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Lord Glentoran: I thank the noble Viscount for his comments. I shall attempt to speak a little more briefly, if that is required. I trust that the Committee is following the amendments line by line. Therefore I shall not read out Amendment No. 265.

Amendment No. 265 concerns land management. The provisions of the Bill are imprecise and vague. The amendment sets out what activities should be included for the purposes of land management. I beg to move.

Baroness Nicol: Amendment No. 261 contains a credible list of land management activities. But surely grazing is a normal activity on much land and could hardly be called a land management exercise.

Lord Glentoran: Did the noble Baroness refer to grazing?

Baroness Nicol: I do not take grazing to be the kind of abnormal exercise which would require a day for extra management.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: Perhaps I may ask a question on paragraph (c) of Amendment No. 265. I do not think that I am deviating; I want clarification. What relationship will the Countryside Agency have with MAFF, for instance over a stewardship scheme? Will there be conflict over the control of invasive plants? As regards the way herbicides are used, might there be a muddle, with different messages?

The Earl of Caithness: I speak to Amendment No. 264 in this group. It addresses the same problem as that addressed by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran: to find some suitable definition of land management. It is nice to see that the noble Lord the Chief Whip is in the Chamber. He has a great deal of experience on the agricultural side of land management. I am sure that he has come specifically to hear this debate, as he will doubtless have sympathy with my noble friend and me in trying to define this subject.

I am attacking this definition from two angles: first, from the point of view of those who have to make the Bill work; and, secondly, to try to stop a lot of stupid and fruitless applications going forward, thus saving time. As drafted, the Bill does not define land management. I have attempted a limited but not exclusive definition of what it might include. It is now recognised, and the Government have said, that shooting can clearly be within the list of activities which could be classed as for land management purposes. It would be impossible, I believe, to have a definitive list. However, I believe that we should give the managers of land and the appropriate authorities a more workable definition than the words in the Bill at present.

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I have attempted to do so. I have included in my definition,


    "conservation, maintenance or enhancement of the land".

I am sure there can be no difference between the Government and ourselves on that issue. I have also added the words,


    "in pursuit of the economic interests of any person with an interest in the land".

We are almost at the stage of overlooking the economic interest of those who have an interest in the land. There is more to managing land than just agriculture and forestry. Those noble Lords who have read the debate in Committee in another place will note that there were discussions on such matters as festivals, concerts and events where fees were charged for entrance. With rural diversification, we need to look at this aspect. Land is being increasingly managed in other ways. If farming continues down its present course, land will have to be managed in a different way. People will have to use land for other purposes. Closure orders may be necessary in order to allow that diversity and for the countryside to be preserved. That is why I have included it within my definition.

9.45 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, got to the heart of the issue when he said that there is no statutory definition of land management in the Bill. If I may say so, the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, attempt to increase the precision of the Bill rather than to reduce it.

We have considered carefully whether we need the statutory definition of land management in Clause 22. We have come to the conclusion that leaving the definition open will enable the bodies making the decisions about restrictions of access and exclusions--the Countryside Agency, the Countryside Council for Wales and the national parks authorities--to do so on the basis of the information before them without being constrained by a statutory definition of the activities and purposes that land management may cover.

In another place, Chris Mullin said that we wanted Clause 22 to be interpreted as flexibly as is necessary. If we define in the Bill the activities that might be included as land management, as the amendments would, we might prevent the decision-making bodies from approving a restriction for an activity that did not fall squarely within the statutory definition, despite the body being of the opinion that the restriction was justified.

It is for the countryside bodies in the first instance to indicate the criteria for land management restrictions. They will draw up draft guidance. I know that they will wish to consult widely, including with the relevant national access forum. We expect them to adopt criteria that fully protect the legitimate interests of the owners, occupiers and managers of land. I expect their interpretation to include provision for any of the activities listed in Amendment No. 265 if directions can be justified on a case by case basis.

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I cannot resist drawing attention to the wording of Amendment No. 265, even though the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, did not read it out. My favourite paragraph is (g), which says:


    "use of the land for other lawful activities (whether or not of a commercial nature)".

That covers use of the land for anything whatsoever. It reminds me of my favourite song about drinking. I am not going to sing it, but the poem goes:


    "If all be true that I do think,

There are five reasons we should drink; Good wine--a friend--or being dry-- Or lest we should be by and by-- Or any other reason why". The amendment is equivalent to "any other reason why".

We firmly believe that few activities will conflict with the new right of access. Listening to the comments of some noble Lords during some of our debates--although not necessarily on these amendments--you would imagine that the farming of and walking on open country were mutually incompatible. We do not subscribe to that view and we are not prepared to allow directions under Clause 22 to be used as a mechanism for excluding access to land on the flimsiest of pretexts. We do not expect that there will be widespread applications for additional restrictions on enclosures. Shooting is one example for which closure of the land would be likely to be necessary, but other activities might require only restrictions to the right of access, such as a requirement to keep to paths or to keep dogs on leads or to ban them altogether.

Clause 22 provides for the decision-making body to approve the minimum restriction necessary for the activity to take place, in order that the relevant countryside authorities may enable full use of the right of access consistent with the legitimate needs of land management, conservation and public safety.

Amendment No. 258 would allow a direction to be made on the grounds of land management and use. It is intended to clarify that directions may be made to restrict access while activities take place on the land that are perceived to fall outside traditional land management, such as shooting or motor trials. We are happy to confirm that, as was said in another place, in this context "land management" has a wide application, embracing not only agriculture, but other activities on the land that intrinsically require the use of the land to be managed, including sporting and connected activities, as well as commercial activities, such as the use of the land for motor sports. The amendment is not needed, because its purpose has already been achieved in the Bill.

Amendment No. 260 would allow for directions under Clause 22 to be made in the interests of conservation of wildlife. Directions on the grounds of nature conservation are dealt with under Clause 24 and do not need to be repeated here.

Amendments Nos. 261 and 262, taken together, would make it clear that "land management" was intended to include various moorland, sporting and traditional land management activities, together with

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recreational and other activities taking place with the agreement of the owner. As I said when I was talking about Amendment No. 258, the use made of land may entail a perfectly valid form of land management and therefore no further clarification would be required. Certainly, activities such as shoots and pest control could well justify applications for directions.

On the question of pest control, perhaps I may answer the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. I am confident that the Countryside Agency will wish to consult MAFF on the need for restrictions to allow landowners to address animal and plant health problems. Any closure of land under the plant and animal health Acts will take precedence over the right of access. I believe that that is the assurance that the noble Baroness required.

Finally, Amendment No. 264, in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, goes slightly further than Amendments Nos. 261 and 262 and embraces the,


    "pursuit of the economic interests of any person with an interest in the land".

We certainly believe that the right of access should not interfere with the proper economic interests of landowners; nor, indeed, do we expect that it will. We consider that the clause as drafted allows for that.

I am happy to assure all Members of the Committee who tabled the amendments that land management will cover less traditional forms of activity such as car rallies, pop festivals and war games as well as farming and shooting. That may be unwelcome to some Members. However, that is certainly the way we view the matter and we do not intend to have any restrictive definition of land management. We fear that the amendments would be restrictive in a way that I do not believe their proposers would wish.


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