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Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, I readily confess to the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, that I had not considered his point about rescue dogs and it merits further thought. My initial reaction is that it would not be inhibited by this amendment. I do not believe a rescue dog comes on to land by using the right to roam given by this Bill. It comes on either by the tacit consent of the owner or in an emergency. The point needs further consideration. I accept fully that a rescue dog on a lead is probably a contradiction in terms. I shall certainly take that point on board.

There is no intention on my part to press Amendment No. 43. It would be inconsequential if the earlier amendment had been passed.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said that her dog has fun off the lead. But the dog has fun because it is doing the things that are so harmful to the landowner--chasing animals, pursuing smells and disappearing down rabbit holes. It is those activities that are going to harm the wildlife and livestock.

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I fully accept that by keeping the dog on the lead, I am inhibiting the fun of the dog but that is because the purpose of the Bill is to balance the right of a person to roam against the legitimate needs of the landowner and conservation and so on. I accept that if an amendment on these lines were passed, some dogs would have a less jolly time. But they are having a jolly time at the expense of the things that we need to protect.

I must confess that I thought the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, about the source of the amendment was cheap and unworthy of the way in which he has otherwise conducted himself. Those who are putting forward amendments are seeking to allay the very legitimate fears of those in the countryside. Some amendments concern what people do; others concern what dogs do.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, asked whether it is really being said that there is no place on any kind of access land on which dogs can be allowed to run free. I accept that there may be some relatively rare pieces of access land on which dogs could be allowed to run free. I am ready to consider something on the lines of what I put forward in relation to night access; that is, that normally dogs should be kept on leads but the Countryside Agency can, in certain circumstances, certify such land as fit for dogs off leads.

Earl Peel: My Lords, it may be helpful for him to know that paragraph 6 of Schedule 2 provides such a derogation power.

Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, again, I shall have to consider that. But the essence of the matter is that the majority of access land will be unsuitable for dogs off leads. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, almost admitted that when he said there will be occasional pieces of land--commons and so on--where dogs could be allowed off leads. I hope that perhaps he and I could meet to try to devise something which recognises that fact.

In the light of the need to deal with that and the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, about rescue dogs, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 33:

    Page 64, line 28, at end insert--

("(ga) feeds any livestock,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 34 and 35 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 36:

    Page 64, line 38, at end insert--

("(la) without reasonable excuse, interferes with any fence, barrier or other device designed to prevent accidents to people or to enclose livestock,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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[Amendments Nos. 37 to 41 not moved.]

Viscount Bledisloe moved Amendment No. 42:

    Page 65, line 13, at end insert--

(" .--( ) Where a person persistently fails to comply with any restriction in this Schedule relating to dogs on any access land, the access authority or any person interested in that land may seek an exclusion order in respect of that person under section 43 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000.
( ) Without prejudice to the generality, a person shall be deemed to have persistently failed to comply with a restriction if--
(i) having had his attention drawn to a failure by him to comply with a restriction, he fails again to comply with that restriction during the next 24 hours; or
(ii) he fails to comply with a restriction on three occasions in any period of twenty-eight days.").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, we now return to the vexed question of what one does with people who persistently offend. Here we are dealing with people who persistently offend, particularly in relation to dogs. It may well be asked--and I anticipate that the Government will ask--why dogs should be in any different position in relation to this matter generally. The answer is that offences with dogs will be the most frequent and difficult to control. People will let dogs off their leads and, when they are rebuked, they will put their dogs back on them. No sooner are they over the brow of the hill than they will let their dogs off their leads again. That is exactly the experience of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, on Hampstead Heath when he tries to rebuke people for not keeping their dogs on a lead. If people lapse on Hampstead Heath, where a lot of people are looking, how much more will they lapse on open moorland? I fail to see how any landowner will cope with people who disregard the rules without some protection.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that such a provision seeks to make walkers into criminals but that is not so. We are seeking to take sanctions not against walkers but people who disregard the rules. It is just as illogical to say that one is seeking to make drivers into criminals with laws against speeding or illegal parking. A person is entitled to drive but there are restrictions on what he is allowed to do. If he does not obey them, he becomes liable to criminal sanctions. A person is entitled to a right of access but if he persistently flouts the rules, that is not turning walkers into criminals but turning rule breakers into criminals.

The noble Lord's other argument was that such a provision will make trespass an offence, which it has never been--so that is a change in the law. That is a wholly illogical statement that arises only because the Government have chosen to say that the only sanction of consequence against breaking the rules is to make

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the individual a trespasser. The noble Lord shakes his head but that is so. The Government are giving a right and saying, "If you break the rules, you will become a trespasser". They could just as easily have said, "If you break the rules regularly, you will become subject to the criminal law". The way that the Government have chosen to phrase the Bill allows the noble Lord to invoke the argument that we are trying to change the law of trespass. In fact, the amendment would change the way in which the Bill is to be regulated. I beg to move.

10.45 p.m.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I take the opportunity to thank the Government for agreeing to review the matter of short fixed leads because that will help. While the Minister has given way on grouse and the protection of game, the whole issue of wildlife is not included. That may be an oversight.

Many people who live and work in the countryside are concerned about dogs. If there is nothing to stop some dog owners ignoring the rules, they will persist. Wardens in some parks know that dogs are kept on leads until they are out of sight, then released.

The rules in the Bill are few and simple. Anyone visiting the countryside caught breaking the rules would be required to leave the land for 72 hours--although that will not stop some people. The same should apply in relation to dogs. Many organisations have expressed concern about the effects of dogs on the countryside. They include the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, which represents a large number of qualified professionals--many of whom are experienced in matters affecting the rural environment. We have received submissions also from the Country Landowners' Association, Countryside Alliance and National Farmers Union.

I hope that the Minister will not dismiss the amendment, thinking that there is no need for it. I assure him that there is a need for some sanctions in the countryside.

Earl Peel: My Lords, I support my noble friend and the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. In principle this is the same argument as we debated on Amendment No. 24. Like the noble Viscount, I do not want to be accused of assuming that the two arguments are the same. I do not wish to rehearse the arguments.

However, there is the point that I sprung on the noble Viscount. In Schedule 2 there is an important provision which gives the local authority, by direction, powers to derogate and, therefore, to amend parts of Schedule 2 that refer specifically to dogs. It would not be difficult to work on the principle that there would be a blanket restriction on dogs and derogated powers invoked in local areas by local authorities if there was a tradition in that part of the access area for dogs to exercise the right to roam, or however one describes it. It can be done.

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The central point of the argument, as has been made so many times, is that this is such a key issue in the countryside that I hope that the Government take seriously the points that have been made.

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