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Lord Renton: In which court was the case decided?

Lord Brittan of Spennithorne: It was decided in the Court of Session. It held that the decision of the Scottish Executive to call in a listed building application because of the concerns of their agency, Scottish Heritage, was contrary to Article 6. Whether the situation here is on all fours is not free from doubt. The question is whether the Countryside Agency would be considered in the same situation as Scottish Heritage. However, the parallel is uncomfortably close and if I were a Minister I would be extremely worried about having given that certificate of compliance with the convention after the decision of a Scottish court only a couple of months ago. That matter could be remedied if, instead of providing for an appeal to the Secretary of State, a provision was introduced providing for appeal to the Lands Tribunal. That would be a completely different matter. Therefore, I would suggest that the concerns about compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights are cumulatively considerable. They could and should be remedied by granting, first, a right to compensation; secondly, granting a right to notice if one's land is going to be affected by the mapping provisions; and, thirdly, by providing a truly independent appeal from a decision of the Countryside Agency, perhaps to the Lands Tribunal.

I have no subversive intent in raising these concerns, which sound very fundamental. This is not designed to undermine the Bill as a whole; nor does it have that effect. But I think that, in the face of the very recent decision of the Court of Session, the Government would be unwise to shelter behind whatever legal advice they have had in the past, especially in the face of a powerful judgment delivered after that advice was given. I hope therefore that one of the central purposes of the legislation to create that proper balance as

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required by the European Convention on Human Rights can be achieved in our subsequent debates as it has not been achieved as yet.

Lord Williamson of Horton: Although I have not long been a Member of your Lordships' House, I know that Governments are not very fond of purpose clauses and are inclined to say that the purpose of all the legislation they present is self-evident and that issues are already fully covered in the Long Title, to which reference has already been made. I fear that Long Titles are rather like the old definition of notes in the field of diplomacy; that is to say, they are absolutely correct but not very useful.

Within the proposed purpose clause which has been put forward as Amendment No. 1 there are some specific elements which I hope we can get right in the Bill. I am glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, raised them before we reach Clause 1. I think it is important that we deal with these points now. I make this point because I am broadly in support of the Bill and I do not think that it needs 567 amendments as currently proposed. But I believe that it is in everyone's interests that the introduction of the right to roam and the changes in relation to public rights of way and road traffic should be brought into effect with the minimum of contention and disagreement.

That is why I am glad to see that in the proposed Amendment No. 1 we are plunging straight into the question of the availability of maps, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, made specific reference. Under Clause 4 it will be the duty of the Countryside Agency in England and the Countryside Council for Wales to prepare maps which show all registered common land and all open country and, after publication and possible appeals, to publish them under Clause 9 in conclusive form or in certain circumstances in provisional form. But what about the timing? That is the vital question if the Bill is to come into law and to work. It is important because walkers, landowners and occupiers all agree that they need to know accurately which land is open for access. That is an essential underlying point for the whole Bill. We do not want disputes on the ground about the implementation of this major and generally positive development for which the Bill makes provision.

There are two ways to deal with the question. One method is that proposed in Amendment No. 1, which we are now discussing, and again in Amendment No. 84, which we shall come to shortly; that is to say, to make an explicit link between granting public access and the completion, in whole or in part, of the mapping process. That is the first point. Are we going to do that and stick with that?

The second point is that the Government must give firm commitments on the timing of the completion of the mapping process because of the risks that many of us see in the period between the enactment of the legislation and the completion of the maps. This demand for a timetable is exactly in line with the views of a number of associations who have written to us. There are plenty of them, I may say. But on this point the Ramblers' Association quite explicitly asked for a

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timetable for the mapping process. I do not believe that that process is impossible. If we build that into the purpose clause as currently proposed, that element will need to be clarified.

I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, will tell us the view of the Government on the substantive question of the explicit link between access and the completion of the mapping process and on a possible timetable for that process.

4.30 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I wish to follow the noble Lord's speech with an additional point on the same lines which he from the Cross Benches and from his background in the Civil Service perhaps would not want to make.

I must declare an interest. For 32 years I was an owner-occupier of a sizeable farm. I have not been involved in that for more than 10 years so it is a past interest, but I still live in the same place in the countryside, among the people who live and work there. I did not speak at Second Reading because many other speakers in the debate knew all about how the countryside works and because I live in Scotland and Part I of the Bill is about England. At the end of July I was not sure whether I thought that my noble friend's amendment was a good idea. But a great deal has happened across the United Kingdom over the Recess and that has made me change my mind. The amendment is important for clarity. The Government should heed that point.

The feeling of resentment among country people has grown enormously since the end of July. They feel that the Government are legislating in a way which disregards and damages their interests and that the Government simply do not understand country living. They feel that the Government do not understand that the use of a car is unavoidable in the countryside and that the price of fuel is crucial to farming. They feel that the Government do not understand that the whole basis of the culture of many country people is horses and that everything that happens in parts of the countryside is affected by hunting. People are feeling greatly alienated.

The issue of access is potentially another damaging element of the feeling between country people and town people. Country people want more access to the countryside just as much as town people want it. I am not referring to the important points made by my noble friend Lord Brittan, which I thought were very interesting. I should think that the Government are shivering in their shoes, having listened to that speech. I am talking about how country people and town people feel. They are interested in access. They want it to work. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, said, a great deal of confusion will be created by people thinking that they will have access as soon as the Bill becomes law and then finding that they do not have it until there is a map. The long pause between the time of understanding that access is possible and the creation of the map will cause a good deal of trouble. People will confront one another.

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There will be dogs about where country people feel that dogs should not be about. There will be people spooking about in the dark when country people do not want them spooking about. Country people themselves will not be sure whether they can roam on the local gallops. The whole thing is a terrible muddle.

Clarity is needed at the beginning of the Bill. A clause which can be quoted in government leaflets sent to every household and in posters put up in the countryside would be very helpful. My noble friend Lady Byford has done a useful service in tabling the amendment. I do not know whether the Government will accept it. I notice that the Minister is looking rather amused by what I am saying. Perhaps he is right, but I hope that he is not amused by the prospect of what may happen if such clarity is not in the Bill. There will be a good deal of trouble in the countryside and in the towns, which depend on the countryside for the health of their economies, if there is not such clarity in the Bill. It is a genuine point. I support the amendment.

Lord Bridges: I listened with great interest to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, on purpose clauses. This is not the first time the noble Lord has spoken to us on that subject and he is indeed very convincing. I should like to support the reservations he expressed about paragraph (f) of the clause, which refers to,

    "Government proposals for developing areas of outstanding natural beauty".

I do so, first, because that is not what the Bill actually does and, secondly, because that is not what it should be doing. It should be providing greater protection to the areas of outstanding natural beauty. I spoke to that effect at Second Reading. I shall not therefore be able to support the amendment unless the noble Baroness is able to give us some assurance that should her amendment be carried she will be willing to see it further amended to ensure that we are talking about the protection of areas of outstanding natural beauty and not their development. The present system is defective in this area. We have an opportunity to put it right. A purpose clause would be misleading if it gave the impression that it does at the moment.

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