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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Can the noble Lord not put himself in the shoes of the ramblers? Can he imagine what it would be like going across one piece of access land, knowing that there are likely to be by-laws but not having seen them or having any idea of what they are likely to be, and then crossing to another piece of access land which may have different by-laws and not knowing what the difference is? We very much want the Bill to work. I personally am very anxious about this business of aggro being caused by ramblers not knowing what the rules are. Will the noble Lord not concede that it would be helpful to them if there was a fairly large common element in the by-laws?
Lord Renton: Perhaps I may follow up what my noble friend Lady Carnegy said. It seems to me that the Minister is in favour of a degree of uniformity. The question is whether that uniformity can best be achieved by the Secretary of State acting under subsection (6) of Clause 17 merely as a confirming authority, confirming by-laws which will vary in their content, or whether he would achieve the purpose much better acting under Amendment No. 217, under which he will publish model by-laws for the various local bodies to follow when they draft by-laws. I should have thought that the Minister's purpose would be much better achieved that way.
Lord Northbourne: Perhaps I may raise a practical issue. The authorities will have to inform people using the access what the rules are. Surely it is better to have a set of standard rules so that the authorities have only to put up a notice saying, "In this particular case there is an additional by-law, which says that you may not do such and such", or alternatively, "In this particular case by-law number so and so, which says such and such, does not apply".
Lord Glentoran: At the risk of repetition, it was quite clear in the debate the day before yesterday that there are very different needs for many areas on many subjects--hence the complexity of the debate. I am anxious to know how the general public--I do not include those who are part of organisations which are able to afford a secretariat and so on--are to be aware of and fully understand their rights.
Lord Whitty: All by-laws, including those on existing access land, may be subject to advice from the countryside agencies, local government bodies and conservation bodies. In the Bill, therefore, there is a duty on the countryside agencies to issue guidance on how by-laws are drawn up. That provides a degree of consistency of approach to those by-laws. To put myself in the boots of the rambler, he will not know in advance exactly how a by-law will apply in a particular case. For example, if there is a restriction on access to water, there may be different restrictions at different times of the year, different hours of the day, and so on. Therefore, if there was a national model by-law a rambler would not necessarily know what hours, what months and what activities were actually covered by that by-law.
I do not object to access authorities seeking advice on achieving consistency in the way the by-laws are drafted. We are all in favour of that. But to talk about model by-laws, which sound on the face of the Bill as if they will be exactly the same and have exactly the same
Given the assurances I have given the Committee, I hope that the noble Baroness will not pursue the amendment. There is already a requirement on the countryside agencies to provide advice, guidance and drafting standards. Therefore, there would be some legal consistency but not specific consistency in the detail where by-laws have to address particular local circumstances.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: The noble Lord has dealt with the power to make the by-laws, but what about enforcement? What is the practical position? One finds a person on one's land. One goes up to him and says, "You are in breach of the by-laws". He says, "What by-laws?", so one tries to explain which by-laws. One asks him his name. He gives a false name and a false address. How does one enforce this as a practical proposition? Perhaps I am being terribly naive but it does not seem to me to be much good having a power to do something if there is no effective power of enforcement.
Lord Rotherwick: I believe that my noble friend Lady Carnegy was putting herself in the shoes of ramblers and the Minister went on to talk about having his feet in their boots. One of the questions I thought the Minister was asked was how one would inform those ramblers of the different by-laws. We have talked about things--for example, closure for 28 days--which most ramblers will have to know. How will they receive this information? How will they find out?
Lord Northbrook: Perhaps I may add to the comments of my noble friend Lord Rotherwick. It would help the by-laws to be better known if all walkers were members of their local branch of the Ramblers' Association, which could publicise the by-laws.
Lord Whitty: I am interested in the advocacy of a closed shop for ramblers. We want to encourage associations to have a wide membership and to publicise this information. We had a lengthy debate about publicising the basic information. Clearly, we shall need to ensure that, as far as possible, the information is available. Indeed, we shall come in a few moments to a group of amendments which deal with publicity.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, asked about enforcement. We have already had a wide-ranging debate on that subject. We have existing by-laws which relate to the powers of a landowner to restrict activity. Enforcement occurs in a number of ways--either by the landowner's agents or by the police--and leads to criminal sanctions in many cases. The enforcement issue is important but it does not relate to this amendment, which concerns a standardised form of by-law. I am in favour of a standard framework, or at least advice on a framework, but the details of any by-law are bound to be local.
The Earl of Caithness: Can the noble Lord give the Committee any idea of the timing of the guidance by-laws to which he has referred? It can take a long time to make a one-off set of by-laws. The noble Lord will be aware that it took 12 years to do it for the Basingstoke canal.
Lord Whitty: The Countryside Agency will already be working on it. Bearing in mind that the mapping process is bound to take a few years--we have estimated up to five years--it will take a little time; but, it is to be hoped, not as long as the by-laws for the Basingstoke canal.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I welcome the Minister's comments about not wanting to centralise and about allowing things to be done locally. My amendment would allow models that could be adopted and adapted. The principle behind the amendment was that it should tie in with the country code, which, following our amendment on the issue, the Government have decided to put on the face of the Bill. Having model by-laws would make it much easier to tie in with the country code. Furthermore, access authorities would have something to turn to, as they will be hard-pressed, too. But I hear what the Minister says about ensuring that the Countryside Agency proceeds with urgency on the matter. I am sure that, between his department and that agency, something will now happen. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 219A. The purpose of the amendments is to allow plans to be made before land has become access land; for example, during the mapping process. By-laws can then be in place when the access right arises. The Bill gives an access authority the power to put in place measures to ensure that access on access land by the public is not hindered in any way. The amendments give access
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I support the amendment for the same reason as I supported the previous ones. It is important that people should know what the by-laws are from the moment access is available. I think here of the ramblers. We were told that the ramblers' associations would help, but one thinks of all the ramblers who do not belong to those associations. Parliament is supposed to govern for all the people. We have to think of all the ramblers. It would help the ramblers very much indeed if we could be sure that the by-laws were in place before the access was available.
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