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The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 146:


Page 21, line 30, leave out ("so far as exercisable in relation to Scotland, are") and insert ("are, so far as exercisable in relation to Scotland").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 21, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 22 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 147 not moved.]

Schedule 2 [Transfers of property etc: supplemental provisions]:

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 147A:


Page 117, line 7, at end insert ("and, as respects any such local authority which is a district or islands council, includes, in relation to any time on or after 1st April 1996, the council for any local government area named in column 1 of Schedule 1 to the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994 which is wholly or partly conterminous with the area of that council.")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 148 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 149 not moved.]

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 150:


After Schedule 2, insert the following new schedule:
("SCHEDULE

Common land
Retention of land on registers

1.—(1) Where any land is for the time being registered in a register of common land in accordance with the Commons Registration Act 1965 and the registration has become final, the land shall not be removed from the register except where, under the provisions of an enactment, the land is discharged from all incidents and restrictions relating to common land and to land so registered.

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(2) In section 13 of the 1965 Act (amendment of registers) after the words "village green" in paragraph (a) there shall be inserted the words "under the provisions of any enactment discharging the land from all incidents and restrictions".
(3) In regulation 27(1) of the Commons Registration (General) Regulations 1966, after the words "village green" there shall be inserted the words "in accordance with paragraph (a) of section 13 of the Act".
Amendment of registers

2. After paragraph (c) of section 13 of the 1965 Act there shall be inserted the words "; or
(d) the owner of the land applies to the registration authority for its registration as common land or as a town or village green".
Disturbance of land

3.—(1) Section 194 of the Law of Property Act 1925 (restrictions on inclosure of commons) shall be amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1) for the words "whereby access to land to which this section applies is prevented or impeded" there shall be substituted the words "or the disturbance of the surface of the land with the assistance of any machine or vehicle, on land to which this section applies".
(3) After subsection (1) there shall be inserted the following subsection—
"(1A) Any consent given under this section may be given subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may consider appropriate.".
(4) In subsection (2)—
(a) after the words "other work constructed" there shall be inserted the words "or other such disturbance as aforesaid made";
(b) for the words "the council of any county or district council concerned, or by the lord of the manor or any other person interested in the common" there shall be substituted the words "the Environment Agency"; and
(c) for the words "the work was erected or constructed" there shall be substituted the words "the work or disturbance was erected, constructed or made".
(5) After subsection (3) there shall be inserted the following subsection—
"(3A) Notwithstanding the proviso to subsection (3) above this section applies after the commencement of section (Agency to register common land) of the Environment Act 1995 to any land which is for the time being registered in a register of common land.".
(6) In subsection (4) after the words "or work constructed" there shall be inserted the words "or disturbance made", and after the words "or constructed" there shall be inserted the words "or made".
Saving for statutory undertakers

4.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, nothing in section 194 of the Law of Property Act 1925 shall require statutory undertakers to obtain consent for any disturbance of the surface of land which is necessary for the purpose of laying a pipe or cable in accordance with any general powers of those undertakers to lay the same in the generality of other land.
(2) In exercising such powers as aforesaid, statutory undertakers shall comply with such requirements as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State by order made by statutory instrument.
(3) For the purposes of the exercise of such powers as aforesaid, a local authority having functions in respect of the land under section 9 of the 1965 Act (protection of unclaimed common land) shall be deemed to be an owner of the land and a person who owns a registered right of common over the land shall be deemed to be an occupier of the land.").

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The noble Lord said: I hesitate to weary the Committee, which has been discussing Scottish affairs, with matters which relate substantially to England and Wales. However, it so happens that this is the appropriate place in the Bill for the schedule I propose. For reasons of time, which I know the noble Viscount will understand, I did not move the paving amendment the other evening. I thought that it would be useful, however, to move the schedule so that we could discuss the whole matter of common land. I emphasise to the Committee that this is a probing amendment; it is not designed to be written verbatim into the Bill.

Members of the Committee will be aware of the importance of common land. It is privately owned land over which others have rights in common with the landowner to graze stock, to collect wood and to cut turf, bracken and so on. Those rights probably pre-date the private ownership of land. Commons have remained largely undisturbed and unenclosed throughout a long period of history. I am told that there are some 1.3 million acres of common land in England and Wales, but, like everywhere else, that land is under threat.

The Government recognised the importance of common land as long ago as 1983 when they set up what was known then as the Common Land Forum. The forum was a body consisting of people who had interests in commons in all respects. Its aim was to agree proposals for legislation. The Government said that if the forum reached agreement, they would consider legislation.

In its 1986 report the forum did reach agreement on proposals for access to and management of—two important points—common land. It also agreed on tidying up registration. I recognise that the Government have had great difficulty in keeping the members of the forum together in—if I may use a rugby analogy—one single scrum. They seem to have gone off in different directions since the forum reported.

I do not think it right that the Government should do nothing. I therefore propose this schedule to the Bill which will deal with the most urgent threats facing our common land. First, although the Commons Registration Act 1965 required that all common land be registered by a certain date, I am afraid that much was not registered. Therefore, by virtue of the Act, it ceased to be common land. Furthermore, not even those commons which were registered are safe. Since the registers closed in 1972, there has been a steady exit of commons from the registers. The Open Space Society has compiled a list of 75 commons which it knows have been deregistered since then. However, there may be many more that the society has not been able to find.

There are a number of commons, even at present, which are subject to deregistration procedures. The amendment I propose prevents the deregistration of commons and ensures that those which remain are safe and secure on the registers.

I refer the Committee to paragraph 3 of my proposed schedule, "Disturbance of land". Despite the existing legislation, commons do not enjoy much legal protection. I should explain—perhaps I ought to have said this at the outset—that in Wales I live on the border of a common of some 770 acres. Thus, in that sense, I

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have an interest. Perhaps I should also declare that I have a pecuniary interest in that I am allowed to graze 60 ewes on the commons adjoining my property. The fact that I have a grass-keep arrangement with the neighbouring farmer, which includes that, will, I hope, allow me to continue with what I have to say without being debarred through the fact that I have a pecuniary interest.

Section 194 of the Law of Property Act 1925 requires that the consent of the Secretary of State for the Environment—that is the case in England—or the Secretary of State for Wales must be obtained for fences, buildings or other works which prevent or impede access to commons. The section excludes disturbance of the soil by ploughing or other means which can be very damaging, not least to the bird life or the archaeology of our commons. My amendment brings such operations within the ambit of Section 194 of the Act. At present, that section applies only to land which was subject to common rights on 1st January 1926 when the Law of Property Act came into force. We are a long way from 1926 —nearly 70 years—and it is frequently impossible to know—


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