the implementation of that legislation as it relates to access to the countryside can be regarded only as a dismal failure. We have also considered the volume of extra work that the Bill as it stands will create for local authorities in particular.

The Minister and his colleagues have stated that they do not believe the Bill will prove to be very expensive once the mapping has been completed. We conclude they mean that the funding will be lean, if not sometimes mean. We are convinced that if the Bill is to be a success it will provide a considerable challenge to those concerned. However, above all we are opposed to a clause which puts such vast power at the disposal of the Secretary of State. I presume that the Minister's clarification that there will be an affirmative resolution will also affect the amendment. I shall wait for that resolution.

Eleven clauses and three schedules were added over the Summer Recess to cover AONBs. That highlights why we express our concern about this part of the Bill. Surely no one believes that the whole of our coastline with its complex problems, so well summarised by my noble friend Lord Caithness, can be catered for in three subsections covering 13 lines. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, stated: Coastal areas are vulnerable, changeable and frequently dangerous … subject to high tides, moving sands and soils, quicksand and crumbling cliff edges … The Environment Agency is currently one of only 240 agencies involved in managed retreat".—[Official Report, 3/10/00; col. 1426.] These powers should not be given to the Secretary of State without a great deal more discussion and detail. I beg to move.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I support my noble friend on her amendment. I always thought this was a very good amendment. It stood in my name in Committee. I am absolutely delighted that my noble friend thinks it is so good that she has now taken the lead on the matter.

My noble friend has covered many of the points that I wanted to raise. I shall not repeat what I said on Amendment No. 55 or what I said in Committee. This is a huge power that we will give to the Secretary of State. It is a process in which Parliament will have no real say. We will not be able to alter or have a detailed discussion on the regulations. Considering the amount of time we have spent on the Bill so far as concerns access land to mountain, moor, heath and down, we could spend the same amount of time and have as many concerns in relation to coastland.

Parliament will be denied that opportunity. That is quite wrong. It is an abuse of the power of the authority of Parliament by an overwhelming executive who want to bulldoze through what they want without proper consultation. That is a disgrace. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty—I quite understand he has his job to do as a Minister—underneath the shell he has to wear on this occasion, also feels that this is totally the wrong way to go about legislating on such a complicated issue.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, this is a potentially complicated issue. That is why we have not decided either way on it but will leave it for later widespread consultation and affirmative procedure. I underline that it is the affirmative procedure.

I do not want to go over the issues again. Many people outside will probably be amazed that coastal land is not included within the Bill, but we came across all the complexities. There are complexities.

It is right that when legislating on the rights of access we should provide within the Bill the possibility of extending it to coastal land, subject to wide consultation and subject to the affirmative procedure. This is not an example of the Government bulldozing things through. It is quite the opposite; it is the Government taking sensible precautions and operating with caution in a field where the majority of the electorate would expect us to move rather faster.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, I am disappointed with the Minister's response. He says that it is a sensible response to our discussions. If I was perhaps feeling a little wry, I would say that I feel that we have not had sensible answers to some of our earlier debates where the Government were not prepared to give way. It is an important issue. The clause gives the Secretary of State huge powers. I would have preferred to see the clause deleted. The Government could have come back at a later stage and introduced a Bill which included coastal land. The Government are obviously not prepared to give way tonight. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 [Duty to prepare maps]:

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 58: Page 3, line 26, at end insert— ("( ) A map prepared under this section shall not show any land which is—

  1. (a) semi-improved or improved grassland,
  2. (b) grassland used for making hay, silage or haylage,
  3. (c) grassland managed as part of an arable rotation, or
  4. (d) grassland used other than to provide rough grazing for livestock.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we had the bulk of the debate on this amendment when we discussed Amendments Nos. 3 and 6. I understood the Minister to move some way towards us with regard to semi-improved grassland and grassland used for making hay, haylage and so on. The Government have stressed that certain types of intensely managed land will not be mapped. We remain unconvinced by that. However, I feel much nearer to being convinced than I was before we started our proceedings today.

The amendment would direct the Countryside Agency and CCW not to map various types of intensely managed land. That would avoid doubt for users, owners and the Countryside Agency and CCW. It would assist the appeals process. In fact, it would be helpful, it would create clarity and should prevent considerable problems, which was the basis of our debate earlier today. It would be very welcome if the Minister could agree with me on that point and confirm that he has moved some considerable way towards our aim. I beg to move.

12.30 a.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I have a long speaking note on this amendment. However, at the end of my speech on Amendment No. 3 I said that we would look again at this issue. I think it is better if I rest on that rather than respond to the amendment now.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 59 and 60 not moved.]

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 61: Page 3, line 33, leave out from ("feature") to second ("to") in line 34 and insert ("where the effect is").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I have brought forward this amendment from Committee stage because when we debated the matter previously the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, said that she would take the matter away for consideration. I had very much hoped to see a government amendment to meet what the noble Baroness rightly surmised were the concerns of the Committee. Sadly, however, no amendment has been forthcoming.

In Committee the noble Baroness said: Any land so included would need to be clearly contiguous with a parcel of open country and be relatively minor in extent".— [Official Report, 3/10/00; co1.1448.] Although helpful in some respects, that reply was also wishy-washy. Perhaps I may press the noble Baroness to say what "clearly contiguous" means. What does "relatively minor in extent" mean? Those points concern many people. The Bill is designed to give access to mountain, moor, heath and down, yet in the Bill there is a blanket provision to extend it to adjacent land without any qualification as to the size, shape or nature of that land. It is an important point which requires a great deal more clarification and a tighter definition. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, the intention of the amendment is to remove a sensible discretion of the Countryside Agency in its mapping process so that land which is mapped can be more easily identified both by owners and users. We expect the countryside bodies to exercise their discretion with care and not seek to embrace land which is not integral to the open country or which is incompatible with the right of access. If any additional land is included in maps of open country as a result of this discretion, landowners will have the right of appeal. However, we are referring here to relatively small and obvious additions or subtractions from the designation of open countryside.

In Committee the noble Earl suggested that that could include all kinds of features such as farmland, river banks, foreshore and so forth. That misunderstands the scope of what is intended here. It enables the countryside body to extend the area of open countryside from its natural boundary only to the nearest physical feature beyond. In the vast majority of cases, that will probably mean an extension of only a few tens of metres to a stone wall, fence or perhaps to the bank of a stream. It will not allow maps to include vast areas of new farmland, foreshore or woodland, about which the noble Earl was concerned.

The discretion is sensible and will meet the point about which a number of noble Lords have expressed concern; namely, exactly how the punter is to understand where access land begins and where it ends. The scenarios depicting an abuse of this facility envisaged by the noble Earl are misplaced.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am reassured by some of the Minister's words. However, again, nothing has been put on to the face of the Bill to implement what he has said. I understand the thoughts of the noble Lord; they are exactly what I hope my thoughts would be were I sitting in his place. But that is not what the countryside body will think. Under the Bill it will have total discretion to include adjacent land of any shape, size or description—including river banks. No curtailment has been put in place.

I hope that the countryside body will read with care what has been said by the Minister. Can he confirm one further important point; namely, that the extension of adjacent land will be to a physical feature on the ground, not a physical feature on a map? It will be no good if representatives of the countryside body sit behind their desks and say, "We'll just include that bit of land because it will round off the map nicely to make a square". This must refer to a physical feature on the ground in order to ensure that this part of the clause will work. I should be glad of the Minister's confirmation.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, a physical feature is a physical feature. It is not a graphical feature.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, that is of some help. I fear that, again, the Government will cause many problems for themselves here. I foresee a huge number of appeals being lodged by owners because nothing constructive has been added to the Bill. The provision is still far too open ended. Once more, the Minister has left himself open. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 62: Page 3, line 35, at end insert— ("(c) shall incorporate a minimum of one primary access point per area of open country or, where the boundary of such an area is forty miles or longer, per twenty miles of boundary, and (d) may incorporate secondary access points. ( ) In this section—

  1. (a) a primary access point shall provide a minimum of—
    1. (i) a car park for not less than six vehicles,
    2. (ii) toilets, and
    3. (iii) an information point;
  2. (b) a secondary access point shall provide a minimum of an information point.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a very important amendment. We discussed in Committee the ways in which people will find out where they can go and what they can do. We also discussed primary access points. I suspect that the Minister will tell me that my amendment is inadequate, but I should like to begin by putting forward the case for its inclusion. I accept that the drafting may not be perfect and that it may make too many demands, but I believe that this is an important point.

In March this year the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors published a policy document on the implications of open access. The document makes a number of points, among which are the following.

First, experience across the country suggests that the Act may increase total demand rather than simply spreading the existing demand across a wider landscape. Again, we referred to that in our earlier debates in Committee.

Secondly, visitors to those parts of the countryside which are already open fall into three categories: those who park the car to look at a view and then perhaps take a gentle stroll. They appreciate the car parks, toilet facilities and cafes which often accompany such sites. Then there are those who walk quite long distances, but would prefer to walk on a footpath, following a signposted course. And, of course, there are the independent walkers, who bring their own sustenance, their own maps, their compasses and their ideas of where they wish to go. Thirdly, the management of access is essential and, to be effective, should consist of forward planning, provision of infrastructure, a behaviour framework of by-laws and information, and agreement on the funding and provision of effective wardening.

At this point no one knows in what proportions the new access rights will attract visitors. It seems a fair bet, however, that an increasingly fit and comfortably-off retired population will take the opportunity to explore. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, was definitely promoting a healthy attitude for walkers in his earlier amendment. Some of them will do so from the warmth and comfort of their car and some will seek "comfort facilities". Given a map which shows the location of car parks and toilets, they will plan their itinerary to include those facilities. Others will kit themselves out with thermos flasks and walking sticks and drive to a suitable starting location on which they have decided.

They will be grateful for a place to park their car safely, and they will be grateful to have art information point which contains the latest news about areas that are closed, areas that are particularly worth visiting at that time, and suggested walks of specified lengths and grades of difficulty. The remainder will require little or nothing in the way of help and may even prefer public transport over the car.

The amendment, we understand, is not at odds with the thinking of the Countryside Agency. It merely seeks to put on the face of the Bill a minimum requirement for service levels for visitors. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that such a requirement would be greatly to the advantage of the agency, the wildlife bodies and the occupiers of the land, who could provide facilities at which visit ors may wish to spend their money. I am reminded of the ways in which the RSPB and other organisations raise money at places such as Minsmere and the National Trust at Dunwich.

The detail of the amendment is self-explanatory, although we feel that it will be necessary to have a minimum number of secondary points simply to provide a means of showing those who lose their way where they are and where the nearest facilities or help may be obtained. No one should lose sight of the fact that this country has amazing weather and that sometimes, with little or no warning, hikers can be caught out. Those are the reasons behind the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Jopling

My Lords, perhaps my noble friend can explain who is to provide the facilities enumerated under paragraphs (i), (ii) and (iii) of her amendment. It seems to me that the cost of putting down car parks for not less than six vehicles—bearing in mind that one of those vehicles, or some of them, could be buses, which are very heavy and need solid foundations—lavatories and an information point will amount to a lot of money.

If we are to agree to the amendment, it should be made clear on the face of the Bill that the provision of these facilities will be the responsibility of public bodies. It should certainly not be the responsibility of the landowners or occupiers of the land in that area of open country. Can my noble friend explain who will be responsible for doing this? My guess would be that if the responsibility for producing these facilities was in the hands of public bodies—they always seem to spend twice as much on providing facilities as the private sector—one could quite quickly get into the realm of £100,000. These are very expensive undertakings. I see a great deal of strength in the amendment and it has a great deal of merit. But if we are to accept it, it ought to make clear whose responsibility it is to provide these facilities.

12.45 a.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

My Lords, I understand the reasons for wanting some provision on the face of the Bill at this point. Indeed, in Committee we debated an amendment about recommended access points. I have a number of difficulties with this particular amendment.

First, I am not sure why we want to differentiate between a primary and a secondary access point. The important issue relates to how people will use the access onto the land. In summer, they may choose a popular access point at the top of a hill, but in winter they may choose one that is lower down. I can see the reason for having a recommended access point. Public information needs to be located somewhere. All along, we have advocated the importance of the public being able to see where the information is.

As regards the second part of the amendment, I am much more nervous. I have no idea what the circumference of Dartmoor is, but I think that the number of toilet blocks that this might bring would be unacceptable to the people of Devon. There are other ways of achieving that. One of the huge benefits of local pubs is that, as well as providing the food and drinks, they provide the toilet blocks.

I should not want to see car parks specified as a necessity at access points. Some national park authorities have led the way in getting rid of cars from sensitive areas and introducing a shuttle bus arrangement. Looking to the future, I do not think that car parks should be a major aspiration. We should consider other methods and it must be done on a local basis. Some access authorities will find car parks a necessity, but it should be up to them to think about how best to provide those facilities.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I have two kinds of problem with the amendment. First, I think that there is a misunderstanding about the role of statutory maps as opposed to non-statutory helpful maps for visitors. Statutory maps are about identifying mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land. They are like definitive maps of rights of way. They provide the statutory data, but they are not what the public actually use. The public will use maps and guides showing the areas of open country and the main access information points and routes and any other valuable information.

Government Amendment No. 104, to which I have referred, places a duty on countryside bodies to take action to ensure that the public are informed about means of access, as well as promoting information about people's access rights and responsibilities more generally. It is here that the information should be provided rather than on statutory maps.

I know that the Countryside Agency has every intention of making available such non-statutory information. It has produced a paper on mapping for the National Countryside Access Forum. It has made it clear that access information points and means of access should be shown when the provisional and conclusive maps are issued. That is part of its policy and its approach.

In addition, I take account of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. If we put the countryside bodies under an obligation to map statutory access points, would we not need arrangements for consultation, objection or appeal? If we create so-called "primary and secondary access points", what does that mean? Do we really want to require them to show where toilets and car parks must be provided for every area of open country? Moreover, what is an area? Are they discrete areas? Are they areas under single ownership? Indeed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said, we could have half the country covered with toilet blocks and car parks. There are practical reasons, as well as the main reason to which I referred, why these amendments would not be suitable.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, I thank other noble Lords who have intervened. I should apologise to my noble friend for not saying this directly in my introduction because it would have helped, but I had assumed that the public purse would pay for this either through the Countryside Agency or through another body. I do not see this as being the responsibility of an individual; indeed, that would be totally unreasonable.

As regards the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, I can tell her that I had a problem with trying to work out how many sites there would be and where they would be. That is why I said in my introduction that I appreciated the fact that the amendment was not adequate in that respect. I may be able to explore the issue at greater length when we deal with government Amendment No. 104. I was trying to illustrate the great need that there is for people to know where to go and how to find the kind of information that they want.

The noble Baroness also asked about the difference between the main primary access points and the secondary access points. The primary access point would provide greater facilities, whereas the secondary access point would have very minimal facilities and would not have the bigger complex that I imagine the primary ones will need to produce.

The Minister referred me to Amendment No. 104 in relation to the question of how many points we have, where they are and how they operate. I shall, indeed, return to the issue when we reach that stage. But somewhere in this Bill we need to cover access points to enable people to find the kind of information that they need. I believe that that is generally agreed around the Chamber. At present, unless I have misunderstood the position, I do not see Amendment No. 104 as fulfilling that role: it sets out what should be provided by the code of conduct and other information. I do not believe that it makes provision for setting up and establishing the access points. That is the purpose of my amendment. I may be wrong, but obviously the hour is late. Perhaps we can clarify the position between now and Third Reading. I have not noticed any mention either in Amendment No. 104 or in the Bill as it stands of a duty to provide access points from which people can obtain information. If the Minister wishes to correct me, I shall be happy to step back on the issue. But if not, perhaps we can return to the matter on Third Reading. I shall give the Minister time to think about it. I have not found any provision in the Bill that covers what I am seeking to achieve.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I did not cover that point because the amendment is about the mapping of access points. Indeed, it is about putting them on a statutory map. In so far as this is about the provision of access points, I said that we are of course in favour of such points and that we shall take whatever steps are necessary—I shall deal with that when we come to the next amendment—to ensure that there are access points. However, we do not believe that this amendment, which requires them to be provided for each area of open land, is the appropriate way to approach the matter.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. I have not actually referred to mapping in this amendment, apart from mentioning the area. That is why I was slightly thrown when the Minister—

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I should not be doing this, but I shall respond very quickly. Such amendments are placed in a part of the Bill which specifies what the statutory maps contain. That is why this is an amendment about mapping.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, I fear that we are indulging in exchanges across the Chamber in a way that we should not on Report. However, this is an important point. I hope that we shall discuss it more fully on another occasion. My biggest problem consisted of identifying "an area". I accept that my definition is not correct. However, at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 [Publication of draft maps]:

[Amendment No. 63 not moved.]

Schedule 3 [Delegation of appellate functions]:

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 64: Page 67, line 31, leave out ("require") and insert ("allow").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment seeks to substitute the word "allow" for "require". I commend the amendment to the House. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, Amendment No. 64 would seem to have the effect that, if the appointment of a person to determine appeals was revoked, no person would be allowed to make fresh representations once another person was appointed. The Bill provides that no one should be required to make fresh representations but they may do so if they wish. The revocation of an appointment is rare. But if it does occur it must be right for it to be possible for the newly appointed person to hear afresh from a witness. The amendment would prevent that. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, will not press it.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 [Review of maps]:

Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 65: Page 6, line 31, leave out ("ten years") and insert ("twelve months").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 65, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 67. I have previously declared an interest and I shall not repeat it now.

In Committee we talked a little about reviewing maps in conclusive form. I note that we did so at about six o'clock in the morning. At least we are discussing the matter a few hours earlier this morning.

The aim of these amendments is to ensure that information and guidance that could change during a year is disseminated to all those wishing to he informed through an up-to-date map, possibly a digitised mapping system that is reviewed annually. I have taken the example from the aviation world where maps are reviewed annually. I am advised that it is also the case with naval maps. The aviation maps referred to are topographic base digitised and maintained to CAA specification by the Ordnance Survey. An annual review of any changes may necessitate a new map for the next year to incorporate those changes. Thus aviators can be sure to be navigating in a safe and correct way. Like most people, from time to time I have difficulty reading maps and rely deeply on the new maps published each year. Would not the route the CAA takes be a sensible route for the Countryside Agency to take?

Aviation maps not only show all the necessary aviation features including danger areas, prohibited areas and restricted areas, but also a considerable amount of useful information such as how to communicate with the relevant authorities for aerodromes, danger zones, restricted zones etc.; all information useful to planning a flight in or around such areas or to helping one during a flight especially if a problem occurs. Like most aviators I have on occasion been most thankful for that information.

I believe that the best way to disseminate information is using a combination of tools such as maps, websites, fax polling and recorded telephone messages. I shall speak to Amendment No. 138 which deals with other ways of disseminating information and guidance other than by maps. However, maps are an important way to disseminate up-to-date information. I believe that a map that is not updated frequently would probably become obsolete in as little as three to four years and definitely after 10 years. Those accessing the countryside for enjoyment should have up-to-date information not only to enable them to enjoy their time in the countryside to the fullest but also to enable them to conduct themselves properly according to the guidelines and regulations.

If the information they require is difficult to obtain or out of date, they may well put themselves in a hazardous situation. For example, a redundant mineshaft may become a hazard; or—perish the thought—another Chernobyl might occur. Mapping information should be used to disseminate those hazards in an appropriately short time. Out-of-date maps can also cause conflict between those accessing the land and wardens, land managers and owners. For instance, a diversion or changes may have occurred. The information must be correct with updates being incorporated within a year of their implementation. Unnecessary hazards or conflicting situations should be prevented if possible.

What changes can occur in a year? There is the possibility of change to registered land and open country. I believe that land management practices, diversifications and development changes should be reviewed annually. Amendments Nos. 3 and 58 relate to silage and haylage. Agricultural land may have cultivation changes with improved pastures. Amendment No. 118 refers to the exclusion of dogs on grouse moors. Amendment No. 23 provides for exclusion orders which may need to be implemented. I am sure that there many other examples of changes in the countryside which need to be notified within one year.

It is to be hoped that maps will contain information on more frequent changes, such as those to routes, names of access authorities, codes of practice, by-laws, public safety notes, wildlife conservation notes and other such information. If aviators and sailors can be treated to such up-to-date information, should not those accessing the countryside, and those involved in the countryside, also be treated in the same way? I beg to move.

1 a.m.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendment. Mapping is a continuous process. Once the mapping process starts when the Bill becomes an Act, it must be a continuous, five or six day a week process. I know something of the marines, having been a commissioner for the Irish lighthouse service for some 16 years. It is compulsory for maritime charts to be updated on a continuous basis. With regard to shore lights, navigation aids and so on, notices to mariners are issued on a daily basis around the coast keeping mariners up to date with changes. It is compulsory for professional mariners and marine authorities continually to update and replace charts.

Once this mapping process begins—it is the basis of the successful implementation of the Bill—it must be continuous with updating taking place daily or at regular intervals. I suspect that my noble friend is more nearly right than the Minister. New charts and new maps must be reissued and made available so that all users of the countryside have the most up-to-date information.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, Clause 10 requires the countryside bodies to conduct a review of their maps of open country and registered common land no more than 10 years after they were issued or last reviewed. However, there are two factors that may cause the bodies to conduct a review sooner or later than that.

First, the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales may use their powers under subsection (3) to require reviews either more or less frequently than every 10 years. Secondly, the countryside body need not wait 10 years, or whatever duration is specified in regulations, before embarking on a review. It may conduct a review sooner if it thinks that there would be benefit in doing so.

Amendments Nos. 65 and 67 would require the first and subsequent reviews to take place every year. That would amount to a requirement for an almost continuous review. That would give rise to a highly unsatisfactory situation, with the countryside bodies engaged in a constant cycle of consultation and appeals on maps. The maps would convey no certainty for the user or landowner, because they would be out of date almost as soon as they were published. Given all the consultation and appeals, annual reviews of the maps would be very costly.

The Bill affords the countryside bodies discretion to review maps more frequently if they see fit, subject to reserve powers for the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales to intervene to set a different minimum period for reviews. The amendments would cause both users and landowners to be constantly considering with the countryside bodies the status of land included, or not included, in maps of open country.

There has been a fundamental misunderstanding in many of our debates on maps. We fully expect the countryside bodies to provide up-to-date information of the kind envisaged by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, but that is not the purpose of the statutory maps. We have referred to that several times. The maps will show areas of land. They will not provide the detail and up-to-date information that the noble Lord expects and that the Government are providing for through the responsibilities given to the countryside bodies. I therefore hope that the noble Lord will understand that we cannot support the amendments.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her explanation, but I am disappointed. I view the maps as a means of giving the state of play at that time. If there is no device to enable people to determine the state of play, there will be more conflicts and difficulties.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, I stress that up-to-date information must be available, but the maps are not the means of doing so.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, I am sorry that the Minister misunderstood me. My amendments were based on how the aviation world works, where half-mil maps are used very successfully for that purpose. It is easier to put information on the much larger scale maps that one would tend to use when going into the countryside. I was hoping that maps could be used in that way.

Amendments Nos. 66 and 68 relate to the same issue. I shall not press this amendment, but it is important that information should be disseminated to the public, including maps showing the up-to-date situation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Luke moved Amendment No. 66: Page 6, line 31, leave out ("ten") and insert ("five").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 66, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 68. To a certain extent, Amendment No. 66 follows the previous two amendments. I have taken considerable note of what my noble friend Lord Rotherwick and the Minister said. This matter was raised in Committee and I have read what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said on that occasion.

However, I believe the fact that the Bill is very complicated suggests that 10 years is too long. If the first tranche of maps is completed and then nothing is reviewed for 10 years, that predicates the possibility that everything will be right the first time. I suggest that it is quite likely that everything will not be right the first time.

Whereas, for various reasons, one year may be too short, I suggest that five years would be a good compromise. That is what Amendment No. 66 seeks for the first review and what Amendment No. 68 seeks for subsequent reviews. I believe that it is essential that the period should be reduced to five years for the first review, and I should like to hear what the Minister says about that. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Luke, said, Amendments Nos. 66 and 68 propose that the reviews of maps proposed under Clause 10 should take place every five years rather than every 10.

We have given the matter careful consideration but, on balance, believe that 10 years is appropriate. We wish to promote a period of stability after the right comes into effect and we do not envisage that so many changes in land use will occur as to warrant a review within live years. We are confident that the very careful work which will be put into the initial set of maps will enable them to provide for a good number of years a solid foundation for the new right of access.

However, should it be necessary, the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales will be able to change the period for reviews and make them more frequent. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will feel that it is not necessary to press the amendment.

Lord Luke

My Lords, I am not altogether happy with what the Minister said. However, in view of the lateness of the hour, we shall consider the matter and possibly return with it at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 67 to 69 not moved]

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment. No. 70: After Clause 10, insert the following new clause—