HL Deb 07 November 2000 vol 618 cc1419-35


. —(1) Where access to access land gives rise to a need for the provision of new or improved visitor management facilities there shall be a duty on the access authority to provide funding for the provision and maintenance of the facility.

(2) Where agreement on the need for such facilities or the cost of providing them cannot be achieved, the parties shall have resort to a dispute resolution process prescribed by the Secretary of State.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, we come back to touch in a more limited way on extra costs that might be imposed upon owners and occupiers. The Government reassured us from time to time and, when discussing Amendment No. 80, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said, "Substantial costs will not arise" and "landlords will not be required to spend money as a result of the provisions of this Bill".

In the debate on Amendment No. 72 I commented on the points raised by my noble friend Lord Peel and the extra costs of fencing in and signing the mines that were at the moment open—those pre-1872. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said at that time that there would be help with finances. But that does not appear on the face of the Bill.

My particular concern relates to what are termed "visitor management facilities". If the situation arises where it is clear that something is required in order to facilitate access to an area in a sensible and measured way but the access authority does not spend the money there will be a mess. For instance, there might be a mass of cars at the side of the road instead of being properly co-ordinated and parked; there may be a lack of signage in order to help people to find the areas where they can be provided with information such as the best route from where they parked their car.

So the purpose of Amendment No. 84 is to say that there "shall" be a duty on the access authority to provide funding in the event of a need for a visitor management facility. I included a second clause which provides that, if there is a dispute—this might arise between the landlord and the access authority—then it should be resolved by the Secretary of State. The amendment therefore is designed to help in a potentially difficult situation and should benefit those who wish to have access to the countryside as well as the owners and occupiers. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

My Lords, we agree with the aim of Amendment No. 84 in seeking to provide adequate visitor facilities. But we do not agree that the duty should always lie on the access authorities. First, as I mentioned in Committee, it is frequently the local pub which provides many of the facilities such as toilet blocks and car parks and relies on the trade from them. Secondly, the provision may be subject to other sorts of partnership.

Therefore, while I cannot support the amendment, I agree that access authorities need to take seriously their obligations in ensuring that there are visitor management facilities, perhaps by helping people to bid for funding to enhance their facilities or in drawing together public/private partnerships. So the aim is worthy, but we cannot support the amendment.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, the Government are in full agreement with those who wish to see facilities provided where they are needed to help manage the right of access for the benefit of walkers and land managers alike. We also agree that landowners should not generally be obliged to pay for such facilities. As was explained in Committee, the Bill already allows for facilities to be provided at taxpayers' expense; for example, as information points under Clause 19 or means of access land under Chapter II.

It is fair to say that the Bill allows for the possibility that an access authority may seek a contribution from a landowner in respect of an agreement to create or improve a means of access. The means is simple: there may be occasions when the landowner or farmer may benefit just as much as walkers from the provision of facilities. Or perhaps the access authority has offered to install a stile but the farmer would prefer a more expensive new gate. It could be agreed that the authority contributes, for example, the equivalent of the cost of the stile and the landowner contributes the additional amount in order to ensure that he acquires the suitable facility.

However, the key point is that there is no requirement for a landowner to pay towards the cost of facilities. If it is not possible to conclude an agreement between the landowner and the authority, the authority will have the power to carry out specified works at its own expense. Here, the landowner will not be required to pay a penny.

We would be fearful of opening the way for costly and bureaucratic disputes by imposing a duty on access authorities to provide new visitor management facilities "where they are needed". We believe that access authorities will have the necessary knowledge and expertise to decide where facilities are needed and the Bill already allows them to do that. The best way forward is open, constructive negotiation with those having an interest in the land and on the basis of discussion with others concerned, including the local access forum. Landowners will, in any case, be free to make representations to their local authority—or, indeed, to the local access forum—about where they believe facilities are needed and the form they should take.

Perhaps I may add a note of caution about the number and type of facilities that are appropriate to open countryside. We would caution against a sea of car parks and visitor centres. Major new facilities of that nature are unlikely to be needed often but there may be places, particularly near towns, where the landowner wants to be involved in the provision of a car park which could be a commercial venture allied to other facilities.

The facilities which are likely to be commonly needed—for example, stiles, gates and notices—are catered for under Clause 19 and Chapter III of the Bill. I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, that the new clause is not necessary and I hope that he will not feel it necessary to press his amendment.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister a question before she sits down. She said that there was no requirement on landowners to bear the cost. Can she direct me to that provision in the Bill? It may be that I am not looking in the right place.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, at no point does the Bill impose a duty on the landowner to provide facilities. It is not possible to point to a place in the Bill because there is no such requirement on the landowner.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her reply. There is common ground between us. I tabled my amendment in order to ascertain what happens when a facility is clearly required but the access authority does not have the money. The access authority could well agree with the landowner, saying, "We could not agree more. Something needs to be done but we have no money because we decided to spend it on social security care and so on. It is too bad for those who want access to that piece of land. They will have to put up with the situation and so will you".

The Minister slightly misunderstood my point. The purpose behind my amendment is to force the access authority to do something. I take issue with her on a point, also made in Committee, that car parks can become commercial ventures. That is so only in very limited circumstances. By and large, car parks providing access are not paying ventures. They generally cost money to run either because someone must be paid to collect the money or because meters have to be provided. Alternatively, they must be free of charge.

I hope that the Government will ensure that the access authorities provide such facilities because they will be needed. I agree that there will not be a plethora of them—no one wants that in the countryside—but only when they are badly needed will the access authority act and spend the money. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.45 p.m.

Clause 17 [Byelaws]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 85: Clause 17, page 10, line 10, at beginning insert— ("( ) The appropriate countryside body shall issue draft model byelaws which access authorities may adapt to take account of differing local circumstances.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, we return to model by-laws. It is another amendment which the Left wing of the Labour Party—I am sorry, the Liberal Democrats—will meet half way but never the whole way. They will sit on the fence and say, "We quite like what you are saying but we are not going to do anything about it".

There should be draft model by-laws and I have taken on board what was said in Committee. I believe that the countryside body should issue national by-laws which give certainty to owners and occupiers and to those who want access to the country. I beg to move.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, I support the amendment and wish to speak to my Amendments Nos. 86 and 90. Amendment No. 86 ensures that under by-laws walkers do not interfere with the rights of owners and occupiers in managing and enjoying their own land. We believe that that is most important.

By omitting that requirement it might be argued that owners and occupiers are not specifically covered, except in so far as they are "other persons" referred to in the Bill. That is manifestly not the case because owners and occupiers have rights of ownership or tenancy over the land, entitling them to do things which walkers are not able to do.

Secondly, the point should be made that owners and occupiers have no fewer rights over the land than walkers. After a suitable interval, most people have a long holiday period. Many have five weeks plus statutory days, making 36 days in all. Under the Bill, the Government propose to allow owners and occupiers only 28 days in total, with no statutory days. An amendment recently moved would allow for Saturdays. We believe that we should allow owners and occupiers at least the right to a by-law to protect enjoyment of their own land in their own way.

I turn to Amendment No. 90, which I hope the Minister will accept because the Government have previously made suggestions about parishes. Much of the land over which open access will be granted is remote from large towns which tend to house the seat of local government. Parish councils can be miles away from the district offices. Unless parish councils can enforce by-laws the procedure for following up infringements will be long-winded and costly, and there is a danger that many will go by the board. That will lead to a growing awareness that the law is weak, and certain persons and interests may be tempted to take advantage of the situation.

By and large, people who live in urban areas do not suffer to the same extent as those who live in more rural areas. I refer to the practice of fly-tipping lorry loads of rubbish across gateways and minor roads and the disposal of litter, to which we shall return in later amendments. If those who live in urban areas find an intruder in their home the nearest policeman is likely to be only a couple of miles or just a few minutes away. For that precise reason, in the countryside an intruder is much more likely to finish his self-appointed task than to run for it immediately, knowing full well that the police will not be quickly at hand.

A parish council is much more immediate than a district authority. If circumstances require urgent attention the council can be convened in days, and for that reason we have tabled Amendment No. 90 which seeks to include a parish council.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, believes that we have been sitting on the fence. We have voted vigorously on all amendments.

The Earl of Caithness

Always with the Labour Party!

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

My Lords, we have always voted according to our beliefs.

I turn to Amendment No. 85 which was debated at length in Committee. We agreed then that model by-laws were important. Clause 17(3) makes plain that the access authority must consult the appropriate countryside body. We are pleased that, with the addition of Amendment No. 87 which has already been spoken to by the Government, the local access forum must also be consulted. We believe that that is particularly important when model by-laws are adapted to take account of differing circumstances.

I have no particular qualms about supporting the noble Earl's amendment, but I do not want him to believe that he has forced me into it. I am not sure that the amendment adds a great deal to what is already on the face of the Bill, but for what it is worth it appears to be a worthy amendment.

I understand the purpose of the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. Perhaps the remoter parishes should have power to enforce by-laws. From my experience, the difficulty is that some parishes do not want that responsibility. However, the amendment says "may enforce" and the responsibility can be left to the county or district council. Therefore, I believe that that is a perfectly reasonable request.

Lord Hardy of Wath

My Lords, I refer briefly to Amendment No. 88 in my name. I have tabled this amendment in order to make a suggestion to the Government. Earlier in our debate today my noble friend Lady Mallalieu said, quite properly, that the public would be given rights which they had not previously held. The problem is that sometimes the public may not accurately perceive what those rights are. There is at least the possibility that the public will assume that the present regulations which govern public rights of way are to be relaxed under by-laws. However, public rights of way—certainly footpaths—may be seriously damaged if a relaxed attitude is taken to them. A public footpath is for people to walk and the Bill is designed to extend access to people on foot.

Unfortunately, in many parts of the country people use wheeled vehicles on footpaths. I am strongly in favour of the provision of an adequate network of bridlepaths, but in areas where they are not in abundance some people take their horses on footpaths. In that event, particularly following weather of the kind that we are now experiencing, footpaths may be virtually impassable except by a young athlete. If we are to promote exercise, good health and so on, it is necessary to remind people that when the Bill becomes law the regulations which govern public rights of way should continue to specify that public footpaths are for people on foot and that bridlepaths are for people on horses; and I am not sure that wheeled vehicles should be used on either of them.

I hope the Government ensure that there is no public misunderstanding. For that reason, my amendment seeks to insert the words, by those acting in accordance with the nature of the right". I shall not press the amendment. However, the Government would be wise to take careful note of the need, which I hope I have addressed in my brief remarks, to provide clear and positive advice to the public when the Bill is enacted.

Baroness Young of Old Scone

My Lords, I should like to touch briefly on Amendment No. 85. These days my heart sinks when I hear the word "by-law". The making of by-laws under the Local Government Act procedures is tortuous in the extreme. It involves consultation with anyone with any interest whatever in the site, which can range from individuals, parish and district councils, statutory undertakers and Uncle Torn Cobbley and all. With a favourable wind, it takes a minimum of about six months, and often longer. Amendment No. 85, which is concerned with model by-laws, has merit in that anything that helps to take the pain out of the process should he supported. I am not sure, however, that it needs to be on the face of the Bill; it should perhaps merely be an admonition to the Countryside Agency.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, first I refer to government Amendments Nos. 89 and 262 which are in this group. We gave a commitment during Committee to table an amendment which would enable access authorities to make by-laws in advance of the right coming into force. These amendments fulfil that commitment. Amendment No. 89 means that by-laws can be made when land is likely to become access land, but the Secretary of State may not confirm them until the land is access land. Amendment No. 262 provides that Clause 17 comes into force two months after Royal Assent.

As to by-laws, I have some sympathy for the observations of my noble friend Lady Young. We do not believe that access authorities should adopt a blanket approach to by-laws. By-laws should be made in response to particular problems which need to be addressed with a criminal penalty. Authorities are unlikely to know in advance whether any activities will cause problems, but we accept that there may be some cases, such as on land where there is already significant de facto access, where the authority sees a need for by-laws. Our amendments will enable by-laws to be made in those circumstances.

I turn to Amendment No. 85. My noble friend Lord Whitty explained in Committee that the countryside bodies were already under a duty, as a result of a government amendment at Report stage in another place, to provide guidance to access authorities about the exercise of their by-law making powers. Those recommendations are likely to include advice about where by-laws may be appropriate or useful, and, once confirmed, how they may best be publicised. We recognise that model by-laws can be a useful way to provide those guidelines. If experience shows that by-laws are needed in a significant number of areas—in other words, where the model is sufficiently widespread—the Secretary of State will consider whether it is helpful to issue model by-laws.

We accept that model by-laws can be helpful to local authorities. As my noble friend Lady Young says, they may cut short the consultation and planning stage. We shall be very ready to provide them if it becomes apparent that they are necessary and once we know what they are likely to cover. Therefore, one says without any sense of antagonism to Amendment No. 85 that one should let the countryside bodies issue the guidance and see whether it is sufficiently generalised to justify model by-laws. If so, not only would there be no objection to the Secretary of State making model by-laws—with the legal resources available to him, it would be a matter for him rather than the countryside bodies—but we believe that it would be a positively good idea. We just do not want to do it in blanket form.

Amendment No. 86, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, would add that by-laws may be made to secure that those exercising the right of access do not interfere with the enjoyment of the land by the "owner or occupier". I can give the noble Baroness a categoric assurance that Clause 17(1)(c), which refers to the, enjoyment of the land by other persons", already provides for that. In other words, owners and occupiers are among those other persons. I hope the amendment will not be pressed.

I turn to Amendment No. 90. I declare an interest as a former chairman of the Association for Neighbourhood Councils, which unsuccessfully sought to persuade governments of all parties to extend parish councils to the urban areas of England. There are no parish councils in urban areas. Parish councils, both in urban areas and in rural areas, should have this power. We are happy to accept Amendment No. 90.

Perhaps I may return to Amendment No. 88. The assurance that the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, seeks is that there should be no relaxation of the restrictions on rights of way, which he so graphically described. It is not necessary to clarify the phrase by adding that it applies only to those who are exercising the right of way in accordance with the nature of that right. The exercise of right of way means the lawful exercise of right of way. For example, it would not protect anyone unlawfully driving a vehicle on a footpath or bridleway. I believe that that is the noble Lord's concern. I hope that on that basis he will not press his amendment.

7 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I thought that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, was going to accept my amendment. I really thought that I had persuaded him because we were so very close. Rather than leaving the decision to the Secretary of State—in the fullness of time, when he has been able to consider it—whether by-laws should be issued, it is important that on the face of the Bill it is stated that it is the duty of the Countryside Agency to provide the model by-laws. It is for the various authorities to adapt and adopt them to take account of differing local circumstances.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, we are very close on this matter. I do not believe that there is a difference in substance. Perhaps we may talk about the matter between now and the next stage of the Bill.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, this is too good. I have had an offer from the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, to come and vote with me. Now the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has offered to think about the issue. It is really too good an opportunity. I should be very happy to take up the noble Lord's offer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 86 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 87: Clause 17, page 10, line 20, at end insert (", and (b) any local access forum established for an area to which the byelaws relate").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 88 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 89: Clause 17, page 10, line 36, at end insert— ("(6A) Byelaws under this section relating to any land—

  1. (a) may not be made unless the land is access land or the access authority are satisfied that it is likely to become access land, and
  2. (b) may not be confirmed unless the land is access land.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 90: Clause 17, page 10, line 39, after ("district") insert ("or parish").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I thank the Government for accepting my amendments. We were very pleased that the Government tabled Amendment No. 89. Perhaps I may say to the Minister that I understand parish councils are being established in urban areas. I, too, am delighted about that. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 18 [Wardens:]

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Methuen)

My Lords, in calling Amendment No. 91, I should say that if that amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 92 and 93.

Viscount Bledisloe moved Amendment No. 91: Clause 18, page 10, line 41, leave out from beginning to end of line 2 on page 11 and insert— ("(1) Every access authority and district council shall take such steps (whether by the appointment of wardens or otherwise) as appear to it to be necessary or expedient to achieve the purpose set out in subsection (2) as respects access land in their area. (2) The purposes referred to in subsection (1) are—").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in Committee we had considerable debate about the need to ensure that there is proper wardening or supervision of some kind to ensure the right results. Clause 18(2) of the Bill provides various purposes for which wardens are to be appointed. The first is to secure compliance with by-laws and restrictions. As Clause 18(1) stands at the moment, an access authority has power—I emphasise power—to appoint wardens if necessary or expedient to achieve those objectives, but it does not have to so do. Therefore, one can have a situation where there are by-laws or restrictions which are not being complied with. The access authority may accept that some action, such as, let us say, the appointment of wardens is the only way to achieve compliance. But it can still decide not to take that action. It is wholly unacceptable that one could have a position where the rules were being disregarded and there was no obligation on the authority to do anything about it.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, expressed good intentions. I have no doubt that in the initial stages after the Bill is enacted the Government will implement those intentions and seek to provide suitable wardening. But we do not know what will happen later when the first enthusiasm for the Act has gone, perhaps different persons are holding these offices and someone is searching for an economy. Those good intentions may lapse.

If the Government are giving people the right to walk across private land, there has to be an obligation—not merely a power—to provide ways of securing compliance with the restrictions under which they go there.

In Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, enunciated in forceful language that principle. But she pointed out that there might be ways of achieving the desired result without actually appointing wardens. My amendment is designed with great care to solve that problem by saying that the, access authority …[or the] district council shall take such steps (whether by the appointment of wardens or otherwise) as appear to it to be necessary or expedient to achieve the purpose set out in subsection (2)". Thus, the authority has complete discretion to decide what steps, if any—I emphasise if any—are needed to ensure compliance. Only if the authority decides that something needs to be done and then decides what it should do for the best is it obliged to do it. It cannot duck the responsibility. I believe that the amendment covers all the points raised in Committee. Therefore, it should be acceptable to everyone. It achieves the aim that one cannot have a situation where there is no compliance, where everyone agrees that it is necessary to do something about the position but does nothing.

Amendments Nos. 92 and 93 are on much the same lines. Amendment No. 91 seeks to give the access authority the widest possible discretion as to how to achieve the purpose. Therefore, it should appeal particularly to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. I beg to move.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, it is important that the amendment is accepted by the Government. Over the past 40 years attempts have been made to broaden access to the countryside. Those attempts have been fairly successful, despite the fact that many of the jobs given to local authorities, both under the 1949 and the 1981 Acts, have not been completed, not through any lack of desire but mainly for lack of adequate funding.

I have serious concerns about the funding for the Bill, especially as I feel that a well trained and qualified warden force will be essential to ensure that its provisions are observed by walkers and others. Even now the Government could reduce the workload significantly by removing some of the demands which will inevitably result following the decision to allow dogs to roam freely on access land. As the noble Viscount mentioned, the amendment puts a duty on the authority to appoint wardens where it considers it is "necessary" or "expedient". I hope that the Government will have regard to those two words.

The Local Government Association, which I am sure has written to many noble Lords, is particularly concerned about the funding of many aspects of the Bill. One such aspect is the provision of wardens. Perhaps I may quote from the Local Government Association's briefing: There are significant costs associated with these provisions. Many of the key local authority costs will be discretionary (wardening, access infrastructure, information provision). But in our view it is this type of investment which will be key to the success of the Bill's objectives". I could not put it better.

A number of individuals and well-known organisations have been in contact with Members of this House, particularly with regard to dogs. The wardening responsibilities in the Bill will reflect on dogs. During debates on earlier amendments we discussed the whole question of controlling dogs, particularly in areas such asthe Peak District National Park. We heard that dogs are kept on leads but are let off as soon as someone is around the corner. Difficulties then occur. As our debates have proceeded we have done our best to try to show the Government what needs to be done to ensure that the Bill works correctly. I do not know about other noble Lords but up to this point I certainly have had no communications asking me to support access for dogs. Indeed, there was no such proposal in the manifesto.

Wardening is crucial to the success of the Bill. Last week the House decided that night-time access will not be banned. As a result people will be wandering around in the dark and may get into difficulties. We also have the spectre of dogs not being sufficiently restricted and the consequent damage to livestock, wild fowl and wildlife. It is important that we have adequate wardening services. It should not be a matter of discretion. We believe that wardens should be appointed where it is necessary or expedient.

The Bill provides no criminal sanction for trespass and few restrictions on dogs. There is no real statutory requirement for the appointment of wardens. We want people to enjoy the countryside but, sadly, as we have said in the debates on the Bill, there are those who will not have respect for the restrictions set out in the Bill. If we do not put on the face of the Bill a statutory responsibility for the provision of wardening services, the Bill's provisions will be unenforceable. In those circumstances, people who would like to enjoy the countryside will have some of their enjoyment spoilt. I hope that noble Lords on all sides of the House will support the amendments, which are crucial if the Bill is to work. I support the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe.

Lord Hardy of Wath

My Lords, I am in favour of the appointment of wardens. I can think of a number of reasons for their appointment, one of which follows on from the comments of the noble Baroness. Lady Byford. I have already mentioned my honorary membership of the Kennel Club, although I should point out that I am expressing my own opinion and not, as far as I know, that of the club. I take the view that the proportion of responsible dog owners is much higher today than used to be the case. Last week I spelt out the reasons for that. Wardens could be useful in identifying, discouraging and deterring the minority of people who do not control their dogs properly. That would be a very good thing. It might persuade the Opposition Front Bench and the Government Front Bench that dogs are not necessarily vile and evil and that they are very good, not least in promoting human health. I would be a good deal less fit if I did not walk my dogs.

I have one question for my noble friend the Minister. I trust that it will not be one he does not like. Last week I suggested that the owner or occupier should be able to give permission to a responsible dog owner to let his dog off the lead for the purposes of training. My noble friend said that there was no need for the amendment because the agreement of the owner or occupier could be given tacitly or otherwise. In a situation where the owner had been given tacit approval by the owner or occupier, the warden would have to be sure of the position before he became enraged by the owner letting loose his dog. Can my noble friend tell me how the warden should be informed that the dog owner has the tacit permission of the owner or occupier to train his dog to come when he lets if off the lead and to stay when it is so ordered?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendment No. 92, which stands in my name. There is nothing I need add after what has been said today and what was said in Committee. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, I have rephrased the amendment to take account of comments made by noble Lords. I do not think that there is much between the noble Viscount's Amendment No. 91 and my Amendment No. 92. I think that it is very courteous of us to give the Government a choice of which one to accept.

Earl Peel

My Lords, perhaps I may offer the Minister another choice in speaking to Amendment No. 93, which stands in my name. When in Committee we discussed the issue of wardens, the Government seemed to be somewhat uncertain as to how they would resolve the matter. It was my impression that the Government were basically sympathetic to the principle of having wardens wherever it was desirable to have wardens but felt constrained by the likely financial implications. The argument was successfully made from all sides of the Chamber that if the authority considered it necessary or expedient to appoint wardens, it should be required to do so. It would be a dereliction of duty on behalf of the access authority to decide that wardens were needed and then not to appoint them.

It is worth pointing out that wardens do not need to be employed full-time by the authority. They could be part-time or they could be volunteers. That could go some way towards reducing the resource implications. However, as my noble friend Lady Byford said, if the Bill is to work and we are to reduce conflict, wardens will have an extremely important role as the interface between those who wish to come on to the land and enjoy access and the owners and occupiers who are responsible for the management of that land. My amendment simply requires that an access authority must appoint wardens once it has determined how many are needed. It is somewhat unsatisfactory to give the access authority the duty to determine the number of wardens but then no duty to appoint them.

Having said that, there is not a great deal between my amendment and the amendments of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and my noble friend Lord Caithness. I would be happy with any of the amendments. I sincerely hope that the Government will look sympathetically on them.

Lord Monro of Langholm

My Lords, I wish to make only a brief intervention. The warden system will be crucial to the impact of the Bill. We have heard about their training and so on. A warden's salary and the cost of any transport he will require will come to about £20,000 a year. But will access authorities be able to offer that kind of money? An access authority may need several wardens. If the power to appoint wardens is only discretionary, one can well see that a number of wardens will disappear like snow off a dike when the authority starts looking at the salary and transport implications of financing wardens, who will be crucial to the working of the Bill's provisions.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, as a landowner and manager, I know full well that when one goes to employ someone on the land one tends to get a good person if that person comes to the job knowing that it is a long-term job. The personcoming to the job will probably end up thoroughly skilled and well trained.

If the positions of wardens, whether they are part-time or full-time, are to be subject to annual budgetary reviews and thus become subject to other priorities within those budgets, then I foresee that those wardens on whom we would all wish to rely; namely, highly skilled and highly trained wardens, will probably not be forthcoming. They will apply only if they can be sure that their jobs will be long-term positions. I hope that the Minister will be able to move some way to deal with the concerns expressed by all noble Lords.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, was correct to say that he has drafted his amendment very carefully. I can confirm that I find it more appealing than the other amendments which have been tabled in this grouping. The noble Viscount has taken care to leave in place sufficient flexibility to enable the access authority to choose ways other than the direct appointment of wardens to solve the problems that may arise.

On these Benches, we believe that all the difficult issues on which we have held detailed discussions in Committee—night access, dogs and the enforcement of closures and restrictions—need to be managed. For that reason, I am pleased that the noble Viscount has been able to draft an amendment which provides enough flexibility for local authorities to choose how to put in place these necessary management tasks.

The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, said that the amendment, to which she has added her name, imposed a duty on local authorities to appoint wardens. However, I do not believe that the amendment does that. It imposes a duty on the authorities to take the necessary steps to manage the land, and that is why I find it more attractive than the other amendments tabled on this issue.

Access authorities operate under strict budgetary constraints and the ruling groups have to make difficult decisions at budget time. The fact that proper countryside management has already been practised by access authorities has, on occasion, been called into question by Members from all the Benches in this House. However, by putting it on to the face of the Bill, countryside management will become a valid reason for spending money. That duty will be extra to the duty of, for example, maintaining countryside roads. In the past, difficulties have arisen where countryside management has been perceived by the opposition party as an add-on—that may well have been the case as regards the county of which I am a member; namely, Somerset. Sometimes it is important to make it absolutely clear how essential is countryside management.

I have only one extremely small caveat. Indeed, when the noble Viscount introduced his amendment he said, Every access authority [or] district council", although his amendment refers to, "and district council". I query that only because I do not think that the county and national park and the district authority must take these steps. Much as we all agree on how necessary it will be to have wardens, that would represent something of an overkill. In these days of joint working and best value, I am sure that the access authority and district could agree between them the steps to be taken. I hope that the noble Viscount will accept that, when he spoke, he referred to "or". I feel that that would provide the better solution here. The matter should be settled by agreement between the different authorities.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, this is a case somewhat similar to that of model by-laws. We all agree on the fundamentals of what we want, but there may be disagreements about how to achieve them. Let us see if we can explore those differences.

Amendment No. 91 would require authorities, where they think it necessary or expedient, to appoint wardens or take other appropriate measures to achieve the purposes set out in subsection (2) of Clause 18. I should remind noble Lords that Clause 18(2) is subject to our Amendment No. 96 which has yet to be moved. The amendment will extend the scope of those purposes. As the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, pointed out, it would be a mistake to impose the duty on both access authorities and district councils. However, I do not think it would be sufficient only to refer to "or district councils". We shall need to go into the detail as regards agreements reached between the different authorities, which might be complicated. Nevertheless, as drafted, that is the scope of Amendment No. 91.

Amendment No. 92 would require authorities to ensure that access land is wardened where necessary or expedient. Amendment No. 93 would place a duty on authorities to appoint such numbers of wardens as appear to be necessary or expedient. Our starting point has always been that we want to see authorities being able to use discretion when appointing wardens. Given the interventions that have been made around the House, it is clear that, while noble Lords recognise the value of discretion, they do not think that that discretion goes far enough. Amendment No. 91 would retain some discretion, but I have already explained the difficulties with it.

Amendment No. 92 would retain a considerable amount of discretion. However, I fear that Amendment No. 93 would be considered by a court to require the appointment of at least some wardens. I do not think that that is what is wanted here. Clearly, certain district councils will have very little or even virtually no access land in their areas. Because of that, we could get into some difficulties with the wording of Amendment No. 93.

Between now and Third Reading I should like to talk about this with all noble Lords who have spoken on this matter. At the risk of embarrassing the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, I have to say that, if we are to achieve something along these lines, I tend more towards Amendment No. 92 than to the other two amendments. However, I hope that, when we discuss model by-laws, we shall have a chance to talk about this matter at the same time. I do not think that any fundamental disagreement exists between us here. We all see the value of wardens. Indeed, the Government would not have tabled their amendments to Clause 18 if the value of wardens was not clear. However, as matters stand, and given that the amendments are alternative rather than cumulative, I am not able to accept the wording in any of the amendments presently before the House.

Viscount Bledisloe

My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. I was interested to hear about the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath; namely, that most dog owners are responsible. However, in the presence of the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, I must remind him that there are spaniels who do run in.

The point behind our amendment is that wardens do not need to be full-time employees. Scope is offered for authorities to arrange matters as they like. The amendment does not seek to take away discretion from the authorities. They would have total discretion to do whatever they think is necessary or expedient. If they are considering only a small piece of land, they would be free to say that no warden was needed. Alternatively, they may decide that a part-time warden is required, and that the local farmer could be approached.

The only point we wish to change is that, when authorities have decided what it is necessary to do, they cannot then say, "We know that this is necessary, but we're not going to do it".

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I understand that point and I do not disagree with it. However, perhaps I may make a further point which is relevant to what the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, is saying here about part-time or voluntary wardens. This refers back to a point I neglected to make in response to the noble Lord, Lord Monro. A power to fund wardens, as is being proposed by the Government, may be more effective than a duty. That is because a "duty" suggests that funds for wardening should be included as a part of the normal revenue support grant. We want to be flexible about this. We would not wish to rule out the option of setting up a specific grant regime to cater for wardening and other items associated with management. Indeed, it may he that a specific grant regime would result in more wardens. That, again, is a matter that I should like to consider in any discussions that we may hold with all noble Lords who have proposed and spoken to these amendments.

Viscount Bledisloe

My Lords, I shall of course be delighted to take up the generous offer made by the noble Lord. I have no pride of authorship. If the noble Lord prefers the amendment tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, then the only difference between us is that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, prefers the wording of my amendment. But I am sure that we can come to some compromise. Provided that the Minister is, as I understand he is, saying, "Yes, we will do this, but we have to find a nice, tidy way of doing it", on that basis I will be delighted to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 92 and 93 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 94: Clause 18, page 10, line 44, at end insert— ("(1A) As respects access land in an area for which there is a local access forum, an access authority shall, before they first exercise the power under subsection (1) and thereafter from time to time, consult the local access forum about the exercise of that power.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned. In moving the Motion I suggest that the Report stage begin again not before 8.30 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.