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I support Amendments No. 46 and 49, which have been brought forward by the noble Earl, Lord Peel. If leads are required, they should be defined as short leads. I am grateful that the Minister is prepared to accept such a provision.
As to Amendment No. 47, I wonder if I detect a smidgen of inconsistency on the part of the Minister. The amendment seeks to remove the ability to change by regulation the period during which dogs must be on leads. That is at the behest of recommendation 18 of the 24th report of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. I question whether the ability to change the dates by regulation should be quite so obediently given up.
March until July is the period defined in the Bill, but that is only a best estimate of when it is most important for dogs to be on leads. It will be tested by experience. The ability to make changes in the future is quite important. Perhaps I may give an example. The dogs on leads issue concerns mainly ground-nesting birds. Climate change could quite quickly--we have seen signs of it already--alter the nesting and brooding dates of ground-nesting birds considerably. Therefore there might be a need to change the dates.
If I understand the Select Committee process properly, an alternative is permitted under recommendation 19 which allows that, if the House should disagree with the recommendation that this provision be dropped from the Bill and considers that the powers should stay in the Bill, then they should be made subject to the affirmative procedure. The Minister agreed to the affirmative procedure under Amendments Nos. 148 and 149 for the whole of Schedule 2. It would be inconsistent if he did not retain flexibility for the future by agreeing to the affirmative procedure in respect of the ability to change the period during which dogs must be on leads.
As to Amendment No. 118, I was slightly bemused by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and his partridges on heathland in East Anglia. Perhaps that is one of the reasons for the decline in partridge numbers. Trying to increase the numbers of partridges on heathland is probably one of life's more thankless tasks as it is a very inadequate and unsuitable habitat for partridges.
It is worth noting that that will mean that the nature conservation bodies will probably have to seek to close certain areas of access land at specific times of the year in order to safeguard wildlife which is particularly vulnerable to disturbance.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I should like to return to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hardy. I wonder if the Minister was right to dismiss the noble Lord's amendment on the grounds on which he appeared to dismiss it. This legislation will almost inevitably result in much litigation. In so far as Parliament can pre-empt the need for that litigation, it should do so.
I understood the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, to say--I may have got it wrong--that where a person is using the normal right of access on the new land, and where the landowner or occupier chooses to allow that person to let his dog off the lead during a period when it otherwise would not be allowed off the lead, that is something which the owner or occupier should be empowered to do.
The point that I believe the Minister was making was that the dog would be on the land for a different purpose from that provided for under the Bill. I do not think that that is the case. I believe that what the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, has in mind is that there are certain people who, when exercising their right of access, may, as an additional concession, be given by the owner or occupier the right to have their dogs off the lead. So they would not be on the land by virtue of some special provision; they would be on the land by virtue of this legislation and they would be given an additional privilege which the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, is seeking to write in to the Bill. That strikes me as extremely sensible.
Otherwise, one person will allow his dog off the lead--which the Bill would not normally allow--because he has been told by the owner that he can, and another person not so allowed will complain. It is a perfectly reasonable distinction for an owner to make, but the second person will ask: "Why are you allowed to have your dog off the lead?". The first will say: "Because the owner has told me that I can". The first will say, "But that has nothing to do with it. The Act says that you cannot have your dog off the lead; and if you can, I can". We want to avoid that kind of dispute and possible litigation. I wonder whether
The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister for some of the content of Amendment No. 118. He keeps telling us how he believes in balance, and that balance certainly comes through in the amendments, which makes it difficult to show unqualified gratitude for some of them. One in point is that relating to the introduction of disease. I thanked the Minister for what he had given on that occasion.
I am merely looking at what has been allowed on controls on dogs around lambing fields. I thought that we had been given a marvellous new allowance--and then I came across the reference to 15 hectares. Like my noble friend Lord Caithness, I have the voices of my friends and neighbours ringing in my ears. They tell me about the problems that they have on wet days when a ewe is disturbed and jumps over a burn, and the lamb falls in and is found drowned down-river; or if she has twins and goes off and leaves one of them. Those are the problems of lambing on the open hillside. There is still a gap in the provision that we do not seem able to deal with.
Lord Mancroft: My Lords, I should like to record my gratitude to the Government and the Minister for Amendment No. 118. The issue of ground nesting birds in general, and grouse in particular, is important. I am grateful to the noble Lord for considering it so carefully and for bringing forward this amendment.
The amendment is important for another reason, beyond what it does. It is a recognition of the important economic contribution that grouse shooting now makes. My noble friend the Duke of Montrose spoke about the problems of dogs in relation to lambing on the hillside. Amendment No. 118 will be important for those areas. I suspect that grouse are of more economic value to that part of the country than are the sheep. Grouse have always been important. It is a sad indictment of the state of farming as we enter the new millennium that shooting rights are now of much greater value than farming rights, but that is the way the world is. I am immensely grateful to the Government for recognising that and bringing forward the amendment--even if I, too, am slightly concerned as to whether the plural, "dogs", in the last line of paragraph 3 also means "dog" in the singular. I have no doubt that the Minister will assure us on the matter.
Earl Peel: My Lords, perhaps I may speak first to Amendments Nos. 46 and 49. I thank the Minister for accepting them in principle. He already knows how pleased I am about his introduction of Amendment No. 118. I echo the remarks just made by my noble friend Lord Mancroft.
However, there is one further technical point as regards Amendment No. 118 that I should like to raise. I should be happier if the Minister would consider substituting for the word "owner" in the amendment the term "entitled person", which reflects Clause 21(3). The reason for that request is technical. I am told, although I was not aware of it, that approximately one-third of commons on which shooting rights exist are owned by public trustees. That being the case, substituting the word "owner" with the phrase "entitled person" would overcome the problem. I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord for introducing this amendment. I believe that it will do much to help overcome many of the problems that we have discussed.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, I, too, thank the Minster for bringing forward Amendment No. 118. Perhaps I may add a few words here because I also made some points on the issue. The first referred to the fact that I do not believe that this provision includes wildlife. We are grateful that it obviously deals with the issue of the shooting of grouse, but it does not actually include wildlife. I am sure that we all believe that it should.
Perhaps I may return to the wildlife point. Has the noble Lord considered the question of those birds that come to this country and rest on the marshes or on the other lands which are not defined in the legislation? That is why it would help enormously if wildlife were included in the provision. I shall not refer to the other amendments because the Minister will cover them.
Amendment No. 151 seems to me to have been rather strangely placed on the Marshalled List. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for drawing attention to it. We may find that there are some honeypot sites on access land. It is important, therefore, that there should be some provision as regards dog fouling. Some local authorities may believe that the dog fouling Act of 1996 is relevant in this respect and that it should be included. That is the reason for tabling Amendment No. 151.
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