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Earl Peel: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clause 15 [Rights of access under other enactments]:

[Amendment No. 205 not moved.]

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Dedication of land as access land]:

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 206:

Page 9, line 25, after ("dedicated,") insert--
("( ) any rights of common or sporting rights in any of that land,").

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The noble Lord said: This amendment seeks to protect sporting interests and other rights where land is dedicated. There is a concern that, where sporting rights are reserved to the owner of woodland leased to the Forestry Commission, or sporting rights are held separately from the owner, and the commission or the owner wishes to dedicate the land, those separate interests might not be properly involved in the dedications. This applies to cases where there is multiple ownership.

Anyone with leased rights should have a right of veto over woodland being dedicated. It should not be the case that someone makes a judgment as to whether such interests can be ignored in the dedication process--for example, because it is felt that access would not interfere with the interests of the lessee. If dedication does not respect the rights of those with an interest and that interest is adversely affected, the person with that interest would have a claim upon the person dedicating the land.

Clause 16(2) currently provides that people having interests that are prescribed by the Government may veto such dedications. But will the Government ever prescribe shooting rights, fishing rights or rights of common in regulations? The Government could decide that the existence of those rights should not prevent dedications and simply ignore them. The judgment as to whether or not land should be dedicated is one for the person exercising his rights, not a public servant. At the very least, the clause should not be brought into effect until the relevant interests have been prescribed in regulations under Clause 16(2). We must press the Minister for an assurance to that effect.

The aim of the amendment is to ensure that the interests of those holding shooting rights, fishing rights and rights of common over any land which is considered for dedication will be properly considered. This amendment reflects this need by integrating into Clause 16 the same phrase used to describe rights of common and sporting rights as is given in the definition of "interests in land" in Clause 41 of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: As the noble Lord said, Clause 16 allows for the dedication of access over any land by the owner of the freehold or a long lease. To a large extent this issue is already covered in that Clause 16(2)(a) already provides that, where freehold land is subject to a leasehold interest, the lessee must join in or consent to the dedication. Clause 16(2)(b) provides that the Secretary of State may prescribe other classes of interest in the land, the owners of which must join in, or give their consent, for dedication to take place. This will allow for regulations to address, for example, some rather complex issues about trusts and glebe lands, and about the identification of sporting or other rights which might also give rise to a requirement for consent to be obtained.

We intend to consult widely about which interests should be prescribed for the purposes of Clause 16(2). It is not clear that all the cases the noble Lord cites would be covered. For example, it is not clear that the

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holders of rights of common should necessarily be requested to consent, or join in, a dedication. Section 193(2) of the Law of Property Act 1925 offers a precedent for the right of the landowner to dedicate common land to public access without the consent of the commoners affected. In any event, the Bill will give a right of access to all registered common land, so it is difficult to envisage circumstances in which the owner of common land would wish to dedicate it under Clause 16.

In deciding which interests are to be prescribed under Clause 16(2), it is important to remember that Chapter II of the Bill allows for directions to be made restricting or excluding access for the benefit of anyone with an interest in the land, including holders of rights of common and sporting rights.

In drawing up regulations under Clause 16(2) we shall consider closely what consent should be required for a dedication to take place. We shall consult widely before reaching any decisions. I hope that with that reassurance the noble Lord will not pursue the point.

Lord Glentoran: I thank the Minister for that explanation. I am glad that more work will be undertaken to clarify the problem. We look forward to hearing the results of that at the next stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 207 and 208:

Page 9, line 43, leave out ("excluding the application of") and insert ("removing or relaxing").
Page 10, line 3, leave out ("exclude the application of") and insert ("remove or relax").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 209:

Page 10, line 12, at end insert--
("( ) A dedication under this section does not constitute a disposal or disposition of land for any statutory purpose.
( ) Where the trustees of the governing body of a charity properly and reasonably believe that a dedication under this section of land owned by a charity would not prejudice the fulfilment of the charity's objects--
(a) the charity shall have the power to make a dedication; and
(b) any such dedication shall not be deemed to be ultra vires the powers and objects of the charity.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment concerns two issues that require clarification at the very least. First, do the Government feel that as drafted the Bill sufficiently protects local authorities which choose to dedicate their land for permanent access against falling into the trap of undergoing the lengthy district valuer process to ensure that they in no way contravene the restrictions that are placed upon them in terms of disposing of assets?

Secondly, the amendment seeks to ensure that charities which own suitable land can dedicate it even where provision of public access is not one of their core charitable objects. Without such a provision there is a possibility that a charity in this position would be

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legally unable to take advantage of the dedication powers, even where it was clear that access was consistent with its core objects.

Have the Government received advice from the Charity Commission? Does the Charity Commission feel that using the current Bill to modify the general law of charities to allow this kind of dedication to take place is appropriate? I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: I understand the intention of the clause. However, life is a little more complicated, I fear. We are in favour of extending opportunities for public access. If a charity holds land which could sensibly be dedicated to public access without damage to the charity's purposes it should be free to make the dedication. Having received some legal advice on the issue, we are not sure that the amendment is necessary or would make provision in the right way.

The first subsection provides that a dedication is not a disposal or a disposition for any statutory purpose. "Disposition", I think, is the word used in charities law for what is generally known as disposal. Therefore the question arises as to whether a dedication is a disposal/disposition. The noble Baroness asked me about the Charity Commission's view. It is that a dedication under Clause 16 would not be a disposition. But to complicate matters they add that even if the courts held otherwise the restrictions which apply to charities under Section 36 of the Charities Act would not apply by virtue of Section 36(9) which exempts dispositions made under an Act of Parliament. For charities, therefore, the question appears to be immaterial.

The other bodies which might be covered would mainly be local authorities. Under the Local Government Act they may not dispose of land for a consideration which is less than the best that is reasonably obtainable without the Secretary of State's consent. However, those sections are general powers and do not necessarily apply to transactions which are made under other statutory powers. A dedication would be a transaction made under Clause 16 of the Bill. My advice is that Sections 123 and 127 of the Local Government Act would not, therefore, apply. There would be no need for an authority proposing to make such a dedication to consider whether it is a disposal and therefore seek consent.

However, as the Committee will already understand, it is a complex area. We do not think that the amendments as they stand are necessary. The second part of the amendment presents a different problem. I have every sympathy with the intention of ensuring that charity trustees are not discouraged from making dedications. However, it is clear that trustees already have the power to dedicate. The Charity Commission is preparing guidance on this. That includes the situation where a charity has objects not connected with providing access to the countryside. That draft guidance will be available; and I shall be prepared to make it available in the Library and to noble Lords interested in this debate. Clearly we need comments on that.

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The other complication is that earlier this Session the House approved the Trustee Bill which affects trustees' powers and duties. The problem is that the amendment risks cutting across that by changing the basic powers and duties of the trustees in a piecemeal and, in almost all contexts covered by the amendment, an unnecessary way. It could cast doubt on the status of other transactions that charities make. Therefore, what seemed a simple and helpful amendment gets us into all kinds of deep water. I would prefer the noble Baroness not to pursue it.

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