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Earl Peel: I had no intention of taking part in this debate, but the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, made one or two points which are worth focusing on. The noble Lord rightly said that many of the local authorities have great experience in providing signs and establishing the correct and most effective place to site them. However, I believe I am correct in saying that under the Bill there is no duty for them to consult the owner in regard to the erection of signs or on access points. We discussed this matter yesterday. It is a weakness.
The noble Lord made an interesting point. He said that the majority of people who go out into the countryside do so for specific purposes--bird-watching, for example, or whatever it happens to be. But he also said that they do not want to know what the rules and regulations are.
We are coming back full circle on this issue. Once again, we are discussing the weaknesses in the Bill regarding how we get these messages across to people--for example, when land is closed and what the rules and regulations are. I am sorry to have to repeat the point, but again our attention is drawn to the fact that sanctions against those who repeatedly ignore the rules and regulations are non-existent in the Bill. To ask someone to go away for 24 hours is, frankly, nonsense. The noble Lord's comment about people not wanting to know the rules and regulations brought home to me how important it is to get the matter right. We need to get the messages across, and proper sanctions should be in place--otherwise, this will be a complete nonsense.
I am sorry to return to this issue, but in a sense the noble Lord has done us a service. He has given credence to many of my fears in regard to the Bill and, I suspect, those of other Members of the Committee.
As to how that arises and who is consulted, we discussed this at some length the other day. Preferred points of access and other local rules will be discussed by local access forums and others, and local landowners will have a major part in that structure.
The countryside bodies will want to advise access authorities about the form of publicity, and that will be done in the general context. In some cases it may well be that access authorities--as is done in the national parks and by the National Trust--will want to print out the totality of the by-law and stick it on the back of the notice. I am not sure how effective that it is; and that may lie behind the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves--which was, I think, slightly misinterpreted by the noble Earl, Lord Peel. The full detail and the legal jargon of by-laws may well pass people by, but the key message needs to be conveyed. For example, on a piece of National Trust land that I use frequently, the trust does precisely that. On the back of the logo there is the full by-law, but there is also a notice on the front stating that dogs must be kept on a lead, which is part of the by-law and is the main message that needs to be put across. Providing the full by-laws locally--
Earl Peel: On a number of occasions the noble Lord has understandably referred to the National Trust. It must be remembered that the National Trust--and my noble friend Lord Marlesford knows a great deal about it--is a well-endowed organisation. It has considerable resources at its fingertips, and it is able to deal with these problems in-house. Many of the people who will be affected by these access proposals do not have the resources and will therefore rely very much on the access authorities to carry out the kind of approach referred to by the noble Lord. I hope that he will bear that in mind. The National Trust is a rather different animal from the kind of people about whom we are talking, who will have to deal with these very real problems on the ground once the Bill is on the statute book.
Lord Whitty: I referred to the National Trust and national parks and many other pieces of more private access land where we presently manage to convey the main messages about the way in which the rules apply, and by and large those rules are followed. The noble
Lord Roberts of Conwy: Will the Minister clarify this point? Is there not an obligation on the access authority to publicise its by-laws? Under subsection (5) of this clause, Sections 236 to 238 of the Local Government 1972 apply. A person on access land may well be subject to legal proceedings if he breaks a by-law and may suffer as a result. Is there not at least an obligation on the access authority to make sure that the user of access land is aware of relevant by-laws?
Lord Whitty: There is indeed an obligation on local authorities to ensure that the public are made aware of the existence of by-laws. The by-laws were on view yesterday in St James's Park where I took a walk at lunchtime. However, I suppose that is a royal park rather than a local authority park and therefore is not a good example to mention as royal parks enjoy plentiful resources. However, as regards most parks and open spaces, local authorities are obliged to publicise by-laws.
The point I am making is that although that process enables people to check the by-laws, the most effective way to get across the key message of the by-laws may be somewhat different and somewhat more blunt. It is up to the access authorities to seek guidance from the Countryside Agency to ensure that adequate publicity is given to the by-laws in the interests of the people who are likely to use the land in question. As the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, and the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, there are a number of ways of publicising by-laws which do not intrude on the countryside and do not require landowners to undertake that task themselves. It is in that context that the need to publicise specific by-laws needs to be considered rather than in the terms of the amendment that we are considering. I hope therefore that the noble Baroness will not press it.
Lord Renton: I was interested in what the noble Lord said, but I wonder whether he can amplify it a bit. By-laws are publicised sometimes on notice boards out in the open and sometimes by being printed in pamphlets which are available to the public if they happen to be near a suitable office. However, as regards the rambling by-laws, how does the noble Lord contemplate that they will usually be publicised?
Lord Whitty: We have just been through that. There are many different ways in which they may be publicised. The Countryside Agency will advise access authorities on that matter who will decide on the best way to publicise them in a local area. In some cases they may be situated in car parks; in other cases they
Baroness Byford: Before the noble Lord sits down, I hope that he will comment on the question posed by my noble friend Lord Peel with regard to the purpose and the use of by-laws if they are not to be enforced and no sanction is to be imposed. The noble Lord has answered fully the other questions that have been asked but did not respond to the point made by my noble friend.
Lord Whitty: There is always a sanction in relation to by-laws. A breach of a by-law invokes a criminal penalty. We shall return to the matter of enforcement. The agents of the landowner or of the access authority may draw people's attention to the by-laws and be able to enforce them. The question of sanctions is clear in relation to by-laws. It is in most cases a criminal sanction.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Does the Minister accept that although this is not what the public thought they were going to get when they heard about the Government's intention to create a right to roam, what will be needed is an enormous advertisement constantly being put in the newspapers which states, "Going walking? Find out the rules"?
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