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Earl Peel: I can see where the Minister is coming from but if a walker climbs over a wall and knocks it over--and I know from experience that the damage can extend for 20 metres--the farmer is left with the job of having to rebuild it. That is a time-consuming business. Surely it would be better to try to prevent people from climbing the wall in the first place rather than placing onerous tasks on others who already have far too much to do.

Lord Whitty: It may be that where there is other means of access and egress guidance should state that walkers should not climb over a wall. However, if damage is done that person loses all rights of access. If we were to make it an offence to climb over a locked gate or a wall we must, in order to balance that, put requirements on landowners to ensure alternative access or to keep their gates unlocked. We believe that on both counts it is better to have a light touch and that is the approach that we have adopted. I hope that Members of the Committee will agree that it is a sensible approach.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: If somebody falls when climbing over a gate, or gets spiked on a fence, or breaks their leg when climbing over a wall which then collapses, who is liable?

Lord Whitty: The question of owner/occupier's liability will be covered later in this debate and I am sure that there will be a wide-ranging debate at that point. Where a person suffers a mishap climbing over a hedge or a natural feature, that is excepted from liability. How other boundary features will be treated is yet for discussion. It would be better to have that debate at a later stage.

3 Oct 2000 : Column 1318

The Earl of Caithness: I did not follow the Minister in his reply when he said that my Amendment No. 78 was otiose given Clause 2(b). Given that Clause 2(b) is in the Bill, it is logical that my amendment is accepted.

Lord Whitty: Is the noble Earl referring to paragraph 2(b) of the schedule?

The Earl of Caithness: I am referring to Clause 2(1)(b) which says,


    "he observes the general restrictions in Schedule 2 and any other restrictions imposed in relation to the land under Chapter II".

If that is relevant to the Bill, surely my amendment is relevant.

Lord Whitty: That reference is there because these are new procedures for restrictions. Clearly, the ability to make by-laws applying to land, which is reflected under Clause 17, would be covered by all other law which covers the making of by-laws. Therefore, there is no reason to refer to it at that point.

Viscount Bledisloe: Is the Minister aware that he has not dealt with the point about the casual visitor who suddenly decides to take a walk?

The Bill recognises by the 28-day provision that a landowner has a legitimate interest in excluding people for that period of 28 days. His interest is in that exclusion operating, not in people coming on to his land as trespassers and being turned off. If people are not to be required to go to an access point to see the rules when they go on to the land, how on earth is the person who is driving around, thinks it is a nice day for a walk and looks at his map and says, "This is access land" and starts walking on it, expected to find out that that land is closed? How is the landowner to be protected against that person walking across his land even though it is closed for 28 days? It is pie in the sky unless he has to walk past a notice which tells him that the land is "Closed from 1st March to 28th March"?

Lord Whitty: I refer to the provisions which the Countryside Agency is working on, and which will be worked up in the local access forum. It would be desirable if there was that information in the locality and if even a casual visitor was aware of it. It is not possible to cover all such contingencies. With respect I do not think that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, would cover all such contingencies and it would certainly be unenforceable.

What the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, is proposing is that everyone should be confined to a particular access point. That completely misses the nature of the land that we are talking about, and the nature of the boundaries of that land, and would be a very severe restriction on the right of access.

Clearly, the Government will do their best, local people will do their best, and the countryside agencies will do their best to ensure that that information is as

3 Oct 2000 : Column 1319

widely available as possible, but it will not be possible to cover all contingencies, and nor, frankly, would this amendment.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Glentoran: I thank the Minister for his patience and for summing up the Government's position. However, I am not happy about it in any way, shape or form.

Regarding Amendment No. 72, I can accept at this stage that that is too clear cut for what the Government want, but I hope that as we progress through Committee and Report stages we shall end up with something very similar to that in terms of the management of access that the Government are going to provide.

In relation to Amendment No. 71, Clause 2(1)(a) virtually says that without actually stating it. Changing the provisions of Clause 2(1)(a) to my amendment would make it more clear, I suggest, to the would-be climber exactly where he stands and what is meant. As has been pointed out by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, Clause 2(1)(a) has no impact because someone could climb a fence, knock a wall down, and disappear into the mist and until somebody tells him the poor farmer may not know that his sheep have run a mile or two down the road. The contents of this Bill will be well known and well understood by those who go wandering. This change is not a big deal but it will significantly help to give comfort and to let both sides of the argument know what is meant. I do not like to take both sides because if I do, I am on both sides. This provision would let the would-be rambler know what is meant and what his duties are.

The Minister has already accepted, as I understand it, that there is a responsibility on the would-be rambler, if I can use that word very broadly, to understand the country codes and what he is doing. He should take the trouble to find out where he is.

I am interested in the contribution by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, about access to future technology. With respect, I suspect that for the general masses such technology is a lot of years down the road. There is a serious role, as we have discussed before--it is not directly relevant to this amendment--for the Government in terms of getting their act together with regard to how they are going to inform the general public and where the money is going to come from for it. I read a piece this morning from an association of local authorities which said that the Government's estimates of the costs of this Bill are way out. Clarification is required on that point.

Before deciding what to do as regards these amendments, whether to press them or to beg leave to withdraw them, I ask the Minister, in relation to Amendment No. 70, whether he will give the House an undertaking that before Report stage he will table an amendment of his own which does something similar: which puts on the face of the Bill the need for the would-be rambler to be acquainted with and to

3 Oct 2000 : Column 1320

understand the privileges, rules and regulations pertaining to the area that he is going to use for access. Would the Minister like to respond to that?

Lord Whitty: I thought I would be able to respond to that positively, but the noble Lord then said that would-be ramblers should have a legal responsibility--which is effectively restating what was in his amendment--to take reasonable steps. The practicality of enforcing that is difficult to see. I indicated earlier that in terms of information and publicity the Government would take into account what was said in this debate and what may well be said in the debate on Amendment No. 103, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer. We shall no doubt return to that on Report. I cannot give an undertaking in the precise terms or phraseology for which the noble Lord has asked.

Lord Glentoran: I do believe that my Amendment No. 70 is critical as a base to the functioning of this Bill and therefore I should like to test the opinion of the Committee.

6.20 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 70) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 80; Not-Contents, 150.

Division No. 1

CONTENTS

Alton of Liverpool, L.
Arran, E.
Biffen, L.
Bledisloe, V.
Boardman, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Bridges, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnham, L.
Byford, B.
Caithness, E.
Carnarvon, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Craigavon, V.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
Denham, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Eden of Winton, L.
Ferrers, E.
Fookes, B.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Glentoran, L.
Goschen, V.
Gray of Contin, L.
Greenway, L.
Hanson, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
Hooper, B.
Jopling, L.
Kimball, L.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
McConnell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mancroft, L.
Marlesford, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monson, L.
Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Montrose, D.
Moran, L.
Moynihan, L.
Northbourne, L.
Northbrook, L.
Northesk, E.
Norton of Louth, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Oxfuird, V.
Palmer, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Peel, E.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Plumb, L.
Prior, L.
Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Reay, L.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Ryder of Wensum, L.
St. John of Bletso, L.
Selborne, E.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Shrewsbury, E.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Trumpington, B.
Weatherill, L.
Wilberforce, L.
Wilcox, B.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Willoughby de Broke, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Ahmed, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Andrews, B.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Avebury, L.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Berkeley, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackburn, Bp.
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Brennan, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Crawley, B.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
David, B.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Desai, L.
Dholakia, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Fitt, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Gilbert, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Greaves, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Hooson, L.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Islwyn, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Kirkhill, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Longford, E.
McCarthy, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mitchell, L.
Molloy, L.
Nicol, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Orme, L.
Peston, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Rennard, L.
Richardson of Calow, B.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Rogers of Riverside, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Serota, B.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turnberg, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Uddin, B.
Varley, L.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Walmsley, B.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

3 Oct 2000 : Column 1322

6.30 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 71 and 72 not moved.]


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