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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: The noble Earl made a direct reference to my amendment and how Amendment No. 222 would strengthen it. Perhaps I can say therefore that I feel there is a difficulty with his amendment.
I fully understand the spirit of Amendment No. 222. But there are a number of ways in which local authorities could choose to exercise this provision; For example, in partnership with farmers or in taking out contracts with conservation organisations. In that regard I must declare an interest as Vice-President of the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers which does an immense amount of work in national parks and other open spaces. So there is a vast number of ways in which this clause could be fulfilled if the money was in place.
Therefore, although I entirely applaud the spirit of the noble Earl's amendment--that there will be people on the ground once the money is in place--I am nervous about using the words, "shall appoint". Although I understood the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, if we were going down that route I would have looked at wording which said, "shall ensure that". I am not very happy with the words, "shall appoint". It is much too definite in taking a local authority down a certain route. After all, they often choose to fulfil obligations in imaginative ways and that is what the "best value" regime is all about; that local authorities should move away from direct employment and into a range of different methods of carrying out their functions.
Earl Peel: Before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I can say that I do not understand how my noble friend's amendment can in any way interfere with "imaginative ways". All it does is ensure that the wardening system is in place. That does not in any way impinge on the idea of imagination.
Viscount Bledisloe: Unless these people are appointed as wardens, technically they will not have the power that wardens have under the Bill. But they can be volunteers; they can be members of the noble Baroness's association; they can be anybody. But they must have a ticket from the access authority saying that they are the wardens and they have been appointed. That is all "appoint" means.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: The difference between the two arguments is that, on the one hand the noble Earl's amendment says, "shall appoint", and on the other the spirit of my amendment is to say "shall ensure that the land is wardened".
The Earl of Caithness: That is the telling argument for using the word "shall". I agree with the noble Baroness that we need some flexibility. When I moved the amendment I said that we should have some innovative ideas from local authorities. But if this question of the word "appoint" still worries the noble Baroness, we could come back to that at a later stage. I hope she will reconsider her thought and help me to help her to help the Bill work by having "shall" rather than "may".
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
The noble Lord said: With this amendment we remain with wardens. The proposal makes sense and is clear. I trust that the Government will find ways to fund wardens; dare I suggest that the Countryside Agency should become a beneficiary of the National Lottery?
Opening large areas of land to public access for the first time will inevitably lead to problems. I believe that no one in the Chamber, including the Minister, has any illusion about that. That is why we are here, debating the best ways of pre-empting those difficulties so as to smooth the way.
Clause 18 provides for the appointment of wardens, albeit at the discretion of the access authorities. I hope that at the Report stage we shall succeed in changing the provisions relating to that discretion, putting more pressure on the authorities to appoint wardens.
While the clause gives the necessary powers for wardens to secure compliance with by-laws to advise and assist walkers and to perform any other various and interesting duties which the authorities see fit, there is no mention of how the landowners are to enforce the restrictions which the Bill provides.
We suggest that it is not fair that landowners should first be forced to open their land to public access whether they like it or not and then that they should be forced to enforce those grudgingly given restrictions unaided. If a landowner secures a restriction, is he to turn back hoards of ramblers, all of whom will be deeply suspicious of his motives and disinclined to believe what he tells them? If they decide to ignore him and walk on, how is he supposed to stop them?
On the other hand, a duly constituted warden bearing his official papers will be believed and, for 99.9 per cent of the time, respected. Therefore, for the sake of equity and tranquillity wardens should be given power to enforce compliance with every requirement impartially, whether on behalf of the access authority or the landowner.
Members of the Committee will be aware that all over this country, and perhaps in others, wardening schemes are a service to everyone to help make the experience of the countryside or locality more pleasurable. I see the policing role of the warden (if I may call it that) as a minor part of his job. That role is a comfort to all concerned. The warden can be summoned on the telephone to assist, whether it is a call from a landowner who has trouble with unruly visitors or a group of people who, with the use of a mobile telephone, wish to call for help, or whatever. It may be that the warden is able to work in an educational role.
The amendment seeks to insert on the face of the Bill in Clause 18 as part of the duties of the would-be warden the ability to assist with closures and restrictions under Clauses 21 and 22. That clarifies the situation. I believe that it is important to put that on the face of the legislation because there is already a list of his other duties in the Bill. Some of the wardens, not all, will be remunerated. When assessing the workload and writing the job description of a particular person the access authority will need something substantive from which to work. I beg to move.
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