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Lord Burlison: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for making that point.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, many Members of this House who served as Members in another place will have memories of trying over the years to deal with the plight of constituents who were in need of assistance. Those of us who regularly attend memorial services in November will be able to hold our heads up a little higher in future. I am sure that I speak on behalf of many. I ask the Minister to take back to his colleagues our gratitude for taking action now, and so generously.

A voice that we should have heard, had he been present, would have been that of my noble friend Lord Molloy, who was deeply involved in the work of the British Legion. He had a distinguished war record, but never lost an opportunity to stand up and defend the interests not only of prisoners but of ex-servicemen. Perhaps the Minister will allow me to place on record the gratitude of my noble friend in his absence.

Lord Burlison: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his comments. I am delighted to take them back to my colleagues. I should also like to associate myself with his mention of the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, and the efforts of the British Legion.

Lord Sandberg: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Williams raised a question about civilians in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaya. There were two categories. My predecessor, a chief of the Hong Kong Bank, was tortured to death. But there were also people who were called up and who fought for King and country in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaya. Is there a differential between those who died or were taken prisoner fighting, and those who were taken prisoner merely because they were British and living in what were then colonies?

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Lord Burlison: My Lords, I am looking desperately across at the Box in relation to this issue. I do not believe that there is a difference; however, I shall write to the noble Lord on the matter.

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, will my noble friend give the House two assurances? First, will Her Majesty's Government do everything in their power to make sure that this extremely welcome decision receives as much publicity as possible inside Japan? Secondly, will my noble friend assure us that it is no part of the settlement that those attempting to bring pressure to bear on the government of Japan to recognise their responsibilities in these matters should desist their activities?

Lord Burlison: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his comments. I know of no pressure that is likely to be put on the groups he has mentioned. I hope that that will not be the case.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in welcoming the Statement. However, I should like to discharge a debt. Noble Lords have referred to the privations that prisoners of war underwent. When I was a 14 year-old schoolboy, in 1956, I was taught by a man of extreme gifts--one of those teachers who have a profound influence on one's life. One afternoon, as a result of an episode in a classroom, he burst into tears. He had spent three years on the Burma railway and the episode had brought back to him some of the extraordinary privations he had undergone. He died a bachelor some years ago. I feel that I owe it to him to say that we have all allowed far too much time to elapse--it is 58 years since my schoolmaster was captured in Singapore--before righting this grievous wrong.

Lord Burlison: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his comment. The Government have now taken steps to make this ex gratia payment. Indeed, many of us feel, as he does, that the action has possibly come a little too late. Nevertheless, it has been taken now, and I am sure that the noble Lord will welcome it in the same fashion as other noble Lords have done.

Countryside and Rights of Way Bill

5.18 p.m.

Further consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 13.

[Amendment No. 79 not moved.]

Lord Brittan of Spennithorne moved Amendment No. 80:


    After Clause 13, insert the following new clause--

INDEMNITY FOR COSTS OF ACCESS

(" .--(1) Any person having an interest in access land shall be entitled to be indemnified for any additional costs and expenses reasonably incurred as a result of the right conferred by section 2(1) or for any liability or loss resulting from the exercise, or purported exercise, of that right, which he cannot practicably recover from any other person.

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(2) The Secretary of State shall make regulations as to the conditions for entitlement to such indemnity and as to the form and procedure by which such amounts may be recovered.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I move this amendment on behalf of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe.

It is reasonable, as a matter of common justice, to provide that someone whose land becomes less valuable as a result of the granting of the right of access to that land should receive compensation. Also, apart from whether it is reasonable, it is highly likely to be a breach of Article 1 of the human rights convention if the Bill is passed without the possibility of redress in those circumstances. I shall not repeat my remarks in Committee on this issue, and I apologise for being absent for so much of the subsequent debate--although I shall return to the matter later in our proceedings.

The amendment does not relate directly to the issue of compensation. However, if passed, it would help to reduce the chances of the legislation falling foul of human rights legislation. It is a modest and limited proposal. It is based on the premise that, in the first instance, the person who has suffered loss and incurred costs has a duty to recover them from the person who has caused those costs or expenses to be incurred--for example, in a situation where it is necessary to repair damage to a wall caused by someone purporting to exercise the right of access. It is only if it is not practical to recover the costs and expenses incurred as a result of someone exercising or purporting to exercise the right of access that the provision bites. So it is very narrowly defined, as well as being a most reasonable provision.

However, the question arises as to whether it is likely or feasible that costs or expenses will be incurred as a result of the access provisions. There is little doubt that that is the case. It may be necessary to post notices advising of closures--closures that are permitted under the legislation as it has now reached this House. It may also be necessary to make risk assessments in relation to gates or stiles, which will involve expense. Indeed, it may be necessary to fence off mines. Above all, as a result of the provisions of the legislation, expense may be incurred as regards the necessity to increase insurance premiums. If I may say so, the attitude of the Government to the previous set of amendments makes it all the more likely that costs and expenses will be incurred, whether because of suits as a result of liability or the increased insurance necessary to avoid such suits.

Therefore, it is necessary to take account of the Bill as it stands when considering such matters. Although it has been improved as a result of government amendments, it is, none the less, perfectly plain that substantial costs will be incurred by many people and that such costs will not always be recoverable in practice, as opposed to in law, from anyone who is guilty in that respect. Indeed, in some cases there will not be anyone in particular who is responsible.

When considering this issue and my later amendment proposing a new compensation clause, it is necessary to take account of the fact that it is the

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Government's intention and desire--indeed, the whole purpose of the legislation--that there should be a substantial increase in the number of people who go on to the type of countryside covered by the Bill; otherwise, there would be no point in it. Therefore, something that does not involve cost, or which involves modest cost at present, will inevitably lead to substantially greater cost, or costs that previously did not exist, if what we are talking about turns out to be a flood right across the land rather than a trickle on a right of way.

We do not know how many people will exercise the right, but I am sure that the Government would not go through the trouble of introducing this legislation unless they assumed that the numbers would be quite substantial. There is a difference, which may be a difference in kind, not just a difference in quantity, when one is talking about large numbers of people following unfamiliar paths and going anywhere over land. The prospect of costs and expenses being incurred that are irrecoverable from any particular person is a real one. It would be unjust, unfair and probably contrary to the provisions of the convention on human rights for there to be no means of redress in such circumstances.

I see that the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, on whose behalf I have been proposing the amendment, is now back in his place. I am sure that a more full and cogent exposition of the merits of this proposed new clause will come from his lips in due course. I beg to move.

Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, I shall begin my apologising for not being in my place when the amendment was called. My only mitigation, which may not excuse me, is the fact that the annunciator indicated that the House was still dealing with the Statement. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brittan, for moving the amendment. As for the part of his speech that I heard, he certainly did so very much better than I could have done. I am sure that he did equally as well in the part of his speech that I did not hear.

The amendment is based on the simple and, I venture to say, undeniable principle that a man must not be out of pocket because the Government have decided to give other people the right to walk across his land. I stress the words "out of pocket". This is not a clause about compensation; it is a clause solely about reimbursement of actual expenditure or loss. At present, if someone working with the Duke of Edinburgh's scheme, or whatever, seeks permission to take people across an occupier's land, the latter can say, "Yes, all right; but you must pay for any damage caused"--for example, a wall may be knocked down, sheep killed or something like that may happen. Even if that is not expressly stipulated, such an organisation would almost inevitably pay voluntarily for any damage caused because those concerned will want to return, and because they are decent people.

However, why should an occupier be worse off when the Government are giving permission on his behalf for people to enter the land and that results in damage by someone who cannot be identified, or who cannot

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pay? Why should the occupier have to expend money? Just before we adjourned to deal with the Statement, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, expressly said, in answer to the previous debate, that in those circumstances a landowner may well have to repair a stile, a gate or something like that--indeed, a stile or a gate that he does not need to use, but one that he has to repair because people will now be coming on to his land. Why should the landowner be put to such expense?

In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said that,


    "only a very few landowners are likely to be significantly affected".--[Official Report, 3/10/00; col. 1498.]

I have two points to make in response. First, if that is right, it will not involve much money; and, therefore, I do not know what he is worrying about. Secondly, it is very little consolation to one landowner, who is "significantly affected" and seriously out of pocket, to know that there are many other occupiers who are not in the same boat. Indeed, one might go as far as to say that it will really add insult to injury to know that he is one of the few people who is suffering serious loss. The whole point of the concept of reimbursement of actual loss is to protect those people, who the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, may say will be relatively few, who are adversely affected.

I should also stress the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Brittan, about the convention on human rights. In the light of that point, I am absolutely confident that those on the Liberal Democrat Benches who are so enthusiastic about that legislation will no doubt feel very keen to support this amendment.


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