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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.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[Amendment No. 173 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]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

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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

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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--
(a) in the case of land in England, to the Secretary of State; or
(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

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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.


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