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Lord Mancroft: My Lords, it is entirely possible that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, will go climbing in Snowdonia in November or December without any means of protection from the weather. In which case I suspect he will end up like our Italian friends. He is raising unnecessary issues here which can be overcome. The reality is that this system can work. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, raised some issues about communication possibilities, as did the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. But the reality is that, with modern communications, information of this kind can be given to local and access authorities for them to process. With modern computers and with modern technology that is really not difficult, nor is it expensive. So get around that one. The practicalities are there in this day and age. We can do it.
Lord Judd: My Lords, I referred to the possibility of a nightmare. Will the noble Lord accept that for many of those wishing to enjoy the countryside, the whole purpose is to get away from all the encumbrances and paraphernalia that go with modern technology and enjoy--at least for a brief spate of time--something totally different? Are the speakers to the proposed amendment trying to enforce technology and all technology's culture into the peace of the countryside?
Lord Mancroft: No, my Lords. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, is getting a little over-excited about the matter. I, too, live in the countryside and I appreciate it without technology. But when people make a mistake and get into trouble they expect
My noble friend Lord Roberts raised the issue of the forum of the Countryside Alliance conference last week at which Mr Colin Breed spoke. I have already declared an interest to your Lordships--I am happy to do so again--as a director of the Countryside Alliance. I chaired that forum. Not only was Mr Colin Breed of the Liberal Democrats part of that forum, but we were delighted that the Minister for the Environment, Mr Michael Meacher--whose Bill we are discussing today--was part of that forum. I listened very carefully to what the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said. I was amazed when she told us that Mr Colin Breed was not responsible for this brief in the other place on behalf of her party because he told me and the other 600 people at the conference--luckily it is on tape so we shall be able to see it on the screen--that he did have the responsibility. He told the conference that it was very much the Liberal Democrat policy that they were deeply concerned about night access. I may have got that wrong. We will ask the other 599. But he made that point very strongly, which is why I was amazed, as was my noble friend Lord Roberts.
I have gone on too long and I apologise to the House. The Minister, Mr Meacher, was part of that forum. One of the issues that was discussed for quite a time with Mr Breed, Mr Meacher and a number of others was the issue of night access. When it was suggested that walkers would have an obligation to inform the relevant authority, as proposed in the amendment, the Minister, Mr Meacher, thought it was a very interesting idea and well worth looking at because it may be a way to get out of this muddle. We are in a muddle. My noble friend has suggested a way out of it. I rather hope the Government will take it more seriously than they have some of the other suggestions.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, this is a balanced amendment. Subsection (1) provides that a person who intends to enter or to remain on access land at night should give prior notice of his intention to the access authority. Subsection (2) provides that the access authority should, in turn, give to any person giving such notice information about restrictions and activities and should enable owners to obtain information as to the notices which have been given. It works both ways, and I give credit to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, for that.
As to the first part of the amendment, we had a lengthy debate on the matter earlier today. The Government put forward the view that night access was comparable to day access and that no general restrictions should apply to night access which do not apply to day access. The debate covered a whole range of issues about night access, including the safety of
The issue raised in subsection (2) is an interesting and worthwhile one. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, for raising it. My noble friend Lord Hardy put it very well when he called for a code of conduct. Government Amendment No. 104 provides exactly that. It places a duty on the countryside bodies to issue a code of conduct and take other steps to provide information. We would expect the code of conduct to give guidance on safety issues, including safety at night.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the Minister. But, given all the comments to which the Liberal Democrat Benches have been subjected, does the noble Lord agree that the amendment was brought forward by the Government in response to the amendment that we tabled in Committee?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords. This is a listening Government. There are occasions when we listen to Conservatives too! However, we consider that the issue of night access generally has been adequately aired.
We support the thrust behind the second part of Amendment No. 30. Government Amendment No. 104 gives effect to that. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, will see fit to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that helpful and gracious reply. I am also grateful to all those who have taken part in this interesting debate. I am glad that the noble Lord fully appreciates the thrust of subsection (2) of Amendment No. 30. It may be that when we come to discuss Amendment No. 104 he will be able to cast even more light on what he hopes the guidelines will contain.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I would not wish to be misunderstood. The guidelines will cover safety at night. I am not saying that they will cover the provision of information in individual cases, as provided by subsection (2) of Amendment No. 30.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, the Government have been known to respond to various arguments that have been put forward. Clearly, my new clause has certainly been considered by the Government. They
Amendment No. 31, together with Amendments Nos. 44 and 48, makes minor drafting changes to ensure that Schedule 1 is consistent with the words in Clause 2(1) which deals with the loss of right of access. Government Amendment No. 33 relates to the feeding of livestock and adds that to the list of restricted activities set out in Schedule 2. We consider the amendment superior to Amendment No. 38, which deals with broadly the same subject.
I shall need to spend a little more time on Amendments Nos. 148 and 149. They relate to a recommendation made by the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation, which made a number of recommendations relating to three areas covered in Part I of the Bill: the general restrictions in Schedule 2; the restrictions on dogs in the same schedule; and the use of the discretionary closure power in Clause 21. These amendments deal only with the first of these; namely, the general restrictions.
The Select Committee was concerned that the power to vary Schedule 2 general restrictions could be used to remove restricted activities which could alter the balance of the Bill against the landowner. The committee accordingly recommended as its preferred option that the power should be deleted. We have considered this recommendation very carefully. On balance, we consider that the power to vary the restricted activities is a useful and important one. It will enable activities which have been overlooked or leisure pursuits which become popular at a later date to be added to the list. That said, we agree with the Select Committee that the power should be used sparingly. We have proposed therefore the Select Committee's alternative recommendation; namely, that such matters should be subject to affirmative
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