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Lord Whitty: My Lords, I cannot be precise as to how long the consultation will take, but it will certainly be far longer than last year's exercise which was simply part of the research assessment of other land carried out by the Countryside Agency. In this context we are talking about full consultation with all the appropriate bodies to whom the noble Earl refers. Therefore the noble Earl can rest assured that before any regulations appear they will have been subject to a wide degree of consultation. While I cannot put a precise time on it, the noble Earl should not look at what happened last year, which was an entirely different exercise.

The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, not even the fifth cavalry can help the Minister. Doubtless the noble Lord has already covered the point. I do not like the situation at all. I see no harm in the amendment.

The Minister kindly said that the Secretary of State will consult the appropriate bodies, but he does not want that to be reflected on the face of the Bill. While I am unhappy with that, I see little point in taking the opinion of the House at this stage. I hope that the Minister will reconsider this small matter. This is a minor amendment which does not alter, or detract from, the Bill. However, it would provide a great deal of reassurance to those who are concerned about this issue. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Byford had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 56:



("(b) any cliff, bank, barrier, dune, beach or flat which adjoins the foreshore.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I should like clarification from the Minister as to whether, if the government of the day decide to include coastal land, it will be done under statutory instrument or will be subject to an affirmative resolution before the House.

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Lord Whitty: My Lords, one returns to the point about which the noble Earl complained. The answer is that it would be subject to affirmative resolution.

[Amendment No. 56 not moved.]

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 57:


    Leave out Clause 3.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we have studied carefully the debates in Committee on Clause 3 on 3rd October at cols. 1425 to 1432. My noble friend Lord Caithness spoke to this clause. We have taken into account the fact that the basis of the Bill is the 1949 Act. Surely the implementation of that legislation as it relates to access to the countryside can be regarded only as a dismal failure. We have also considered the volume of extra work that the Bill as it stands will create for local authorities in particular.

The Minister and his colleagues have stated that they do not believe the Bill will prove to be very expensive once the mapping has been completed. We conclude they mean that the funding will be lean, if not sometimes mean. We are convinced that if the Bill is to be a success it will provide a considerable challenge to those concerned. However, above all we are opposed to a clause which puts such vast power at the disposal of the Secretary of State. I presume that the Minister's clarification that there will be an affirmative resolution will also affect the amendment. I shall wait for that resolution.

Eleven clauses and three schedules were added over the Summer Recess to cover AONBs. That highlights why we express our concern about this part of the Bill. Surely no one believes that the whole of our coastline with its complex problems, so well summarised by my noble friend Lord Caithness, can be catered for in three subsections covering 13 lines. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, stated:


    "Coastal areas are vulnerable, changeable and frequently dangerous ... subject to high tides, moving sands and soils, quicksand and crumbling cliff edges ... The Environment Agency is currently one of only 240 agencies involved in managed retreat".--[Official Report, 3/10/00; col. 1426.]

These powers should not be given to the Secretary of State without a great deal more discussion and detail. I beg to move.

The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, I support my noble friend on her amendment. I always thought this was a very good amendment. It stood in my name in Committee. I am absolutely delighted that my noble friend thinks it is so good that she has now taken the lead on the matter.

My noble friend has covered many of the points that I wanted to raise. I shall not repeat what I said on Amendment No. 55 or what I said in Committee. This is a huge power that we will give to the Secretary of State. It is a process in which Parliament will have no real say. We will not be able to alter or have a detailed discussion on the regulations. Considering the amount of time we have spent on the Bill so far as concerns access land to mountain, moor, heath and down, we could spend the same amount of time and have as many concerns in relation to coastland.

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Parliament will be denied that opportunity. That is quite wrong. It is an abuse of the power of the authority of Parliament by an overwhelming executive who want to bulldoze through what they want without proper consultation. That is a disgrace. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty--I quite understand he has his job to do as a Minister--underneath the shell he has to wear on this occasion, also feels that this is totally the wrong way to go about legislating on such a complicated issue.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, this is a potentially complicated issue. That is why we have not decided either way on it but will leave it for later widespread consultation and affirmative procedure. I underline that it is the affirmative procedure.

I do not want to go over the issues again. Many people outside will probably be amazed that coastal land is not included within the Bill, but we came across all the complexities. There are complexities.

It is right that when legislating on the rights of access we should provide within the Bill the possibility of extending it to coastal land, subject to wide consultation and subject to the affirmative procedure. This is not an example of the Government bulldozing things through. It is quite the opposite; it is the Government taking sensible precautions and operating with caution in a field where the majority of the electorate would expect us to move rather faster.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I am disappointed with the Minister's response. He says that it is a sensible response to our discussions. If I was perhaps feeling a little wry, I would say that I feel that we have not had sensible answers to some of our earlier debates where the Government were not prepared to give way. It is an important issue. The clause gives the Secretary of State huge powers. I would have preferred to see the clause deleted. The Government could have come back at a later stage and introduced a Bill which included coastal land. The Government are obviously not prepared to give way tonight. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 [Duty to prepare maps]:

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 58:


    Page 3, line 26, at end insert--


("( ) A map prepared under this section shall not show any land which is--
(a) semi-improved or improved grassland,
(b) grassland used for making hay, silage or haylage,
(c) grassland managed as part of an arable rotation, or
(d) grassland used other than to provide rough grazing for livestock.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we had the bulk of the debate on this amendment when we discussed Amendments Nos. 3 and 6. I understood the Minister to move some way towards us with regard to semi-improved grassland and grassland used for making hay, haylage and so on. The Government have stressed that certain types of intensely managed land will not be

1 Nov 2000 : Column 1093

mapped. We remain unconvinced by that. However, I feel much nearer to being convinced than I was before we started our proceedings today.

The amendment would direct the Countryside Agency and CCW not to map various types of intensely managed land. That would avoid doubt for users, owners and the Countryside Agency and CCW. It would assist the appeals process. In fact, it would be helpful, it would create clarity and should prevent considerable problems, which was the basis of our debate earlier today. It would be very welcome if the Minister could agree with me on that point and confirm that he has moved some considerable way towards our aim. I beg to move.

12.30 a.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have a long speaking note on this amendment. However, at the end of my speech on Amendment No. 3 I said that we would look again at this issue. I think it is better if I rest on that rather than respond to the amendment now.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 59 and 60 not moved.]

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 61:


    Page 3, line 33, leave out from ("feature") to second ("to") in line 34 and insert ("where the effect is").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I have brought forward this amendment from Committee stage because when we debated the matter previously the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, said that she would take the matter away for consideration. I had very much hoped to see a government amendment to meet what the noble Baroness rightly surmised were the concerns of the Committee. Sadly, however, no amendment has been forthcoming.

In Committee the noble Baroness said:


    "Any land so included would need to be clearly contiguous with a parcel of open country and be relatively minor in extent".--[Official Report, 3/10/00; col.1448.]

Although helpful in some respects, that reply was also wishy-washy. Perhaps I may press the noble Baroness to say what "clearly contiguous" means. What does "relatively minor in extent" mean? Those points concern many people. The Bill is designed to give access to mountain, moor, heath and down, yet in the Bill there is a blanket provision to extend it to adjacent land without any qualification as to the size, shape or nature of that land. It is an important point which requires a great deal more clarification and a tighter definition. I beg to move.


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