§ (" .—(1) In relation to England, it shall be the duty of the Countryside Agency to issue, and from time to time revise, a code of conduct for the guidance of persons exercising the right conferred by section 2(1) and of persons interested in access land, and to take such other steps as appear to them expedient for securing—
- (a) that the public are informed of the situation and extent of, and means of access to, access land, and
- (b) that the public and persons interested in access land are informed of their respective rights and obligations under this Part.
§ (2) In relation to Wales, it shall be the duty of the Countryside Council for Wales to issue, and from time to time revise, a code of conduct for the guidance of persons exercising the right conferred by section 2(1) and of persons interested in access land, and to take such other steps as appear to them expedient for securing the results mentioned in paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1).
§ (3) A code of conduct issued by the Countryside Agency or the Countryside Council for Wales may include provisions in pursuance of subsection (1) or (2) and in pursuance of section 86(1) of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.
§ (4) The powers conferred by subsections (1) and (2) include power to contribute towards expenses incurred by other persons.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 104 introduces a new clause into the Bill which is intended to ensure that the public and landowners 1457 have adequate information about their rights and responsibilities under the new right of access. It fulfils the commitment we made in Committee following concerns expressed in all quarters of the House.
§ The new clause places a new duty on the countryside bodies to issue a code of conduct for the guidance of those exercising the new right, and to take the steps which they believe are necessary to ensure that the public are informed of the situation, extent of and means of access to access land. It also places a duty on them to take the necessary steps to ensure that the public and landowners are informed of their rights and obligations generally.
§ The code of conduct issued under this clause may also contain information which goes beyond the new right of access—information relating to national parks, AONBs and long distance routes. The Countryside Agency already has a duty to provide information about access opportunities in these areas under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. It seems sensible that the agency should have the option of fulfilling that duty and the new similar duty in relation to access land.
§ Under this new clause, the countryside bodies will also have the option of contributing towards expenses incurred by third parties in providing information about the new right of access. That provides an extra flexibility in terms of trying to ensure that the information gets across. I beg to move.
§ 9.30 p.m.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 105:
Line 10, leave out ("this Part") and insert ("Parts I to III of this Act").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we welcome the Government's Amendment No. 104 which, as the Minister said, was widely called for on all sides of the Chamber in Committee. At that time we moved Amendment No. 103 which sought to put a statutory requirement for a country code on the face of the Bill. Amendment No. 105 seeks to widen that requirement from just Part I of the Bill into Parts II and III.
§ Noble Lords will agree that, if there is to be a country code, it should cover open access land, farmland through which rights of way run and SSSIs, whether or not they are in open access land or other parts of the countryside. We are therefore keen that the country code should spread through all parts of the Bill.
§ In moving this amendment, I wish to make a couple of points. First, there is no mention in Amendment No. 104 of the specific need about which I spoke in Committee; that is, that the Department for Education should take this matter seriously and include it in the national curriculum. Although the Countryside Agency and the Countryside Council for Wales will no doubt do a good job of informing the public about their rights and responsibilities, it is easier if children are taught those things at an early age. If it were introduced through the national curriculum as 1458 generations went through school, then people would understand it as an innate part of their education rather than having to learn it later in life.
§ Secondly, this is one of the most important parts of our amendments this evening. People should know what their responsibilities are. It affects the issue of informing people that one is walking at night, not only because it is sensible to do so, but also because it causes much less difficulty. People should know when and where to keep their dogs on lead. This clause is probably the most important in ensuring that areas of conflict do not happen. We warmly welcome Amendment No. 104, but also hope that the Government will accept our Amendment No. 105. I beg to move.
§ Lord Rotherwick
My Lords, I welcome the Government's Amendment No. 104 and also that of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, Amendment No. 105. I should like to speak to my Amendment No. 138 and, as on many previous occasions, declare an interest as a land manager and a land owner outside an access area but with footpaths running through the land.
I want to encourage the Government more fully to address the area of guidance and information. I believe there is concern that it is a weak area of the Bill How is the Bill to work well if up-to-date information on guidance and information is not easily disseminated.
The aim of Amendment No. 138 is to ensure, through legislation, that a variety of guidance, information and its mechanisms are made as widely available and accessible to the public as it is to those who live and work in the countryside.
It is important for those accessing the country to have the necessary and most up-to-date information so as not only to enjoy it to the full but also while there to conduct themselves properly according to the guidelines and regulations. That should help ensure that conflict between everyone is kept to a minimum. After all, at the end of the day one of the criteria on which the Bill will be judged will be the amount of conflict it has created in the countryside. The amendment covers some of the types of guidance which should be made available as well as the publishing of information on the mechanisms which disseminate the information. One might expect that a website or similar technological instrument would be such a mechanism.
Surely, it is correct that up-to-date and necessary information is easily available to all those requiring it. Imagine the annoyance and frustration of those seeking access if such up-to-date information and guidance were not easily available. Let us take, for example, a person who journeys a long way with the aim of going on to access land only to find that his planned route has been spoilt by a diversion or, worse still, a correctly implemented 28 day type closure, as in Clause 21. Perhaps a closure may be due to a hazard such as fowl pest, foot and mouth disease or swine fever, as occurred recently—or, worse still, a Chernobyl-type disaster.
1459 Certainly the wardens, land managers or landowners may well be put into a difficult position where conflict may occur. The names of access authorities should also be readily available. It is good practice to inform an authority if one's planned journey involves risks such as rock climbing, as we heard earlier from the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. Names of access authorities should also be readily available in the event of accidents. The up-to-date telephone numbers should be easy to find. Any person looking for such information should have no difficulty finding the codes of practice for the countryside, helping to minimise the conflict which might arise through ignorance.
Other such examples, as are required for the Countryside Agency to disseminate information efficiently, can be found in Clause 23, which requires relevant authorities to restrict access if they are satisfied that due to exceptional weather conditions the area becomes a fire risk; in Clause 28, which allows for indefinite exclusion of access for the purpose of conserving flora and fauna; or in Clause 26, which allows the Secretary of State to exclude or restrict access for the purpose of national security or defence.
In order easily to find such guidance and information, it would seem logical that information on the mechanisms should be published. I draw on my experience as an aviator to show how the CAA has disseminated information. It has used a host of methods such as "Dial-up fax forecasts for pilots" (better known as fax polling); "Met call-up direct" ("met" referring to the weather forecast); met on websites; and many other methods as well as the standard information found at airfields. The CAA publicises that information in a booklet entitled GET MET aviation weather services 2000 and it carries sponsors names. One would expect that numerous firms would sponsor similar exercises for the countryside.
Finally, our local police, the Thames Valley Police use a Ringmaster Message service. That mechanism informs local land managers and owners and other interested parties of thefts and other such things, using e-mail and fax systems. That helps to ensure that the countryside works better not only for those who live and work in it but also for those who visit it. Will the Countryside Agency also use such devices?
§ Lord Greaves
My Lords, I rise briefly to support the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, in relation to Amendment No. 138. The second part of his amendment contains a great deal of good sense. I emphasise the need for comprehensive information once areas of access come on stream, particularly in relation to restrictions and the closure of land at certain times. It is vital that such information is easily available to anyone who wants it. As part of the amendment suggests, the obvious way to do that nowadays is via the Internet. As to that, there is a great deal of experience. I do not apologise for again drawing on the experience of the British Mountaineering Council. If one wants to climb on any 1460 open crag in the British Isles one can discover what restrictions are in force, whether they relate to birds or access, or obtain information about how to reach it, where to park and so on, on the appropriate website. Not only do an increasing number of people have access to the Internet, but it is a very good way to provide details at local information points which many people will visit. It is crucial that that information is available nationally and is comprehensive and up to date. Having said that, I do not believe that that needs to be on the face of the Bill. It will be helpful if the Minister indicates whether he is thinking along those lines.
§ Lord Williamson of Horton
My Lords, I support Amendment No. 104. I was one of those who in the earlier stages of the Bill pressed the case for the availability of information as an essential element to ensure that when enacted the legislation could be implemented in good spirit and without contention. I am pleased that we have a new clause which builds codes of conduct into the Bill. I am also pleased with the wording of the clause which refers, in particular, to the public being,informed of the situation and extent of, and means of access to, access land".That will give rise to a better situation, and I thank the Government for it.
The question of timing is raised by another important amendment in the group. I describe it as the final fling of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, in that Amendment No. 264B is the penultimate amendment at this stage of the Bill. To assist the implementation of this Bill, it is essential that the codes of conduct, which are well provided for in Amendment No. 104, are available as soon as possible. The amendment in the name of the noble Baroness makes a direct link between codes of conduct and the implementation of Clause 2 of the Bill, which in many ways is desirable. I do not insist on building that into the Bill, but it is important that codes of conduct are quickly available because that is what the public and all those concerned with the right to roam need.
§ Viscount Bledisloe
My Lords, I too welcome Amendment No. 104, which deals with the question of informing the public about the permanent situation; namely, what is access land, where it is and how to get to it. However, how do the Government intend to inform the public about more transient matters, such as exclusion periods and so on? Clearly, they cannot be included in a code of conduct which no doubt will be a permanent document like The Highway Code that is printed and in circulation. However, the public need to be informed in some way of exclusions and so on. Amendment No. 138, standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, does not begin to deal with that since Clause 31, which he seeks to amend, relates only to areas within the governance of the National Parks Authority or the Forestry Commission. These organisations are probably the best placed to deal with the situation. I should like the 1461 Minister to say how he sees information being promulgated with regard to temporary situations such as exclusion orders and so on.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Lord Walpole
My Lords, I do not want to repeat what my noble friend Lord Bledisloe has just said. That would be a waste of time. I believe that Amendment No. 105, standing in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, is absolutely essential. I hope that the Government accept it. The amendment makes behaviour in the countryside relevant not only to access land—in which I have no personal interest whatever—but highly relevant to lowland walks and much of the footpath network, in which I have an interest. It also helps to protect wildlife. I hope that the Government will look sympathetically on it.
§ Baroness Young of Old Scone
My Lords, I welcome government Amendment No. 104 which requires the Countryside Agency or the CCW to draw up a code of conduct. Perhaps I may also draw attention to another element of that amendment which refers to "other steps". I believe that it is important that the contents of that code are widely promulgated. A major exercise should start soon in order to get the public clued up about the requirements of this very different set of access provisions which will come into force when the Bill becomes law.
Amendment No. 105 standing in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, has one slight inconsistency. I understand the wish to have a code of conduct that covers all the elements of access to the countryside. But it would be rather rash to ask the Countryside Agency to have responsibility for a code under Part III, which deals primarily with nature conservation. The Countryside Agency is a wonderful organisation, but, alas, not entirely au fait with all the provisions under nature conservation. I should declare an interest and say that if such a code were to exist, English Nature would have the responsibility for drawing up Part III.
§ The Countess of Mar
My Lords, I, too, support Amendments Nos. 104 and 105, perhaps with the reservations given by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone. I should like also to endorse what the noble Baroness said about the need to disperse this information as widely as possible.
Perhaps I may ask the Minister whether he would consider the possibility of leafleting households throughout the country. It is a quite simple procedure these days. We get leaflets about all kinds of matters. The leaflets could have a brief résumé of the code and tell people where the code will be available. Perhaps the Minister could consider also whether the Government propose that the code should be available in bookshops and various countryside stores; for example, farm shops could have copies of the code.
§ Lord Glentoran
My Lords, this has been the happiest afternoon of the proceedings on the Bill. I am beginning to believe that at the end of the proceedings 1462 we may have an Act which is enforceable and workable. I strongly support—with one reservation to which I shall come in a minute—Amendments Nos. 104 and 105. I should like to speak also to Amendments No. 264A, 264AA and 264B, although they do not all stand in my name.
Perhaps I may turn first to Amendment No. 138, standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Rotherwick. The amendment in its present form it is not ideal. It has been good to hear the debate again around the House. It is a debate that we had quite early in Committee. Noble Lords were told that the amendment is an absolutely necessary basis for the functioning of the Bill—the spread of information, the method of getting the message across and of informing the general public of restrictions of rights and of all the matters that go within the Bill.
On the first day in Committee I made the point to the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, that the Government needed to promote at an early stage a serious education programme. If my memory serves me right, which it very rarely does nowadays, she said that the DfEE would be working with the DETR and that we would see another example Of joined-up government. I find it encouraging that that has come through.
Amendments Nos. 264A, 264AA and 264B are critical to the management of the process. As the noble Lord, Lord Williamson pointed out, they are essentially about timing. While we support Amendments Nos. 104 and 105, it is important that the structures, the codes of practice, the information systems and so on should be in place before the Bill becomes law and access is available on a nation-wide basis.
In summary, we support Amendments Nos. 104 and 105 with the proviso that codes of practice, management structures and structures for the dissemination of information are in place before the Bill becomes law.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, first, I wish to address the amendment standing in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. Amendment No. 105 would extend the terms of Amendment No. 104 to Parts II and III of the Bill. At first sight, it seems a very sensible amendment and certainly the spirit of it and the intention to require the Countryside Agency to provide a comprehensive guide to all of these matters seem highly desirable. However, there are some difficulties.
Whereas Part I of the Bill is in effect the totality of law on access, Part II is only part of the law in relation to rights of way and, as my noble friend Lady Young implied, Part III is only part of the law in relation to conservation, biodiversity and AONBs. There is also the question of which is the authoritative agency in this respect. Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness that I shall have another look at the matter to see whether there is a better way of achieving what she wishes in this context—that is, trying to combine existing duties on the Countryside Agency to provide such guidance, 1463 including the Country Code, and a clear statement that it must provide this code of conduct in relation to Part I and put it within a broader context of advice on the countryside. Perhaps I may speak to the noble Baroness between now and Third Reading about how best we could do that.
The noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, asked about the Country Code and the national curriculum. We have already started on that in a sense. The Countryside Agency via the national forum has produced an access information plan which will produce a range of leaflets and information for use in schools. Further than that, stipulating what is in the national curriculum is probably beyond the scope of the Bill. Nevertheless, it is our clear intention to deliver that.
Perhaps I may turn now to Amendment No. 138, tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick. I accept the spirit of what he intends to achieve. Certainly, the Government are committed to the need to ensure that, as far as possible, adequate information, including some of the particular information to which the noble Lord referred, is provided to the public and to other bodies. Furthermore, it is right that the guidelines for local authorities should be as transparent as possible.
However, Amendment 138 is based on something of a misinterpretation of the scope of Clause 31. As the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, pointed out, Clause 31 relates only to the role of national park authorities and the Forestry Commission as relevant authorities. The other issues to which the noble Lord's amendment refer do not relate to Clause 31. Guidance under this clause is likely to address such matters as the criteria for assessing applications for directions under Clauses 22 and 23 and the desirability of making such directions under paragraph 6 of Schedule 2.
The broad aim of the amendment is correct, but I do not think that it is appropriate at this point in the Bill. The greater scope of Amendment No. 104, which will require the countryside bodies to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the public are fully informed of matters relating to the new rights, is a better of way of proceeding. That is because, in a sense, it will cover not only the standing rights but also what have been described by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, as transient rights. There is an obligation to try to maximise the information in various ways. That includes all means from websites to leaflets and notices in car parks. The obligation will be all-embracing.
Again, I appreciate the intention behind the amendment to Amendment No. 104 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller; namely, a requirement on the countryside body to provide information on the totality of the Bill and on other aspects of countryside law.
For the reasons I have given, and while I sympathise with the intentions that lie behind the amendment, I believe that these areas are covered largely by Amendment No. 104 or by existing legislation. I hope 1464 that noble Lords will accept the reassurances that I have given as regards information and that the amendment will not be pressed.
The amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran—amendments referred to earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, as "Baroness Byford's last fling", although I am sure that that was uncharitable and that the noble Baroness still has plenty of "flings" to go—relate to the question of timing and again to the requirement to produce information. They would require that the new right of access could not be brought into force until the agencies had fulfilled their duty under the "code of conduct" amendment. The requirement under Amendments Nos. 264A and 264B to produce a Countryside Code already exists under Section 86 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and will be augmented by the adoption of Amendment No. 104.
The code of conduct will also provide information for those interested in the land about the use of discretionary closures under Clause 21 as well as restrictions and exclusions generally covered by Chapter II. The countryside bodies will need to have such systems in place before the right comes into effect. We do not anticipate any possibility of the right of access coming into effect before both the relevant regulations are in place and the code of conduct has been produced. I do not think, therefore, that it is necessary to put those restrictions on to the face of the Bill. I hope that, with those assurances, the noble Baroness or the noble Lord will not pursue the amendments.
§ Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I understand that the Government wish to move in the direction of opening out the Countryside Code so that it will no longer matter which agency is responsible for it. What is important is that the public will be clear about what they can do, and where. If, between now and Third Reading, we can work towards that, I shall be very pleased. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment No. 105, as an amendment to Amendment No. 104, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Amendment No. 104 agreed to.
§ Clause 20 [Interpretation of Chapter II]:
§ 10 p.m.
Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 106:
Clause 20, page 12, line 9, after ("Chapter") insert (", except section (Dogs on certain land)(1),").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 107 had been renumbered as Amendment No. 117A]1465
§ Clause 21 [Exclusion or restriction at discretion of owner and others]:
Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 108:
Clause 21, page 12, line 40, at end insert—
("( ) Subject to subsections (2) and (6), an entitled person may, by giving notice to the relevant authority in accordance with regulations under section 30(1)(a), exclude or restrict access by virtue or section 2(1) to any land on a Saturday between August 11th and February 2nd where that land is used commercially for shooting.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, we now come to the different and perhaps slightly more thorny subject of restriction days. I shall refer to the total amount of time available for restrictions and also refer to Saturdays and Sundays.
§ Before I speak to Amendment No. 108, I should like to thank the Minister for introducing Amendment No. 117 and for having moved so far with us. Perhaps I should not do so, but, regrettably, I am going to ask for more.
§ Amendment No. 108 seeks to allow landowners to close land on Saturdays during the game shooting season, although it is flexible enough to allow closure for other legitimate reasons during this period. The amendment is necessary because the Bill, as drafted, does not allow closure of land on a Saturday during the main part of the shooting season without the owner going through the bureaucratic hurdle of applying to the Countryside Agency. The majority of game shooting takes place on a Saturday, mainly because this is when most people can take the opportunity to shoot, and also because, by law, game cannot be shot on Sundays.
§ The importance of shooting to the economy and conservation of rural areas is crucial. More than £653 million is spent on shooting per year and much of the countryside is conserved by shooting interests. It is important to note that much shooting takes place during the harsh winter months. The public are much more likely to want to enjoy access to land during the spring and summer months. Furthermore, the amendment would not deter the public from enjoying access on a Sunday during the period 12th August to 1st February, something which is denied, by law, to shooters. The rural economy often depends on sporting activities such as shooting during the winter months, particularly as it is the very time when other tourists are less likely to visit remote areas.
§ The amendment strikes an appropriate balance: it would allow those members of the public who wish to enjoy their right of access during the winter months to do so on Sundays; and it would not preclude land managers from shooting on the most popular day of the week during the statutory game season—that is, on Saturdays.
§ During the Committee stage the Minister did not accept a similar amendment for three principal reasons. First, the Minister argued that the amendment was a way of extending the 28-day maximum period for the discretionary closure of land. This amendment does not allow that. Currently the Bill does not allow closure on Saturdays at all without 1466 prior permission from the countryside authorities. The amendment would allow Saturday closures at the landowner's discretion, but without exceeding the permitted 28 days. Indeed, there are only 25 Saturdays between 11th August and 2nd February. I bear in mind that the Government have already given us four Saturdays.
§ Secondly, the Minister was concerned that land could be closed for the whole of August, when most people take their holidays, or for seven weekends across the summer, restricting access for people whose only time for walking is at weekends. The amendment does not do that. Closure could only take place on a Saturday which, by law, is the only day of the weekend when shooting can take place. Walkers can enjoy their recreation on either day. It seems unfair that the Minister should argue against Saturday closures because he recognises that this is the time when most people enjoy walking at weekends. In doing so, he denies the same opportunity to those who enjoy shooting on the day when most people take part in the sport.
§ It is also important to note that closure in the vast majority of cases will relate to small parcels of land. It simply would not be in the interests of landowners to close more land than is necessary as that would use up the quota on other parts of the land. Therefore, walkers on the whole will encounter only minor closures on a Saturday. That is our submission as regards Amendment No. 108.
§ Perhaps I may now turn to Amendments Nos. 109 to 117. Amendment No. 109 concerns 28 days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and Bank Holidays in which, without having to cope with walkers, to carry out such operations as may be necessary to maintain the terrain, the livestock and wildlife. We suggest that that is not very much. To that there may have to be added matters such as lambing. I have listened carefully to the arguments on this from the government spokesman. I am still not clear whether the Government intend that the 28 days in the Bill should satisfy all normal land management needs, with extensions allowed only in exceptional cases. The fact that at this stage, and after all that has been said, Clauses 22(3)(c) and 24(4) are still in the Bill inclines me to believe that the Government intend the 28 days to be the normal closure entitlement for the year.
§ In addition, I also understand that the area closed for any period of 28 days may vary. I see the noble Lord nodding. As an owner or manager one may have a series of 28 days referring to different acreage and parts of the estate.
§ As regards Amendment No. 110, the wording as it stands seems to imply that there may be an intentional loophole whereby in certain unspecified circumstances another person having an interest in the land would deliberately not be counted or conceivably might be allowed their own 28-day portion. Either way, we believe that the law should not contain a doubt and the removal of the conditional conjunction is necessary.1467
§ Finally, I refer to Amendment No. 116. Once again I wish to acknowledge what the Government have given in their own Amendment No. 117. I beg to move.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if I speak briefly to the amendments standing in my name so that the Government's position is clear. Amendment No. 117, with the consequential Amendment No. 113, provides that, as part of the discretionary allowance of 28 days, a person entitled to that allowance should be able to restrict access or close their land without seeking further approval for up to four days at the weekend, although not on Saturdays between 1st June and 11th August and not on Sundays between 1st June and 30th September. That replaces the situation where none of the 28 days could have been used at weekends. It is a response to the anxieties expressed by a number of noble Lords both on the part of those who use the land for shooting and, more particularly, those who were concerned with the lambing season and who need to have a continuous period for land management purposes without the weekends being taken out and without the necessity of going through the process of making an application to the Countryside Agency.
We believe that that is a sensible compromise between the needs of land managers and the interests of those wishing to benefit from the new right of access, for whom obviously weekends and the summer are particularly important. For example, as regards grouse shooting it will allow closure for up to four Saturdays from 12th August, which will give considerable flexibility and should help address concerns in the shooting community. For example, there are concerns about giving saboteurs advance notice of when shooting is to take place. Similarly, by including four weekend days within the total, it will allow closures for farmers and land managers for a continuous period of up to 19 days without having to go through the application. That is 19 days outside the summer holiday period. In effect, that should cover most lambing periods. All these are extendable by application to the Countryside Agency. So, for example, shooting and grouse moors could have more than four days, but those over and above four in that period would be related to a particular application.
The Government's amendment represents a balance and reflects our determination to safeguard both the interests of walkers and the interests of those who manage the land. As well as entitling landowners to exclude or restrict access for up to four days at the weekend, the amendment also removes the regulation-making power set out in subsection (7). I should explain that. The Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation expressed the concern that that power could be used to allow weekend closure at one extreme or to restrict closure on any Friday, Saturday or Sunday at the other, or indeed Monday.
What we had in mind in that provision was the ability to be flexible in the light of experience. However, we have considered the advice of the Select 1468 Committee and we therefore propose to remove that power, which will leave greater certainty on how it might be used in future.
I also underline in this context the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that these provisions could relate to appropriate parcels of land and that, therefore, there is considerable flexibility built into them. I commend them to the House.
§ Viscount Bledisloe
My Lords, my Amendments Nos. 112 and 115 are in this group, so perhaps I may speak to them as well as to the amendment spoken to by the Minister.
As the Bill stands, without the government amendment Clause 21 gives an owner the right to serve an exclusion notice closing the land for 28 days. But at present none of those days can be a Saturday, Sunday or Bank Holiday.
A number of noble Lords pointed out in Committee that the world of nature and agriculture does not recognise weekends—that birds do not stop nesting and hatching and sheep do not stop lambing merely because it is Saturday or Sunday. No doubt joined up government will teach birds and sheep to recognise the calendar soon, but for the moment it has not achieved that. Therefore, the concept of a closure that suddenly stops at weekends is curious.
In Committee the Minister opposed any attempt to extend the 28-day period, and in my amendments I totally accept that restriction. However, he recognised that within the 28 days some days could be at weekends. He was, however, worried that if one merely removed the provision relating to Saturdays and Sundays there was a danger that a landowner might use all of his 28 days over, let us say, 14 successive weekends or for the entirety of August, which he rightly pointed out is the main holiday month.
I have therefore sought to spread the 28 days equally over weekends and Bank Holidays and nonesuch days. Eight Saturdays or Sundays in 28 days are a new proportion, and a Bank Holiday makes nine. I confess that nine seemed to me a remarkably silly figure and therefore my amendment suggests that 10 days can be a Saturday, Sunday or Bank Holiday. But if the noble Lord would give me nine, or even eight, I would settle for that. It is just that nine seemed an odd figure. Also, by means of a separate amendment, Amendment No. 107, I have sought to deal with the problem of holidays by saying that no more than 14 of the 28 days can be in August.
My amendment is in no way specifically connected to shooting. The closure could be for any reason. It could be to protect breeding, to allow operations on the land, or whatever one wants.
Amendment No. 117 to which the noble Lord has just spoken, on the other hand, gives only four days out of the 28 which can be either a Saturday or a Sunday. I do not understand how he can say that that is a proper balance unless he has a very curious approach to mathematics. If you have 28 days, and you allow Saturdays and Sundays, that must allow eight days, not four. It leads to the very curious 1469 position that the Minister accepted that there would be only 19 continuous days. The noble Lord is half recognising that birds and sheep do not know about weekends, but he is not recognising that fact totally. I do not have any of this land, but if an owner wants 28 continuous days, why on earth should he not have that time? Why must he have a shorter period at weekends than at other times?
Birds do not hatch; they sit for more than 19 days. Similarly, an entire flock of sheep does not lamb within 19 days. If the Minister is serious in his desire for proportion, he must allow eight or nine days out of the 28 to be weekends, or bank holidays. I fail to see any form ofjustification for his four days. Moreover, if one is using this time for shooting, or for a similar activity, I do not see why the days cannot all be Saturdays, with none of them being Sundays. As noble Lords have pointed out, one cannot shoot on a Sunday but a walker can just as well walk on a Sunday as he can on a Saturday. Therefore, I do not see why the landowner cannot have a discretion as to which of the days he uses as Saturdays or Sundays.
My fundamental point is that the Minister has only gone half way and that he has stopped at a wholly illogical mathematical point. If he is to accept what he said he would accept in Committee—namely, that the 28 days should be spread fairly, but not disproportionately—he must allow at least eight or probably nine of the 28 days to be Saturdays, Sundays or weekends. He must not chop it off at a wholly illogical half-point.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Lord Hardy of Wath
My Lords, perhaps I may comment briefly on the noble Viscount's points. Many people wish to spend their holidays in this country rather than take a package holiday to, say, the Costa Brava. Unfortunately, August is the month in England—the Scots are a little wiser—when children are not at school and families have to take their holidays. It would not be at all reasonable for half of August to be devoted to shooting, thus interfering with the family holidays of those who, wisely, prefer to take their vacations in this country. It is a beautiful country and the areas that those families may wish to walk through are similarly beautiful. I would not like to see a proportion of August devoted to that purpose. Indeed, it might encourage people to go abroad. I believe that they would be much healthier and happier in the United Kingdom.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, although the noble Earl has not yet spoken to it, perhaps I may express my support for his Amendment No. 114, which seems to me to be an extremely reasonable compromise. I should also like to express regret that the Government have got their Amendment No. 117 wrong, at least as regards Subsection (7)(a). I have no quarrel with the other two subsections.
I can only suppose that the Government and their advisers have been watching too many Merchant Ivory costume dramas set in the closing years of the 19th century or the first decade of the 20th century, in 1470 which the extremely rich individuals of no fixed occupation spend all their daylight hours every day of the week, except Sundays, hunting and shooting. They spend the hours of darkness in somewhat different indoor pursuits, but that need not concern us.
Admittedly, I have no interest in the sort of land to which Part I of this Bill applies, but I do not suppose that the social patterns there are very different from those in the part of the world in which I live, where virtually all those who shoot are hard-working men, and, increasingly, women, who are fully occupied for at least five days a week and who, therefore, can shoot only on Saturdays. But even if that were not the case, beaters can be secured only on Saturdays because, in general, most of them have jobs from Monday to Friday inclusive. If Amendment No. 114, or something like it, is not accepted, it will be extremely unfair and unreasonable. Indeed, it may present enormous difficulties for many shooters.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
My Lords, I should like quickly to follow the noble Lord's contribution. My experience relates to Scotland, not England and Wales. I have in mind the farm where I live. I am not the farmer—I have not been for many years—but an increasingly important part of the farm's income is derived from the small syndicate which comes on Saturdays—eight Saturdays this year—to do rough shooting. It has nothing to do with grouse. It takes place from October to the end of January. To ask that farm to undertake shooting only on four Saturdays it has to take place on a Saturday for the reasons the noble Lord, Lord Monson, has given—would be wrong. The farm I mentioned is not affected by the provisions of the Bill, although it may be affected by other legislation which may be modelled on it. I do not think that it is fair to restrict shooting to only four Saturdays a year. I believe that the amendment of my noble friend Lord Peel would allow shooting on eight Saturdays.
§ Earl Peel
My Lords, having heard what my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Monson, have said, I now feel obliged to speak to my Amendment No. 114, about which I have some doubts. I have doubts about my Amendment No. 114 and that of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and that of my noble friend Lady Byford. Here I have some sympathy with the Government in that if these amendments were accepted one could have in effect eight, 10 or virtually any Saturdays consecutively closed during the various seasons that are mentioned in the various amendments. I can understand that that would be unacceptable to the Government.
Having said that, the points that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, made are valid. I believe that many shoots operate only on Saturday because the people who organise them cannot take any other day of the week off. As the noble Lord said, it may be difficult to get beaters on a week day. From a commercial point of view—my noble friend's amendment specifically refers to this—many people who are prepared to pay for a one-off day's shooting can also do so only on a 1471 Saturday. There is a problem here. I acknowledge that the amendments would create difficulties in terms of the access proposals.
I wonder whether we could not reach a compromise whereby we could close the land in question on eight Saturdays—as my amendment suggests—during the season if we were to restrict that to, say, two Saturdays a month. I hope that I may have the noble Lord's attention for a moment. I do not know whether the noble Lord would regard as an acceptable compromise the suggestion to restrict the Saturday closure to two Saturdays a month with a closure of eight in total. As I say, we have a problem here. As noble Lords have said, there is no question about that. I am in two minds about the matter. I sympathise with the Government about not having closure on eight, 10 or 15 consecutive Saturdays. I think that that would be unreasonable. However, we must bear in mind that many people participate in shooting on Saturdays. As the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, said, plenty of other activities also take place on Saturdays and Sundays. Will the Minister consider the compromise I have suggested?
§ Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer
My Lords, we welcome the Government's move to allow 19 straight days for closure. That will certainly help smaller farmers. Many still have small farms and, as we know, life is tough for them. Those farmers do not have the option of closing different parcels of land.
Noble Lords have rightly said that shooting is an important part of the rural economy. Some have asked for more closure days to allow shooting to take place. However, if one has a large landholding and one is running a shoot one can close off different parcels of land for each of the 28 discretionary days thereby gaining greater flexibility. I am concerned about the effect of the measure on farmers with smaller landholdings. I have tried to cover that point in my Amendments Nos. 126 and 128. The other point of principle—
§ Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer
My Lords, small shoots would face the problem. We await the Minister's response to the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Peel, about small shoots. We welcome the government amendment.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, I believe that no one spoke in strong support of the two amendments which extend the number of days from 28 to 38. I welcome that. We are talking of a period of 28 days without requiring the Countryside Agency to be involved. That 28-day period is now accepted as the appropriate totality. We are discussing here weekends within that period and the flexibility within that totality to parcel up 1472 identifiable and appropriate pieces of land separately should that be sensible. The noble Earl, Lord Peel, recognises that that provides large shoots with the flexibility to have a shoot somewhere on a large piece of land during the shooting season. Likewise for most farming purposes, one could, if necessary, divide the land and have different packages of 19 days. So there is substantial flexibility even within that 28 days; and there is further substantial flexibility with the role of the Countryside Agency to which the noble Baroness referred.
The issue is whether the restrictions relating to weekends and the summer period are appropriate. We believe that they are central. For the reasons about which the noble Earl, Lord Peel, spoke eloquently, the weekends during the summer are the periods when most people will want to take advantage of access. My noble friend Lord Hardy also made that point. If we were to accept Amendment No. 112, potentially a whole estate could be closed throughout July. The noble Viscount says that I disproportionately penalise Saturdays and Sundays. Yes, I suppose that I do, for the very reason that Saturdays and Sundays are the days on which the vast majority of the population will be able to take advantage of these new rights of access. It is, therefore, not sensible to have 10 Saturdays or Sundays out of the 28- day period. It is not even sensible to have what might be regarded as, roughly speaking, a proportionate number which would be six or seven. It is important that we restrict the numbers of Saturdays and Sundays which are provided under the discretionary right. I am not attracted, therefore, to any of the amendments which seek to increase those four days beyond what is provided for in my amendment.
There is substantial flexibility. The noble Earl asks whether we can go further in relation to Saturdays, in particular with regard to small shoots. The Countryside Agency would make appropriate arrangements in such situations. If no flexibility was available to the owner of land used for shooting, I am sure that the Countryside Agency would take that into account in agreeing additional Saturdays that could be used during the shooting seasons. However, it would rightly take a more rigorous approach with those who had more flexibility. I recognise that consideration, but the Countryside Agency would be bound to address it.
Our amendments deal with the most difficult aspects. We shall deal with the parcelling of the land further. The ability to apply to the Countryside Agency will provide sufficient further flexibility. The Government have made considerable concessions in response to the concerns expressed at earlier stages. I hope that noble Lords will accept my amendments and not press those that would go further.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, the Minister has not addressed the problems of small shoots. I accept that walkers and ramblers want weekend access, but would they not much rather have access on Sundays, when there is very little else going on, than on Saturdays, 1473 when families often go shopping together? Could a compromise be reached under which no Sundays were allowed, but six or, better still, eight Saturdays were allowed? Will he think about that before Third Reacting?
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, in these days of seven-day shopping, families may go shopping on Saturdays or Sundays. The point is that, even now, it is only at weekends that the majority of families can use the new rights. Small shoots will be able to use four Saturdays during the main part of the shooting season. If there is no further flexibility and there is a need or an economic requirement for further shooting days, the Countryside Agency is likely to consider an application favourably. I suspect that most small shoots will not have more than four Saturdays between 12th August and the end of September. However, if they do, they have that facility.
§ Lord Glentoran
My Lords, we have had another interesting and wide-ranging debate. I thank the Minister for his responses and for tabling Amendment No. 117.
We do not quite have the right answer yet. The 28 days provision seems to be accepted across the House, although maybe grudgingly by some. However, there are one or two problems. I do not think that August is a problem. Most of the grouse moors in the North East and the North West are run commercially. It is a seven-day-a-week job at that time of year. Those who pay to shoot there are well able to go during the week.
However, at other times of the year, wildfowling, pheasant shooting and general rough shooting on open land are enjoyed by groups of farmers and local people who all work from Monday to Friday. Only on Saturdays can they pursue their sport. Open season for rough shooting runs from the beginning of November until the beginning of February. The period may be a little longer or shorter for certain species. There are a lot of Saturdays in that period. Many of the shoots in my area—although it does not come within the auspices of the Bill—are used on most Saturdays, or at least every other Saturday. The people affected will be those least able to go through the bureaucratic process. They are the people who, without some form of direction and assistance from the Countryside Agency or whichever authority, are likely to be deprived. They are the people who, I suspect, all noble Lords would least like to consider were being deprived.
I am sorry that I have spoken for rather a long time at the end of this debate. In summary, I believe that, with a little more thought before Third Reading, we can still reach a better compromise within the 28 days. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 109 to 112 not moved.]
Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 113:
Page 13, leave out line 14.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.1474
§ [Amendments Nos. 114 to 116 not moved.]
Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 117:
Page 13, line 18, leave out subsection (7) and insert—
("(7) An entitled person may not under this section exclude or restrict access by virtue of section 2(1) to any land—
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 117A:
Page 13, line 20, at end insert—
("( ) An entitled person may not under this section exclude or restrict access in such a manner as to prevent reasonable access by the public to other access land whether or not in the same ownership.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 117A, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 129 and 133 which are in the same group.
§ These amendments refer to various types of closures, restrictions and exclusions. Clause 21 deals with discretionary closures which your Lordships discussed recently. Clause 22 refers to directions for restrictions and exclusions for the purpose of land management. Clause 24 deals with directions for the purposes of nature conservation and historic features.
§ The problem which the amendments seek to address is the same in each case and is one which came to light as a result of consideration of discussions during and after the Committee stage. Closures of land for perfectly legitimate purposes could lead to the blocking of access to other access land which is not the subject of restrictions or exclusions. In other words, people who turn up at the usual access point to access land in order to go on to a large area of hill or moorland may find that their access is blocked because of a temporary exclusion on the land in between. These amendments seek to provide that, wherever possible, reasonable access is provided to access land beyond that which is the subject of a closure or direction.
§ Amendments Nos. 129 and 133, which relate to Clauses 22 and 24, seek to place a duty on the relevant agency to consider, in making a decision, the matter of reasonable access through the land in respect of which a direction has been applied for. That is not to say that the agency will say, "No, you cannot have a direction on land"; it is to say that the agency must consider how the problem of access through, by or past that land can be tackled in order to avoid the closure of much larger areas of land other than that for which closure has been either requested or is required.
§ I turn to Amendment No. 117A which refers to the discretionary closures under Clause 21. Because such closure decisions are made by landowners and not by the relevant agency, the amendment seeks to place a duty on the landowners to ensure that reasonable access can be made available, again either across their 1475 land or in some other way, to the access land which otherwise would be blocked. It has been suggested in some quarters that landowners who are hostile to the Bill may try to use this provision to block access to much larger areas of land than are reasonably covered under the 28-day restrictions.
§ I am not one of those people who believes that most landowners will be hostile to the Bill once it is passed. I believe that the vast majority of landowners, like the vast majority of walkers and climbers who go onto the land, will behave in a thoroughly reasonable way, because that is how people usually behave when faced with a situation.
§ Nevertheless, just as I accept that there will be a small minority of people going onto land who may misbehave, as has been discussed by your Lordships at some length today, it is also quite possible that there will be a small minority of landowners who will seek to use that provision, perhaps by closing different and smaller pieces of land successively to block access to a much larger area of access land for quite a long period of time.
§ Most areas of access land, of course, will have several points of access and several routes onto it. And so that may be a problem which will not occur in most places. It has been suggested by some cynical people that, if somebody had a hill which was all access land, then the owners could successively close concentric circles round that hill and prevent anybody ever getting to the summit. Far be it from me to suggest that anybody would ever behave like that.
§ But there is a problem. It is not really a problem of principle; it is a problem of the practical working of the Bill. Whatever happens, whatever form this Bill ends up in, we all agree in this House that it must work in practice. It would be sensible to make arrangements and to write into the Bill the provision that this particular potential problem must be looked at, either by the Environment Agency or the appropriate Welsh body in the case of directions or by landowners themselves in the case of Section 21 closures. I beg to move.
§ Lord Dubs
My Lords, I should like to speak to Amendment No. 117B standing in my name, which has broadly similar aims to the three amendments just moved by the noble Lord.
Amendment No. 117B will enable the Secretary of State to require the exercise of discretion under Clause 21 to relate to land the boundaries of which are determined by regulations. That would have two benefits. First, it would help both walkers and those managing the land to know the area over which closures or restrictions applied. It could, for example, require those entitled to discretionary closures, in notifying the Countryside Agency of their intention to close land under Clause 21, to show the area of land closed by following physical features shown on a map of the area affected.
Secondly, if the regulation-making power is needed, it would help prevent possible abuse. Although I am sure, as was the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that the 1476 vast majority of landowners will be responsible and reasonable, there may be a few who simply wish to exclude public access over the largest possible area for the longest possible time.
As it stands, I believe that Clause 21 could be used to make arbitrary closures of strips of land, which serve no purpose other than to exclude access to much larger areas of adjacent land. Regulations made under my amendment could, for example, ensure that only parcels of land which are demarcated by physical features, such as walls, streams or fences, could be notified as closed under Clause 21.
My amendment would not require the Secretary of State to make regulations, but he could do so if it were helpful to ensure that land subject to closures was properly identified, or if there were indications that the discretionary right to restrict access was being abused in the way which I have already described.
I hope that the Minister, will agree that this modest amendment would be a useful and desirable addition to the Bill.
§ Baroness Young of Old Scone
My Lords, I am confused. It may be the advanced hour or it may be that there is a degree of inconsistency between Amendment No. 133 and Amendment No. 129, which the noble Lord seemed to present in a way which implied that they are both designed to meet similar ends, in spite of the fact that they refer to different reasons for exclusions and restrictions.
I must confess that the interpretation which he gave to his amendment was not that which I read into it when I read it initially. I believe that Amendment No. 133 is capable of quite considerable misinterpretation and, therefore, is rather dangerous. I was extremely alarmed by Amendment No. 133 which seemed to provide that relevant authorities could refuse to grant exclusions or restrictions even where they were necessary for the protection of flora and fauna, if that meant that there was no equivalent access land available elsewhere.
That seems to be totally against the principles we have heard enunciated in the Bill; that is, that nature conservation interests must not be damaged for the purposes of providing reasonable access. I hope that we can have an assurance, first, that this was not the intention of the amendment and, secondly, as it is capable of being interpreted in a different way, perhaps it is not the right amendment to adopt. I would not want to see anything on the face of the Bill that permitted any horse trading between the relative merits of access and wildlife or anything that implied it was acceptable for wildlife conservation interests to be sacrificed for other benefits.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer
My Lords, from these Benches, perhaps I may assure the noble Baroness that that was not the intention in tabling Amendment No. 133. The amendment states:shall have regard to the extent to which it is possible to provide reasonable access".1477 Clearly, if the closure was because the land was sensitive in wildlife terms, the conclusion would have to be that it would not be possible. I can perhaps accept that our wording is not perfect, but we were not seeking to achieve anything damaging, such as the noble Baroness suggests. However, we are willing to look again at the wording of the amendment.
§ Lord Glentoran
My Lords, I rise to speak both ways, for a change. I fully understand the desires of the noble Lord and have much sympathy with them, particularly coming from where he does and from where I might have come from. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, pointed out, there are dangers in having the amendments on the face of the Bill, particularly Amendment No. 133.
I assume that part of the process of applying for a restriction order will be by way of explanation, discussion and negotiation with the access authority. When an application has been received and is being discussed, it will become apparent to a local authority that the effect of closing a particular piece of land will be to debar people using it. I would have faith in the access authority being wise to that and attempting to negotiate an alternative route.
I am probably making the Minister's speech. If I am, forgive me. I feel that there is no need for the amendments on the face of the Bill because these matters are adequately covered.
§ Viscount Bledisloe
My Lords, in answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, the noble Baroness, Lady Miller stated that Amendment No. 133 requires the relevant body only to have regard. However, Amendment No. 117A states absolutely that you cannot exclude or restrict if the result is that it prevents access to somebody else's land. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, shakes his head. The amendment states:may not under this section exclude or restrict access in such a manner as to prevent reasonable access by the public to other access land".So, if it does prevent access to other access land in somebody else's ownership, it cannot be done.
Under this clause, the owner has an absolute right to give notice and to state, "These are my 28 days". I do not understand how the clause comes into effect. Although it is perfectly reasonable for the owner to do that in relation to his land, it might stop people getting on to some other land. He has given his notice and that is enough. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, appears to contemplate that after an owner has given his notice, somebody will return and say to him, "Don't you realise that if you give this notice, people will not be able to get on to Mr Blogg's land next door; therefore your notice is invalid?"
I do not understand how that works. Nor do I see why an owner who wishes to exercise his 28 days for his own purposes should suddenly be prevented from so doing because it prevents people getting on to somebody else's land. With respect to the noble Lord, 1478 Lord Greaves, I suggest that Amendment No. 117A is wholly unworkable. Even if it was workable, it would be wholly unfair.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. Indeed, he gave part of the ministerial speech in relation to Amendments Nos. 129 and 133. While I did not see quite such a sinister implication in Amendment No. 133 as did my noble friend Lady Young, I can see that it could arise. That would be an overriding consideration whereas I believe the noble Lord wanted it to be only one of the considerations to be taken into account.
The considerations under Amendment No. 129 in regard to reasonable access to other access land, are already a relevant consideration. Likewise, in relation to Amendment No. 133; that too can be taken into account. So on both counts those amendments are not necessary; those consideration can be taken into account.
However, the basic point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is important. There is a problem in that if we accept, as we do, that different parcels of land in one ownership can make applications for restriction or discretionary restriction at different times, then it is important, first, that that is not abused in a way that might restrict access to access land in general; and, secondly, that it is evident to those who wish to use the land as well as to the owners which land is involved. It is therefore important to find a way of describing the land and of ensuring that it is not used in the way the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, seeks to address.
The amendment uses the term, "reasonable access". That could create fertile ground for dispute. It is also somewhat absolute in that it would override other considerations, though the noble Lord shook his head when that was asserted by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. However, it could be read that way. Nevertheless, we have to find a way of dealing with the problem the amendment addresses.
I would prefer going down the road of my noble friend Lord Dubs. His amendment recognises the need to provide some degree of flexibility and his Amendment No. 117B would allow regulations to be made to ensure that the discretion was applied in relation to properly identified units. That would give a clarity and a certainty to the exercise of discretion under Clause 21. That does not necessarily mean we expect specific regulations; clearly, as the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, provides, a number of negotiations could take place and there is a possibility of direction in those areas. But were difficulties to arise in either the abuse of the power or in the identification of the land concerned, it is important to have the reserve power to require the exercise of discretion in order to identify the units of land to which the power applies. That would help any landowner who might seek to abuse the flexibility while at the same time provide the basis for certainty as to what the landowner could do and to which pieces of land the restrictions apply at any given time.
1479 Therefore I favour the approach of my noble friend Lord Dubs and am prepared to accept his amendment.
§ Lord Greaves
My Lords, I thank the Minister for those comments. In relation to Amendments Nos. 129 and 133, if the relevant agency—essentially the Environment Agency and not the access authorities—behaves in a sensible way, takes account of these problems and understands that access may be required through or past land which is subject to a direction, then I accept that amendments on the face of the Bill are not required. However, I felt it was important to raise the matter.
As regards the discretionary closures, I am grateful for what the Minister has said. I shall read that in Hansard carefully and in the meantime I am prepared to withdraw my amendment and support that tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 117B:
Clause 21, page 13, line 20, at end insert—
("(8) Regulations may provide that any exclusion or restriction under subsection (1) of access by virtue of section 2(1) to any land must relate to an area of land the boundaries of which are determined in accordance with the regulations.").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 118:
After Clause 21, insert the following new clause—