§ Mr. Ron Davies
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on his Department's policy on access to the countryside.948W
§ Mr. Maclean
Under section 17 of the Agriculture Act 1986 we have to balance the interests of promoting an efficient agricultural industry, the conservation and enhancement of the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside and its enjoyment by the public. It is generally recognised that there is a delicate balance between the increasing demand for public access and its impact upon the countryside and farming. The Ministry's policies are designed to encourage farmers wherever practicable to provide for countryside recreation. To this end, grants are available under the farm diversification grant scheme for farm walks and nature trails and the Ministry, jointly with the Countryside Commission, has published a ploughing code which reminds farmers of their responsibilities in relation to rights of way. Furthermore, we support the Rights of Way (Agricultural Land) Bill, introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) which seeks to clarify the existing law on rights of way over agricultural land.