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Lord Mancroft: There is an important point in this amendment which it is worth bearing in mind. If the Minister does not accept the amendment and if it is left as currently drafted, it may appear necessary or expedient to the authority making the appointment--in other words, it recognises that it is necessary or expedient--but it has no obligation to appoint so it does not appoint. Therefore, the authority has recognised the necessity for a warden. That takes into account the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, in that there are some areas where they will not be necessary. However, there are some areas where the authority, and perhaps everybody else, recognises that wardens are necessary, for whatever reason it may be, but it still will not appoint them. That is the problem that this amendment solves. Therefore, it is simple and eminently desirable.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: All three clauses, which are miscellaneous provisions relating to the right of access,

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are discretionary as far as local authorities are concerned. The fact that they are discretionary leads one to try to conceive of a situation in which by-laws are not passed by an access authority, in which wardens are not appointed and notices indicating boundaries, and so on, are not erected. Many of us fear that that situation will occur on access land.

A further important point in relation to those clauses is that they involve the restrictions to be imposed under Schedule 2. Clearly, the wardens have an important role in enforcing those restrictions as well as the by-laws. It seems to me that the absence of wardens in such a situation would wreck the Bill. Nevertheless, one must emphasise that whether wardens are appointed or not is entirely at the discretion of the local authority. That point was made early in our debates by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe.

Lord Rotherwick: In answer to a previous question the Minister said that he felt that those who live at the bottom of a hill and want to experience the delights of going up a hill are not the kind of people who damage the environment. He said that people like the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, who choose to go on one type of walk one day and another type of walk another day, or do a climb one day and another climb another day are not the kind of people to damage the environment. I totally agree with him.

The Minister misunderstands if he believes that walkers and ramblers damage the countryside. If that were so, the countryside would be in ruins because of the large numbers. No, it is a small percentage of people who visit the countryside who damage it. It is the odd person who dismantles a monk at the top of a reservoir and throws it in; it is the odd person who dismantles part of a deer fence; it is the odd person who tends to pick up a sign and throw it away. For that reason I welcome the amendment of my noble friend as it would strengthen the situation by saying that the authorities shall appoint wardens.

In this Bill we are trying to avoid conflict. It is most important that we lessen the conflict between the land manager and those accessing the land. If we can be sure to have these provisions in place, we can look forward to good co-operation between them.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: The Minister said that he thought that there may be earmarked or ring-fenced funding for such a matter. Is that correct, even though the Government do not want it to be mandatory? The two do not go together.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Whitty: I am trying to be careful not to tie the hands of future Chancellors. I shall leave the commitment of additional funds and how they will be channelled to be dealt with by someone closer to the point where the access rights become a reality. I understand the logic of the question posed by the noble Baroness, but in this area it is important to leave a degree of discretion with the local authorities.

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The Government recognise the importance of wardens, but we want to be flexible about how we channel resources and about the balance of wardening as against other methods of ensuring that the access provisions work as they appear to the individual local authority. The provision would require local authorities to put their resources into wardening when that may not be the priority locally and there may be other ways, as the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, indicated, such as having others to provide and designate the wardening.

We need a degree of flexibility. The word "shall" would be too mandatory, albeit that it is still subject to identification, and so forth, and it would not necessarily impose an obligation on those authorities that did not require wardening, but it would mean that other ways of providing that wardening, or equivalent cover, would not be available to them. I believe that there is such a wide variety of access land to be managed by access authorities that we need some discretion.

While I understand the points that have been made, it is important that local authorities ensure that the access provisions are properly managed. In most cases wardening will be an important aspect, but I do not believe that we should make it mandatory as provided for in the amendment of the noble Earl.

Lord Skelmersdale: I find that the most extraordinary answer that I have heard in this House for a long time. The Minister talks about discretion for local authorities. Local authorities have as much discretion in Clause 18(1) as is necessary with either "may" or "shall". The point is that having identified the need for wardens, my noble friends want them to be appointed. That is absolutely right.

Lord Whitty: I agree that the two positions are not a million miles apart but at the edges there may be local authorities that can provide the wardening service in a different way than by appointing their own wardens. We want to cover that situation. Therefore, some discretion is needed at the edges. I hope that we do not fall out over this matter, but it seems to me that the amendment of the noble Earl would deny a small amount of discretion.

Viscount Bledisloe: If a local authority believes it can provide the service in another way, it is not necessary or expedient to appoint a warden. The Minister is saying that the first purpose of having a warden is to secure compliance with the restrictions. A landowner may ring the local authority to say, "On my land the restrictions are consistently being ignored; I cannot do anything about it; surely there should be a warden". The local authority will say, "Yes, we accept that it is absolutely necessary to have a warden because that is the only way of securing compliance with the restrictions; nonetheless we have decided not to appoint one". Is that satisfactory?

Lord Swinfen: The first line of the clause says that the council "may", or if the amendment is agreed

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"shall", "appoint". It does not say "employ". It is quite possible for the local authority to appoint someone as a warden who is in the employment of a local landowner or a tenant farmer. The authority may decide that it is necessary or expedient to have a warden, but the clause is drafted in such a way that it does not have to pay for that warden, or at least not the whole of the warden's salary. It can find someone who is working locally, who may be self-employed, to work as a warden at a low salary or not a full salary. The word in the Bill, which has been drafted by the Government, is "appoint" and not "employ".

Lord Whitty: It is indeed. "Appoint" implies that the wardens are responsible to the local authority; that whatever the contractual relationship is with that local authority, they are responsible to it. But there can be situations where the person performing the wardening task is not responsible directly to the local authority; for example, it might be a neighbouring authority or a neighbouring parks authority, or in some cases even a local landowner. Therefore if we make this provision mandatory, problems will arise. So I wish to maintain a little flexibility.

We are probably making a meal of this point. As has just been said, the outcome of the noble Earl's amendment would still leave some discretion to local authorities. However, it would not leave discretion in that specific area. Therefore the Bill's present wording is rather better than the implications of Amendment No. 222.

Lord Rotherwick: Perhaps I can ask a small question. Who has the responsibility for ensuring that the lands are wardened? If Clause 18(1) stands, it may be that local authorities do not wish to take on that responsibility. Who will then be responsible for ensuring that the lands are wardened?

Lord Whitty: The access authority has the responsibility for ensuring that access is managed properly. Whether or not that involves wardening and, if so, how it will be provided, is a matter for their judgment.

The Earl of Caithness: This has been a useful debate and I am grateful to all Members of the Committee who took part.

I want Amendment No. 221 to work. The best way of making it work is by inserting "shall". I agree with the Minister that it reduces the flexibility slightly. But that is not a bad thing. I do not believe the Minister's heart was in his brief on this one. He was just beginning to see that there was quite a good argument against him.

Amendment No. 222 strengthens the hand of the local authority in negotiating for funds. The fact that those within the rural departments of local authorities have a statutory duty rather than a non-statutory duty will certainly strengthen their hands when they seek to obtain funds. And we have to set that little flexibility which the Minister wants against the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, who said

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on the previous amendments that if there were not wardens in appropriate places, conservation status could suffer.


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