HL Deb 03 October 2000 vol 616 cc1378-484

(" . The Secretary of State (as respects England) and the National Assembly for Wales (as respects Wales) shall, after consultation with local access fora and access authorities, issue guidance to the appropriate countrysidebodies with regard to the establishment and dissemination of a country code which shall include the rights and responsibilities of members of the public in the countryside.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment seeks to lay a duty on the Secretary of State to issue guidance to ensure that a country code is established and made widely known. At many points in our debates today Members of the Committee have referred to the need for a country code. As the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said earlier, education will be a vital and integral part of access. I have talked with groups from around the country—from user groups to landowners. The message that has come over clearly from all of them is the need for ongoing education and for a country code to become deeply embedded in the culture of all of those who use the countryside.

The first country code was introduced in 1951. Those Members of the Committee who grew up in the late 1950s and early 1960s will remember the country code. It was instilled into us as we went through school. Since then the link between what children learn in school and what happens in the countryside has been lost. One of the purposes of the amendment is to ensure that the national curriculum provides for the education of young people from an early age so that we do not again have a generation who do not understand what their rights and responsibilities in the countryside should be.

I spent the weekend at the conference of an organisation representing many of the European countries which have national parks. The representatives from France were particularly interesting. They presented the example of how France integrates into its national curriculum what its parks are doing. The French Government provide staff to liaise with the national parks so that national parks have staff to go out into schools and make the necessary links. It is not simply a question of having pieces of paper; it is a case of learning on the ground what is happening. The Countryside Agency might like to look at the French model. I understand that it has done a good deal of work in this area. Members of the Committee will have had the agency's briefing on how it intends to introduce a country code. It is very good but it needs further development so that it runs through all aspects of education. The code needs to be clear and simple and it needs to be everywhere. When the legislation comes into force the public will not understand it unless there is a clear explanation of where one can go for information and when.

One noble Lord referred earlier to Ministry of Defence land and the system of flags. The public already understand the idea of red flags, yellow flags and green flags. One sees them on beaches and on MoD land. That is the kind of idea that needs to be developed. We should divide the information into two categories. First, there needs to be short-term information about what is happening now. Indeed, the public are already confused about whether or not there is a right to roam. Secondly, we shall need long-term information of the kind I described earlier; namely, that which begins in school and continues all the way through the education process. Such information should utilise many different kinds of media, such as leaflets, the Internet and local newspapers, and should be circulated by the tourist boards and through the user groups who have made such a large contribution to the Bill.

An example of a campaign which was widely accepted and remembered by children who were exposed to it at the time was the Roland Rat campaign on litter. An extraordinary number of people well remember that campaign. It was extremely effective. Roland Rat said, "Don't litter, kids. Put it in the bin". I suggest to the Government that we need a clear campaign which perhaps centres around Victor Vole and Sally Skylark in order to deliver an appealing and immediate message covering people's rights and duties both towards landowners and towards wildlife. I beg to move.

11.15 p.m.

Earl Peel

I should like to support this amendment—

Lord Whitty

I hope that the noble Earl will forgive me for intervening. It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I indicated the Government's view as regards this amendment. However, I assure the Committee that I have little wish to curtail the debate.

I pointed out this clause earlier. I should like to take this opportunity to tell the Committee that we intend to bring forward on Report an amendment that will put on to the face of the Bill a specific duty on countryside bodies to ensure that the public and others are informed of their rights and responsibilities under the new right of access arrangements. A new country code is likely to form a key element of that exercise. Indeed, the noble Baroness referred to the work already begun by the Countryside Agency in this area.

As I said, I thought that it might be helpful to the debate if I made the position clear.

Earl Peel

I am delighted by the remarks made by the Minister. However, I should like to raise one point. While I very much welcome the amendment, nothing in it implies that such codes will be produced or made available. I believe that a duty should be put on the access authorities to produce such a code, having sought guidance from the Secretary of State. That represents a slight difference in emphasis from that in the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, but it is an important point. I should be grateful if the Minister could comment on my suggestion.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

Does the Minister agree that it would be wise to publish any new country code in more than one language? A great many foreign students and tourists visit this country and it will be important to produce such literature in several different languages.

Lord Glentoran

I, too, join in the support expressed for the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. It is an excellent proposal. If anything, I should like to attempt to take it a stage further, but in doing so I do not in any way wish to imply a criticism of the amendment as it stands.

I hope that we shall see local access forums in due course. Clearly they will represent a further area in which such education could take place. However, I believe that it would be tremendously helpful and of great comfort to those living in rural areas if the Department of Education demonstrated a degree of real and active joined-up government here. We should see a fine Bill coming from this House which will then be leapt upon by the Department of Education. It will ensure that formal education, including adult education in higher education institutions, makes available courses and teachers who can contribute positively to the education of everyone in the ways of the countryside and in the ways of our lovely wildlife. This presents a great opportunity for the Government to make a big splash as regards communicating the provisions of the Bill.

Lord Rotherwick

Like other noble Lords I, too, welcome the amendment. Does the Minister see the access authorities, who will issue guidance and disseminate information, as the appropriate vehicles for delivering other useful information to those who wish to access the countryside?

A particular example which came to mind is that, when closure notices are posted, it is important that people are made aware of them. It would not go down too well if people who wished to access the countryside in, say, Yorkshire, made the long journey from London only to arrive and then find that a closure had been imposed. Does the Minister think that this also would be a way of providing people with up-to-date information?

Lord Whitty

As we envisage it—and as I think the noble Baroness envisages it—we are talking about a country code which provides general information on responsibilities and rights within the countryside. The Countryside Agency already has an obligation under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act to produce a new country code and it is already working on that. In addition to the country code, a range of guidance and information leaflets on the scope of the new statutory right will be available for landowners, managers, walkers and other users. As to specific localised information, that would be worked on by the local access agency and the local access forum.

In this amendment we are dealing with general information and education. In response to the point raised about the DfEE, the agency intends to produce a range of educational material which will be closely linked to the national curriculum, as the noble Baroness requested. The DfEE angle will therefore be well locked in.

I take on board the point as to whether the code should be produced in a number of different languages. Given the nature of the Bill, it is clear that we should at least produce it in Welsh. I suspect that there may be a case for a wider translation as well. I take that point on board.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

I warmly welcome the Minister's reply and I thank him for it. I look forward to seeing the amendment that the Government will bring forward at Report stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 104: Page 49, line 19, at end insert— ("() removes any minerals, soil, peat or part of the land or any object from the land.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 104 seeks to extend Schedule 2, which deals with restrictions. This is a very important, albeit small, point which has been overlooked by the draftsmen. It completes the intention of paragraph 1(f), (g) and (k), which prevent the taking of animals, birds, fish, eggs, nests and plants and so on. The amendment seeks to prevent people from abusing the right to roam in order to take for their own purposes non-living features from access land. It completes the intention of paragraph 1(r), which precludes the engagement in commercial activities.

In many areas of the country, rock formations are defined as areas of geological interest and may not be hammered by geologists. We all know that there are many examples of rare and beautiful rock outcrops and stones lying around. As has been noted many times already, access land encompasses many of our SSSIs. This will include sites certified as such due to their non-living features. The amendment will underline the necessity of protecting these features to ensure that they are not damaged or altered in any way.

The use of peat for horticultural and fuel purposes is contentious, as frequently it is not a sustainable practice. The amendment will help to ensure that people do not cut peat for their own purposes, endangering sensitive and valuable sites. Coming from the country that I do, I have seen acres and acres and acres of lovely land laid to waste by the commercial exploitation of peat. That is the last thing we want to happen in England and Wales.

Amendment No. 105 ties up a number of loose ends. First, and most importantly, it deals with the problem of litter, something that many occupiers are concerned about, having seen the state of many of our public rights of way and knowing the problems experienced by national parks.

Secondly, the amendment is intended to protect land management interests. If a group of walkers left their picnic while walking up a hillside, it could be eaten by cattle or cause race-horses on gallops—which, as we now know, will not be access land—to shy, putting their riders at risk.

Thirdly, the amendment would provide reassurance to land managers. It saddens me that such specific provision is necessary. Over the summer, we were all horrified to learn that in August a bomb had been planted in a wall in the Gloucestershire countryside. By preventing people from leaving any items on access land, we can avoid undue concern on the part of land managers.

It may be thought that Amendment No. 106 is a rather different and strange provision. Nevertheless, I feel that it is relevant: Page 40, line 19, at end insert … '() has with him any solvent or inflammable gas for the purpose of inhaling the said solvent or gas'". It is not illegal to possess or inhale solvents or inflammable gas. The Bill is unprecedented in that it allows access to private property. The purpose of the amendment, therefore, is to prevent an activity which, despite being technically within the law, would be condemned and abhorred by the overwhelming majority of the public. It is beyond the realms of decency to allow such a practice, albeit rarely indulged, to be partaken of on someone's private property in the country.

These are small amendments, but they are very serious ones. I hope that the Minister will take them as such. I beg to move.

The Duke of Montrose

My Amendment No. 121 is in this group. The Bill as presently drafted imposes a restriction on anyone who, engages in any activity which is organised or undertaken … for any commercial purpose". I seek to add the words "or military" before the word "purpose".

My amendment is aimed merely at retaining the status quo so far as the military are concerned. The Armed Forces presently have clear procedures which in my experience are properly and sensitively carried out at any time when it is proposed that a military exercise should take place on private ground.

Many military exercises involve more than walking, but some involve merely uniformed men with equipment, which might include weapons. It will be clearer for those all through the ranks if it is understood that their personal right to roam does not extend to their military activities.

I was anxious in case my amendment might appear hostile to military activity. That is the last thing that I mean and if it is necessary to state it in legislation, it should be stated that permission should not be unreasonably withheld.

I took the precaution of speaking to a friend of mine who spent his life in the Army and who has had responsibility in one of the major training areas. He could see no threat in my proposal and could well understand my argument.

The military are protected under the Bill on their own ground under Schedule 1, excepting areas whose use is regulated under the Military Lands Acts of 1892 and 1900. The amendment seeks merely to put in place the other side of the coin in regard to private property.

Viscount Bridgeman

I support the amendment in the name of my noble friend the Duke of Montrose. On the whole, the military have an impeccable record of observing the regulations for obtaining permission to enter private land. But misunderstandings and ignorance of the regulations may well occur from time to time; and there may be some grey areas—as, for instance, when the military are taking part in a charitable event on private land and almost by accident that drifts into more serious military training.

The relations between the military and owners of property are on the whole extremely good. For that reason, if for no other, it is essential that it is noted on the face of the Bill that the military are excluded from the rights conferred under Clause 2. As my noble friend noted, the procedure that is already in place for application for access to private land should continue to apply.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Jopling

I am sorry to keep droning on to the Committee about the situation in my former constituency in the Lake District and the region surrounding it, but I am particularly keen to express my support for Amendment No. 104 because it reminds me of an event which occurred during the proceedings on a similar Bill back in 1978 or 1979. I believe that I was the first person within this building to propose preservation orders for what are called "limestone pavements".

In that part of the north-west of England there are some of the most majestic pieces of scenery. I have in mind places like Orton Scar, which is just to the south of Appleby, where there are long tracks of these limestone pavements. You get more of those in the region of Ingleton. In the Pennines you get even more spectacular ones around Burton in Kendal. I hope that the Minister will tell us that there is already sufficient provision on the statute book to protect all limestone pavements. I feel extremely strongly about the importance of preserving these magnificent pieces of our geology.

In fact, I am told by people who sell stones for rockeries that the material that makes up limestone pavements is extremely valuable. Continually over the years—it was certainly so on Orton Scar—one found people going out in the dead of night to hack up the limestone paving, load it onto trailers, take it away and sell it in the urban areas for vast amounts of money. It really spoilt those wonderful features of our uplands.

I suspect that the law already protects limestone pavements, but I should be most obliged if the Minister could give us an assurance in his response that this provision is unnecessary as far as concerns limestone pavements. I should add that I am not talking about peat or soil; I am talking about this particular feature. It may, of course, be necessary for other reasons as expressed in the terms of the amendment. However, I am only concerned about a small part of it. Perhaps the Minister could give me that assurance.

Lord Marlesford

I should like to say a few words about Amendment No. 105 tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord Glentoran which refers to anyone who, leaves any item, whether or not he has an intention to return to it I understand that this refers to litter, which is one of biggest problems that could arise from granting extended access. I should be rather surprised if this amendment relates to the only way in which the Bill seeks to deal with the potential problem of litter. I hope that the Minister will tell us whether or not that is so.

I, too, looked through the Bill to see how litter would be dealt with and could find no mention of it. However, it is possible that I missed it and that litter is dealt with in another part. It does not appear to come under Schedule 2. It is an offence to leave litter in a public place, but I do not believe that private land would be regarded as a "public place". I hope that the Minister will answer that point. If that is the case, all this amendment would do is to provide that people are not allowed to leave litter when they have access to private land. It would not make it an offence to do so.

In a way, this returns us to the amendment tabled by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, regarding getting people's names. I did not have sympathy with the idea that he should be able to obtain the name of someone merely because that person was on his land if he was there perfectly legally in accordance with an Act of Parliament. However, there are circumstances in which it is not good enough merely to ask someone to leave if they have done something wrong without knowing their name. I suggest that litter is a real problem, and not just in the countryside, although we are concerned with the countryside tonight. I hope that the Minister will say how the Government propose to deal with the problem of litter which could arise as a consequence of this legislation.

Lord Greaves

I support in general terms and with great enthusiasm what the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, said about limestone pavements, or clints and grykes, as they are usually known in Yorkshire. They are one of the glories of the landscape of the north of England, as everyone will appreciate who knows Malham and Hutton Roof in Westmorland. I am not sure that those areas are relevant to the Bill, but they need to be mentioned.

If the Government wish to consider seriously Amendments Nos. 104 and 105, I should want to discuss with them the implications for rock climbing. Both the amendments may have technical implications for normal climbing practices. For example, I refer to the removal of loose rock from rock faces. Sometimes climbers leave behind bits of ironmongery in the rock. That practice should perhaps be deplored, but it is, nevertheless, a fairly routine rock climbing practice.

Will the Minister repeat the assurances that I believe were given by Ministers in another place with regard to what Schedule 2 actually means? I believe there has been much confusion—at least, I hope that there has—about that. If I have understood it correctly, it does not ban any of the activities set out in paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 as such. However, the criminal offences mentioned in paragraph 1(d) are obviously already deemed to be such and are therefore banned under other legislation. However, as I say, Schedule 2 does not make any of the activities listed criminal offences or seek to ban them as such.

As I understand the position, Schedule 2 withdraws the right of access as given by the Bill from anyone carrying out any of the activities—assuming they are legal—unless the owners of the land in question consent to them. For example, neither bathing in any non-tidal water nor camping nor paragliding are made illegal or banned in any water if the owners of the land in question give their consent to them. I understand that if anyone carries out such activities without the landowner's consent, the latter withdraws that person's right of access to the land. Have I understood the position correctly? I believe that Mr Meacher gave that assurance in another place. If I am correct in my understanding of the position, will the Minister repeat that assurance in this Chamber as it is crucial to the working of the Bill and to the meaning of Schedule 2?

There is a widespread view that Schedule 2 seeks to ban the activities listed in it on the land that we are discussing. It would be ludicrous, for example, to ban camping and to prevent a landowner from allowing people to camp on his land. As I understand the position, the schedule affects the right of access but does not otherwise ban these activities. It is open to landowners and people who wish to carry out these activities—provided that they are not otherwise illegal—to reach a private agreement to enable them to take place.

Lord Kimball

I support Amendment No. 105. The issue does not relate only to limestone pavings but to loose rocks in other parts of the world. People seem to believe that they can load up their car with various rocks in order to improve their rock garden.

Will the Minister also bear in mind the problem with regard to peat cutting? When foreign tourists see someone cutting peat, they load the boot of their car with a large amount as part of the extra trophy they take with them. I shall be grateful if the Minister will confirm that both items are covered.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 sets out a number of activities which we believe should fall clearly outside the lawful exercise of the right of access to open country and registered common land. Breach of any of these restrictions will result in the loss of the statutory right. The restrictions are derived from the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 with some modification—for instance, to include hang-gliding and paragliding. As a result of a government amendment tabled on Report in another place, the list also includes the commission of any criminal offence.

I shall take the amendments in numerical order, with some exceptions where it makes more sense to respond to an amendment in conjunction with another on a similar theme. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, raised the general principle. He is correct with regard to his description of the purpose and effect of Schedule 2 which sets out activities which are not within the right of access. It is open to any landowner to perm it these activities to take place on his land by permission and that excludes those which are criminal offences. So there are two categories. But that which is legal, with permission, can still be carried out.

With regard to dropping litter, the lands affected by public access will be treated as a public place for the purpose of the litter offence.

Lord Marlesford

Before the noble Baroness leaves that point, is there provision in the Bill for it to be so treated? Alternatively, is it merely based on the fact that the noble Baroness states that from the Dispatch Box and the courts will have to take note of what she says? I should be happier if the provision were on the face of the Bill.

11.45 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I understand that the Bill as drafted deals with the matter in the way that the noble Lord seeks. Were I to be wrong, I should write to the noble Lord and confirm the details. But that is my understanding.

Amendment No. 104 covers a number of activities which fall within the scope of the new restriction in paragraph 1(d) relating to the commission of any criminal offence. Removal of minerals, soil, peat or part of the land or anything on it would generally be a criminal offence. Even where the landowner did not wish to press charges or seek the assistance of the police, the user would still lose the right of access and may be rendered a trespasser.

The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, and the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, referred to the issue of limestone pavements. It is important to remember that such action would be theft. There could be a direction excluding access or a by-law to deal with the issue. There is specific protection for limestone pavements through orders that can be made under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Clause 69 increases the maximum fine to £20,000.

Amendment No. 105, would cover anyone who left any item, regardless of whether they intended to return to it. I understand the gravity of the problem of litter, both visually and in terms of danger to livestock, but I do not believe that those who tabled the amendment would want it to go so far as to prevent people leaving a heavy rucksack so that they could climb to an access point or to cause someone to lose the right of access if they returned for a thermos flask, for example, which they had left behind.

The offence of leaving litter under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 will apply to access land, which will be treated as public open space for that purpose. We shall return to that on a later amendment.

Amendment No. 106 would add the taking on to land of solvents with the intention to inhale. I have been closely involved with the education service for many years and I understand the concern raised by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. The abuse of solvents is not a criminal offence, but on access land it might well be in breach of existing regulations on conduct likely to disturb or annoy others engaged in legitimate activities on the land.

Paragraph (1)(o) restricts the intimidation or obstruction of persons engaged in any lawful activity on access land. Amendments Nos. 116 and 117 would omit any reference to "persons" in that restriction. I can only assume that the intention of the amendments is to make certain that activities such as the setting of traps for vermin are included, even though the person involved may not be present at all times. However, I am assured and can therefore assure your Lordships, that the restriction will cover such activities, even if the person is at the time sitting at home hoping that the trap will spring while they are watching television.

The noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, referred to military training. Troops who engage in outdoor recreation for their own amusement or pleasure will be able to exercise their right of access. However, we believe that military training would not fall within the category of open-air recreation and so could not be undertaken within the right of access. The Secretary of State for Defence will continue to negotiate with landowners for permission to use land for military training.

We have considered carefully which activities should be included in Schedule 2. It is important that the restrictions are straightforward and appropriate to the circumstances so that they are easily understood, while making sure that they cover harmful activities. By including the generic provision on criminal offences, we have ruled out a number of activities that have been proposed in amendments. Other activities need not be covered, because they would not fall within the definition of open-air recreation, or are covered by other restrictions. I hope that your Lordships agree that the restrictions in the Bill sufficiently define the scope of the right and will not feel it necessary to press the amendments.

Lord Monson

Before the noble Baroness sits down, I accept what she says about Amendments Nos. 104 and 105, and possibly some of the others, but she was uncertain about Amendment No. 106. She said that solvent abuse was not criminal and she was not sure whether it would be covered. Therefore, what is the harm in incorporating Amendment No. 106 into the Bill in order to make that absolutely certain?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

It is quite possible, for example, that someone who walks across land, exercising their right of access, may be carrying camping equipment. Butane is a popular fuel for camping stoves. It is not illegal to carry or possess the solvents; the point is whether there is an intention to inhale. That is very difficult to define in terms of the legislation.

It is my experience that, even in parts of Lancashire which are very close to rural areas, young people who become caught up in that tragic activity seldom walk anywhere but tend to hide in urban areas. I hope that noble Lords will accept that we, too, view that as extremely serious but do not feel that this type of amendment would help.

Lord Glentoran

I thank the noble Baroness for those explanations. In doing so, I accept that the activity referred to in Amendment No. 104 would be included as a criminal act. I look to her to nod, which she does. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 105 and 106 not moved.]

The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 107: Page 49, line 22, leave out ("or sailboard") and insert (", other than a canoe, kayak, sailboard, dinghy, skiff or other manually propelled craft, all of which can be carried to the water.").

The noble Earl said: This amendment is grouped with Amendments Nos. 110 and 114 and relates to boats, bathing and gates. I declare an interest in that I am a vice-president of the Scottish Canoe Association. I held a summer mountain leadership certificate and, of course, I am a landowner in Scotland.

Amendment No. 107 has been tabled to explore why the Bill is silent on access to inland water. On the face of it, the amendment would allow the use of boats which are carried by people to the water without the aid of a trailer, trolley or sled. The boat would not touch the ground and only footprints would be left, as they would be by any walker. Once on the water, such a lightweight craft would leave no evidence of its passage, being propelled by wind or paddle.

However, I wish to explore this matter a little further. At Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said that the Bill did not deal with access to inland water. Elsewhere I have read that the Government have found other difficulties with regard to access to inland water. I should like to ask whether the difficulties are related to the broad activity of boating or access over land in order to reach the launch site, which would be a problem of riparian ownership, or whether the difficulties lie in the complicated legal problem regarding ownership of the water itself.

I believe that in England and Wales ownership of the solum of a river or lake extends to the water above it, whereas in Scotland the solum may be owned but not the water itself. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, can explain which of those reasons is relevant to the exclusion of access to inland water as regards the Bill.

I turn to Amendment No. 110, which is rather more straightforward. It seeks to delete the exclusion of bathing in non-tidal water. That restriction seems to be rather unreasonable, at least when tested against the question: what harm can it do? For that reason, I believe that it should be deleted. But then again, I want to explore the reasons for its exclusion. Can the noble Lord explain to the Committee what lies behind the exclusion? Is it fear of drowning and subsequent liability claims or fear of nudity or disturbance to fish, or is it part of the difficult-to-identify legal process of the ownership in England and Wales?

I already discount any suggestion that bathing in inland waters will do any damage to the water, even if the danger of unwashed bodies may lead to pollution. Such pollution would be very slight, especially when contrasted with the effect of atmospheric pollution or pollution carried into the water by drainage from adjacent land.

There is also a mountain safety issue here. It may be that an over-heating and dehydrating walker would benefit from a quick immersion in water. The Bill would be foolish to make that illegal.

The Committee will be pleased to know that Amendment No. 114 has nothing to do with water. It has the purpose of clarifying the Bill's provisions about gates on access land. Whereas the Bill refers to closing gates unless, it is reasonable to assume that a gate is intended to be left open", the amendment provides that all gates should be closed unless there is a notice affixed to it saying that the gate should be left open.

The problem in the Bill is that it does not deal with the situation where a gate which was intended to be closed was left open by a previous walker. The amendment resolves that problem by requiring a notice to indicate how a gate should be left. It also encourages, obliquely, the provision of stiles adjacent to gates.

The success of this Bill in granting a right of access will be judged by the amount of disturbance that is experienced by those who work in the countryside. Clearly, the aim must be to minimise the disturbance and this amendment will deliver some minimisation. I beg to move.

Earl Peel

It may not surprise the Committee to know that I robustly oppose the amendments. I deal first with Amendment No. 107. Apart from the potential interference into water areas, which are quite clearly in many cases of enormous importance to wildlife sanctuaries, it would be a great pity if many of those inland waterways, which provide a tremendous sense of tranquillity which is much appreciated by walkers, were to be littered with canoes, kayaks, sailboards, dinghies, skiffs and other sorts of boating craft. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will strongly resist that amendment.

As regards Amendment No. 110, we must not lose sight of the fact that in general many lakes, streams and waterways are water supplies. They supply farms, dwelling houses and holiday cottages. There are still quite a number of dairy farms—unfortunately, not too many—on the edge of those areas which require clean water in order to abide by various regulations.

On Amendment No. 114, I dread to think what members of the farming fraternity would have to say if they were told that they had to put up a sign on a gate if they wished it to be kept closed at all times. I suggest that it should be left for the farmer to decide whether or not he wishes to put up a sign. It seems to me that that is by far and away the most sensible way to deal with that particular suggestion.


Baroness Young of Old Scone

I could join with the noble Earl, Lord Peel, in urging the Minister not to accept this amendment on two counts. The noble Earl has already mentioned the issue of the disproportionate disturbance that swimming or manually propelled boats can have on these often rather isolated inland waters where water birds have found sanctuary as they are unable to do in many other bodies of water. There is a conservation issue and I would be interested to hear whether the Minister shares that view.

There is a more fundamental issue here. We are trying to promote a Bill that is about access and quiet enjoyment of the countryside. I was trying to envisage the prospect of quantities of people carrying skiffs, boats and other manually propelled objects across the countryside. Somehow swimming and boating, particularly in remote upland waters, does not seem to gel with the idea of quiet enjoyment and recreation. Having breached the list of exclusions in Schedule 2 for this reason, I suspect that there will be grounds for looking at many of the other things that are excluded in Schedule 2 as being disruptive. This is the thin end of the wedge so I hope that the Minister will reject this amendment.

The Earl of Caithness

Does the noble Baroness agree, given her concern for the protection of these isolated bodies of water, that the mere presence of human beings near such water will be enough to drive off any wildfowl that are there?

Baroness Young of Old Scone

I hesitate to play ping-pong across the Committee, but disturbance on the shores of larger bodies of water is not necessarily hugely disturbing, but having boats and people swimming in the water is disturbing.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

When noble Lords play ping-pong over my head I suspect that that may indicate that the Government have almost achieved the correct balance. Amendment No. 107 would provide that the use of manually propelled vessels, as the noble Earl said, such as canoes and dinghies, would not fall within the list of restricted activities in Schedule 2.

At this point I should declare an interest as Vice-President of the Lancashire Scouts. Therefore I am committed to extending access to activities such as canoeing. To noble Lords who have commented on the fact that such activities, particularly when practised by young people, are not always quiet, I can say only that in my experience I could not agree more.

We thought hard about what restrictions on access to include in the Bill. Our first priority was to meet the clear demand for more access for walkers. We took advice from the Countryside Agency and the Countryside Council for Wales on what other activities to include. Both recommended a more vigorous use of existing mechanisms, such as voluntary agreements for extending access to land adjoining canals and waterways. We would expect much to be achieved by a similar approach to activities on water which lies within access land.

We have already started to promote voluntary access in a number of areas. The Environment Agency has published a guide to developing voluntary agreements. The booklet, which was produced in conjunction with the Angling and Canoeing Liaison Group, provides information for all parties who are seeking to achieve new access for canoeists.

In addition to that, the department has recently issued an updated code of practice on conservation, access and recreation for the Environment Agency and for water and sewerage companies. The code gives practical guidance to those bodies on their access and recreational duties, including the availability of water for recreational pursuits such as those mentioned by the noble Earl when moving the amendment.

We also introduced amendments to the Bill during Report in another place so as to retain on the statute book Part V of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, which provides a mechanism for local authorities to secure area access to canal and riversides by agreement, or in default of agreement, by compulsion. Those powers can also be used to provide access over water for users of canoes and other unpowered craft.

The powers of compulsion in Part V have been used very rarely, and we do not expect that they will be used much more frequently in future. But they can be useful where local authorities would otherwise find it very difficult to secure access agreements.

We are not complacent but, where there are problems, we think more will be achievable using existing and proposed powers. Following useful discussions with representatives of those with an interest, we are considering further what steps should be taken to investigate and remedy any problems. We expect to make an announcement shortly.

So we believe that the extension of the right of access to unpowered craft, as proposed by the noble Earl's amendment, would go well beyond the careful balance of the Bill and I am pleased to support the points raised by the noble Earl, Lord Peel. However, I hope that both noble Earls will accept that we are committed to using other mechanisms to ensure that we can achieve a real increase in access for users of canoes and other such craft.

I have some sympathy with Amendment No. 110, moved by the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, and with the point of view that, where activities do not cause damage, we should not seek to restrict them. The amendment would allow bathing in waters on access land. But the new right is intended to provide for only the most modest forms of open air recreation, principally walking. That is part of the balance underlying Part I of the Bill between the interests of the public and the rights of the landowner.

Unlike the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, and along with the noble Earl, Lord Peel, the Government are not convinced that bathing is always harmless. As the noble Earl, Lord Peel, said, upland watercourses can sometimes provide an untreated water supply to isolated dwellings. As my noble friend Lady Young of Old Scone said, bathing may cause disturbance to some wading birds such as the common sandpiper. I cannot speak for the Government on the issue of the fear of nudity. All I can say is that I have reached the age where it is a spectator sport that I find most pleasant, rather than a participatory sport.

We do not see bathing as part of the statutory right. However, I can reassure the noble Earl once again that, where the landowner is in agreement and existing access rights are granted by the landowner, we do not expect that toleration to cease in future. Those in breach of restrictions under Schedule 2 to the Bill will lose that statutory right. But it is a matter for the landowner to decide whether or not to permit extensions of such permission. Nothing in the Bill makes a contravention of any restriction a criminal offence where there is agreement all round.

Turning to Amendment No. 114, we have provided in the Bill that anyone who leaves a gate open will be in breach of the restrictions, except where it is reasonable to assume that the gate should be left open. Again, I cannot agree with the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, and I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Peel, that it would be wiser and would impose less hassle on landowners and managers and be reasonably practicable, for users to follow the proposals in the Bill. It is easy to make clear when a gate should be left open and when it should be closed. A loop of bailer twine tying back the gate should make it perfectly obvious that the gate should be left open.

I believe I have covered all the points raised. If I have failed to cover any, I shall write to Members of the Committee.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

I am tempted to say that my attempts to include water sports have been sunk without trace; or at least suffered broadsides from both sides of the Chamber, which is better than some of my amendments achieved in the past.

I accept what the Government and the noble Earl, Lord Peel, say about the gates amendment. I am pleased to hear that bathing can still take place if the landowner agrees. As regards water sports, I was pleased to see that the Great Britain team won a gold medal for canoeing but I cannot see that access to rivers in England and Wales helped a great deal. We are asked to seek voluntary agreements for access and I understand that in England and Wales 2 per cent of canoeable water is available. Therefore, England and Wales do not strike me as being serious about canoeing, a sport at which we do well. I am unhappy about the view that canoeists and other small boaters are disruptive. It is possible to carry out the activities silently and not disrupt everything.

Legislation was promised but that promise has evaporated. That is true for England and Wales, and the Scottish Executive is having the same problem. However, the Minister made several positive comments which I did not fully understand. I shall attempt to do so when I read Hansard, when it is eventually published, and in the mean time beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 108: Page 49, line 23, leave out ("other than a dog").

The noble Baroness said: If Amendment No. 108 is passed dogs will not be permitted on access land. Should the right of access for walkers also be a right of access for dogs? I do not believe that at any stage during the introduction of the Bill it was intended to give a right of access to dogs.

I should first declare an interest as a dog owner. Customarily, dogs have long been taken on public roads and other public rights of way across access land and no one would want to interfere with that arrangement. However, why should dogs, like their owners, be able to wonder off rights of way on to mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land?

In considering what rights should be extended to dogs on open country, off roads and other rights of way which cross open country, it is important to consider the damage that they can do to other interests in terms of worrying livestock which can lead to the deaths of ewes and lambs and cause ewes to abort. It can also lead to different flocks being mixed up, especially the hefty flocks on unenclosed hillsides.

Furthermore, game and wildlife are disturbed. Without exception, those involved in managing wild game regard the presence of dogs as a major problem. They can disturb birds in their nests or attack them. When the nests are abandoned, even temporarily, eggs or chicks may die from exposure or be at risk from predation by other animals.

Animal health must be considered. Dog faeces can harbour parasites and pathogens which can affect livestock. As regards human health, dog faeces can pose a risk to walkers, especially to children, from parasites such as toxocara. The loss of sheep, especially from livestock wandering alone, amounts to many thousands of pounds each year. NFU figures for 1999 showed an 8 per cent increase in the livestock worrying taking place, at a cost of some £2 million to farmers. And that is without the right to roam.

The problem is widespread but it is felt particularly close to towns and villages. Far too many people recognise that even the friendliest, best behaved dog can run amok among livestock. People often believe that when a dog chases sheep it is just playing, but I can assure the Committee that sheep do not view it in that way. Unfortunately, they abort and there can be other repercussions on unborn lambs. The presence of dogs on access land is likely to exacerbate any problems relating to the behaviour of the users and to give rise to further new problems, including the disturbance of livestock and wildlife. Again I mention my visit to the RSPB centre Minsmere yesterday. No dogs are allowed on their land. It was one of the matters as to which they particularly highlighted their worries. They were worried about dogs disturbing ground nesting birds and also birds resting on grassland.

A total ban would be important not only to protect the game birds, which provide an important base for the economy in some areas, but also to protect bird populations on land which is often designated as SSSIs, if not also as of international importance for its bird populations.

A requirement that dogs should be on leads on such land will not be enough to safeguard these bird populations. I do not know if the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, is in her place but perhaps she would like to contribute to this debate.

Considering the problems caused by dogs and the range of organisation from which these problems are reported, it seems logical to reach the conclusion that there should be a total ban. It is also widely accepted that this would solve many of the disturbance issues associated with livestock. Losses by farmers are on the increase. As I have already said, there does not appear to be a real case for granting dogs the right of access.

I have quoted the NFU figures. In the debate in the other place, Mr Nicholas Soames said in Standing Committee at col. 264 on 11th April that he had not heard from any representative body who wanted dogs to have access to access land. Nor, indeed, have I. Maybe other noble Lords have.

The National Gamekeepers' Organisation strongly opposes the suggestion that dogs be allowed on access land at any time. I suspect that other noble Lords will speak to that.

In its submission, English Nature welcomes the proposal that dogs should be kept on leads from February to July inclusive. But it is aware that there are some instances where this will not be sufficient to safeguard the wildlife interest, particularly on some highly sensitive areas on moorland and heath. It wonders whether, on these particular sites, the provisions for exclusion and restrictions for nature conservation reasons under Clause 24 will be sufficient. Perhaps the Minister would comment on that.

It is difficult to know what to do. This first amendment in the series of amendments is the mainstay of the "No dogs on access land" proposals. It is to that that I have spoken. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of the Committee (Lord Brougham and Vaux)

I must inform the Committee that if Amendment No. 108 is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 109.

Lord Whitty

In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, it may be helpful if I briefly set out the Government's view on this group and the three other groups of amendments which deal with dogs.

I say at the outset that I am not attracted by the blanket ban proposed in the amendment, or indeed by any other amendment which has so far been tabled, except, of course, for the Government's own amendment which comes in the next group.

The Government do, however, recognise that they may have to go further than that amendment in view of the widespread concern to which the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, referred. Therefore it is the intention of the Government to look at ways in which we can deal with the impact of dogs on sheep, game birds, ground nesting birds and other wildlife.

The Government believe that a more targeted approach than the approach proposed for the restriction of dogs may well be the right one and it is therefore intended that the Government will come forward at Report stage, taking account of this debate, with a package of further and stronger controls. I hope that that will help the debate.

Earl Peel

I am grateful to the Minister for his response which helps to concentrate the mind and does not delay the debate for too long. It is all very well to talk about dogs on leads which are under control. Recently a test was carried out in the Peak District and it was found that, despite an active campaign in the park to encourage dog owners on access land to keep their animals under control, unfortunately the majority (60 per cent) let them off the lead.

I do not repeat the observations of my noble friend. The Minister understands only too well the economic damage caused by dogs, including damage to wildlife. I hope that the Minister will take that important point into account. Even if on the face of the Bill there are restrictions on dogs, there is a real danger that people will ignore them. We return inevitably to sanctions in relation to dogs with which we shall deal at a later stage. I firmly believe that unless there are criminal sanctions on people who ignore the regulations the whole exercise will be a waste of time.

My noble friend's amendment would ban dogs from access areas. However, I draw to the attention of the Committee that paragraph 6(1) of Schedule 2 contains powers of derogation. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, has told me that there are a number of areas where traditionally dogs have been allowed access. This derogation will allow those areas to continue to grant access to dogs if it is thought appropriate to do so. There is an opt-out under this amendment to which I hope the Government will give serious consideration. My main point, however, is that unless there are proper sanctions people will not adhere to the regulations on dogs and all of the difficulties identified in previous debates on the Bill will be manifested to a far greater extent. More than anything else, dogs concern those who live and work on and manage this land. I hope that the Minister will take that into account.

The Duke of Montrose

Given the very helpful approach that the Minister appears to adopt to this subject, I would have liked to support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lady Byford. I spoke earlier to Amendment No. 52 in relation to disturbance to sheep and I shall not repeat that. However, there was one element at the end about disturbance to fattened lambs. I believe that that point is relevant here. Disturbance by people is one matter; disturbance caused by a dog is of much greater importance. I have with me a copy of a report published by the Danish Ministry of Energy and Environment in 1998 on research into the effect of disturbance on roe-deer. That report probably has some relevance to disturbance of wildlife as a whole.

The two factors which govern the amount of access that can be tolerated by wildlife are obvious: the density of the cover and the public voluntarily restricting their access to known footpaths. Those two elements are in some ways the opposite of what we are considering in this Bill. The situation with which the amendment is concerned is access to areas where there is very little cover and the possibility that people wander at will. In the absence of our own relevant research, the Danish study gives an indication of the issues that we should address. That research was carried out on a 200-hectare wood visited by 30,000 people a year. Six roe-deer were fitted with heart monitors and miniature radio transmitters. It was found that when the disturbance was caused by a visitor on a known roadway a small increase in the pulse rate occurred. When the disturbance resulted in flight the increase in heartbeat was the same as when the deer were disturbed by a pedestrian who was not following a pathway. It was about 15 times higher than in an encounter that did not result in flight.

The distance the animal travelled after being disturbed was dependent on the season and the thickness of the cover. Having gained cover after the disturbance, the animal would rest for a while and finally resume grazing. The average duration that that would take would be one hour and 22 minutes, during which time no food was consumed. The additional energy consumption of the animal during that effort was reckoned to require it to eat an extra 0.6 kilograms of food. That represented an addition of 18 per cent of its normal daily intake. If merely body reserves were being considered, it could take it some time to make up what it had lost.

The Ramblers' Association in their submissions say that in countries where there is greater access to the countryside than in Britain there is no evidence of correspondingly greater damage to wildlife and to the environment. That assessment is dependent on the levels of wildlife in those countries before the assessment was taken. Most other countries in Europe would be most jealous of the level of wildlife in the areas we are talking about now.

Given that those are findings which could be observed in a fairly busy forest, there must be some correspondence with what shepherds have observed with their sheep and the lack of thriving in lambs if they are more regularly disturbed.

Baroness Young of Old Scone

I am grateful to the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, for his Danish precedents. I hope that this is not a sign that we have to follow the Danes in everything they do.

I am also grateful to the Minister for indicating that he will consider a stronger package of measures for dealing with dogs. I do not envy him the task of coming to the conclusion on what the appropriate package of measures will be. There is no doubt that disturbance to wildlife by dogs is greater than disturbance to wildlife by people. That is borne out by the limited research information that there is.

An amendment that seeks to have no dogs on access land might be the ideal one, but can it be justified? I am not sure that that kind of blanket restriction can be. An alternative would be for dogs to be on leads at all times on access land. That has the virtue of being simple and readily understandable by people. The noble Earl, Lord Peel, made the point that the evidence is that even though people keep their dogs on leads for a short time they eventually let them off. Therefore, I am not sure that even that simple remedy of having dogs on leads at all times will work.

Earl Peel

Does the noble Baroness agree that the very presence of a dog on access areas at certain times of the year can actually cause a disturbance? We want to distinguish between the two, because they are both important.

Baroness Young of Old Scone

I am not sure that the research information is sufficiently detailed to allow us to distinguish between whether the presence of a dog with someone or a dog running free is the issue. Whatever conclusions the Minister reaches, the absolute bottom line has to be better than what is currently in the Bill. Certainly, in terms of the breeding season, to have the breeding season end in June is inadequate. A government amendment extends that to July. That would be an absolute minimum. In my view it is not sufficiently extensive to protect wildlife from disturbance by dogs. That is probably the biggest cause of concern for the conservation bodies in relation to the Bill.

I should like the Minister to take account of another point in his package. I refer to dogs on rights of way across access land. There is an inconsistency. It will be confusing if dogs do not need to be on leads on rights of way but simply under close control. We know that close control is often not close control. We should seek consistency by making sure that the provision for dogs on access land applies to rights of way across access land.

The Earl of Caithness

When the Minister is considering his package, will he look at the possible definitions of "vicinity" and "livestock", which he will find in sub-paragraph (5) of Schedule 2? To follow up what was said by my noble friend the Duke of Montrose—my noble friend Lord Peel will know this well—different types of livestock will react differently to dogs. The Swaledale sheep will react in certain conditions far more rigorously than lowland sheep. The effect on them will be much more noticeable. Thus the question of the vicinity of the dog to livestock is important and also what is meant by "livestock".

12.30 a.m.

Viscount Bledisloe

I have tabled various amendments on this topic. However, in the light of the Minister's observations, there seems to be no point in pursuing them in detail, particularly as we do not know what the noble Lord will come back with.

I wish to make two brief points. First, I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Earl, Lord Peel., that the mere presence of dogs undoubtedly disturbs animals, birds and wildlife to a wholly different extent to a walker on his own. One sees the difference when someone on his own walks through a flock of sheep, walks by some young cattle or walks past birds. The disturbance is nothing compared with what happens when a dog is present, however firmly it may be on a lead.

Secondly, I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Earl that people do not keep their dogs on the lead the whole time. The reality is that people have a blind spot about their dog and think it is incredibly well behaved. In fact, they are not. I have a woodland garden which I open to the public. There is a concession that people can take their dogs provided they are on the lead. As soon as they are out of sight people tend to slip their dogs off the lead. When one remonstrates with them, they say that Fido or Bonzo is incredibly well behaved and does not need to be on the lead. Three minutes later Fido or Bonzo is deep in the bushes, in hot pursuit of a rabbit or whatever there may be. People have an extraordinary faith that their dog is well behaved, but that faith is wholly unsupported by the reality of the dog's behaviour.

Lord Mancroft

Perhaps I may add my voice to that of other Members of the Committee and thank the Minister for saying that he recognises the problem. Probably the most important issue in the Bill is the issue of dogs. Perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, whose speech was immensely helpful, a question. She said that the blanket ban proposed by my noble friend's amendment is not the answer. However, the remainder of her speech seemed to demonstrate that a blanket ban is the answer. Can she explain why she thinks a blanket ban is not the answer?

Baroness Young of Old Scone

Perhaps I may rise to that challenge. For large tracts of land for considerable periods of the year, there is not a major conservation issue. With blanket exceptions, there is a risk of being unnecessarily restrictive. On the other hand, I think I sat admirably on the fence when I confessed that I thought that the Minister had a difficult task. I am not sure that any of the other remedies works very well. So it may well be that a blanket ban is the only one that can be truly effective. But it seems a little disproportionate when, for many areas of access land for many parts of the year, dogs off leads will not necessarily be a major problem.

Lord Greaves

I shall be brief. The first point I should like to make is this. Over the years, most of the incidents that I have seen in which people have behaved badly while walking on moors and mountains have involved dogs. We need to accept that, quite often, dogs present a serious problem. Having said that, I do not think that an overall and blanket ban would work—however much such a ban would accord with my personal prejudices. I do not believe that it would be generally acceptable to the people of this country. Furthermore, it would run the risk of being ignored far too often and thus would fall into disrepute.

I support the remarks made by the noble Earl, Lord Peel, in that I agree that in substantial areas, in particular of moorland, a ban on dogs should be imposed, certainly for much of the year and in some cases for the whole time. That is because I do not believe that one can expect people to take their dogs out onto open moorland and then not allow them off the lead. That simply will not happen.

We need to identify areas of moorland and perhaps even take into account certain economic reasons if they are heather moorland areas supporting grouse. Whatever one may think of grouse shooting is irrelevant here; the fact is that grouse shooting sustains a great deal of the heather moorland areas of the north of England. Such moors would not exist in their present form unless they were managed for grouse. Again, those of us whose prejudices might lead in a different direction need to accept and understand that. If it is necessary for the management and control of such moorland that dogs are banned, then that should be done.

We may also find that in certain important areas of conservation interest such as SSSIs and lowland heaths in the south of England, the presence of dogs would be undesirable. In those circumstances, local bans should be enforced.

I should like to make a second point. I do not believe that it would be possible to impose a general ban on dogs in the higher mountain areas and on moorland that is less important as regards conservation. If a move is made to impose a general rule that dogs should be kept on leads when on access land, such a rule would not be practicable in some higher mountain areas. From a climbing point of view, when negotiating high, rocky, mountain land, it is simply not practicable to keep a dog on a lead, for the safety both of the climber and of the dog. Circumstances may arise in which both the climber and the dog need to be independent of one another in order to negotiate difficult terrain. Some might observe that dogs should not be present in the first place; that would coincide with my prejudices. However, it is a fact that people do allow their dogs to accompany them to such places and they will wish to continue so to do. To impose a rule on dog leads in those circumstances would be positively dangerous.

In summary, I believe that we shall identify many areas where dogs should be banned, but I also believe that some areas will be identified where to keep a dog on a lead would not be practicable. Whatever solution is found to meet the problems presented by dogs, it will need to have built into it considerable scope for variation according to local needs and circumstances. Inevitably, therefore, the requirement for detailed and extensive signposting will be essential to inform people of the local regime.

Lord Monson

I wonder whether the Minister could confirm that, when he returns on Report with the Government's own amendments on the stricter control of dogs, he will deal at the same time with maximum lengths of lead? That point is addressed in Amendments Nos. 132 and 134 and so may not be considered tonight, since the amendments are grouped with Amendment No. 109, which may not be moved by my noble friend Lord Bledisloe. If the Minister can give an assurance that that point will be considered between now and the next stage, then the matter need not be dealt with tonight.

Lord Jopling

The debate seems to be moving in the direction of trying to suggest to the Minister how the Government should be thinking between now and Report stage, when they will come back with their proposals with regard to dogs. I support the amendments and I, too, am glad that the Government are having a rethink on this. We all look forward with great interest to seeing what the Government come up with.

I ask the Government not to take steps in their new proposals which could do a great deal of damage to one of the traditional Lake District sports, hound trailing. I declare an interest as a member of a hound trail association, as a part-owner of a trail hound and as patron of Ambleside Sports, which is one of the premier hound trail events during the summer.

For those of your Lordships who may not be familiar with hound trailing, a paraffin and aniseed drag is laid over a course of about 12 miles around the mountain tops; up to 30 or 40 hounds are let off together and they have what amounts to a race. There is huge local interest in this. The hound trails are reported on the local radio every morning they happen by the lady who trains my hound, who is also a part-owner of it.

The hound trails take place on high land. The course is run over common land and over land which is more than 600 metres high. It is essential that the Government double check to ensure that when they come back with their proposals they do not inhibit in any way the great sport of hound trailing, which is followed by hundreds and thousands of people.

The sport is extremely carefully policed. If a hound disappears and does not come back from a trail, after a period of time all hound trailing is suspended; and if there are any cases of sheep-worrying the most stringent steps are taken to deal with it. It is a well regulated sport. I hope that the Government will not do anything inadvertently to upset the sport. I am sure that they would not wish to do that. It would be a tragedy if anything were to appear in the Government's new regulations which would make it impossible to continue hound trailing.

Baroness Mallalieu

I, too, thank the Minister for what he said about the Government's willingness to look at this matter, but I must sound a slightly discordant note following the remarks of my noble friend Lady Young about what I accept is an idiosyncrasy so far as rights of way are concerned. When the Government come to look at whether the same provisions should apply to rights of way as to open access land. I hope that they will bear in mind that a great many people in this country enjoy riding on bridleways, with dogs under control but which clearly cannot be on a short lead. Indeed, in many cases a long lead would be positively dangerous. I hope that the Government will not restrict access which, on the whole, works very well now. Will the Minister bear that in mind if he is considering imposing further restrictions on rights of way?

Lord Plumb

I, too, support the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lady Byford. I welcome the comment of the Minister that he is prepared to look at the whole issue. I should like to know what the proposals might be before commenting further.

Will the Minister consider Amendment No. 126, which is tabled by my noble friend the Duke of Montrose and to which he may refer later? It comes under the same umbrella of the problem of dogs, many of which may move in packs and do untold damage, particularly among sheep flocks. I have personal experience of that. Not so long ago, I was called by a neighbour at four o'clock one Saturday morning, and we found more than 100 sheep lying dead or dying, with their guts hanging out. I assure the Committee that it was a horrible sight. If those who say that dogs must have every right to roam in these areas had witnessed what I witnessed that morning, they would perhaps have second thoughts.

Will the Minister also bear in mind the fact that, following the BSE crisis, the traceability of animals or animal products is now completely under control? We have reached a stage where there is complete traceability of animals from stable to table. Therefore, there should be control of all the domestic animals on farms, bearing in mind the fact that Amendment No.

126 refers to the introduction on land which forms part of an agricultural holding and is subject to a nationally administered help or management scheme.

Therefore, this comes down to the holding itself. Since every animal moved from farm to farm, from land to land, must carry a passport, I hope that the Minister will take into consideration the fact that dogs that are allowed to roam in those same areas should at least carry a veterinary certificate to satisfy people that there is some cover to stop the spread of either parasitic disease or other diseases that might spread from animal to wild animal, and which can then cause more damage in the countryside. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will take these points into account when considering how to deal with the problem. I agree with other speakers that the Government will have difficulty in reaching a solution acceptable to all in terms of presentation.

12.45 a.m.

The Duke of Montrose

Prompted by the speech of my noble friend Lord Plumb, perhaps I may speak to my Amendment No. 126. I have received great support for the amendment from all who understand what it is to try to make a living from farming. I am afraid that I cannot readily accept the contention of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that it is only those with an interest in shooting and game conservation who are proposing amendments to the Bill. I have represented farmers in my area for over 25 years in different capacities. The negative effects on their livelihoods that could emanate from the Bill are likely to be much greater proportionally than their effect on the city gent who likes his shooting. For some, it may he all they need to make them quit.

As my noble friend Lord Plumb said, great efforts are being made to improve the standards of our livestock husbandry and to produce a quality-assured product, and to produce animals of higher health status. All of these schemes have rules and criteria on which the guarantees are based. Among them are regulations regarding the treatment using anthelmintic products for worms in dogs. Under the assured British meat scheme inspection process, one of the criteria is that the non-worming of dogs can be marked as a serious non-conforming to the rules. Only two or three such serious non-conforming aspects are needed in order for one to find oneself thrown out of the accreditation scheme, with the loss of the money that one has invested. One then has to start again. There are parasites in dogs that are a threat to sheep and to the health of man.

I should mention a case concerning some neighbours of mine, a young couple. The wife originates from the neighbourhood of some mining villages in Wales. She had suffered the effects of one of these parasites and was lucky to survive by having only one lung removed. The seriousness of some of these diseases is very great. However, I shall leave the technical element in all this to my noble friend Lord Soulsby, who can give the Committee a much clearer idea of the seriousness of the matter.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior

In view of the Minister's statement that the matter will be further considered as regards dogs, it seems appropriate to deal now with Amendment No. 126. The problems of parasites and parasitic infections have been mentioned by my noble friends Lady Byford and the Duke of Montrose, as has their transmission by dogs accompanied by their owners on land. The risks here are greatest on marginal land, especially with sheep farming. However, it does not apply entirely to sheep farming because dairy farming may also be concerned.

The parasites that are of particular concern are Hydatid Tapeworm, which is a distinct problem in Wales particularly in sheep. But it is also occurring increasingly in humans now. Unfortunately, the control programmes that were in place have been allowed to lapse somewhat. An increasing number of childhood cases are being recognised. Dogs carry this tapeworm and can contaminate the land where sheep are grazing. The other is the ascarid parasite Toxocara, which is the cause of ill-health in children but can also affect both sheep and pigs. There is a relatively new parasite that affects cattle—Neospora—which is responsible for abortion in cattle and, indeed, in other animals.

The amendment identifies the local veterinary surgeon as the person who would prescribe at intervals the necessary treatment. We believe that he is the best person to know the local situation with respect to parasitic diseases rather than making an overall directive. He can assess the local situation much better than other people.

Lest noble Lords should think that this amendment addresses a minor hazard of low risk, perhaps they can recall the very recent problems of swine fever in East Anglia, which was caused not by dogs but probably by the discarding of a sandwich containing meat from the Far East. That has yet to be proved, but the virus concerned has been traced to a Far-Eastern strain. No doubt the owner of the sandwich thought that there was no major difficulty in getting rid of it, but that slight mishap has caused an enormous problem in East Anglia. That is the type of hazard—

Baroness Thornton

Although this is actually nothing to do with dogs, I feel it is important to mention something in terms of the ham-sandwich theory and swine fever. Many noble Lords will have received documentation about this clarifying that it is much too specific to say that that is what caused the outbreak of swine fever. All that MAFF has stated about this matter so far is that it was the result of an illegally imported pork product. All other reports are simply speculation. I thought it important to clarify that point at this stage.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior

I thank the noble Baroness for that information. I am also aware of the document to which she referred. As I said, the virus—not necessarily the sandwich—has been traced and found to be of a type that comes from the Far East. The only source is some, probably illegally imported, meat containing that virus. The most likely, but not proven, source of that swine fever is a virus contained in such meat, whether or not the meat was in a sandwich.

Whether or not one believes the virus was contained in a discarded sandwich, that illustrates what may arise from a minor incursion of an infective agent into a flock of sheep or a herd of swine. We must beware of such things. There will be an increase in parasites from overseas entering this country through dogs that do not undergo quarantine. There will be an increase in the number and species of parasites entering the country. We do not know whether these will result in further general infections. We believe that veterinary surgeons should be able to specify whether dogs in their local area should be treated in the way I have mentioned before being allowed on access land. For the sake of the health of the dogs concerned, that of the livestock in the area and of the humans who own the dogs and the livestock, it seems sensible that dogs should receive the treatment I have mentioned before they are allowed on access land.

Lord Whitty

I do not wish to say a great deal more. I shall take into consideration all the points that have been made. As Members of the Committee have indicated, this is a difficult area. It is almost certain that on this issue the balance of opinion in the country is somewhat different from that in the Committee. Many people love walking their dogs in the countryside. They have access to the countryside through rights of way and on existing access land. As we have said, in general the Bill does not take away existing rights. Nevertheless, I recognise that we may need to be tougher on dogs, although I accept the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, in that regard. We shall return to that matter.

As regards the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby, and my noble friend Lady Thornton, I should put on record that we are considering an amendment to include the feeding of livestock within the restrictions in Schedule 2. I hope that meets the specific point that was made.

Baroness Byford

I am grateful to the Minister for those comments. I am sure that the Committee will be pleased to hear that the Government will consider this matter which poses a dilemma for them in terms of drawing the right balance. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, for mentioning the concerns that people have about dogs, particularly when they are off the lead. I spoke only to Amendment No. 108. Therefore, it would be presumptuous of me to speak to any other amendments in the group we are discussing. We look forward to seeing what the Government produce on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 109 and 110 not moved.]

1 a.m.

Earl Peel moved Amendment No. 111: Page 49, line 30, at end insert ("trapping,").

The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 111 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 112 and 113. First, I address Amendment No. 111. Under Schedule 2 anyone who engages in any operations connected with, among other things, snaring who is not entitled to do so commits an offence. This amendment simply includes the activity of trapping, which is similar in intent to snaring but involves a different mechanism. I argue that if one includes snaring, it is logical to include trapping.

Amendment No. 112 refers again to Schedule 2 which provides that anyone setting a snare—and, it is to be hoped, a trap if the Minister accepts my amendment—commits an offence. However, interfering with snares or traps is not specifically mentioned. For those working on the ground it is a serious problem. It is a great irritation and inconvenience. I hope that the Minister will take that into account.

It could be argued that paragraph 1(o)(iii) of Schedule 2 covers this point. It deals with anyone who disrupts any lawful activity on the land. I suspect that the provision is designed to deal with aggravated trespass. However, it is not clear that word "disrupts" would necessarily cover the word "interferes". I believe that the words have two different meanings. I hope that the amendment makes the position abundantly clear.

On Amendment 113, again paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 makes it an offence for anyone not so entitled to have, any engine, instrument or apparatus used for hunting, shooting, fishing, snaring, taking or destroying animals, birds or fish". It is the same argument. It is equally important to prevent people from interfering with such items which are being legally used under the law. I think, for example, of people who might interfere with Larson traps or crow traps where a decoy bird is involved. These methods are an important method of keeping the corvid population under control.

I regard these three amendments as logical bearing in mind what is already in place on Schedule 2. I therefore hope that the Government will readily accept them. I beg to move.

Baroness Mallalieu

In support of the amendment and others grouped with Amendment No. 111, with the Committee's permission I give an example which illustrates the desirability for those words to be added to this part of the Bill, in particular the word "trapping".

Last summer in Hartland in north Devon I went into a local pottery. On the counter was a pile of leaflets apparently produced by a badger protection group. The message from those leaflets was that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was trapping and killing badgers in Devon as part of its research into TB in cattle. The leaflet told the reader how to identify one of the MAFF traps, how to immobilise it and how to release a badger if during walks individuals were to find one so trapped. It did not suggest theft or criminal damage. It therefore would not fall within the restriction against criminal conduct contained in Schedule 2. That provides a clear illustration of why it is important that interference of that kind is spelt out in the restrictions.

Lord Willoughby de Broke

I support my noble friend's amendment. I was pleased to hear him mention Larson traps. They are an important way of controlling crows and magpies. Larson traps on my land—it is not access land—have been damaged, removed and stolen. It is a legal method of trapping and must be clearly covered in the Bill. My noble friend's amendments ensure that it is.

I hope that the Minister will consider including these important amendments which will clarify this part of the schedule.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I shall deal with Amendment No. 111 first and then with Amendments Nos. 112 and 113. Paragraph (1)(i) lists, hunting, shooting, fishing, snaring, taking or destroying of animals, birds or fish", among the activities that someone exercising the right of access must not engage in. We have little doubt that the activity of trapping to which Amendment No. 111 refers is already covered by those restrictions, but we understand the concerns that have been expressed. Although we do not think that the amendment is necessary, we are content to accept it if that will provide some extra assurance.

Amendment No. 112 would place an explicit restriction on anyone interfering with hunting, shooting, fishing or snaring. Amendment No. 113 would also place a restriction on anyone interfering with any engine, instrument or apparatus used for hunting, shooting or fishing. Again, I appreciate the genuine and legitimate concern about people who may be intent on disrupting lawful land management and other activities, but I am happy to assure the noble Earl, Lord Peel, and others that the restriction in paragraph(1)(p), which includes disturbance, annoyance or obstruction of any lawful activity on the land, is drawn sufficiently widely to cover the activities that he has in mind. It will apply to the disruption of hunting, shooting and fishing, provided those activities are being carried out lawfully.

Taken together with paragraph (1)(o), that leaves no doubt that interfering with the lawful pursuits that the noble Earl is concerned with would constitute a breach of the restrictions under Schedule 2 and that the right of access would therefore be lost. Someone in breach of paragraph (1)(o) would also be guilty of an offence under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and liable to removal by a police officer.

I have accepted Amendment No. 111 and I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Peel, is reassured that his other amendments are not needed.

Earl Peel

I need hardly say that I am very grateful to the Minister for accepting Amendment No. 111. I hear what he says about Amendments Nos. 112 and 113, but duplicity already exists in the Bill. For example, paragraph (1)(d) includes "any criminal offence", while the schedule also specifically mentions destroying an egg, which can be a criminal offence.

One of the great difficulties is what to include in Schedule 2 and what to leave out. I tabled Amendments Nos. 112 and 113 because if setting traps illegally was to be included, it seemed logical to put the other side and place a restriction on interfering with legally set traps. I suspect that the schedule will be weakened without that provision. I realise that what is included in the schedule is a real debate.

I shall not move the other two amendments but I shall think carefully about what the Minister has said, because the issue is causing a great deal of concern to many people. I reserve judgment, but I thank the Minster for his clear explanation.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments No. 112 to 114 not moved.]

Earl Peel moved Amendment No. 115: Page 49, line 42, at end insert— ("() removes or defaces any notice or sign placed on or adjacent to the land,").

The noble Earl said: I sincerely hope that the Minister will be able to accept the amendment. It is a sad fact of life that notices and signs are too often removed or defaced by those who do not like what is written on them.

There is no question that as access points become an increasingly important part of the way that such areas are managed, they will have information. It seems to me absolutely imperative that it should be explicit in Schedule 2 that those signs will not be interfered with, defaced or removed. Therefore, I beg to move and hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.

Lord Monson

I support the amendment. I suspect that the noble Baroness is about to say that this issue is already covered under paragraph 1(d) relating to criminal damage. The trouble is that a large segment of the public almost certainly does not realise that defacing or removing signs constitutes an offence. Therefore, I believe that it would be helpful if this amendment were to be included, even if in some sense it is a duplication.

Lord Mancroft

I, too, support my noble friend on this amendment. It is slightly exceptional as a subject in thatsignage will become more important as a result of this Bill and it will be important that people know access points and obtain the information that will be available on such signs; for example, telling them where they can and cannot go. From where I live in the country there is clear evidence that such signs are regularly defaced and broken. It is an awful nuisance, both for those who wish to use the signs and for those who must pay and take the trouble to put them up again. I believe that it would be immensely helpful if specific reference to the signs were on the face of the Bill because, as objects, they will play such an important part in whether or not the Bill becomes a successful Act.

Lord Rotherwick

Signage defacing is a major problem and it would give much comfort to emphasise that point. As a land manager and owner, I know that the continuous defacing of signs is one of our major problems. I hope that the Minister can go some way to sympathising with this amendment.

Lord Jopling

I do not want to sound disagreeable over this matter and, as I respect my noble friend Lord Peel—indeed, he lives very close to me in North Yorkshire—I hesitate to criticise his amendment. However, it occurs to me that before we reach Report stage he may like to review the amendment and table it again.

What if someone were to put up a notice on land belonging to my noble friend Lord Peel which said some very rude things about him? It seems to me that his first instinct would be to tear the notice down. However, according to the amendment as I understand it, he would be committing an offence if he were to tear down a notice which some dissident and disagreeable person had put up on his land saying rude things about the landowner. I may be wrong, but surely it is a rather important point.

I am wholly in favour of the intentions of my noble friend in this matter, but it seems to me that the amendment should go on to refer to who put up the notice. It should be an offence only to remove or deface a notice which had been put up either by the landowner or tenant or by the access authority. I may have got the matter wrong and I am sure that my noble friend will tell me in strident terms if that is so. However, I believe that the amendment needs a little more thought and a little rewording.

Earl Peel

I am pretty clear that if the sign had been put up illegally by someone who had no right to do so, the landowner, tenant or occupier would have a perfect right to remove it. Therefore, I do not believe that my noble friend's concerns about people putting up rude signs about me are quite so likely to happen—although they may happen—as he may believe.

The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that signs which have been put up legally, whether by the owner or by the access authority, are protected on the face of the Bill. As my noble friend Lord Mancroft quite rightly said, signage will be such an integral part of the way that this whole Bill is to be interpreted in the countryside that, with the greatest respect to my noble friend, I believe that my amendment would pass the test.

1.15 a.m.

The Earl of Caithness

Perhaps I may be allowed to take the Minister off at a slight tangent on this because my point relates to damage. I came across a case in the summer where the access stile over the fence from the highway leading to what would be access land had been wilfully damaged. I do not want to detract from my noble friend's main amendment but what would be the situation if somebody damaged, for example, a stile?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I begin by saying that I cannot believe—the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, must have a much more vivid imagination than I have—that anybody could ever contemplate putting up a sign that said rude things about the noble Earl, Lord Peel. I cannot believe that that would happen.

However, I must tell him that he is not able to claim that the purpose of the amendment is automatically that which he intended it to be. The meaning cannot be what he says it is. The amendment has the meaning which the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, identified. So no signs could be removed by anybody were this amendment to be accepted. I am sure that on those grounds alone, he will consider withdrawing it.

Lord Marlesford

I listened very closely to my noble friend Lord Jopling and I looked at the Bill. But my understanding is that this relates to removing from people who commit those acts the right of access under this Bill. But my noble friend Lord Peel would not be having access under the provisions of the Bill; he would be having access as the landowner. I should have thought that that is quite different. As I understand it, he is in a totally different role.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Not necessarily, because the amendment refers to "or adjacent to" so the offensive notice with the unimaginable words about the noble Earl, Lord Peel, might not be on his land but could be adjacent to it, according to the wording of the amendment.

This is a very serious issue. As has already been indicated, the Countryside Agency will be publishing information telling people about restrictions and informing them as to those actions which would constitute criminal offences.

The noble Lord, Lord Monson, is quite right. Such an activity would be a criminal offence and would be covered by paragraph 1(d). It would also be likely to annoy other people engaged in lawful activity on the land, such as the day-to-day activity of the landowner, and would also fall foul of paragraph 1(p), or it could cause disruption to a lawful activity, in which case it would be caught by paragraph 1(o)(iii).

As I have explained, we want to keep the list of restricted activities at a manageable length and we want to be certain that we are covering all the activities which are likely to be harmful.

I understand the point that has been made; that it is argued that we should add this provision even though it is already covered. The length of amendments that we would have to consider were we to start considering matters which are not necessary would be very long indeed. In the light of all those points and to secure his own intentions, I hope that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Earl Peel

I am grateful to the Minister for pointing out that my noble friend's warnings are justified. For that reason alone I shall not press the amendment. However, I make the point that we already have duplicity under Schedule 2. I realise that it is a matter of deciding the priorities. I regard this as being an absolutely fundamental priority because, as has been said, signage is such an integral part of the way that the Bill will develop. Its effect on conveying knowledge to people will be so important.

I shall withdraw the amendment on the grounds that it is incorrectly drafted, but I warn the Minister that I shall certainly return at the next stage with an amended amendment because I believe this is such an important issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 116 and 117 not moved.]

The Duke of Montrose moved Amendment No. 118: Page 50, line 5, after ("games,") insert ("outdoor meetings or sports arrangements which might cause significant damage or whose arrangements will require that land be cordoned off, as where competitors assemble, or the start or finish of a competition, or other areas where crowds may he expected to gather,").

The noble Duke said: This amendment is phrased in a fairly general way and deals with the recreational activity of orienteering. The wording in the amendment is taken from a translation of a clause contained in the Norwegian Act of 1957 relating to access to the countryside. That relates to access and outdoor recreation in Norway. I apologise if the wording needs some tidying up. It appears perfectly sensible to me, but from the legalistic point of view it may need alteration.

I do not make a habit of touring the Continent of Europe to find various parallels, but the Countryside Agency produced a paper in which it asked us to consider different types of access that is available in different countries, so I went to see what was behind some of the ideas.

Noble Lords may be well aware that orienteering is a healthy and satisfying outdoor sport in which the ages of the participants can range from eight to 80. People are asked to follow a course marked out on a special map using navigational skills and if necessary a compass. The course is chosen according to ability and they compete in terms of their success in achieving the task set out. The course can be two to three miles in length or up to 15 miles for those who are most experienced.

There is a large supporting organisation in Britain. I believe it has 16 regions with numerous branches in each region. It is a sport that has popular support right across Europe. National and international competitions are held.

This amendment is not intended to interfere with the general rights of orienteers to go about the country using the rights that they will be granted under the Bill, but permission to carry out the necessary regulations that will be required to conduct a start and a finish would have to be sought. A branch meeting in my area may involve only 15 people, which would not cause a disturbance at all, but the Scottish annual rally this year involved 800 and the national and international rallies could involve even more. The experience of those in Norway is worth bearing in mind. They found it wise to have some regulation on gatherings of people of that number who follow that kind of activity. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran

I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 122 and 123, which also appear in this group.

Amendment No. 122 lists certain activities as criminal offences. The Government, at Report stage, amended Schedule 2 by inserting the general restriction that anyone committing a criminal offence would become a trespasser. At the same time five restrictions were removed that to all intents and purposes relate directly to criminal offences; for example, intentionally or recklessly damages the land, intentionally or recklessly damages any other thing on or in the land, breaks through any gate, hedge, fence or wall, deposits any rubbish, or leaves litter, or engages in riotous, disorderly or indecent conduct". It is important that it is made clear to the public, through codes of practice or other forms of publicity in relation to access land and the right of access, which activities on access land involve criminal offences and which are purely civil offences. Often the public do not appreciate that certain activities, such as those listed in the amendment, actually involve criminal offences. An assurance is sought from the Minister and the Government that guidance produced by the countryside bodies in relation to the right of access will specifically inform the public that the activities listed in the amendment, which are the same five activities deleted from Schedule 2 by the Government at Report stage in another place, involve criminal offences.

Transparency on this issue in the Bill, which would feed through to transparency for the public in any codes of practice, could be improved if the list of activities in Schedule 2(1) was divided into two lists. The first could list restrictions which involved criminal offences, including those listed in the amendment. The second could list restrictions which were purely civil offences where the only sanction would be that the person breaching the restriction could be required to leave the land for the rest of the day.

I can speak to Amendment No. 123 fairly briefly. The amendment states, For the purpose of paragraph 1(q), 'organised games' include any team games or any individual sport that requires a pitch or playing area but does not include orienteering". This amendment is intended to exclude orienteering from the organised games which are to be excluded from access land. Orienteering should have special dispensation owing to the spread-out nature of its participants. Unlike organised games, such as football, orienteering will not cause significant wear and tear on the ground or significant disturbance to wildlife.

Lord Marlesford

I support my noble friend's amendment. It makes the situation much clearer than simply subsuming it all under a criminal act. These are the kind of matters that relate directly to access to the type of land that the Bill is seeking to cover. They will be meaningful and relevant and are important examples of the kind of thing people might do. I can see the advantage of having the catch-all phrase as well. But it is not necessarily bad drafting to spell out specific acts which happen to be criminal acts and then to use a phrase such as "any other criminal act" would cover both points.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

As the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, said, Amendment No. 118 would add to the restricted activities the holding of outdoor meetings or sporting arrangements which could cause damage or might require the cordoning off of land. We have already provided that the right does not extend to those engaging in any organised games or activities undertaken for any commercial purpose. Those activities are restricted by paragraphs 1(q) and 1(r).

We consider that "sporting arrangements" are likely to be covered by the restriction on organised games. Where sporting arrangements are not organised games, they would almost certainly comprise a commercial activity. I am still not quite sure what the term "outdoor meetings" is intended to cover. Where a group of people meet outdoors to go for a walk—such as a local walking group—we would wish and expect the right to apply to that activity.

Amendment No. 123 adds a definition of "organised games", which are excluded from the right by the restriction in paragraph 1(q). We do not think it necessary to provide a statutory definition of the phrase "organised games"; it will have its ordinary meaning.

The definition of "organised games" given in this amendment would specifically allow orienteering. We believe that where a small number of people use a map to follow an allotted course across open country that should fall within the statutory right. But where orienteering could be taken to be an organised event with specific checkpoints and so on, which might involve a significant number of people, we think that this would be more intrusive and do not believe that it should be covered by the right of access. Perhaps I may stress again that we are talking about the automatic right and not prohibiting, with the owner's consent, the activity from taking place.

As regards Amendment No. 122, we shall certainly expect the Countryside Agency to set out clearly what people can and cannot do, including the most common activities which would constitute a breach of the restrictions. The activities referred to in Amendment No. 122 will be criminal offences, except for breaking through any hedge, fence or wall. That may be a criminal offence if it is deliberate. In any event, it will lead to the loss of right of access by virtue of Clause 2(1)(a).

We need to keep in mind that those benefiting from the new right of access are hardly likely to carry with them a copy of the Act. Therefore, the course that we suggest, which would involve the use of the code of practice and the Countryside Agency's advice, are more likely to draw to people's attention the activities which are unacceptable.

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, referred to the possibility of having two lists of restrictions. We do not believe it is necessary to include in Schedule 2, as has been suggested, a separate list of restricted activities which are also criminal offences. We have provided that any criminal offence will render the user a trespasser and it is not necessary to spell out specific offences. The public will be just as aware of which activities are criminal offences on access land as they are when walking down thestreet and ought to avoid them in the same way. However, we are sure that the countryside bodies will want to ensure that general guidance about the new right identifies criminal offences most likely to be relevant to access for walkers.

As I said earlier, we gave careful consideration to what should be included in Schedule 2. We understand the need that the restrictions should be easily understood and cover harmful activities. We think it is important to keep the list simple and avoid duplication, which rules out a number of activities which do not fall within the definition of "open-air recreation" or are covered by other restrictions. I hope that the Committee will agree that the restrictions in the Bill sufficiently define the scope of the right and will not press the amendments.

1.30 a.m.

The Duke of Montrose

I thank the Minister for the way in which she addressed my amendment. She answered some of my worries but I should like to read her reply at leisure and if I find anomalies return to the issue. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 119: Page 50, line 5, after ("camping") insert ("(except bivouacking in an emergency situation)").

The noble Earl said: This amendment has to do with the exclusion of camping from the right of access. It seeks to clarify that the prohibition on camping is aimed at deliberate camping rather than bivouacking on an unintended and hence emergency basis.

There is a mountain safety case to be made here. For those out on the hills in difficult terrain who run out of daylight it is often wrong and dangerous to continue the journey in the dark. The Bill should not send out a different message on this safety issue. The amendment would clarify that safety by overnight bivouac is permitted while continuing to rule out intentional camping.

It may be thought that a problem may arise in proving intent to camp or establishing that it is an emergency situation. I would contend that a quick examination of the scale of the mountain walker's gear would indicate whether it was a planned camping expedition or an unplanned but prepared-for-overnight bivouac. The Bill must allow for the contingencies and consequences of what it seeks to deliver. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran

Amendment No. 119 is vigorously opposed on the basic principle that it is not necessary. It is accepted that there may be occasions when people will need to bivouac because they get caught out, but in the light of discussions earlier on about various transgressions and how they would be treated, it seems to me that common sense would prevail and any police officer or landowner finding people bivouacking and in some distress would not be thinking of prosecuting but of assisting. To put this on the face of the Bill would create a loophole and many others could make a habit of bivouacking when they were not in bona fide distress.

I shall speak now to Amendment No. 1 20: after "camping" insert, including bivouacking and launching a hot air or gaseous balloon". As currently drafted the Bill fails explicitly to prevent hot air ballooning from access land. Hot air ballooning is a sport that requires a large amount of complex and heavy equipment. The sport contains a significant risk to its participants and to people on the ground; thus it has serious implications for land management and conservation interests. It is a clear example of an activity which should take place on land where access has been negotiated.

I have done a certain amount of hot air ballooning, so I understand the amendment. It is quite a complex sport. It looks wonderful when the balloons are seen up in the air, and it is wonderful. The feeling up there, when one can see where one is and drifting along, is magic. If anybody has a chance to go hot air ballooning, they should not miss the opportunity. However, it makes a lot of noise, requires a lot of equipment and a lot of people and it can be hazardous.

Lord Monson

As to Amendment No. 120, is there not room for a compromise; namely, to omit all reference whatever in the schedule to bivouacking? That would cover the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and perhaps the Liberal Democrats. I agree with the observation about hot air balloons.

I am sure that their omission was an error rather than deliberate. I look forward to hearing the Government's response.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

We recognise that Amendment No. 119 moved by the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, is intended to prevent those caught in open country, for example on a fell, in worsening weather from having to press on, notwithstanding any risk to personal safety, so that they do not lose their right of access. Paragraph 1(q) of Schedule 2 makes clear that the right of access does not extend to camping. Users who wish to camp on access land must continue to ask the landowner for permission. I stress that the new right of access does not mean that those landowners who currently tolerate activities such as camping or bivouacking will cease to tolerate them. The situation is unlikely to change on such land, but elsewhere it is quite correct that the restrictions provide that anyone who camps on land will lose his right of access. As the noble Earl said, that would apply equally to bivouackers.

Therefore, if users find themselves in adverse conditions in which it is unsafe to go on and decide to shelter in a bivouac they will lose their right of access. A landowner who happens to find them will be able to ask them to leave. In such circumstances, however, presumably they will welcome the miraculous arrival of the landowner who seeks their removal. After all, if the landowner is to ensure that they leave he or she will in practice have to assist them to find a way off the land and to safety, which is presumably the advice that they would have welcomed in the first place.

If we accepted all of the amendments tabled by the party opposite, spoken to in this instance by the noble Earl, Lord Glentoran, it would lead to walkers pressing on in the circumstances described with tragic consequences. The Government do not want to give the message that bivouacking is allowed in all circumstances under the new right. However, those who are caught in an emergency will not be committing a criminal offence and, if found, to be asked to leave may be just what they wished for in the first place.

Amendment No. 120 would extend the restriction on camping to bivouacking and add the launching of hot air balloons. We have dealt with the issue of bivouacking in relation to Amendment No. 119. As to hot air balloons, the noble Earl, Lord Glentoran, is aware that it would not be possible to launch a balloon from access land without first getting it there with the use of machinery and a vehicle. This is a restricted activity and as such is likely to be a criminal offence. Such activity would be practicable only with the consent of the landowner. In the interests of keeping the list manageable, we do not believe that it is necessary to add a specific restriction.

The Earl of Caithness

I did not follow the last point in the response of the noble Baroness. If the access land is adjacent to a highway upon which somebody can transport his hot air balloon, the vehicle does not have to go onto the access land. It would be quite possible to take the equipment onto that land. As I understand it, that is what my noble friend seeks to prevent.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My understanding is that to take such equipment onto access land is not allowed as part of the access. If that is not the case I shall write to the noble Earl and correct the impression that I have just given. I do not believe that that is the kind of activity for which access is permitted. Access is permitted in order to enjoy walking on the land.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

I wrote down the words "illogical possession". At first I thought the noble Baroness was giving a glowing response to my amendment and was about to move it and put it straight in the Bill. In fact she has probably said quite the reverse. She said that people caught out, and who rightly bivouac overnight waiting for the dawn, should hope that they have a benign landowner who will rescue them. I would hope that that is part of the duty of care.

1.45 a.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

No. The Bill allows for them to be asked to leave because they are not allowed to bivouac. Under the circumstances which the noble Earl describes, a landowner would share in the interest of ensuring that, should the person leave the site, he or she would do so safely. The landowner would escort them from the land. I am sure the noble Earl understands that it is very difficult to frame the amendment in order to ensure that the circumstances he describes are covered without implying that anyone may bivouac anytime, anywhere.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

No. My amendment said that, except bivouacking in an emergency situation". Therefore, I do not think that that in any way attempted to overrule the general rule that one is not allowed to camp. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 120 to 123 not moved.]

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 124: Page 50, leave out line 14.

The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment, I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 124, 136 and 137. I shall return to Amendment No. 125.

Amendment No. 124 implements the recommendation of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation (24th Report, 4th July 2000, paragraphs 12 and 18) that the power to vary the restricted activities be deleted. As the committee commented, Schedule 2 is an essential part of the balance between the rights of landowners and the needs of the public. See also the 27th Report, Annex 3.

Amendments Nos. 136 and 137 implement the recommendation of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation (24th Report, 4th July 2000, paragraphs 13 and 18) that the power to vary the dogs on leads period be deleted. As the committee commented, that is part of the balance which should not be altered by delegated legislation.

Amendment No. 125 seeks to put that in place. Noble Lords will understand that we seek to remove some of the restrictions by regulation and replace that power by order. It seems to us that Schedule 2 consists of restrictions on people in relation to access. They are a very important part of the safeguards of the Bill for both people and property. Therefore, any changes should be subject to scrutiny by Parliament and should be by order and not by regulation. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Amendments Nos. 125, 136 and 137 are intended to replace the regulatory power with an affirmative resolution procedure. We wish to take account of the views of noble Lords, including those of the Select Committee. I recognise that this procedure would help satisfy possible doubts about how these powers might be exercised. We should like to consider the matter further and bring forward appropriate amendments on Report.

I turn briefly to Amendment No. 146, which provides for the affirmative resolution procedure to be used to approve regulations prescribing how the Countryside Agency, the Countryside Council for Wales or national park authorities, where appropriate, might, with the consent of the owner, give directions that some of the Schedule 2 restrictions are lifted. These regulations would also prescribe how a direction to lift restrictions might be varied, how the owner would be required to give consent, and the means of informing the public about the change. These are very much procedural, administrative details. We do not think that they are issues which it would be right to make subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.

In the light of my assurance concerning Amendments Nos. 124, 125, 136 and 137, I hope that the other amendments will not be pressed.

Lord Glentoran

I thank the noble Baroness for those assurances. As it is a fairly technical issue, I am not certain how happy I am with her response. I shall look at the matter again before Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 125 to 128 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 129: Page 50, line 16, leave out ("30th June") and insert ("31st July").

The noble Lord said: I am in the hands of the Committee. This amendment was due to be spoken to in an earlier debate. It is the one government amendment on dogs which my noble friend Lady Young regarded as the absolute minimum. Bearing in mind what I said about bringing forward further amendments, if the Committee agrees we can pass this amendment today on the understanding that we shall table further amendments later. I beg to move.

Baroness Byford

Perhaps I may speak briefly on this amendment. I appreciate what the Minister said. We are grateful for the move from June to July. It is a start. However, as I said earlier, a good deal of the breeding season goes on a little later—to October and November. If we accept the government amendment, I do not want us to lose the possibility of extending that date. If the Minister is reassuring me, I shall not object. But I wished to raise that point and have it noted.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

Our amendment, Amendment No. 130, should be grouped with this amendment. We agree with the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, although I notice that, technically, we would allow one day fewer.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 130 to 132 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 133 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 134 not moved.]

Lord Burnham moved Amendment No. 135: Page 50, line 18, at end insert— ("() Any person who fails to comply with sub-paragraph (1) above, and who allows a dog—

  1. (a) to worry species listed in Schedule I to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, or
  2. (b) to worry game,
shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale. () In this paragraph, "worry" means to attack species listed in Schedule 1 to the 1981 Act, or game, or to chase species listed in that Schedule, or game, in such a way as may reasonably be expected to cause injury or suffering.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 135 stands in the name of my noble friend Lady Byford. It is grouped with Amendment No. 140, which stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Peel. Furthermore, it should be possible to group it with Amendments Nos. 307, 308 and 309. I am in favour of doing that because those are the final amendments on the list and it may be better to address them at this point.

When he spoke to Amendment No. 108, I believe that the Minister gave an assurance that he would look again at these amendments, thus making us reasonably happy in the short term. Amendment No. 135 specifically addresses what should happen when dogs disturb wildlife or game. If these restrictions are breached, as the Bill is presently drafted, the only sanction that can be imposed is that the person in charge of the dog should lose his right of access for the remainder of the day. That is altogether inadequate to address the problem. Indeed, we have already discussed the fact that difficulties arise in attempting to enforce even the existing restrictions on dog owners.

The amendment aims to reinforce the provisions designed to protect game and other wildlife in the same way as was achieved for livestock through the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953. Everyone knows that it is an offence for owners to allow their dogs to worry livestock. It should be an equal offence if an owner fails to keep a dog on a lead during the relevant period of the year. If we make such activity an offence, it will help to reinforce the requirements made of dog owners to ensure that, when walking on access land, dogs are kept on leads during the most sensitive seasons. That should help to avoid damage to the two vital interests with which we have to deal.

My noble friend Lord Peel is not in his place. His amendment, Amendment No. 140, covers very much the same points, whereby where restrictions on dogs are in place, a person who fails to comply is guilty of committing an offence and would thus be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 1. Amendments Nos. 307, 308 and 309 largely cover the same points in greater detail. I do not feel that it is necessary to examine them any more closely because the Minister has assured the Committee that he will look at the situation as regards nesting birds, although the situation as regards livestock and game is even more serious. Having said that, I should point out that the best way to stop a dog from chasing sheep is to leave it in an open field with a number of rams. The dog will never chase sheep again.

Nevertheless, I feel that it is worth while to move the amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

I should have thought it might be better to delay discussion on this whole area until the Government return on Report with their amendments. In passing, I should point out that livestock is largely protected by existing law. Furthermore, at least some of the provisions in relation to birds will be brought into effect once the enhanced criminal offences listed under "disturbance" in Chapter III of the Bill are brought into effect. Those provisions would cover disturbance by dogs.

Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord to agree that we should return to this matter when we reach the Report stage.

Lord Burnham

I thank the Minister for his response. For the moment, that is quite satisfactory. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 136 to 140 not moved.]

2 a.m.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 141: Page 50, line 25, leave out ("relevant") and insert ("access").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 141, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 145 and 147. At the moment the Bill refers to "the relevant authority"; in each amendment we suggest that the Government should consider changing that to "the access authority".

The amendments seek to transfer the power to exclude restrictions outside national parks from the Countryside Agency and the Countryside Commission for Wales to elected local authorities. In the national parks the power is exercisable by the national park authorities, which are trusted to exercise these powers. The majority of their members are drawn from local authorities. In our view, local authorities should be trusted with the power in the rest of the country.

Ministers have emphasised the need for local discretion in the access regime. The full transference of this power to local level is part of a workable local system. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Given my background, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, will be willing to acknowledge that I am the first to defend the rights of local authorities—even down so far as parish councils—but I do not think that it is appropriate to do so in this case.

As the noble Baroness rightly said, the Bill states that, subject to the consent of the owner, the relevant authority—that is, the Countryside Agency, the Countryside Council for Wales, national park authorities or the Forestry Commission—can make a direction excluding the application of one or more of the restrictions listed in paragraph 1 of Schedule 2, which we have been debating for the past three or four hours.

I stress that it is only with the consent of the owner that a wider range of activities can take place under the new right. For example, the owner might agree to a direction lifting the restriction on camping. A direction of that kind could lift the restriction indefinitely or for a specified period.

The amendments propose that the direction should be made by the access authority—that is, the local highway authority—instead of by the countryside body. We have provided in Chapter II that the countryside bodies are able to direct exclusions or restrictions of access; for example, for land management or conservation reasons. We believe that in considering whether such directions should be made, the countryside bodies will be best able to balance the interests of landowners, conservation and the public.

The argument works in both directions. If we are talking about the relaxation of restrictions under Schedule 2, the countryside bodies rather than the local highway authority will be better placed to handle it. This is all in the context of the owner having given his consent.

When we are considering whether a restriction should be removed or relaxed, it is less likely that there will be objections to which the countryside bodies will need to have regard. Even so, there could be objections from, for example, conservation bodies, and different user groups may have different views on the balance of advantage in a particular case. It would be strange if different bodies were to be responsible for issuing directions depending on whether they were under Chapter II or paragraph 6.

The relevant authorities, including the countryside bodies, will develop experience in the making of directions in relation to access land and in weighing up the competing interests. It makes sense for them to deal with both types of directions. They will, of course, have regard to the views of local people, including the local access forums, on the management of access in their area.

I hope that the noble Baroness agrees that the reasoning behind our decisions in drafting paragraph 6 is sound and that she will not press these amendments.

Baroness Byford

I thank the Minister for his explanation. First, however, it is not exactly clear to me how the role and definition of the relevant authority's responsibility compares with my suggestion of the access authorities. Where is the defining line between the two?

Secondly, we have talked about the local access forums. The Government have indicated that they intend to introduce amendments to establish these. However, I think the Minister will accept that in many areas a local access forum may not be set up, so it is important that local people have a direct input. My slight worry is that they may not. Before I go any further, I should be grateful if the Minister would clarify how he sees the role of the one and of the other not overlapping.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am happy to respond to that point. The key to what I was saying—I am sorry if I did not say it clearly enough—is that it is the countryside bodies, under Chapter II, which have the responsibility of directing exclusions or restrictions on access. These amendments are concerned with lifting restrictions on access, with the consent of the landowner. It seems common sense—a balance—to have the same people responsible for imposing restrictions or exclusions as those who are responsible for lifting them with the consent of the owner.

As to local access forums, we shall have to see what amendments are brought forward and the network of local access forums. As the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, acknowledged, there are local authority representatives on national parks authorities in particular. I cannot imagine that the relevant bodies—that is, the countryside authorities—will fail to have regard to the views of local people.

Baroness Byford

I thank the Minister for his explanation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 142: Page 50, line 26, leave out ("exclude the application of") and insert ("remove or relax").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 207 and 208. These are technical amendments.

The Bill provides powers in paragraph 6 of Schedule 2 to allow the relevant authority, with the consent of the owner, to lift any restrictions in Schedule 2. Similarly, in Clause 16(6) the Bill provides a power to enable an owner dedicating land as access land to remove any of the restrictions in Schedule 2. The amendments make it clear that in either circumstance, as well as removing entirely the restriction, there is the power partially to remove that restriction. I beg to move.

Lord Jopling

My Lords, I understand why the Minister has moved this amendment, which would alter the provisions, especially of subparagraph (1), in a particular way. But it occurs to me that a Minister in the future might wish to strengthen the provisions referred to in this part of the Bill. I am surprised that the Government want to table an amendment that moves them in only one way. I understand why the Government want more flexibility, but would the Minister be kind enough to tell us why he is interested only in removing or relaxing these restrictions, and why he might not in the future prefer also to have the power to strengthen them? It seems strange, if it is flexibility that he is after—that seems to be what he has just said—that the provision should be all one way. I ant puzzled and I should be grateful for an explanation.

Lord Whitty

I believe that the noble Lord has raised a slightly different point. Members of the Committee may well have been somewhat hesitant in giving the Secretary of State powers to extend restrictions that are subject solely to this procedure. Both of these procedures would be subject to agreement between the Secretary of State, or his representatives, and the owner. If the owner were prepared to agree to a partial but not a total relaxation, such provisions could be used. However, if we were to go into extending restrictions, that is a somewhat larger political point upon which we would need more specific powers.

Lord Jopling

I did not really mean "extending", I meant strengthening the provisions. There is a difference between the two. I am not talking about extending the scope and the scale of what is in subparagraph (1); I am talking about strengthening what is already there. It seems to me to be rather odd that the Government want to move only in one direction.

Lord Whitty

This is really to protect the position of the owner and to give a degree of flexibility. The owner may impose further restrictions using the discretionary powers under Clause 21. I am perhaps being too modest in terms of claiming powers for the Secretary of State. As I said, I believe that we would need a slightly different power were we to move in the other direction. Indeed, that might well restrict certain rights in this respect. I shall ponder on the noble Lord's point, but I believe that we would need to proceed in a different way from simply making a minor adjustment to these provisions.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 143: Page 50, line 27, at end insert— ("() If an exclusion under this paragraph is made with the consent of the tenant under a farm business tenancy or a tenancy to which the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 applies, it shall terminate on the expiry of that tenancy unless the successor owner consents to its continuance.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 144. Amendment No. 143 is self-explanatory and I believe that it is non-contentious. It would simply cater for a certain situation between tenants and the landowner. Amendment No. 144 would allow the owner to revoke his consent upon giving notice.

In my judgment, both amendments would provide flexibility in the revocation of the restrictions. The result would be to allow greater flexibility under paragraph 6(1), thereby encouraging occupiers to allow restrictions on users to be lifted more frequently. It would also ensure that one owner could not bind his successors, as well as avoiding any negative impact on land values. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

As the noble Baroness said, Amendment No. 143 would provide that where a farm tenant consents to a direction being made under the powers available to access authorities in paragraph 6 to Schedule 2, the direction should terminate on the expiry of the tenancy. However, nothing in paragraph 6 allows a direction to bind the successors in title of an owner or tenant—compared with, for example, a dedication under Clause 16, which explicitly does so by virtue of subsection (7). A direction under this paragraph can have effect only while the current owner or tenant remains in possession. Therefore, there is no need for this amendment.

Amendment No. 144 would allow the owner to require the revocation of any paragraph 6 direction by giving one month's notice to the relevant authority. The revocation of consents and directions will be a matter for the regulations under paragraph 6. Generally, where a direction is made with the owner's consent for an indefinite period, we believe that the direction should not normally be revoked, but there may well be circumstances where it would be reasonable for this to occur. We shall look again at this issue with the countryside bodies and others. We do not, however, consider that Amendment No. 144 is correct. Therefore, we ask the noble Baroness not to press that amendment or Amendment No. 143.

2.15 a.m.

Baroness Byford

I am grateful for the noble Baroness's comments. Will she enlarge upon her response to Amendment No. 144? I believe that it would greatly help the Committee to be given some indication of the Government's thinking.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I believe that the most helpful comment I can make at this stage is the following. The consultation process with the countryside bodies and others will be important. If the noble Baroness wishes me to write to her in greater detail between now and Report, I shall be happy to do so.

Baroness Byford

I thank the noble Baroness for those further comments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 144 to 147 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Schedule 2, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Skelmersdale

I do not want to make a meal of this point but it strikes me that there is some rather curious drafting here. The Committee has just spent many hours debating Schedule 2, which comprises a list of what my children would call "no-nos", as applied, or purported to be applied, to people who claim access under Schedule 2. Unfortunately, paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 states: Section 2(1) does not apply to a person who, … upon the land in question". Unfortunately, part of Section 2(1) which is not applied relates to someone who observes the general restrictions in Schedule 2. In my mind the two things just do not go together.

As I said, I do not want to make a meal of this point, but I hope that the Ministers and officials in the department will reconsider the drafting of the measure. I am the first to agree that the "no-nos" should apply, along with the additional provisions that the Committee has inserted, and the further provisions on dogs that are to be brought forward at later stages of the Bill. However, I want to be absolutely certain not only that those measures do apply but that they will continue to apply and that there is no confusion.

Lord Whitty

I am not entirely clear as to where the confusion arises. However, perhaps I may discuss that matter further with the noble Lord. If there are drafting inconsistencies, we can deal with them on Report.

Earl Peel

My next point may already have been mentioned. I apologise to the Committee if that is the case as I had to leave the Committee for what I believe was previously called a "comfort stop". However, I believe it would be immensely helpful to make clear on the face of the Bill in Schedule 2 which activities are criminal and which are civil. It is essential that everyone understands exactly where he stands vis-à-vis the Bill. That would be a means of explaining not just to owners and occupiers but also to walkers what their rights will comprise. I hope that the noble Lord will consider that.

Lord Whitty

We have discussed this matter before. It is important that those who wish to avail themselves of the right of access understand the activities that they are not allowed to undertake and whether those are criminal under other legislation or whether they comprise restrictions on the right of access (which may not be fully criminal) under this legislation. The precise distinction that the noble Earl seeks may not be appropriate. However, I undertake to consider the matter further.

Lord Greaves

I support the comments of the noble Earl, Lord Peel. We have a messy list at present. Despite what the Minister has just said, that will cause much confusion. It will lead people to believe that relatively innocent activities such as camping and jumping in streams are on a par with criminal activities. It would be helpful if the list could be re-jigged so that the distinction was clearer.

Lord Whitty

They are on a par with criminal activities in so far as they affect a person's right to access, which is the point of Schedule 2. However, I shall consider the matter more closely to see whether it seems appropriate to change anything.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 [Powers to extend to coastal land]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 148: Page line 4, at end insert— ("() Before making such an order, the Secretary of State shall consult appropriate bodies.").

The noble Earl said: On Amendment No. 142 the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said that the Committee would be hesitant to give the Secretary of State power to extend the provisions of the Bill. I hope that it would. That is exactly the approach that Clause 3 requires. Here we have a classic Henry VIII clause. Having had a good debate about dogs and access, the Government now believe that they can slip through quietly a clause which gives the Secretary of State huge powers without having to come to Parliament in any major way, slipping matters through by statutory instrument.

I remember my old sparring partner, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, becoming extremely agitated with me when he accused the government of which I was then a member of trying to do something similar. I hope that the noble Lord, will answer; it would be rather fun to have the boot on the other foot for a change. It is a monstrous clause to impose. The Government are cocking a snook at the whole process of Parliament.

As drafted, the Bill grants the right to the Secretary of SI ate to extend access to the foreshore and to all the land that borders the foreshore, whether that includes farmland, land under managed retreat, vulnerable salt marshes or the habitats of sea and marsh birds. He may do so without consulting any informed body or organisation. What a blanket power to give to the Secretary of State!

The amendment aims to ensure that the Secretary of State carries out a full consultation before allowing access to this land. The issue of allowing access to the foreshore and adjacent land is complex and access to that land has not been included in the Bill for a number of good reasons. Consultation was carried out last year. However, the organisations consulted were given only four weeks in which to respond to the complicated nature of the shoreline around England and Wales and the impact which access might have on it.

The issues to be taken into account are considerable. Coastal areas are vulnerable, changeable and frequently dangerous. Landowners and local authorities have been asked to secure for public access areas subject to high tides, moving sands and soils, quicksand and crumbling cliff edges. Access authorities are being asked to map areas which may already have been targeted under managed retreat to fall into the sea. Granting access to parts of the coastline which will no longer be there in 10 years' time is a waste of time and resources. Coastal areas, in particular in the south-west and south-east of England, change constantly according to the action of the sea and the impact of climate change. The Environment Agency is currently one of only 240 agencies involved in managed retreat which need to be consulted before any access is granted to coastal areas.

There are many other complex land management issues involved in granting access to coastal areas. I ask the Government to listen to the genuine concerns of the legitimate organisations involved before making any decisions on the matter. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran

I strongly support my noble friend Lord Caithness in his Amendment No. 148, but I shall speak to Amendment No. 151, which is similar, but goes even further. It states: An order under this section shall not be made unless the Secretary of State (as respects England) or the National Assembly for Wales (as respects Wales) has consulted those interests likely to be affected by the order, has undertaken and published a regulatory impact assessment in relation to the proposed order, and has undertaken and published an assessment of the effects of a proposal for any such order on—

  1. (a) the environment, including any effects on the natural beauty, flora, fauna and geological and physiographical features of the land affected,
  2. (b) the use and management of land adjacent to the land affected, and
  3. (c) flood and coastal defence and coast protection in relation to the land affected".
The amendment makes explicit the commitment made by the Minister in another place on Second Reading that, no order will be laid until a full public consultation has been carried out and a regulatory impact statement has been prepared".—[Official Report, Commons, 20/3/00; col. 725.] The amendment would also require a prior assessment of the effects of any such order on the environment, the use and management of land adjacent to the coast and flood defence and coast protection. That would entail consideration of issues such as the impact of dogs on livestock grazing coastal land and the effects of access on legitimate wildfowling activities. Public safety is also a significant issue for all coastal land.

It is important when considering whether to extend rights of access to coastal land that proper regard is paid to the interests of flood defence and coastal protection and the needs of wildlife and nature conservation. The land affected includes many sea walls that need continual maintenance, particularly along the east and south coasts. Many coastal areas are designated as SSSIs for their wildlife value. Many areas are also designated as internationally important. Disturbance to roosts, especially in winter, and to nesting areas can damage the bird population. The potential impact should be assessed carefully beforehand.

Before exercising any power to extend the right of access to coastal land, the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales should be required to undertake a full consultation and environmental assessment by consulting representative interests that are affected or likely to be affected. They should make an assessment of the implications of the order for the environment, the use and management of the adjacent land and flood and coastal defence and coastal protection and should draw up a regulatory impact assessment of the implications of the order.

Although the Minister's commitment on Second Reading is taken to have been given in good faith, his words will not bind future Secretaries of State of any party. We feel very strongly that, if our important and fragile coastal habitats are be protected from any extension of access, his words must be turned into an obligation in the Bill.

Earl Peel

I support both my noble friends in their amendments. Amendment No. 151 is essential. It has always fascinated me that one of the reasons why English Nature came out against access on coastal land was the impact on ground nesting birds. I do not understand why that argument did not apply to some of the other areas, but that is as may be. If such land is to be considered for public access, it is essential that proper research is carried out to assess the impact. Otherwise, the precautionary principle will have to prevail.

2.30 a.m.

Lord Whitty

I suspect that noble Lords are aware of the background to this issue. When announcing their intention to bring forward legislation for a right to access to mountain, moor, heath, down and common land, the Government also asked the countryside bodies to advise on possible extensions to other types of open countryside. As a result of the process that has been referred to, the Countryside Agency advised that we should extend the right to coastal land. That advice was given last autumn.

However, it soon became apparent—including in relation to some of the issues referred to—that the proposal raised rather different issues to those relating to the other types of open countryside to which Part I applies. There was not enough time to sort out the matter and to undertake the necessary consultations, which I fully accept are necessary. Therefore, the Bill provides a specific power to extend the right of access to coastal land by order, subject to affirmative resolution.

Of course, much coastal land is already subject to access in various forms. There is obviously some desire to extend that to coastal land more generally, but a number of problems exist. However, we announced at Second Reading in another place that we would undertake full consultation and that we would publish a regulatory impact assessment. Indeed, that is standard practice when proposing regulations that are sufficiently important to require an affirmative resolution. That process would allow us to deal with many of the important issues that arise. Those include the issue of definition, which is to be dealt with by the next group of amendments, and we would need to establish the precise criteria to be used in mapping the land within the overall definition.

Therefore, I believe that the Government are already committed to everything that is included in the amendments. It is standard practice and there is no need to put it on the face of the Bill. The process is subject to affirmative resolution. The Delegated Powers Committee has examined the matter and considers that this is the appropriate way to deal with it.

Therefore, I believe that the power should stand. It provides the opportunity to extend a good deal of beautiful countryside to the right of access. However, it does so only following the full process of consultation and full assessment which noble Lords seek in their amendments. I can give the commitment that we shall meet those obligations. Therefore, I hope that it will not be necessary for noble Lords to press for their points to be included on the face of the Bill. If they are, they may well be misunderstood.

Lord Jopling

At times over the years one has heard the explanation which the Minister has just given us. He used the words, "This is standard practice", and said that there was therefore no need to put it on the face of the Bill. My view has always been: if it is standard practice, why not put it on the face of the Bill so that it is clear to everyone? I should have thought that in this particular case it would be good if within the Bill there was an extension of the powers to coastal land. It should be clear to everyone who contemplates it that all the procedures—particularly those in Amendment No. 151—are on the face of the Bill and are there so that everyone knows that they will be pursued.

I say that because for a time in the 1980s I had responsibility for coastal defences and coast protection. I can say only that continually at that time—I do not know what the situation is now—there was anxiety that if there was a North Sea surge, particularly down the east coast of the country, there could be massive flooding. That is, of course, why the Thames Barrier was built. In fact, it was built on my budget. I can remember travelling to the opening of the Thames Barrier (I digress a little and am name-dropping) with Her Majesty. She asked, "What are you doing here?". I replied, "Well, I paid for it, Ma'am". As I say, the Thames Barrier came under my budget.

But there is still fear that there could be a break-through in many places along the east coast. Therefore, it is an extremely delicate business to open up a lot of those coastal areas to public access. It is not as easy as saying, "Oh, let's open it. Let's get on with it". There are all sorts of implications. The east coast of this country is extremely vulnerable. The Minister said that those matters are standard practice. If that is so, why can they not be on the face of the Bill so that everybody knows about it? I cannot think of a good reason why that should not be done.

The Earl of Caithness

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Jopling for giving us the benefit of his vast experience. I was very disappointed by the Minister's response. I have used those words before. They mean absolutely nothing, with respect to the noble Lord. This is a Henry VIII clause. However, in my view, this amendment is far too important to seek a decision of the Committee at this stage of the morning.

I hope that the Minister will reflect on this matter. There are complications which my noble friend Lord Jopling has clearly enunciated to the Committee. For this Chamber or for Parliament not to have a constructive method by which alterations and amendments can be made is a travesty of our parliamentary procedures.

It is quite wrong for such important issues to come forward on a statutory instrument. We must return to this issue at a later stage. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 149: Page 3, line 11, leave out from beginning to ("any").

The noble Earl said: This is a simpler amendment. From what the Minister said on the last amendment and from his attitude, the answer will be, "No, we do not like it" but I shall press ahead with it in any event. This amendment seeks to remove an inconsistency from the Bill.

I do not agree that access should be granted to all land adjacent to the foreshore because that may include farmland, nature reserves and private gardens. In addition, land adjacent to the foreshore often includes estuarial areas where rivers feed into the sea and pine and other woodlands grow. Both river banks and woodlands have been excluded from the list of access land in the rest of the Bill but there should not be a tacit allowance for those to be included under the access through this clause.

If access to coastal land is allowed at all then the definition must be as precise and intelligible as possible. This amendment achieves that aim. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran

Again, I support the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Caithness and wish to speak also to Amendment No. 150.

That amendment has a very similar aim to the amendment moved by my noble friend. The amendment seeks to reduce the uncertainty behind what land, if any, will be considered in a further extension to the statutory right of access. At present, the Bill specifies that coastal land means the foreshore and any land adjacent to the foreshore. That could include arable, semi-improved grassland, improved grassland, woodland etc. The definition as it stands is far too unconstrained and would include land which is currently excluded from the right of access.

The amendment would remove any reference to land adjacent to the foreshore other than land of the specific types mentioned, which are any cliff face, bank, barrier, dune, beach or flat which is adjacent to the foreshore.

We also question in principle the desirability of establishing any rights of access to coastal land, which varies in nature from high cliffs to estuary margins to sea walls, and the interests associated with it, such as agriculture on adjacent land, wildfowling, flood and coastal defences and not least the environment. 'Vast areas are designated as SSSIs or as special protection areas for birds or as candidate special areas of conservation. All raise many practical issues and must be protected.

Once again, public safety is also a concern, not only on cliffs and beaches, but also on estuaries and mudflats. It would be impracticable and unsightly to fence off such areas. The Government's advisers, English Nature, the Countryside Council for Wales, the Countryside Agency and the Environment Agency took different views on extending a right of access to coastal land.

Given those concerns, we are surprised that the Government have pushed ahead with proposals to extend access to coastal land. A voluntary approach should be preferred. The Countryside Council for Wales which, unlike the Countryside Agency, has responsibilities for biodiversity as well as recreation, advised the Government that it is: of the view that a statutory right of public access to coastal areas is untenable and would compound the problems associated with the management of visitors and the conservation of sensitive ecosystems such as dunes and estuarine flats. The voluntary approach provides significant opportunities for improving recreational access, but ensures retention of management control". English Nature also voiced reservations regarding access to the foreshore in its advice to the Government. It pointed out that: a high proportion of the coastline and its associated maritime habitats and estuaries is designated as being of national or international importance for nature conservation. 'While many areas are generally resilient to access on foot, in localised situations there are extremely vulnerable populations of ground and cliff-nesting birds and habitats sensitive to erosion". English Nature added: Any provision to extend a general right of open access to other coastal habitats such as grazing marshes, saline lagoons and sand dunes, would need extensive management of sensitive areas and complex arrangements to close particular areas for specific reasons. Substantial resources would be required to ensure the positive intervention in sensitive areas, e.g. fencing of vulnerable habitats, dune stabilisation and path and visitor management". I beg to move.

2.45 a.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Two basic claims have been made for these two amendments: first, that the amendments would clarify the definition of coastal land made in Clause 3(3) and, secondly, that somehow making these amendments would protect the safety of people using access to coastal land. With some disappointment I say that neither of those two objectives are met by the amendments.

I shall not enter into the wider issues of the propriety of dealing with coastal land as set out in the Bill as my noble friend Lord Whitty has responded to that point and I have no doubt that he will have to do so again when the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, questions whether Clause 3 should stand part of the Bill. There appears to be some misunderstanding about the status of the order and of the definition of coastal land. Subsection (1) of Clause 3 says that, The Secretary of State … or the National Assembly for Wales … may by order amend the definition of 'open country' … so as to include a reference to coastal land or to coastal land of any description". In other words, in subsection (3) we have provided a wide definition of coastal land to include the foreshore and land adjacent to the foreshore with more detailed specification of what kind of land should be included as land adjacent to the foreshore. However, we have also provided that when the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales come to propose an order of this kind, which will be subject to scrutiny by Parliament, they may include something less than the full definition of coastal land in subsection (3) if they think that appropriate.

I acknowledge, of course, that the coastline of this country is extremely varied; that there are areas which it would be quite undesirable to provide access to for reasons of nature conservation or safety. But on the south coast of Cornwall, if we go east from Polruan and follow the coastal path, which is a right of way, to Polperro, that path goes for a large part along the cliff top. It has agricultural land running right up to the coastal path, which is fenced on the inside. Sometimes it goes down and crosses the beach and the foreshore and does all sorts of different things on the way. The important point is that there is access for the whole of that journey.

It has been an ambition of many people in this country to increase access to our coastline so that we can walk around it. That would be a wonderful thing to do, and more wonderful in this country than in many other countries in the world. If we can achieve that, with consent, through the means provided in Clause 3 of this Bill, we will have achieved something enormously worth while for which future generations will thank us.

I turn to the exact wording of the definitions. Both amendments would restrict the definition of coastal land so that an order could not extend access to, for example, cliff tops. I know the example I gave was a public right of way, but there are parts of our coastline where there is no right of way and where access could be given to a substantial area of cliff top with due protection to agricultural land or other excluded land inland from it. But the amendments leave unclear to what extent coastal land includes land which is not immediately contiguous with the foreshore.

Various authorities have been quoted. But the Countryside Agency, in providing advice to the Government, took the view that coastal land can include open grass or scrub land adjoining the foreshore, such as the top of cliffs. We agree with the agency's advice. We believe that access along cliff tops is a vital element of any proposed increase in access to the coastline. It is obvious to anybody who goes to Beachy Head, Land's End or the Birling Gap—I am thinking of places that I have visited recently—that they are enormously popular with the public. If we were to rule out even the possibility of that access, which would be the effect of agreeing these amendments, there would be a public outcry and a real missed opportunity.

Of course we take the point about safety and wildlife protection. But on large parts of our coastline we provide the kind of access which is provided for under our definition of coastal land without major difficulty. The consultation process described by my noble friend Lord Whitty will enable those issues to be thrashed out in detail to ensure that the interests of access and other uses of coastal land can co-exist. It would not be right for the Bill to rule out any one aspect of coastal access until all the issues have been properly examined.

The Earl of Caithness

I sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. On the one hand he has a brief which suits his inherent instinct that we must have greater access, particularly around the coast. The other, as he is a good parliamentarian, must be very difficult to swallow; that is, that Parliament is not going to be given a proper chance to debate, amend or alter these provisions.

The advice I have been given is quite contrary to that of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. My amendment gives a much clearer definition. Why in respect of a statutory instrument should the Government say, "Okay, in the Bill you can have access to a certain amount of land which is defined, but by statutory instrument we can extend that to any other land which we think is so fit"? It could be farmland, gardens or anything one likes. It could be woodland. Woodland is specifically excluded in the Bill but under the statutory instrument the Government could say, "We can do what we like". And Parliament has little say in the matter; it must either throw out the statutory instrument or accept it. I believe that that is totally unacceptable and I want to test the opinion of the Committee.

2.50 a.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 149) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 25; Not-Contents, 66.

Division No. 2
Arran, E. Lyell, L.
Attlee, E. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Blatch, B. Mancroft, L.
Burnham, L. Marlesford, L.
Byford, B. Montrose, D.
Caithness, E.[Teller] Northbrook, L.
Northesk, E.
Glentoran, L. Oxfuird, V.
Henley, L. [Teller] Peel, E.
Jopling, L. Rotherwick, L.
Kimball, L. Shrewsbury, E.
Lament of Lervick, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Luke, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Acton, L. Hughes of Woodside, L.
Addington, L. Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Ahmed, L. Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Alii, L. Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Amos, B.
Bach, L. Judd, L.
Berkeley, L. Layard, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L. Lea of Crondall, L.
Billingham, B. Lipsey, L.
Brennan, L. Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
Brett, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
Burlison, L. Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L
Carter, L.[Teller] Mar and Kellie, E.
Clarke of Hampstead, L. Massey of Darwen, B.
Desai, L. Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B
Donoughue, L. Nicol, B.
Dubs, L. Patel of Blackburn, L.
Elder, L. Pitkeathley, B.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Harrington of Ribbleton, B. Rea, L.
Faulkner of Worcester, L. Rendell of Babergh, B.
Gale, B. Scotland of Asthal, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B. Smith of Leigh, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L. Stone of Blackheath, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B. Thornton, B.
Greaves, L. Turnberg, L.
Grenfell, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Hamwee, B. Uddin, B.
Harris of Haringey, L. Whitty.L.
Hayman, B. Williams of Mostyn, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Hoyle, L. Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

3.1 a.m.

[Amendment No. 150 not moved.]

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 151: Page 3, line 12, at end insert— ("() An order under this section shall not be made unless the Secretary of State (as respects England) or the National Assembly for Wales (as respects Wales) has consulted those interests likely to be affected by the order, has undertaken and published a regulatory impact assessment in relation to the proposed order, and has undertaken and published an assessment of the effects of a proposal for any such order on—

  1. (a) the environment, including any effects on the natural beauty, flora, fauna and geological and physiographical features of the land affected,
  2. (b) the use and management of land adjacent to the land affected, and
  3. (c) flood and coastal defence and coast protection in relation to the land affected.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 151. I was not satisfied with the Minister's explanation in relation to this amendment. It is not that I do not trust the noble Lord or members of the Government but I look to the future. There should be some controls on the face of the Bill in relation to the powers of the Secretary of State, and I wish to test the opinion of the Committee.

3.2 a.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 151) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 24; Not-Contents, 65.

Division No. 3
Arran, E. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Attlee, E. Mancroft, L.
Blatch, B. Marlesford, L.
Burnham, L. [Teller] Montrose, D.
Byford, B. Northbrook, L.
Glentoran, L. Northesk, E.
Henley, L. [Teller] Oxfuird, V.
Jopling, L. Peel, E.
Kimball, L. Rotherwick, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L. Shrewsbury, E.
Luke, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Lyell, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Acton, L. Greaves, L.
Addington, L. Grenfell, L.
Ahmed, L. Hamwee, B.
Alli, L. Harris of Haringey, L.
Amos, B. Hayman, B.
Bach, L. Hollis of Heigham, B.
Berkeley, L. Hoyle, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L. Hughes of Woodside, L.
Billingham, B. Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Brennan, L. Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Brett, L.
Brookman, L. Judd, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Layard, L.
Burlison, L. Lea of Crondall, L.
Carter, L.[Teller] Lipsey, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L. Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
Desai, L. McIntosh of Haringev, L [Teller]
Donoughue, L.
Dubs, L. McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
Elder, L. Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L
Evans of Temple Guiting, L. Mar and Kellie, E.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Massey of Darwen, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L. Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Gale, B. Nicol, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B. Patel of Blackburn, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L. Pitkeathley, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rea, L. Turnberg, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B. Turner of Camden, B.
Scotland of Asthal, B. Uddin, B.
Smith of Leigh, L. Williams of Mostyn, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L. Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Thornton, B. Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

3.13 a.m.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Duty to prepare maps]:

[Amendment No. 152 not moved.]

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 153: Page 3, line 17, at end insert— ("() In preparing the maps, the Countryside Agency shall consult the Nature Conservancy Council for England.").

The noble Lord said: We move on to another serious topic—mapping. Amendment No. 153 is not a difficult amendment for the Minister. It is based on a good deal of common sense and has much to recommend it.

The amendment places a duty on the Countryside Agency to consult English Nature in preparing maps. In Wales, the Countryside Council for Wales fulfils the functions which are performed in England of both the Countryside Agency in relation to access and the Nature Conservancy Council—English Nature—in relation to the conservation of wildlife. In particular, when it is undertaking mapping, the Countryside Council for Wales will be fully aware of any sites of special scientific interest. It will accordingly be made aware at an early stage of any sites where there may be possible conflicts between conservation and recreation which might need to be tackled by restrictions under Clause 24 of the Bill. We all have some sympathy with the Minister in the counterbalancing he has to achieve. There are conflicts of interest throughout the Bill. This is a particularly sensitive area.

In England, it is not at all clear whether and at what stage English Nature will see the draft maps so that it can identify areas of SSSI land which have been mapped and consider the implications. A high proportion of access land is likely to be designated as SSSIs. It is important that English Nature should be aware at an early stage of the specific areas of land involved. The amendment will ensure that the close collaboration which will occur in Wales between those parts of the CCW concerned with access andconservation will be replicated in England by close contact between the Countryside Agency and English Nature. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

Clause 4 imposes a duty on the countryside bodies to produce maps of open country and registered common land. These maps will provide the certainty that is required about what should be grouped under the definitions for the purposes of Part I. For that reason, safeguards have been built into Chapter I which provides for landowners and others to be consulted on draft maps and to appeal against provisional maps.

I believe that the noble Lord seeks to ensure that the Countryside Agency will work closely with English Nature. I have no doubt that that will happen. Furthermore, I am confident that English Nature and, indeed, other bodies will help to ensure that accurate and up-to-date maps of open countryside are produced.

What lies behind the noble Lord's amendment may be a slightly more complicated matter. That is because the issue of conservation is not of itself relevant to the identification of the land. Land identification may well be helped by English Nature, which should be able to supply information on the qualities of the particular land, such as vegetation and cover, which will assist the Countryside Agency in classifying the land as mountain, moor, heath and so forth.

However, at that point it would not be conservation issues that would be taken into account. English Nature will need to engage in a separate process under Clause 24 in establishing the conservation dimensions. The mapping itself concerns the nature of the landscape rather than conservation issues. Nevertheless, it is important that the Countryside Agency should engage in consultations with English Nature. That will be done and it will form an essential part of the mapping process. For that reason, I do not believe that it requires an amendment to be put on to the face of the Bill.

We have therefore met the noble Lord's point, but I should sound a note of caution in order that he understands exactly what I am saying.

Lord Kimball

I believe that it is important that farmers and land managers should have a real voice during the early stages and development of the production of the maps. At present I have an awful feeling that we shall see a report from English Nature and its Welsh equivalent which overrides the powers of the people who have to manage the land.

I should be most grateful if the Minister could give the Committee an absolute assurance that farmers and land managers will be given a voice in the process to be put in place to produce accurate maps.

Lord Whitty

English Nature will not be producing the maps, although it may well be one of the consultees, as required by the terms of the amendment. The Countryside Agency in England will produce the maps. That agency is required to consult landowners about the draft maps. Furthermore, landowners have the right of appeal against those draft maps. Their interests have been considered and carefully built into the process.

Lord Glentoran

I understand the thrust of the Minister's argument. However, we should consider the two agencies; namely, the Countryside Agency and the Nature Conservancy Council for England, and project forward into the future. The Countryside Agency has a role in promoting access and recreation for the people and so forth, whereas the Nature Conservancy Council for England has an equally clear remit to look after our precious wildlife sites and our flora and fauna.

Depending on the personalities involved—obviously I shall exclude all present personalities—I can foresee a time when there might be a temptation to lead these two agencies in different directions. I can see in that a serious danger. I do not think it would make much difference to the face of the Bill at this stage, but some years down the road—maybe five years, maybe 10—with different governments, different people, we may be very glad that the requirement for the two organisations to consult one another on mapping is on the face of the Bill. I do not think that mapping will be a one off; if the process is successful it will continue for many years. One hopes that more land will become available for access, that things will change and the process will go on.

I can see some dangers—I may be overstating them—in not having the amendment on the face of the Bill. I can see many advantages in having it. Perhaps the Minister will give the matter some thought before Report stage and look into the future a bit more. Perhaps he will look at the way in which these two organisations may go in different directions under different governments and consider what we may lose as a result. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 154 and 155 not moved.]

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 156: Page 3, line 23, at end insert— ("() Before determining whether land is open country the appropriate countryside body shall consult the local access forum.").

The noble Baroness said: I can be very brief in moving this group of amendments because the Minister said on the first day of Committee that the Government would be looking at the whole issue of local access forums.

The first three amendments of this group deal with the start and preparation of the draft maps. The local access forums will play an important role in building consensus around the difficult area of whether land falls into a certain category, especially around the margins. We have debated at great length whether it will be easy to decide some of those difficult issues. Having local access forums should reduce the number of appeals and make the process quicker and easier, and certainly one that local people are signed up to.

The other amendments in the group seek to build in local access forums throughout the process, including the provision that forums should be consulted before by-laws are made, on closures generally, and particularly on MoD closures. I should be grateful if the Minister would indicate which of these he feels less keen on at this stage, or whether he will generally take them all away and think about them. I beg to move.

Baroness Byford

I presume that the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Dorner, refer to all the amendments in this group.

When we debated the issue of local access forums, we were very grateful to the Minister for being willing to go away, think about it and come back with some kind of amendment on Report. I think I raised at that stage, if not at Second Reading, my concern that in many areas local access forums will not be established—yet here we are, already into the process of mapping. If access forums are not established, obviously they will not have an input into what is happening. That is a matter of concern to me.

I also asked the Minister at one of the earlier stages—I suspect that my question got lost in the midst of everything that was happening—what progress had been made on mapping from Second Reading until today. I hope that when the Minister responds he will update us in regard to how far the process has progressed. We know it went out to tender in July, but we do not know how much further along the line it is. If it has gone a little way further down the line and these local access forums may not be set up for some time, obviously the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, will not apply. I hope that the Minister will respond to the points I raised earlier and clarify them for us now.

Lord Whitty

I can respond to that point immediately. I thought that I had indicated this, but perhaps I did not. We tendered in July for the pilot efforts. The contracts will be awarded very soon and we expect a feedback early next year. The full mapping process would be informed by the experience of the pilot efforts.

As the result of an amendment being accepted on the first day of this Committee stage, a responsibility is established in terms of local access forums. They would be established in parallel with mapping technology being developed but would be in being in time for the main stages of the mapping process. Therefore, it would be appropriate for them to be involved in commenting on the draft map.

The first group of amendments, Amendments Nos. 156, 158 and 168, deal with that process. It is important to recognise that there are others who must be consulted in addition to the local access forum. However, I am persuaded that there is a good basis for those amendments and that there is a case for requiring the countryside bodies to consult local access forums at the same time as inviting comments on draft maps from the other people who will have to be specified, landowners in particular. We shall bring forward amendments to meet the point of the first batch of amendments.

Baroness Byford

The Minister is right. We did discuss the pilot projects. But those are going ahead and the local access forums are not set up, even in the pilot project areas. I was coming to that point. Will the Minister clarify when the pilot projects will finish and when the access forums are likely to be set up, or whether he envisages that the pilot projects—four, I believe—will actually happen before any access forum will be set up. That was the point that was not clarified previously and which I am attempting to clarify now.

Lord Whitty

It is unlikely that the access forums will be established by the time the pilot projects are completed. The pilot projects, however, feed in to the mapping proper process and the local access forums will be established during the early stages of that process. Then, if we adopt the approach in the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, of which I have, broadly speaking, accepted the first three, at the draft process the mapping authorities will be required to consult with the local access forum. That is where the feed-in would come.

I have just received a slight correction to my previous estimate. There was a slight delay in the tendering process due to a requirement to re-advertise in the European Journal, of which I was not aware until this point. The process is slightly delayed but we still expect the pilot projects to begin in the autumn and to conclude in nine to 12 months' time. That puts back slightly the date that I gave earlier. Nevertheless, the same will apply. It will take some time for local access forums to be established. I do not expect many to be established in 12 months; however, it is hoped that they will be in place shortly after that.

The next batch of amendments consists of Amendments Nos. 185, 186 and 187 and deals with the next stage in the process. They would require local access forums to be consulted on statutory maps after the appeals process has been completed. We are not enamoured of that position because it would reopen a process that ought to have been concluded and would, in effect, give local access forums a veto over a process involving other people with appellate rights. Notionally, the process could continue for ever. Therefore, we are not attracted by that group of amendments.

Amendment No. 218, which deals with consultation on the making of by-laws, is something that we would wish to consider further and about which we feel quite positive. That also applies to Amendment No. 257, which would provide for consultation with local access forums on land management closures and restrictions. However, I do not believe that every application for a day's restriction would be appropriate, but it seems sensible to give forums a role in respect of closures that have long-term effects.

We would not, however, go along with Amendment No. 279, which would effectively make access forums statutory consultees on closures in the interests of national security and defence. We have to draw the line there. I hope that my response has given the noble Baroness an indication as to which of her amendments we favour and which we do not. I hope that she will agree that we can return to such issues on Report.

3.30 a.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

I thank the Minister for his reply. There were no great surprises there as regards which of the amendments are acceptable to him. However, I am especially pleased about the ones involving the mapping process and the preparation of its draft form. I agree with the noble Baroness that it is important for the access forums to be in place before any such work is completed. But there are bodies in many areas that are more or less access forums. They will be easily adapted to fit in with the spirit behind these amendments.

As regards the unacceptable amendments, we shall consider what to do about such issues when we debate Amendment No. 176, tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment 157: Page 3, line 26, at end insert— ("() A map prepared under this section must distinguish between—

  1. (a) open country which is accessible to the public by any highway, and
  2. (b) open country which is not accessible to the public by any highway.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment relates to mapping and refers back to the discussions that we had on the last occasion. It provides that a map prepared under this clause should distinguish between,

  1. "(a) open country which is accessible to the public by any highway, and
  2. (b) open country which is not accessible to the public by any highway".

The amendment would require the Countryside Agency and the Countryside Council for Wales, in mapping access, to distinguish between areas that are accessible because a highway terminates on them, or they border a highway, or they are crossed by a highway; and other areas that will be inaccessible unless new routes are created to link them to highways. The reference to "highway" means any public road (carriageway) or other public right of way, whether a byway open to all traffic, a restricted byway, a bridleway or footpath. Making this distinction will help to focus minds on the issues of whether it is worth while to include these areas on maps of access land in the first place and, if they are included, whether it is worth while creating new rights of way to link them to existing highways.

If the maps show these areas in different ways—for example, in different colours—it will be possible to obtain a clear view of the extent to which proposed access land is accessible on any map sheet. That will facilitate a debate about the value of including inaccessible areas on the map at all and about the issues raised by any desire to link the inaccessible areas to roads and other highways.

Requiring such a distinction to be made will be helpful in informing the consultation process and identifying potential issues early on. That will be to the benefit of local authorities, the Countryside Agency and others. I believe that my explanation is very easy to understand. We had a debate about what to do with fast-track land above 600 metres that had no right of way to it and no access. This will just make that decision-making process somewhat easier while the mapping is taking place.

I turn to Amendment No. 161. This is a similar amendment to that proposed to remove the test that areas disregarded must be small. Not all land will be satisfactory for access, especially inaccessible land. Consideration must be given to the costs involved in providing access to that land as against the public worth of having that land as access land.

The countryside bodies should have discretion to decide not to include certain areas of inaccessible land within the statutory maps. This discretion would allow for the exclusion of areas of land (including areas of common land) which are inaccessible and where there is little value in providing access.

It is important that accessibility is added as a criterion in deciding whether to include areas of land within the maps, particularly in view of the potential considerable costs involved in establishing new paths to link these "island" sites to the rights of way network or roads. We have had much discussion on that subject. I believe that everyone is well aware of the potential problem of having "islands" of accessible land with no obvious access routes. I do not think that I need say any more. I beg to move.

Earl Peel

I speak briefly to Amendment No. 157. Although it is pretty obvious, it draws our attention to a rather important issue. It seems to me that the real point of the amendment is that it highlights the need for the access authority not to issue any maps of open country where there is no means of getting there by a footpath.

I assume that in constructing such footpaths to reach access areas where paths do not exist at present—or will not exist when the mapping process starts—account will have to be taken of a number of different issues. I refer to farming or land practices; nature conservation and geological interest. I imagine that the access authority will take all those issues into account when the footpaths are negotiated. Although I understand that an appeals system is in place as regards mapping, will the Bill establish an appeals system as regards footpaths that may not be situated on access land but which constitute a means for the general public to reach the access land? I notice that the noble Lord is frowning. That makes me think that he does not understand the point I am making.

Lord Whitty

I think that I understand the situation the noble Earl describes. However, in so far as we are talking about access through non-access land where there is no pre-existing or statutory access, footpaths, or, indeed, any form of highway, would either have to constitute a right of way already—in which case the issue of appeal does not arise—or would have to be negotiated voluntarily with the various bodies concerned, possibly through a local access forum. I do not believe that the issue of appeal arises in that case either because, by definition, the landowner would have agreed to that; or he would have had to accept that there was a right of way across his property in the first place.

Earl Peel

Is it not conceivable that if the access authority could not reach a satisfactory agreement with the landowner, or with the series of landowners that might be involved, presumably at some point a footpath would be imposed on landowners to enable the public to reach the access areas? Would there be a right of appeal under those circumstances?

Lord Whitty

That would arise only at the end of the process I have described. If agreement cannot be achieved, there could be an order under the highways legislation—in most cases, presumably to establish a highway in the form of a footpath. In that situation, there is in that Act an appeal to the Secretary of State. None of that is covered in this Bill.

I am not happy with the amendments. We discussed the case of the over-600 metres land. I made the same objections as I make now to what is covered in Amendment No. 157. If access is required only by a highway, one excludes many other possibilities of having valid access to that land. One could have neighbouring access land, statutory access land, voluntary access land or de facto access land where there was no right of way but there was existing access over which people had already de jure the right to reach that island. Therefore specifying "highway" is not an appropriate way to deal with this issue.

Lord Glentoran

I thank the Minister for giving way. I do not think that what he said impacts on the amendment. The amendment relates to mapping. It makes it easier to see whether the problem he outlines can be solved and whether there is a value in solving it. I accept that there are many ways of giving access. However, if there is no access at the stage the mapping is done, and access has to be created, the amendment highlights the problem so that it can be addressed quickly.

Lord Whitty

The amendment would provide that the area should be excluded from being access land or, as the noble Lord suggests, should be painted a different colour on the map, giving it a different status from access land. However, in many cases it would be not only access land but accessible even though there was not a footpath or road to it.

Amendment No. 161 expressly provides for the exclusion of such islands from maps of open country. From what the noble Lord said in response to my previous point, I interpret that that would be after having considered whether there were other forms of access in the highway. As regards the responsibilities of the mapping agency, this is clearly moorland and heathland. Therefore it should be access land. How people access it, in terms of mandatory access, may have to be a matter for further negotiation. The local forum and other means of consultation would have to be engaged in. It may take some time to identify such land. In the meantime, it is possible for the landowner permissively to allow access—it may be to his friends, or at certain times of the year—to that land to the island. When people reach that land, they have open access to that land. It would be wrong, therefore, to exclude it from the map of access land.

The difficulties of finding an easier route than one which everyone recognises and which is available to everyone is an important issue that needs to be addressed by the local consultation process. I do not think that the solution in Amendment No. 161 would be helpful or would correctly represent the status of the land.

Lord Glentoran

I thank the Minister for that explanation. We must avoid misleading the public. To produce maps with islands of access land which are clearly inaccessible legally could lead to problems. That is why I have suggested that such areas should be highlighted to draw them to the attention of the necessary authorities. They would then either have to do some work and negotiate and plan access or decide that the whole process was too expensive or not worth it, in which case the areas should not be advertised as access land.

Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 158 not moved.]

3.45 a.m.

Lord Luke moved Amendment No. 159: Page 3, line 28, at end insert— ("() shall not show as open country any area of open country which, by reason of anything done on the land, or on other land contiguous or adjacent thereto, it appears expedient, for the purposes of avoiding danger to the public, to exclude,").

The noble Lord said: I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 160 and 165. Amendment No. 159 would require the Countryside Agency and the Countryside Council for Wales to exclude land that is dangerous due to activities on it or on adjacent land. If land is likely to be closed permanently in the interests of public safety, there is little point in mapping it in the first place. It should be excluded from the outset. There should accordingly be an obligation on the countryside bodies to identify and exclude unsafe land during the mapping process.

Excluding such land from the right of access would also reduce the fear of cases being brought against occupiers for accidents that occurred due to features that are not specifically excluded in Clause 13, which deals with occupiers' liability.

Some areas are inherently dangerous as a result of past human activity on them. Why should the current owner suddenly have to incur costs to protect the public because of an imposed right? That is particularly relevant to old mines and quarries, which are spread across upland areas. Legislation exists obliging the owners of such land to make areas of old workings safe, but it is not comprehensive. Some mine openings and quarries do not require to be made safe and the Bill will provide a right of access to them. Claims against owners for injuries may arise from accidents to persons exercising their right. To avoid that, owners would have to incur costs in undertaking public safety risk assessments and in fencing off land, as well as greatly increasing their third party insurance cover.

The Mines and Quarries Act 1954 requires all mines not used for 12 months or more to have an efficient enclosure, barrier, plug or other device to prevent any person accidentally falling or entering the outlet. All such devices must be properly maintained. That Act does not apply to mines unused since before 9th August 1872, if the minerals mined were not coal, ironstone, shale or clay. Some workings for minerals such as lead or tin used before 1872 could still be dangerous, but they do not appear to be covered by existing legislation. There are many such workings in moorland areas, particularly in Cornwall.

Similarly, a quarry, working or otherwise, can be defined as a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 if it does not have a properly maintained barrier to prevent persons from falling in and, by reason of its accessibility from a highway or place of public resort, it constitutes a danger to the public. Would an owner with a disused quarry that is unfenced because it is not readily accessible have to fence it once the Bill establishes a right of access to land around it? I look forward to the Minister's answer.

Cases involving certain mines and quarries on potential access land that are not required by existing legislation to be fenced or otherwise protected to exclude the public could give rise to additional costs to owners and increased risk to the public. One way to reduce that would be to exclude land containing such mines and quarries from the right of access at the outset by not mapping it as access land, as the amendment provides. If that is not done, the issue of compensation for owners who incur costs would certainly arise.

There is a precedent for land to be excluded from the right of access on safety grounds. Section 80(1) of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 specifically provides that, where an authority feels that land is dangerous, it shall be excluded from any access agreement or order so as to avoid danger to the public. A similar provision is needed to provide safeguards in a situation where far more land will be open to the public under the current Bill.

I shall now speak to Amendment No. 165, which is consequential upon Amendment No. 159. This amendment suggests that the relevant body should not show on maps dangerous land as open country—an eminently common-sense amendment, I believe.

Amendment No. 160 again refers to mapping and removes the test that areas disregarded must be "small". The countryside bodies are given the discretion not to map areas that are so small that they would serve no useful purpose. Use of the word "small" is unhelpful as it could easily be considered that larger areas could also have no useful purpose, especially if they had no legal right of access and were remote or inaccessible from roads or public rights of way.

If smallness is removed as a criterion, areas could be excluded if they were not small but there was no demand for access to them or if they were isolated within much larger blocks of other land and there would be no value to the public in providing access to them; for example, rushy fields, which could be said to be moor or heath within larger blocks of improved grassland.

This amendment seeks to remove the smallness test, giving the countryside bodies discretion not to map access land of any size. The CA and CCW will then have greater flexibility to be pragmatic in deciding what to map and what not to map. In discussion on an amendment in Committee in another place which would have required the CA and CCW to exclude any areas of less than five hectares, the Under-Secretary stated that they would have the discretion to exclude areas higher or lower than the threshold. It appears that Ministers recognised that the discretion to omit large areas is important.

However, if the word "small" remains in Clause 4, that discretion could be limited because the CA or CCW would always be open to the challenge that the area that it was excluding was large and not small. Some rather theological arguments in court could be avoided by the omission of the word "small" as proposed. I beg to move.

Lord Lyell

I warn the Committee that, if Amendment No. 160 in this group is accepted, I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 161.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Clause 4(5)(a) gives to the countryside bodies a discretion to exclude from maps of open country any areas of land which are so small that they consider their inclusion would serve no useful purpose. We envisage that the countryside bodies will wish to apply sensible thresholds in mapping open country so that small parcels of land need not be identified and included on maps, having regard to such criteria as their location in proximity to where people live, the presence of more substantial areas of access land nearby and the accessibility of the land in question.

The bodies may well wish to apply different criteria to different circumstances, including different criteria between the categories of moor, heath and down. We do not wish the countryside bodies to be burdened with an impossible task of mapping every last piece of open country, however small such land might be and however little it might contribute to securing greater access opportunities for the public. That is achieved by Clause 4(5)(a) as it stands.

Amendment No. 160 would allow the countryside bodies to exclude any area of land from their maps on the basis that the inclusion of the land, however large, would none the less serve no useful purpose. Such a provision would run counter to what the mapping process is all about; namely, to identify and draw the boundaries of land which is open country or registered common land. It is not about the countryside bodies making judgments as to whether potentially huge tracts of open country should be left off the map altogether.

The reason why we have given the countryside bodies discretion not to show small areas of open country is simply pragmatism. We do not think it would be a sensible use of taxpayers' money for the mapping authorities to spend a great deal of time and effort searching for every last scrap of land which might qualify as open country and which would serve no useful purpose.

But that is an entirely different proposition to allowing those charged with the mapping work to miss out large areas. Let us take as an example a large area of land which undoubtedly qualifies as open country but to which there is presently no legal right of access. Some might see Amendment No. 160 as a way to exclude such land from the maps. But that land may well have the potential to serve a very useful recreational purpose should a means of access be created which would allow people to get to it.

To accept this amendment would mean that areas of land to which there is no current access would perhaps never find their way on to maps of open country in the first place. If the mapping process highlights areas which are currently inaccessible but which many people would dearly love the opportunity to walk over, then we would hope that the relevant access authorities would take steps to create a means of access to them.

I turn now to Amendments Nos. 159 and 165. We appreciate that some areas of open countryside can present dangers to the public, but in many areas the risk has coexisted with significant public use over a long time. Such hazards can provide much of the appeal of open countryside. Our approach remains that users must continue to bear primary responsibility for their own safety. The onus would be directly on members of the public to keep themselves out of danger. That principle is reinforced by the exclusion of occupiers' liability for hazards arising from natural features of the landscape.

The noble Lord, Lord Luke, raised the issue of mines. Under the provisions of the Bill, a direction can, if necessary, be made excluding from access the land where those mines are located. If the mine is inaccessible from the highway or a place of public resort and if there is no protective device or if the device is not properly maintained, those issues will be taken into account.

Clause 23 of the Bill enables the countryside body or national park authority to direct access to be restricted or excluded completely where it is believed that there may be a danger to the public. The countryside bodies will be required to map all land which is open countryside or registered common land. Whether the land should be closed or access restricted should be assessed separately—and this is a very important point in response to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Luke—under the appropriate provision, and will be subject to review every five years.

We do not believe that these amendments would be a helpful addition to the Bill. We see no reason why substantial areas of potential open country should be excluded from the maps. The Bill is intended to give access to all such areas unless they fall for the time being within an excepted category or are subject to an exclusion under Chapter II. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Luke

I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. I cannot say that I am altogether happy with it, particularly with regard to the safety angle on Amendment No. 159. We may return to that later but, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 160 and 161 not moved.]

4 a.m.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 162: Page 3, line 33, leave out from ("feature") to end of line 35 and insert ("where the effect is to exclude part of an area of open country").

The noble Earl said: Part of Clause 4(5)(b) is a rather nasty underhand piece of legislation. We are led to believe that the definition of the land over which access is to be granted is to be mountain, moor, heath and down and, lo and behold, in paragraph (b) we see something totally different which allows the mapping authority to include any other land that it sees fit to include. That blows a hole right through the definition and the understanding in relation to this Bill. It is misleading.

The other land could be farmland, river bank, foreshore, coastal fringe, woodland, all the land that the Government have said is not included in the Bill. Here we have the escape route for the mapping authority to include such land. Why has this been permitted? I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

The reason we have provided in the Bill a discretion for the countryside bodies to map the boundary of open country is precisely so that it coincides, where appropriate, with a physical feature of landscape. That may mean that some open country is excluded if there is a wall, a hedgerow or a stream just inside the boundary of open countryside which may make a more recognisable boundary, or it may mean that some land which does not fall within the definition of open country is, nevertheless, mapped as such if there is a more suitable boundary feature on the ground outside the actual limits of open country.

This provision in the Bill takes account of the fact that open country does not always come in clearly defined parcels of land. It may not be clear on the ground where heathland ceases and woodland begins, or, even armed with a map, neither user nor landowner will be able to tell where the right of access applies if the threshold is a line on a map that is not correlated to any physical feature.

Amendment No. 162 would alter the balance of discretion so that the mapping authorities could map to a feature only where it falls within the area of open country. That would mean that where an obvious physical feature lay close to, but beyond the boundary of open country, the countryside body would not be able to map to it. It would either have to leave the boundary where it is, undefined in relation to any physical feature, or map inwards to another feature which could exclude a substantial area of potential access land.

I can reassure the noble Earl that we expect the countryside bodies to make careful use of this discretion. Any land so included would need to be clearly contiguous with a parcel of open country and be relatively minor in extent. We would expect the countryside bodies to take account of the way in which the land is to be used and not to include it if a right of access would be incompatible. This discretion could not be used to include in maps of open country substantial areas of improved farmland or intensively grazed pastures because it is most unlikely that the boundary of open country could be mapped beyond the first intervening fence or other boundary feature. We have provided a specific right of appeal for a landowner to the Secretary of State against the inclusion by the countryside body under this provision of any land on the map.

I hope that with that reassurance the noble Earl will not press his amendment.

Baroness Hamwee

We have some sympathy with this amendment. The reassurance that the Minister has given is helpful, but the words on the paper do not come that close to the words that she has used. It would have been useful to have words like "where convenient" or "where appropriate", something that linked back to the work that the Countryside Agency will carry out.

I am reassured, therefore, by what the Minister says. If the Government can find a way of translating that response into a couple of words that can go into the Bill, it would be even more reassuring.

The Earl of Caithness

I am grateful for the intervention of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. She put her finger right on the problem.

The Minister confirmed that the mapping authority can designate any land it so wishes when it happens to see a suitable boundary, wherever that might be. But there is nothing in the Bill remotely to limit the mapping authority in the way the Minister explained to the Committee. There is nothing to say that the land must be close by. The Minister said that a substantial area of potential access land could be excluded. Equally, a substantial area of non-access land could be included for exactly the same reason; that is, that the best and most logical physical boundary is a considerable distance away. The warning must therefore go out to every landowner and tenant that it is not moorland, moor, down and heath; it is any land that the mapping authority considers relevant due to physical features.

Perhaps the Minister will take away this matter and come back with a more limited definition, perhaps limiting the size of land that the mapping authority could include. If not, it blows a complete hole in the definition.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

It may help both the noble Earl and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for me to indicate that I am prepared to consider whether the Bill should be clearer on the criteria. I listened carefully to the points raised.

The Earl of Caithness

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her constructive and helpful response. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Luke moved Amendment No. 163: Page 3, line 35, at end insert (", and () shall identify at least one specific location ("a designated access point") where access to each discrete area of open country can conveniently be provided for the public, taking into account the needs of land management, and where information on the rights of the public and on any restrictions or closures of the access land can be made available").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 163, with the Committee's permission I shall speak also to Amendment No. 167.

The object of Amendment No. 163 is to require the bodies—-the CA and CCW—to identify at least one access point on the maps for each parcel of access land which they map. It will be important for the effective management of the right of access that the CA and CCW identify on the draft maps a designated access point where access can conveniently be provided to each area of open country. There will be points, for example, near roads where car parking can readily be provided or where rights of way enter the land or terminate on it. Those access points could also serve as essential reference points where walkers are able to obtain information on their rights and responsibilities and on any closures or restrictions on access to the adjacent land.

It is important for the convenience of the public that maps of access land clearly identify points where the public can readily gain access to the access land, especially day visitors or holidaymakers, who are most unlikely to be familiar with the area. Users will need to he guided to places where they may safely park their cars and to points where information on access rights and restrictions is readily available. If access points are clearly marked on the maps produced by the CA and CCW, it will be straightforward for the Ordnance Survey to transfer that information to the published maps most likely to be used by the public. If such points are not mapped, the Ordnance Survey will have to obtain that information separately by ground survey, leading to delays and the provision of information which is limited and selective.

It is important that the access points are sited so as to take full account of land management needs, otherwise there will be problems for land managers. They will also need to be convenient for the public, otherwise they will not be used. The durability of the substratum is also important. Access authorities might need to provide limited surfacing of heavily used access points. The aim should be to site the points to maximise convenience and to minimise detrimental effects.

Identifying possible access points on draft maps would enable a full debate to take place over the number of points and their location in relation to any parcel of access land and to facilities for car parking and links with the rights-of-way network. It is important that this debate takes place early on and that a consensus is developed. If the issue of where walkers are to gain access to land and where information is to be provided for them is left to a late stage in the process, the result will be confusion for owners and walkers alike. That will result in conflict, which is the last thing anyone wants. Furthermore, information needs to be forwarded to Ordnance Survey at the same time as the final maps so that the access points can be clearly marked on Ordnance Survey maps.

There is similar provision in relation to car park sites in various areas. I refer for example to the 1:25,000 tourist maps of Dartmoor and the location of information posts on Ministry of Defence training land. It is important that this information is also shown on Ordnance Survey maps of access land. The Government are rightly keen to avoid having a plethora of signs on open country. The number could be minimised by encouraging walkers to enter access land at specific designated points. Owners would not then necessarily feel the need to put up other signs elsewhere.

The Government appear to want to resist including information on the statutory maps beyond the location of open land. It is true that the published maps—for example, of the Ordnance Survey—will be used far more by the public than the statutory maps but that should not preclude the use of draft maps to assist in the process of identifying where the access points should be. Once agreement has been reached, the access points could be left off the final confirmed maps.

However, if the issue of where access points should be located is not settled before the final maps have been prepared, there will be substantial confusion. The issue should be settled as far as possible through the consultations on the draft maps.

Access points could also be integrated with the Government's policy on green transport. Public transport services could use access points as dropping-off points. Increased congestion in the countryside as the public make full use of their new right would detract from the benefit the new right gives.

The Government should require the CA and the CCW to include access points on draft maps of access land so that a full debate can be held over the number and location of these points alongside discussions of whether the land should be included at all and what closures and restrictions might be needed in relation to it.

I turn to Amendment No. 177. The grounds for appeal against provisional maps are currently limited. Landowners will want to raise issues related to the proper identification of mountain, moor, heath and down; the inclusion of inaccessible parcels of land, or parcels whose inclusion would serve no useful purpose; and the location of access points. The owners and occupiers of the land will know their land better than anyone else doing the mapping, especially if the mapping is largely based on remote sources such as aerial photographs. The grounds of appeal should be wide enough to cover all possible aspects of mapping, not just those related to the identification of the land. I beg to move.

4.15 a.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham)

As Amendment No. 177 is also being spoken to, I must point out to the Committee that if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 178.

Earl Peel

I want to speak briefly to Amendment No. 163, to which I attach a great deal of importance. Once again, a main weakness of the Bill is highlighted. How on earth will the public be made aware of the information relating to access areas, closure orders, by-laws and so forth? We have been round that course many times and the Minister is now well aware of our deep concerns about this aspect of the Bill.

The importance of this amendment is that at least it provides the opportunity for information to be made available through access points, and that the access points where the information could be provided would be marked on the map.

Did the Minister at an earlier stage in this debate say that he was prepared to bring back an amendment on Report which would impose a duty on the access authority to provide information at the access points? Would the Minister expand on the level of information available at those access points?

As my noble friend Lord Luke said, these access points must be convenient for the public otherwise they will not be used and obviously land management needs must be taken into account.

I reiterate what my noble friend Lord Luke said. Access points must be provided at an early stage on the draft maps to allow proper debate to take place, which will speed up the whole process of mapping. If that does not take place wrangles and disagreement will ensue at the last moment, which will not be conducive to a satisfactory conclusion.

It is hoped that the Minister will support this proposal, but I would ask him to confirm whether he plans to bring back an amendment to impose a duty on the access authorities to provide information and what that information will be.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

Amendment No. 164 is grouped with these amendments. We sympathise with much of what the noble Earl, Lord Peel, said, particularly with regard to the early resolution of recommended access points because that will enable the planning of such things as car parks to start. It will not be easy for the access authorities tasked with that to cope with a vast number all at once. As other noble Lords have said, the earlier it starts the better.

Where we probably part company is that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Luke, states that the maps, shall identify at least one specific location". Our wording is more permissive and states: may determine to show recommended points of access". The Countryside Agency itself states: We think that maps of access land should show information points and guaranteed means of access, and it is our intention to do this wherever the necessary information is available". Obviously it thinks that it is possible and it intends to do it, but making it mandatory will restrict the ability to vary access points where that is appropriate. I can think of cases where it may be appropriate to vary access for all sorts of reasons. In the meantime, what does the Minister say on this matter?

Lord Whitty

In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and the noble Earl, Lord Peel, let me say that I indicated at least in broad terms earlier that in the light of these amendments and other arguments I am persuaded that the Bill should place a specific duty on the countryside agencies to ensure that the public are informed of the location, extent and means of access to access land, and that will build on the work already started by the National Countryside Access Forum on identifying main access and main information points. Means of access, whether they are subject to the formal arrangements in Chapter III or are simply existing stiles and existing gates, will be exactly those points which will provide convenient access for walkers and which take account of the need to manage the land. Subject to further consideration, I propose to come forward with a suitable amendment on Report.

However, in respect of the amendments before us now, I would make two preliminary points. First, there is a difference between recommended access points and mandatory access points. As I have made clear at earlier stages, I am not in favour of mandatory access points.

Secondly, there is a distinction between the statutory maps and the operational maps on which walkers and others will have the detailed information on access to particular areas of land, basically something similar to the Ordnance Survey maps. The statutory mapping process is limited to the boundaries of open country or registered common land. The provision of other information is a separate issue and will appear on a much more detailed map.

Amendment No. 163 would require the countryside bodies to identify access points and show them on the statutory map. However, because the statutory maps are fixed and permanent and access points may vary over a period for land management and other reasons—10 years may elapse before a review—even if one could do it, it would not be sensible to require that to be part of the statutory map. It would also add delay to the mapping process.

We believe that Amendment No. 164 is a better amendment. It proposes a discretionary power for mapping bodies to show access points, which is a more reasonable approach. However, that also has problems. How would the points of access arise, and what would happen if the landowners did not agree with the mapping authority's view and so on? Under that amendment we would have to consider the process as well as the outcome. If we have a system which ends up with a further right of appeal as provided by Amendment No. 177, the bureaucratic process will be longer than we need. However, these amendments and the arguments advanced by the Committee persuade us that we need to do something in this area and we intend to come forward with proposals at Report stage.

Earl Peel

Before the Minister sits down, does he accept that these access points should appear on the draft maps to allow proper consultation to take place? Perhaps the Minister dealt with that point, in which case I missed it.

Lord Whitty

The statutory maps will identify the access land. There will then be a separate, in part perhaps parallel, process of identifying the recommended or preferred range of access points. Most of that will be a separate discussion which will take place in local access forums, among local landowners and so on. The formal statutory maps will not mark every single access point, but we expect that maps such as those produced by Ordnance Survey which are used by walkers and others who seek access will show the access points which emerge from that consultative and, it is hoped, consensual process.

Lord Greaves

I believe the point that is being made is that someone must collect the information on access points. Is it intended that, in addition to producing the statutory maps from the information provided, the Countryside Agency will also be responsible for collecting other information which may be produced on parallel maps, overlays or whatever?

Lord Whitty

There should be a specific duty on the Countryside Agency to ensure that the public are informed. Obviously, that requires a mapping process, or at least the conveying of that information to Ordnance Survey and other authoritative maps. That is a responsibility of the Countryside Agency, subject to the process of consultation.

Lord Greaves

Therefore, would it be possible for the Countryside Agency to make available such information as it had on these other matters at the time that it produced the provisional maps?

Lord Whitty

The matter will not necessarily have been settled in all areas at that point.

Lord Luke

I am most grateful to the Minister for his response, particularly his indication that he will think about this again and return with further proposals on access points. I am also interested to hear the Minister say that progress is already being made in establishing some of these access points. Does the Minister have any further information on that particular subject?

Lord Whitty

I do not say that progress has been made in specific locations but that the National Countryside Access Forum has already begun to address the issue of how to go about identifying the locations. Although that is a preliminary step, that process has already started.

Lord Luke

I am grateful to the Minister. I look forward to seeing the further proposals. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 164 and 165 not moved.]

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 166: Page 3, line 35, at end insert (", and () may determine to show excepted land").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 166 addresses the question of whether excepted land should be shown on the maps. When moving his amendment, Amendment No. 159, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said that the public should not be misled in trying to get to islands of land that they could not use. He addressed small areas of land. In the amendment we have had regard to mineral workings and so on where for many years in the future that land—which may, and very frequently does, abut access land—is most unlikely to be suitable for public access. If it is mapped as open access land, the public will waste their time going there and be very disappointed. It seems reasonable to allow the discretion to map such land as excepted. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

It is not possible to be as definitive as the amendment would require. The countryside bodies may exclude some excepted land on the maps of open country because it will not fall within the definitions of mountain, moor, heath or down. However, it will not be practicable for the countryside bodies to exclude or show all excepted land. It is unnecessary to give landowners the right to appeal against the failure to show land which is excepted, since, whether or not the land is shown as open country, nevertheless it will be excepted from the right of access if it falls under the definition of excepted land.

There is the right to comment and appeal against the provisional maps on the basis that the land does not fall within the appropriate definition. Therefore, although the countryside agencies will have some ability to identify all excepted land, that would be too onerous a requirement and would not be necessary to protect landowners' rights.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

While we would hope to minimise the number of appeals by including that possibility on the face of the Bill, I hear what the Minister says and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 166A: Page 3, line 35, at end insert— ("(c) may, where the exact boundaries of an area of registered common land are unknown or unclear, determine that the boundaries to be shown are those that appear to them correct, having regard to available information about the area in question and to physical features on the ground.").

The noble Baroness said: The amendment deals with what appears to be a technical difficulty. That is that in some cases of registered common land the exact boundaries are not known. That may be because the correct line of the boundary is missing because that section of the map has been lost by the registration authority, or the boundary may be drawn very thickly and it is not entirely clear. That has come to light during the initial piloting of the common land mapping.

As the Bill stands, the countryside agencies have no scope to use their judgment to decide exactly where the boundary should be. Therefore, it is difficult to understand how they can establish exactly where the boundary is. I put the amendment down to clarify what the Government intends should be done in cases like this. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

The noble Baroness is right. For example, the initial work conducted by the Countryside Council for Wales on common land mapping has indicated that local registers are—shall we say—of variable quality. In some cases the information is unclear. In other cases it may not be there at all. In those circumstances, the countryside bodies are concerned that they will have no discretion. That is the background to the amendment.

We are confident that in the majority of cases—probably the overwhelming majority—there will be reasonable records on which the countryside bodies can accurately ascertain the boundaries of registered common land. But where the sources are unclear, the countryside bodies will be required to use their best endeavours to establish the boundaries by reference to the information on the register. If they cannot be established in that way—for example, if a page of the register is missing—the result must be that the land cannot be shown on the maps as registered common land.

The amendment would give the countryside bodies powers to reconstitute those boundaries on the information available. As the Committee will be aware, we are looking at the whole process of the registration of common land. We believe that that task is best undertaken by the registration authority in the first instance and not by the Countryside Agency in this access context. If necessary, the matter could be considered in conjunction with the results of the current consultation exercise in relation to common land. Where a registration authority prepares a fresh edition of a registered map, the countryside body will be able to include that registered land in its next review.

I understand the reason for the amendment, but it would impose on the Countryside Agency the duty of second-guessing the registration process for common land. That is too onerous and a misdirection of the priorities of the countryside bodies. While that may lead to a few problems, in the vast majority of cases they should stick to what is there in the register and not reinvent what they think should be the real boundaries of the registered common land. That is a matter for the registration process.

4.30 a.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

The Minister's reply does not entirely resolve the issue in my mind. First, there is the question of time-scale. The registration bodies will not act on the same time-scale as the access land comes on stream. Secondly, the Minister seemed to say that where the boundaries are not clear the land could not be mapped. I shall read carefully what the noble Lord said and perhaps come back to the issue at a later stage. This may turn out to be a serious and contentious point in a few places. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Publication of draft maps]:

Lord Luke moved Amendment No. 167: Page 3, line 36, at end insert— ("() publish a notice, stating the date that work is starting to prepare a map under section 4, in at least one newspaper circulating in the area where the work is to be undertaken, () invite owners and occupiers of the land affected to forward to the countryside body maps showing the land which they own or manage and any area within that land which they consider to be open country or not, and to provide details of any restriction which they might wish to apply to public access to any such area,").

The noble Lord said: Clause 5 currently provides for representations to be invited on draft maps but does not require the CA and CCW to involve owners in preparing the draft maps; nor does it require the CA and CCW to consult individually those owners and occupiers whose land is included on the maps. The later owners and occupiers are involved in the mapping process and the less full the consultation with them, the more likely it is that conflict will arise not only with those mapping the land but also with the countryside bodies implementing the new right. Furthermore, the clause does not invite any representations about possible long-term exclusions or restrictions on access; for example, on safety or environmental grounds. The amendment would tackle those significant deficiencies.

The amendment would require the CA and CCW to advertise the fact that work was under way to prepare draft maps and to invite owners and occupiers to provide details of the land which they own and of what they consider to he access land within that area. The amendment would enable owners to become involved in the mapping process before the draft maps had been prepared. It is vital that owners and occupiers have an opportunity to offer their own views during the preparation of the maps. It is not adequate to consult them only once draft maps have been prepared, especially if surveyors have been crawling all over their land for several months mapping it.

It is not consistent with good regulation for the first indication that an individual has that his land is subject to the right of access to be when the owner hears that a map showing his land is up for comment. Direct involvement in the mapping process can do nothing but build a better informed relationship between those undertaking the mapping and those whose land is being mapped. It is in the interests of all concerned to reduce potential ill feeling among those on whom the new right of access is being imposed.

Rather than require the CA and the CCW to consult all owners in an area before starting work on any map, which would be onerous given the lack of data on land ownership, this amendment simply requires the CA and the CCW to advertise that the map is being prepared and to inform bodies such as the CLA and the NFU so that they can, in turn, advise their members. This approach would be cost-effective and would have the added benefit of providing data on land ownership. Again, that in turn would facilitate liaison with owners once the draft maps had been prepared.

These open and transparent efforts to involve owners and occupiers at an early stage would surely reduce the level of appeals following publication of the provisional access maps and, accordingly, help to hasten the implementation of the new right. Benefits would also be gained from identifying at an early stage, as is required by the amendment, any likely permanent exclusions or restrictions on access—for example, to linear routes which are likely to be sought for land management, conservation or health and safety reasons. For clarity and certainty, such restrictions should be shown on access maps. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

We are wholly in agreement with the sentiment behind Amendment No. 167 that public participation in the mapping of open country and registered common land should be as full as is practicable and that landowners and occupiers of land affected should be given an adequate opportunity to make representations.

This amendment would require the countryside bodies both to advertise the start of the mapping process in local newspapers and to invite landowners and occupiers to supply details of land which they own and which they believe is or is not open country. The countryside bodies would also be required to invite details of any restrictions which owners or occupiers wished to apply.

I am pleased to be able to tell the Committee that the objectives of this amendment are very much in accordance with the firm intentions of the Countryside Agency. These are reflected in a paper prepared by the agency for a meeting of the National Countryside Access Forum on 26th September, a copy of which was deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. This makes it quite clear that the contractors who are charged with the mapping of open country and registered common land will publicise the start of the mapping work locally. The Countryside Agency has confirmed that this will include publishing a suitable notice in one or more local newspapers. But this is only one of the things the agency plans to do to ensure that, so far as is possible, landowners and occupiers know about the mapping exercise. For example, the agency plans to ensure that the local CLA and NFU representatives, rightly identified by the noble Lord, Lord Luke, are given details as early possible. Relevant local authorities, down to parish council level, will also be notified, along with local access forums and user groups.

The agency has also made clear in its paper that owners and other interested parties will be given the opportunity to provide any other information which they consider to be of assistance to the mapping process. Such opportunities for early consultation and dialogue between the countryside bodies, their mapping consultants and those with an interest in the land can only be beneficial in promoting consensus at an early stage on the content of the formal draft and provisional maps.

The amendment tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Luke, would also invite landowners to give notice of their expectations for the issuing of directions to restrict access. Those matters would be better considered once draft or provisional maps have been issued. The reason is simply that the consultation process over maps is about whether land is open country or registered common land, not whether restrictions should apply to that land. We have already said that we shall ensure that there is sufficient opportunity for such restrictions to be put in place before the right of access is brought into effect.

I can assure the noble Lord that we and the countryside bodies are firmly committed to achieving what this amendment seeks. Should it prove necessary further to regulate the process, there is already provision in the Bill under Clause 11 for the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales to introduce regulations prescribing the manner in which maps are to be prepared; what consultation there should be with access authorities and other persons on maps; and the steps to be taken for informing the public of the issue of maps at various stages.

I hope that in the light of these assurances, which I am delighted to be able to give to the noble Lord, he will agree that the procedural matters set out in Amendment No. 167 need not be prescribed on the face of the Bill and that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Luke

I am very grateful to the Minister. I look forward to seeing what has been put in the Library. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 168 not moved.]

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 169: Page 3, line 37, at beginning insert ("by the end of the period of 32 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed,").

The noble Lord said: Perhaps I should declare an interest. Apart from being a member of the Ramblers' Association and similar organisations, I am a vice-president of the Council for National Parks and a member of the north-west regional committee of the National Trust.

I hope that it will be in the interests of the Committee, and that the Committee will give me leave, if, in moving Amendment No. 169, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 170, 172 and 195.

There is real concern lest the process for preparing maps proves to be unacceptably protracted. The amendments address this danger. Of course it is essential to get the maps right, but the time-scales proposed in these amendments give ample space for this. It is worth remembering that the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 set up a similar scheme for the production of a definitive map of public rights of way. It was intended that the process should take about five years but, in the end, some surveying authorities took upwards of 20 or 30 years.

Without a timetable, the production of even the draft map as the basis for representations as stipulated in Clause 5 will be open ended and could once more take far too long. It may be years before the freedom to walk, which we are debating, is in some cases actually enjoyed. The amendments seek, therefore, to establish a timetable for the first two stages of the three-stage process which it is envisaged will produce the conclusive map showing where the public can in fact walk. In other words, the amendments deal with the situation up to the issuing of the provisional map.

I should emphasise that once a provisional map is published, people interested in land will then have the opportunity to object to the inclusion of land on the map. That is right and fair. However, it is clearly not possible to set a time limit on the outcome of those objections because this will depend on the speed at which the appeal procedure moves. This in turn will depend on many factors, such as the number of adjudicators and the complexity of the issues. It is therefore, I recognise, not practical to set a deadline for this part of the process or to set a final date for the publication of the conclusive map. These amendments concentrate on a time discipline for the preliminary stages.

The proposals in these amendments were raised in the deliberations in the other place and were rejected on the ground that they were unnecessary. The argument, as I understand it, was that the Secretary of State had the power under Section 3(1) of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 to order a relevant countryside body to produce the map by a given date. However, on the basis of counsel's opinion given to the Ramblers' Association, it seems that the ministerial response may not have been well-founded.

There is real concern lest the Secretary of State does not in fact have this power, lest his powers are general in nature, and that instructions on a particular map would be too specific. It is not really enough to be told that the Government believe that the Minister has the power. Either he has that power or he does not.

The amendments do, therefore, I submit, strengthen the purpose of the Bill. I hope that my noble friend will feel able to agree. I beg to move.

The Chairman of Committees

As Amendment No. 107 is also being spoken to, I must point out that, if that amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 171.

4.45 a.m.

Baroness Gale

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, has already spoken on the reasoning behind the amendments; namely, to ensure that a timetable is in place for the mapping of open land where none presently exists. Until the maps are produced, large areas of open land will remain closed, so it is a matter of grave concern that the process could be protracted and the Bill contains no provision to ensure that the process will be treated with urgency. If there is no timetable, even the production of the draft maps could be open-ended. There is a possibility that it could take several years before there is access to, or the freedom to walk over, much of the open countryside in England and Wales.

As my noble friend Lord Judd said, the amendments seek to set out a timetable for the first two of the three stages which will lead to the preparation and publication of conclusive maps showing where the public can walk. After the publication of the provisional maps, we shall reach stage three: the appeal process. It is difficult to set a timetable for this process because of the differing nature of the appeals; but at least if the draft and provisional mapping can be within the statutory time limits, this will safeguard against the kind of delays experienced in the past.

Baroness Byford

I support the noble Lord, Lord Judd, in raising this issue. At Second Reading and again in Committee, I, too, raised the matter because I could see it continuing and being unsatisfactory. I pressed the Minister on one or two points on which he might reflect in responding to this amendment.

My purpose clause highlighted the problem. As I said, the general public believe that they will have access once the Bill completes its passage. The reason for the purpose clause was not to be difficult, as some people suggested, but to highlight the problem. The Minister took the matter on board and said that he hoped to return with a proposal and was well aware of the difficulties that were caused.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, has put his finger on the pulse. Perhaps I may pick up on three or four issues that he has raised. The first relates to the timetable. We have spoken about the timetable in relation to an amendment that we have just debated. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has acknowledged that even the pilot timetable has already slipped, which is worrying, because it will obviously have a bearing on the others.

The second issue is the whole question of costings, about which I should like to hear more—as, I suspect, would other noble Lords. It is a very big project that is being undertaken. What we should like to know is how much money has been put aside for the project and how much it is anticipated will be needed; also, perhaps the Minister can give a little more direction on the timetable—I know that it is difficult for him, but the amendments require that.

I should like to add a further point. Although the noble Lord, Lord Judd, put his finger on the pulse, I do not think that he asked for any inclusion of penalties if these requirements are not complied with. I wonder whether that is a flatter that the noble Lord considered but then decided against. Indeed, perhaps this is something that the Minister and his team have not even considered. It is all very well talking in genuine terms about the need and urgency for this to be done if there is no penalty clause applicable. If we were in business, I suspect that every project would have a back-up proviso so that if certain things were not completed by such and such a date the project would be penalised. As far as I can see, the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, do not include that provision. Indeed, from the way that the noble Lord is nodding his head, I believe that that is correct. Perhaps he may like to comment on that point.

I hope that the Minister will not say that these amendments are unnecessary in his response. I support the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I believe that they are necessary amendments. If we look at what has happened over the years as regards rights of way, even though money has been put aside to enable them to be brought up to date we can see that the process is years behind. It is taking such a long time to catch up. These requirements are so important to the actual success of the legislation. Access will not happen until such maps are produced.

There is a great deal of urgency here, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, has just said that she is anxious that access and freedom to walk are made available as soon as possible. We all wish it to be thus. However, the nitty gritty has to be there. The noble Lord's amendments highlight the fact that some or us still have reservations in that respect. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response.

Lord Greaves

The amendments of the noble Lord get to the heart of one of the issues about which many of us are worried: if and when this legislation becomes law, how soon will it be before the access provisions come into effect? As the noble Baroness said, we all know that many people have high expectations of being able to walk in places where they cannot walk at present. When responding to the previous amendment, the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, referred to the paper on mapping that went to the National Countryside Access Forum on 26th September last. That paper includes a suggested timetable for mapping that, as I read it, is in accord with the kind of timetable proposed in these amendments.

Can the Minister tell us whether the Government support the proposed timetable that was sent to the forum in that paper? Do they think that it is practical? If they do, and if it is in accord with the proposed amendments, will they accept the noble Lord's amendments and put those proposals on a statutory basis? In particular, the paper refers to draft maps in the two pilot areas, which are very large areas in the South East and in what is called the "North West", although it is a great chunk of the North of England and includes much of the Pennines on both sides. It suggests that the draft maps for those pilot areas could be published as early as February 2002. Can the noble Lord say whether that is in line with the Government's thinking? Do they seriously think that we might actually get the final maps and the access situation set up towards the end of 2002? If that is possible, it is a great deal earlier than many of us had expected.

We ask the Minister to consider such matters most carefully, especially those relating to the programming and the timetabling of the mapping, as well as the production of firm timetables. Perhaps he can bring forward a story on Report that we can all believe as to what will happen and when.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

Before we become too definite about the timetable and the penalties for not adhering to it, we should press the Minister to say a little more about the costs involved. I am sure that the Countryside Agency is capable of adhering to the timetable and that it can undertake the job rapidly if it has sufficient resources. What resources has it been given to undertake the mapping? Does the Countryside Agency consider those resources adequate? I should not like to see the other areas which the Countryside Agency is responsible for funding—many of which are crucial to rural areas—being robbed in order to implement a timetable. We all agree that the timetable is important, but if we specify that on the face of the Bill we must ensure that adequate resources are available to meet it without taking resources away from community councils, village halls and so on.

5 a.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am conscious of the importance which Members of the Committee on all sides of the Chamber attach to this issue. I am also conscious that there is a perception outside the Chamber that somehow when the Bill receives Royal Assent all the areas of open land we are discussing will become accessible by magic to walkers. However, the Committee is aware that that is not, and could not be, the case. I do not think that a purpose clause would help in that regard. Nevertheless, the motivation behind the purpose clause, which the Government share, is admirable.

Chapter I of the Bill places duties on the countryside bodies to produce draft maps of open country and registered common land, and to proceed, following extensive consultation, to the publication of provisional and then conclusive maps. We expect the countryside bodies to make the best possible progress in undertaking those duties, and we are confident that they will do so. I shall attempt to put some flesh on what I appreciate may appear a vague statement. Both the Countryside Agency and the Countryside Council for Wales have undertaken research in preparation for the duties which will be imposed upon them. The Countryside Agency is shortly to let a contract for mapping of open country in two pilot areas in the South East and the North West. As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, the north west is widely drawn. The CCW has already undertaken pilot consultation exercises on draft maps. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, that there has been some delay in the invitation to tender. That is entirely due to the need to readvertise the contract in the European journal. However, we are confident that the time that has been lost will be made up.

The important point to make is that the countryside bodies are entirely supportive of the new responsibilities which we shall place upon them. They are ready and willing to proceed as quickly as possible. Neither we nor they want any foot dragging or endless delays in the implementation of the statutory right of access. There are, however, two reasons why we think that there will not be endless delays.

First, the Countryside Agency works to an agenda which is agreed every year with the Secretary of State for the Environment in its corporate plan. In considering the agency's corporate plan, we shall be looking for evidence of a firm commitment to achieving a rapid implementation of the agency's duties under this legislation, and a proper allocation of resources. This is not a matter between the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Countryside Agency. Public service agreements which the Treasury imposes on all departments require that the DETR should in turn impose agreements on the Countryside Agency. That is the case.

Secondly, the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales have a power of direction over the countryside bodies' actions under Section 3(1) of the 1949 Act. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, referred to the fact that the Ramblers' Association has received counsel's opinion to the effect that the powers of direction are only general powers; and he doubted whether that was adequate for the purpose. We think that it is adequate for the purpose, if necessary to give a higher priority to mapping from mapping in general. We do not think that it would be necessary, and we recognise that it would not be lawful, to give directions for the speeding up of the production of individual maps. We believe that the general power which has been identified is sufficient for the purpose.

Fears have been expressed that there would be the kind of delays which have undoubtedly been seen with definitive maps of rights of way. Again, we have to consider the differences between right of way mapping and the mapping to which we refer here. Definitive maps for rights of way were drawn up by a large number of highway authorities, whereas open country maps will be drawn up by national countryside bodies which can be expected to have a greater control over the timetable, assuming, as they are, that they are fully committed to the task.

The other problem with definitive maps of rights of way was that they involved resolution of disputes about existing rights of way. That was complex and caused delays. In that respect, we think that mapping of open country would be more straightforward.

I was asked about the total cost of the mapping contract. We think that it will be of the order of £3 million to £5 million spread fairly evenly over the period 2000 to 2003. If more information can be made available—I appreciate the force of the demand for reassurance on this point—I shall write to those noble Lords who have taken part in the debate and ensure that my letter is placed in the Library of the House.

In terms of timing, our expectation is that a statutory right of access to open country and registered common land will be implemented within five years of Royal Assent. However, as has been recognised, Clause 1(1)(b) and (1)(d) of the Bill allow the Government to commence the right of access over registered common land and mountain land ahead of the production of maps having regard to the known extent of both of these categories of land. If we adopted that fast-track approach, we would look to the countryside bodies to provide guidance about the location and extent of registered common land to help the public in determining where they might or might not walk during this transitional phase. We think a fast track could deliver a statutory right of access to these limited categories of land as early as two years after Royal Assent.

I understand why the noble Lord, Lord Judd, wants to codify these expectations within the statutory timetable that he sets out in the amendments. However, in practice any slippage will not be attributable to a lack of will but to practical difficulties. Under these circumstances, surely the best way to influence the countryside bodies would be by discussion and negotiation, with the possibility of direction should all else fail. Including a timetable on the face of the Bill would do nothing to achieve the resolution of practical problems; nor is it clear what would happen were the countryside bodies to fail to adhere to the timetable set for them. For that reason I am not sympathetic to the idea of penalties on the countryside bodies. After all, penalties would have to come out of their budgets and their budgets will be used for the mapping process unless one penalises individual officials of the Countryside Agency. I do not think that the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, suggests that.

Indeed, imposing a statutory timetable could result in a worse outcome. The countryside bodies could end up being obliged to issue "conclusive" maps that were known to contain severe defects because of inadequate consultation, but those maps would give rise to a statutory right of access for up to 10 years. Surely it is better to get it right, relying on the authority that we have over the countryside bodies and on their known good will, rather than adopt the draconian timetables proposed in the amendments.

Lord Greaves

Will the Minister respond to my questions about the Countryside Agency document that went to the national access forum last week? It includes suggested targets of July next year for the draft maps for the North-West and the South-East and the following January for provisional maps, with the hope that the conclusive maps will be produced before the end of 2002. Do the Government associate themselves with those targets and do they believe that they are achievable in those two pilot areas?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

That seems to conflict with what I have just said. I said that I expected that the process would be completed within five years. I recognise that that period will not give pleasure to anybody who is keen for the legislation to be implemented as rapidly as possible.

Lord Greaves

I am sorry to interrupt, but the point is that if those two pilot areas are to inform the rest of the process, the work there has to be carried out before the process substantially starts in the rest of the country. That is how I understand the document. If the work in the rest of the country is to be finished within five years, work in the pilot areas has to be finished substantially earlier than that. The conclusive map date for the pilot areas seems to have a great bearing on whether the whole operation will be possible within five years.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I understand that point. I have the document in front of me as well. Paragraph 15 says that the time period for the two pilot areas—which, as the noble Lord says, are very extensive—is up to month 22. That is consistent with the five-year deadline that I set for the process throughout the country. I do not know whether anything useful can be done as interim results from the pilot areas come in. That is a more detailed issue of procedure. Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to write to him about it.

Lord Greaves

I should be grateful if the Minister would do that. We would all be grateful if he could come back with a very full story on Report. Twenty-two months is within the two-year period that I was talking about.

Baroness Byford

I thank the Minister for his detailed response. He is well aware that we have grave concerns on mapping. I was told clearly that there would not be any penalties but that there was the possibility of direction. I am not sure what the Minister means by that. Perhaps he could enlarge on it. Does it mean more than just telling the agencies?

If the Countryside Agency has enough cash to do the job, it will be able to push ahead, but there are two possible worries. First, there might not be enough money up front for it to complete the job. Secondly, the pilot schemes will cause delays. I understand from both Ministers who have spoken today that the mapping in the pilot schemes will not be finished for another nine months. Presumably, they will then want to have a review of how the pilot worked in that area. I wonder whether the Minister could indicate whether that will happen; that is, whether there will be a six-month delay before feedback is received from the original mapping pilot project. I am sorry that my question is detailed but I believe that the response would help enormously.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Not at all. I believe that these are entirely proper questions. The timetable for the pilot project in the two regions is as follows: the publication of the draft map should he in month eight; there should be three months for public consultation on the draft map and three months for the consideration of proposed amendments to the draft map; a provisional map should be published by month 18; six months are allowed for appeals to the Secretary of State; and publication of the conclusive map should take place in month 22.

There are lessons to he learnt which can be acted on at all those stages. Once the procedures for the preparation and publication of the draft map in the first eight months has been completed and we know that it works, we do not have to wait for the appeals to the Secretary of State, for example, to know that it is possible to start on that part of the operation in other parts of the country.

I believe that that answer is somewhat fuller than the one that I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, a few minutes ago.

The other point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, was the issue of direction. I have acknowledged that the power of direction of the Secretary of State to the Countryside Agency., and comparably in Wales, is a power of general direction rather than one which states, "You will proceed forthwith with this particular map". It is a power which states, "You will give priority within your budget to the mapping process in order to achieve the public service agreement which is imposed on you by the department and on the department by the Treasury". That is a rather powerful power of direction and, of course, it is reinforced by the sums of money of which I have informed the Committee and which the Countryside Agency believes to be adequate for the purpose.

Lord Judd

I am extremely grateful to my noble friend for his characteristic and full reply to the debate, as, indeed, I am to those who have spoken in support of the amendments. From what has been said tonight, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the intention of my noble friend and the Government is to achieve the proposals as expeditiously as possible. I am not quite certain that the Committee will be persuaded that the muscle for ensuring that is necessarily there in the way that we would like to see it. I believe that anything more specific that can be said on Report in this respect would be helpful.

My noble friend has been very candid about the powers of the Minister. In being so candid, I believe that he has re-emphasised our anxieties. We are interested in the specific maps. If there are doubts about the powers of a Minister to give instructions on specific maps, his generalised powers become rather meaningless.

I finish with the observation that I am slightly worried by reports that, for example, the Countryside Agency and the Countryside Council for Wales do not agree on how long it should take to undertake this task. That seems to me to suggest that there is still work to be done. I remember that in my days in government a seductive argument was used by officials, who said, "Yes, Minister, but we must get it right". Of course we must get it right. We have taken that for granted. However, we must get it right expeditiously. In that context, I thank my noble friend but hope that the Government will have heard the degree of anxiety which exists and will return on Report with an even more convincing case to put before us. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 170 not moved.]

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 171: Page 4, line 3, at end insert— ("(2) The prescribed period for the purposes of subsection (1)(b) shall not be less than six weeks from when the draft map was first issued.").

The noble Lord said: To some extent, this amendment also concerns the programme of mapping. The objective is quite straightforward. It prevents the prescribed period for consultation being too short for proper representations to be made.

The figure of six weeks is used because I understand that six weeks is the period adopted for representations on development plans in planning. So there is a certain amount of logic in that. It is a safeguard which we feel is extremely necessary. I realise that Members of the Committee want this matter to move quickly, as we all do. But, as the Minister said, it must be done properly. In order to give those concerned time for proper representations about the draft map, six weeks seems to be a reasonable minimum time.

I shall deal now with Amendments Nos. 186A and 187A, which are grouped with this amendment. Again, we are talking about timings. Once the map is published in its conclusive form, the access rights are established. Up to that point, land managers, farmers, landowners and others with interest in the land do not have to take any action. Local authorities may not have prepared relevant by-laws nor have put in hand the recruitment of wardens and so on. And why should they? That is not necessarily because they are lazy or improvident—although some undoubtedly are. It is because first, the right of access has to be finally established and put on a proper legal footing. Only then will landowners and local authorities start to incur the trouble and expense to which this Bill will put them.

As the Bill stands, it allows no time whatever for those matters to be put in hand. One minute, landowners and local authorities are not liable; then, literally the moment the Queen's consent to the Bill is given, they are liable. This amendment gives them a very reasonable and responsible period of six months in which to make all the necessary arrangements to prepare their plans and by-laws etc in the case of local authorities and generally to put in place their arrangements for the access process to begin. I beg to move.

5.15 a.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I listened a few moments ago with great sympathy to the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, urging us to speed up the process in every way possible, with support from all sides of Committee and in agreement with and supporting my noble friend Lord Judd. Now I hear the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, sitting beside her, saying that we must have minimum intervals and we must not rush things; that it is better to do it right, even if that slows things down. I wonder which voice of the Conservative Party I am hearing.

Lord Glentoran

There was no question of not rushing things. I said that we should do it properly and justly.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Of course. I was teasing. I am allowed to tease at twenty past five in the morning. But if the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, had listened to what I was reading out from the Countryside Agency document, to which the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, referred, he would have heard me saying that the publication of the draft map is expected in month eight and three months is allowed for the publication of the draft map, which is the subject of Amendment No. 171. Therefore, I can say very quickly to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that the six weeks which he proposes as being the minimum is too pessimistic. We expect that the period for consultation would be substantially more than six weeks.

Amendments Nos. 186A and 187A would require the countryside bodies to give six months' notice of their intention to issue a conclusive map following the Secretary of State's determination of any appeals against the provisional map. He does that on the basis that one minute there is not access and the next there is. I can assure him that we do not envisage that the right of access will normally commence immediately on publication of conclusive maps. I have made it clear that it is essential that there is a programme of information and publicity about the new right and what it entails both for potential users and for landowners. That does not mean that in every instance it will be necessary to have a fixed six-month period between the issuing of a conclusive map and the coming into force of the right.

Under Clause 11(2)(b) and under the review Clause 11(2)(k) the Secretary of State and the National Assembly will be able to make regulations prescribing, among other things, the manner and form in which maps are to be prepared and issued. The regulations will provide for appropriate steps to be taken, such as the preparing of appropriate publicity, where the issue of a conclusive map would cause an immediate and significant impact on the extent of the public's right of access.

] hope that that reassures the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that we have thought carefully about all the issues raised by all the amendments. We are not unsympathetic to them, but the ground has been properly laid.

Lord Glentoran

I thank the Minister for that explanation and apologise for having missed the point that he had already allowed three months' consultation at the beginning. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 172 not moved.]

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Appeal against map after confirmation]:

[Amendment No. 173 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 174: Page 4, line 4, at end insert ("to the Agricultural Land Tribunal").

The noble Baroness said: This group of amendments deals with one central theme, the appeals. In speaking to Amendment No. 174, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 175, 181, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 288, 289, 290 and 291.

These are important amendments. They provide for appeals to the independent and long-established bodies of the agricultural land tribunals. The amendments will ensure full compliance with the Human Rights Act on the appeals issue. Further amendments will be drafted to adjust the composition of the tribunals for access appeals. The amendments are rather long, but I hope that they are clear. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, is right; the intention of the amendments is clear and she explained it fully. Let me set out what the Bill does and what the agricultural land tribunals do. That will illustrate why we do not feel it is a good idea to accept the amendments.

The Bill provides for appeals to lie to the Secretary of State in England or the National Assembly for Wales, against the showing of land as open country or registered common land on provisional maps and the refusal of the relevant authority to grant a direction under Chapter II. We provided that the appeals should be to the Secretary of State or the National Assembly because they can provide an effective and fair appeals service which is both relatively quick and inexpensive. We are ready to consider precisely what mechanisms are needed. But both the Secretary of State and the National Assembly already have systems in place which can deal with this type of appeal.

On the other hand, the agricultural land tribunals have a quite different function. They handle specific disputes between agricultural landlords and their tenants arising under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986. For example, they consider who is to succeed to a tenancy and service if a notice is given to quit. The six main issues that come before agricultural land tribunals are: applications by close relatives of a deceased or retiring tenant to succeed to the tenancy; landlords' applications for consent to the operation of a notice to quit; landlords' applications for a certificate of bad husbandry on the ground that the tenant is not farming in accordance with the rules of good husbandry; applications by tenants for approval to carry out long-term improvements on the holdings; and applications for a direction to tend ditches or carry out drainage work on neighbouring lands.

It is obvious that the agricultural land tribunals are admirable bodies; but it is equally obvious that they are not set up to do the task which would be placed upon them by the amendments. I am assuming that the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, does not mean the Lands Tribunal, rather than the agricultural land tribunals because that, too, would be inappropriate. Though it has wider functions, it is very much a Rolls-Royce of a tribunal. It is set up by the Lord Chancellor. It has the status of the High Court; it charges fees and has the power to award costs. I do not believe anybody would suggest that appeals from these provisions should go to that point.

The noble Baroness made a passing reference to an ECHR issue and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Brittan, made that point at the beginning of the Committee stage. I am perfectly happy to write to her about the County Properties case in Scotland to which the noble Lord, Lord Brittan referred. The Scottish Executive has given notice to appeal; grounds of appeal have been lodged; the Advocate-General has lodged notice of his intention to intervene and the question is therefore before the courts at the present time. It is not appropriate therefore for me to say more about it other than that the appeals processes which have been developed over many years to deal with planning and other matters in Scotland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom will be found to be consistent with the convention. On that basis I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, will not press her amendment.

Baroness Byford

I thank the Minister for that response. Our concern is that a separate body, such as an agricultural land tribunal, will be seen as independent and as having no part of government. That is why we tabled the amendments. I listened carefully to what the Minister said and I should like to reflect on that. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 175 not moved.]

5.30 a.m.

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 176: Page 4, line 8, at end insert— ("() Any person may appeal—

  1. (a) in the case of land in England, to the Secretary of State; or
  2. (b) in the case of land in Wales, to the National Assembly for Wales,
against the failure to show land on a map in provisional form as registered common land or as open country.").

The noble Lord said: I hope that it will be acceptable if in moving Amendment No. 176, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 179, 180, 183, 184, 286 and 287.

Clause 5 sets out the procedure for public consultation on draft maps. When revising them, the countryside bodies will take into account any comments made during the consultation and they will issue the maps as provisional maps. However, there is no opportunity for users or people other than the owner to appeal against the omission of land from the provisional map. However, by contrast, Clause 6 allows anyone with an interest in the land to appeal to the Secretary of State against the showing of any land on provisional maps as access land.

The clause, giving as it does a right of appeal only to those with an interest in the land, appears to be unbalanced. I submit that the public interest should be recognised and that a right of appeal by members of the public should be provided. This is what the amendments seek to achieve.

As regards the principle of closure or restriction for land management, safety and nature heritage conservation, I have no objection whatever. However, as the Bill stands there is no provision for public consultation or appeal. Indeed, Clause 22(1) provides that any owner or person with an interest in the land can apply for a permanent closure or restriction of open country for land management reasons, subject only to a five-yearly review.

In the absence of any provision for public involvement or appeal, I am afraid that it seems that the system could be open to abuse. Furthermore, where a closure is made for nature, heritage or conservation reasons under Clause 24, although the relevant advisory body may appeal there is no provision for the public to appeal where they believe that the relevant advisory body has acted unreasonably. Once again, as the Bill provides a right of appeal for a person with an interest in the land, the omission of such a right for the public appears to be unbalanced.

Surely the system will need to be transparent if the public are to understand and respect closures when they are implemented. I put it to my noble friend that there should therefore be some provision for public consultation and appeal in relation to the provision for closures and restrictions.

The issue of appeals by the public was raised in deliberations in the other place but was rejected on the basis that it was not necessary under the human rights legislation. However, I, like others, would argue that that right is fundamental and I suggest that perhaps Ministers have not fully taken into account developing administrative and planning law principles. The issue is especially significant with the introduction of the Human Rights Act. Article 6 of the human rights convention has been held to apply to planning appeals by developers, giving them a right to a fair hearing.

In the light of that, it seems probable that objectors will also have a right of appeal under the same article. Will my noble friend agree that as drafted Schedule 3, with its limited reference to "either" and "both" rather than to "any", does not allow for that?

In the other place, the Minister also argued that a right of appeal would lead to a flood of applications and thus delay the implementation of the Bill. I do not suggest that there should be an absolute right to appeal for any reason at all and I recognise that the appeal should be limited to reasonable grounds. The amendments make that plain. I beg to move.

Baroness Gale

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, has outlined the reasoning behind this group of amendments. I would support him in moving the amendments. There is the right of appeal only to those with an interest in the land. It seems there is no opportunity for users or people other than the owner to appeal against the omission of land from the provisional maps as access land. The public interest is one that should be recognised and the right of appeal should be provided for any person.

As regards Amendments Nos. 286 and 287, there is no provision for the public right of appeal against a closure over restricted land. It does seem rather imbalanced when the Bill provides the right of appeal for a person with an interest in the land but not to the public.

As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said, the system does need to be transparent if the public are to understand and respect the closures and the restrictions when they are implemented. There should therefore be some provision for public consultation and appeal in relation to the provision for closures and restrictions.

Lord Greaves

I again rise to support the noble Lord, Lord Judd, in his amendments, and I do so on behalf of these Benches.

As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said, there are two broad areas where there are rights given to one side but no rights given to recreational users of open country. One is as regards the provisional map. It should be remembered that provisional maps in some cases may turn out to be quite different from the draft maps on which they are based. There may be substantial changes between the draft map and the provisional map stage, and it is only fair that people should have that, and if they do not the problem is that if they do not there will be a substantial sense of injustice. We would join the noble Lord, Lord Judd, in hoping that the Government will find a way of providing an effective right of appeal at this stage which does not lead to considerable delays. We are certain it can be done; it is just a question of the will.

The second is in regard to closures and restrictions, where the potential for a great deal of aggravation on the part of users is greater because these will be closures and restrictions in all cases on land which has been mapped as access land and in many cases they will be restrictions which take place after access has been granted, certainly as time goes on. It is crucial that mechanisms are found for the organisations representing users, and, indeed, individual users, to make proper and adequate representations for this to be done in a transparent way and for justice to be seen to be done so that people understand what decisions have been made and why the restrictions are there. If that is understood, the likelihood is that people will adhere to the restrictions and closures which take place.

There was discussion about this matter in another place and at Second Reading in this House, and there was talk of the human rights legislation and the new Human Rights Act and the European Court and so on. Ministers seemed to be getting close to saying that, because the legislation gives proper rights to people with a legal interest in land, it denies those rights to other people. Surely that cannot be right. Just because legislation grants people rights, it surely does not mean that other people cannot have those rights, or at least cannot have adequate and commensurate rights which, among other things, would enable the legislation to work more smoothly.

We fully support the principles behind these amendments and ask the Government to go away and think seriously about what can be done about this and come back at Report stage with sensible amendments that we can all support.

Another related question, which is probably more a matter of regulation than primary legislation, is the conduct of inquiries into appeals against provisional maps and whether or not third parties will have the right of representation at them. The provisional maps will be issued and undoubtedly in many cases people with an interest in this matter—landowners and others—will appeal against the allocation of access land. As the Bill now stands, those appeals may be conducted by way of written representations, informal hearings or formal inquiries. That is very similar to development control appeals.

In another place there was debate as to what rights third parties would have at those appeals. At that time the Minister appeared to resist the idea that third parties would be able to make representations in writing or at informal hearings, or to represent themselves or be represented at inquiries. That is contrary to what happens at development control appeals, where it is quite usual for third parties to make representations. Often the views of third parties who object to planning applications in the first place are supported by the local authority which has refused permission. When the appeal takes place, in whatever form, those third parties are able to make representations again to the inspector.

As an absolute minimum, if there are appeals by landowners and other interests against the inclusion of access land, at that stage third parties should have the same rights to make representations as those involved in planning appeals. I see no reason why the same rules and regulations cannot apply. I believe that that is a matter for regulation rather than a provision in the Bill. Is the Minister able to give a commitment that the Government will do that? If the noble Lord has not thought about it will he do so and come back to the Committee, or perhaps write to noble Lords?

Lord Marlesford

I have considerable doubts about these amendments. Having read what was said earlier in the other place, I can understand why the Government are hesitant in this matter. We are talking about trying to give access within a reasonable time. As we have discussed this evening, inevitably it will take a long time anyway. This proposal will cause considerable delay. It is also based on a somewhat fallacious assumption. All the proposals provide for appeals against people having rights of privacy to their land being taken away from them. Quite apart from the whole human rights dimension, which my noble friend Lord Brittan so ably raised last week, there must be proper provision for a full appeal by those who believe that their rights are being unreasonably taken from them. However, I believe that that is a completely different concept from the public saying that they want more rights over a particular matter. That is much closer to the public lobbying Parliament, which has occurred over many years—this Bill is the result of such lobbying—for new legislation and rights.

But the example of planning is not a good one. Many of us would like to see better provision for appeals against planning consents. When I was chairman of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, I very often believed that consents for planning applications should not have been given. As Members of the Committee will know, one of the only ways in which one could pre-empt that was by having things called in, and so on. There were always great difficulties in going down that route.

With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, I do not think that the right of people—their rights are being taken away—to appeal against those rights being taken away is the same as the right of people who want more rights over other people's property. I do not think it is the same thing. That is why I do not think that it is sound to equate them. Therefore, it is worth paying the considerable extra price in time that would almost certainly be involved. If playing it long—a normal tactic in trying to prevent things happening that one does not want to happen—is a tactic which is employed, I can imagine people introducing fairly pernicious appeals with the intention not of achieving more access but merely of delaying matters. I warn the Committee against accepting the amendments.

5.45 a.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I hate to say it in party political terms, but what the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has just said finds some place in the arguments that I will put before the Committee. We have to look at the relative status of rights of appeal and rights to be consulted. My noble friend Lord Judd, in seeking—I understand and sympathise with this—a balance between the rights of the users and the rights of landowners, went too far in suggesting that there is no opportunity for users to be heard or consulted in the proposals that we are making. Indeed, there would be risks from the users' point of view in having a right of appeal of the kind that is proposed in the amendments.

I will consider first the amendments relating to appeals on mapping. Let us look at the practicalities of that. Giving the public in general a right of appeal could well result in delays in the maps being produced and the right coming into force. I would expect responsible organisations and responsible individual users to use the right sparingly and only to use the right of appeal in a case of real doubt. As the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, said, in order to delay matters a quarrelsome or vexatious neighbour could put in an appeal just to ensure that there was a delay in the right of access coming into force. There is a danger that the sheer number of such cases would add to the number of appeals that have to be considered before the right of access can come into force. It is important that the mapping process is carried out thoroughly and properly. It is also important—I do not know whether I am addressing the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, or the noble Baroness, Lady Byford—that the implementation of the right of access is not unduly delayed.

The practicalities are only one part of the argument. My noble friend Lord Judd argued that those who might enjoy the right of access need to be able to defend that right just as much as landowners need to be able to defend their rights. But at the mapping stage the public does not have a right of access. What is being discussed is the proposal to add to public rights. It is the landowners and others who have an interest in the land who have a right of appeal under the Bill; that is, those whose existing rights are being affected. However, we argue that they are being affected for a good reason and to a minimal extent. The fact that the land is not included in the map at the time the appeal is considered will not represent a loss to the public, only a lesser gain. Landlords have a current interest in the land. It is proper and necessary that they should have a right of appeal. That argument is given greater force by human rights legislation.

So how are users' interests to be represented in the mapping process? The responsibility of the countryside bodies in drawing up the maps is to approach the process objectively in accordance with the statute and the criteria which are being developed and to balance the interests of landowners and potential users of the right. Users will have an important role in the mapping process. The countryside bodies are required to issue the maps in draft form and consider any representations received. So a full public consultation will take place on the draft maps.

I turn now to the amendments concerning a right of appeal for potential users against directions made by the relevant authorities on closures or restrictions. We have provided a right of appeal for those with an interest in the land where they have made an application for a direction excluding or restricting access under Clauses 22 or 23—for land management purposes and for the avoidance of risk of fire or danger to the public—where the application has been refused or conditions attached with which the applicant is not happy. Where directions under those clauses are varied or revoked, and a person with an interest in the land has made representations upon being consulted, he will again have a right of appeal.

We have limited the right of appeal to those with an interest in the land for a number of reasons. As with mapping, such people will be the most affected by any decision regarding a closure or restriction. We believe that, in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, they should have a right of appeal. Although the decision will have some impact on those intending to exercise the right of access to the land, they will not be affected to the same degree by a direction. As I said in relation to mapping, giving a right of appeal to the public would be likely to lead to excessive bureaucracy and lengthy delays. It is important that appeals should not be time-consuming so that a decision may be achieved in sufficient time for the purpose for which it is intended.

That said, we do want the public to be involved in the process; for example, by being able to make representations about long-term directions. Wherever possible, details of applications for restrictions will be made available to the public by the relevant authority, perhaps using the proposed Internet-based access database. We expect that local access forums will have a role to play, particularly in considering applications for long-term exclusions and restrictions, and they will be well placed to provide a balanced view at a local level.

We are aware of concerns that, without a right of appeal for the public, restrictions might be imposed without an obvious need for them. The countryside bodies will be consulting widely on the criteria for directions in order to ensure that the process commands public acceptance. The National Countryside Access Forum has already seen the draft of a paper setting out guidance to line managers and others on how exclusions and restrictions will operate, including the criteria for assessing applications. The final version of the paper will be considered by the forum and its contents consulted more widely.

We believe that this consultation will result in criteria for assessing applications for directions which will be seen by all parties as robust, fair and justified. We believe that the Bill provides a framework for a system of closures and restrictions which will be widely acceptable to both landowners and managers and the public. The arrangements will protect users' interests fully and fairly without the risk of delay that the amendments, with their formal right of appeal, would give rise to. I hope that the amendments will not be pressed.

Lord Judd

My noble friend will know that I feel a great affection for him and that I have a high regard for all that he brings to the Dispatch Box. This short debate has been tantalising. It could have led us—this is not the hour at which we should allow ourselves to he led—into a deep philosophical discussion about land, ownership and rights. We cannot go down that road at this stage, but I do not believe that my noble friend has his heart in the argument that consultation and involvement are the same as people knowing that in a certain circumstance they have a right to appeal.

There is an issue to consider here. We have heard from one side of the argument the phrase "natural justice". A feeling exists as regards natural justice. The Bill has been described as conferring a "right to roam". The Government may not endorse that phrase, but neither have they denied it. People are declaring that they have a right and that they wish to pursue that right.

I believe that it would be extremely sad if what is undoubtedly one of the best and most imaginative pieces of legislation to have come from this Government—about which I feel positively enthusiastic, as do many other people up and down the country—should be marred in any way by a suspicion that justice is being limited in this sphere. For that reason, I ask my noble friend to ensure that when we reach the Report stage this is looked at again, not least in terms of whether the drafting of the Bill is too restrictive once we come to appreciate the full implications of the Human Rights Act and the practice that will follow from its culture. I look forward to hearing more convincing statements at that stage.

Baroness Byford

Before the amendment is withdrawn, perhaps I may ask the noble Lord, Lord Judd, to clarify his final comment. Given the response from my noble friend Lord Marlesford, is he suggesting that, not only in addition to the access provision already being made by the Government, he would wish to see additional access? Is that the reason why anyone could make a claim? I should like to clarify the position, which at present appears a little unusual.

Lord Judd

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that question. I should like to make two points. First, with any decision that has been made, people need to feel that if it is one that they do not accept, they know that it has been looked at independently and assessed independently. That is a terribly important principle in our law and in our approach to administration.

Secondly, I should like to make a practical point. If the Bill is to work as well as it should, people need to understand and feel positive about the decisions that are made. For those reasons, I believe that the procedures that I have advocated would help in that respect. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 177 to 181 not moved]

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Appeal procedure]:

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 182: Page 4, line 28, leave out ("may, if he or it thinks fit") and insert ("shall")

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 182 would remove from the Secretary of State the ability to judge whether he or it—in the case of the National Assembly for Wales—thinks it fit, first, for an appeal to continue in the form of a hearing, or, secondly, to call for a public inquiry. That discretion would be replaced with an obligation.

This amendment was tabled in case the Minister did not feel that it would be appropriate, although his reply to the amendment tabled by his noble friend Lord Judd suggested that appeals should be heard by members of the public. Furthermore, in particular at the beginning of this process, it is likely that precedents will be set by appeals. We believe that it would be unfortunate if these controversial issues, which may well arise at the beginning of the process, were to be taken by written representation, thus excluding local people from hearing each other's views and coming to an understanding of those views.

We believe that, at this point in the process, it would be better if inquiries were heard in public. I beg to move.

Lord Greaves

As the Minister is about to deal with appeal procedures, perhaps he will respond to the point I made about third party representation at appeals.

6 a.m.

Lord Whitty

In general, either the appellant or the decision-making body may require the appeal to be by way of a hearing. Where the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales is aware of a significant public interest in an appeal, Clause 7 allows for the appeal to take the form of either a normal hearing or a local inquiry.

We fully intend that wherever there is a particular and significant public interest in an appeal, the appeal will take the form of a hearing or, if appropriate, a local inquiry. On the other hand, I do not believe that it is necessary for all appeals to take that form. It would be a waste of time and resources, both for the decision-making body and for the appellant, to provide that there must be a hearing even where the appellant does not want one and where there is not a significant public interest in the matter. In such cases, a written appeal will be more sensible. It will provide certainty about the right of access more quickly for both the landowner and the users. Unnecessary hearings, which neither party to the appeal nor the public wish to attend, would be both costly and a waste of time.

In dealing with appeals, the Secretary of State will be aware of where there is a particular interest. The countryside body—which, after all, made the decision against which the appeal is being taken—will inform the Secretary of State of the extent of any public interest in the showing of the appeal land on draft maps. Of course, the countryside body or the appellant may require that the appeal takes the form of a hearing. Whatever form of appeal procedure is used, it is usual for the Secretary of State to write to anyone who has made representations about the case to inform them of the appeal.

In terms of the question from the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, we would expect such hearings and local inquiries to follow the same practice as in planning cases—in other words, the inspector would be able to ask to hear representations from third parties—but the right of appeal would be confined to the landowner.

Similar procedures would apply in cases where someone with an interest in land has applied for a closure or restriction—for example, on land management grounds—and the application has been turned down. We believe that that pattern provides adequate discretion to the court as to the form of the hearing. Where there is a wide public interest, the objectives of the amendment would in any case be met.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

I thank the Minister for his reply. It goes most of the way towards allaying my fears. If we can be assured that where there is a significant public interest there is likely to be an inquiry, that will be helpful. It would not be helpful if it was simply because, as the Minister mentioned in the previous case, the appellant did not want one. In the light of the Minister's reply, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Delegation of appellate functions]:

[Amendments Nos. 183 and 184 not moved.]

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Maps in conclusive form]:

[Amendments Nos. 185 to 187A not moved.]

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Review of maps]:

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 188: Page 6, line 31, leave out ("ten") and insert ("five").

The noble Baroness said: These amendments seeking to shorten the period within which a review should take place were tabled before we knew that the Government would accept the amendments on the local access forum, particularly at the start of the mapping process. Their acceptance of these facts means that there is a likelihood of the original map being much more acceptable. Therefore, I do not intend to press the amendments.

[Amendment No. 188 not moved.]

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 189: Page 6, line 34, at end insert— ("() A person having an interest in any land marked as access land, open country or common land may appeal—

  1. (a) in the case of land in England, to the Secretary of State, or
  2. (b) in the case of land in Wales, to the National Assembly for Wales.
against the failure of the appropriate countryside body to remove a designation of that land as open country or registered common land.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is fairly self-explanatory. It takes us back to appeals, but this time the amendment relates to the review 10 years on. At the end of line 34 on page six—at the end of the clause referring to the requirement for a review not more than 10 years after the access has started—our amendment would require that there should be inserted: A person having an interest in any land marked as access land, open country or common land may appeal … in the case of England to the Secretary of State, or … in the case of land in Wales, to the National Assembly for Wales, against the failure of the appropriate countryside body to remove a designation of that land as open country or registered common land". That presupposes that the land has changed in character and that, under the definitions of the Act, it should no longer properly be recorded as access land. The amendment as drafted is straightforward. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I hope that I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, on this point. I must be careful to avoid double negatives. The amendment would provide that anyone with an interest in land would have a right of appeal against the decision of the countryside bodies, on a review, not to exclude land from maps of open country or registered common land. I hope that I have got that right.

The amendment is not necessary. A review will in essence be very similar to the initial mapping exercise. There will be similar opportunities for the public to comment on draft maps, and for owners and others with an interest in land to appeal against the showing of land on provisional maps.

Clause 11 allows the Secretary of State and the National Assembly to make regulations concerning the procedure to be followed on a review. Subsection (2)(k) envisages that a review will go through similar processes involving the issue of draft, provisional and conclusive maps; and there will need to be rights for comments and objections to those maps similar to those provided by the Bill during the initial mapping process. Subsection (4) of Clause 11 specifically enables provision to be made for appeals against the countryside bodies' decisions.

The purpose of the regulations will be to apply the procedures set out in Chapter Ito the slightly different circumstances of a review, including the right of landowners to appeal against the showing of land on maps. So I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that there is no need for the amendment. The Bill will provide what he wants in its present form. There is no question that persons with an interest in the land will have a right to appeal against provisional maps on a review, as the amendment seeks.

Lord Jopling

Last week, when we met for the first day in Committee on the Bill, I referred to the Commons Registration Act 1965. I asked the Minister whether all the registrations had been finalised with regard to appeals or arguments. He told us that some of the land registered as common land under the Commons Registration Act 1965 was still in dispute. As I recall, the noble Lord referred to some land in Wales, and so on.

The Minister just said that the purpose of my noble friend's amendment is already covered by the Bill. If there is an appeal by someone over land marked as "access land", what happens if part of it is still under dispute under the 1965 Act? It seems to me that there are two imponderables here; in other words, two arguments going on at the same time. I am not quite sure how one would resolve the situation. One could come to a decision over access land but the dispute over the registration of common land could be settled at a later time. That might upset the first decision regarding an appeal over access land.

I hope that the Minister understands what I am trying to say. I am no lawyer; he is. I hope that he can give me some idea. I am perfectly prepared to continue talking until he receives a reply from his advisers. Alternatively, any of my noble friends can make a contribution if they wish. I see that the Minister looks pregnant with reply, so I shall take my chance.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I shall take a stab at it without advice. I am not a lawyer, I am a humble market researcher. I do not claim any qualifications of the kind to which the noble Lord referred. We have given answers on this point or similar points on a number of occasions during the course of the Committee proceedings. The answer has always been that we are not seeking in this Bill at any stage to overturn the provisions of the Commons Registration Act 1965. If there is an appeal on registered common land, it either will not be shown on the common land register as registered common land and, therefore, will not be put on the statutory access map; or, alternatively, it will be shown as registered common land on the common land register at the time of the statutory mapping, so it should be shown on the statutory maps. The principal point that I wish to make is that the two processes are independent and that there are only those two options.

Lord Glentoran

I thank the Minister for his reassurance; indeed, this is perhaps my lucky morning in that I am receiving plenty of reassurances that my amendments are not needed. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 190 to 193 not moved.]

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Regulations relating to maps]:

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Dormer moved Amendment No. 194: Page 6, line 39, at end insert— ("() Before making any regulations under this section, the Secretary of State or, as may be the case, the National Assembly for Wales, shall consult such bodies as appear to them to be representative of persons who will be affected by sections 4 to 10.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment seeks to add into Clause 11 the requirement that the Secretary of State should consult such bodies as appear to him and the National Assembly for Wales to be representative before altering anything in Clauses 4 to 10 by regulation.

Clause 11, as it stands, is widely drawn and gives the Secretary of State power to change much of what we have discussed in relation to previous amendments and much that we have not. We believe that it is reasonable for the Secretary of State to consult on what he proposes to do before changing any of these fairly sensitive provisions by regulation. I beg to move.

6.15 a.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I suspect that there is little difference between the noble Baroness and the Government on the need for consultation before introducing regulations on mapping.

We all recognise that there should be extensive consultation between government, landowners, users and others on the form such regulations should take. The regulations will, after all, fill in the detail about how the mapping process will work. We do not claim to have all the right answers about that, and we shall need and want to hear what others have to say. In particular, we would expect the National Countryside Access Forum to be involved in such matters.

However, noble Lords will also recognise that there is nothing unusual about not stipulating the precise requirements for consultation on the face of the Bill. That has been common practice in legislation brought forward by both the present and past governments.

There are good reasons for that. Apart from the fact that it is normal practice for government to consult on draft regulations whenever possible, there may be occasions when amending regulations are needed to correct minor errors or to make small but necessary improvements in respect of relatively minor issues. In such circumstances, it would be absurd if the Government were obliged to pursue the full panoply of consultation such as required by this amendment. Indeed, there may be consensus among the organisations affected that amending regulations should be made as quickly as possible—but the Secretary of State would not be able to act until he had consulted with the very organisations which might have requested him to act in the first place. Time and resources would be wasted.

I can therefore assure the noble Baroness that we have every intention of consulting on major sets of regulations required under Part I but that, realistically, there must be some flexibility in deciding to what extent consultation is appropriate in different circumstances. That principle has been accepted in much of the legislation which has passed through this Chamber. I hope that the noble Baroness is reassured by that explanation.

Lord Glentoran

I support the noble Baroness's amendment in the hope that I understand the meaning of the word "features". I believe that that would be a valuable insertion in the Bill. As I have said before on several occasions, the mapping process forms the basis for this Bill. If it is not well thought through—I refer to the features that should appear on the maps—much time and a good opportunity will have been wasted. Any measure is valuable that will result in the highest standards being achieved and the most intelligible product being obtained. The amendment that seeks to insert the words, the features that must appear on the map", is a wise and sensible one.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

In the hope of getting towards breakfast sooner, the noble Lord has been kind enough to support Amendment No. 196 although we were debating Amendment No. 194. I gratefully accept his support. With the leave of the Committee, perhaps I may speak to Amendment No. 196 so that we may deal with the two amendments together.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Perhaps it would help if I state that Clause 11 provides for the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales to be able to make regulations relating to the issue of maps of open countryside and registered common land. Regulations under this clause may supplement but not vary the provisions set out in Chapter I of the Bill. The regulations would cover matters of detail which, although important, need not be in primary legislation.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

I thank the Minister. I presume that features are a matter of detail, albeit an important one. We have spent some time debating the issue today. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment.

The Minister is correct to say that this Government and the former government have brought in much by regulation. From these Benches we have frequently questioned whether that is always appropriate. I understand what the noble Baroness says on that. As regards Sections 4 to 10, I shall consider whether we should be content with the answer. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 195 and 196 not moved.]

Clause 11 agreed to.

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 196A: After Clause 11, insert the following new clause—