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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, is still here. I want to show my dedication to duty and the way in which I work night and day, weekends and weekdays, for the Government. A couple of weekends ago I was walking up the path behind the church in Montacute towards the hill. I found a sign that I have never before seen. It said, "Permissive path". That did not refer to the activities which might be allowed on the path (which was disappointing) but stated that in accordance with Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 the path is available to the public but is not a right of way. Neither the owner nor the local authority accepts that it is a right of way and the owner or the local authority can extinguish it at any time without notice. I proceeded up the path with due trepidation, but I did not stay until Monday to see whether it was recorded on a list.

Perhaps I may say positively to the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, that to the extent that the amendment is aimed at reducing bureaucracy and providing more information to the public about the landowners' intentions--whether in the form of a lodged declaration or a notice--we are prepared to consider it. However, we would not be willing to make any changes to Section 31 of the Highways Act which would undermine the concept and practice of deemed dedication, which we think to be an important principle. The noble Baroness has not attacked that principle.

I cannot give a commitment that we shall bring forward amendments on Report because we may conclude that amendments are not necessary.

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However, on the basis of our support for what we believe to be the thinking underlying the amendment, I hope that the noble Baroness will not press it.

Baroness Byford: I am grateful and somewhat encouraged. I still await full encouragement. I shall consider the matter further.

I am becoming more and more concerned by the number of issues to which the Government will return on Report. I fear that we shall have a very long Report stage if the Government keep failing to come forward with anything substantive on many issues. I am not making that point about this amendment, but as we have gone along there have been ever more issues on which the Government have told us that they are sympathetic and will think about it. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7 p.m.

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 336:

    Page 60, line 18, at end insert--

(" . After section 134(9) of the 1980 Act there is inserted--
"(10) All references to this section to a footpath or bridleway shall include a restricted byway."").

The noble Lord said: The amendment relates to the current powers on roads used as public paths. Highway authorities have a power under Section 147 of the Highways Act 1980 to authorise the erection of stiles or other appropriate barriers on footpaths, bridleways and roads used as public paths--which are presumed in law to be bridleways--situated on agricultural land to control the movement of animals. It is a widely used provision and land over which such paths run is frequently used for grazing.

The Bill would prevent the authorisation of any form of barrier, however useful and however designed to minimise inconvenience to users, across many rights of way that were once roads used as public paths and have been reclassified as restricted byways. The amendment would correct that omission.

Even the status quo could be affected, as the legal status of existing barriers across RUPPs is unclear. Is it intended that barriers across RUPPs--I hate that; roads used as public paths--already authorised and relied on by land managers should be under threat of removal? The Government need to clarify that.

I sincerely hope that the Minister will accept the amendment, because refusing to do so could cause considerable disruption in certain parts of the countryside.

I shall also speak to Amendment No. 337, which would allow restricted byways to be ploughed subject to reinstatement. The aim of the amendment is to strike a realistic balance between the needs of farmers to utilise their land and the legitimate requirements of users. It is currently possible to plough roads used as public paths provided that the surface of the way is reinstated within a prescribed period. The Bill will reclassify all RUPPs to restricted byways, thus

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removing the right to plough. That could have grave effects on the management of the land where a RUPP is routed across fields. The amendment would preserve the status quo--as the Bill does in many other respects--by allowing cross-field RUPPs to be ploughed, subject to the duty to reinstate within the statutory time limits.

User groups would obviously oppose any such provision, but their concerns are unfounded, as there are a number of safeguards for users. If a RUPP is in reality a byway there will be no right to plough. Secondly, the power will take effect only if it is not possible to avoid ploughing the path and it will be necessary to plough in accordance with the rules of good husbandry.

Given those constraints, it is difficult to see how any RUPP that has had to be ploughed to date could suddenly be avoided simply because it is relabelled a restricted byway. There are strict time limits for reinstatement of the path to minimise inconvenience to the public.

I hope that the amendments will be considered favourably. I beg to move.

Lord Renton: My noble friend Lord Glentoran has made a powerful case on both amendments. I hope that the Government will consider them favourably. I should point out that there is a small misprint in Amendment No. 336. It should read:

    "All references in this section",

rather than:

    "All references to this section".

There is no such misprint in Amendment No. 337.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am grateful for the explanation of the two amendments. Amendment No. 336 would extend to restricted byways the provisions of Section 134 of the Highways Act 1980, which enables an occupier of agricultural land to plough footpaths and bridleways in accordance with the rules of good husbandry. I am afraid that we are not able to accept the amendment, so we shall avoid in this case the problem mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, of creating too much work on Report.

The Government's original proposal for dealing with the problems of uncertainty over roads used as public paths was to redesignate them as bridleways, but that was strongly opposed by equestrians, not only on the grounds that it would exclude drivers of horse-drawn carriages, but because bridleways may be ploughed and may have gates put across them. That is not true of a road used as a public path, unless the evidence shows that it is a footpath or bridleway or unless a private right to plough was attached to the highway when it was dedicated.

Restricted byways will be a new form of carriageway. They will carry only limited vehicular rights, but horse-drawn carts are less able to cope with a ploughed surface than a horse, and even horses can have difficulties. Under Clause 46(1), a common law right to plough a RUPP will remain, but the

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Government do not believe that it would be right to introduce new ploughing rights under Section 134. That would be inconsistent with the concept of restricted byways, which has been widely welcomed as an imaginative approach to help non-motorised users of the rights of way network.

In response to our proposals for dealing with RUPPs, the Country Landowners Association said:

    "We suggest that any fears that reclassification to bridleway status will lead to routes being ploughed are unfounded. RUPPs by their very nature and age tend to be separated from field systems by physical boundaries and therefore ploughing them will be of no economic benefit".

Amendment No. 337 would extend to restricted byways the power in Section 147 of the Highways Act 1980 for local authorities to authorise the erection of barriers on footpaths and bridleways to control the movement of livestock. Again, I am afraid that we cannot accept the amendment. The express power in Section 147 to allow bridleways to be gated was one reason why horse riders were so opposed to the Government's original proposals to redesignate roads used as public paths as bridleways. I do not need to point out that on the whole horse riders do not like gates because they present problems such as the latches being difficult to reach or covered by overgrown bushes. Most horse riders accept the need for barriers on footpaths and bridleways to control livestock, but we are breaking new ground with restricted byways.

The Government have made clear their desire to do more for equestrians. In developing the concept of restricted byways, we have consciously distinguished them from bridleways in several ways. The Bill will not affect any pre-existing right to erect gates on RUPPs that are redesignated as restricted byways, but we have deliberately not extended the Section 147 powers to the new kind of highway. The amendments would be contrary to our commitment to equestrians and I hope that they will not be pressed.

Lord Glentoran: I am rather distressed by the Minister's response. We are in no way anti horse riders and all that goes with that, but if the amendments are not accepted, the management of land will be impeded. It will be impossible to keep livestock on some tracts of land because barriers cannot be erected to keep them in. Making it impossible to plough paths that go across acres of cereal crops--I have seen such paths in Surrey--is a serious restriction on land management. It is not possible to stop ploughing within a foot of the land that people walk on. It causes considerable inconvenience to break large acreages of cereal land into bits when ploughing.

Therefore, if the Minister will not allow the ploughing of RUPPs where they have been ploughed in the past, with the guarantee of reinstatement and all that goes with it, and will not allow land managers and landowners to put up barriers to keep in livestock, I find that unacceptable. I beg leave to test the opinion of the House.

7.10 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 336) shall be agreed to?

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Their Lordships divided: Contents, 54; Not-Contents, 119.

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